Harvest Carrot Quinoa Salad


Roasted Carrot Quinoa Salad I think a lot of times I get hung up on thinking that Thanksgiving is a time for indulgence as much as it is about being grateful and spending time with my loved ones. I’m all for going along with traditions, but sometimes I also think there is a place for new traditions to be made. At my house we like to experiment with new recipes and we even have a yearly informal recipe contest. Along the way we’ve found some new recipes that we just love and the stories of their origin become part of the bigger story. If you couldn’t tell, we take Thanksgiving very seriously. I think there is a place on the table for a non-traditional sort of recipe, like this Roasted Carrot Quinoa Salad. It’s a salad, yes, but it’s incredibly hearty. And if you’re leaning towards giving your Thanksgiving menu a little healthy revamp, this would be a great side to add to the list.
Roasted Carrot Quinoa Salad Ingredients I was sort of channeling Ottolenghi when I was putting this salad together. There’s a hint of earthy, spicy cumin and coriander in the fresh lemon vinaigrette. The pomegranate arils add a sweet, vibrant burst with every bite. The carrots become tender and caramelized in the oven. I found some gorgeous heirloom red spinach that make a great leafy base, but any of your favorite leafy greens would work here. The protein-rich quinoa makes it hearty and filling. And of course, golden raisins and sliced almonds round things out. Healthy Roasted Carrot Quinoa Salad-2 This can be made several days in advance. The salad should be dressed just before serving, however, if you do plan to make it ahead. Also, add the spinach right before serving. It’s pretty tender and wilts easily. Leftovers will keep for several days stored in an airtight container in the fridge.

Note: Butternut squash can stand in for the carrots, and bulghur could be used instead of quinoa.

What must-have sides are always on your Thanksgiving table? Or do you like to mix it up and try new recipes? Healthy Roasted Carrot Quinoa Salad

Harvest Carrot Quinoa Salad
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: American
Serves: 6
  • 1 cup red quinoa
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 pound rainbow carrots (about 5-6), peeled, sliced into ¼" rounds
  • 4 ounces fresh spinach (I used red heirloom)
  • ½ cup fresh pomegranate seeds
  • ½ cup sliced almonds
  • 2 Tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Place quinoa in a fine-mesh sieve and rinse well. Transfer to a 2 quart pan and add the vegetable broth. Bring just to a boil, then lower heat to simmer. Cover and let cook for 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, toss carrots with the 2 teaspoons olive oil. Place on prepared baking sheet. Roast in oven for 20 minutes, or until tender. Remove from oven and let cool slightly.
  4. In a large serving bowl, toss spinach with the cooked quinoa. Top with the roasted carrots, pomegranate and chopped seeds.
  5. Whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, and cumin. Season with salt and pepper. Pour over the salad and gently toss. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  6. Leftovers will keep for several days in the fridge. To keep longer or make in advance, do not add the vinaigrette until ready to serve.


Apple Cider Moscow Mules


apple-cider-mocow-mules-1 When I was in Lake Arrowhead with my boot camp group for Oktoberfest, I made my first ever Moscow Mule. I didn’t realize how crazy easy they were to make, as the copper mugs they are traditionally served in, always made them seem like some elusive, intimidating cocktail that only the hippest of bartenders could master. But nope, all it is is some vodka, fresh squeezed lime and ginger beer. So easy to make that it in fact doesn’t seem all that special without the copper mug, and I even went as far as throwing my own Moscow Mule into a Powerade bottle and smuggle it into Oktoberfest. It was a wild group of girls, and I was a much more daring version of myself for 36 hours. I even competed in a sauerkraut eating competition. Anywayyyyyssss… apple-cider-moscow-mule Back to the mules. To give them a seasonal twist, I swapped the lemon juice for the apple juice, and added some fun cinnamon and apple garnish. This version is just as easy to make as the original, and can be made for single servings or in a big batch, as I did on Halloween night.  apple-cider-moscow-mule-ginger-beer apple-cider-moscow-mule-ingredients You can use either unfiltered, not from concentrate apple juice, as that always has a stronger flavor than regular apple juice, or you can use actually apple cider, but don’t use sparkling apple cider, since you’ll already be getting fizz from the ginger beer. You can also infuse your vodka with ginger for an added punch, by adding a good knuckle size peeled knob of ginger to a mason jar full of vodka, and let it sit over night. If you have a juicer, you can also juice some ginger and add that to the cocktail shaker for am enhanced ginger flavor. apple-cider-moscow-mules-garnish apple-cider-mules I made a batch where I added the ginger beer to the whole mix, and that was a rookie mistake. It tastes much better if you add the ginger on top right before serving, and then you can stir things around a bit with your cinnamon stick swirler. Cinnamon sticks can be found on the cheap in the Mexican food aisle in any major grocery store, by the way. Feel free to slice your apples or use a peeler for an apple “twist.” Whatever you do though, make sure you drink these slow, because they’ll kick you with a punch after downing one too quickly, they go down that smooth. By the way, I got my Moscow Mule Mugs on Amazon and they were about $10 cheaper last week when I ordered them, and now I see they’ve jumped up in price. They’re still a fair price at $51 for a package of 4 16 ounce mugs, but I hear Target has them for $10 a piece, not sure what size they are. I searched around though, and these seemed to be the average going rate. The mugs don’t change the flavor of the drink, obviously, but they make it more fun and festive for sure.

Apple Cider Moscow Mules
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Drinks
Serves: 1
  • 4 ounces of apple cider or unfiltered apple juice
  • 4 ounces of vodka, preferably infused with ginger *see note in text
  • 2 ounce splash of ginger beer
  • ice, cinnamon stick and apple slices for garnish
  1. Mix the ice, vodka and apple cider in a cocktail shaker and mix vigorously. Pour over ice in a mule mug, and top with a heavy splash of ginger beer. Garnish with cinnamon stick and apple slice.
  2. To make this for a large party, pour equal parts vodka, about ½ pint, and apple cider in a beverage container. Mix with ice, and when ready to serve, simply pour mix over individually cups of ice, and then top with ginger beer. Do not add ginger beer to large batch of vodka/apple cider. Leave a tray of garnishes out and allow guests to top off their own.


Daily Style – Casual Snakeskin


IMG_8292 Python Leggings – Splendid LA also available at Nordstrom; Cashmere Blend Dolman Sleeve Sweater – Splendid LA also available in Charcoal at Nordstrom; Sunglasses – Ray-Bay Wayfarer 51mm; Booties – Sam Edelman Petty; Reversible Faux Leather Tote - Nordstrom


Over the weekend, Kristen hosted a Splendid event at the Fashion Island mall. It was family-friendly and they were having crafts and such, so I decided to take Taylor and Hayden since Syd would be at a Cub Scouts event. Taylor loved the craft Open House Creative whipped up, and I loved these damn snakeskin leggings!  IMG_8293 They have some sort of a terry type backing, giving them a little more structure than your standard legging, and the added size zip makes these feel more like a jean or pant than regular leggings. But they’re just as comfortable as regular leggings, therefore a win-win on all accounts. They sort of remind me of the pajama jeans as seen on TV, but much more stylish and better overall. Okay, that was a really poor comparison. Let’s say they are just damn comfortable.
IMG_8498 I do not like showing off my bootie in most cases, so I paired it back to a very loose and longer cashmere-blend sweater, and wore the whole look back to the classic Petty booties. Three years later and these booties just won’t quit.  IMG_8525 And of course the great reversible tote bag is going everywhere with me these days. I can stuff tons in it, and last week Hayden spilled his juice all down the inside, and the only thing to get ruined were the entire contents of my bag, but not the bag itself, so that’s a win! Always gotta look on the bright side, am I right?  IMG_8538 Hope you all are having a great week. I’ll be back tomorrow with an apple cider Moscow mule recipe, so stay tuned!

Week In Review – How Many Selfies Does It Take?


selfie-collage Our week was cut in half on account of the Veteran’s Holiday and being in Scottsdale Saturday-Tuesday. We were visiting my bestie and her family, and had a great visit but I miss her and wish we lived in the same state. That drive across the 10 from LA to PHX is crap. I found out that another good friend is moving, at least in the same state still but definitely several hours away. Why do all my friends suddenly hate me, or at least hate Southern California? It’s hard to not take it personally when they keep leaving like this.

Yesterday, feeling a little glum from all my friends abandoning me, I decided to go to the one place I can find comfort with a toddler in tow; the mall. I’m not sure what that says about me, but I’ve always enjoyed walking the mall in the morning before it’s teeming with people and it’s fairly calm and quiet. Perhaps all those years working retail, who knows, I’m sure my time could have been better spent somewhere else, but…I’m starting to sound defensive, aren’t I? Interesting thing is, I often don’t even buy stuff, I just go to return stuff I have bought before, that either didn’t fit me or the kids right, or I had buyer’s remorse on. It’s admittedly a huge waste of time, and what’s funny is, my Grandma Tita spent a good portion of her retirement driving around returning things she had purchased. At least one day a week you’d call Grandma and she’d tell you she had just got home from “returning some things” at Penney’s or Sears. We often made fun of her and attributed it to being bored, but now I wonder if we both had/have some weird obsession with the mall? Things that make you go hmmm.

While at the mall, I discovered that Nordstrom was price matching Bloomingdale’s Friends & Family 20% off sale, and since I much prefer shopping Nordstrom than Bloomingdale’s (too many shitty hours spent working for the Federated Department stores have left me slightly bitter), I bought just a couple of things that I plan to save for Christmas gifts. Something for my sister in law’s birthday and an Alex & Ani bracelet I’ll give to my sister if I choose her as Secret Santa, and if not, I’ll save it for her birthday. So FYI, if you want to start a little Christmas shopping and are planning to purchase some items which normally don’t ever go on sale, hop on into a Nordstrom store and they’ll gladly price match any item that Bloomies also carries.

The Nordstrom thing got me side tracked. The real reason why I went to the mall was to return a swimsuit and sun hat I had bought for Taylor for Hawaii, but didn’t fit her. See, with the returns? While there, I obviously stopped by Nordstrom, and I also went into Sephora because I was out of brown eyeliner and was almost out of concealer. I visited Tarte and picked up several new things, including a brow powder and brush, eyeliner, concealer and a new lipstick which I am in LURRRVVEEE with. I’m wearing all the items above, and as you can see, I spent a good portion of my afternoon trying to get my best angle. I’m pathetic.

That lipstick though, is seriously awesome. It goes on pretty matte, and has a ton of saturated color, and the kicker was, it didn’t bleed ALL DAY! You know how red lipsticks especially tend to bleed? Not this one. It’s called Fiery by Tarte, and it has my heart.

As the beauty bag detox continues, I keep getting recommendations to try other awesome sounding brands. For now, I’m sort of loving the Sephora thing because I can cruise in and try everything on, with no obligations to buy, although who am I kidding, we always buy, right? I love supporting small brands and as I get more of the hang of this, I definitely will do more shopping with smaller natural beauty brands going forward. But for now, I still feel way too stuck on the notion of having to try everything on before I commit to buying. I’m a creature of habit. Before this, I had been using the same products from my mascara to my foundation, for over 15 years.

I didn’t spend too much time reading online this week, since I was gone for half of it and spent the other half doing kid-related things like taking them to swim meets and practices and stuff. Oh, and at the mall of course. I ran into Sarah while there, after had just meeting her for coffee the day before. She has me feeling pretty confident I can order from the Beauty Counter btw. We chatted for a few minutes before it was time to catch her plane, and then I realized I had to jam to pick up the kids. sarah-and-i

And after all that, I never did return the damn swimsuit and hat.

Finding My Signature Scent


LL-EDP1 I think it’s safe to say that most of us, when walking through a department store, do everything in our power to avoid the fragrance lady standing at the entrance to the cosmetic department, or strategically placed at the bottom of the escalator. If we do happen to make eye contact (big mistake), we either politely give the little hand wave as if to say “No, thank you”, or we begrudgingly take the carded fragrance sample, and then toss it in the trash as soon as we get the chance.

I worked retail in a huge department store long enough to know this is true. But avoiding the fragrance lady is often more about refusing to fall down the rabbit hole of smelling endless samples only for them all to wind up smelling the same, than it is about despising perfume. Many women love perfume in fact, and like me, would love to find their signature scent. I think this is especially true the older we get and as our kids grow. The idea of a signature scent is both romantic and sexy, as well as deeply nostalgic, often conjuring up memories of our grandmothers who always smelled a certain way (usually good). But finding a signature scent is usually quite low on the priority list of things to get done in life. LL-oil1 Enter By Rosie Jane, and their simple signature scent called Leila Lou. “With notes of pear, jasmine and fresh cut grass, Leila Lou is clean, fresh and totally addicting.” This scent is the best of spring captured in a bottle. It’s a perfect scent for this season of my life; messy, busy, toddler-y. I’ve been using this scent for several weeks now and it makes me feel fresh and clean every time I put it on. It’s for the days when I have to stretch out a shampoo and Hayden just sneezed on me, and I’m trolling through the baseball field or football field or playground or public pool once again. It sounds silly, but having a nice, yet simply scented perfume I put on everyday helps me feel a bit more feminine and a little less messy. And I love that I didn’t have to ruin my nose smelling 40 different perfumes.  LL-candle1 I keep the roll-on with me in my purse for the days I need a “refresh”, and the bottle of course stays at home for quick post-shower spritzes. The soy candle has taken up permanent residence in my office where I can keep it all to myself. I burn it while I’m writing and it fills the room with the most subtle of scents, not overpowering yet strong enough to make an impact.  LL-lotion1 LL-bodywash1 By Rosie Jane was founded by celebrity makeup artist Rosie Johnston. After creating her own signature scents and wearing them, she began receiving requests to make it for her clients, thus the brand was born. The brand is small, but growing, and is dedicated to making cruelty-free products which are paraben, sulfate, phthalate & phosphate free. They use simple recycled and recyclable packaging that is thoughtfully and stylishly designed, and all products are made in California.
Screen-Shot-2014-09-29-at-3.20 I was thrilled to be able to try out such a beautiful product which I’ve been wanting to add to my daily beauty routine for years now, and I was even more thrilled to support a local brand who is like-minded. The full line of By Rosie Jane products are available online in their store, and in boutiques across the country. Let me know if you check them out and what you think.

*this is not a sponsored post and all opinions are my own. I was gifted a bottle of perfume and candle for my own use, but I loved it so much I was more than happy to share the brand with my readers. 

Currently Seeking Paid Contributors For 2015


sfgirlbybay-inspiration-wall One of the best decisions I made this year was to take advantage of some of the wonderful connections I’ve made through blogging, by hiring two fabulous contributors. Alix and Lindsey have been a saving grace for me this past year as I’ve battled fatigue, occasional lack of creativity, and continual brain fog. Some question why even bother to keep the blog running during abnormally hectic periods, and while I did at times question my saneness, and some weeks went by where I didn’t post a thing, I still do love this space and don’t want to give up on it. I have a strong feeling this craziness is just a season, and it would be a shame to give up on blogging after all the years I’ve put into it; 7 years total, and almost 3 in this space. In the past seven years I’ve made great connections with people who’ve turned into friends, and with brands who I respect and consider myself lucky to work with. I’ve also worked so hard to be able to even call this a business and not just a hobby, that I’m not willing to throw in the towel just yet.

Which brings me to my point here. In 2015 I have hopes of feeling better and doing more here. Not necessarily a ton more content, I’d like to limit posts to 3 times a week still. But more helpful content all around. When coming up with projects and posts with my two current contributors, I usually request ideas that I want to try myself, or areas which I know I’m not necessarily gifted at but am still incredibly interested in. Finding the time to try and force creativity and areas of life which I don’t excel in is a pointless act, so I’d like to continue to focus attention on writing and creating content I am good at, yet still keep other helpful and useful posts coming, from people who are really good in that area.  So, I am currently looking to add on 2 new paid monthly contributors beginning in 2015.

Seeking Natural Living Contributor:

Natural living, with an emphasis on home and beauty. This contributor would ideally have experience in creating DIY/homemade beauty products like masks, scrubs, lip balm, lotions and other potions, and huge bonus if they can transfer that knowledge into home-related homemade products, including things like DIY all-natural hand sanitizer, counter top spray, maybe even soy candles. A good knowledge of natural beauty products currently on the market would be great too, since we can’t make everything ourselves! Basically, someone who has an appreciation and understanding of natural living which reaches across the realms of both personal health and wellness, and the home. Important to have good photography and styling skills. My current contributors do a fantastic job and you can see some of their work here, and here.

Seeking Lifestyle Curator:

I love well-curated round-ups of posts I actually could really use and need, and pin them all the time. Posts where all the links work, the destination links are an actual true representation of the subject, links are posts which are true hidden gems, and posts are both beautiful and useful. I would love to have someone on board who could do the hard work of rounding up things like the 25 best  healthy crockpot recipes. Or 20 great ways to add a gallery wall to your living space, or 15 beautiful denim and heels trend. Someone who has a great eye and loves the lifestyle niche, and who can sleuth out great posts which are timely and useful for readers. Important to have basic graphic design skills and can create nice looking, well organized collages.

If you are interested, please shoot me an email at andrea@fortheloveof.net with the subject title Contributor Position. We can discuss at that time payment, and more details. Please provide a link to your site if you have one, and/or current and past links to contributor and freelance work. I am not looking for a certain size blogger, any and all are welcome and appreciated. I would just love to find a couple of more talented people who have a good eye and good photography skills, that is most important! :) As a contributor you will always get a mention/credit in social media shout-outs, a bio at the end of each post with your links and a photograph, and in 2015 I’ll be adding current contributors bios and links directly in the About Page so you’re easy to find and reach!

Thanks so much for reading and I look forward to hopefully hearing from some of you :)

Image Credit SF Girl By Bay

Week In Review – Midterm Week


2c5df1044590efa7417cbc782df1f9c3 Wowwee, what an interesting week it’s been. Two years ago during election week, I probably alienated several friends on Facebook, so this week I took it easy and kept my mouth mostly zipped, as I’ve learned that Facebook and politics don’t really mix. But still, politics in general both fascinate and simultaneously depress me, so I spent much of the week prepping my ballot for Tuesday and then the last couple of days, reading up on several measures and candidates all across that country that passed and who were elected.

In Berkeley, a city tax for soda passed with a solid victory. The conservative in me is rolling my eyes at more taxes and big government, but my recent education on diet and nutrition over the past year is giving the city a high five and round of applause. Did you know a new study was just released showing soda can also cause premature aging, akin to the same damage done by cigarettes, and daily consumption can shorten your life by about 4 years? True story.

I’m telling you guys, I didn’t set out to be this neurotic health nut, but when I had to immerse myself into learning this stuff over the past year for my writing gig at Babble, it became sort of hard to ignore the facts and figures you read on a daily basis. Junk food is being demonized in this nation right now, and while some stuff goes way over the top (not everything causes cancer Food Babe), there is a lot of legitimate truth being learned about the junk we’ve been feeding ourselves the past 20-30 years.

GMO labeling failed in Oregon, despite a pretty heavy handed campaign in favor of it, from food advocacy groups all over the nation. I don’t talk or write a lot about GMO’s because of the controversy surrounding the discussion (the one time I did write about GMO’s, I fielded emails and facebook messages for days from groups on both sides of the debate, and it became irrationally dramatic, so now I just stay away). While I personally am against GMO’s from more of an ethical standpoint and think the whole idea is just strange, I don’t freak out if we consume them on occasion. If you are concerned about consuming GMO’s though, you don’t need a special able to avoid them. Here’s what you do:

There are currently only eight crops being grown and distributed for consumption (more are being grown but are not currently on the market): corn (field and sweet), soybeans, cotton, canola, alfalfa, sugar beets, papaya and squash. The majority of genetically engineered plants – corn, canola, soybean, and cotton – are typically used to make ingredients that are then used in other food products. Such ingredients include cornstarch in soups and sauces, corn syrup as a general purpose sweetener, and cottonseed oil, canola oil, and soybean oil in mayonnaise, salad dressings, cereals, breads, and snack foods.

To avoid GMO’s, avoid packaged foods which aren’t organic, don’t have any above listed ingredients, or carry the non- GMO verified label. I’m not saying it’s easy, and isn’t overwhelming, but once I grasped the concept and understood that the majority of packaged food for sale in conventional supermarkets, produced by the big brands, contain GMO’s, I just stopped buying them. The majority of packaged foods sold at stores like Sprouts are non-GMO verified. I just hate it when the health food industry tries to twist things,as they’re playing the same games as big food. I read the other day that gluten is genetically modified, which is just absurd. Gluten is a protein, found in wheat, which is absolutely not genetically modified. Drama, I tell you.

Not election-related, but still in the realm of food and politics, Mark Bittman wrote a response to the sociology study released a few months back, basically calling for an end to the home-cooked meal. The study sparked an intense debate online. Bottom line, the study found that the cooking mainly landed in the hands of women. Kids and spouses were often ungrateful. Many families struggled to afford to buy healthy food, and struggled even further to find the time to cook healthy meals, often due to intense work schedules and working more than one job. Some didn’t even have kitchens or the necessary tools to cook. I wrote a pretty mild response to it on Babble. The debate pretty much went like this:

A feminist writer lobbed onto the story and wrote a piece calling the home-cooked family dinner tyrannical. Oy!

In response, a conservative writer wrote a rebuttal and brought in lots of talk morals and family values, still though, I got her point, but double oy. Even dinner time conversations are now a basis for political back and forth.

This writer details it out in perfect unbiased fashion with her article titled Feminism Starts In the Kitchen, published on Bloomberg News.

Circling back to Bittman’s piece, titled Fight Poverty, Not Cooking, he brings up the studies initial concerns about income equality, privilege and advantage, and making nutritious food and supplies more readily available for the  millions fighting hunger in this country. His piece brought up some feelings I’ve been gnawing on for months now. What if we (I say we meaning me, but we meaning anyone who wants to join or offer ideas) started community movements that gave assistance to families struggling to put home-cooked meals on the table. Help via providing kitchen tools and basics like pots and pans, hot plates and knives. Help via providing transportation to inner-city families who live in food deserts and don’t have access to fresh food. Help with basic cooking classes held on a monthly basis. Help via donated gift cards to markets so they can buy their own food. Basically, basic tools and resources that could bring some empowerment and dignity to families struggling. How would even get started with something like this? I’m just putting this out there because I’ve been thinking about it for months, too nervous to let it out, but maybe someone out there reading this has some experience in this field, or knows someone who could help me get started next year with a project, who could help me put some shape into this blob of an idea??  Speak up if you may be that someone :)

This has  been the longest week in review ever, so I’m going to close for now. But of course, I have one more thought. I brought up the whole Lena Dunham mess on my Facebook page earlier this week. Bottom line, I don’t think she sexually abused her sister, and her sister doesn’t seem to think she was abused. But, I think we can all agree that she did some pretty weird shit, and her initial reaction to the whole thing was pretty damn troubling. She acted like a spoiled brat instead of a thoughtful adult and I think she was genuinely surprised at the backlash she got, and that the average American couldn’t really just pass this off as “weird Lena being weird Lena.” It’s like she was shocked she wasn’t living in some bizarro Wes Anderson movie. I’m wondering too why the thousands of people who read her book in the last month didn’t find these passages troubling, and a conservative site had to bring it up, calling for her head on a spike basically. Are those who read it a little entranced with rose colored Lena glasses? At any rate, this piece was one of many I read, which sort of put a timeline to all of Lena’s troubling behavior, outside of the scope of her book, and I’m wondering if this chick can just go away now?

When I brought up my agitation about the situation on my Facebook page, a reader commented that my reaction was outside the scope of my regular online persona,which I found to be an interesting statement. I may be helpful and nice most of the time, providing tips on cooking and eating well on my Instagram page, and writing about crafts and style and babies. But I am a person, not a persona, and while I don’t reveal all my thoughts every second of the day online, I still have plenty of them and if you’ve been reading me for a while, know I’m fairly opinionated and vocal on stuff I care about. In other words, I don’t keep my mouth shut to keep up appearances. How dull and sad would that be?

Have a good weekend everyone?

Faux Leather Reversible Tote, Just Like Madewell


IMG_8085 Camo skinnies – old Banana Republic but similar from Loft, Chambray shirt – Loft, Biker boots – Madewell, Reversible Faux Leather Tote – Nordstrom

Let me begin by stating, if you love leather and all it entails; the smell, the texture, the way it wears over time, this bag may not be for you. But if you could go either way on leather, then let’s have a serious talk about it. Because this tote is pretty much the perfect answer to all those pining after the Madewell one, but aren’t interested or aren’t able to spend $168 on their own. From Nordstrom, it’s under $50 and comes in a bunch of great colors. IMG_8090 IMG_8072

While the shape of this Madewell doppelganger is slightly different, more of a rectangle than a box shaped, it does have a couple of other features worth mentioning. Starting with, it is reversible y’all! That’s right, this is like getting two bags in one. It also comes with a detachable little zipper pouch, which is great on its own as a little wristlet, or would be well suited to swapping in between all sorts of bags. This tote also has a magnetic closure, which isn’t going to prevent its contents from completely falling out of the bag when your car comes to a screeching halt, but it does provide an extra level of protection against pick-pockets I suppose. IMG_8055 IMG_8058

The thing that I should mention about the reversible aspect of this bag, is that on one color side, you will see seams. It’s not the end of the world, I know, and really, for the most part as I was carrying this bag around yesterday I didn’t even notice. But as you can see in the pictures, the seams are there. The handles are also reversible, which you can see from both color sides, however I sort of like the look this gives the bag.  IMG_8060

While leather die-hards may not be able to get past the fact that this bag doesn’t smell like leather, at least there’s the upside of this bag wearing extremely well, and as a mom, I don’t have to worry each time my babes grubby hands get all over it. My current Lily Jade bag has water stains on it that will be hard to get out, if impossible. This bag can easily just be wiped clean with a damp cloth.  IMG_8110

I ordered two colorways in the bag, the black/cognac and the oxblood/tan. I expected the cognac and tan to be different shades of brown but they are identical, in fact I’m sure you can’t tell which one is which in some of these photos.  On both colorways, the black and oxblood are the sides with the seams, so the cognac/tan colors are seam-side in. I wasn’t sure which colorway I would stick with, but since my old black tote bag is literally falling apart, I think I’ll be boring and just stick with black/tan. the gold/tan color way looks cute too. There’s quite a few other color options as well.  IMG_8118 IMG_8121 IMG_8139 The other accessories worth mentioning here are my earrings, gold rings, which are slightly twisted in these photos, and my little rings necklace, containing 5 rings for our family of 5. I wear these pieces everyday and continue to get so many compliments on their daintiness. The earrings especially, despite them being so delicate, have lasted me a year now with no problems at all. The earrings are from a local boutique called Tullemoss, and I know they still have them there, and the necklace and rings are from another local boutique called Twig & Willow. All are from local artists, and are in stock, and both stores will ship. I’ve pretty much traded all other accessories in for these versatile pieces.

Farmer’s Market Salad


IMG_7772 During my knife skills class, we made some simple roasted chicken thighs to use for a taco filling, we made 3 different kinds of salsas and guacamole, and we made a surprising side dish; a farmer’s market salad, using only ingredients that had come in our chef’s weekly CSA box. Having grown up a beans and rice with tacos gal, a side salad, one so far removed from Mexican fare, was quite the departure for me, but a good one nonetheless to offset all the fried chips & dip, and stuffed to the brim corn tortillas.

This type of salad is not necessarily some new invention, and exists only on the premise that you use what you have, not what you go out and buy. Thus, your ingredients for this salad are forever in rotation and changing, especially with the seasons. Since we shot this salad 2 months ago when tomatoes were still ripe and juicy, I’d probably now skip the tomatoes and use avocados or roasted squash of some sort. Your types of lettuce may change as well. The idea is flexibility here, but you get the idea I’m sure.  IMG_7680 Gather all your vegetables and start chopping away, even taking liberties and using the food processor to shred up some veggies for an even more festive display; think beets, zucchini or finely diced onions. IMG_7695 If possible, use two types of lettuce, as this really gives the salad dimension and depth. Here I used a romaine and kale finely chopped. IMG_7718 IMG_7720 Another nice addition to this salad was fresh herbs, whatever you have on hand. At the time of the class, our instructor had received a beautiful fennel bulb, with the ends still in tact. I had never eaten raw fennel, and when thinly sliced, it added a great bit of zing. She used the bulb and the wispy ends, and the feathery flowers made the salad so pretty. I didn’t have any here, but if you ever come across fennel and you don’t know what to do with it, remember that you can always add it to a salad. IMG_7727 IMG_7732 The dressing is a go-to I’ve been making for years, which an old friend taught me how to make. All you need is some olive oil, lemon juice, dijon and maybe a bit of honey if you want it on the sweeter side. Then toss in some fresh herbs and salt and pepper, and you’re done. I know some people enjoy making their own dressings, so if you do, this is a great one. But if you can’t get around to whipping up your own batch each time, I love Tessamae’s bottled dressing.  IMG_7742 IMG_7748 IMG_7755 Once you’ve mixed your dressing ingredients together, toss with the salad and let sit for a couple of minutes before serving. Top with marcon almonds, some goat or feta cheese, or nothing at all. Add in a protein for a full meal, or leave it as is and serve as a side dish. This is the perfect salad for any season, especially since it makes good use of what you have on hand already. IMG_7764 Read below for the full printable recipe, but really, once you get the portions for the salad dressing right, this recipe really needs no print-out at all. Enjoy!

Farmer's Market Salad
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
A hearty salad to serve as a side dish or a main, using fresh in-season ingredients you may already have on hand.
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: American
Serves: 4-6
  • 1 head of Romaine or other leafy lettuce
  • 1 head of Kale
  • 1 red beet
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1-2 seasonal vegetables
  • small bunch of fresh herbs like parsley, dill or chives
  • 1 small fennel bulb with flowered ends in tact
  • 2 lemons
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • optional marcona almonds or other nuts, soft cheese like goat or feta
  1. Chop all vegetables and lettuces and combine in bowl. Mix in finely chopped fresh herbs.
  2. To make the dressing, combine the juice of 2 lemons, ¼ cup olive oil, 1 tbsp of fresh chopped herbs, 1 tsp of Dijon mustard and whisk together. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Gently mix dressing with salad, and top with optional nuts and cheese. Serve immediately.


Basic Knife Skills


knife-skills-5 I consider myself fairly proficient in the kitchen, and have been for several years now. Even though my focus on healthier eating has really only been in the last year+, doesn’t mean I haven’t been cooking all this time; it was just a different way of cooking. At any rate, since I thought I knew my way around the kitchen all these years, I was pretty surprised when I found out I had been using my knife the wrong way all these years, and I had been using the wrong knives for the majority of my cooking. A couple of months back already, geez I meant to write about this a lot earlier, I finally decided to take a knife skills class, because even though I didn’t think I was doing things wrong, I figured I could do things better. What I learned in that short 2 hour class though, blew my mind and my skills and proficiency in the kitchen have vastly improved in the last couple of months because of it.

While a blog post pales in comparison to real-life instruction, I figured it could definitely help a few of you out there, or at least inspire you to take a class of your own to get the real deal tips which will help make you faster and smoother during meal prep.

The very first thing I learned is that I’ve been holding my knife wrong all these years. Like most people, I had been holding the whole handle in my palm, using my index finger for leverage on top of the blade (major no-no), and the rest of my fingers wrapped around the handle. Wrong! This is how you hold a knife. IMG_7681 IMG_7683 You begin by grabbing the very edge of the blade closest to the handle with your thumb and forefinger, and then wrap your remaining three fingers around the handle. From the other side, it should look like this. IMG_7684 IMG_7685 This positioning will give you the best control of the knife while chopping, leaving you less prone to injury, and more prone to chopping shit up correctly! By the way, I also learned that I had been using the wrong knife this whole time. I have 2 big chef knives that I always found too heavy, so rarely used them, preferring the smaller blade knives used only for odd tasks like filleting fish. Turns out the reason these large blade knives always felt cumbersome was because I was holding them wrong. Doh! I’ve switched to only using my big chef’s knife too. A larger blade also gives you more reach and leverage when you’re chopping. knife-skills-6 knife-skills-4 When chopping, you want to use a rocking motion, trying to keep the tip of your blade on your cutting board at all times, and gently lifting the knife up and rocking it down with a rolling type motion. Here’s a good video that shows you how to hold and rock the knife back and forth. This technique takes lots of practice, and even a couple of months later I’m still not super speedy, and I still sometimes naturally want to hold the knife the old way. But with continued practice I’m getting faster and faster, and what’s more important, I’m slicing things properly and much “prettier.”
knife-skills3 Besides spending time going over basic knife holding and chopping skills, we spent a good portion of the class just practicing. There were about 10 of us in the class, and she put out several types of knives for us to try out, and had a wide array of produce to practice our chopping and dicing skills on. She shared a few ingenious tips too, including how to cut a carrot. When she was demonstrating her carrot slicing, I asked her why she was chopping them at a diagonal. Assuming it was for show, she actually revealed that it was so they wouldn’t roll off the cutting board. Anyone who has been chopping round carrot pieces for years can confirm that many round pieces roll right off the board and on to the floor. The diagonal cut stops that. This tip alone was worth the cost of the $40 class! knife-skills2 Another great tip for chopping tomatoes. Instead of slicing skin first, pierce the tomato with the tip of the knife to easily slice it in half. Then rest the tomato, skin side down, and slice the flesh first. Because the skin is so delicate, even a super sharp knife at times has trouble slicing through it first. By slicing the heartier flesh first, you get some force going and are able to easily cut through the skin. knife-skills1 IMG_7725 For years I’ve been painstakingly pulling leaves off of parsley and cilantro stems, and it turns out that was totally unnecessary. Just grab a few stems, roll them together, and start chopping leaves and stems together, while holding onto the ends of the stems. When you have chopped down to where it’s mostly stems and few leaves, stop and toss the rest. Continue mincing so that the leaves and stems get chopped finely all together, and no one’s the wiser. IMG_7680 In addition to practicing and prepping an actual meal while we were there, I also finally learned the proper technique on how to dice an onion, and here’s another great video to show you how.

I have to admit, I expected to learn a few more secret chef’s tricks on how to make myself faster or prevent silly problems like stopping foods from sticking to my knife, but really, I learned that chopping and dicing is pretty simple, it just takes practice. There aren’t always short-cuts for everything, and even classically trained chefs still have starchy foods stick to their knives. It was a great class that I’m so glad I took, even if it just taught me how to properly hold my knife and how to slice a non-rolling carrot!

Tomorrow I’ll share a recipe for the yummy salad I’m shown making in this post, and later in the week I’ll share some of my favorite, use everyday kitchen items, so you can start making your Christmas lists. But first, do you have any other knife skills tips and tricks to share? If so, please leave a comment!