Goodbye, Sweet Girl

Life, PugsMay 24 20164 Comments

Bitsy Boo

“It came to me that every time I lose a dog, they take a piece of my heart with them. And every new dog who comes into my life gifts me with a piece of their heart. If I live long enough, all the components of my heart will be dog and I will become as generous and loving as they are.” – Anonymous 

A New Year

LifeJan 18 20161 Comment

Whole Foods Bench Philosophy

As I get older (cliché, I know), I find that each passing year brings more self-reflection. When the page turns from December 31 to January 1, the feeling of wiping the slate clean and refocusing is so comforting and reassuring. 2015 was a mixed bag. It was full of travel and adventure and success (good things), but also intense pressure and professional transitions (challenging things). And that stress and pressure seeped into my personal life (less-than-ideal things). 2015 was a year of constantly feeling off-balance and out of control. I never felt relaxed or settled or content.

In the latter part of the year, I reignited my love for yoga, going to classes at least two times a week. I started to set boundaries for myself, trying to make a concerted effort to leave work at the office and be present with my husband when I’m at home. I don’t want to be constantly “on,” checking email, social media, texting. I want to be in control of my time and not feel overwhelmed by the constant obligations to post on Instagram or reply to an email at 10 pm.

And so I decided that 2016 was going to be a year of balance. Of contentment. Of joy. A year of filling my mind with good things and indulging less in the bad (Goodbye, Us Weekly subscription). I want this to be a year of treating myself and my body better. Less wine (tragic, I know), more yoga and pilates and getting back behind the handlebars of my road bike in the spring. I want to spend more time in the kitchen, trying new recipes. I want to really relax on the weekends and not feel like I need to always be on the go. I want to enjoy the moment. 

I miss blogging. I miss writing and having an outlet. I miss testing recipes and decorating and taking photos and reading comments. When I launched Oliver & Belle, I thought it could perhaps turn into a business. But now? Now I just want to enjoy this space and the freedom to stretch my creative muscle on a more frequent basis. It’s part of that whole contentment thing. I can’t promise perfect posting frequency. I can’t promise perfect photography. But I want to promise myself to indulge in the healthy things that make me happy, and this space is one of those things. 

Cheers to a new year, a renewed focus, and a whole world of opportunities. 

Green Bean Casserole

green bean casserole
Green bean casserole is a holiday staple. Savory, creamy and crunchy all at once. And in theory, you’re even consuming a vegetable among all of the carb-y deliciousness of mashed potatoes and stuffing. But if cans of cream of mushroom soup and green beans have been the main ingredients in the casseroles of Thanksgivings past, it’s time to take things up a notch and make the classic Thanksgiving dish from scratch this year.

(Don’t worry – those crispy fried onions on top? They still make the cut.)

Say hello to the cast of characters. I know, I know. A bit more involved than a bunch of cans, but trust me – the extra work will be well worth it.

Green Bean Casserole
Serves 8
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Ingredients
  1. 6 tablespoons butter
  2. 1 yellow onion, diced
  3. 1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
  4. 1 pound crimini mushrooms, sliced
  5. 2 teaspoons sea salt
  6. 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  7. 1 pound frozen green beans
  8. ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  9. 2 cups whole milk
  10. 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  11. 1 pinch grated nutmeg
  12. 1/2 cup gruyere cheese
  13. 1/2 cup parmigiano reggiano
  14. Crispy fried onions
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375. Butter a large baking dish and set aside.
  2. Next, do yourself a favor and prepare your mise en place. Basically this is a fancy French term for “everything in place.” As in, dice the onion and bell pepper and chop up the mushrooms so everything is ready to go.
  3. Next, melt two tablespoons of butter in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Sautee the onions until they are softened and translucent, about 3-4 minutes.
  4. Toss in the bell pepper and mushrooms and stir everything together.
  5. Let the veggies cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 8-10 minutes.
  6. Next, cook the green beans according to the instructions on the package. (I prefer the stovetop method, but if you want to microwave them, no judgment here).
  7. Once they are cooked, add the green beans to a bowl of ice water. This will prevent them from continuing to cook and prevents mushiness.
  8. While the green beans are cooling off, grate the cheeses. Sample accordingly. Mmmmm. Gruyere.
  9. Drain the green beans and add them to the rest of the veggies, mixing to combine. Add a little salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
  10. Add the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter to a large saucepan over medium heat. Want to save yourself from doing more dishes? Use the same saucepan used to cook the green beans.
  11. Once the butter has melted, add ¼ cup flour and whisk constantly until the mixture begins to turn golden brown. Congratulations – you just made a roux. (Hint: a roux is also the key to delicious turkey gravy – it’s essentially a thickening agent).
  12. Add the milk in batches and continue to whisk. This part requires a little muscle and a lot of patience, but it will result in a delicious, creamy sauce. Also known as a béchamel. This is the foundation for most creamy sauces (and the basis for the most decadent macaroni and cheese you will ever indulge in… but that’s a recipe for a different day).
  13. Add a little salt, pepper, cayenne pepper and nutmeg. Then stir in most of the cheeses, reserving a little for later. Taste. Swoon.
  14. Pour the cheese sauce into the veggie mixture and toss to combine thoroughly.
  15. Add the veggie mixture to the baking dish. Top with the remaining cheeses.
  16. Now it’s time for the finishing touch – the crispy fried onions. I love Trader Joe’s brand, but you really can’t go wrong here.
  17. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes at 375. Remove the foil and continue to bake for an additional 10-20 minutes until browned and bubbly.
  18. You can also make the green bean casserole up to one day ahead. Just be sure to bring it to room temperature before baking.
  19. Serve. Enjoy. Fight your loved ones for the last portion. It’s THAT good.
Adapted from Martha Stewart Living
Oliver & Belle http://oliverandbelle.com/

Basement Renovation: The Home Stretch

And by home stretch, I mean we are having carpet installed on the stairs on Wednesday and then we are officially DONE. At least with the renovation part. Next up is the accessorizing part (some of which has already started). 

Bdecause I can’t keep you waiting any longer…

PICS!

But first – remember how beige the basement was before we got started?

Basement: BeforeWoof.

So here’s how this played out (via Instagram).

First, it got messy and dirty:

Basement Renovation Progress | OliverandBelle.comThen the building started: shelves under the stairs, a hole for what would soon become a built-in wine rack, custom wet bar cabinets, tongue & groove wainscoting and updating the entertainment center to fit TVs made in this century.

Basement Renovation Progress | OliverandBelle.com 2

 Next came the priming part. And we could start to see where this was going. And we liked it. 

Basement Renovation Progress | OliverandBelle.comAnd then painting. The painted bookcase was a mistake. The first of many. Let’s just say this renovation process was not exactly stress-free and I’m pretty sure our project manager has a voodoo doll of me somewhere in his office. It’s fine because I have his photo pinned up on a dart board. 

Basement Renovation Progress | OliverandBelle.com

 More paint. See where we’re going with this?

Basement Renovation Progress | OliverandBelle.com

 And then things started to get good. Really good. 

Basement Renovation Progress | OliverandBelle.comAnd then they got better. Way better. 

Basement Renovation Progress | OliverandBelle.com

 And, just like that, we were mostly done. Obviously I couldn’t wait to accessorize. With booze.

Basement Renovation Progress | OliverandBelle.com

 The furniture arrived and, save for the wrong ottoman (Crate & Barrel is sending us a new one on Friday), I was in love.

Basement Renovation Progress | OliverandBelle.com

Basement Renovation Progress | OliverandBelle.comMore details about the renovation (plus non-Instagram pics) and details about the changes we made upstairs coming soon!

Our Wedding Flowers

LifeMar 26 20140 Comment

Our house is currently a mess of sawdust, paint, primer, assorted flooring samples, miscellaneous fixtures and appliances as our basement enters the third week of construction. Let me just say that it has not been quite as fun as I thought a renovation would be. I LOVED the whole “design it and buy all the things” part. I am not loving the “living in a construction zone” part. 

So we’re taking a break from basement adventures today to talk about WEDDINGS! I love weddings. And I loved ours. I can’t believe it’s almost been a year since Brian and I said “I do.” So it was a super fun surprise to see Emmy-Ray feature the amazing floral work that she did for our big day last May on her blog. She was incredible to work with and I trusted her implicitly. The end result was just beautiful and we couldn’t have been happier. I still dream about that luscious white bouquet… 

White Bridal Bouquet

wedding flowersVisit Handmaker of Things to view more! And if you’re looking for a truly talented floral designer, I can’t recommend Emmy-Ray enough! 

 

Basement Reno… Let’s Do This

It’s more than a little embarrassing that it’s nearly been a month since my last post. Tsk, tsk… I know. 

Throw in one weeklong trip to Dallas for a super fun video shoot involving gourmet food for work. AKA the best work trip ever. Plus a crazy workload, a traveling husband, visits with family, a slightly crazy gym schedule as I try to get back in shape and train for a sprint triathalon (which I may have signed up for after one too many glasses of wine… whoops!), and, well, there’s been little time to give some love to O&B.

BUT.

TOMORROW.

Basement renovation begins!

It’s been, oh, three months since the aquarium incident and what seems like far, far too much time wrangling assorted vendors and contractors and renovation company people. But we are finally here. Demo starts tomorrow and hopefully the rest will move forward quickly because we’re hoping to have everything finished by the first week of April before my parents move in for an extended stay (another story for another post!).

I’ve spent much of the afternoon loading up virtual shopping carts with furniture and accessories and made quite a few purchases for the decor side of things. And I’m really excited to share where we’ve landed for the decor for the main “living” portion of the basement:

Basement Decor | OliverandBelle.com

We’ve definitely decided on the Crate & Barrel Lounge 93″ slipcovered sofa and I’m preeeetttty excited to spend many a Sunday afternoon nap curled up on it. Quite conveniently, C&B just launched an upholstery sale for some of its most popular styles and this guy is one of them, so we’re saving a much appreciated 15%. I’m not 100% sold on the chair and a half (though mostly sold). Slipcovered furniture is a necessity in our pug-ruled home. And buying quality pieces that will last forever means that if we want to change the look of a room in 5-10 years, we can just update the slipcover. Win-win. 

I pulled the trigger and purchased the rug, adorable little tree stump end table, poufs and a slew of majorly discounted mercury glass accessories and a few throws from West Elm today. 

The coffee table is from Home Decorators Collection and it’s not my final choice… yet. I really want something a bit more rustic and it looks nearly identical to our living room coffee table, but I’m having a hard time finding anything and might actually ask the cabinet maker who’s building our new wet bar to design something custom for us. 

There will be many more virtual shopping carts loaded up, abandoned, then reloaded in the next few weeks as we make our final decisions. And I promise to keep the updates coming as the work moves along in the basement.

Now off to go watch the Oscars’ red carpet arrivals… Priorities, right?

A Budget-Friendly Closet Makeover

Let me preface this post by stating that I’m really lucky to have a pretty sizable walk-in closet. And I get it all to myself. 

But before you start thinking this is what I walk into every morning…

Yolanda Foster's Closet(That’s Yolanda Foster’s closet for you RHOBH fans… And we can all dream together.)

… This is the reality:

Budget-Friendly Closet Makeover | OliverandBelle.com

Budget-Friendly Closet Makeover | OliverandBelle.com(Yes, I have a bit of a shoe problem.)

Budget-Friendly Closet Makeover | OliverandBelle.com

As much as I love the ample space and storage, I have been less than excited about how blah it is. And, while I’m sure this California Closets configuration was super awesome (and probably $$$) in the late 80’s/early 90’s, it’s showing a little bit of age. Like those drawer pulls. Woof. And the carpet has seen better days.

But considering the major renovations we have in our very near future (hello basement of my dreams), I knew that any serious changes were out of the question. But a few Pinterest searches gave me some inspiration to give Kelly Kapowski’s dream closet a little facelift. 

Budget-Friendly Closet Makeover | OliverandBelle.comSay hello to my makeover arsenal:

Painting supplies – $14
A quart of Valspar’s low odor, zero-VOC  paint in Urban Sunrise (this just baaaarely covered everything) – $14
A super cute light fixture found at Lowe’s – $39
A set of drawer pulls from Target that ended up not fitting. Whoops. Always measure first. – $20
A rug that I originally purchased from Joss & Main for the foyer that ended up being too small – $0 (but seriously – measure first)

And this guy. For moral support. (Not pictured: my iPad and 5 episodes of Law & Order SVU)

Oh hi beerThe worst part of this whole closet project was the prep. Apparently the previous owners of our home had never dusted the top of the closet shelves. And I definitely hadn’t looked up there since we moved in a year and a half ago. I even found a few articles of clothing from the previous owners totally covered in dust and, because I’m a crazy person, thought one million spiders were probably living in them and screamed accordingly. So after removing all of my clothes, shoes and accessories, adding some items to my ever-growing “donate” box, and dusting every surface, I was finally ready to get started. 

All of the corners from the built-in closet organizer meant A LOT of cutting in with an angled paintbrush. I strangely enjoy that part of the job much more than rolling, but it took much longer than expected. So five hours of painting later, plus Brian’s light fixture installation skills, and a return trip to Lowe’s to pick out new drawer hardware (10 $5 knobs…. so $50. For knobs. Eeek.), my work was done.

Oh hey there, pretty.

Budget-Friendly Closet Makeover | OliverandBelle.com

Budget-Friendly Closet Makeover | OliverandBelle.comI’m super obsessed with the light fixture. And it’s something that Brian could never be convinced to love in any other room of the house, so I like that it’s dressing up my own private hideaway. I told him that I’m going to put up a sign that says “Keep Out. No Boys Allowed.”

Budget-Friendly Closet Makeover | OliverandBelle.com

Budget-Friendly Closet Makeover | OliverandBelle.com

There are still some tiny tweaks to be made – baskets for loose things (like my surprisingly large hat collection), a tray or two for perfume and accessories, and a framed print or two from Etsy – but mostly, I’m in love. 

Spaghetti Squash with Shrimp & Creamy Tomato Sauce

Spaghetti Squash with Shrimp & Tomato Cream Sauce | OliverandBelle.com

Please tell me that you guys have added spaghetti squash to your dinner rotation. Because it is DELICIOUS.

I mean, you have to be honest with yourself and accept that while it is mighty tasty, spaghetti squash is not, nor will it ever be, the same thing as, say, actual spaghetti. But it is still soooo good. 

If I’m really in a hurry, I’ll sauté some mushrooms, add the spaghetti squash and kalamata olives with a jar of Trader Joe’s organic vodka sauce (a life-changing shortcut), stir everything together and top it with some freshly chopped basil and grated parm and chow down. It’s probably a 30 minute meal from start to finish, which – full disclosure – is often a rarity for me. 

But while this version is more time-consuming, it’s totally worth the extra effort. And a few extra calories. 

Do you have a favorite spaghetti squash recipe? Share it in the comments!

Spaghetti Squash with Shrimp & Tomato Cream Sauce
Serves 2
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For the sauce
  1. 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  2. 1 small yellow onion, diced
  3. 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  4. 28-oz can of crushed tomatoes
  5. 1 tsp sugar
  6. 2 tbsp butter
  7. 1/4 cup flour
  8. 2 cups whole or 2% milk
  9. Pinch of nutmeg
  10. Salt & pepper to taste
For the "pasta"
  1. 1 medium-sized spaghetti squash
  2. 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
  3. Fresh basil
  4. Grated parmiaganno reggiano
Instructions
  1. In a heavy saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened, about two minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for another minute. Mix in the tomatoes and sugar and cook until simmering. Reduce heat to low and let the sauce continue to simmer for 30 minutes. We'll come back to this later.
  2. Make sure the shrimp are thoroughly patted dry. They will sear much better if there isn't any moisture in them. Cook for 3 minutes on each side in a large skillet with a drizzle of olive oil. Set aside.
  3. Next, prep your muscles and grab a sharp knife and cut your spaghetti squash in half. Remove the seeds and inner goop just like you would do with a pumpkin. Place the spaghetti squash with the cut side down in a large baking dish and fill the dish with 1/2 inch of water. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  4. Next, in yet another saucepan (my apologies to the dishwasher), melt the butter. Add the flour and whisk to combine. Continue to whisk for two minutes until it forms a thick paste. Congrats. You have made a roux. Pour in the milk in small batches, whisking constantly. Whisk for 5-10 minutes until thick and smooth. Add the nutmeg and salt and pepper. Hi. You just made a béchamel.
  5. Now it's time to combine the sauces. Add the béchamel to the tomato sauce and stir thoroughly. You'll probably want to add more salt and pepper to taste (don't be afraid of seasoning well!).
  6. With a fork, scrape the spaghetti squash until it comes out in ribbons. Add this to the sauce along with the shrimp. Top with a chiffonade (fancy sliced) fresh basil and parm before serving.
  7. Enjoy!
Oliver & Belle http://oliverandbelle.com/

{Good Things} Winter Beauty Must-Haves

{Good Things} Winter Beauty Must-Haves | Oliverandbelle.com

Real talk. My skin and hair have been out of control dry this winter. Polar Vortex, be damned!  Here’s how I’m surviving. (Aside from burrowing under blankets and wearing sweatpants.)

1. After complaining about dry, dull hair to a friend of mine, she suggested using coconut oil on the ends at night. And then I read about it on The Beauty Department (new obsession, btw) and I was sold. I use about a teaspoon of oil, rub it between my hands to liquify it and then apply it to the ends of my hair. I put my hair in a bun before sleeping (so my pillow doesn’t get too coconutty) and – voila! – soft hair the next morning. I do an extra thorough shampoo just to make sure all of the oil washes out, but the result is soft, shiny hair. Bye bye dull and dry. And as a bonus, I started applying it on my skin instead of lotion at night before bed and am loving the results. Also a big jar of it at Trader Joe’s costs like $5, so winner winner.

2. I think I’ve probably tried every body wash that exists under the face of the sun and every single one still leaves me itchy. I’ve made a conscious effort to try to use more eco-friendly products at home and especially when it comes to anything that Brian and I are going to use on the reg. Like on our bodies. Daily. While browsing the body wash section at Whole Foods, I brought this guy home with me and am pretty happy with how my skin feels after washing with it. Also it smells amazing and I enjoy any product named after me. 

3. I’ve heard/read lots of good things about argan oil, so I picked this up at Whole Foods as well. I’ve been applying it at night to my face under my night cream and I’m waking up with super soft, practically wrinkle-free skin. Wholeheartedly endorse. It’s also apparently great for hair, though I have yet to try it. The only downside? It smells, well, less than wonderful. 

4. I’m pretty obsessed with Burt’s Bees skincare. I discovered their Intense Hydration line last winter and fell in love. I use the cream cleanser, day lotion and night cream and my cheeks are no longer dry and flaky (thanks combination skin!). And adios itchy forehead!

5. Yet another Whole Foods find (though it’s available elsewhere), I’m loving this Deep Repair Cream from MyChelle Dermaceuticals. I swap it out with the Burt’s Bees stuff during the week. They have a vitamin C serum that I’d like to try next because obviously I have a problem with hoarding beauty products. Whoops.

6. I am a lip balm hoarder. I have a healthy collection of balms from EOS, Burt’s Bees, and assorted brands that showed up in my monthly Birchbox. But this remains my fave. It’s not too heavy, my lips feel smooth, it has SPF protection and it lasts FOR-EV-ER. 

7. A co-worker brought this cleansing oil on a work trip a few months ago and I was really baffled by the words “cleansing” and “oil” paired together. Turns out they make total sense. This cleanser is great for sensitive or dry skin and it even takes eye make-up off like a boss. I’m now obsessed and use it nightly (and Burt’s Bees & my Clarisonic in the morning). Side note, should you be interested in signing up to become a Julep Maven, I wouldn’t be mad atcha if you used my referral link

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