a lovely living

Monthly Archives for November 2014

Gift Guide: In the Kitchen

I’m sure many of you will be finding yourselves in the kitchen at some point today or tomorrow. Whether you’re hosting or doing your part in bringing along a side or dessert to your Thanksgiving dinner, chances are you’ll be keeping yourself busy. And it won’t end there. December is likely the month where your oven, and all of your kitchen gadgets get put to use the most. I have the below group of items titled ‘kitchen essentials’, however this would work just as well as a gift guide for the chef/baker in your family. I’m no pro, but all of these items have certainly aided in many of my kitchen adventures, yet funny enough, before I had them I never knew what I was missing. Trust me, if you know someone that’s lacking one of these items, do them a favor and help complete their kitchen. They’ll surely thank you, possibly in baked goods ;)




1. Dutch Oven: This pot just may be my favorite item in the kitchen. From soups, to one pot meals and braising meats, it’s put to use at least once or twice each week. It cleans easily which is another big plus. You can find a less expensive option here.

2. Pampered Chef Mix ‘n Chop: Although it can be used for chopping fruits and vegetables as well, my main use with this utensil is breaking up ground meat while browning it. A spatula or wooden spoon just can’t compete here.

3. Garlic Press: For years I spent extremely too much time mincing garlic with a knife. I’d now be lost without this guy.

4. Bundt Pan: You can literally find these in hundreds of shapes and sizes and once you have one and discover the wonders of a bundt cake, you may end up a junkie like me!

5. Mesh Strainer: Great for sifting, but it’s main use in my kitchen is for rinsing quinoa which we eat often around here.

6. Crock Pot: Chances are you have one, but if you don’t, it’s life changing. We’ve had to up-size ours as our family has grown, but for the relatively inexpensive price, they’re totally worth it.

7. Wooden Spoon: Nothing new here, but I’m constantly grabbing wooden spoons for baking and cooking. I couldn’t have enough.

8. Salad Spinner: We eat salads year round and this thing is a huge time saver. A nice perk is that you can use the bowl for serving your salad as well allowing you to have less dirty dishes, yay!

9. Mini Spatulas: These things are life savers when it comes to getting brownies or baked bars of any type out of that darn pan. Knives just won’t cut it (ha).

10. Pastry Mat: Before purchasing this mat, I had one without any grip and it would drive me crazy sliding all over the place as I did my best to roll out dough. Not only does this one stick, but it also has some very convenient measurement markings which allow me to roll my pie dough accurately.



Lasagne Soup


I know you’re all about to get yourselves into turkey overload, but before that happens I wanted to share with you an awesome recipe I tried last week. I love lasagne, but I’m not a fan of the time consuming prep work that is required. With my fondness for soups, I knew this one was right up my alley. With minimum preparation and a whole lot of taste I’m already looking forward to making this one again.


Lasagne Soup via Cooking Classy:


2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 lb lean ground beef
1 large yellow onion, diced (2 cups)
3 – 5 garlic cloves, to taste, minced
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 (14.5 oz) can petite diced tomatoes
1 (14.5 oz) can crushed tomatoes
2 1/2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 3/4 tsp dried basil
3/4 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried rosemary, crushed
1/2 tsp fennel seeds, crushed
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp granulated sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley, plus more for garnish
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
8 lasagna noodles, broken into bite size pieces (6.5 oz)
1 1/4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (5 oz)
1/2 cup finely shredded parmesan cheese (2 oz)
8 oz ricotta cheese


  • Heat one tablespoon olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Once hot, crumble beef into pot, season with salt and pepper to taste and cook, stirring occasionally until browned. Drain majority of fat from beef and set aside (you can drain it all if you want it to be healthier I just like the little bit of flavor a small amount of the fat gives). Heat remaining 1 Tbsp olive oil in pot, add chopped yellow onion and saute until it begins to soften, about 3 minutes. Add in garlic and saute 30 seconds longer. Add in chicken broth, diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, basil, oregano, rosemary, fennel seeds, thyme, sugar, parsley, the cooked ground beef and season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring just to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer 20 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, prepare lasagna noodles according to directions listed on package, reserving 1 cup pasta water before draining pasta.
  • Add cooked pasta to soup along with 1/2 cup – 1 cup pasta water as desired. In a mixing bowl, using a fork, stir together mozzarella, parmesan and ricotta.
  • Ladle soup into bowls, dollop with a large scoop of the cheese mixture and sprinkle with chopped parsley (you can help the cheese melt better by cooking in the microwave after dolloping over soup for a bit or you could put the soup in oven safe bowl, top with cheese mixture and set under broiler to melt well. Or just stir into very hot soup and it should melt well).

Layered in Pastel


You guys know I’m a huge fan of pastels. Any season, any weather, the more the merrier. Take for example, these shots from last week in NYC when the frigid weather hit. It was literally freezing and the wind was out of control. Thankfully I had a chunky sweater, wool coat and fur to keep me warm. Let me also take a moment to give credit to all of the ‘city’ bloggers that I follow. There’s an obscene amount of photobombing happening at any given moment on the streets of New York. Perhaps that’s why I turn to nature as my backdrop so often!








Details: JCrew coat (love this and this option ) / JCrew sweater / Fur scarf (similar) / Gap maternity jeans (similar non-maternity) / Dolce Vita boots / Kate Spade bag (similar)

High Five for Friday

Friday has arrived! It’s been a busy week and I’m looking forward to a somewhat relaxing weekend ahead of us. I’m going to try to savor this last week leading up to Thanksgiving because we all know from that point forward, it’s game on! Don’t worry, I’m already working on some gift guides to help you tackle your shopping and remain as stress free as possible. It’s much more fun to enjoy the holiday’s that way don’t you think?! Oh and thank you all for your kind words and messages regarding my pregnancy announcement. I still think we’re a bit crazy, but I know from the moment I see him/her I won’t be able to remember life prior :) Here’s to the next five months!

Here’s a look back at my week:

1) We finally got our son to a PSU game this season and of course it was freezing! Despite the weather, he remained all smiles.


2) For those of you using Pinterest, let me recommend you share your boards with your husband/significant other. Every now and then he just may surprise you with a little something! And btw, this piece is on sale for $24.98! Love doesn’t have to be expensive ;)


3) Let me savor in the memory of this amazing cheddar and roasted tomato grilled cheese that I had in NYC with my husband this week. It’s awful to be pregnant and craving a food that you can’t have exactly when you want it. But I suppose it’s for the best.


4) One of my favorite purchases from Anthro this week. If it’s going to be 20 degrees, this is going to warm me up!


5) I made these Chicken Avocado Burritos last night and they were amazing! Topped with some salsa and a spoonful of sour cream, they are mouthwatering. Kid approved as well!



Have a great weekend and I’ll see you next week!

Linking up with The Lauren Elizabeth for High Five for Friday.

Where’s Marisa?

Hey all! Today you can actually catch me over at The Style Letters where I’m being featured on Maria’s Style Views! Maria is one of the 9 other winners of the Redbook Real Women Style Awards who I had the pleasure of meeting this past summer. She is a beautiful lady, inside and out, with a contagious laugh and stunning smile! I was flattered when she asked if I would guest post for her series this month. Hop on over where I’m discussing some of my cold weather picks that are guaranteed to take your outfit up a few notches! Spoiler, fur is certainly included!


Snickerdoodle Monkey Bread


Monkey Bread is something I have enjoyed numerous times, yet I had never prepared it myself. Well, now that I have I’m certain it’s going to happen much more often in our home! It’s best enjoyed immediately out of the oven while it’s still warm and gooey and pairs perfectly with coffee or tea. It’s simple to prepare and can be prepped and stored in your refrigerator overnight until you’re ready to bake it in the morning. For those of you with family visiting over the upcoming holidays, this would be a welcomed addition to your breakfast spread. And if you don’t, well then please go ahead and indulge all on your own. I won’t tell ;) Oh, and one quick side note, make sure to put a cookie sheet under the bundt pan while in the oven. Mine decided to spill over while I wasn’t looking!


Snickerdoodle Monkey Bread via Mix and Match Mama:

1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon (separated)
2 (16.3 oz) cans refrigerated flaky layer biscuit dough, cut into quarters
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 small box (3.4 oz) of instant vanilla pudding mix, dry and not prepared


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray a bundt pan with Pam (spray it well!).

In a small bowl, combine sugar and 1 tablespoon cinnamon. Dredge biscuit quarters in sugar mixture to coat. Layer in prepared pan.

(At this point, you could cover your pan and pop it in the fridge until the next morning.)

In a small saucepan, combine remaining tablespoon of cinnamon, brown sugar, butter, corn syrup and instant pudding mix. Cook over medium-high heat stirring constantly until mixture comes to a boil. Boil one minute. Pour over layered biscuits.

Bake 35-40 minutes or until lightly browned. Invert immediately onto a platter to serve.

Serve right away.

Out of Office…

Hey guys! Hopefully yesterday’s news can tide you over for a day. I took a quick trip with my husband to NYC and had every intention of finishing up a post for today, but now that my secret is out I can say, with your full understanding, that I was just too exhausted! In a few quick, rainy, hours I squeezed in a little shopping, got to see my sister-in-law pick out her wedding dress (ahh!), have dinner with family/friends and relax with my husband. I’ll see you tomorrow and leave you with a shot of the Empire State Building from last night.



Go ahead, call me crazy. Come early May we’ll be expending our family to five and Jack and I will officially be outnumbered! This wasn’t a complete shock, but regardless I’m not sure I was really ready for this. To be quite honest, I do not love being pregnant. At all. I envy the women who glow and feel fantastic as they carry their babes those 9+ months and then are saddened by the fact that their bump is suddenly gone. No, I would much rather skip some of the unpleasant side effects my body endures and just place that beautiful baby in my arms. And for those of you that have been pregnant more than once, you can surely relate to the way your body acts after that first pregnancy. I swear from the moment I found out I was pregnant my body jumped into action as if to say “oh here we go again, I know exactly what to do”. At 15 weeks with this child I look as I did at 20+ weeks with my first. Not one to enjoy squeezing into my regular clothes leaving some buttons undone, I’ve begun breaking out some maternity clothes (pants at least) which feel absolutely heavenly with room to breath. Since I wasn’t blogging during either of my other pregnancies, this will be a true test for me as I work through the upcoming months, but I’m going to do my best for you guys!

Just to catch you up to speed, I’m now into my second trimester and I’m looking forward to it. The first few months I have dealt with nausea from morning through night and my energy level dropped dramatically. I’m starting to feel a bit better during the day now and I don’t seem to need a daily nap anymore ;) Our baby is now the size of an apple and we plan on finding out the sex next month. My husband and I are not great at waiting and I am anxious to begin getting rid of some of the extra clothes I have been holding on to! I know life doesn’t always go my way, but as far as my plans are concerned this will likely be our last child. I’ll be savoring every moment once this baby arrives, but until then I’ll be praying each week passes quickly ;)

I know the outfit isn’t nearly as exciting as that news, but for those interested, read on. Although three-quarter length sleeves may not always seem practical, especially when it comes to a coat, boy do I love it regardless. This coat was a bargain Elie Tahari from TJMaxx last year (seen here, here, here and here) and I find it to be a refreshing change from my other wool coats. Plus, I always wear long sleeves underneath which completes the look of the outfit. One other note, I finally splurged on knee-high boots. Well, not technically a splurge when I got them on sale and was able to apply credit earned from my GapCard (yay!) but that’s my idea of a smart splurge. PS, check out the price now! I love the dramatic look they add to an outfit and since it’s not practical to be investing in much clothing at this point, shoes and boots are where my purchases will be ;)








Details: Elie Tahari coat via TJMaxx (love this option, see others below) / JCrew shirt (similar) / Gap Maternity pants (similar non-maternity) / Dolce Vita boots (on sale!) / Cookie Lee necklace c/o / Michael Kors watch

High Five for Friday

Happy Friday! I’m not sure anything makes me realize how fast time flies as much as blogging does. No sooner do I finish one ‘Friday’ post and it seems I’m drafting another. And this time we’re nearly half way through November and closing in on Thanksgiving. Speaking of Thanksgiving, has anyone else been craving this meal like I have? Not to make you envious, but thanks to my family as well as my husband’s, I’ll be enjoying this wonderful meal on Thanksgiving as well as the day after. Gluttonous, I know. But back to the here and now, below you’ll find a bit of what went on during my week. I’m feeling motherly guilt for the lack of pictures of my son. That’s sadly what happens when he leaves me for school! I’ll catch up, I promise!

1) No need for dress-up clothes in this house. Our little lady has just about every look covered. She pulls off tulle and grunge way better than I could!


2) Many mugs of this have been consumed this past week. It’s nothing new, but I recently can’t get enough!


3) I was able to celebrate this beautiful Mama to be this past weekend. She’s one of my dearest friends from college and I could not be happier for her and her family to be. Becoming a mother for the first time is life changing and I’m overjoyed to see her go through this experience.


4) Madelyn got to enjoy a playdate with friends and when a bounce house is involved, everyone is happy!


5) After an official taste test today, I’ll be sharing this goodness with you next week. Until then, I’ll leave it up to your imagination ;)


Have a fantastic weekend!

Warm Layers


As the cold is rolling in, my layers have been adding up. You’ve recently seen me wearing my fur vest here and here, but my love of vests continues onto the sweater vest. Layering is often necessary but one way I avoid too much bulk is by using vests. They add warmth where needed without making you feel like you’re unable to move once you have everything on. I love the thickness of this vest that came from LOFT last year (don’t worry, I have other options for you below) and it was exactly what this outfit needed to keep the chill away.








Details: Gap shirt (similar) / LOFT vest (see options below) / Jeans (similar) / LOFT jacket / Madewell tote / Jeffrey Campbell booties (similar) / Rayban sunglasses