Cavewoman (Apple) Crisp

If you follow me on insta then you know my fam and I went apple picking in Wisconsin a few weekends ago. It's something I've always wanted to do but apparently it took my sister and bro in law having a pair of rugrats to actually make it happen. Those boys are going to be such a great excuse to indulge my inner kid... I really can't wait until they get a little older!

I digress... so we went to Apple Holler just over the IL/WI border and I highly recommend it whether you pack up your kids or just your fun friends! Apple picking aside, there was a small pumpkin patch and an area with games and farm animals. Can you say the Golden GOAT Bridge and Pig Races?!?! Yep.

While that was all fun, my favorite part was dessert! Isn't is always?!?! I tried the Apple Turnover and Puff (don't know the difference but they were both delish) and I carted home some Apple Cider Donuts. Let's just say that if I lived closer to the Holler, I'd be there on the daily for one of those bad boys. YUM!!!! 

I spent the ride back into the city (after the pit stop at Mars Cheese... oink oink) thinking about what I might make with my 1/2 peck of apples...

Monday morning I picked up a pork loin and cooked that up for dinner with some homemade Paleo Applesauce. That may have to be in the regular rotation because it was probably the best applesauce I've ever had and it was sooooo easy!  

The next day, after checking out a bunch of recipes, I attempted my version of paleo apple crisp or as I'm calling it, Cavewoman Crisp (I like alliteration). It turned out WAY better than I expected...(I'm not a baker)... so good in fact I made another batch the next week to finish off the apples and I may replace my mom's apple pie recipe (gasp) with it for this year's Turkey Day. I like sweet but not too sweet and this was just the right level of sweetness for me as well as mix of apples to topping. If you give it a whirl I would say to experiment based on your own personal preference. 

Here you go... hope you like it as much as I did and let me know what you think!  

 

what you need

6 apples – You’re going to peel and chop these guys up into bite size pieces. I used a mix of apples I got from my apple picking adventure but would say you can use the ones you prefer or like me, a mix. The common school of thought is that granny smith work best for baking as they’re moderate on the sweet and tart scale but again I think it’s personal preference.

1/2 cup + 1 T coconut sugar

1 cup + 1 T blanched almond flour

1/4 cup coconut flour

1/2 cup + 2 T unsalted, grass-fed butter – Ideally this will be room temperature so you can easily cube but if you’re like me and want instant gratification, just throw it in the microwave for 10 – 15 secs until it’s softened enough to cube but NOT melted.  

1/2 lemon – We’re going to make the most of it by using the zest and the juice.

1 tsp ground cinnamon and 1 tsp ground nutmeg

1/4 tsp kosher salt

 

how it happens

 Start by preheating the oven to 350 degrees.

While the oven is doing its thing, peel the apples and cut into bite size pieces placing them into a medium sized mixing bowl. Next, you want to add the lemon zest and lemon juice to the apples and stir to combine. Now sprinkle ½ teaspoon of ground cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon of ground nutmeg and 1 tablespoon of coconut sugar over the apples and again stir to combine evenly. Finally, melt 2 tablespoons of unsalted grass-fed butter and pour over the spiced apples. Stir to combine.

Once your apples are prepped, use some of your unsalted butter to liberally grease a 9-inch pie pan or similar size baking dish. Pour the apple mixture into the pan.

Now you’re going to make the ‘crisp’. In a food processor, add 1 cup of blanched almond flour, ¼ cup of coconut flour, ½ cup of coconut sugar, ½ teaspoon of ground cinnamon, ¾ teaspoon of ground nutmeg, ¼ teaspoon of sea salt, and ½ cup of the cubed butter. Pulse until you create a ball of dough in the food processor. The dough will be more ‘doughy’ than crumbly so you’ll want to use your fingers to “crumble” the dough evenly over the spiced apples. Basically you just want to place it down in small pieces so it looks like crumbles. After you’ve covered your apples, sprinkle the top of the crumble with the remaining tablespoon of almond flour and the tablespoon of coconut sugar.

 Bake this deliciousness on the middle rack in the center of the oven for 45-50 minutes. As you know, ovens vary so just keep an eye out around 40 – 45 minutes. You want soft apples (they will be by then) and a nice toasted brown top.

 Treat yo’ self by serving it a la mode and ENJOY! 

meat + greens stir fry

Here in Chicago we had probably one of the nicest summers I can remember and I was fortunate to be able to enjoy a lot of it. As a result, I’ve been in some pretty serious denial that fall was coming but the pool is now officially closed, football is on the tv (sadly my teams are no bueno) and I had to wear long sleeves to take the dog out yesterday morning so I did what anyone would do… I pulled a new pair of kicks out of their J.Crew box, brushed off some old recipes and headed to the grocery store! Yeah, that was probably just me that did that but it’s the little things right?!?!

Don’t get me wrong… I love fall… the dry, cool air that doesn’t frizz my hair… the new clothes (even if they’re just ones I haven’t worn since last season they feel new)… how much better those clothes look when you still have some color on your skin… the colors of the leaves… the football (record skip… maybe not this season)… it’s just that I know fall is the harbinger of winter (how about that word?!?! ;) ) and in Chicago winter can mean months and months and months of parkas and boots…. so… you can see why I’m a little misty at letting go of this summer.

SO back to the grocery store run, or more importantly what I brought home! In the couple of years I’ve been cooking I’ve learned a few things. One of these is that while technically cooking is a science, it doesn’t always have to be as precise a science as say… baking. Once you start getting comfortable with spices, herbs and various cuts of meat, following a recipe word for word becomes less important than your palate preference. I’ve also realized that eating ‘clean’ or ‘paleo’ truly can be an easy, affordable and extremely delicious lifestyle and not just a sentence to be served after overindulging in carbs, sugar and fried foods!

One of the recipes that I’ve made and played with is a beef stir fry situation. I find that when added to some cauliflower rice, it’s a nice, warm, healthy comfort meal that wards off the fall or winter chill. The concept isn’t rocket science… it’s meat, greens and delicious flavor at its core… but it’s a simple enough recipe to allow for meal sizes and variance.   

Meat + Greens Stir Fry

what you need

meat – I would say 8 oz if you’re cooking for one and go up from there. In my house we like to eat and I find that making extra at night checks the lunch box for at least one day. I typically use a flank steak (read - cheap, lean and delish) and I generally find that a pound and a half feeds enough for dinner and a couple of lunches. You can easily sub in chicken, shrimp or even tofu if cows aren’t your thing.

greens – I like using rainbow chard mainly because it’s easier for me to find and I like the pops of color the stems provide. If you haven’t cooked chard before, know that it WILTS so don’t be afraid to use more than you think. I generally use 1 bunch per pound of meat. Again, you can add or subtract depending on your love of greens.

green onions – I’m becoming repetitive but the amount here, again, depends on your preference. As a rule of thumb I would say to use 8 of them per pound of meat. You can always add more in if you need more flavor.

garlic + ginger – Ditto to the above but about 2T minced per pound of meat.

extra light tasting olive oil – I prefer cooking with extra light olive oil. Light in this case doesn’t mean less calories but rather a lighter flavor. While I love evoo when I’m dragging my bread through it at my fave Italian restaurant, the flavor can overwhelm when you’re using it to cook. Sometimes that’s ok but more often than not I like my oil to play a supporting role and not be the leading lady.

juice from 1 lime

salt

 

how it happens

To prep you’re going to slice your meat into pieces that are small enough to eat without a lot of work but not so small that they cook too fast especially if you’re cooking beef and still want a pink or red center. Season the pieces with salt. Next you want to cut up your greens. If you’re using chard, separate the leaves from the stems. Then cut the stems into bite size pieces and roughly chop of the greens. You’ll want to keep the stems and leaves apart as they aren’t cooked together. Finally, mince up your garlic and ginger and slice the scallions.

When the prep work is done it is time to cook. Btw, all of this can be prepped in advance so if you’re feeling motivated you can do it the night before or for you real overachievers, in the morning. Also, my cooking times below are for beef so you'll need to adjust when the meat goes in if you're cooking chicken (likely longer) and shrimp (shorter).

Start by drizzling 1T of olive oil into a skillet over med-high heat. Once it’s heated, toss in the seasoned meat and cook until the outside is a golden brown (about 2 – 3 mins per side – again, a little less if you want your beef on the rarer side).

Add in another T or so of olive oil and add your chard stems, green onions, garlic and ginger. Cook this mixture about 2 – 3 mins and make sure that you’re stirring often. You want those flavors touching everything!

Finally add in another T of olive oil and add the chard leaves cooking until they wilt (again another 2 – 3 mins). Depending on the size of your skillet and how much you’re making, you may need to add the chard leaves in batches (add more when the prior batch starts to wilt). You can also get them started in a separate pan with olive oil and add them to the bigger party when they’ve shrunk down a bit.

Once the chard is wilted, squeeze the lime juice over it all and mix well. If you’re making more than a pound of meat your skillet may be filled to capacity.  In this case just dump it all in a large bowl, squeeze on your lime juice and toss.

This can be a one dish meal or can be paired with a side like cauliflower rice or something similar. I personally like to put some cauliflower rice in a bowl and add a heaping serving spoon or two on top.

30 minutes later…. You’re ready to eat!!!

Again, it’s a pretty simple recipe that you can easily play with to make your own. Let me know what creative adds or tweaks you have… I’m always looking to try out new things!

Enjoy!

baked halibut + roasted broccoli

Here’s the ‘how to’ on last night’s easy, quick and YUMMY dish. I promise you’ll have this one on the table in 30 min’s or less (and it’s way better than Domino’s!)

baked halibut

what you need

1 ½ pounds Halibut

Olive oil

Lemon Juice

Cayenne Pepper, Salt and Pepper

 how it happens

Preheat the oven to 375. While that’s heating up, lay the fish on a parchment lined baking sheet and drizzle on some olive oil and sprinkle to taste with cayenne pepper, salt and pepper. Pop the fish in the oven and bake until you can flake the fish with your fork (15 – 25 min’s depending on thickness).

 

bacon herb butter

what you need

4 T of salted butter

2 slices of uncured bacon

Garlic Powder, Dried Parsley, Dried Basil, Salt

how it happens

If the butter has been in the fridge, pop it in the microwave for 10 seconds or so to soften. You’ll also want to cook the bacon and chop into small pieces. Once that’s all done, mix the bacon in the butter and then add 2 ½ t parsley, 1 t basil and a dash of garlic powder. Keep mixing until it’s combined and then salt to taste. Put the bowl in the fridge until you’re ready to plate the fish.

 

garlic roasted broccoli

what you need

A few bunches of broccoli

5 cloves of garlic

Lemon Juice

Red Pepper Flakes, Salt, Pepper

Coconut Oil

how it happens

Preheat the oven. 400 is ideal but if you’re saving time and cooking with the fish, 375 works. Cut the broccoli into florets and throw into a large bowl. Melt 3T of coconut oil and add to the broccoli. Then mince and toss in the 5 cloves of garlic. Now add red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to your taste. Mix it up so the seasonings and oil coat the broccoli and lay the florets out evenly on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Roast until the broccoli is tender and turning brown. This should take about 15 min’s if your oven is at 400, a little longer if it’s lower. Once you take out the pan, squeeze on some fresh lemon juice and serve!

 

 

 

 

 

bye bye summer vacay...

So we just got home from our annual summer trip to the Jersey Shore… and before you think to yourself, “ugh, how tacky…”, NOT THAT JERSEY SHORE!!!

While I’ll admit that I was at times entertained by the mindless train wreck that was the reality show and my name is Jenni Farley… although please call me Jenn and not Jenni and I swapped out my middle name for Farley when I got a new last name a few years ago… unfortunately, MTV gave one of the prettiest coastlines I’ve seen a really bad rap.

For the past several summers we’ve been spending a week gym, tan and laundry’ing (sorry, couldn’t resist) in Ocean City, NJ. If you haven’t been there or to one of the towns between Atlantic City and Cape May, I encourage you to go. Ocean City in particular, is a laid back, family oriented beach town with amazing homes stretching along its blocks and blocks.

 If you happen to find this beach spot on your travel agenda, here are a few of my favorites…

Watching the sunrise with coffee or set with a cocktail. Yes, doing this is generally breathtaking anywhere, but something about the quiet and peacefulness of the Shore, especially on the South End where we like to stay… well it makes even the not so spiritual believe in a higher power.

Mike’s Seafood. I love staying on the South End and being a quick walk to Mike’s is one reason why. We generally get dinner from here twice or, ok, maybe three times while we’re in town. A total no-frills place that specializes in carry out; the fresh, steamed King Crab legs, peel and eat shrimp, crab fries and crab balls are truly addicting!

Voltaco’s. Totally worth taking it easy on the beach cocktails for a day (that’s something for me to say!) so you can drive up to the North End to bring this home for dinner. This OC staple does subs right. I’m partial to the Philly Cheese Steak but have sampled some others and you really can’t go wrong.

Surf Café. We found this place one cloudy morning this year and I have to say it’s one of the BEST breakfast’s I’ve ever had, and as my food baby generally shows, I like me some breakfast. There seems to generally be a wait but it’s definitely worth pulling up an Adirondack and getting in line!

Manco and Manco’s. Don’t be afraid of the line streaming out the front door as these guys keeping it moving. This traditional east coast thin crust pizza is deserving of it’s well known fame as it’s delish! I recommend going simple with the pepperoni. You won’t be disappointed.

The Spotted Whale. I promise I did more than eat on vacation!!! Well, maybe only a little more but I was happy to stumble upon this shop’s new location on Asbury Avenue. An upscale gift shop where I found several new “gifts” for my home. They have everything from hostess gifts to small furnishings, rugs, throws, artworks and the list goes on. The best part is that I didn’t have to fit everything I wanted in our car, I can shop their wares from here in Chicago on their website!

What to pack?

Not much. Seriously, I tell myself that every year and every year I still overpack but I am getting better. Swimsuits, cover up’s, shorts, tees and flip flops are the way to go. Throw in a sweatshirt for when the sun drops and maybe a cute dress and wedges for a nicer dinner out in Avalon and you’re set.

 

One fairly important thing to note … if you’re like me and enjoy a beach drink or two or three… well you get the point. It’s important to know that Ocean City is a family town. Translation – Dry Town. Translation - No booze. Before you freak out… you just can’t buy it in the town and the restaurants are dry. You can however buy it from liquor stores in any of the neighboring towns and enjoy your adult bevvy’s at your beach house or on the beach in your fave opaque drinking vessel. If you’re driving to the shore, I recommend packing it up with your stuff. While you can buy it nearby, your fave $20 bottle of wine is likely $25+.

So, can you tell I like this place?!?! As a girl who grew up spending a few summer weeks a year at South Carolina beaches, I was initially skeptical and definitely very biased but this was the fourth year of this new tradition and it’s something I look forward to coming back to even as we join the line of cars headed inland at the end of the week. Till next year Snooki!

-          Jenni “not J.Woww” Farley

paleo mmmmayo....

I have to admit that I LOVE sauces and dips and generally have something on tap for a side whether it's needed or not. As it relates to mayo, while it may be a turn off for some, I believe that if you stuck a pin in me, mayo would likely come out instead of that red stuff! It's for sure my favorite of the condiment family. Having said that, store bought mayo's tend to include some stuff that you don't really need and I would hate to find myself in a position where I (gasp) ran out.

So... I learned to make the goodness on my own. Here's my (for the most part) foolproof take on this classic staple. 

what you need

1 egg

A decent squirt of Dijon mustard

A healthy pinch of kosher salt

Juice from 1/2 fresh lemon (you can try lemon juice from those plastic lemons but I tend to have issues getting the right consistency when I do it)

1 1/4 C of Extra Virgin LIGHT Olive Oil (make sure to get the light unless you don't mind a heavy olive oil taste to your mayo) 

how it happens

Crack the egg (keep the yolk whole) into a jar (I find a mason jar works best and the finished product will already be in its' container!). Then squirt in the mustard, sprinkle in some salt and add the lemon juice. Now pour about 1/2 - 3/4 C of olive oil in and grab your immersion blender. This is where the magic happens. Put your immersion blender in the jar so the yolk is contained in cap of the blender and then press the low blend setting. As you start to see the consistency get thicker start slowly lifting up the blender. After about 15 seconds, pour the rest of the olive oil in as your blending. Again, start lifting the blender up slowly so the whole mixture does it's thing. I then move the blender up and down several times to ensure it's all mixed up and voila! Homemade MAYO!!!! 

So I've been lucky and only ended up with a more dressing than mayo like consistency once or twice... for me it's been when I've used the not as fresh lemon juice or mustard powder instead of the real thing but I've heard it can also vary based on temperature and type of container. Don't be scared to try it but also don't be frustrated if it takes some practice. One reason I save part of the oil to add is just in case it's not coagulating the way it should then I haven't wasted it and can start again. 

Happy emulsifying and let me know how it goes! 

quick + healthy + cheap = monday's salmon lunch

If you're looking for an easy and fast punch of protein for lunch then do I have a great reco for you! 

Salmon Salad

1 - individual serving pouch of salmon

1- dollop of homemade paleo mayo (sub in mustard or your fave condiment if mayo isn't your thing - I'll add a post on how to make this simple, delicious staple that you'll like so much you's say adios to your friends Hellmans and Kraft!)

3 - Wild Wonders tomatoes (again you can sub in whatever tomato or veggie you have or like, i.e., celery, cukes, capers, etc)

Chopped romaine or again, lettuce of your choice

Dash of salt and pepper

Sprinkle of balsamic vinegar

Done and done! Of course you can add or change around but this power lunch packs some great proteins and fats to start the week off right!

Oh and it's great with some Harvest Snaps Wasabi Ranch green pea crips... seems weird right?!? But trust me, they're so good and have become my latest snack obsession!

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cauliflower pizza crust...

what you need

cauliflower (approx. 1 head per pizza)

egg (1 per pizza)

shredded mozzarella cheese (½ - 1 C per pizza)

shredded parmesan cheese (2Tbsp – ¼ C per pizza)

salt

pepper

how it happens

I generally use a pizza stone for cooking the crust but if you don’t have one it’s no biggie, just use a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Put the stone or unlined baking sheet in the oven while it’s pre-heating to 450 degrees. You’ll also want to be sure and spray the stone or parchment paper with non-stick cooking oil (I prefer coconut oil) before you put down your crust.

Start with 2 ½ – 3 cups of grated cauliflower or about 1 average sized head. (word has it that you can buy pre-grated cauliflower at Trader Joe’s … I have yet to investigate but if that’s true it’s a real time saver!). You can either grate or chop the cauliflower in a food processor until it looks like snow. Put the grated cauliflower in a microwave safe bowl and microwave until soft (about 6 – 8 minutes). Remove the cauliflower and let cool for a bit. Once it’s cooled or at least once it stops steaming, dump the cauliflower onto a piece of cheese cloth or a thin dish towel. Squeeze the cauliflower in the towel until you’ve squeezed out the excess liquid. When you think you’ve squeezed enough, squeeze a little more. Be careful - if you’re impatient like me and start to squeeze out the cauliflower before it cools – it is HOT!

Once you have your clump of cauliflower, put in back in the bowl and add in 1 lightly beaten large egg and then between ½ - 1 cup of shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese and between 2 tablespoons – ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese. If you go with the lower volume of mozz, go with the higher amount of parm or vice versa. You can also do equal parts mozz and parm, whatever works best for you. Next add in some kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Take the mixture and put it on the sprayed pizza stone or parchment paper covered baking sheet and spread it out into a crust. The thinner the crust, the crispier it will be and the more it will hold together like a traditional dough crust. Bake for approx. 20 minutes or until it’s a light golden brown. Once you have that pretty color to your crust, remove from the oven and add any sauce or toppings you desire and put back in the oven for another 10 minutes or until it’s done to your liking.   

As a point of reference, my people are eaters so I generally plan for 1 head of cauliflower per pizza and 1 pizza per person (i.e., 4 people = 4 heads). You can plan accordingly based on the appetites you’re serving.

Enjoy!

crossfit craziness...

I’ve been curious about the CrossFit craze for the past few years but was always a little scared to give it a whirl. A few weeks ago I decided to jump into the WOD-ers (sorry, I couldn’t resist) for a month to see if it was really as bad as it looked.

It is.

But I really LOVE it!

The truth is that there have been a few days I’ve almost cried or given up out of frustration (it sucks being the weakest or slowest one in the group) or honestly, exhaustion (16.5 was THE WORST), but there have been more days that I’ve been really proud of myself for accomplishing something in a few tries that I thought would take forever to happen (toes to bar...woot woot… pull up, you’re next!)

While I can see why it’s not for everyone, for now I can say that I’m hooked. At least until I finish my first RX workout…and my first handstand push up…. and muscle up… and...ok, so it may be a while… stay tuned! 

classics, style and furry bags with Mel of Chicago's M2...

If you’ve ever happened upon the boutique at the corner of Southport and Eddy in Chicago there is a good chance that you’ve encountered the force of energy that is the owner Melissa Nelson. Mel, as she’s more affectionately known, is not only the owner of M2 Boutique but stays close to her customers by running much of the day to day ops. While it doesn’t allow for a lot of free time it’s been the right formula to ensure she knows what her loyal customers are looking for and that her store doesn’t lose its friendly, neighborhood vibe. M2 offers a carefully selected array of handbags and accessories as well as unique gifts for any occasion all at refreshingly affordable price points. Weekends and evenings at M2 often mean a promo event including snacks, wine and cocktails and of course beer for the many guys coming in to get help with a gift or patiently waiting on their SO to browse through the store.

In full disclosure, I’ve been lucky enough to know Mel for over a decade and to call her a friend. I truly think she came out of the womb working and she’s been hustling it ever since. She’s a natural entrepreneur that runs off of a gut know how and incredible work ethic rather than a traditional business plan. It may not work 100% of the time but for all of the risks she’s taken she has definitely seen overall success. I had dinner and too many glasses of wine with Mel the other night and asked her a few questions.

How do you define 'style'?

Style is unique to one’s self. It describes you as a person – your personality. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea but as long as you “own it” - then own it!

The one 'must have' accessory for the Spring …

Any type of tassel necklace that can be layered with something else you already own.

The one classic piece everyone should own …

An initial or name necklace! Those can be worn day in and day out and match everything.

Worst accessory trend you’ve seen… or worst style mistake you see people make...

Furry teddy bear or puppy dog cross-body bags. I have no idea why this is even happening!

In the spirit of the season and Spring cleaning, the one item you've given away you wish you still had…

I think I feel pretty good about everything I have given away “donated”. Although there are a few things my friends have “borrowed” that I would like back!

What have you done today or will you do to make you happy? 

I am actually meeting with some other business women from Southport to talk about cross-promoting and building our businesses!!!!

Well fortunately I haven’t yet experienced the furry bag trend and I think I’m ok with that. I’m also hoping that the ‘borrowed’ comment wasn’t meant for me… gulp! All in all I think most people find M2 to be more than just a shopping experience but rather more like going over to your cool best friend’s house to borrow something for the night, season or maybe forever! If you haven’t been there and are in Chicago, stop by and see for yourself – 3527 N. Southport – or visit them online at www.mboutiquechicago.com.

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burgers, beer and a little more...

I'm not sure this even needs a description with all of its obvious yumminess but in case you want to give it a try, it's the poutine special at the recently opened Farm Bar in Lakeview or as our bartender called it, "the younger, hipper sister to River North's Farmhouse". The menu was small but everything we ate including this number made me want to come back soon!

silver linings...

It's been a while since my last post which I know is a 'no no' when launching or keeping a blog. My excuse for what it's worth is that over the past month or so I've been distracted in some rather unexpected ways. 

2016 came in with a lot of hope and anticipation that it would be a better year than the one before. Unfortunately it hasn't quite lived up to its expectations. The start of the year has brought loss in many forms, some big and some small. The one positive I keep trying to pull from it all is the old adage that 'everything happens for reason' and that it all has to go up from here... right?

Anyway, the point of 'leasing happiness' is finding and highlighting points of happiness in every situation whether it be positive or sad because they are there. So that's what I want to do here... give a shout out to a few of the things that provided light when the world was at its darkest. I promise to keep the content lighter as spring approaches and I know the changing weather will bring a lot of lh moments and some fun journeys for me to share!

Good friends. over the past year I've learned the true meaning of friendship and where it can be found. While some weren't there for this photo op, this is a good representation of the group of guys who really are the best of friends to my husband. These guys and several others are always there for him but really step up when it counts the most. He's so very lucky and I can't thank these guys enough for being what they are to him and to me. 

Small towns. While I did some time in the burbs during my formative years, I am by definition a city girl having lived in or near to major cities my whole life. Now don't get me wrong, I LOVE the city and everything that comes with it... food, culture, architecture. I even love the feeling of being anonymous in a building you've lived in for almost a decade. Having said that I just spent the last month or so in a small town and I really think my husband and dog breathed a sigh of relief when I finally got in the truck to come back home. After so many years of going and going and trying to keep up, it was nice to settle. I don't mean settle for a place but rather just settle down. I could finally breath, sleep in, enjoy a cup of coffee in a mug instead of a Starbucks cup. Yes, I realize that the situation wasn't reality and a lot of it was emotionally hard but in many ways, mentally, it was more of a vacation than a week on the beach has ever been. (I still want to go to the beach this summer, Doug!)  And while I love being anonymous and not having people know my business, it was nice knowing that I had neighbors who really looked out for me. From shoveling my driveway and cleaning off my car to bringing me food that could have fed the whole town to one keeping watch from her house into mine and another literally keeping quiet and passive guard with a gun that I was fortunate to never see. You know, just in case my 130 lb fur ball didn't do the trick! The wine was expensive (boo PA) but meals weren't and they were good! I think I really agreed to come back because it was either that or buy bigger pants. I'll miss our favorite diners, the chicken wing bar and darts at the DLP and while we may not relocate permanently, we will be back soon. Thanks to everyone who helped. I couldn't have done it without you! 

Nature. While Chicago views are breathtaking, some of the views in nature that I took in over the last month or showed seemed to be small signs that some greater power was trying to show off the beauty around just to make things seem better. The picture of this sunset on our way home doesn't do it justice but you get the point. I didn't make a resolution for the new year nor did I give anything up for Lent so maybe I'll do it now.. take my face out of my phone every once in a while and recognize moments like this.

so long 2015...

Happy to be spending another NYE in Charleston! I never get tired of exploring the sights of this great city and all of the food and drink it has to offer. Stayed mostly old school this time with drinks at Henry's and oysters at Amen Street but also enjoyed an amazing brunch at Rarebit. Everything I tried there was fantastic but that Patty Melt I will definitely come back for!

#nyeinchucktown #charlestonsc #roomwithaview #francismarionhotel #marionsquare #emanuelafricanmethodistepiscopalchurch #neverforget 

#henrys #favoritename #marketmash #sometimesidrinkcocktails

#macsplace #chicagobarincharleston #siteofthebestsundayfundayever #jcrew #vans #anthropologie

#whyisthissmoking #itcomeswithawarning #nonclassydrinksinaclassybar #marketpavilionhotel #bestbluecheeseolivesever

#oystershooters #whynot #amenstreet #happynewyear

i love meat...

I always forget that finding an open bbq place in South Carolina on a Tuesday is only slightly easier than finding an open Chick-fil-A on a Sunday. Thankfully an old favorite, Little Pigs BBQ, proved to be the needle in the proverbial haystack so on our way out of Myrtle Beach we stopped by for some lunch. I think my pulled pork induced food coma is going to make make me a bad co-pilot for the drive to Charleston! #sorrynotsorry

#littlepigsbarbq #myrtlebeach #southcarolinabbq #ilovemeat 

merry christmas...

I promise that this picture and the plaids weren't planned but since we all looked presentable at the same time for once (Henry even smiled!) I thought I'd share. I'm thankful to be spending a little down time down south in warm SC with my parents for the holidays. Hope you all enjoy yours!

#happyholidays #christmas2015 #krebschristmas #jcrew #dl1961 #shinola #lovewearingwhiteafterlaborday

roadhouse...

There was no question when I saw the name of this OPI color I had to go with it - Roadhouse Blues - (pour one out for Swayze) and I'm really digging it for the dark winter months. Thanks West Loop Nails for doing a great job as always. Now I'm just realizing that I need to get a tan and my rings cleaned :(

#roadhouse #roadhouseblues #opicolor #westloopnails #shouldveusedafilter

free advertising...

So not the best ad but I had to share anyway. If you haven't had a Farmer's Fridge salad, breakfast or snack... YOU ARE MISSING OUT! Great price point, quantity and ALWAYS fresh... this is a great and quick option that I take advantage of more than I should admit. Wish I had thought of this concept myself! 

#farmersfridge #600westchicago #mealsonthego #messyoffice