shrimp and fava beans

July 23, 2016
by Lacy
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Shrimp and Fava Beans A Four-Course Meal in 30 Minutes or Less: {Secrets of Easy Elegance}

fava beans

I’m striving for more peace and elegance in my life. And there are days when I have the time to craft an incredible meal that takes hours to prepare, when I’ve carefully selected each ingredient by hand with purpose, when I revel in the chopping and stirring as a meditative practice, when I sit down to a beautifully laid table and enjoy the meal slowly and peacefully with my family.

And then there are days when I am at my computer for 8 hours, when the mercury is well above 90 and my swamp cooler just isn’t cutting it, when my daughter proclaims she is “BORED!” at 10am, when it’s already after 6pm and I have to get people fed…

And those kinds of days are much less conducive to elegance and peace.

I suspect (do correct me if I’m wrong) that a lot of you may resonate more with the second scenario than the first.

And that’s OK. Life isn’t supposed to be perfect, and neither are we, as I keep telling my five-year-old. But there are things we can do that can make a little elegance, a little more peace possible.

That’s what I’ve been exploring lately in my own life. I don’t want to call them “hacks” because “hack” is not a very elegant word. I think maybe they’re secrets instead… Secrets that those people who seem to have effortlessly elegant lives know that the rest of us don’t know.

I’m going to be posting these secrets as I discover or uncover them, and today is the secret of the four-course meal — in half an hour. Continue Reading →

June 27, 2016
by Lacy
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June Restaurant Review

We’ve been intentionally trying new places this summer, trying to get out of our rut.

Friday nights are sometimes tough for family date night. The hubs might not get home until 6, and by then you have to wait for a table (if you weren’t smart enough to make a reservation — me, always), and technically the kiddo is supposed to start getting ready for bed around 7pm… (Sometimes we fudge that because it’s summer and the weekend, and because I’m the mommy and I say so.)

So, instead, we’ve been doing brunch on Saturdays.  It’s loads of fun, usually not very crowded at the places we’ve been going, and eating our big meal in the middle of the day means I don’t have to really come up with anything for dinner.  Win/win/win!

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Here’s what we’ve been noshing:

  • brunch at Under the Sun — They won us over instantly with complimentary ricotta fritters and Nutella syrup (yes, you read that right). B had the Cap’n Crunch-crusted French toast (waaaay too sweet for me, but he liked it), I had the yummy salmon Benedict, and Dev enjoyed a biscuit and bacon. Dollar-fifty mimosas also won me over, big time. Try the grapefruit.
  • brunch at The Ghost BBQ and Spirits — LOVED their pulled pork.  Breakfast tacos were yummy, and the cinnamon roll was a nice surprise.
  • brunch at Steuben’s (Arvada) — Fun diner atmosphere (I loved the decor) and fun diner foods. Dev was a fan of the milk flight (vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate).  B got the green chile fries with a fried egg on top, which was sinfully delicious, and I enjoyed the green chile cheeseburger. We definitely want to go back to try the dinner menu — and particularly the desserts!

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June 27, 2016
by Lacy
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Sunday Morning Biscuits

Sunday morning.

I am up hours before the rest of my family wakes.  I feed the dog, get the newspaper, make the coffee.  I sit for a blissful hour or more, sipping hot black coffee and reading the front page section of The New York Times cover to cover.

I get up because I decide I’m hungry and go to the pantry. The bread is moldy; we eat so little of it lately, I chide myself for not keeping it in the refrigerator. Half a loaf gone to microbes.

I waver for a moment, considering what to do now that my craving for buttered toast has been thwarted. But only a moment.  I grab my grandmother’s copy of the Betty Crocker cookbook from the 1950s and flip to the bread section.

In the time it takes for the oven to come to temperature, I’ve made biscuits from scratch, cutting in the butter, kneading for 30 seconds, rolling and cutting and placing them on the “cooky” sheet as prescribed by Ms. Crocker. Into the oven they go.

I’m on the eve of another planned foray into health.  I used to be embarrassed by my multiple attempts at losing weight or starting an exercise program, embarrassed by the subsequent “failures.” I’ve since given up the embarrassment, choosing to feel proud, instead, of my continued dedication to treating my body better.

I’ve planned this particular journey for several weeks now. I know, by now, that jumping head first into a new “program” only works for a few days or weeks.  (Sometimes less.)  I know the types of things I do and do not tolerate well. (ie: Leek soup diets = monumental fail.) And I’m dedicated to no longer going to extremes; instead, I want to keep the pendulum as close to center as possible.

Revisiting Michael Pollan’s Food Rules recently, I was struck by his statement that nutrition as a science is today where surgery was in the 16th century, “which is to say very interesting and promising, but do you really want to get on the table yet?”

We are conditioned to listen to the reports on television and the web that praise coffee, chocolate, or red wine one day and revile it the next. We read books by earnest, scholarly doctors and scientists, each of whom has a different opinion about the ideal diet that will make us healthy.

I thought that a sort of survey of the latest books would yield a set of protocols I could say with authority that everyone agreed on. I was wrong. The only agreements I really found were that fruits and vegetables are good, and processed carbohydrates are bad. Milk, meat, wheat, sugar, and other staple foods are all variously sanctified or vilified depending on who you ask. Even the idea of strict veganism is suspect, with many doctors claiming that it doesn’t provide the balance of nutrients a human needs.

So what is a person to do? How am I to navigate this muddy water while living in an era in which, for the first time in history, humans have become so good at providing calories for themselves that we are now preoccupied with denying ourselves those same calories.

I’ve decided to create my own protocol, based on what I know to be true — both through science and personal experimentation.

I’m cutting out fried foods, processed carbohydrates and added sugars 90 percent of the time. I’m striving to take 10,000 steps per day, and standing up more while I work. I’m adding strength training to my days, mostly simple bodyweight exercises I can do anywhere.

My goal is to lose 10 percent of my overall weight and keep it off for at least six months before trying to lose any more. The keeping it off part has historically been the most difficult for me, and therefore needs to be a big part of my goals.

I want to do this not to fit into a particular item of clothing, but to feel healthier. I want to respect my body more than I have in the past. I want to live life right now, not waiting for some mythical future time that none of us is guaranteed. I want to be a positive role model for the little human girl I’m raising.

Earlier this year, in my business, I achieved a goal of nearly tripling the size of my email list in just under six months. When I started out, it felt nearly impossible. But when I sat down to write about it for my blog and subscribers later, I coined a hashtag that summed up what was required for me to achieve it: #dothedamnwork

It was shorthand for doing the small, unsexy things I knew I should be doing. And I’m going to apply it to my health as well. None of what I plan to do is particularly new or earth-shattering. There’s  no name for this “diet” that will unite me with a community online — or get me a big book deal should I be successful.

But as I laid out my Sunday morning table today with the finest biscuits I have personally ever made (tall, flaky, perfectly browned), honey and jam, butter and cream, fruit and cheese, I felt a wave of overwhelming happiness.  I realized that I don’t want the kind of diet or lifestyle that would deny me that pleasure; not now or ever. I believe I can make those kinds of indulgences part of health and a big part of happiness.

And that’s the sort of life I want more than anything.

June 25, 2016
by Lacy
2 Comments

My Chic Habits

What does it mean to live well?  Stylishly?  Chic?

I assume the answer is different for everyone, but I have a few opinions for myself, and recently, I’ve been trying to cultivate them a bit more.

First, I participated in a free online “challenge” that was all about living your best life.  The challenges included things like buying yourself flowers, wearing red lipstick, and dressing up for yourself. I found it invigorating, and one day at the library with my daughter, I went looking for more.

That’s where discovered Jennifer Scott and her lovely “Madame Chic” books — there are three, and I’m almost done reading the second, while the third sits ready on my nightstand, in from interlibrary loan!

The combination has been almost transformational. I’ve started adapting new, chic habits that make me feel like I’m living well.  And it’s been several weeks now, nearly a month, so I’m fairly certain they’re sticking!

Some Chic Habits:

  • Doing household chores on a regular routine. (This seems silly, but it’s something that’s eluded me my entire adult life — until now! Perhaps I just needed the right inspiration.)
  • Drinking a glass of water with lemon before bed and one when I wake up in the morning.
  • Having an actual skin-care routine.
  • Multiple-course dinners.  Even when the first course is edamame, salad or fruit, it counts.
  • Drinking my bubbly water with a pretty paper straw.  It makes me feel fancy.
  • Flowers on the table. This week, they are cut from our yard and arranged in a mason jar — and maybe all the more beautiful because of it.
  • Reading more.
  • Morning pages. I am trying very hard to get in the habit of writing three pages of STUFF every morning to get it out of my head. I then transfer anything important (like to dos) to my bullet journal.
  • Setting the table for every meal. Including breakfast!
  • Picking up the clutter.  Our house isn’t too bad, but we all have our hot spots. I’ve been making a point of clearing them every day. It’s so much more serene!
  • Dressing well every day. This is also more fun right now because I started a subscription to Le Tote. I don’t think I’ll keep it up forever, but it’s fun to fight the wardrobe blahs without going overboard.

And, as I have discovered, nothing makes you feel chic faster than red lipstick…

June 6, 2016
by Lacy
1 Comment

Sunday Supper

I neglected to take pictures of the food.

That should give you some indication of how much of a success our first Summer Sunday Supper was — for a food blogger (even a part-time one like myself) to forget to take pictures of the food, she must be pretty well distracted.

And I was.  By laughter, by friends, by stories and sharing, by chair jousting and magic carrots in the back yard, by the weed dragon lighting the fire for sticky s’mores.

I absolutely love living in Colorado. I feel like I’ve truly built a home and put down roots here. But I do sometimes wish it were a little closer to Texas, a little closer to family and friends I dearly love. They say it takes a village, and I feel it in my soul sometimes, that longing for community that even my introverted self cannot deny.

But then I remembered that I’m a grown up. I may not be able to fly my mom and my sister and her family out to Colorado at a moment’s notice for a casual family barbecue in the back yard, but I can create my own community. And so, with the help of an article I’ve long since misplaced that talked about the joys of having an open-door friends-over supper night once a week, I decided to do that for myself.

And so I put up a Facebook “event,” and clicked down the list of friends that live here locally, inviting each one.  I ended up inviting 15 families — and had a mild panic attack afterward thinking about what would happen if they all came.

But of course, they didn’t. And that is perfectly alright. The method to my madness was that even if 12 families couldn’t come, maybe three could — and did.  And maybe three or four different families could come next week, or the week after that.

I got a roast at Costco and made one of the simplest recipes I know. Of course, I had to fancy it up a little by trying my hand at homemade hamburger buns, but even those weren’t that difficult. I literally served pulled pork with store-bought barbecue sauce, buns, and potato chips. I filled a sink with ice and stuck whatever beverages we had in the fridge in it — including half a bottle of two-buck Chuck pino grigio — next to a large pitcher of iced tea.

Friends brought “dirt cake” complete with gummy worms, muy verde salsa, green salad and mixed berries.  And it was perfect.

PERFECT.

One of my friends reminded me in passing of when we did our The Desire Map together, and one of my core desired feelings was elegance. Let me just tell you: this dinner party was far from elegant in the most traditional sense. Mismatched paper napkins. Kids picnicking on a ratty old Pepto Bismol-pink blanket in the back yard. Sprinkles of rain that deterred no one. Mosquitos. And a weed dragon.

Yet it was amazing.  And exactly what I wanted.

Sunday supper

I looked over at one point to see my daughter sitting on that wretched pink blanket with kids ranging in age from 3 to 7, all eating and chatting and having a wonderful time and my heart just swelled up. And I looked back at all the grown-ups, arrayed around our tiny two-person bistro table (now seating at least eight) on my deteriorating wooden deck and felt incredibly happy.

I’m so glad I didn’t wait for perfect. Or elegant. I’m glad I didn’t wait until we replace the deck with a nice patio, or until I could plan a fancy meal, or until everyone I wanted to have there was available to come.

We just did it. And it was perfect.

And we’re doing it again next Sunday.

There are only 10 Sundays between now and when school starts up again in August.  But I hope to spend every one of them as happily as I spent last night. Making memories.

May 30, 2016
by Lacy
1 Comment

Grilled Spring Salad with New Potatoes

radishesMy mom makes a great traditional potato salad.  (The secret is using pickle brine in the sauce!) But I’m always on the lookout for exciting new variations.

My dear friend Butter puts purslane in hers, which is crispy and tasty (and an abundant volunteer in my garden later in the summer).  Emily shared a watercress and yogurt version when she was on her quest to eat the number 1 super food.

And now, I’m adding a new variation to the list.

I first tried this veggie-laden version last year when it popped up as one of the gorgeous, clickable photos on Smitten Kitchen, and I wasn’t disappointed.  I loved the bright mustard vinaigrette and crisp-tender vegetables.

But this year, I was inspired to do something new to it: grill it.  The fine people at Sprouts Farmers Market invited me to participate in their Grilling Month by adding an idea for a recipe to the conversation, and as soon as I had this one, I knew it would be a winner.

If only the weather would cooperate… Continue Reading →

April 7, 2016
by Lacy
3 Comments

Doing Disney

In less than a week, we’re taking my almost-five-year-old to Disney World, and I’m having very mixed feelings about it.

First, let me say this was totally my idea.  One hundred percent.  About a year ago, I thought how cool it would be to take her to Disney for her fifth birthday — right at that sweet spot where she knows most of the princess stories, would recognize the characters, but would still find everything absolutely magical.  My in-laws have a winter home in Florida, and I thought it would be a great way to visit them and do something special.

The plans have been in the works for almost that long. We researched hotels and packages, compared rates, booked flights, etc. It’s all ready to go.

I have never been to Disney World.  I visited Disney Land for the first time at the age of 22, after the most disappointing day of my life, when I felt like all my hopes and dreams were going to hell in a handbasket. My husband-then-boyfriend and I were in California to look at apartments and for me to do the last round of interviews for a prestigious internship in Hollywood with the Director’s Guild of America, and that night, as we drove down Highway 1 watching the sunset, I got the call that I had been cut and would not get the internship.

My world came crashing down. I had no plan B. And when we woke up the next morning, my sweet boyfriend, (unsure what to do with the crying blubbering mess I had become) announced, “We’re going to Disney Land!”

So my impressions of Disney are a bit skewed. But the one thing I do remember with a happy heart were the expressions on all the tiny faces around me. For them, it absolutely was the happiest place on Earth.

And I want to give that to my daughter.

But I’m also feeling very ambivalent about the whole thing.

Last night, I spent several hours on the computer finalizing our Fast Pass reservations and our dining reservations, I felt this overall feeling of stress and disappointment.

Let me just say: I didn’t realize that when they say reservations open for fast passes and dining 180 days in advance, they really mean, you need to get on this website and make them 180 days in advance. It must be like the rush to get concert tickets for the hottest show in town.

I started making reservations more than a month ago — about 45 days before our trip, so don’t think I’m some sort of devil-may-care lazabout — and everything was gone.  Fast Passes to meet Anna and Elsa?  Hahahahaha.  Nope.  Reservations for Be Our Guest or Cinderella’s Palace dining with the princesses?  FUGETTABOUTIT.

It seemed like every time I read about a neat or interesting restaurant or event, it was already booked.

Beyond that, every time I discovered some cool gem of a thing to do, a memory to make, I was bowled over by the prices. My sister told me about a salon where they will do D up like a princess!  Starting at $60. Oh, and the appointments are all booked up.  Boat trip to see the fireworks from the lagoon?  More than $300 for a family of 3.  The Hoot-n-Holler (or whatever it’s called) dinner show?  Booked that for $60 per person. Even the tour of the greenhouses and fisheries at Epcot costs extra.

In fact, it struck me last night as I was finalizing reservations, planning itineraries, etc., that planning this vacation felt nearly as complicated as planning my wedding!

And then it struck me that it’s also going to end up costing almost as much as my wedding.

After I shut down the computer, I tossed and turned in bed for a while, wrecked with a weird sort of middle-class, first-world-problems guilt.

What am I doing to my child, giving her this lavish vacation as a birthday present?
My sister and I never got to go to Disney as children, and we turned out fine. More than fine.
How do I feel about promoting and propogating “princess” culture that I feel pretty dang conflicted about anyway?
Wouldn’t this money be put to better use? Hell, wouldn’t it be better to put these thousands of dollars into her college fund and throw her a princess party here at home?

All moot, because the reservations are made, the tickets are booked, the plane leaves in T-minus six days. This morning I’m looking up lemon eucalyptus oil bug sprays to ward off Zika and making packing lists in my notebook.

We will go.  We will have an amazing time. My sweet baby will not know that mama screwed up and couldn’t get Fast Passes to meet Elsa or reservations to dine with Cinderella.  We’ll eat junk food and stay up late to watch the fireworks and parade (for which we also did not get Fast Passes) and I’ll take way too many pictures, and when we get home, I’ll put them all in a book for her and hopefully she’ll remember her fifth birthday.

When she got to go to the happiest place on Earth.