Fall foliage, the yummiest Halloween treat

I hope you all had a wonderful Halloween, filled with fun and treats (and not too many tricks)! My sister, Jason and I had planned to go hiking in Cunningham Falls State Park today, but decided against it when it we awoke this morning and saw that it was rainy and wet outside. Instead, we stuck close to home and went for a blissful walk in nearby Quiet Waters Park. We got a little rained on, but it was so gorgeous that we didn't really mind. Here are some of my favorite sights from our excursion.


Art, delivered.

Want a little more art in your life? How about a monthly home delivery?

Yesterday, I was delighted to learn (via DCist) about the brilliant idea that is Project Dispatch. Project Dispatch is an artwork subscription service offered by a group of artists nationwide. You can sign up for 3, 6, or 12 month subscriptions to receive original works by the artist of your choice. The best part? The pricetag is pretty reasonable, considering what you receive in return. Subscriptions range from $15 to $40 a month. Learn more about the participating artists here (the piece above is by participating artist Reuben Breslar).

What a great way to begin building your personal art collection while supporting independent artists, many of whom are local to the DC area. (With the holidays approaching, this would also make a fabulous gift for the art lover in your life.)

And when friends ask about the intriguing package on your doorstep, you can casually take another sip of your espresso before breezily replying: "Oh that? That's just my monthly art delivery."

Image via Project Dispatch.

Happy Halloween

I hope everyone has a safe and spook-tacular Halloween!

P.S. How cute is that sleepy little pumpkin in the photo?

Image via Flickr user allisonallison.

Autumn Song

In the deep fall
don't you imagine the leaves think how
comfortable it will be to touch
the earth instead of the
nothingness of air and the endless
freshets of wind? And don't you think
the trees themselves, especially those with mossy,
warm caves, begin to think

of the birds that will come — six, a dozen — to sleep
inside their bodies? And don't you hear
the goldenrod whispering goodbye,
the everlasting being crowned with the first
tuffets of snow? The pond
vanishes, and the white field over which
the fox runs so quickly brings out
its blue shadows. And the wind pumps its
bellows. And at evening especially,
the piled firewood shifts a little,
longing to be on its way.

-Mary Oliver, "Song for Autumn"

Image via I Saw Today.


Thank you notes

Thank you legs and lungs for allowing me to run 3.5 miles with ease yesterday.

Thank you sun for setting so beautifully while I ran.

Thank you hair for the recent string of wild, curly and wonderful hair days.

Thank you Teaism chai for waking me up this morning.

Thank you autumn for the amazingly beautiful foliage all around me.

Thank you yoga, for clearing my mind and steadying my breath.

Thank you Jason for always making me laugh and for doing the dishes tonight. Oh, and for rubbing my feet.

Thank you weekend for arriving soon, so that we can go hiking here.

Thank you REI for having a wedding registry option.

Thank you Ellecubed for this beautiful list.

Thank you job for being stimulating, challenging, and enabling me to do lots and lots of writing.

Thank you universe for being so good to me and nudging me in the direction of my dreams.

Thank you chocolate. (For existing.)

Image via Flickr user Moominsean.


Defining success + creating a vision statement

If you haven't yet, definitely take a minute to read this super inspiring post by the lovely Kaileen Elise about crafting one's own definition of success. "What does success mean to you?" she asks.

This is what I wrote:

"To me, success means living fully and in the moment; creating a life filled with positive people, joyful adventures, and uplifting work; caring for my body and soul; honoring my creativity (whether it be writing, drawing, cooking, etc.); finding balance; and infusing compassion toward myself and others into my everyday actions."

Thinking about what success means to me reminded me of something I have been meaning to do: write my personal vision statement as described in Kimberly Wilson's Hip Tranquil Chick. From the book: "A vision statement is a simple promise to the world that your presence on this earth is not in vain, but grounded in true intention." (You can read more about creating your vision statement on page 64 of the book or in the Tranquility du Jour archives.)

I'm planning to take my definition of success and use it as material for my vision statement. Do you have a vision statement? If so, I'd love to hear it!


The Colors of Klimt

Lately, I have really been digging the works of Austrian painter Gustav Klimt. Don't they just make you want to crawl inside the canvas and stay for awhile?

From top, Tannenwald (1902), Garden Path with Chickens (1916), Mrs. Adele Bloch-Bauer (1907), The Kiss (1908), Water Serpents II (1907). All images via Art.com.


5 Things

  • I am so inspired by all of you participating in The Joy Diet series with Jamie Ridler. It sounds like such an amazing process and I am loving your posts on each chapter. You all have prompted me to order my own copy of the book, which I cannot wait to devour.
  • And speaking of books, I pre-ordered a signed copy of Kimberly Wilson's new book, Tranquilista. With chapters like "Bake in Beauty" and "Decorate with Sprinkles"(love it!), this promises to be another fabulous resource from the incomparable Ms. Wilson. Who else is excited?
  • My sister sent me a fascinating NYTimes article on the connection between yoga and mental clarity in the face of danger that had me glued to my computer screen. A definite must-read for yogis and non-yogis alike.
  • Some très exciting news...I think we've decided where we're going on our honeymoon! We haven't finalized our plans yet so I don't want to say anything, but I will as soon as it's definite. It's a country that has long been on my list of places to visit. So. Very. Excited.
  • And finally, for you design lovers out there, check out Department of the Interior, a wonderful blog I came across written by a college classmate of mine who muses about inspiration, stylish living, interior design, art, and more. Isn't it delightful?
That's about it for me right now. I hope all everyone's week is off to a good start!

Image via Martha Stewart.


Pan-seared Tuna Steaks with Ginger-Soy Marinade

Now that I'm finally feeling healthy again, I am itching to get back into the kitchen and cook something. Something other than chicken noodle soup. Now, I love chicken noodle soup. There is truly nothing better when you're sick. There is something about the combination of steamy, aromatic broth and copious amounts of garlic that really packs some healing power. But, alas, it's all I've eaten for the past four or five days and I'm ready for a change.

We've had some nice Ahi tuna steaks in our freezer that we picked up from Whole Foods last week, but postponed cooking them because I came down with the flu. I wasn't about to waste the subtle and delicate flavors of good tuna on my congested (read: unable to smell or taste) palate.

So, we've got these tuna steaks. And, upon inspecting the depths of our pantry a bit further, it appears that we have fresh lemon, soy sauce, fresh ginger, and a handful of other ingredients. The tuna's fate is clear: a simple marinade and some pan-seared action. Zesty and flavorful with nary a chicken or a noodle in sight.

Serve these over a bed of fresh salad greens or with a side of sautéed bok choy or mushrooms (Asian varieties like shiitake or enoki would work well).

Pan-seared Tuna Steaks with Ginger-Soy Marinade (Makes 2 tuna steaks)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoon sesame oil (olive oil will work if you don't have sesame oil on hand)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black peper
1 tablespoon fresh peeled ginger, minced
2 Ahi tuna steaks, approximately 5 ounces each, cut approximately 1 inch thick
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)
Handful of scallions, chopped (optional)

Whisk lemon juice, sesame oil, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, black pepper, and ginger in a bowl to blend. Place tuna steaks in a glass baking dish. Pour marinade on top of tuna steaks, turning to coat. Marinate for 2-3 hours, turning occasionally. Remove tuna steaks from marinade and drizzle 1 tablespoon of sesame oil in a large skillet. Heat skillet over high heat. Add both tuna steaks to skillet and cook about 3 minutes on each side for medium rare. Remove from heat and garnish with fresh cilantro and scallions, if desired. Serve immediately.


Care packages

My sister and I decided to put together care packages for each other, just because. She gave me a set of cute coasters, some origami paper, a bar of dark chocolate, oatmeal & honey soap, and some Yogi tea bags. There may have also been some cookies that already disappeared...

And this is what I gave her. Some Bach's aromatherapy spray, Mayan drinking chocolate, tea, facial cleansing pads, gluten-free fudge, incense, bath tea, autumn-scented mini-candle, and magnet.

I highly recommend exchanging care packages - just because - with a sister or friend.


Sick day

I have been trying my hardest to fight off an impending cold for a couple days now, but last night it hit me full force. I'm staying home today and indulging in some extreme self-care, which means curling up on the couch, sipping tea, and watching reruns of Biggest Loser.

How do you take care of yourself when you're sick?

Image via thehostess.


Organic and Chic

I recently picked up this gorgeous little book, Organic and Chic by organic baker and cake designer Sarah Magid, at Anthropologie, and have been drooling over all the beautifully photographed baked goods. Our next wedding-related task is to choose a bakery and design our wedding cake, so I have definitely had cakes on the brain. This book has been giving me all sort of inspiration!

Be sure to check out Sarah's blog for more great photos, baking tips, and fabulous recipes like Donut Ice Cream.

Cakes pictured (from top): Love Blossom, Flutter Away, and Lotus Cake.

All images via Sarah's website.


In my drawer

I've started keeping a little stash of supplies in a desk drawer at work, for all those times that I've wished I had something handy and didn't. So far, I've compiled:
  • EO's organic lavender hand sanitizer.
  • An assortment of Yogi teas (green, echinacea, ginger, etc.)
  • Burt's Bees honey lip balm
  • Extra hairbands, bobbie pins, and a miniature can of hairspray
  • Mini-pack of Herban Essentials towelettes (perfect for a mid-afternoon aromatherapy pick-me-up!)

I plan to add:

  • Band-aids and moleskin (handy when breaking in new shoes...)
  • An extra pair of opaque black tights (I wear these all winter under dresses and skirts and tend to get runs mid-day...super annoying!)
  • Kiss My Face olive & aloe moisturizer
  • A variety of fun greeting cards to jot notes to friends over my lunch break or for co-workers' birthdays
  • A bar of high-quality dark chocolate

Do you have a stash of any kind at work? What do you keep in it?


In stitches

I took myself on an artist's date at Michael's last week. For us creative types, that place is like a candy store! I got all kinds of ideas just walking around, checking out the various arts and crafts supplies. I found myself drawn to the knitting accoutrements (all that pretty yarn!), and ended up purchasing knitting needles and several balls of yarn. My first project is to make a scarf for Jason. I've knit one row so far. This is progress, my friends, considering I am completely re-learning the craft. (My grandmother taught me how to knit when I was very young, but I haven't done it in upwards of 15 years!)

Anyhow, I have been studying knitting videos on YouTube, which is helping. Slowly but surely, I am getting back into the swing (or stitch, as the case may be).

Do you knit? Any good pointers for a newbie?

Image via nerdfighters.


Tweet, tweet

Well, my friends, I have finally gotten into this thing called Twitter. Seems like I'm the last person on earth! Anyway, you can find me here. If you all are on Twitter, let me know so we can tweet together!

P.S. Isn't that a beautiful drawing? I found it on Papermoth's Etsy shop.

P.P.S. A big welcome to my new readers! I'm so glad you're here. Leave me a comment and introduce yourself, if you'd like.


Wild thing...you make my heart sing

Even if Maurice Sendak's classic children's book isn't a beloved emblem of your childhood (as it is mine), with writing by Spike Jonze and Dave Eggers and music by Karen O (of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs), this should be a wonderful ride. We are going to see it Friday and I can't wait.

Who else is super excited?

Everything's Amazing, Nobody's Happy

This is an amazing (and hilarious!) reminder from comedian Louis C.K. that real happiness isn't having more, but rather being thankful for what we do have. I love that he uses humor to illustrate this point so perfectly. I was laughing hysterically (and partially in guilty self-recognition since just this morning I caught myself complaining about how long it would take me to choose the music I want to transfer to my new iPod Touch...horror of all horrors, right?)

It's so true that we take for granted things that didn't even exist until recently. I think it's so important to keep this in perspective (especially when we feel like complaining), and I'm resolving right now to be better about it.


Baked Shrimp Oreganata with Feta

While in college, I studied abroad in Greece for a summer and fell deeply in love with everything about the country. I loved the language, the architecture, the incredible history, the food, the bustling marketplaces, the winding streets, the friendly street vendors, the gorgeous countryside...oh, I could go on. With the cool weather settling in (it's supposed to be outright cold in DC this week!), I've found myself daydreaming of days lounging on the beach in Nafplion (a gorgeous seaport town where we escaped the hustle and bustle of Athens), soaking up the warm Mediterranean sun. So I suppose it comes as no surprise that I'm finding myself drawn to the clean, yet complex flavors of Greece in the kitchen recently.

Last night, we had outstanding Greek-spiced lamb burgers from Whole Food. We bought them pre-made, but Whole Foods has the recipe on its site if you are interested in making them from scratch.

Tonight, we are planning a scrumptious meal of Baked Shrimp Oreganata with Feta over couscous. This Greece-inspired dish marries the sweet earthiness of oregano with a taste of the ocean (shrimp), brightened by tomatoes and lemon and tempered with creamy feta. Think of it as comfort food with a Mediterranean flair.

This recipe adapts well to various flavor profiles. For example, substituting fresh basil for the oregano, cinnamon, and allspice and fresh mozzarella for the feta would take the dish in more of an Italian direction, perfect over some al dente linguine. I've seen some variations on this dish, but this is how I like to make it. Serve over couscous, rice, or pasta, with a simple Greek salad on the side (just cube some tomato, cucumber, green bell pepper, red onion, feta, and toss with kalamata olives and a dressing of olive oil, salt, pepper, and oregano).

Baked Shrimp Oreganata with Feta (Serves 4)
1 medium white onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon fresh oregano
1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes in juice, drained and chopped (the San Marzano brand would work well)
Pinch of sugar
1 pound large peeled and deveined raw shrimp
1 cup crumbled feta
1 tablespoon chopped dill (or parsley if you prefer)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375°F. Cook onion and garlic in olive oil with 1/4 teaspoon salt in a saucepan over medium heat until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in spices and cook for an additional 30 seconds while stirring. Add chopped tomatoes with sugar and simmer, stirring occasionally, until somewhat thickened, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Season shrimp with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, then stir into tomato sauce along with the lemon juice. Transfer to a baking dish and top with crumbled feta. Bake until just cooked through, 18 to 20 minutes. Serve sprinkled with dill or parsley.

Image via Epicurious.


Birthday Gratitude List

Well, my friends, it totally snuck up on me this year, but yesterday was my 25th birthday! It was a truly wonderful day. Jason surprised me in the morning with a new iPod Touch, which I am quite excited about. At our weekly staff meeting, my co-workers surprised me by presenting me with a sweet card and homemade brownies that my boss baked. I have gotten lovely emails, phone calls, and cards from many friends and family members. And even though I couldn't be with my parents today, we celebrated while I was in Chicago last weekend by going out for a fabulous sushi dinner and, more importantly, spending lots of quality time together. Oh, and while I was in Chicago, I found a wedding dress which I love! I am a lucky girl indeed. So in honor of my birthday, I decided to list 25 things I'm thankful for.

1. My awesomely supportive family
2. My amazingly sweet, funny, kind, super-smart and totally handsome fiance, Jason. I am so excited to be marrying him!
3. My job, which challenges me, and enables me to do lots and lots of writing while being surrounded by beautiful art
4. Living near the water
5. Great friends, both new and old.
6. My good health
7. Discovering yoga in the past couple of years and the benefits that my yoga practice has brought to my life
8. My naturally curly hair (which I have finally come to appreciate)
9. The ritual of making delicious home-cooked meals with Jason (and access to a wide variety of yummy and healthy ingredients)
10. Crisp autumn weather
11. Music, music, music
12. The fact that my sister now lives in the DC area and I get to see her often
13. Regular foot rubs from Jason
14. Really soft and cozy pajamas
15. Our uber-comfy new mattress (one of the investments we made when furnishing our new place)
16. Google Reader
17. Beautiful sunsets (that we can see from our deck!) and gorgeous sunrises
18. Regular running and the fact that my endurance is improving (yay!)
19. Chai from Teaism and cupcakes from Hello Cupcake
20. Owning a home
21. Books, books, books
22. The wisdom of mentors
23. Weekends
24. Spending time outdoors, enjoying the abundant beauty of nature
25. Last, but certainly not least, the blogging community!

What are you thankful for?

Image via Flickr user Theresa Thompson.


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