Monday, February 28, 2011's simple love...

rachael @'s simple love...
as one of the new features of lifestyle maven, each month i'll be featuring a "blog of note".  i'll share one of the blogs i <3 and give you a behind the scenes look at the fabulous blogger, herself!  this month i'm featuring rachael from's simple love...  she is a complete sweetheart whose vintage-chic style is ever-present on her blog.  she always has some hidden treasure that she is sharing (or giving away) to her loyal readers.

not only that, but rachael was one of the first bloggers i networked with when i first started rethinking my blog back in september 2010.  she offered me great advice and tips and even co-hosted a giveaway with me.  after reading all about rachael and's simple love... take a trip over to her lovely blog : )

1. how did you come up with the concept for's simple love...?
To be honest, it is an ever evolving blog. It started as just a personal blog however when I moved to Peru I started to get more involved in the blogging world. I wanted to share my traveling and adventure stories and pictures with the world. Now my blog includes travel/adventure, etsy favorites, shop updates, and more. I am hoping that it continues to grow and expand as my life grows and changes.

2. when did you start blogging?
I really started blogging last February 2010 about a month after moving to Peru.

3. what's your best blogging tip?
My best blogging tip is blog for you, share what you really love and what is in your heart and mind. Don't stress about stats or how many comments you have. Just have fun!

4. what's your favorite food?
My favorite food has to be sushi! Hands down.

picture credit {here}

5. what's your favorite book?
My favorite book is the Book of Mormon! (I am LDS). Another fave is "What Should I Do With My Life" by Po Bronson, sounds boring but it is about real life stories and it is actually quite an easy and enjoyable read.

6. what's your job/career (outside of blogging)?
I am a social worker. I work at the Salt Lake City Homeless Shelter full time. I also have a part time job as a youth counselor for an in-home family therapy session. And I run my online vintage shop, Ande Monster.

ande monster vintage clutch

7. describe yourself in 4 words or less.
loyal. loving. contemplative. adventurous.

8. describe your blog in 4 words or less.
random. clean. travel oriented. vintage-inspired.

ande monster pencil skirt

9. any other info you would like to include? fun facts, blogging tips, randomness...
Fun fact: Owls are the only birds who can see the colour blue. Neat!
so, isn't it about time you checked out's simple love... ?

Friday, February 25, 2011

sinfully delicious: ganache goodness

tomorrow we're celebrating my mom's birthday.  (her actual birthday was yesterday.)  and i'm in charge of making the birthday "cake".  my mom loves chocolate, so each year i try a new decadently chocolate delight...always in search of the ultimate chocolate indulgence.

real simple inspiration
this year, i was inspired by a "real simple" recipe for a hazelnut ganache tart with sea salt.  but you know me, i can never just follow a recipe...  so i modified it a bit to better suit my mom's chocolate preferences : )

instead of hazelnuts, a medley of almonds and pecans.  instead of a chocolate cookie crust, an orange butter wafer crust instead.  (my mom's favorite is dark chocolate with orange.)

the recipe...that i changed...
ganache way : )

1/2 cup almonds + 1/4 cup pecans (3/4 cup total)
1 1/2 cups crushed orange wafer cookies (approximately 30 wafers)
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter, melted
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
12 oz semisweet chocolate morsels
1 teaspoon flaky sea salt

1.heat oven to 350° F. spread the nuts on a large rimmed baking sheet and toast in oven, tossing occasionally, 10 to 12 minutes.

roasted almonds & pecans a food processor, finely grind ½ cup of the nut mixture. add the crushed cookies and butter and pulse until moistened. press the mixture into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch removable-bottom fluted tart pan. crust on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until dry, 10 to 12 minutes (if the crust puffs up during baking, gently press it down with the back of a spoon). let cool in the pan on a wire rack.

ganache - step one

ganache - step two
4.meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, bring the cream just to a boil. remove from heat and whisk in the chocolate until smooth. pour into the cooled tart shell. refrigerate until set, about 1 hour.

waterfall of delight
5.chop the remaining ¼ cup nuts and sprinkle on the tart.

the final result
6.sprinkle with the salt just before serving. for the easiest slicing, use a thin, sharp knife, wiping it clean and running it under hot water between slices.

for the original recipe from "real simple" click {here}

are you feeling creative?  i think a pretzel & peanut crust would be delicious and then top the ganache filling with chopped roasted peanuts or maybe even add a peanut butter swirl in the ganache.  or maybe a vanilla sugar cookie crust and then top each slice with homemade whipped cream and berries... yummy!

i am sooo looking forward to finally trying my creation tomorrow night.  i have a feeling it's going to be divine.  how can you go wrong with chocolate?

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Lifestyle Maven

Thursday, February 24, 2011

happy hour: vodka, club & cranberry

first of all...happy birthday mom!  i'm looking forward to our lunch together today : )

just in time for your weekend bar hopping, i wanted to share one of my go-to drink orders.  vodka & club with lime or vodka, club & cranberry (with lime of course) is a simple, refreshing drink that any bartender can make.  i would recommend that you request at least a smirnoff-quality vodka since there's not much to mask it in this drink.

and if you want to drink (this) at home:

1 hi-ball glass 1/2 full of ice
1 shot vodka
top with club soda
(splash of cranberry = optional)
squeeze of fresh lime

smile and sip : )

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

just breathe...

please keep in mind that i am not - by any stretch of the imagination - a certified yoga instructor : )  but, yoga is about practice, not perfection, right?

sun salutation.  feet grounded at top of your mat.  toes spread.  hands in namaste.  inhale as you raise arms.  exhale as you dive forward.  inhale to a flat back.  exhale place palms on mat.  inhale as you step back to plank pose (top of a push up).  exhale as you bend your arms (chaturanga).  inhale to upward facing dog.  exhale back to down dog.  inhale as you step your feet to your hands.  exhale fold in towards legs.  inhale to flat back.  exhale collapse.  inhale as you circle arms up to the sky.  exhale hands to namaste.

(p.s. do you like the today show playing in the background?  lol)

Monday, February 21, 2011

just toying around

they know just what to say to me...
i hope that you all enjoyed (or should i say "are enjoying") the long weekend.  since craig and i both have off today, we went into doylestown with olive.  we grabbed some coffees, walked around looking at the cute houses and then stopped at lilly's gourmet to pick up sandwiches (and an extra big cookie) for lunch. 

food counter at lilly's
while we meandered around town, i was having a blast with this phone app i just discovered (thanks to amanda).  it's the fxcamera app.  it's free, and it's awesome.  my favorite is the toy camera setting which saturates the picture with color and produces some really cool effects.  so much fun!  here are some shots from our walk around town.

pola(nd)roid setting

toy camera setting

check it out and have some fun!  if you post any pictures on your blog, be sure to let me know : )

Friday, February 18, 2011

so i'm stylish, eh?

a big thank you to marie from wild, then child for bestowing upon me the stylish blogger award.  i'm completely flattered : )

so, in order to accept this lovely award, here are the rules:
1. link back and thank the fabulous person who honored you with this amazing award : )
2. share 7 things about yourself
3. award 7 other deserving and great bloggers
4. contact the other bloggers to let them know of their award.

so, here goes nothing...

1. i start my days (well, my mondays through fridays) with a workout.  it's nothing super intense or crazy (though i am a p90x veteran...but that's a story for a different day), just something that gets me up, moving and feeling a bit more connected to myself.  often it includes some yoga : )

picture credit {here}
2. i eat the same thing for breakfast pretty much every day.  i just love me some cereal.  but not just any cereal.  i mix up a mean concoction of all my faves, add in special extras like pecans, dried fruit and banana, sprinkle it with cinnamon and nutmeg and cover it with soy milk.  omg...sooo good.

3. i live in a cottage.  an honest to goodness cottage with my fiance and our cute little dog.  our kitchen is so tiny the fridge doesn't even fit in it, but we call it home.  plus it has a cozy fireplace which makes me happy.

4. i love to cook.  and i think adding sauteed or caramelized onions makes just about any meal better.  i rarely follow recipes but love to read them (and food blogs) for inspiration.

our dog baby, olive : )
5. i am a dog mommy.  craig and i adopted our little girl, olive in november of 2009.  she's beautiful and adorable and makes me smile non-stop.  last week she turned 2, and we had a little get-together with her doggie friends.  yes, we spoil her, but she totally deserves it!

6. happy hour makes me happy.  craig and i go to our favorite happy hour place, bobby simone's, just about every day week.  i just love that the bartender now knows our drinks.  being a "local" is fabulous : )
7. i love my blog.  lifestyle maven is my true passion, and (full disclosure) i want to become a full-time blogger.  i enjoy nothing more than sharing my ideas, tips and techniques for well-living with my readers.  you guys are the best!  thank you.

so...who do i think is super stylish and wonderful?
melissa @ tasting, touching, hearing, seeing
megan @ the oatmeal diaries
brittany @ les reves d'une boulangerie

seems like a french/breakfast theme as far as my honorees go : )  congrats ladies - you're fabulous (and stylish of course)!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

what did you do for {heart} day?

picture credit {here}
"my ideal vday would be with the boy that i middle school! but i've always had fun valentine's days with my friends. we cook fun meals together and write love notes. what could be better?"

"for valentine's day this year we're planning on museum-hopping in philly and then grabbing a pint at an irish pub that just opened up in my hometown. to say i cannot WAIT would be a vast understatement."

pizza & wine <3
"i love dates with my husband. we have a tandem bicycle and my favorite is our standing year round saturday date (rainy days excepted) where we head south along the coast and after about 15 miles or so stop for brunch and then head back home. so important to still date your spouse!"

"i think i'm going to make fondue for my valentine's day date this year : )"

melted chocolate...yum!
"i think my favourite would be a day date if you have somewhere nice to wander around. i live in saudi arabia as an expat and it's quite restrictive here, so when my hubs and i manage to get out of here, it's quite a treat to have a wander around somewhere new and just take our time, taking it all in."

"an ideal date for us is a nice dinner out, with tropical cocktails then a movie and some cuddles on the couch!"

homemade pizza
what did i do?

“valentine’s was spent in our pjs, lounging on the couch with olive, watching jeopardy & the bachelor.  for our meal, craig and i enjoyed homemade (heart-shaped) pizza & red wine and for dessert, hand-dipped chocolate covered strawberries…and chocolate covered oreos.”

-cailen, for the recipes click {here}


isn't olive the cutest?!!

Monday, February 14, 2011

{heart} day menu for two: pizza & wine

picture credit {here}

this valentine’s craig and i are staying in. we celebrated with an evening on the town this past saturday.  cocktails at left bank libations.  sushi dinner at our favorite japanese place, ota-ya.  after-dinner drinks at marsha brown’s upstairs bar.  so tonight, we’re keeping it low-key.  but low-key does not have to mean boring or not special…

ever since we started dating, our “date-night-in” default has been pizza & wine.  it’s become such a tradition that craig and i have developed pizza & wine telepathy.  we can just glance in each other’s direction, and we’ll simultaneously blurt out “pizza and wine tonight?”.  we sometimes go for gourmet, homemade pies…sometimes for papa john’s.  either way, it’s the perfect date-night-in menu.  so when it came to our february 14th meal, i couldn’t think of anything more us.  i mean really, what could be better than a homemade (possibly heart-shaped) pizza and a bottle of red, white, rosé or bubbly (whatever your preference) to make it extra special?!

picture credit {here}
dinner – homemade pizza for two
use ¼ of bread dough recipe or buy prepared pizza crust or dough at your grocery store or from your local pizza place
my toppings of choice: caramelized onions, sautéed red peppers, mozzarella, provolone & parmesan, any fresh herbs on hand, good red sauce (but really, top it with anything you love)
the essentials: salt, pepper, olive oil
preheat oven to 425
place dough on oiled (and “cornmealed”, optional) baking sheet or pizza stone and spread to desired thickness/shape
arrange toppings (the more, the better : )
drizzle with olive oil. sprinkle with salt and pepper.
bake for 20 or minutes until golden brown and bubbly
sprinkle with fresh herbs
allow to cool for a few minutes before cutting (or eating!)

dessert – chocolate-covered strawberries
melt chocolate over double-boiler (i.e. a glass or ceramic bowl over a pot ½ full of slow boiling water)
dip fresh strawberries (cover generously : ) you can also dip banana chucks, apples, pineapple, marshmallows, graham crackers, cookies, brownies, rice krispies treats, spoons, fingers
place on a baking sheet lined with wax paper
allow to cool in fridge for an hour or so (make no more than 2-3 days in advance)

picture credit {here}
drink – red wine
chill for just 20 min prior to drinking to bring down temp slightly

and remember, don’t worry if your pizza’s not perfect. ugly pizza tastes just as good : ) happy {heart} day!

so, are you red, white, rosé or bubbly?

and congratulations to karina cifuentes!!! the winner of the raymer’s gourmet chocolate giveaway! <3

Thursday, February 10, 2011

for the love of chocolate (giveaway)

today i had the complete pleasure of visiting a local chocolate maker, raymer's homemade candies, in doylestown, pa.  mark and sue raymer have been in the candy business for years.  mark learned the trade from sue's dad, and many of their recipes date back to the 1880s and have been passed down in the family.  (i tried to get some secret recipe info out of luck : )

my visit this morning included a tour of their shop and work space.  they work only with real belgian chocolate and make everything on site.  and when i say everything...i mean everything.  they make their own caramel, all their own fillings, and they even roast their own nuts!  but the real secret to their success - besides fabulous chocolate - lies in their dedicated customer service.  not only did they take two hours of their time (4 days before valentine's day) to meet with me, but they also sent me home with over 2 pounds of their delectable treats!  (a pound for me and a pound for one lucky reader. read right.  a 1lb box of their delicious homemade chocolates could be yours!  get excited : ) 

my fave treats of the several i was lucky enough to sample today:
-peanut butter meltaway - amazingly buttery, creamy pb center enrobed in silky milk chocolate.  to die for.
-salted caramel - literally the best caramel i have ever tasted.  very smooth, not too chewy and made from real cream (you can definitely taste the difference)
(fyi: both are included in the 1 lb sampler that could be yours!)

besides their standbys, mark also experiments with adventurous items.  like cinnamon, chipotle chocolate bark made with 72% cacao.  i tried it, and it was fabulous!  perfect balance of rich chocolate and subtle heat.  awesome.

if you are ever in the doylestown area, you need to stop by raymer's.  not only are their chocolates and candies amazingly delicious, but sue & mark completely love what they do and welcome you into their shop like it's their home.  (...or...of course, you can always have their chocolates shipped...)

so, how can you get your very own 1lb box of
homemade chocolates?

raymer's one pound sampler = divine

- follow lifestyle maven and leave a comment below:
what is your favorite chocolate treat?

chocoholic?  for extra entries:

- follow lifestyle maven on twitter
- like lifestyle maven on facebook
- tweet about this giveaway

please leave a separate comment for each entry! 
winner will be announced on <3 day : )

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

a picture's worth 1000 words

my dad is a very talented photographer.  as a new element of lifestyle maven, i will be featuring some of his photography each month : )  his pictures are really awesome, and he's finally starting to get the true recognition he deserves.  so enjoy.  feel free take/borrow/use/share, just please provide a link back if you do.

here are some lovely winter images in honor of all the snow we "enjoyed" this winter.

so, if a picture is truly worth 1000 words...what would you say about these?

loving lifestyle maven
check out the other fabulousness in store this month {here}.

Monday, February 7, 2011

love got you tongue-tied?

as much as we’d all love to be able to write profound, epic, heart-string tugging, earth-shattering words for our loved ones (especially this time of year). sometimes it is best to leave it to the professionals. you know, the old-school pros who definitely got it right. below i’ve compiled a short (but sweet) list of some of the best-loved (and longest lasting) words on love. so this year, if you’re feeling a little tongue-tied, maybe let someone else do the writing.

picture by m2 photography - our amazing wedding photographers
for the poet: (may know it from “did you hear about the morgans?”)
shakespeare sonnet 116:
let me not to the marriage of true minds
admit impediments. love is not love
which alters when it alteration finds,
or bends with the remover to remove:
o no! it is an ever-fixed mark
that looks on tempests and is never shaken;
it is the star to every wandering bark,
whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
love's not time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
within his bending sickle's compass come:
love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
but bears it out even to the edge of doom.
if this be error and upon me proved,
i never writ, nor no man ever loved.
for the traditionalist: i love thee to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach.
-elizabeth barrett browning
for the sentimentalist: the best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched.  they must be felt with the heart.
-helen keller
for the non-conformist: one should always be in love. that is the reason why one should never marry.
-oscar wilde

engagement photo shoot with m2 photography
 what else does lifestyle maven have in store for february?
check it out {here}.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

some dandy date ideas

so with february being the month of love and romance, i figured sharing some date ideas could be both fun and useful.  craig and i love our dates.  whether they're thoughtfully planned meals at home or nights on the town.  or happy hour at bobby's.  dates are fun.  period.

when thinking about what dates i find especially fun, many ideas came to mind (too many), but i narrowed it down to three, as not to overwhelm : )

o day date – coffee shop, wander cute town (if you're in or around the bucks county, pa area doylestown, new hope or lambertville, nj won't disappoint), movie

cute town to wander

visit the county theater : )
o dinner out – cocktail lounge, fabulous dinner (at tinto restaurant in philadelphia or similar amazing foodie haven)
cool restaurant
o at home –fireside picnic, home cooked meal, champagne & something chocolate

so cozy...fireside date : )

the perfect something chocolate for {heart} day

so what's your ideal valentine's day???
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