Staying Stylish in Suburbia

Roaming the Blue Ridge

Thursday, August 28, 2014

We recently returned from a trip to the Blue Ridge Mountains where my husband and I were born and raised. I think I've written about this on the blog before, but it is remarkable the kind of pull that place has over me. People talk about that with the ocean. That feeling of peace and a release that comes with staring out over the vastness of the sea. It's that way with the mountains for me. They remind me of my place in the world while at the same time making me feel humble. In their presence I am both small and secure.


We took our first little hike as a family there. It was short but steep as we climbed up, up, up to a beautiful spot overlooking the valley below. Soon all that green will turn to shades of yellow and red. It will be breathtaking in its own way. Those layers of green against that blue, gray sky is what lives in my heart though. 





I feel so fortunate to be able to share these mountains with my girls. Even if they don't grow up here, we live close enough now that I hope they will know these hills, and maybe even feel that same pull back to them one day.
What about y'all? Other than family ties, do you feel connected to the place you grew up? Do you still live there or are you happy to be far, far away? Sometimes I think if I still lived in these mountains I wouldn't feel the same. I know that I wouldn't be the same person in the sense that I  wouldn't have had the chance to grow into myself in the same way. Distance gives you that all-important perspective but it also makes the heart grow fonder. I have days when I wish we could live there again and days when I am so grateful that we don't. I wonder what my children will feel about the place they are being raised. Will they want to flee or return? Hopefully the latter but only time will tell. xoxo

DIY Bleach-Pen Throw Pillow Project

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A couple months back we got a new couch off of craigslist...wait for it...for FREE!!! It's a great couch in perfect condition but it looked mighty lonely sitting there without any pillows to brighten it up. I found most of the pillows on Etsy. The only problem was, I wanted an orange pillowcase and couldn't find one that suited my fancy. My solution was to buy a plain pillowcase off of Amazon and tweak it myself. I've been wanting to try a DIY bleach pen project and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. 


The process was fairly simple.  
  1. The first thing I did was to decide the pattern I wanted on the pillowcase. 
  2. Next, I drew the pattern out with a piece of white chalk in order to avoid making any big mistakes. 
  3. I put a plastic trash bag inside the pillowcase to make sure it didn't bleed through.   
  4.  Then I went over the chalk outline with a bleach pen. You can get them anywhere but I bought mine at Target.
  5. I waited about fifteen minutes until I could see the bleach was starting to spread a bit. The longer you wait the more it bleeds out so the amount of time you wait depends on the type of look you're going for.
  6. I rinsed the entire pillow case in cold water.
  7. Finally, I put the pillowcase through the dryer.





This is my kind of project, easy and super satisfying. I love the final look. Now we have the perfect pillow companion for our new couch. Yay!!!

Sunflower Farm Frolic

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

We took a trip to Burnside Farms to pick sunflowers and to pay a visit to the goats, chickens, and pigs that live there. We went around the same time last year when Mazzy was just a tiny newborn snuggled against my chest. This year, (as a big, bad one year old) she was much more excited to see the sights with us. 

The farm provided wagons, and when they weren't feeding the animals or frolicking about, I pulled the girls out into the rows and rows of sunflowers taller than their heads. We made a bouquet and took a few sunflower selfies while we were at it. It was a good morning and a sweet tradition in the making. 










 


Book Review: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Monday, August 11, 2014


Donna Tartt's, "The Goldfinch," remains one of the most talked about novels of the past year. When it comes to the reviews, the literary critics either love it or hate it. It's the same with the average reader. No one I've spoken to seems to be on the fence about this one. With a Pulitzer Prize and a movie deal already in the works, I was curious to see what all the fuss was about. 

Touted as Dickensesque, I plunged into the story expecting something dark and sharply realistic, but with a glint of a fairy tale in its telling. I was not disappointed in that regard. Although, deeply depressing and brooding at times, the novel was swarming with surreal almost magical moments. It was also full of oddly likable yet recognizable characters. Critics point to this in order to underline the obvious cliches in Tartt's writing. In my case, I found the familiarity (a best friend who is a bad influence, an idealized mother, and a bumbling but kind mentor) to be grounding in the otherwise sprawling story. 

Thematically the novel deals with the ideas of loss, transformation, and survival. More interestingly though, is how it addresses our obsession with beautiful things (such as art) and the significance of that in an otherwise ugly, heart wrenching world. 

“And I add my own love to the history of people who have loved beautiful things, and looked out for them, and pulled them from the fire, and sought them when they were lost, and tried to preserve them and save them while passing them along literally from hand to hand, singing out brilliantly from the wreck of time to the next generation of lovers, and the next.” 

The novel also explores the legacy of art itself, and its potential to outlive the artist, transforming into a million different intimate interpretations throughout the ages.

if a painting really works down in your heart and changes the way you see, and think, and feel, you don’t think, ‘oh, I love this picture because it’s universal.’ ‘I love this painting because it speaks to all mankind.’ That’s not the reason anyone loves a piece of art. It’s a secret whisper from an alleyway. Psst, you. Hey kid. Yes you.”  

The Goldfinch painting at the center of the novel is an actual work of art by Carel Fabritius who studied under Rembrandt. The image of the small bird tethered to a ledge by a delicate chain is a study of captivity and (for the purpose of the novel at least) a commentary on our capacity for internal imprisonment as well. The idea that we are all trapped in our own seemingly inescapable circumstances doesn't exactly make for light reading. It does, however, make for an enthralling, addictive novel. I felt like a glutton for punishment every time I picked it up. Give me more misery! 

To be fair, there were also sweet moments and redeeming relationships, (I heart Hobart!) even in the midst of drug-induced betrayals and sexual confusion. Both the plot and the character development held my attention, as did the beautifully crafted prose. This was no small feat, especially considering that it was a 771 page novel. 

All things considered, I was a fan. There was a lot to mull over and ponder after reading this book. It's also worth stating that the next novel I chose to read was a bit more upbeat, something I felt I needed in order to keep from throwing myself off a bridge. I'm kind of kidding...but not really. 

Here is a synopsis from Amazon

"Theo Decker, a 13-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Bewildered by his strange new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don't know how to talk to him, and tormented above all by his longing for his mother, he clings to the one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the underworld of art.

As an adult, Theo moves silkily between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty labyrinth of an antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love--and at the center of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle.

The Goldfinch is a mesmerizing, stay-up-all-night and tell-all-your-friends triumph, an old-fashioned story of loss and obsession, survival and self-invention, and the ruthless machinations of fate."



An interesting interview with the book's author

Donna Tartt from her interview with Vogue.



Foodie Friday- Eggplant Stack

Friday, August 8, 2014

I love eggplant. I love its deep, dark purple color and its smooth hourglass shape. Most of all though, I LOVE how it tastes! I bought some baby eggplants at the Farmer's Market the other day, along with a huge heirloom tomato. I wanted to make something that highlighted the two ingredients. What I came up with was a rawer version of Eggplant Parmesan. It was so simple, fresh, and delicious that I had to share it on the blog today.


Ingredients

Eggplant
Large tomato
Fresh Basil
Feta Cheese
Balsamic Vinegar
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

Instructions

  1. Cut eggplant from short end to make round steaks
  2. Place sliced eggplant steaks onto a cooking sheet and sprinkle with salt on both sides, setting them aside for at least an hour to allow them to sweat. This ensures that they will not be too soggy.
  3. In the meantime, slice large tomato and add pepper.
  4. After the eggplants are done sweating, pat them with a paper towel to remove excess water.
  5. Heat Olive Oil in frying pan (You want enough oil to completely cover the pan)
  6. Fry eggplants until brown and fully cooked on both sides.
  7. Start stacking! I did mine as follows- eggplant, fresh basil, tomato, and feta followed by a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Continue stacking until you are happy with the amount. Add salt and pepper to taste and dig in!
Give this a try and tell me what you think. Happy weekend everyone! xoxo

Post Nursing Nourishment: A Healthy Way to Maintain

Friday, August 1, 2014

I did it!!! It wasn't always easy, but I made it through a whole year of nursing. Weaning hasn't been all that difficult, especially since she is already eating so many solid foods. I'm so grateful that I was able to give her all those good antibodies and nutrients through my breast milk. At the same time, I'm equally excited to fully reclaim my body as my own again. Motherhood is chock full of contradictions like that. 


Regardless of how much I am going to miss having a little baby gazing up at me and patting my face as she nurses, I won't miss feeling like my body can't keep up with the amount of milk she needs to grow. That was the only issue I had with nursing both my girls. Because Esmae started out in the NICU, my supply didn't get off to a good start. She lost a scary amount of weight at one point and I had completely dried up by the time she was six months. With Mazzy, her weight gain has been fairly slow and she is definitely on the small side. I worried that I wasn't producing enough again, although the doctor assured me that it was normal for nursing babies to be a bit smaller. Mazzy wouldn't touch formula (I can't say that I blame her) so at the suggestion of our pediatrician, I started supplementing with cow's milk at eleven months. Ever since then, she's been growing like a little weed, which makes me happy.

All of which is to say that nursing, although one of the sweetest experiences of my life, has also been a fairly stressful one. Now that my body is no longer a grazing ground, I'm ready to concentrate on getting myself back to an even healthier place. The truth is, I've been feeling bloated and gross lately. My skin is oily and even though I lost the majority of my baby weight after giving birth, there is still 10-15 lbs that I would like to shed. While I was nursing I didn't want to lesson my calorie intake, especially since I was already having trouble with milk production. Since I'm not worried about that anymore, I can eat less (without starving myself) and get back to my pre-pregnancy weight and feeling better in general.

I wanted to share a sample of my new way of eating here on the blog. I won't call it a diet because diets suck and this doesn't. I'm mostly interested in staying away from processed foods, bready-carbs and unhealthy fats. I will not, however, be getting rid of my coffee or stop indulging in the occasional cocktail or a glass of wine. Also, we go out to eat so infrequently that when we do, I will be giving myself a pass. Drinking plenty of water is another important part of my plan so I'll have my handy water bottle by my side at all times. My husband is doing this with me and I swear after only a week, I've lost 3lbs and we already feel less bloated and way more energized.


* Disclaimer * I am not a health expert and don't claim to be. These are simply sample meal plans that have worked for me. I am also including links to some of my favorite new recipes below.

MONDAY
Breakfast- Pineapple, orange, banana and spinach smoothie with Carrot Juice.
Snack- Handful of nuts
Lunch- Greek salad with broccoli and sun-dried tomatoes
Snack- V8 juice
Dinner- Grilled chicken and Lemon Parmesan Roasted Broccoli
Dessert- Square of dark chocolate


TUESDAY
Breakfast- Baked almond butter banana boat
Snack- Naked Green Juice
Lunch- Lettuce wrap sandwich with ham and cheese with avocado.
Snack- Hard Boiled (or baked egg)
Dinner- Flank Steak salad with sweet grilled corn
Dessert- Fresh berry salad with drizzle of Greek yogurt

WEDNESDAY
Breakfast- Baked eggx2 
Snack- V8 juice
Lunch- Chicken salad, lettuce wrap
Snack- Handful of nuts
Dinner- Butternut squash soup
Dessert- Square of dark chocolate


THURSDAY
Breakfast- Peach, Avocado and Spinach Coconut  Smoothie 
Snack- Handful of nuts
Lunch- Grilled chicken and Lemon Parmesan Roasted Broccoli
Snack- Carrot juice
Dinner- Grilled vegetable salad 
Dessert- Grilled peaches with granola

FRIDAY
Breakfast- Baked almond butter banana boat
Snack- Carrot juice
Lunch- Lentil soup
Snack- Hard Boiled (or baked egg)
Dinner- Grilled steak with pesto green beans
Desert- baked apples

SATURDAY
Breakfast- Baked egg x2
Snack- Peach Banana and Kale Coconut Smoothie
Lunch- BBQ chicken Quinoa Salad 
Snack- Handful of nuts
Dinner- Grilled Chicken Parmesan with side veggies of my choice
Desert- Fresh berry salad with drizzle of Greek yogurt

SUNDAY
Breakfast: Oatmeal
Snack: Fresh berry salad with drizzle of Greek yogurt
Lunch: Tomato soup and side salad
Snack: Orange
Dinner: Whatever I want!!!


P.S. I love the painting above by Mary Cassatt. She was known for creating intimate domestic works from a woman's perspective, a rare thing back in the day. I think it captures the quiet connection between mother and child so beautifully. I love how the mother is holding the baby's foot as the baby touches her face. I have been in that exact position many a time with my girls.