March 31, 2008


Nothing beats coming home from a long day at work, sorting through the stack of mail, and discovering a lovely greeting card tucked in the middle of all those annoying neighborhood coupon books and credit card offers. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside to know someone was thinking about me and sent over some cheer. And it always works! No matter how sour my mood, I always perk up after opening a card.

These delightful Red Cap Cards are just the ticket for sending greetings. From happy birthday wishes to new baby welcomes, the cards have just the right amount of whimsy without being too cutesy. The delightful woodland creatures are straight from a magical land with “pony rides and party caps” and they’re sure to bring a smile to anyone’s face. Spread the love and send one of these to a friend!

March 27, 2008

weekend well-wishes

I'm signing off a day early this week. Tomorrow morning we're heading up to Wisconsin to celebrate my dad's bday and share in some cheer at his retirement party. Can't wait to see the folks, eat some cheese curds and kick back and relax. Have a wonderful weekend!

(Image from Morning's Light; originally posted on Solitaire Miles.)

the sweetest thing

i love love love this photo from Elle Moss. It captures the wonder of childhood. That time when anything is possible and it seems like the whole world is in the palm of your hand. Elle is "always looking for the extraordinary among the ordinary," and I think this image is nothing if not extraordinary. It's whimsical and dreamy and leaves my heart a-fluttering.

The 5x7 photo is available from Elle's Etsy shop here.
For more inspiration, check out her amazing Flickr album here.

March 26, 2008

a wednesday haiku

best toffee ever made
melts in your mouth like butter
happy candy world.

Little John's English Toffee

(thanks Lisa for sharing your prized loot!)

March 25, 2008

a chocolate chip cookie disaster (aka recipe to try: hazelnut blondies)

What happened?? I've been scratching my head over this ever since...

I decided I'd bake a batch of chocolate chip cookies last week, and after I spotted this recipe - touted as the "best ever" - I knew I had to try them for myself. I mean really, best ever? How am I supposed to pass that up. Not possible.

Well, I don't know what happened but these cookies were the biggest flops I have ever taken out of the oven. The taste was great, although a bit on the buttery side, but the texture? Awful. The cookies flattened like pancakes on the baking sheets. Sad, pathetic little pancakes. And, I can't believe I'm actually saying this, but the 4 cups of chocolate chunks were almost too much. Especially since the cookies flattened... they were nearly impossible to get off the baking sheets because of all the melty chocolate everywhere. Once they cooled, they were not at all the kind of cookie that I'd go for. I'm a soft and chewy cookie gal, and these were thin and crispy. After reading all the comments posted by others who have tried the recipe, I see that I'm in the minority, so it was obviously just me and not the recipe. {sigh} I hate it when that happens. I feel so left out! Like the time I was the only girl who didn't get invited to Jenny Gerber's sleepover party in fourth grade. Shivers.

Good thing I have this recipe to fall back on. Martha's done it again, and oh my goodness these Hazelnut Blondies are amazing. Quite easily in my top five favorite homemade desserts. And if you try these at home, by all means remember that dollop of Nutella. Spread it on nice and thick. Mmm... a little bit of heaven on your plate. You really should shut down from your computer and go make these. You'll thank me later. Now go get that oven pre-heated!

(As an extra chocolate bonus, I added 1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips and 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips to the dough... yum yum yum.)

Thank you so much Bake or Break for your post about this recipe. You've made my world a happier place!

March 24, 2008

rainbow bright

Add a fresh splash of color to your home with these chic kitchen accessories. The pretty pastels and vibrant hues greet spring with a warm glow.

Counter-clockwise from top left:
Colordrop Tumbler from Anthropologie.
Evette Cocktail Napkins from Crate and Barrel.
Citrus Stump Pot from Sprout Home.
Pink Kitsch Serving Tray from Hanger 18.
Curvy Servers from Branch.
Egg Planters from Uncommon Goods.
Latte Mixing Bowls from Anthropologie.

March 23, 2008

easter wishes

Wishing you a fun-filled Easter. All you've gotta do is add the HAPPY!
(image from Martha Stewart)

March 21, 2008

white out

I can't believe that it's snowing again. And not just a couple flurries. Oh no. We're in the midst of a full-fledged winter storm warning. Yuck. I'm sooooo over it. Rather than looking out the window and seeing loads of of the white stuff falling, I'd rather pretend that I'm here.

(photo from Marie Claire Maison)

I'm imagining that we're sitting down to an evening meal after a long, relaxing day spent on the beach. We'll dine on fish just off the grill and salads brimming with perfectly ripened summer veggies. Chilled, bubbly prosecco fills our glasses, and a strawberry shortcake is the perfect sweet ending to the meal. As we settle back into our seats with bellies full, we'll quietly enjoy each other's company as the sun sets along the waterfront.

hippity hoppin' ~ part 2

I hope my Easter basket is filled with a few of these delicious treats on Sunday!

Knipschildt Chocolate Quail Eggs from Chelsea Market Baskets
French Macarons from Vanille Patisserie
Peep Peep Cookies from
Chocolate Eggs from Lake Champlain Chocolates

March 20, 2008

chicago fave: andrew hollingsworth

I recently popped in at Andrew Hollingsworth to do some shopping for a Client and got to thinking that it had been quite a while since I visited the uber-cool River North home furnishings shop. I really shouldn’t let that happen again because I always fall in love with everything there. Andrew has amassed a wonderful collection of classic Scandinavian furniture and modern decorative objects and lighting. The eclectic mix of old and new works because they all have underlying clean lines and fresh forms. This ability to mix and mingle styles and periods is a trademark of Andrew’s, and the result is always fresh, yet timeless.

And what do I really love about Andrew and his shop? His core design beliefs (as listed on the back of his business card):
buy what you love and let the rest happen
great rooms like great love have an element of the accidental
there is always a good reason to give fresh flowers
the best furniture mixes well with others
a good life should be colorful
beauty is in your own eye: follow it
furniture gets bored like people: move it around
buy the best you can afford

What great rules to live by when creating your own living space!

hippity hoppin'

I know this is going to make me sound like I'm about 8 years old, but I cannot wait for Easter this year. The reason? Candy!! I gave it up for Lent - all of it, the chocolatey and the sugary, the hard candies and the gummies. I even bid adieu to chocolate chips, which I know aren't candy, but are so often my go-to when I need a quick fix that I just knew that if I didn't get rid of them too, I'd not really be making much of a sacrifice. So anyway, my last forty days have been spent missing all those delicious m&m's, skittles and swedish fish... and my peanut butter has been very lonely without its chocolate chips. But miss them no more! In 3 short days I can gobble all those craveable goodies and then some.

We won't be heading up to my parent's house until next weekend, when we celebrate a whole slew of fun things: dad's bday, his retirement and Easter. And I am keeping my fingers crossed that my mom brings home one or two of these:

Growing up, these decadent Chocolate Fudge Eggs were an Easter staple. The Easter Bunny always brought just one for the family to share, and I can still picture my mom at the cutting board with the dreamy fudgy egg, dividing it up for the four of us. The chewy, buttery fudge center is rich and thick, and covered in a shell of delicious milk chocolate. Drool. My sister and I would always fight over the sugar flower... ah, the memories!

There is nothing like these Seroogy's fudge eggs, and I bet they'll be doubly good this year because of my candy fast. I'd better call my mom to make sure she remembers to get one for us. I call the flower!

March 19, 2008

how's the weather?

Some nights I can barely keep my eyes open past 9:00. And lately, it's been more like most nights. I don't know if it's the gloomy weather or because of Daylight Savings Time or what, but I'm just so sleepy!

The problem with snoozing this early, though, is that I miss the 10:00 news and its all-important weather forecast. Spring in Chicago means wacky weather, and unless you want to be the only one standing on the El platform in a skirt and sandals while everyone else bustles by in parkas and hats, it's best to never miss the weather forecast this time of year.

I wouldn't have to worry about sleeping through it if I knew I could wake up and check my own nifty Enamel Thermometer from Basic French. These indoor/outdoor thermometers have just the right amount of retro flair, and the colors are bright and lively. I am loving the lime, and even though I know it can't tell me whether the weather will rain or shine, it shows me the temp and sure looks good doing it!

March 14, 2008

recipe to try: strawberry bread

I haven't met a dessert bread that I didn't like. Banana, pumpkin, zucchini... you name it. I like it. And I bake them often. They're easy. I almost always have all the ingredients on hand. And they're a hit with whoever I share them with.

So, when I spotted this recipe for Strawberry Bread in a back issue of Everyday Food, I just knew I had to try it out. I never thought to use strawberries in bread before, but this recipe proves that the combination is friggin' delicious. Soft and chewy with a hint of cinnamon and sweet strawberry chunks that melt in your mouth. Perfect with a tall glass of milk.

I made a loaf last week, and we scarfed it down in like two days or something ridiculous, so then I made it again for work, and my co's gobbled it right up. This recipe is definitely a keeper.

(flour mixture? check. strawberries? check. sugar, butter & eggs? check check check.)

So, go ahead and give yourself a little treat this weekend. Make this bread, and enjoy every last crumb.

Strawberry Bread
Serves 8

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 pint strawberries, rinsed, hulled, quartered, and mashed with a fork
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs (I used beaters equivalent)
1/3 cup water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Butter an 8-by-4-inch loaf pan.
In a small saucepan, bring strawberries to a boil over medium heat. Cook, stirring, about 1 minute. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt; set aside. With an electric mixer, cream butter, sugar, and eggs in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Add flour mixture alternately with 1/3 cup water, beginning and ending with flour. Fold in reserved strawberries.

Scrape batter into prepared pan, smoothing top. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 1 hour (tent with foil after 45 minutes if top is getting too dark). Cool in pan 10 minutes. Run a knife around edges; invert onto a rack. Reinvert; cool completely.

Note: I wish I remembered to take a photo of a finished loaf, but it was already halfway gone before I remembered. Oops!

March 13, 2008

chicago fave: the painted lady

The Painted Lady is one of my first stops when I’m looking for a one-of-a-kind, vintage-modern piece for my home. The charming Chicago shop is overflowing with hand-painted furniture, bedding, art, lighting and tableware. The goods are all stacked and layered about – lending to a totally laid back and cozy shopping experience. And best yet? It’s affordable. So affordable you can’t help but do a double take when you see the price tag, and then you feel that bubbly bliss that makes you hop up and giggle like a school-girl because you've just realized the bargain you're getting.

Beth, the owner, is a busy bee scouring flea markets and antique shops in pursuit of the perfect pieces. From vintage dressers and crystal chandeliers to newly made dishes and linens, the eclectic collection is always changing. And the bedding? Oh my – it’s dreamy. Remember when I was drooling over this? Well, I about fainted when I spotted it laid out on an old iron bed, in all its ruffly goodness. I think I squealed. And as I type this, I still cannot believe I actually walked out without it. {Sigh.} I have to work harder than ever to convince hubby that we need it.

Don’t think I walked out empty handed, though. Oh no… impossible. I nabbed the perfect white iron cafĂ© stool ($22!!). It has just the right amount of nicks, scratches and wobbles. Not sure where it’s going – maybe the upstairs bathroom? – but it was too sweet to pass up. And Kate scored a lovely lounge chair ($625!!) upholstered in a soft yellow and white floral for her new apartment. It is the perfect chair – marrying a soft feminine look with a modern design.

Leaving that shop yesterday, we were two very happy peeps…

The Painted Lady * 2128 N. Damen Ave. * 773.489.9145

March 11, 2008

time flies

ugh! No time to post right now, but I'll try to get to it tonight!

March 10, 2008

scream for ice cream

Summer will be back in just a few months, and that means it's ice cream time! I definitely find myself craving it a little bit more as the days start to get longer and the temps slowly climb up the scale. Usually by summer's end I've had more than my share of ice cream, but really, does anything beat a cool, delicious cone on a hot day? How am I to resist?

Lucky for us, we got an ice cream maker for Christmas this year (thank you, Keri!) and can't wait to try out some recipes for the homemade goodness! We attempted a vanilla with peppermint chip concoction, but it just didn't turn out and ended up more like frozen milk. Still tasted good, though it wasn't exactly the right texture.

Sounds like I've got myself a challenge! By summer's end, I'm hoping to have perfected the art of ice cream making, and I'm sure I can get plenty of practice with these on my bookshelf.

(The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz, The Ultimate Ice Cream Book by Bruce Weinstein, A Passion for Ice Cream by Emily Luchetti.)

March 7, 2008

new {cm} feature

I've added a new feature to Contented Me. See it? It's right over there under About Me.

I'm calling it "Little Joys," and each day I'll be adding a new something that made me smile, cheered me up or reminded me that this life is good. These somethings may be big or they may be small, but most importantly, they're appreciated.

I thought it would be nice to share these tidbits with you and hope that it'll encourage you to look for and be glad about the little joys in your lives.

Have a super weekend!

family room decorating

These georgeous, cable knit pillows from Rian Rae - in wonderful earthy tones {check out that navy!} - are modern and fabulous. And I love that they're big at 20x20" or 26x26". The textures make these pillows look so inviting and cozy. They'd look pretty perfect in our family room on the sofa with my antique Ikat pillows.

This set of five white vases from Rosanna would look dreamy in our built-in bookcases. I can just picture the lovely contrast of these sleek pure white vases set in with our colorful, ever-growing book collection. Each vase's shape is unique with graceful curves and modern lines.

These charming Tree of Us coasters by Modern Twist have a simple, fresh design that brings the outdoors in. The nontoxic silicone coasters can be personalized with a pen, too! {Though, I doubt very much that I'd doodle on them because those little trees are just perfect.} They'd be just right on our coffee table, and I'd love to reach for one of these the next time I sit down with a drink!

chicago fave: scooter's

Do you know what today is? Today is a very special day. It's highlighted on my calendar. I've been counting down for months.

Today is the day that Scooter's Frozen Custard opens for the summer season, and that makes me a really happy girl. I've waited patiently since the doors closed in December, and now I'm ready for more of the frozen goodness that only Scooter's delivers. Since I was a kid, I have loved frozen custard. It's thicker, richer and creamier than ice cream and is melt-in-your-mouth (literally!) delicious. So today is like Christmas for me, but better because I don't have to do anything. No wrapping presents or running around like mad to get all my shopping done. Nope - I just have to walk a few blocks to the best frozen custard shop in Chicago where I'll join a line out the door of loyal customers eager to order their much-missed cones and sundaes and concretes {custard with yummy mix-ins}. You better believe that this won't be my last visit in '08!

And in case you're wondering, my favorite order is the Chocolate Fudge Nut Brownie Chip. It's every bit as delicious as it sounds. Hello heaven.

March 6, 2008

and puppy makes 3!

Wade is flabbergasted over the fact that I have been steadily posting for the past few months and have said nary a word about our new puppy. So without further ado, I am pleased to introduce you to LuluBear WhitePaw. Also known as Lulu.
We adopted Lulu back in January, and since then lots of people have asked us "what is she?" and the answer is "not a clue!" All we know is that her mom was a golden retriever mix. But mixed with what? Newfie? Chow? I think she looks like a bearcub. Could we possibly have a puppy/black bear mix? Sometimes, I'd be sure that she's actually part devil. Those are the moments when she's got her teeth clamped down on my ankle because I had the nerve to walk past her across the room. Or when she tore Wade's new pants. Or the time when she destroyed a roll of toilet paper in about 2 seconds, leaving little white "feathers" floating around the bathroom in her wake. {that one was actually pretty funny}

The thing is, though, that even when we'd always enjoyed our cozy little home - just the two of us - now that we have Lulu, I can't imagine not having her. That little pup has left such a mark on me, that I just melt when I see her. We're having a great time and laughing more than ever. And our quiet, cuddle times are what I treasure most. It's the three of us now, and what a happy family we are!

March 5, 2008

growing up

I went weak in the knees when I spotted this adorable Miss Natalie Growth Chart over at Poppytalk today, so I couldn't resist posting about it too. The more, the merrier, right?

This is the perfect gift for new and expecting mothers. It's unique, it's modern, it's portable. And what's best is that it becomes a keepsake to hold on to and enjoy in the years to come. That's something I think we can all appreciate!

dad's big day

My dad turns 60 today. 60!! Now that's a milestone worth celebrating! And even though he doesn't read my blog {he's not exactly Mr. Technology}, I wanted to send out a big Happy Birthday to the blogosophere in his honor. Here's to many, many more!

Sadly, I won't be there to celebrate with him, but if I was, I'd most definitely make him this. German Chocolate Cake is a favorite around our house, and this Inside Out Cake looks amazing. Cue the mouth-watering.

Wow. I think I gained a pound just looking at it.

{is it bad if i choose to make it anyway?}

March 3, 2008

hello yellow

Thank goodness it's March. Each new day is bringing us closer to spring, and I think I can speak for all of us when I say, "we're ready!" While it's still gray and gloomy outside, I wanted to share some inspiration shots featuring the color yellow. Yellow is sunshine. It is cheer. It exudes brilliance and warmth. Here's to a bright, sunshine-filled spring right around the corner!