Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Wish List Wednesdays: Unique Selections from Uncommon Goods

If you are looking for holiday gifts that are truly out of the ordinary, check out the online site for Uncommon Goods.  I've selected a few of my favorites below, but there are so many more sure to tickle the fancy of even the most jaded gift recipient!

1) Actual Sized Animal Tracks Doormat ($30) - why limit your welcome to human foot traffic alone when you can roll out the mat for so many other species (if you dare!).

2) Bad Dogs Tumblers and Bad Dog Wisdom Diner Mugs ($35 for each set of four) - these tumblers and mugs could have been designed with our crazy little dog Maddie in mind!  If you have a Maddie of your own, you will appreciate these hilarious tumblers and mugs.

3) Taco Booties ($25) and Tortilla Baby Swaddle and Hat ($48 for the set) - I don't know anyone right now who has a new baby, but if I did these items would totally be on my holiday list for them.  I think they are ridiculously cute, and practical too!


I've barely skimmed the surface of all the original and humorous items available from Uncommon Goods.  Even if you aren't thinking of purchasing anything, take a look just for the entertainment!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Weekend Wardrobe: The Twelve Days of Christmas Outfits, Parts 1, 2, and 3

Clockwise from left: House of Fraser Yumi Owl and Flower Print Oversized Shirt; House of Fraser Yumi Panda Printed Shirt; House of Fraser Yumi Smudge Print Shirt.

As we approach the holiday season, I decided to try something different for my weekly fashion style boards.  Using the twelve days of Christmas as an inspiration, I will present three holiday-appropriate outfits for the next four weeks, until December 17th!  These outfits will range from fun and casual to stylish and sophisticated.  Let's start this series off with fun but stylish looks.  The common theme for these outfits is the Yumi tops shown above, which all feature animal prints (I have a penchant for nature-inspired apparel):

Clockwise from top left: Yumi Owl and Flower Print Oversized Shirt; Peermont Gold-Plated Sea Shell/Pearl/Owl Earrings; Calypso St. Barth Whirla Cashmere Duster in Snow; ECCO SP Wristlet in Teal; Easy Street Halo Women's Dress Heels in Bone; Malene Birger Melanoa Pleated Crepe Wide-Leg Pants in Blush.

While the colors may not be traditional, I think the owl theme and cool tones make this outfit quite appropriate for winter holidays.  Aren't those owl earrings adorable?

Clockwise from top left: Yumi Panda Printed Shirt; Butler and Wilson Panda Face Stud Earrings; Choies Abracadabra Burgundy Open Front Long Sleeve Knit Cardigan; Margaret Elizabeth Privacy Wristlet in Black; Bella Vita 'Nara' Women's Block Heel Pumps in Black Suede; House of Fraser Jaeger Ponte Skinny Leg Pants in Black.

This outfit has a more traditional Christmas color palette, and who can resist pandas?  That cardigan looks so cozy and warm!

Clockwise from top left: Yumi Smudge Printed Shirt; Culpepper & Co. Inc. Sterling Silver & Jasper Dalmatian Earrings; H & M Knit Cardigan in Dark Green Melange; Michael Kors Bedford Large Leather Zip Wristlet in Moss; Diba Dark Green Oh Sage Bootie;  Alexander McQueen Straight-Leg and Silk-Blend Trousers in Ivory.

Green is not usually my first color choice, but as a Dalmatian lover I think this outfit is my favorite!  I already own a Dalmatian-spotted shirt (are you surprised?), so I think I could easily pull an outfit like this together.


If none of these outfits appeals to you, fear not -- I have three more coming up next week!

Friday, November 25, 2016

Foodie Fridays: Spaghetti Squash and Meatball Casserole

I had some leftover marinara sauce and was looking for a recipe to use it up.  When I found one for Spaghetti Squash and Meatballs, I knew I had to try it.  I have greatly reduced my carbohydrate intake, which means that pasta, one of my favorite foods, is seldom on the menu now.  While spaghetti squash is certainly not a perfect replacement, it will do in a pinch, and I think it works well in this dish.

You can make your own meatballs if you like, or use your favorite refrigerated or frozen brand as I did.  Ditto for the marinara sauce.  I reduced the amount of cheese in the original recipe by half, not because I thought it would be healthier but because it just seemed like far too much for my tastes.  Do whatever seems right to you.  Served with a side salad to complete the meal, this tasty dish is perfect for a cold day, and even the most avid pasta lovers shouldn't object if you give them this recipe once in a while!

Spaghetti Squash and Meatball Casserole

1 medium spaghetti squash
2 C. bottled marinara sauce (I used Muir Glen Portabella Mushroom Pasta Sauce)
16 meatballs (I used Aidell's Italian Style Chicken Meatballs)
1 C. shredded mozzarella or Italian blend cheese

To cook the spaghetti squash, use a large knife to hack the thing in half.  Scrape out the seeds with a spoon.  Place the two halves, cut side down, in a baking pan that will accommodate the size of your squash.  Add a little water to the pan to cover the bottom by about a quarter of an inch.  Bake at 400 degrees for about 40 minutes until the squash is soft (the skin is easily pierced with a knife).

Remove the spaghetti squash halves from the oven and set aside until cool enough to handle.  Using a fork, pull the squash strands out of the shells (run the tines widthwise rather than lengthwise for longer strands).  Place the strands in a strainer and press firmly to drain off as much liquid as possible.

Add a small amount of marinara sauce to the bottom of a lightly greased 9-inch square pan.  Scatter the spaghetti squash strands as evenly as possible in the pan.  Top with a light sprinkling of shredded cheese.  Space the meatballs evenly on top of the squash.  Cover with the remaining sauce and then sprinkle the remaining cheese on top to cover completely.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the casserole is heated through.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before serving.  Serves 4.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

On the Homefront: Late Autumn Table

Dalmatian Amber is looking forward to one last seasonal meal
before winter takes over!

Not feeling especially celebratory at the moment, we are choosing to merely have what we are calling a late autumn meal rather than a Thanksgiving feast.  I will still enjoy my favorite time of the year, but instead of wasting time and money on a huge repast for just the two of us, I will prepare a simple, relatively inexpensive, and easy dinner that will satisfy and comfort without overindulgence.  The table features the Forest Friends appetizer plates I purchased recently, as well as the Mikasa Autumn Nights dinnerware I bought last year.  Here is my late autumn table:

Dark brown wooden bead placemat; Mikasa Autumn Nights dinner and salad/dessert plates; Forest Friends appetizer/bread plate; brown napkin; faux wood-handled flatware; autumn leaves goblet (from Kroger two years ago); Mikasa Autumn Nights mug; dark brown wooden coaster.

The other three appetizer plate designs:

I recycled the gourds from my Halloween table to create a simple

The wheat sheaf from my two previous tables appears again, this
time flanked by two pillar candles embossed with leaf patterns.

I recently bought a quart jug of pure maple syrup, so I decided to make this flavor the focus of our fall meal.  We both love this sweet treat, but a little goes a long way in our home.  Since it tends to take us forever to finish off a bottle of maple syrup I felt that adding it to recipes would help to keep the container from literally sitting around in our fridge for years!

Late Autumn Menu:

Three Ingredient Dinner Rolls*
One Pan Maple Roast Chicken and Autumn Vegetables**
Maple Ricotta Flans***

*Three Ingredient Dinner Rolls

2 C. self-rising flour
4 T. plain Greek yogurt
1 C. milk

In a large bowl, stir together all ingredients until well mixed.  Divide the batter evenly into a greased 12-cup muffin tin.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, or until lightly browned.  Remove from the oven and cool slightly before serving.  Makes 12 rolls.

**One Pan Maple Roast Chicken and Autumn Vegetables

3 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, halved
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into medium-sized cubes
1 lb. Brussels sprouts, cut in half
1 red onion, cut into chunks
3 T. olive oil
1/4 C. maple syrup
1 T. Dijon mustard
2 T. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. fines herbes or Italian seasoning
salt and pepper to taste

Arrange the chicken and vegetables in a 12x16-inch baking pan.  Toss with the olive oil.  Whisk together the remaining ingredients in a small bowl.  Pour the mixture over chicken and vegetables and toss to combine.  Spread in an even layer.

Roast the chicken and vegetables at 400 degrees for 30-35 minutes, until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees and the vegetables are tender.  Serves 6.

***Maple Ricotta Flans

1/4 C. plus 1 tsp. maple syrup
4 eggs, beaten
1 carton (15 oz.) ricotta cheese
1/4 C. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
cinnamon or nutmeg

Divide the 1/4 C. maple syrup among six 6-oz. custard cups.  Tilt each cup to coat evenly.

In a large bowl, combine the remaining 1 tsp. maple syrup with the rest of the ingredients except for the cinnamon or nutmeg.  Mix until well combined but not foamy.

Place the custard cups in a 9x13-inch baking pan.  Divide the egg mixture among the cups.  Sprinkle with cinnamon or nutmeg.  Place the baking pan in the oven.  Pour boiling water into the baking pan around the custard cups to a depth of one inch.  Bake at 325 degrees for 40-45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean.

Remove the cups from the water and cool completely.  Cover and chill until ready to serve.

To unmold the flans, loosen the edges with a knife, slipping the point of the knife down the sides to let air in.  Invert a dessert plate over each flan.  Turn the cup and plate over together and remove the cup.  Serves 6.


I hope you get to spend quality time with friends and family over this holiday weekend!

This 'n That Thursdays: Amazing Contemporary Mountain Cabins

From ArchDaily

Yesterday I described a mountain cabin rental in Canada that I would love to stay in, so today I thought I would feature a few more unique cabins from around the world.  Not all of them are available for rent, but I certainly would not mind staying in any of them!

1) Hyunam (A Black Cottage), South Korea (IROJE Architects & Planners)

2) Boulder Retreat, Wyoming (Carney Logan Burke Architects)

3) Mount Kanin Winter Cabin, Slovenia (OFIS Arhitekti)

4) Vega Cottage, Norway (Kolman Boye Architects)


Okay, I am seriously ready for a trip to the mountains!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Wish List Wednesdays: Villa BorΓ©ale Vacation

Exterior front

I need a vacation!  Since we did not get to go anywhere over the summer, I would love a winter getaway, and I think I've found the perfect spot.  Villa BorΓ©ale, located in the Charlevoix region of Quebec and built in 2015 by CARGO Architecture, is my idea of the perfect mountain cabin.  With four bedrooms and three bathrooms, this winter retreat was designed to accommodate up to fourteen people.  Even though it is located in a ski area and we don't ski, I would be perfectly happy to settle into this contemporary Scandinavian-style abode with a pile of good books and pots of hot tea in front of a crackling fire, venturing outdoors for some brisk walks in the woods periodically.  Let's take a look at more images:

Exterior side

Outdoor hot tub at night

Great room

Dining area

View of the outdoors from living-dining area

Same outdoor view from different angle



Master bedroom

Reading nook in master bedroom

One of the guest bedrooms

The bunk room

One of three bathrooms


Everything about this cabin appeals to me, from the mountain location and contemporary style to the light-colored wood and light-filled interiors (although I would decorate with more color if it were mine!).  And after taking the photo tour, who wouldn't be longing for a mountain cabin winter vacation!