Tuesday, July 31, 2012

From my kitchen: Tomato ricotta tart

Ever since I made my very first pot of homemade pesto, I've been wondering about new, original ways to incorporate it into my recipes. And this tomato and ricotta tart was just the perfect opportunity. I've been eyeing all those colorful cherry tomatoes on the farmers market for weeks (orange and yellow were definitely my faves), and I imagined this colorful tart full of rich taste. It's the perfect recipe for summer, very easy to prepare but made to impress by all the summery flavors. In a few words: a new staple.

You'll need:

* 1 roll of puff pastry
* 2 tbsp of pesto (I used my homemade one)
* cherry tomatoes in various colors
* 2tbsp of ricotta

1. Roll out the puff pastry on a baking sheet. Incise it slightly 2cm from the edge.
2. In a bowl, combine pesto with ricotta and spread it all over the pastry. 
3. Slice the tomatoes and place them all over the ricotta and pesto mixture. 
4. Bake the tart in the oven preheated to 200°C, for 45 minutes (or more, the tomatoes should be almost dried). 
5. Serve with a green salad. 


Monday, July 30, 2012

Summer escape: New York

My summer series continue today with my second favorite city in the world: The Big Apple. The city that never sleep, the playground of girls from Sex and the City, this place bursts with an incredible energy and positive attitude.  And don't even get me started on all those stylish, fabulous and inspiring working girls, drinking their morning lattes, hailing taxis and looking amazing at any time of day. I've only visited NYC twice, but I instantly fell in love with that wonderful feeling that everything is possible (you know what they say: if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere). Who knows, maybe one day I'll pack my bags and go live there, maybe for a year or two, crossing off another item from my laundry list of dreams. 

Until then, I can imagine the perfect day & night outfits I would pack in my suitcase when going there: they should definitely be sophisticated, classic and well- tailored, with just the perfect amount of edge. Think sleek black pants, neutral silk blouses, chic pointy heels and diamond studs. When feeling a little bit more adventurous, opt for sequins, leather jacket and the pop of color provided by an amazing bag (always think quality over quantity). You'll look beyond fabulous in less than a New York minute!



Something extra

When leaving for New York City, don't forget to pack a punchy pink lipstick, metallic nail polish and a performant sunscreen: summer in NY can be scorching hot! Throw your iPad (in its punchy case) in your it-bag, add a stylish wallet and a moisturizing hand cream. And most important, always bring your camera (and an extra memory card) to immortalize all your wonderful memories! What are your NYC essentials?


6. Apple iPad 3, $499

Friday, July 27, 2012

Entertaining: Pretty pink tablescape

Image via Pinterest

Lately I have developped quite an obsession with beautiful, chic and stylish tablescapes. I blame Pinterest, of course, with its countless inspiring pictures, but also my very talented fellow bloggers, especially Camille Styles who features breathtaking and swoon-worthy table settings every other week. I have accumulated quite a lot of inspiration while browsing around the internet, and I've been wondering about the ways of recreating them at home. Of course, I cannot buy new dinnerware or flatware every other week (and believe me, I would love to!), but it's still an amazing source of inspiration and creativity for any upcoming event or party. This sophisticated, simple yet glamorous tablescape is the best example: it combines the most classic elements (like white tablecloth, ceramic vases and pink flowers) with more daring pieces (mercury candle holders and vintage-inspired flatware). Together they create a feminine and chic backdrop for a perfect bridal shower or even your best friend's birthday party. I've recreated this look with affordable pieces and I would love to read your opinion: what occasion could be honored with this glamorous setting?

1. Sur la table Baroque plates, $9.95 - $12.95
3. West Elm Textured pure vases, $29 - $39 (or try this DIY project)
4. Pink peonies

Thursday, July 26, 2012

From my kitchen: Homemade pesto

I can still remember the first time I tasted pesto: it was in France, maybe 4 years ago and I fell instantly in love with its rich, basil flavor, a touch of garlic and the sharp taste of Parmesan. I've been using it regularly, in different recipes, sometimes staying true to simple dishes (pasta with pesto will always be my comfort food!), sometimes experimenting and adding it to pizzas or tarts. That's why I can hardly believe that I've waited this long to try and make my own!
I had a large pot of basil on my balcony and this was the perfect opportunity to use it in a creative way. The recipe is quite simple (all the ingredients are listed above), it's the pounding in a pestle with mortar that can be a little bit tedious(of course, you can use the food processor, but that would be like cheating to me :) If you persevere, you'll be rewarded with mouthwatering homemade pesto that simply can't be equaled by any store-bought stuff!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Summer escape: Paris

The summer holidays are in full swing (even if the weather is not always up for the game), and day after day, I find myself daydreaming about amazing getaways to fabulous destinations. Sadly, there is no "vacation" sign on my agenda this summer, but that doesn't prevent me from imagining all those amazing destinations I'd love to visit (or visit again) one day. That's why I've decided to start new summer series: every week I'll share one perfect day & night wardrobe for one glamorous summer escape.

And I couldn't start with any other city than my beloved Paris. When I think of Paris, I always think of striped tops, polka dot accessories, glam oversized sunnies and Brigitte Bardot-inspired Repetto ballet flats. This is a go-to day uniform of every fabulous Parisienne. It's the perfect outfit when you want to discover museums, hit the most stylish boutiques and enjoy your baguette, croissants and café au lait. In the evening, opt for a chic flowy dress and classic pumps, spice it all up with some sparkling jewelry, and you're ready to dance the Parisian night away!  


4. DKNY sunglasses, $89


Something extra:

A few things that should definitely make it to your suitcase: an original and unique city guide, nude & red nail polish for perfect Parisian mani / pedi, a small umbrella (afternoon showers are never too far away), a classic black eyeliner (for that perfect cat-eye look), a great black mascara and red lipstick. Très chic!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

From my kitchen: Mint syrup

Ever since we moved into our apartment in Graz, I've wanted to transform our huge balcony into a garden. Not literally, of course (I don't think that our neighbors would appreciate), but its size got me dreaming about pots with cherry tomatoes, baby carrots and herbs. Especially herbs. A few months later, I can proudly say that I have grown my own basil, lavender, origan, sage and mint, and now I'm waiting very impatiently for my little green tomatoes to turn red. 
But now the question is, what am I going to do with all this greenery, especially with mint, which seems to grow with a speed of light? While flipping through my cooking magazines last week, I found my answer: mint syrup. It's an amazing way to give a little bit of flavor to your favorite sparkling water. You can definitely use it to make a mojito or a mint julep, or to jazz up your summer drinks (like iced tea). And if you feel like experimenting, you can add it even to your tea or hot chocolate. Ready to try? It's really simple!

Mint syrup

You'll need:

* 1 tight bundle of mint
* 250ml water
* 250g sugar
* a drop of green food coloring (optional)

1. Wash and dry the mint leaves and put them in a bowl.
2. Boil the water in a saucepan and pour over mint leaves. Let them infuse overnight.
3. Strain the mint water, pressing the leaves to get a maximum of flavor.
4. In a saucepan, combine mint water with sugar, bring it to a boil and then cook for 5 minutes, stirring gently so that the sugar dissolves completely.
5. Add the food coloring: it will give your syrup a nice, green color. Otherwise it will have kind of transparent muddy green shade.
6. Let cool down and pour into a clean and dry bottle. 

You can keep it in the fridge for a very long time, or you can freeze small portions and keep them for winter months. 


Friday, July 20, 2012

Etsy finds: Fashion illustrations

Michelle Baron's Coco and Louie about town: aren't they just the most adorable thing ever?

Tell me, are you as obsessed with Etsy as I am? It's such an incredible source for fabulous original pieces, whether it's chic and colorful handmade jewelry, stylish accessories for your home, or even custom-made clothes. I could spend hours and even days browsing through various shops and admire all those talented people who share their designs! 
Case in point: fashion illustrations. Right now, I'm in the process of redesigning my home office (it's the third time since we moved into our apartment. I'm still not entirely happy with how it looks, that's why I haven't shared any photos yet). Since I'm working from home, it's crucial to me to have not only functional and well-equipped space, but also one that will not be boring and that will keep me inspired every day, around the clock. I've been dreaming about a beautiful and stylish wall art collection for weeks, and now that the task of creating the perfect inspiration board has been tackled, I'm ready to dive in and splurge on some über fabulous prints. But now comes the hardest part: which ones to choose? I've been browsing through my favorite Etsy shops for days, trying to narrow down the selection, but I must confess, it's not the easiest of tasks: I love and want them all! Maybe I'll make this my new mid-year resolution: buy one of these fabulous prints every month until I have them all. Doesn't that sound amazing? 

Kristina Hultkrantz might just be my favorite illustrator in the entire world! I've been oohing and aahing and swooning over her illustrations for weeks. I simply can't get enough of her ultra fabulous "What's in my bag collections" (as seen above), I want every single one of them! They are the epitome of chic and glamour and they would look so exquisit hanging just above my office desk! I can already see myself staring at them dreamily, waiting for the inspiration to hit! 

Now, this exceptional lady is running not one, but two fabulous Etsy shops, one with chic fashion illustrations, the other one with dreamy bridal ones! I've been obsessed with Brooke's illustrations ever since I layed my eyes on Kate Middleton wearing that fairy-talesque wedding dress. And how fantastic is the picture of Sex and the City girls, strutting down the streets of New York? For an SATC lover like me, this is an absolute must! 
Plus, knowing that Brooke is taking custom orders as well has got my mind spinning: a custom-made illustration of me in my gorgeous wedding gown would be such an amazing gift to receive after my wedding day!

Perfume hoarder that I am, I simply couldn't skip Debra Lynn's little gem of a shop. Whether it's YSL's Parisienne, Miss Dior or Chloé's signature scent, all my favorites are here, waiting for me. And the best part? I could keep these forever!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Real talk: Why I will never become a "French woman who doesn't get fat"...

So, you all know how I love everything that pertains to France, French culture and French food (and if you don't, feel free to check out my About me page). Like many before me, ever since I set my foot on French soil for the first time, I've been wondering how on earth those charming French women eat all those fresh baguettes, croissants and fromages (and don't even get me started on the desserts!) and yet they don't look like the Michelin man

You can only imagine how happy I was when I first discovered Mireille Guiliano's book named "French women don't get fat". After many years of French women-watching (my favorite kind of people-watching), I could agree with almost everything she wrote: following the principles of quality over quantity, using fresh and seasonal produce, avoiding snacks between meals. And because Mireille is a lovely woman, she has also provided a way to attain your perfect weight, without starvation. Or, at least I thought so. 

Her secret? A leek soup. This has got me intrigued: I was dying to try her method and since I found myself home alone for a few days (I had a feeling that my fiancé would not have been happy with this meal choice), I bought a bunch of fresh leeks and already imagined myself becoming a fabulously thin French mademoiselle in two days (no comment). But it wasn't long until I stumbled upon the first bump on the road to my ideal French silhouette: when Mireille says "leek soup", she means leek cooked in 2 liters of water. And that's that. And you are supposed to live on this thing for two days, eating cooked leek and drinking the water from the cooking.

Apparently, I'm not able to do that. At all. That's why after finishing my first bowl of this delicacy I found myself daydreaming about a fresh bread with a thick layer of Nutella. Sadly, that's something that doesn't make part of the "miraculous" two-day diet. See, the major problem with this leek soup is, that it doesn't fill your stomach, at all. On the contrary, it makes your stomach feel hollow and empty (which, of course it almost is!). So, after two hours of struggling with myself, I ran out of the house, made a beeline for the grocery store, and came back home with a fresh baked bread and a French camembert (so I wasn't that far from the French diet after all :) And it was one of the best things I've ever eaten!

The bottom line? I am definitely not one to follow drastic diets. I'm unable to deprive myself of food, and my willpower isn't strong enough to go through with this "leek experiment". But I don't mind. I wanted to try it and it was an epic fail, but it's not a reason to feel bad. I'm just too much of a food lover. And to turn this experiment into something French fabulous, I think I'm going to use that remaining leek to make my delicious quiche. Now, how's that for a perfect French attitude?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

From my kitchen: Sparkling ice cubes

They say that secrets of beauty are real simple: a good night's sleep, eating well and drinking a lot of water. Well, since I devote my evenings to reading or scouring my favorite blogs for inspiration, and they still haven't found vitamins in chocolate, I guess I'll just have to stick with the water. Contrary to many water-resistant girls out there, I've never had any problem drinking my way through a 2l bottle. I'm not a big fan of sodas (I only indulge every now and then, I'm no saint!) and I'm convinced that they don't do it better than St. Pelegrino (Saint Pe for my French friends). But even I sometimes feel like spicing things up a little bit and that's when these fun and colorful ice cubes come in handy. They are so easy to make and they can definitely add a pop of color and taste to your favorite bottle of water. Served in a mason jar with a colorful straw, they will liven up all my upcoming al fresco diners. 

All you need to make them is your favorite seasonal fruit (I usead peach and raspberries), a few mint leaves and a bottle of sparkling water. Cut the peach into small cubes, place them alongside with raspberries into an ice cube tray, add small leaves of mint, fill the tray in with water and let freeze overnigh. See? Easy-peasy, and so deliciously refreshing!

Monday, July 16, 2012

On my nightstand, July 2012

July is in full swing, but by looking out of the window, you definitely couldn't tell: it's been raining for days and the temperatures have dropped way below our usual 35°C+ standard. But I'm not compaining, quite the contrary, when it comes to appropriate level of mercure, I'm very much  a spring girl (and my brain refuses to work properly above 30°C :) 
And while the weather outside is most certainly not picnic-appropriate, it's the best one to curl up on the sofa, with a soft blanket, a cup of steaming tea and an amazing book. Book worm that I am, I've been constantly adding new, intriguing books to my Nook and iPad, and I hope I'll be able to go through this list by the end of July. And I would really love to know: do you have your own reading list? What are the books you are most dying to read? And how often are you able to sneak in a few hours of reading into your busy schedules? I'm looking forward to reading your suggestions, and who knows? Maybe one of them will appear here, on my August list!

Imagine: How creativity works by Jonah Lehrer: Ever since I started this blog, I've been challenging my creativity every day, trying to turn my passions into a full-time career. The author claims that creativity is not an exclusive gift given to a happy few, and I love it! 

The Great Gatsby by F.S.Fitzgerald: The entire world (including me) is waiting impatiently for the premiere of Baz Luhrman's new opus and the first preview looks really fantastic (after all, Moulin Rouge is still one of my favorite movies ever!). But since December is still far away, I'm going to dream about the roaring twenties in New York while reading this classic masterpiece. 

The Fire Starter Sessions by Danielle LaPorte: I'm always on the lookout for the next best inspiring and motivating book, and this one sounds really promising: "an apathy-kicking, integrity-infusing guide to defining success on your own terms." As someone who is constantly trying to turn her dreams into reality, I simply love to read inspiring books by passionate people.

The Art of racing in the rain by Gareth Stein: Dogs and car races are definitely not among my usual interests. But a book narrated by a dog-philosopher with a love for watching television? Now, that's got me intrigued! 

Room by Emma Donoghue: Little Jack and his mom are living imprisoned in an 11 foot square room. This sounds very scary, but the book is being narrated by the 5-year-old Jack and it still holds a promise of hope and candid moments. I'm really curious to see what will happen when Jack will finally try to break free.

My life in France by Julia Child: I love cooking, I love Julia Child's cookbooks and I love France. What's more to say?

Friday, July 13, 2012

Friday's Fancies #50: Glamorous wedding

I've already published two wedding-related posts this summer (here and here), but that didn't prevent me from jumping on this week's Friday's Fancies challenge. Quite the contrary: ModCloth still has a large stock of amazing and stunning dresses that were begging for my attention. Pretty patterned frocks will never go out of style, and when paired with classic pumps, glamorous floppy hats and oversized sunnies, they are the perfect choice for any summer wedding. Don't you agree?

Be sure to check out all the beautiful wedding ensembles over at Long Distance Loving!


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

From my kitchen: Black currant popsicles

When I first bought these popsicle molds in Ikea, my dad had a great laugh. He's used to me and my mom buying all sorts of weird things for home, but this just seemed too much for him. He told me he was sure that I would never ever use them and they would just catch dust in my storage. Well, you know me, I love myself a good challenge, and I love nothing more than proving my dad wrong, so here I am, with my very first homemade popsicles. Watch out, Dad!

I got a batch of black currant on the farmers' market last Saturday, but unfortunately they turned out too acid to eat. And since I hate wasting food, I whipped up this easy popsice recipe:

Black currant popsicles (for 6 popsicles)

* 150g black currant
* 5 tsp unrefined sugar
* 3 tsp plain white yoghurt
* 1 tsp sugar

1. In a saucepan, squash the black currants and combine with unrefined sugar. Cook on low heat for 10-15 minutes. Let cool down completely.
2. In a small bowl, combine yoghurt and sugar.
3. Fill the popsicle molds (3/4 of height) with black currant mixture. Fill the rest with yoghurt. You can also alternate layers of fruit and yoghurt (in this case, you'll need to prepare more yoghurt with sugar). 
4. With a thin-bladed knife, swirl mixtures together in an up-and-down motion.
5. Insert popsicle sticks and let freeze overnight. 


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