December 20, 2013

Wishing You ...


Earlier this year, when preparing for our family's summer vacation, my daughter asked me to make a promise: "For the next two-weeks, Momma won't be elbows deep in work, the blog, schedules galore and commitments to keep. Momma promises to just relax."

Well, today is the last day of work and school for two-weeks, and I reaffirmed that promise to my girl again last night.

No matter where you are, who you're with, or what you're doing for the holidays, make sure to take a moment and remind yourself that every day, you change someone's life for the better. You matter. You are full of meaning. And you are worth some rest & relaxation. After all, it's time to stop and renew.

Looking forward to sharing all sorts of lovely things together in the New Year!

Happy Holidays,

xx JN

October 28, 2013

Seriously, Ladies?


In middle school, I was BFF’s with one of the popular girls starting in fifth grade, but by the time we got our periods, discovered boys, and started to have different interests, she emerged as a mean girl, and I was arbitrarily outcast. Simply put: I didn't make the cut. There was no room for me to be different and continue to exist in that circle. Joining an entirely new lunch table was nothing short of terrifying, and I was grateful to make new friends, helping ease that pit that lived in my gut every day as I left for school. 

I am amazed at how decades later, nothing has really changed. Put a group of women together, and the minute someone stands out as "different," she is bound to come out hurt, judged, ridiculed, picked on, ganged up on, talked about, teased, or scrutinized. Rarely do you find a group of women in complete and genuine support of one another. How sad is that?

When there are multiple women standing on the same landing, sharing similar aspirations, desires and ideals, there is this incredible sense of community and empowerment. But when one person shifts and takes a step in a different direction, quite possibly perceived as "ahead," look out. 

Seriously, ladies ... why does everything between us turn into such a competition? 

Although it is never easy to acknowledge - let alone admit - we have all been there. We've seen another woman move forward in an area of her life, and instead of applauding her, we find ourselves saddled with negative feelings. The truth is, those feelings are nothing more than an outward expression of our own insecurities.

When we put our cards out on the table, those insecurities stem from key, universal topics: body image, career, education, children, financial status, relationships, etc. Depending on where we stand with each topic - "Am I a success or failure at this; good or bad; worthy or unworthy?" - oftentimes determines how we treat the other women who come across our path.

Not only am I disheartened by this, but also exhausted from it. Nowhere in the rule book does it say that being mean, rude, snarky, smug, spiteful, arrogant, and/or critical are necessary when we watch someone achieve a goal, implement a change, or try something different. 

On the flip side, we must also remove from our thinking the idea that when we decide to make a different choice, act a different way, or explore a different direction, we have the right to flaunt it and shame those who aren't there yet. After all, the need to broadcast anything on our own accord is merely a cry for attention and validation. If the actions we take are motivated by proving something to ourselves, or to someone else, we are still functioning from a place of insecurity and unworthiness. That, too, will drive people away. 

Lesson learned: when humility and compassion are removed from either side of the "different" equation, people get hurt, and relationships suffer. 

What would the landscape look like if we chose to foster the good in each other, to validate each other’s worth, to acknowledge each other’s struggles, and to embrace each other's changes and differences? There is, in fact, room in this world for each of us. Let’s celebrate that fact! No matter where we are on our path, let's sit side-by-side and share a very important universal truth: we are in this together - maybe not on the same time schedule or with the same result - but in it together nonetheless. 

xx JN

October 16, 2013

Pretty + Posh Pumpkins

If you are ready to embrace something other than the traditional Jack-o-Lantern this year, here are some creative DIY techniques to transform your pumpkin into something way more posh! 

Drilled Pumpkins


Decoupage Pumpkins


Argyle Pumpkins


Fabric Leaf Pumpkins


Push Pin Pumpkins


Patterned Pumpkins


City Lights Pumpkins


Southwest Pumpkins


Do you have a favorite non-traditional way to display your pumpkins? Make sure to leave a comment below and share it with us! 

xx JN

October 14, 2013

Gluten-free Goodness: Chocolate Pear Tart

Chocolate Pear Tart at Jason & Hamad's apartment in Park Slope

I stopped over to see my lovely friends, Jason & Hamad, on Sunday morning. As always with these two, nothing within their home is anything less than amazing: the food, interior design, or the hospitality.

When Hamad offered me a slice of his freshly baked Chocolate Pear Tart, I immediately responded with, "No, thank you. I can't eat it." Jason quickly recalled the fact that it was gluten-free - yes, my lovelies, it is made with almond meal!

Cut to: Jenn + Chocolate Pear Tart + iPhone + Instagram + happy soul!

CHOCOLATE PEAR TART

Ingredients:

1 cup whole, blanched almonds (may use an almond meal substitute)
3/4 c. sugar
1 stick butter, softened to room temperature
3 large eggs
1/3 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
1 Tbsp. brandy
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 ripe Bartlett pears
1/2 lemon

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare a 9-inch removable bottom tart pan with either non-stick cooking spray or brush with butter. Set aside.

Combine the almonds and sugar in a food processor and pulse until they are incorporated finely and evenly. Add the butter, eggs, cocoa, salt, brandy and vanilla; process until combined. Spread the mixture evenly in prepared pan.

Core the pears and slice into thin, even slices. Rub with lemon slices to help prevent discoloration. Arrange the pears atop the chocolate mixture, slightly overlapping, without pressing them in.

Place tart pan on a baking sheet for approximately 45-50 minutes, until the top is puffed and a toothpick comes out mostly clean with a few crumbs attached. Remove from oven and cool completely.

xx JN

October 13, 2013

Souper Sunday: Kale & Black-Eyed Pea Soup with Sun-Dried Tomatoes


On a rather hurried lunch hour last week, I popped down to Fresh & Co. to grab some soup. Although I am a huge fan of their Turkey Chili, another offering looked too delicious to resist: Kale and Black-Eyed Pea Soup with Sun-Dried Tomatoes.

Gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegetarian, I knew this was something I couldn't have only once. So, in an attempt to recreate it, I adapted a few recipes and came up with the following:

KALE and BLACK-EYED PEA SOUP with SUN-DRIED TOMATOES

Ingredients:

2 cups of dry black-eyed peas
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
6 cups of stock (vegetable or chicken)
1 14-1/2 oz. can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes, drained (either chopped or julienned)
2 bay leaves
4 cups of fresh kale, ribs removed and remaining kale torn into pieces
salt and pepper to taste

Garnish:

freshly grated parmesan cheese, optional
red pepper flakes, optional

Directions:

Soak dry beans according to package instructions. Drain and set aside.

In a large pot, heat olive oil and saute the onion, carrots, and celery until the onions are translucent and the carrots and celery are tender. Thoroughly salt and pepper the mixture. Next, add the garlic and saute for about 30-seconds - do not burn the garlic.

Add the stock, soaked beans, diced tomatoes, and bay leaves and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until the beans are soft - about 20-minutes.

Remove lid, add the fresh kale and sun-dried tomatoes, and continue cooking for another 5-minutes. Salt and pepper the soup to taste.

Serve immediately. Ladle into soup bowls and sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan. Note: if you wish to keep this dairy-free, omit the parmesan.

Looking for an added kick? Sprinkle red pepper flakes in with each individual serving.

Can't wait to hear what you think!

xx JN

Tip: make sure to keep your carrot & celery pieces approximately the same size when chopping - this will make for a more evenly cooked mixture.