parmesan pinwheels and caesar salad {recipe}

L. and I love Caesar salad. On a warm night, the tangy, complex taste of a Caesar salad with fresh bread dipped in olive oil is our favorite go-to dinner. I recently spent a day perfecting this simple meal, making batch after batch of dressing and croutons. The 8th dressing try was the one. By using fresh ingredients and making your own croutons and dressing, this salad is elevated to meal status. It's the sublime quick choice for a warm, balmy evening.

{Caesar Salad for two}

1 head of Romaine lettuce (or a bag of Romaine, washed and ready to use) 
Homemade croutons
Homemade Dressing
Parmesan Pinwheels

Wash, dry and chop Romaine lettuce into bite size pieces (alternatively use a bag of pre-washed and chopped Romaine.) Place in large bowl. Add croutons, toss with dressing and serve with Parmesan Pinwheels.

We taste tested three different olive oils from different regions to see which one had the most intense flavor. Our friend's small batch olive oil from his dad's vineyard in Italy won hand's down.

{Homemade Croutons}

1/2 a long baguette
3 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut croutons into 1 inch cubes. Toss with olive oil and place on cookie sheet. Cook for 7 minutes or until golden and toasted. Let cool and add to Romaine lettuce.

I used a French baguette but you can use any bread you may have. A hearty bread (like a French baguette) makes for croutons that hold their crunch when tossed with the dressing.

{Caesar Salad Dressing}

2 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste
1 teaspoon lemon zest
juice of one lemon
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
dash of salt and pepper

Add all ingredients to blender and puree until emulsified. Use immediately.

I don't prefer Caesar dressing with raw eggs and I found that this recipe still retains that Caesar salad taste even without the eggs. You may be tempted to slip the anchovy paste. I made a batch without the dressing and it missed that tangy saltiness that you get with the anchovy taste. Try to forget it's in there if the thought of anchovies in a tin makes you queasy. The paste is easy to use and mess free.

{Parmesan Pinwheels}

4 ounces of shredded Parmesan

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Place 2 tablespoons of Parmesan on parchment paper and flatten out until it's about 2 inches in diameter. Continue making Parmesan discs on the cookie sheet about 1 inch apart.

Place in oven for cook for 6 minutes or until golden. Let cool and peel from parchment paper. Serve on salad or as a high protein snack.

I tried this with home shredded high quality (expensive) Parmesan as well as the store brand  (inexpensive) from our local market. The store brand pre-shredded cheese worked best here. Use immediately.

for boston girls and the boys that love them {video}

Last year a friend of mine sent me a message on Twitter. He said "You have to listen to 'Boston' by Kenny Chesney. It's you." I'm from Massachusetts and the first time I heard this song it felt like my anthem. It reminded me of how happy I am to be a Boston girl.

After everything that has happened in the Boston area recently, this felt like a good time to listen to this song again. Each time I watch this video and listen to the lyrics I feel like home is close, rather than 2500 miles away.

If you're a Boston girl or you just are in your soul, this is your song. For the guys who love Boston girls, this one is for you too.

monday morning video: falling in love with harvey & eddie

I have a girlfriend that I have literally known since the moment I was born. We were in the same hospital, same nursery, born just a couple hours apart. We went to grade school and high school together and I love Louise like a sister.

There's something about best friends that is just so comforting, to know that there is someone in this world who knows you better than anyone else possibly could. She's the one who has given you her Barbie when your brother tore the head off yours. She's held your hair back when those beers you had at Sigma Chi came back up and she loaned you her good luck suit for your first big interview after college. That's a best friend.

Get ready to fall in love with Harvey and Eddie, 80 year-old best friends. Then call your BFF. You're going to want to.

friday best: warby parker glasses

It happened. Recently I realized I was squinting when I was reading. In college I wore "attitude glasses" to look/feel smarter (I went through this phase + oversized boyfriend sweaters at the same time.) Now, however, I really needed reading glasses. After the optometrist appointment I started looking at glasses frames and discovered how expensive glasses can be. The frames I liked + the lenses were $285. I looked for options online and discovered Warby Parker, a unique company that offers cool glasses for a $95 price point. My goal was to find a pair of glasses that looked like something Grace Kelly would wear. I found exactly what I was looking for at Warby Parker.

Here's how it works. Visit their site at Choose five frames you like. Warby Parker will ship them to you. Try them on, see what you like and select the one that's right for you. The shipping is free and you get the chance to try them on at home. (Giving your friends and family the option of telling you look either geeky or cool.) Choose the one you like, send in your prescription and your new glasses will be shipped right to you for $95 (shipping is free). 

I ended up choosing the Huxley (above) frames as well as the Thatcher sunglasses which I were perfect for when I sat outside lazily doing a crossword puzzle when visiting my in-laws in Florida last month. 

I am in love with these glasses. Not only can I need read recipes properly but I feel kind of like Grace Kelly. Now the search is on for the perfect 'boyfriend' sweater.

taking off the headphones

I started running and I am so focused on my personal best that I am always looking for new music that will make me go fast, faster, fastest. This morning I had my headset on as I was out running under the blue sky and sunshine. I had to adjust my ponytail so I took my headphones off and I noticed for the first time that all around me  birds were loudly chirping, singing, talking to each other. I stood there for a moment wondering if I missed this every day because I was so concerned about beating my own record.

I closed my eyes and listened. I heard the birds, dogs barking, a lawnmower in the distance. This was better than any music. Nature is just so awesome. My mood was lifted right away. I ran the rest of the path without my headphones. I listened to the different birds, the way the wind rustled through freshly budding leaves. No, my time wasn't a personal best, not even close but when I reached my doorstep I was so happy. Sure, "Off the Wall" can help me run fast but it couldn't reach my soul like one little bird did today.

What do you hear right now?

Dr. Seuss quotes that can change your life

Our moms and dads were so clever when they read us Dr. Seuss before bed. They knew that there were some life lessons that we just needed to know. Like the ones below, culled together by the folks over at Mamiverse.

smitten: An Interview with Happygirl Kate Somerville

One of the things that makes me truly happy is seeing other people do what they love from surfing in Hawaii to working with animals, people who live their lives doing what makes them happy are inspiring and beautiful. I first heard about Kate Somerville and her medi-skin Clinic when I worked as an on-camera entertainment host in Los Angeles. Before awards shows, every reporter and actress I knew had appointments at The Clinic to help get their skin glowing. I recently met up with Kate, to talk about her newest products in her eponymous line.

The Happygirl: Hi Kate. I am a big fan of your products. I religiously use ExfoliKate and your Somerville360 Tanning Towelettes. There’s a new product out though that beauty editors, Kate Somerville fans and your celebrity clientele are excited about. 

Kate Somerville: Well, we have a new product, RetAsphere,  that actually gets rid of your wrinkles. It depends, of course,  on how deep they are. This is a product with Retinol. A lot of my clients have used Retinol or Retin-A throughout the years and they have had irritation. You can get red and flaky and your skin can look not so good for 3 to 4 weeks.  I came out with a Retinol based product that is great for sensitive skin. It is an incredible technology called Smart Release. It is time release. If you look at the cream with a microscope you would see spheres. Around the spheres are lipids which match our skin. Inside the lipid is the Retinol in its purest form. Retinols can oxidize when they hit the air and when you put it directly on the skin you can get what I call flash-burn. It irritates the skin. With this product, however, because this is encapsulated inside the lipid, the lipid melts so it is your moisturizer and as it melts it releases the Retinol. You get those incredible results without the irritation.

Kate Somerville: People ask me what Retinols do. They ask me why they need this. Retinol turns over your skin cells faster. That means that the damage comes off. If you turn over the skin cells faster you get rid of damage and the years of damage that we have done to ourselves. Your skin will look a lot better as you age. If you are sensitive to Retinols, use it twice a week. This is your night cream so it’s two in one -- your Retinol and your night time moisturizer.

The Happygirl: Sitting across from you, your skin is flawless. What products do you use?

Kate Somerville: My favorites are my Gentle Daily Wash. It’s sulfate free and it doesn’t strip my skin.  I am a no nonsense girl. It gets my make-up off in one fell swoop. I feel clean and I don’t feel stripped. Then Dermal Quench Liquid Lift, derived off my best  and most famous clinic treatment called Dermal Quench. This is Hyaluronic Acid and oxygen. Every morning I get an oxygen blast. It  lifts, plumps and keeps my skin really hydrated. I fly a lot and this helps me on  airplanes. Then I do a little bit of Quench. This product has been in my line for 11 years. It is full of lipids and Hyaluronic Acid. Then I do Deep Tissue Repair which is my absolute favorite. It has  eight different peptides in it. I feel that’s what keeps me looking youthful. Then my SPF 55 sunscreen if I am going to be out in the sun a lot. If I’m not out in the sun, I’ll use  Jane Iredale makeup. I love a powder foundation. At night is when I do my Retinols and of course, ExfoliKate twice a week and Clinic-to-go pads once a week. Those are Lactic Acid peeling pads. It keeps my skin fresh. I am in the sun a lot. I live in Santa Barbara and I have an 11 year old. We are out in the ocean a lot!

The Happygirl: I LOVE your Tanning Towelletes. When I fly to the east coast I always fly make-free up free and apply a Tanning Towelette before take off. I land with an incredible glow. 

Kate Somerville: I do those once a week. I don’t ever miss doing it. A little healthy color.

The Happygirl: A little healthy color makes me a happygirl. What makes you a happygirl?

Kate Somerville: Oh, my gosh. What makes me a happygirl? Well, first off my family, my little boy. Just waking up with him every day and smelling him and kissing his sweet little face. So, that makes me the happiest. Being in nature. . .I am a nature girl. Really understand that’s so basic, you know. Just bringing you back to earth and enjoying the time we are on the planet and caring for the planet. That REALLY makes me happy. 

The Happygirl:  Is there anything that makes you happy when you’re not having the greatest day? Music? 

Kate Somerville:  Definitely music can turn my whole world around in seconds but I’m a foodie. I love--honestly, this is what makes me happy:  A bean and cheese burrito with chips and salsa and a really good margarita. Literally if you want a happy girl just put me right there in the sun. (laughs)

Smitten with Kate Somerville

happy things: kt tape

On July 16, 2012 I set a goal for myself. I would run Disney's Princess Half Marathon in February 2013. But you don't go from an uncoordinated non-workout kind of girl to a runner that easily.  I injured my IT Band / patella in December and was in physical therapy for weeks prior to the marathon. My therapist advised against the half-marathon. I was disappointed because I had been training so hard but with my therapist's permission I decided to still fly down to Orlando and run/walk the 5k instead. She told me to take it easy and go slow. I needed to cross a finish line and I did with the help of tape.

At the Disney runner's Expo, I picked up my registration materials and bought the t-shirt ("Sorry Prince, Gotta Run!). I also discovered a KT Tape booth where experts were available to tape areas on runners that needed extra support. The line was extraordinarily long so I thought if these fit, experienced runners needed taping, I should do it as well.  As I sat on the exam table I explained my knee injury to the KT Tape expert who then quickly taped my knee. As soon as I stood up I could feel the difference. My knee felt supported and the clicking that I felt with each step was gone. He told me the tape could last up to 7 days (regular KT Tape  up to 3 days and KT Tape Pro up to 7 days). It felt so good that I bought a roll of pink KT Tape to support my knee for the rest of my two week trip. I was concerned about being able to do it myself but he told me that the videos on the KT Tape YouTube Channel would make me a taping expert. (KT Tape works for all sorts of injuries including knee, ankle, arm, back and shoulders.)

During the 5k this tape not only helped my physically I felt confident that the KT Tape supported my knee so well that I could put my all into the 5k and not hold back. The KT Tape stayed on well in water and peeled off easily when I was ready to remove it.

Before I flew home from Florida I ordered more tape and I have been using almost every day. I did forget to apply it one day and I felt unstable a couple miles from home. I actually thought about calling my husband to come get me because I was worried about the lack of support for my knee. On that run, however, I just walked slowly home and didn't complete my goal. Using KT Tape helps me train harder and gives me the confidence to push myself to reach each milestone. So far, that means 80 pounds gone.

I love this product and I also like that it comes in fun colors like Hero Pink and Winner Green (seen above.)

This is how easy it is.

{video} cat riding a roomba. . .

My favorite video of the week: A cat in a shark costume, riding a Roomba chased by/chasing a duckling with a cameo by a dog in a Hammerhead Shark costume. 

I want to be friends with this pet owner.

{video} apple moonbeam and his dogs

Here's a happy video: Apple Moonbeam, a five week-old orphaned squirrel was found freezing alone in the woods. He was adopted by two dogs and their human. Here's a video of his two dogs, Maverick and Scout helping him walk along the carpet.

even the yankees are boston strong

Typically played at Fenway during the 8th inning of Red Sox games, last night the Yankees showed they're Boston Strong too by playing "Sweet Caroline" at last night's game. Nicely done, Yankees.

the Dedicating Miles Experiment

I am not a runner. I am a fairly uncoordinated girl who tries her best to run. Really, I walk with sprints of running. I try my hardest. I think that counts. Between walking/running + eating well I have lost 80 pound since autumn. Some days it's easy but some days it's hard.

I don't want to walk in the rain.
I don't want  to walk if I'm cranky.
I don't want to walk when I'm cold. Or hot.

So, on April 2nd I launched an experiment. (Full story here.) Each mile I run/walk I would dedicate to someone I know. Perhaps it would be a family member or a colleague or a former classmate. As I hiked each mile I would think about this person. I would ask God to watch over them. I would send all my good thoughts to them. When I started doing this on April 3rd I realized that this experiment makes me WANT to go out and walk even in the rain or the hail or whatever Mother Nature surprises us with here in Seattle.

Since April 2nd, I have dedicated 40 miles to family, friends and colleagues. In the wake of what happened yesterday at the Boston Marathon, I feel like running/walking is the only thing I can control. To you, my friends, who walked with me on each of these miles, thank you for inspiring me. I'll keep going everyday. Because I can.

the thing to know about boston

I am a Massachusetts girl. I was born and raised with a Dunkin' Donuts always within 1/2 mile of wherever I was. We summered at The Cape and if we were REALLY excited about something we would said "Oh my God, that was WICKED!" St. Patrick's Day was revered as holy and everyone in Boston was considered Irish on March 17th. Our urban planners have a thing for rotaries and we get liquor at the Packy (AKA the package store.) We fiercely support our sport teams and the best pizza in the world can be found in Boston's North End. 

Maybe you know this already. 

What you may not now is that Bostonians are resilient. Wicked resilient. And protective. And brave. 

When I watched the bombings happen yesterday at the Boston Marathon, like everyone else, I was aghast at the senseless, reckless, awful tragedy. I thought of the runners who trained in the snow, in the slush, when they didn't want to, just to qualify for the prestigious Boston Marathon. I thought of the families who were waiting to greet their runners at the finish line.  Joyful moments that were obliterated yesterday. Like you, I watched the same videos replay over and over of the exact moment when the first bomb exploded. I had to close my eyes. I said a prayer.  I took the dog for a walk. 

When I came back I watched President Obama (referred to one reporter as the Consoler-in-Chief on this day) as he vowed to put all his resources behind the efforts to arrest those involved. The explosion scenes were replayed again and again but this time I didn't just see the carnage. Bystanders threw themselves on children to protect them from the blast, at a cost to themselves.  The natural instinct is to flee danger but first responders and regular bystanders ran to help those injured. Some runners who finished the race ran straight to local hospitals to donate blood. Other runners gave their own shirts to use as tourniquets. Local restaurants offered free sustenance to those who were shellshocked. There was the story of a young shopgirl who whisked shocked little girls who had separated from their parents into the back storeroom away from danger. 

This is Boston, the home of the brave. 

Today as the city begins to heal from this unbelievable wound, souls will continue to come together to support each other. Law enforcement officers will find who was responsible. Doctors will continue to help the injured. Runners will tentatively set one foot in front of the other again. Small gestures of goodwill will be offered again and again and again in this city on the bay.

Yesterday I was so angry that some misguided person managed to cause so much damage on such a beloved day in Boston but this morning I know that hope and light always prevail. There may have been one or two dark souls who launched an attack but I have to remember that there are millions of points of light, not just in Boston but everywhere in this world of ours. Light shuts out darkness. As we did after 9/11 and after Newtown, today the best thing we can do is be kind to one another. Commit an act of kindness today and tomorrow and the day after. Let someone cut in front of you in traffic. Buy the elderly woman's groceries in front of you in the 10 items or less line. Bring a bag of dog food to your local animal shelter. Continue to live your wonderful, amazing life. Take in a Red Sox game. Fly to Walt Disney World. Donate blood. Soothe a wounded soul.

Be the wicked light that you are. 

the guide to fortune cookie chicken {recipe}

In the small town where I grew up in Massachsuetts, there is a restaurant called The Hu Ke Lau. It is a place my grandfather referred to as 'exotic.' The fare was Polynesian and on weekend nights there were luaus with hula dancers, fire twirlers and flaming Pu Pu platters. Drinks arrived in hollowed out pineapples served by beautiful girls with long, dark, wavy hair. As a little girl I was sure this was exactly what mermaids looked like.

My mom and I lived with my grandparents and money was tight. It was only on special occasions that we went to the Hu Ke Lau. I think I enjoyed watching my conservative gruff grandfather drink from a pineapple as much as I enjoyed my Sweet & Sour Chicken. Later in high school, the Hu Ke Lau was the place you went on special dates or before the prom. The one constant was that every time I went to this restaurant I had Sweet & Sour Chicken with sauce on the side, always on the side.

Years later, on a cold, clear December night in Connecticut, it was over Sweet & Sour Chicken take-out that I fell in love with my husband. There is something intimate and lovely about candlelight and chopsticks. As we tucked into take-out that night over winter break I thought "This is someone I could fall in love with." I did, I so did.

Sweet & Sour Chicken is almost universally loved. Soft chicken tenders with a crunchy coating dipped into tangy sauce is pretty much the perfect food.  Last week I wondered if I could make this classic at home. Could I make it healthier by baking and not frying the chicken tenders? Would it have the same taste without the white take-out box?

As I shopped in the market for the ingredients I picked up a bag of fortune cookies made locally by Golden Pheasant (50 for $2.99). As I held the bag of fortune cookies in my hand I had a thought. What if instead of flour for the coating I used crushed fortune cookies? And the idea by Fortune Cookie Chicken was born.

Fortune Cookie Chicken {Recipe}

Over the past three days I have made this recipe three times and each time it has turned out perfect, with that same crunch you want without the calories from frying. The key is using good quality fortune cookies. I tried this recipe with three different brands of fortune cookies. The Golden Pheasant brand was by far the best, with a good crunch and a clean taste of vanilla and orange. (The other two brands I found in the Asian food aisle. They were fairly tasteless with a thin crunch and a bland taste.) If you can buy Golden Pheasant, do. They are inexpensive and delicious.

Ingredients for Chicken Tenders
1 pound of chicken tenders (or 1 pound of chicken breasts sliced into one inch strips)
1 cup of buttermilk
30 crushed fortune cookies
1 tablespoon of freshly grated orange peel
4 tablespoons olive oil

Ingredients for Sweet & Sour Sauce (inspired by this recipe)
1 cup of pineapple juice
1/2 cup orange marmalade
2 tablespoons ketchup
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
4 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt


Preheat oven to 375. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Add buttermilk and chicken tenders to bowl, cover and place in refrigerator while you make the sauce.

In a saucepan add the sauce ingredients until bubbling. Stir often, lower heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for ten minutes. Place fine mesh strainer over a bowl and slowly pour sauce through strainer. Set aside to cool.

Remove fortunes from cookies. Place cookie fragments in Cuisinart and pulse until cookies are crushed (or in a freezer bag crushed with rolling pin). Add the orange zest from one orange and pulse until incorporated. Place crumbs in a shallow bowl.

Remove chicken from refrigerator. One at a time, dip chicken tender from buttermilk into cookie crumbs until covered completely, pressing crumbs onto chicken tender. Place on cookie sheet. Repeat with the rest of the chicken.

Once all the chicken tenders have been covered in cookie crumbs and placed on baking sheet, drizzle olive oil over them. Place in oven on medium rack and cook for 20 minutes at 375 degrees.

Serve with Sweet & Sour Sauce and coconut-lime rice (brown rice cooked in coconut milk + 1 tablespoon of shredded coconut + the zest of one lime.)

Bonus! Fortune Cookie cards

With 75 fortunes in a glassybaby here on my desk I wondered what I would do with them. Then it struck me that these fortunes would be sweet on a homemade card. To a friend who is is going through challenging times, I am sending him the card above. To another friend who is doing incredible on her weight loss journey, I'll send her one saying "Your short term goal will soon be realized." 

All you need is cardstock and double sided tape. It's easy and a fun idea for someone who just needs to hear "Remember two months from this date. Good things are coming."

the happygirl guide: tips # 2 & 17 the socks and the call-ahead

There are some things that make life easier, happier or more efficient. I'm all for that. Here are two things that will make your life happier.

tip #2: buy all the same socks

Last week when my husband was in L.A. on business I spent a lot of time cleaning closets and drawers. I know the one drawer that's frustrating is his sock drawer. Like most men, he has dozens of pairs of dark socks that all look similar to each other but for a slight difference in pattern or material. Early in the morning it's hard to tell which socks match when you have Paisley, checked, plain, striped or dotted black socks. They all look kind of similar. Doing laundry also takes that much longer. It feels like that matching card game we played when we were kids. Does this black sock match this slightly different black sock? No? Try again. 

So, last week I emptied out the drawer, paired them up and dropped the socks off at our local shelter. There were 14 different styles of black/dark socks. No wonder it was a challenge to see which of these was not like the other every time I did laundry.  I then bought L. 12 pairs of the same black socks and 10 of the same white gym socks. Unsurprisingly, L. loved it and mornings are just that much easier now.

try: Nordstrom crew socks 4-pack for $14.50

tip #17: call-ahead seating

When we first moved to Seattle we hated leaving behind our favorite locally owned restaurants like Fitzwilly's and Sylvester's (both in Northampton, MA). It was exciting though finding new places  where we could savor the best bacon burger or blueberry pancakes. Recently we found out that while many of our new favorite (locally owned and chain) restaurants don't accept reservations, they do take call-ahead seating.

We discovered this option not long ago when we arrived at one of our favorite restaurants to find a long wait. The host remembered us from previous visits and said "Next time, call and let us know you're on your way. We'll add you to the waitlist. It's call-ahead seating." Many restaurants who have this option don't promote it so it's a good idea to call your favorite spots and see if they offer this option. You could save 30 minutes or more waiting in a cramped space. (FYI: CPK and The Outback both offer call-ahead seating.)

Also: To make reservations, we love OpenTable. Download the app and make reservations in seconds.

Have a happy weekend!

happy things: hickies {review}

I love Kickstarter. Watching videos of brilliant people passionately talk about their ideas or products always energizes me and helping creative people bring their product to market feels incredible. One of the products that L. and I were really excited about was HICKIES. Created by Brooklyn (by way of Argentina) couple Mariquel and Gaston, Hickies are ingenious elastic bands for your kicks that replace traditional laces. Both L. and I recently replaced the laces on a pair of sneakers to try them out. Would they wear as well as traditional laces?

After wearing them for the last two weeks both L and I love our HICKIES. We LOVE them. Why?

  • When you're working out and you hit your stride you don't have to stop when your laces come undone. 
  • It's easy to slip in and out of your kicks, yet the elastic bands are snug enough to keep your feet secure in your shoes. 
  • These will be GREAT for airports! No more stopping to lace your shoes after going through security. 
  • Dirty laces make your sneakers look grungy. By simply replacing your old laces with Hickies, your shoes look new and neat.
  • Yes, there was a little learning curve as I first installed the Hickies, but once I watched the video on how to use them, it took less than five minutes to replace the laces. 
  • The colors are phenomenal! Choose from basics like white and black or vibrant colors like green, orange or purple.
  • Bonus! I was playing around with them and I slipped some on my wrist. Jewelry!

HICKIES retail for $19.99 for one pack or $30 for two packs. Each pack (which arrives in a sleek case) comes with 14 elastics. (I chose not to add an elastic to the top rung in my kicks but you will have as many as you need if you choose to use all the lacing options.)

For more on HICKIES follow them on Twitter and Facebook.

Here's the original Kickstarter video for HICKIES. 

the most emotionally intense video. ever. {marina & ulay}

Sometimes our lives can seem so contrived, so planned down to the last detail. Life seems to be about meetings and texting and emailing. It's rare that you have the time or even think about looking into someone's eyes to see what's inside.

During her retrospective exhibit at MoMA is 2010, Serbian artist Marina Abramovic did just this as part of her 700+ hour performance. As she sat quietly at a table, one at at time, strangers had the opportunity to experience one minute of complete focus. The looked into each other's eyes, locking gazes. This was powerful in itself. Until Ulay showed up. In the 70's Marina and Ulay, a performance artist as well, shared an extraordinary working relationship and romance. They referred to themselves as a two-headed body. Marina and Ulay decided to marry by each starting to walk from one end of the Great Wall of China towards the middle and marrying. It took awhile to get permission from the Chinese government to do this and by the time they did, their romance had runs its course. So instead they decided to still walk towards each other, meet in the middle and hug for one last time.

Thirty years later, during "The Artist in Present" Ulay appeared, surprising her at the exhibit. This is just a short clip of this meeting but I highly recommend watching the entire MoMA retrospective "Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present" available on iTunes.

imagine your grandma lip syncing {happy video}

I saw this video of a grandma lip syncing to her favorite song "Happy Days are Here Again" and it's one of the most joyful things I've ever seen.

Look at that smile. I want to bake a pie for her.

Video of Carol Lyn Black courtesy of Michelle Alexis Newman.

the happygirl guide to homemade ricotta {recipe}

On my last trip to Italy there was something transcendent about the food. Each meal was a snapshot in my mind. A rustic Caprese sandwich enjoyed while sitting in the sunshine.  A Limoncello shot at an outdoor cocktail party with the smell of Cypress trees carried on the summer breeze. Dewy mornings with simple slices of toast topped with freshly made ricotta and a drizzle of honey. Whether it's a simple, deep espresso or a dessert of bright June strawberries dressed with Balsamic vinegar, the secret to extraordinary food in Italy is the freshness of the ingredients. The olive oil may have been pressed at the farm down the road, the earthy red wine has a hint of blackberries from the town just to the south and the cheese in your lasagne was probably prepared that afternoon.

Last week I was picking up some new knives at Sur la Table when I saw the class promotion for the Homemade Mozzarella and Ricotta Workshop. I signed up on the spot. Could I recreate some of the moments in southern Italy?

To be honest, I thought it would be difficult. It turns out it wasn't all that hard. It was just about being precise. The mozzarella was a little more complicated that the ricotta but it was still something that you or I could easily do. When you experience that first taste of a creamy ricotta that you made yourself, you'll never buy ricotta at the market again. The taste and texture of fresh versus the store bought brand is incomparable.

Here's how you make it:

While it looks like there is butter added to the milk, there wasn't. 
I used locally sourced whole milk with a high butterfat content.

{Homemade Ricotta Recipe}
difficulty: easy

6 cups of whole milk 
2 cups of heavy cream
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups of buttermilk


Line a fine mesh colander with two layers of damp cheesecloth. Set atop a bowl or in sink. 

In a large non-reactive pot, add the milk + cream. Starting at medium-high heat, bring to a bubbling boil. Remove from heat and add the salt and buttermilk, stirring in one direction. Let sit undisturbed for five minutes. The whey and curds will separate. 

Slowly pour the curds and whey through the cheesecloth.  You'll wonder if there really is any curds as you pour. Don't worry. The curds may have settled at the bottom.  Wrap the top of the cheesecloth over the curds. Let drain for 15-20 minutes. Remove ricotta from cheesecloth and transfer into a bowl. Discard cheesecloth. Use immediately or store in the refrigerator for four days. 

homemade ricotta + pesto

  • Non-pasteurized whole milk is best for this recipe. If you don't have access to non-pasteurized milk, use regular pasteurized milk and not ULTRA-pasteurized milk which won't give you the results you're looking for. You'll know if the milk is ultra-pasteurized if the sell-by date  is a few weeks from now.
  • The original recipe calls for 8 cups of whole milk but I also tried making it with 6 cups of whole milk + 2 cups of heavy cream and the milk/cream mixture turns out a creamier, richer flavor which is good if you are highlighting the cheese alone i.e. on toast and not as a stuffing for pasta. If you're using the ricotta for pasta, use the 8 cups of milk recipe.
  • I also found recipes online that use vinegar or lemon juice. I also tried these versions and they all turned out well. If you don't want to use buttermilk, use 4 tablespoons of lemon juice or white wine vinegar.
  • This recipe does not work well if you use skim milk. It turned out a very rubbery, tasteless small batch.
  • Be sure to stir while boiling the milk + cream mixture. You don't want to scald the bottom of the pot. It's a nightmare to clean scalded milk from a pot.
  • Homemade ricotta is perfect on toast and topped with homemade pesto as an appetizer. Or simply top with a drizzle of olive oil, kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper.
  • Expect a 1/3 final yield from the milk + cream + buttermilk.
  • Cheesecloth can be found in most markets.

the happier guide to life: tips #4 & 8, the toilet and the magazine

There are some things I come across and I think -- brilliant. I'm for anything that makes life happier, healthier or safer like these two tips.

Just how clean is your soap?

Always close the lid before you flush.

Recently I read an article that said every time you flush, you send millions of bacteria in the air, bacteria that can land on your soap,  toothbrush, makeup brushes, clean towels or even on you. If you have a fresh cut (from shaving your legs maybe?) the bacteria can cause a myriad of problems including a staphylococcus infection. The solution? You can easily prevent millions of microscopic germs from flying into the air simply by closing the lid before you flush.

There's also the aesthetic side to this. Once when we were viewing a house with our realtor, she shook her head when we passed one of the bathrooms. I asked her if she thought the house had a problem, specifically that bathroom and she said "No, but I don't understand why their realtor didn't shut all the toilet lids. No one wants to look at someone else's toilet bowl."

Now all the toilet lids in our home are neatly closed. I like to think that our toothbrushes are now safe from flying bacteria.

Watch this video featuring Mike Rowe if you really want to know more about your bathroom's airborne germs.

Stop tearing out pages in a magazine and snap a picture of an article with your phone.

I am an early morning riser even on weekends. Saturday mornings I head to our local family owned hardware store to get supplies for our weekend home projects. However, on Sunday mornings, before my husband L wakes up I curl up in front of the fire with the dog, a stack of magazines and a hot cup of coconut coffee. Within the hour the read magazines are on the floor along with a pile of pages I've ripped from the magazines featuring books I want to read, music I want to buy, recipes I want to try and products I want to research. I end up with a stack of pages that I just file away.

This past Sunday I had my phone next to me and I had a brainstorm. Instead of ripping out the pages, what if I just took a picture of the page or the item I wanted to save? That way when I am out and about I would have a picture of the brand of grass seed I wanted to pick up, or the ingredients would be right there in my phone for a recipe I wanted to try. Sure, I would still need to tear out pages for long recipes, but most of the time I could just snap a picture and I would be sure to have the reminder with me wherever I was. In fact, this week I ended up referring to these pictures four times in various stores.

Here's to a happier, healthier, safer life!

why i dedicate this mile to you and you and you. . .

This memory is very clear. Even all these years later I remember this moment.

I smell bleach and soap. My grandmother is on her hands and knees scrubbing a stranger's floor. I am sitting cross-legged on the carpet in the doorway between the kitchen and the living room. I watch her as she works her way from the stove towards the doorway. She moves her arm methodically in soapy circles. My grandmother is a housekeeper for several families. My mother is still in school but I'm still too young to go to school, so she takes me with her when she works.

I remember wondering why she was cleaning for someone else. Especially this very messy family (and as I realized later, very rich family.) I asked my grandmother "Why are you cleaning for someone else?"

"Because they need someone to look after them as I look after you," she said.

"But your knees are red and wrinkly."

"That's all right. There is no shame in hard work," my grandmother replied.

"I would hate this job," I told her.

"Well, I am lucky to have this job and so I dedicate every hour I work to The Virgin. She likes when people work hard." She smiled at me as she scrubbed.

For what it's worth, if The Virgin Mary ever had a best friend on this earth, it would be my grandmother. She dedicated her hard work, her joys, her best meals to The Virgin.

I thought about this conversation recently. I am in the middle of an adventure to get healthy and lose weight. So far? So far, I have lost 80 pounds since last fall. I am doing it by eating "clean" and walking/running.

I am not a fitness person. I never had PE in grammar school or high school. It wasn't offered. I don't know how to play any sports. I am about as klutzy as it gets. I once tripped over a cement panel when I was walking and broke my left arm right in half. But I saw the correlation between walking and losing weight and I knew that I didn't have a choice. Every step brought me closer to my goal.

So I started to walk. I walked down to the end of my street. Then I walked to the end of the cross street.   Then I went  a 1/2 mile, a mile, 2 miles, 3 miles and now 4 miles. I walk/run in the sun and the rain and the mist and the fog. I go out when I don't want to, when I have cramps or a headache or  I'm feeling grouchy.

And on those days when I don't want to work out, I bitch to myself the entire way about how hard it is, how wet it is, how it's going to take me forever to lose weight.

Then it hit me.

My grandmother didn't love scrubbing floors or toilets or cleaning up after other people but she dedicated every job she went on to The Virgin Mary who was so important to her.  It got her through the tough days.

This mile is for you.

Yesterday, I was in a bad mood for no important reason. I was just irritated by everything. It was gray and damp and I knew I had to go out for my workout. I procrastinated. I sent out emails. I made calls. I stared at my running shoes. I perused Facebook and I looked at the names of my friends and I thought "I am going to dedicate each mile I do to someone specific" and so I randomly chose 4 people, well randomly chose 3 plus my friend Andrea, whose best friend/dog, Sydney had just died. To her I would dedicate the mile with the hardest hills. I would send her all the love and positive energy that I could. I wanted her to feel loved and cared for.

I tied up my laces and headed out the door. As I started my running app I thought of the first person on my list. I wished her well and out loud I said "Mom, this mile is yours." Yes, I still listened to my Run, Taylor, Run playlist but as each mile turned into another I said a little prayer for each friend -- Ginger, then Andrea then Alison. Each step I took was offered to them.

Maybe this is selfish of me because it actually made my workout easier.  Instead of bitching to myself "Ugh, this is soooo boring/hard!" I now think "(friend), you are having an AMAZING day! Feel this positive energy coming at you." It's almost as if they are walking alongside me. It's incredible.
In February I crossed my very first finish line at Disney's Princess 1/2 Marathon weekend. I dedicated this 5k to my husband, L, for his unwavering belief that I could do it. 

So, this is what I am doing every single workout. Before I go out the door I will look at Facebook and select 3-5 friends (depending on my miles planned).

Maybe you're someone I went to high school with. 

Maybe you are family. 

Maybe you are a colleague I worked with in L.A.

Maybe you are a friend I haven't seen in years. 

Maybe you are a neighbor.

Maybe I know you are going through something major and I am going to do everything I can to send love your way. 

By dedicating miles and workouts to others, it keeps me honest. It keeps me going. It keeps me from spending too much time thinking about myself. I believe that every single mile that I walk, run, limp is sending out good karma into the universe. I imagine that my grandmother would be pleased as punch about this.

Do you want a mile dedicated to you? Email me at taylor at the happy girl dot me and I would be happy to run for you. 

the guide to an easy spring sandwich: the caprese {recipe}

When I was in Italy, the best meal I ever had was a rustic Caprese sandwich. Consisting of simply slices of tomato and mozzarella along with basil leaves, olive oil and balsamic vinegar on hearty bread, it is a sandwich that tastes like a sunshiny day. 

Earlier this week we enjoyed the first sunny, warm days here in Seattle so I stopped by Whole Foods to pick up ingredients to make these sandwiches that are perfect wrapped in parchment paper and enjoyed by the water. 

The recipe is simple.

{Caprese Sandwich Recipe}
for two

(the exact amounts depend on the size of your bread)

2 rustic rolls or 4 slices of thick, hearty white or sourdough bread lightly toasted
1 tomato or several cocktail tomatoes, sliced into 1/2 inch rounds
4 slices of mozzarella (I used Mozzarella Fresca Fresh Ovolini)
6 or more fresh, washed Basil leaves
3 tablespoons olive oil 
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar 
Salt and pepper to taste.


If using rolls, slice in half and toast lightly.

Slice tomatoes and mozzarella into similar sized slices and set aside. 

Mix olive oil, balsamic and a pinch of salt and pepper until incorporated.

Spread a 1/4 of the olive oil/balsamic mixture on each of the four slices of bread. Follow with slices of tomato, mozzarella and basil leaves. For an extra punch, drizzle balsamic glaze over the basil leaves. Top with other slice or roll/bread. Cut in half and enjoy!


For a sandwich this simple,  the flavors of each ingredient really stand out. If possible, use the finest ingredients you can find -- rustic rolls from the bakery, organic small cocktail sized tomatoes, imported from Italy mozzarella and organic basil.

We used olive oil that our friend's dad makes in Italy (which we savor) but when we aren't lucky enough to enjoy this olive oil, we also like cold pressed olive oil made in Italy.