Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Food

With every season there are a handful of recipes that are on my absolute must-make list. For fall, we’re talking butternut squash, homemade applesauce, cheesy bowtie bratwurst casserole and pumpkin chocolate chip cookies.

It’s no secret that pumpkin spice is a an all-time favorite for most (#PSL season started two months ago), and this recipe combines the rich, rustic spices of fall with milk chocolate for a winning combination.

As I’ve mentioned before, I also love this recipe for the cookies’ consistency (think dessert AND breakfast) and love how many batches the dough renders.

And while this recipe is super simple, it’s also quite elegant – great for both cookie connoisseurs and beginning bakers alike!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 cups (12-ounce bag) milk chocolate chips, not semisweet

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Spray cookie sheets with nonstick spray or line them with parchment paper.
  3. Using a mixer, beat the butter until smooth. Beat in the white and brown sugars, a little at a time, until the mixture is light and fluffy.
  4. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then mix in the vanilla and pumpkin puree.
  5. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg.
  6. Slowly beat the flour mixture into the batter in thirds.
  7. Stir in the chips.
  8. Scoop the cookie dough by heaping tablespoons onto the prepared cookie sheets and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the cookies are browned around the edges.
  9. Remove the cookie sheets from the oven and let them rest for 2 minutes. Take the cookies off with a spatula and cool them on wire racks or paper bags.
  10. Share with friends and family for a hyggelig time!

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*Original recipe retrieved from FoodNetwork.com
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Fun Fall Sketches

Art

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a creature of the seasons, and with my favorite time of year upon us, I’ve been finding (making) time to break out the colored pencil set!

Between the foliage, harvest vegetables and colorful clothing, fall is a beautiful time of year. And if you’re an artist, it can be especially inspiring. Despite still being  overwhelmingly busy with home renovations, I’ve been making art a priority the last few weeks, and have been taking advantage of even the smallest available windows of “free” time.

While these small chunks of time don’t allow for elaborate pieces, I’ve found that I am quite content completing small sketches, inspired by the season. Completed art doesn’t have to be elaborate for an artist to get their fix.

Using these small windows of time, I’m seeking to capture that which I love most about this time of year before it passes by.

I love natural elements (such as the pumpkin above) but I’m also obsessed with fall fashion. I love the colors that the season brings out in fashion and am always drawn to the idea of cozying up in oversized clothes (see my latest post on hygge).

Then there are the textured sweaters, plaid scarves and (my all-time favorite) boots!

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I’m so incredibly thankful that our home projects have just about come to a close and I’ll soon be able to enjoy this season to its fullest. Whether its through fashion, pumpkin spice lattes or hygge, I hope everyone out there is enjoying nature’s most magical time of year!

Stay tuned for more fall-inspired artwork and new recipes to come!

Calming Your Mind and Environment: Adopting the Hygge Lifestyle

Inspiration

Like all other functioning adults, my life can sometimes be a little bit hectic, a little overwhelming and a little bit stressful. The good news is, the internet is constantly coming up with new ways for us functioning adults to deal with our stress, create zen and find our happy place!

With wedding planning and home renovations preoccupying all of my time, I’ve been finding myself (just a little bit) stressed but also, very much focused on design. This comes from thinking about decor, color and themes in both situations. What do the stress and design-focus have in common? My recent discovery of hygge.

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Hygge is a word you may have heard a time or two within the last year and is a Danish term that encapsulates the Scandinavian concept of coziness and the happiness created from life’s simple pleasures. More simply stated, it is the Danish secret for living a happy life. After watching Scandinavian cultures continually rank as having the happiest citizens in the world, Americans have taken note, and popularized hygge in our culture last year.

Still confused on what hygge is? Think coffee, cake, warm textiles, candles, nature walks and time spent with friends.

I first read about hygge in the New York Times last year, but due to recent stress levels decided to further my research. Just this week I came across this book, which provides tips and advice for living a more hygge life. I loved this charming book and speed-read it in one sitting.

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From all of my research, these have been my key takeaways:

Learn to be at peace when alone and in the company of others. Whether you are spending a restful night at home reading or participating in a family get-together, hygge is about appreciating the simple things and knowing how to be happy no matter your social situation. You’re happy to have time alone and just as happy to have time with friends and family.

scandi-image-3-400x600Keep it fresh. For a stress-free environment, do your best to eliminate clutter from your surroundings. You may not realize it, but a messy space can subconsciously influence your mood in a negative away. Another great way to improve your space is to add plants and greenery.

Spend time outside. A key part of hygge is being active, especially outside and regardless of the weather. Being outside in nature helps put your mind at ease. It’s also important to note that one should be active for the sake of being healthy and happy, and not with the goal of looking good.

Eat, drink and be merry! In the United States we tend to demonize food, especially food that which isn’t kale, quinoa, etc., etc. Adopting hygge means allowing yourself to curl up with a cup of cocoa, mix up a whisky beverage and slice into a chocolate cake.

As Andy and I get closer to completing our home renovation projects, I’m determined to adopt these lifestyle habits for a stress-free sale, move and wedding-planning extravaganza. Plus, fall seems to be the perfect time to curl up in a knit blanket with a favorite book and a cup of coffee.

 

 

A Journey to the Past: Reviewing “Anastasia” the New Musical

Review

This summer has been an absolute whirlwind! More so than usual considering Andy and I’s engagement, wedding planning and our full-fledged, all-consuming focus on getting our house ready for sale. In this whirlwind, I’ve been delayed in sharing with you my thoughts on my first Broadway experience and one of the famed street’s newest shows: “Anastasia.”

"Anastasia" was breathtaking! A night well spent on #broadway 👏👑 #anastasia #broadwaymusicals #anastasiathemusical

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Having signed up to chaperone a high school trip down to the city, I was especially excited to learn that we would be seeing this show. Aside from seeing “Wicked” off-Broadway this March, I had never before seen a show on-Broadway and was ecstatic to learn that my first show would be one featuring its original cast.

Needless to say, I had an incredible time and was thoroughly impressed by the storyline, the actors’ performance and the special effects. Truly, it was magical. My overall positive review being said, here were my favorite pieces of the show:

25ANASTASIAJP-master675SPECIAL EFFECTS: Typically, my textile artist eye is drawn immediately to costuming. And while this show does in fact boast magnificent costumes (that blue dress!), it’s this show’s special effects that really draw you in. I won’t spoil the show for those who haven’t seen it, but for those who have, you know I’m talking about that train scene! (And of course all of the beautiful winter scenery).

 

STORY: This is a beautiful story of love and the journey to finding one’s identity with inspiration drawn from history. If you love historical fiction, then you will love this show. That being said, the musical’s plot does inevitably vary from the original 1997 cartoon produced by Fox Animation Studios. While this is a point of dissatisfaction among  some die-hards, I personally thought the adaptation worked quite well and allowed the show to take on a more mature tone.Screen Shot 2017-09-02 at 3.35.54 PM.png

MUSIC: It goes without saying that a Broadway musical should have spectacular music. “Anastasia” held true to this reputation and delivered an array of numbers that are as beautiful as they are catchy. Let’s just say I had “Once Upon a December” stuck in my head for quite some time. I loved that the producers included songs from the film while also adding quite a few original numbers. Again, more music for a further developed, more mature story.

THE BLUE DRESS: You can’t talk about “Anastasia” without talking about that dress. However, I’ll let this costume speak for itself:

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Excuse me while I pick my jaw up off the floor. Seriously, so beautiful. I’m convinced there wasn’t a single girl in the audience who didn’t wish they owned their own version of this gown.

Case and point – next time you find yourself in the big apple and are looking for something to do, I would certainly recommend this show. Whether you’ve seen the original movie or not, this story will draw you in and make you a fan for life.

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My Latest Obsession: Veggie Noodles

Cooking

For the past year, I’ve been making a conscious effort to eat healthier. Not that I ever ate poorly, per say, but there was definitely room for improvement. On my mission to incorporate more vegetables into my diet and cut out “empty” calories, I came across one of the trendiest health foods: veggie noodles (or “zoodles,” if you will).

I’ve come to truly adore this alternative to traditional pasta (despite my Italian roots) and now use them quite often for quick week-night meals or bring-to-work lunches. This is how easy they are to make:

  1. Sauté the noodles in a pan for 5 minutes
  2. Add your favorite sauce
  3. Top with additional vegetables or protein, if desired

My favorite variation has been finishing the noodles with pesto and topping with lean protein, such as chicken.

You can also enjoy shopping for these noodles in a variety of vegetables (which equates to lots of color!)  and can find them made from zucchini, sweet potatoes or, as pictured above, beets!

Whether you’re a health-nut or not, I encourage you to give zoodles a try. I think you may be pleasantly surprised!

Wedding Dreams and Flower Crowns 

Art

In the midst of all the wedding planning, I keep finding myself coming back to the dress, the flowers and all the girly things you would expect a 23-year-old artist to come back to.

While my fiancé and I have been focusing on nailing down all of the large commitments first, it’s been all too fun for me to browse through image after image of flower bouquets, table settings and flower-inspired fashion – all of which remind me of one of my most recent drawings.

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Ever since I started drawing with the Premier-grade Prismacolor pencils, I’ve been particularly attracted to hair. I thought it would be fun to do a drawing featuring a hairstyle, excluding the face and featuring a whimsical flower crown. To me, this was perfect summer subject matter (and I am, if nothing else, a creature of the seasons).

 

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Even though we are planning a fall wedding, I’m very much still planning on a classic, “magical” vibe and hope to incorporate a lot of flowers into this theme.

And while the wedding planning has been temporarily put on hold due to home-improvement/moving ventures, I’ve still had plenty of time to daydream about the big day and wrap my mind up in flowers and all kinds of pretty things!

Don’t be too surprised if you see much more wedding-inspired artwork from this bride-to-be!

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FOR THE LOVE OF PHOTOGRAPHY: A NEW CAMERA FOR CONTINUED INSPIRATION

Art, Inspiration

It’s been over five years since I last bought a camera. Needless to say, it was time for an upgrade.

Looking to up my photo game with with our wedding and honeymoon in Hawaii coming up next year, and the possible sale of our home this fall, now seemed like a great time to invest in a better camera.

Although I had my eye on a top of the line machine, we decided to go middle of the road, investing in a DSLR without breaking the bank (or our wedding fund!).  After scouring the internet for products and reviews, I came across the Canon Rebel T6 and after reading positive review after positive review, decided to give it a try.

An extremely popular model, we went with a kit purchase on Amazon and, in return, received the camera body, two lenses, a camera bag, a table top tripod, cleaning supplies, three filters, etc. etc.

Overall, I am very happy that we went with the kit and am especially pleased with the camera body,  the Canon lenses and the Canon case, and have been using the camera to capture moments around the house.

For the past year, a large portion of my job has revolved around taking photos for my company and as a result, photography has become something that I associate with my job. Buying this camera was also a way for me to reconnect with my artistic photographer side and enjoy capturing moments in my free time.

Long story short, I would definitely recommend this camera to a friend – or readers! Especially those who are just getting into more professional-grade photography. Truly, the camera is very user friendly while still offering a wide range of settings and capabilities.

Stay tuned for more refined photographs! But for now, enjoy these photos of Andy with our dogs. (Would you expect anything less?)

👑 Mermaid Embroidery

Art

The inspiration behind this piece is entirely clear and one that I can easily direct you to: “Imagine a Forest: Designs and Inspirations for Enchanting Folk Art” by Dinara Mirtalipova. This book is simply lovely and an absolute must-browse for anyone that has an interest in Eastern European design.

Having worked in a public library for 6+ years, I’m very much inspired by books and this one drew me in the moment I saw the cover.

Taking in Mirtalipova’s illustrative style, I was inspired to get out of my comfort zone and create a piece based on the instructions in her book. While her recommended media is paint, I decided to try her style in the form of embroidery.

I was especially attracted to her take on mermaids, and thought that this sea queen would be a perfect summer project!

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While I was working on this piece I also developed a sketch to get a better grasp of the character. This can be a useful tactic when your subject matter is human or humanoid, and you’re looking to capture a specific persona.

Although tedious, embroidering the scales for the mermaid’s top was also fun and I’m in love with the end result.

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I would definitely recommend Mirtalipova’s book to anyone interested in design, illustration and folklore! I know that for me it definitely proved to be a successful source of inspiration.

ANNOUNCING OUR ENGAGEMENT!

Festivity, Inspiration

So ecstatic, excited and proud to be announcing my engagement!

You may or may not have noticed a lull following my last post but, as you can imagine, the past week and a half has been a complete whirlwind!

Andy totally surprised me with this one (as is the ultimate goal), treating me to a romantic dinner at the Brewster Inn in Cazenovia, NY. Little did I know that our post-dinner stroll down to the lake would end in him getting down on one knee and breaking out the perfect ring from his suit jacket!

The restaurant staff did an amazing job as well, going the extra mile to make the evening special and (just as importantly) helping to keep me totally oblivious!

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It was perfectly romantic and elegant (both the evening and the ring) and was everything I could have ever asked for. I’m a lucky woman!

Needless to say, the last 10 days or so have been full of celebrating with friends and family. We are truly blessed to have those of you in our life that have gone above and beyond to make our engagement a special time in our life and have gone the extra mile to make us feel loved and supported – we can’t wait to have you at our wedding!

Aside from celebrating though, there’s also been a lot of work getting done vis a vis  WEDDING PLANNING! And may I just say, I never had any idea just how much planning went into a wedding? I’m tired already! But in the best of ways.

Stay tuned for more wedding-inspired writings, artwork and DIY. This occasion has helped me realize now more than ever just how inspirational love can be!

Fantasticly Beastly Niffler Embroidery

Art

It’s been a little while since I’ve shown some Potter love, so today, in celebration of the first book’s 20th anniversary, I’m bringing the love back with one of my latest embroidery pieces.

A while back, I gave you a preview of this little guy and the painstakingly slow process I was undergoing to get him stitched up to completion.

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At this point, I am VERY happy to announce that this embroidery has reached completion and the niffler’s belly and feet are no longer devoid of thread! Despite the amount of time it took to get it done, it was well worth the effort. (It’s pretty darn cute, if I do say so myself).

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I mean, c’mon just look at that face…

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Aside from representing outstanding cuteness, the niffler also stands as a reminder to the future of the Potter universe. Those of you who, like me, grew up with this story know that it is so much more than just a book series; it’s an artifact of our childhood. For me, it’s also been a constant source of inspiration – showing me that magic is real in friendship, love and story.

It’s also amazing to see the love so strong after 20 years, with young fans all over the world now enjoying these books and films the same way that we did, as if they were just now being released for the first time all over again.

Here’s to the last 20 years and the future that Fantastic Beasts will bring us!