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October 3

Today’s city guide is brought to you by Cammie Sorensen!

Madison is a wonderfully unique town –  in many ways because  we are a fusion town – both the capitol of the state, and home to a Big Ten university.  We are also situated on an isthmus, which simply refers to the fact that we are a city between two picturesque lakes.  Boasting a variety of  wonderful local eateries, plenty of activities for outdoor enthusiasts,  the university and all its glorious sporting and other events, and two pristine lakes, which frame our state’s capitol, Madison is simply outstanding.

I LOVE playing tour guide to friends and family who are enjoying their first visit to Madison.  There is such fun to be had, sights to see.  Let’s take a virtual tour, today, shall we? It’s Saturday in Madison. Let’s get started!

We’ll start in the heart of Madison’s downtown – on the Capitol Square.  Madison is one of the United States’ most bike-friendly towns, so it’s fitting we’re also one of the country’s super-cool cities to adopt an Urban Bike Share program.  Madison BCycle, with its 32 stations and 300 bikes scattered throughout the downtown area make two-wheeled downtown-transport a cinch.  So fun, right?

Each Saturday morning – Spring + Summer + Fall – enjoy the colorful bounty at Madison’s on-the-Capitol-square Farmer’s Market.  At the farmer’s market, you’ll find a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, such that you may choose to skip the produce section during your next trip to your local grocery store.  You’ll also find LOTS of local cheeses (hello dairy state!) fresh meats, and baked goods.  When I visit the farmers market, my standby vendors are Stella’s Bakery (try the fresh-out-of-the-oven hot & spicy cheese bread!), and Brunkow Cheese (make sure to sample the fried mozarella).  Madison’s a really unique town, and that uniqueness attracts equally unique people.  On your trip around the square, you’re likely to see plenty of talented musicians and artists, whose wares are for sale to passersby.

Following a stroll through the market, I suggest breakfast on Pinckney Street (an arm off the Capitol Square) at Marigold Kitchen.  I usually go for one of their savory scramblers, made with local organic eggs, but if you feel the need to carb-load, the fresh berry-topped french toast is out of this world.  If you’d like to take something to go, choose from dozens of scones and muffins, along with a steaming espresso drink from the espresso bar.  Marigold Kitchen is a super hot spot, though, so word to the wise – get there early.  Seating is first-come, first-served, and a table-for-two can be hard to come by come ten o’clock on Saturday morning.

Since you’re stuffed from all that french toast at Marigold’s, we’ll let the food settle until dinner, which you’ll enjoy at Marigold Kitchen’s sister eatery, Sardine. One of Madison’s most-loved spots, Sardine is situated on the shore of Lake Monona. Although the restaurant itself doesn’t have a beachy-feel, the beauty of the view (and patio seating, if you want) is just lovely and so perfectly accents Sardine’s wonderful menu items.  Sardine has managed to find a just-right feel that makes it a favorite for classy birthday parties and date-night dinners alike.  My all-time favorite item on the menu is the Roasted Half Chicken with Balsamic Butter Sauce.  It’s just delectable.  When you make your reservation (which you should), though, reserve one of those half-chickens, because everybody loves ’em, and they go quick on a busy Saturday evening.  Pair it with the Parmesan polenta instead of the frites, and you’ll be in out-to-dinner heaven.

Save a little room for dessert, because we’re headed to the University of Wisconsin’s Memorial (student) Union, and the outdoor terrace, which overlooks the larger of our two lakes, Mendota.  On Saturday nights during the summer, the stage on the Terrace boasts local and well-known musicians, who provide a soundtrack to the beautiful summer.  Get some chocolate peanut butter ice cream in a waffle cone inside the Union at the Babcock Hall Dairy ice cream counter.  Thank me later for the recommendation on the chocolate peanut butter ice cream.

Sit back and relax; this is Madison – one of our country’s finest.

*Featured photo by Ann Althouse

Building a Wardrobe

October 2

So back in August, I vowed to take on a 60-day spending freeze. I cheated once and then again on day 50. I figure, “Eh whatever. I lasted 50 days.” Since then, I have shopped but I’ve been focusing on investing in pieces (vs impulsively shopping). During the freeze, I started slowly making a list of things that I want so that I can start saving little by little:

  1. Black pants: I bought a pair of J.Crew’s black toothpick pants and really love how comfortable they are!
  2. Blazers: I found a few that I love and would love to pair them with simple tanks.
  3. A gold watch: I’m eye a Marc Jacobs watch and think I’m going to make the purchase after our vacation.
  4. Black coat: I love a simple, black coat for the winter but I need to figure out the best length for me.
  5. Nude/brown pumps: I have a pair of nude heels that I absolutely love. I thought these brown ones were great too.
  6. A lace dress: I bought this one from F21 for a wedding (picture) and absolutely love it. Cheaper but fits well.

I’ll hopefully be updating my wardrobe list as the months go on. Less frivolous shopping and more investing. *Repeat*

Have you invested in any quality wardrobe additions lately? How has your style changed over the past few years?

October’s 3 New Things

October 1

I really cannot believe that it’s already October. My goals this month are simple because I’m only at home for 17 of the 31 days. I’ll be speaking Influence in a couple weeks and than taking a tropical week-long vacation with Adam (!!!!!). We’re also be moving this week so my mind is whirling. My three new things:

  1. Master making grain-free bread.
  2. Turn our old bookcase into a cute bar.
  3. Swim in the ocean.

Obviously #3 is a bit obvious but I had to make one easy! I’m excited to decorate our new townhouse and travel but this month you’ll see a bit more guest posts since I’m also going to be juggling the whole “self-employed” thing.

What do you have going on this month? Can you believe next month is NOVEMBER? Ah, 2012, what happened??

1 | 2 | 3

September New Thing #2

September 28

I hosted a swap party with my friend Halle on Wednesday night at a local bar called Double Happiness. They have the coolest lounge up top, serve great drinks and you can even score some Japanese street food (which was oh.my.gosh delicious). We set everything up in certain areas and let all the ladies browse for the first half hour. It was fun seeing what everyone brought and then decided to take! SO many adorable scarves, jewelry and bottles of polish.

I scored four books (The Girl Who Played with Fire, the first Hunger Games, Player Piano, and Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates) and bottle of navy polish! I would highly suggest hosting a swap if you’re on a spending freeze (even though I cheated again on day 50 of 60…oops). I also know that a lot of women loved attending because they could also get rid of stuff they never used! I’ll be donating all of the extra stuff to Godman Guild and Goodwill!

I only have one more thing to accomplish this month and it’s to put together a short video on my new Canon T2i! Let’s see if I can crank that out this weekend.

September’s New Thing #3

September 27

One of my 3 new things to try in September was to buy all my produce from farmer’s markets! It’s one of the best new things I’ve decided to do. For the past five years of my life, I would just buy all my produce from the grocery store because it was easier (which isn’t necessarily true). I was only in town for two weekends in September but hit the local Grandview Farmer’s Market each Saturday morning. Not only did it encourage me to wake up a little earlier but I was able to get a nice little walk in + grab a cup of coffee from a local shop.

Here’s what I bought:

We eat dinner at home about 3-4 times a week. I made sure to get green beans, garlic and zucchini both weekends. The tomatoes and the peppers were always the first to get too ripe. I’m excited to continue into October and then I’m going to probably subscribe to a service like Green Bean Delivery during the winter months. My favorite buys were the local, fresh flowers and the unsweetened apple butter.

What do you do during the colder months? Do you have a year-round market? Do you grow your own/preserve? 

Overlooked Art Forms: Textiles

September 21

Hello again, friends! So, in case you missed them, thus far in our Meaningful Art series, we’ve talked about how to remember your first home, and some DIY projects that will instantly make your house feel more like a home. Today, I wanted to share one of the most overlooked forms of art for your home: textiles.


Textiles are one of the simplest ways to incorporate art into your home. Patterns, textures, color… they utilize all of these elements to create powerful visuals that can make any wall, corner, floor beautiful. Don’t want to buy a large piece of art to hang in the bathroom? Choose some patterned towels and a set of colorful curtains instead. Want to keep large pieces of art neutral but aching for some color? Pillows are the perfect for adding interest and color to living rooms and bedrooms. And because they come with such a small price tag, you can easily (and guiltlessly!) switch them out as preferences and trends change.

I’ll be covering a few more overlooked art forms in the coming months so stay tuned to see simple ways you can incorporate meaningful art into your home.

curtains, tea towels, throw, pillow, rug

A Farewell to Summer

September 20

It looks like today might be one of the last days it will get up close to 80 degrees. I get excited when I look at the forecast and I see mid-60s creeping in on Sunday. While autumn might be on its way…I still have to extend my summer attire into October. Adam and I will be going on a tropical vacation in October and so while you are all packing away your swimsuits, shorts and sandals,  I’m shopping the summer clearance racks!

Havaianas Sandals contacted me last month and let me try out a pair of their Flash Sweet sandals in light golden. They’re the perfect combination of beach flip flops and stylish summer sandals. Most of the sandals that I own are real leather (or they just can’t get wet) and so I was dreading the idea of buying some ugly pair of beach flip flops to wear around on our vacation. These are the perfect solution.

So for now, I have them tucked away with my swimsuits. I’m sure I’ll be so excited to bust them out in late October for a week at the beach.

Do you have any vacation plans for this winter? I’ve actually never gone on vacation during the cold months here (besides Vegas in February). Any tips on buying summer-like clothing once it turns cold? Any favorite sales?

*This is a sponsored post. All thoughts are my own! Color is most true in the top photo.

CITY GUIDE: Brooklyn Pt. 1

September 19

Today’s CITY GUIDE is brought to you by Lindsay Mueller! Enjoy!

After living in various Brooklyn neighborhoods over the past four years, I can confidently say that Carroll Gardens (and its surrounding neighborhoods) is my favorite. That’s not to imply that the rest of the best borough isn’t totally awesome… it’s just too much to cover in one City Guide. Be on the lookout for the next Brooklyn installment which will highlight the rest of Brooklyn on November 28!

Geographically speaking, these neighborhoods — Brooklyn Heights, Boerum Hill, DUMBO, Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens, which all share borders with each other — are on the west side of Brooklyn, below Williamsburg and Greenpoint (northernmost hoods), above Prospect Park and just across the water from Lower Manhattan. Tree-lined streets, a relaxed vibe, an amazing restaurant scene (superior to Manhattan’s if you ask me) and lower rents make Brooklyn an attractive place for creatives and families to live. Actresses and musicians like Keri Russell, Michelle Williams, Solange Knowles and Zoe Kazan live in the hood, as did great American writers Truman Capote, Norman Mailer and Walt Whitman. Lots of cool cred!

This will be somewhat of a walking (or biking) tour, which is one of the reasons I love New York so much – no car necessary. I recommend starting in Cobble Hill, especially if you’re in the mood for a life changing breakfast sandwich. Ted & Honey [photo above] on Clinton Street at Verandah Place is low key and delicious. Inside, there’s a great artsy vibe and they serve unique and tasty sandwiches, salads and even wine or beer. The “number one” — egg, cheese, avocado and tomato on a brioche roll — is sublime. It’s also conveniently adjacent to Cobble Hill Park, a beautiful sandwich eating sanctuary.

After breakfast, continue walking with traffic on Clinton Street and turn left onto Atlantic Avenue, where you’ll walk toward the water until you reach Pier 6, part of Brooklyn Bridge Park. The city has allocated almost $250 million to the creation of BBP, and it’s fascinating to watch and enjoy the progress. Pier 6 is brand new and boasts public volleyball courts, delicious food from Bark Hot Dogs and incredible views of lower Manhattan. It’s a great way to escape the crowds because not many people know about it (yet). It’s also fun to meander through the runner and biker’s paths close to the water. Fun fact: BBP has become a common destination for weddings and wedding photos because of the stunning Manhattan skyline views.

Once you finish walking through the BBP Greenway and exit from Pier 1, you’ll end up in DUMBO, short for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass. This industrial-looking neighborhood is known for it’s creative atmosphere and is one of the most sought after places to live within Brooklyn. Old warehouses were converted into spacious lofts and most have killer views of Manhattan attracting all kinds of artists and families. DUMBO is also home to New York’s most famous pizza joint, Grimaldi’s. People from all over the globe wait in a line whose queue is often blocks-long for a taste of Brooklyn’s delicious thin crust pizza. Walk toward the water on Old Fulton Street, make a right onto Everit Street and you’ll pass Hillside Park, one of the city’s top rated dog parks. Continue up the daunting hill and you’ll find yourself on one of the best “boardwalks” in Brooklyn, the Promenade. Soak up the views as you walk through to the end and onto Montague Street, a stretch of cute shops and restaurants. As tempting as they are, you’re better off waiting to eat until you reach Cobble Hill/Carroll Gardens. Take a right onto Henry Street for a look see of the prettiest and historic blocks lined with old carriage houses and brownstones. You’ll eventually stumble upon Atlantic Avenue, one of the borough’s busier streets. If you’re craving a pre-dinner pint, stop into Floyd. They have a good selection of beers on draft, but its real selling point is the bocce ball court inside. If you’d rather shop, take a peek inside Holler & Squall, an antique store that feels more like a gentleman’s club than a boutique. Here you’ll find a carefully curated collection of taxidermy, knick knacks, leather furniture and storage vessels.

Truth be told, you may choose to abandon all of these suggestions if you’re lucky enough to stumble upon a spur-of-the-moment entertaining event on your own. For example, I discovered the Go Brooklyn Art initiative last weekend at my favorite ice cream joint, Van Leeuwen. That’s another fantastic aspect of Brooklyn culture: there is a community of small business owners and creative types who support each other. The Go Brooklyn Art initiative is a “community-curated open studio project” that showcases different artists in various locations around Brooklyn. The ultimate goal is to expose Brooklynites to local artists, and believe it or not, there’s an app for it. The art-goers vote for their favorite artists, using the app to check into different studios as they visit. Never a dull moment in Brooklyn!

Whether your day is full spontaneity or carefully chosen activities, you’ll need to eat dinner at some point. I highly recommend Frankies Spuntino: it’s a truly delectable destination for lovers of Italian food. Carroll Gardens is known for its Italian roots and is home to some of the best Italian restaurants in the city. I recommend going during the week and avoiding rush hour on Friday and Saturday unless you don’t mind waiting two and a half hours for a table. We ordered the three cheese plate, gnocchi, ribeye (served cold – different but divine) and the house wine. They cater to gluten-free patrons too! With candles, great indie folk music and a rustic interior, the vibe is just as good as the grub. If you’re not totally pooped after dinner, head to the old school Cobble Hill Cinema for a late night movie – the theater itself is as much of a sight to see as its movies.

Until November, cheers!


Roasted Stuffed Peppers with Sweet Balsamic Sauce

September 18

When I recently stepped into the local farmers market, my eyes were treated to a feast of color. It’s amazing how many different colors—not to mention shapes, sizes, and flavors—there are of tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes, peppers, and even carrots. And now that heirloom produce is getting so much attention, this variety seems to keep expanding. I knew I had to figure out a way to bring all this color together into a recipe, and I settled on mashed-potato-based roasted stuffed peppers, with a sweet Balsamic sauce.

I should mention that the ingredients list can be pretty fluid. If you can’t find the white eggplant or Pingtung Long eggplant, just use regular purple eggplant. I was told the main difference is that these two varieties are a little less bitter than regular eggplant, but I never found cooked eggplant to be all that offensively bitter to begin with. And by all means, if you only have dried thyme or fresh basil then use what you have. As Martha Stewart so helpfully points out, you need about 3 times as much fresh herbs as you need dried since dried herbs tend to be more potent.

I thought the sauce really finished off this recipe: it filled a gap that I believe is often left in the flavor of stuffed peppers. As a colorful side for this meal, I also prepared steamed Swiss chard with light salt. If you’re not familiar with Swiss chard, it’s a leafy vegetable sort of like kale or spinach, but it has brightly colored stems and veins. It has a little bitterness to it, a lot like kale, but it has a good flavor.

Roasting vegetables can really bring out a sweeter flavor, but some people prefer their vegetables to remain a bit fresher. When roasting these stuffed peppers, pull them out before they get very roasted (about 15-20 minutes in) if you want to maintain some more of that crispness that raw peppers have. If you have drastically varying sizes of peppers, you may want to take out the smaller once before the bigger once because they’ll roast quicker. The pepper in my photograph is actually a little under-roasted for my liking because I had some smaller ones that were starting to go past the perfect roast.

When I lived in Belize, our cook would occasionally make roasted stuffed peppers, but her method of roasting was putting each pepper right on the stovetop over a flame. This worked surprisingly well—none of them caught on fire that I’m aware of—but it will only work for those with gas stoves. Other delicious ways of achieving a tasty roasted stuffed pepper would be to grill or to wrap in foil and set on the hot coals after a fire.

I’m excited to see what comes to the farmers market as the season changes. One dependable favorite will be acorn squash! Does anybody have a favorite farmers market item or has anybody seen anything interesting at a farmers market lately?

Roasted Stuffed Peppers with Sweet Balsamic Sauce
Recipe type: Entree
  • 4-5 large bell peppers
  • 10-13 small new potatoes, poked with a fork (enough to make about 2 cups of mashed potatoes)
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, whole
  • 1 whole piece of ginger, about the size of a large garlic clove
  • 1 medium-large shallot or 2 small shallots, finely chopped
  • 5 medium-large shiitake mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 medium-small white eggplant, chopped
  • 1-2 medium-small Pingtung Long eggplants, sliced
  • 2 small bell peppers or 1 medium-large bell pepper, chopped.
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • 1-2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil (for sauteing)
  • fresh-grated Parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup Balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  1. Poke each tiny potato a few times with a fork. Place the potatoes with the garlic cloves and ginger in a pot and cover with water. Lightly salt if you like and bring to a boil. Once it begins boiling, set it to about medium-high and boil for 15-20 minutes, or until the potatoes slide off of a knife when inserted and lifted out of the water. Drain and thoroughly mash, being sure to mash the garlic and ginger in.
  2. While the potatoes are boiling, chop your shallots, mushrooms, eggplants, and small bell peppers if you haven't already. Combine the chopped vegetables in a large skillet with the thyme, basil, oregano, salt, and pepper, and mix. Drizzle olive oil over everything and set over medium heat and saute.
  3. Gently combine the mashed potatoes and sauteed vegetable so as to not mash the vegetables.
  4. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Cut the tops off of the large bell peppers and cut/scoop out the seeds. Stuff with potato-vegetable mix and place the tops back on. Spray a baking pan with oil and set the stuffed peppers inside, then place in the oven for about 25 minutes or until the outside begins to wrinkle. Then take the tops off and continue roasting for another 5-10 minutes.
  5. While the stuffed peppers are roasting, mix the Balsamic vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice, honey, brown sugar, and cinnamon, whisking quickly with a fork to combine. Place in a small saucepan over medium high and stir. Continue stirring as it boils, but don't boil for long. Take it off of the heat once it appears to thicken a little. If you let it thicken too much, it will harden when cooled. If this happens, reheat briefly before using.
  6. Sprinkle desired amount of Parmesan cheese over roasted pepper and drizzle sauce or cut pepper in half first and then add the cheese and sauce, then serve.