Work happy


1.  Repurpose a bar table into the perfect standing desk // IKEA

2.  Set the proper mood lighting // West Elm

3.  Don’t lose sight of your inspiration // Pottery Barn

4.  Keep decor simple // West Elm

5.  Eye-catching notebook // Kate Spade

6.  The proper writing tools // Poppin

7.  Everything in it’s place // CB2

We recently made some cosmetic changes to our home office and I couldn’t be happier.  A personalized work space helps keep you motivated, spurs creativity and it really just makes working more enjoyable.  You may notice the desk in the image above is a standing desk (well it’s actually a bar table).  My husband first brought the standing desk phenomenon/trend to my attention after reading article after article about how sitting for hours on end is hazardous to your health.  He read this one article in which experts proclaim that standing on weekdays burns calories like running 10 marathons per year.  Crazy, right?  I did some research of my own.  Sitting for more than 6 hours per day is really bad.  How bad you ask?  Your risk of heart disease increases by up to 64 percent. Also, you’re shaving off 7 years of quality life and it puts you more at risk for certain types of cancer.  Ugh.  To sum it up, humans weren’t meant to be sedentary.

While I don’t have any of the chronic conditions listed above, I am aware that I have terrible posture while sitting at my desk all day.  This illustration from the Washington Post shows what happens to our body after sitting all day and what you can do to help combat the effects on your body.  As difficult as it may be to peel ourselves away from the computer, it’s super important to get up and move around throughout the day.

What do you think of standing desks?  Could you stand at your desk all day?

Easiest appetizer ever

Over the weekend we met up with some friends to cheer on California Chrome…womp, womp!  While the thoroughbred came up short, the appetizer I brought to share was certainly a crowd-pleaser.


Living in South Philadelphia, not far from the Italian Market, I’m fortunate to have Di Bruno Brothers at my disposal.  Di Bruno Brothers has been serving up gourmet goodness since 1939 and are well-known for their exceptional cheeses, meats and other Italian specialities.  I picked up a few simple ingredients: marinated mozzarella, roasted red peppers, salami, Roman artichokes, and pitted Kalamata olives – then I got to work!  Simply assemble ingredients on wooden skewers and violà….the easiest appetizer ever!  Easy to pick up and eat, each skewer is exploding with flavor.  And the best part – they can be made in advance and you can easily find all of these ingredients at your local supermarket.

The combinations are endless – here are a few other tasty ingredients to help you customize your skewer:
-Cherry tomatoes
-Artichoke hearts
-Mozzarella (marinated or plain)
-Roasted red peppers
-Tortellini (cooked, chilled and dressed with Italian vinaigrette)
-Italian bread (cubed and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil)
-Sun-dried tomatoes
-Pepperocini peppers


Buon appetito!

My urban jungle, a container herb garden


As a city dweller, my backyard consists of a large slab of concrete.  Luckily I don’t need a lush lawn to put together a well-composed container herb garden and have fresh herbs at my fingertips all summer long, perfect for sprinkling in salads and pastas.

For a herb garden with no fuss, all you need is a few pots and a place in the sun.  This year, I’m starting off my herb garden with: purple basil, mint, cilantro, parsley and lemon thyme.  Before I get to potting my herbs, I did a little reading on what and how to plant.  If you haven’t planted your herbs yet, here are a few interesting facts from Better Homes & Gardens about the best herbs for container gardens.

1.  Basil, a beloved Italian annual herb, grows best in full sun and fertile, moist soil. Once the root system is established, about six weeks after sowing, it tolerates short periods of drought. Basil is a good companion with parsley, thyme, and other herbs when grown in a pot that holds at least 5 gallons of soil.

2.  Chives are grassy, clump-forming perennials with hollow leaves. Essentially tiny onions, chives are grown for their leaves and blooms rather than their bulbs. Their fragrant pink-purple spring flowers are also edible. Plant them in well-drained potting soil that’s rich with organic matter. They can tolerate light shade but do best in full sun. Chives grow well in container gardens. 

3.  Cilantro, also known as coriander, can be used for its tangy leaves or its dried, ground seeds. Plant this annual herb in well-drained soil. Cilantro grows best in sun, although it tolerates some shade. Because it has a long taproot, place it in a container garden that is at least 12 inches deep.

4.  Tarragon is a classic French herb used to season fish and many other foods. Its name is derived from the French word for little dragon, referring to the herb’s bold flavor. Plant it in full sun and well-drained potting mix. It tolerates drought well and should not be overwatered. Tarragon grows in partial shade but does best in full sun. 

5.  Lavender is a bushy perennial shrub that does best in full sun and well-drained potting mix. Keep it on the dry side and avoid fertilizer. Lavender hardiness depends on the variety.

6.  Lemon balm, an old-fashioned favorite that spreads freely and self-sows readily, is perfect for container gardens so it doesn’t take over the yard. Plant in partial shade or full sun and in moist, rich, well-drained potting mix. 

7.  Lemon verbena is a tropical shrub that’s commonly grown as an annual in container gardens. Plant nursery-grown plants in pots filled with well-drained potting mix. Avoid fertilizer; lemon verbena grows best with few nutrients. It prefers full sun.

8.  Marjoram, an oregano relative, has a sweeter, milder flavor and aroma than its cousin. Grow it in full sun and well-drained potting mix. 

9.  Mint is such a vigorous plant that it will become invasive unless it is confined in a pot. Grow it in full sun or partial shade. Mint can grow in many soil types and degrees of sunlight, but it produces the best leaves in rich soil. 

10.  Oregano is an essential ingredient in Mediterranean cuisines. The plant is a shrubby perennial that does best in full sun and well-drained potting mix. The more sun oregano receives, the more pungent the flavor of the leaves. 

11.  Rosemary, a Mediterranean evergreen shrub, likes hot, dry, sunny spots. Quick-draining soil is the key to good growth. It’s drought-tolerant. Keep the soil moist but never wet when grown indoors. 

12.  Sage is a favorite for seasoning poultry. Best grown in full sun and moist, well-drained potting mix, sage is perfect for adding structure to container gardens. 

13.  Thyme comes in many varieties, but all grow best in full sun and well-drained soil. Thyme does not tolerate wet soil, so avoid over-watering. 

If you have a green thumb, what tips or tricks have you learned?

When life gives you lemons (lots of them), make limoncello


At the end of a hearty meal, do you find yourself yearning for that certain something to cleanse your palate, satisfy your sweet tooth and aid in the digestion of everything you just consumed all at the same time?  Look no further than the sweet, penetrating citrine pop of a smooth shot of limoncello.

There really is nothing simpler: spirit, lemons, sugar.  Peel some lemons, steep them in alcohol, add some sugar-water, strain, bottle, pop in the freezer, and viola, you have limoncello.  It can be good or not so good.  Too bitter or too sweet, not lemony enough or too strong, but in the end, after indulging in copious amounts of rich Italian food, you find yourself immensely pleased to be sipping this lemony delight.

I’ve never had much luck with the store-bought versions of the stuff, many are too sweet or don’t have enough kick.  We have a friend who makes some for us every year for Christmas, and it’s fabulous.  With our supply depleted, I wanted to see for myself just how easy it is to make homemade limoncello.  Side note: I love food favors – what’s a more perfect favor for a dinner party or bridal shower than a perfectly portioned bottle of limoncello (check your local craft store for cute bottles – the one pictured above with the cork is from A.C. Moore)?

Making limoncello isn’t an exact science, depending on who you talk to, everyone has a different take on how it should be done.  Here’s how I made mine.


Homemade Limoncello //

10 lemons (washed well, preferably organic)
30 oz. vodka (just a bit more than what’s in a 750 ml bottle)
3-1/4 cups sugar
3-1/4 cups water

Using a vegetable peeler, peel the lemons and place the peels in a large pitcher.  Pay careful attention to not peel the white pith (it’s bitter tasting).  Pour the vodka over the peels and cover with plastic wrap.  Steep the lemon peels in the vodka for at least 4 days at room temperature.

To make the simple syrup (sugar-water), stir the water and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Cool completely. Pour the simple syrup over the vodka mixture. Cover and let stand at room temperature overnight. Strain the limoncello through a mesh strainer. Discard the peels.  To help with the flavor and clarity, you should strain the mixture again through a coffee filter (tedious process).  Transfer the limoncello to bottles.  Seal the bottles and chill for up to 1 month.

Bonus Points:  For a refreshing, slightly alcoholic, summertime party beverage, convert your limoncello into a limoncello spritzer.  Combine equal parts limoncello with seltzer water, add ice and garnish with lemon slices!


The only guacamole recipe you’ll ever need

Happy Cinco de Mayo! This is a holiday I take very seriously. Guacamole is by far my favorite food from the “dips and spreads” food group! So, despite the fact there’s a nationwide avocado and lime shortage wreaking havoc on guacamole lovers everywhere, my goal today is to consume as much of the green stuff as possible. [Side note: On this day alone, Americans will consume almost 81 million avocados!]  To ensure I reach my full guacamole-eating potential, I’m whipping up a batch in my own kitchen. Here is the only guacamole recipe you’ll ever need – trust me, I did all the R&D.


Avocado Tip: Avocados grow on trees, but only ripen once they’re off the tree.  If you pick up an avocado at the store that’s not quite guacamole ready, to expedite the ripening process, put it in a paper bag with a banana or an apple.

Ingredients //
5 ripe avocados, halved, peeled and pitted
2 limes, juiced
1 teaspoon lime zest
1/2 jalapeno, seeded and minced
1/2 white onion, minced
3 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1/8 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

Directions //
Place the avocados and juice of 1 lime in a large bowl, toss to coat.  Add the cayenne and cumin.  Using a potato masher, mash until slightly chunky.  Fold in the remaining lime juice, lime zest, jalapeno, onion, tomatoes, garlic and cilantro.  Season with salt and pepper.  If storing in the refrigerator, press the surface of the plastic wrap onto the surface of the guacamole to help prevent oxidation.



Obsessed with plates on walls

A few weeks ago we visited my husband’s cousin and his wife at their gorgeous home in New York just outside of Manhattan.  Every room was beautifully decorated, but the one thing I just couldn’t take my eyes off of was this amazing plate wall in their kitchen.  Is this stunning or what?  I’ve been wanting to do a plate wall in my kitchen for ages, and now after seeing this one it’s all I can think about.  After doing some online browsing I found this design on Houzz (see below).  Now I can’t decide between an all white design or something with a bit more color.  Which design style do you prefer?
I had a little fun searching for chic, affordable plates (sold separtely, not in a set) and found these little gems.PlateWallCollageFlatten
1.  Jardin Des Plantes Side Plate // Anthropologie // $14

2.  Old Havana Salad Plate // Anthropologie // $12

3.  Natural World Dessert Plate – Ladybug // Anthropologie // $18

4.  Garden Buzz Dessert Plate – Red // Anthropologie // $12

5.  Red Bird Plate // Pier 1 // $5

6.  Riviera Flat Plate // Crate & Barrel // $11.95

7.  Sissinghurst Castle Side Plate // Anthropologie // $14

8.  Karima Salad Plate // Pier 1 // $13.95

9.  Mara Plate // Sur La Table // $12.95

10.  Lotus Dessert Plate // Anthropologie // $12

11.  Green Bird Plate // Pier 1 // $5

12.  Attingham Dinner Plate // Anthropologie // $20

13.  Lemon Salad Plate // Sur La Table // $9.95

It’s Friday…come on get happy (hour)

I’ll let you in on a little secret.  My husband and I have a Friday night happy hour ritual.  Not out at a trendy gastropub with lots of friends…but at a small bar in our basement (aka the “man cave”)!  It works for us.  The company is good and the drinks are cheap(er)!

I love happy hour about as much as I love Fridays.  It’s such a great, celebratory way to kick off the weekend.  The only problem is, I would never get home from work in time to participate.  That’s why about a year ago I decided to forego the mad dash to get to the bar on Friday before 7pm and start hosting happy hour at home.

Here are a few simple menu suggestions to create an at home happy hour that beats the bar!  P.S. The recipes are quick and easy too, because we all know that last thing you want to do after a grueling commute in rush hour traffic is slave away in the kitchen for an hour or two!

The Drinks:

(Photos and recipes from Martha Stewart)

Find these easy recipes here:
Beer // Lemon Shandy
Whiskey // Whiskey Lemonade
Vodka // Blackberry Crush
Rum // Pineapple-Rum Cocktail
Apéritif // Campari and Orange

The Food:
(Photos and recipes from Martha Stewart)

Find these easy recipes here:
All-American Buffalo Chicken Tenders
Artichoke Dip
Avocado Bar
Spicy-Sweet Pretzel Mix

What’s on your happy hour menu?