Weekend Living: Miss Downton Abbey? Try 1 of these 5 Great Shows on Netflix

Since the (ugh...so tragic!) end of the third season of Downton Abbey, I've found myself craving something equally delicious to watch on television.

After a bit of searching I came across a few fantastic miniseries (all currently available for viewing on Netflix), which are just as good and wonderfully satisfying as Downton Abbey.

I figured I might not be the only one looking for some great new shows to watch, so I figured I'd share. Check out my picks and let me know if you've seen any of these, or have others to recommend!

xxAlejandra

1. Call the Midwife
Based on the memoir of the same name by Jennifer Worth, this fantastic BBC drama follows Jenny Lee, a newly qualified midwife who goes to work at a nursing convent in 1950s East London.

The series tells the heartbreaking--and heartwarming--stories of working as a midwife in the rough neighborhood, as well as following along with the personal stories of love and friendship among the women. The show is clever and sweet, and beautifully shot (also...fabulous 50s fashion!).

The girls ride around town on bicycles, sneak cigarettes while hanging out the convent window, and spend their evenings listening to records in their pretty retro slips. Jessica Raine, who plays Jenny, is absolutely gorgeous; she looks like a glamorous old Hollywood star and is such a delight to watch.

I gobbled up all 6 episodes of the first season on Netflix, and am excited to start watching Season 2, which starts airing tonight (March 31st) on PBS in the US.

2. Land Girls
Another wonderful BBC drama! Reminiscent of A League of Their Own, this one is based on the lives and times of the women in the British Women's Land Army during World War II. The WLA was an organization created during the war that recruited women to fill agricultural jobs left vacant by the men who went off to fight.

Land Girls focuses on a group of 4 girls working on the Hoxley Estate, all of whom joined (or were drafted) for different reasons.

From beautiful and wealthy Nancy Morell, who was drafted to join against her will and soon enters into an illicit romance--to sisters Bea and Adele, who volunteered for the service in order to escape their abusive father, the characters and storylines are fantastic. I do, however, admit that what I most love about this one is the 40s clothing--such gorgeous fashion!

The first season is available on Netflix, with two others after that I'm going to try and hunt down online.

3. Bomb Girls 
My new favorite!! 

This series is Canadian, and tells the story of the women working in a Canadian munitions factory during World War II. It centers primarily on the story of Gladys, a recently-engaged wealthy socialite who goes to work in the factory despite her parent's objections.  She has to prove that she's more than a spoiled rich girl to her coworkers at the factory, and ends up learning a thing or two about herself in the process.

My friend Ilana was in town for a few days and as we both weren't feeling well, we spent most of the day on Friday cuddled up on the couch eating chocolate, and watching the first 6 episodes of the series. It was a Good Friday indeed! 

Season 2 just started airing on the Reelz channel in the US this past week, so I'm going to have to catch up on it and add that to my weekly watching schedule. Another great show featuring gorgeous 40s fashion and music--definitely one to watch if you (like me!) love the era.


4. The Grand
This British series is a few years older--from the late-90s, and takes place in a Manchester hotel just after World War I. This show features much of that same upstairs/downstairs theme as Downton Abbey, which is one of my favorite things about it. The story opens with the suicide of the hotel accountant, who leaves behind a note revealing that the hotel is in terrible debt.

The owner's wayward brother steps in to repay the debts and take over as an equal partner, but his motives are a bit questionable and it's soon revealed that his money may be coming from some shady dealings. Intrigues (and romance!) ensue.

The entire series (18 episodes) is available for streaming.

5. The Palace
This is definitely the most guilty-pleasure of the group, but I love it! Unlike the others, this series takes place in modern-day England after the death of the fictional king. It's basically what would happen if Gossip Girl had an affair with Prince Harry and gave birth to a soap opera.

The handsome eldest son (seen above with his Brad Pitt-like jawbones), who up until his father's death was known for little more than drinking and sleeping around, is crowned king and now has to prove to England--and himself--that he is up to the task.

Add in an awful scheming sister who is pissed that she wasn't made queen, a younger Prince Harry-meets-Chuck Bass-like brother, a Jane Seymour-esque mother who drowns her sorrows in gin & tonics, and palace full of bumbling, gossiping servants, and you've got one deliciously addictive show!

Eugene actually watched a few episodes of this one with me and admitted that "it's all right," which for him is basically a ringing endorsement.

This entire 8-episode series is available on Netflix.

Have you seen any of these shows? Have any other favorites you think I might like? Let me know in the comments! 

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Love Always Order Dessert? Let's connect! Follow me on Twitter or Pinterest, become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates. And if you ever need any entertaining or cooking advice, please don't hesitate to e-mail me. Thanks for reading!    

Easter Egg Cake Cookies

One of the very first recipes I EVER created all on my own were cake cookies.

I was about 9 or 10 and just getting into experimenting in the kitchen. I wanted to make some homemade cookies, and ended up mixing up a bunch of things in a bowl--flour, eggs, sugar, milk, vanilla, baking powder. I scooped piles of the resulting dough onto a baking sheet and stuck it in the oven, sitting down in front to peek in every few minutes.

What came out was, miraculously, delicious!

They weren't like any cookies I'd ever tasted--these were more like little round cakes--soft and plump in the middle, with a bit of crisp around the edges.

My brother and I ate these along with one of his friends, who I remember suggested putting butter on it (a genius idea that at the time we thought was weird, but which now I love--cake or cookies spread with salty butter is delicious!).

The problem was that since I had literally just winged the whole thing, I had no idea how to recreate it.

Years passed and I forgot about those childhood cake cookies. But then one day I tasted a black & white cookie--the New York City favorite of a soft cake-like cookie iced with chocolate and vanilla frosting.

They tasted like MY cake cookies!

I've since made black & white cookies a few time, though I've never written about them here. But while wondering what to do for Easter, I thought it would be fun to make egg-shaped cake cookies iced with a mix of white and pastel vanilla icing.

So that's exactly what I did. These are a fun recipe to make with kids--the cookies bake up quickly and then you can have a messy, drippy blast icing the cookies with colors of your choosing.

I love the Jackson Pollack-like mess that results.

These keep well for about 1-2 days, but being cake, they tend to get a little stale any longer than that.

Note that you'll also need an egg-shaped cookie cutter. I actually bent a round biscuit cutter into an egg shape (much to Eugene's horror: "But it'll never be a perfect circle again!!!"), but you can easily find egg cookie cutters all over the place these days.

Enjoy and Happy Easter!!

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Love Always Order Dessert? Let's connect! Follow me on Twitter or Pinterest, become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates. And if you ever need any entertaining or cooking advice, please don't hesitate to e-mail me. Thanks for reading!  



Easter Egg Cake Cookies
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen's Black & White Cookie Recipe
Makes about 12-14 Cookies

Ingredients
1 1/3 cups granulated white sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4-5 cups confectioner's sugar
1/2 cup water
Food coloring in a few different colors

Directions
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheets with parchment paper or grease with baking spray and set aside. You'll need an egg-shaped cookie cutter for this recipe.

In the base of a mixer, beat together sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs for 5 minutes until very light. Mix in the milk and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder. Mix the dry ingredients into the wet, mixing just until everything is combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared baking sheet. Spreading it out so that it's even and about 3/4" to 1" thick (it may not reach the edges completely). Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the edges have browned and the center of the cake springs up to the touch. Let cool in the baking sheet about 10 minutes.

Spritz the cookie cutter with a bit of baking spray and use to cut out egg shapes in the cake. (Feel free to snack on the edges!)

Set the eggs on a cooling rack to cool completely.

For the icing: Divide the sugar into 3 bowls (or more depending how many colors you are using), and add 1 to 2 teaspoons of water per bowl, whisking until very smooth. You want to go slow with this as if you add too much water it will be too thin to stick to the bowl. Leave one bowl white and then color the other to your desired shade. Use a spoon or small spatula to ice half of all the cookies white. Then color in the other half with the shade of your choice.

The icing is too thin and won't stick? Add more confectioners sugar. 
Too thick or has hardened? Add a bit more water.

Let the icing set before serving.



Baked Hashbrown Potato Nests (with Asparagus Scrambled Eggs)

Spring is here. I can smell it!

It's still chilly, but something feels a little different out there. I swear it smells...warmer.

I've been keeping the windows open in the afternoons. Letting the crisp fresh air blow in through the drapes, sweeping through with those tiny hints of spring-like sweetness.

I've been reaching for lighter, brighter outfits. I've been leaving my coat open and my scarf at home.

I even noticed the beginning of flowers bursting through the ground in the park where I walk Hudson.

It's here. I'm sure of it.

The world is about to burst with beauty.

Spring to me equals brunch, and with Easter coming up this weekend, I thought it was time to share a fun brunch dish that's perfect for entertaining guests: Baked Hashbrown Potato Nests filled with a Cheesy Asparagus Scramble.

I love having people over this time of year.  It's also the time of year that makes me wish I had a large patio or roofdeck or some kind of outdoor space to entertain in. (One of the many reasons why I'm excited about the picnic-style lunches and s'mores around the bonfire events I have planned for the A Sweet Escape culinary retreat I'm hosting in June.)

But this little dish is just as lovely indoors with the blinds hiked high to let the sunshine in.

These easy hashbrown cups are baked until crisp then filled with soft asparagus scrambled eggs. Top with a dollop of tangy yogurt and a few parmesan shavings, then serve with a mixed green salad.

This recipes is wonderful for Easter brunch or just any lovely day this Spring. You can even go tinier with these and make them into bite-size appetizers!

(The potato baskets can actually be filled with anything. Eugene's dinner last night was hashbrown baskets filled with yogurt, salsa, chorizo, chees, and sauteed veggies--almost like little taco baskets.)

Enjoy & Happy Spring!

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Love Always Order Dessert? Let's connect! Follow me on Twitter or Pinterest, become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates. And if you ever need any entertaining or cooking advice, please don't hesitate to e-mail me. Thanks for reading!  



Baked Hashbrown Potato Nests with Cheesy Asparagus Scrambled Eggs
Makes 12 baskets (serves 4-6)
Ingredients
For the nests:
7 medium sized Russet (Idaho) potatoes
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 large egg, slightly beaten
Vegetable oil spray (or vegetable oil)

For the filling:
1 pound asparagus, trimmed and diced into 1/2" pieces
6 large eggs
2 tablespoons water
Kosher salt and black pepper
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, plus 12 large shavings of cheese for garnish
1 cup of plain Greek yogurt or creme fraiche

Mixed greens to serve on the side.

Directions
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Generously grease a standard muffin tin with vegetable oil spray or a cloth dipped in vegetable oil.

Wash and peel the Russet potatoes, dropping them into a bowl of cold water as you do so, so as to prevent browning. Grate them all using either the grating blade on your food processor, or by hand with a box grater, then place in a fine sieve or length of cheesecloth and squeeze out to remove as much excess water as possible (this will keep them crispy).

Mix potatoes with 1 large egg and season with kosher salt and black pepper. Divide potatoes into the muffin tins--about 1/4 to 1/3 cup per tin, then press into the sides to form a small basket. Spray or brush the insides with a bit more oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place in oven and bake about 25 minutes, or until tender on the inside and crisped on the outside and edges.

Remove from oven and run a knife around the edges to release. Let cool slightly, then turn out.

While the potato baskets cool, prepare the filling. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a nonstick skillet and saute the asparagus for 2 minutes until bright green and just a bit tender. Remove from skillet. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs, water, and a bit of kosher salt and black pepper. Whisk in the grated parmesan and then scramble on low heat until cooked to desired doneness. Add the asparagus back in and divide among the potato cups. Top with a dollop of yogurt and a shaving of parmesan.

Serve with a side salad.





Stuffed Mushrooms with Sausage, Nuts & Dried Fruit

Back when I was going through the casting process for The Taste, there was one question that drove me crazy--"What's your signature dish?"

Because how does a girl answer that?!

I don't really have a single "signature" dish. I have a few dishes that my friends love, but I'm not really a "signature dish" kind of girl. My style tends to vary by the seasons or my current interests, and I'm admittedly far too attention-deficit to just make one dish over and over again the same way unless I have to for work reasons.

And I'll also add that the dishes I do tend to make over and over again, aren't necessarily my best or my favorites; they're just the ones that are easiest to whip up for things like a weeknight dinner or to take to a friend's for a party. They're not things that I would really think of as being representative of my skills or style.

That said, I was forced to answer the question, and so the best thing I came up with are my Stuffed Mushrooms.

I've been making this stuffed mushroom recipe (or a version of it) since I was in college. It's probably the recipe that the majority of my friends remember most fondly. It's also the dish that I usually bring to potlucks or parties when I know I want to grab attention.

It works so well that after bringing these to a coworker's party one year, I was asked not to bring anything the next time. Not because they were bad, but because they were SO good that they took all the attention away from the recipes made by the host.

Ha!

So now you know what to make if you've got a frenemy or coworker you'd like to annoy.

Anyway, the beauty of these mushrooms is that they touch on all flavor and texture notes--salty, sweet, spicy, crunchy. They can also be modified easily based on the seasons or your personal flavor preferences. (I've included options below in the recipe.)

They can also be prepared in advance and simply baked just before guests arrive. It's perfect if you're entertaining (these would make a wonderful dish to serve at your Easter brunch or luncheon this weekend, for example!)


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Love Always Order Dessert? Let's connect! Follow me on Twitter or Pinterest, become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates. And if you ever need any entertaining or cooking advice, please don't hesitate to e-mail me. Thanks for reading! 



Stuffed Mushrooms with Sausage, Nuts & Dried Fruit Recipe
Makes about 24

Ingredients
24 large stuffing mushrooms
1/2 cup dried fruit (suggested: apricots, cranberries, currants, or raisins)
1/3 cup drained pimento-stuffed spanish olives from a jar (such as Goya)
1/4 cup slivered almonds (substitute pine nuts or walnuts)
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds (optional: you can also use another type of seed or nut)
3 large garlic cloves, finely minced
1/2 bunch fresh parsley, stems trimmed and minced finely
3/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated
1 pound hot Italian sausage, removed from casings (substitute fresh chorizo or sweet sausage)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil

Directions
Preheat oven to 400 degrees if baking same day.

Prepare the mushroom caps: remove the stems and use a spoon to scoop out a bit of the mushroom inside in order to make enough room for stuffing (save the stems and scooped out bits--they make a wonderful soup!).

Drizzle the inside of the mushroom caps with a bit of olive oil and season well with kosher salt and black pepper. Arrange mushrooms with scooped-side-up in a baking dish large enough to fit all the mushrooms snugly.

Prepare the filling: pile the dried fruit, olives, almonds, pumpkin seeds on a cutting board and run through quickly with a knife until all are chopped coursely. Pour into a large mixing bowl. Add the minced garlic, parsley, and grated cheese, and mix well. Add the sausage meat and mix until evenly distributed. Season with 1 teaspoon kosher salt and a generous crack of black pepper.

Use your hands to stuff each of the mushroom caps generously.

Drizzle everything with a bit more olive oil. Bake 10 minutes, then turn the dish and bake for 10-15 more minutes, or until the stuffing is fully cooked and browned, and the mushrooms are tender.

Let cool slightly before serving.




Register Today for "A Sweet Escape" --A 3-Day Culinary & Crafting Retreat Hosted by Always Order Dessert

Hello lovely friends!! I've got big news today.

BIG news!

I'm crazy excited to announce my latest project. It's called [trumpets blaring]:


What is A Sweet Escape? Well, it's:

One part food conference
+ 
One part sleepover party
One part dinner party 
A BIG dash of summer camp!

And I want YOU to come!

Picture THIS:
A long weekend spent in a gorgeous Vermont country house, surrounded by picturesque green mountains and bright blue skies. Your days are spent in the company of other amazing food lovers taking part in hands-on cooking classes, DIY crafting workshops, wine & cheese tastings, and cocktail mixing demos.

You can take part in daily local excursions to meet cool local artisan food producers or do a little shopping in the cute town shops. Happy Hour starts at 5ish on the sunny patio (bring your sunglasses!), and meals are shared with new friends around a long wooden farm table decorated with candles and wildflowers. 
After dinner, take a dip in the relaxing hot tub, or grab a cozy hoodie and head back outside for late-night s'mores and gabbing around a crackling bonfire.

Evenings are for curling up in front of a delicious food film (oh hello, Johnny Depp!), while snacking on chocolate cake, spiked hot cocoa, and gooey decadent truffles. Or you can opt for a relaxing candlelit massage just steps away from your bedroom door.
On the last day, enjoy a final farewell brunch with your new friends, and then take home a gift bag filled with treats and surprises to help you remember the weekend.
Tell me that doesn't sound amazing?

I love sharing with you here on the blog each day, but it's even more fun to meet you in real life. Which is why I dreamed up A Sweet Escape. 

It's a 3-day, all-inclusive culinary & crafting retreat that's open to fellow food bloggers, readers, writers, home cooks--just about anyone who loves food and cooking, and wants to get away for a few days to learn, share, and enjoy.

There will be cooking demos, arts & crafts workshops, wine & cheese tastings, local excursions to meet cool food producers, incredible meals, and SO. MUCH. MORE!

Oh...and there will also be chocolate. A LOT of chocolate!

The retreat will take place at Good Commons--a gorgeous retreat house in Plymouth, Vermont--and the rates include round-trip travel via private jitney from midtown Manhattan (you can also meet us there).

I will be hosting you and preparing all the meals--as well as leading some fun cooking classes. I'm also bringing in some incredible people to share their amazing food and crafting knowledge with you, and have reached out to some of my favorite artisan food brands to donate delicious things for us to enjoy throughout the weekend.

And did I mention the hot tub, yoga classes, and in-house massage therapist?

Rates start at just $550 per person, and are all-inclusive (!!!), which means that includes travel, lodging, all meals, activities, materials, and excursions.

Already live in the area or want to stay elsewhere? We're also offering a 2-Day Pass rate of just $310.

There are only 20 spots available so you should register right away.

Like...right now!

Click here to check out the schedule,  read more info about the retreat, and book your spot.

It has been a dream of mine to host an event like this, and I'm so excited to finally be making it happen.

I hope that you are just as excited! We're going to have an incredible time together.

Have questions? Check out the FAQ on the registration page, or leave them in the comments below. You can also e-mail me-- I can't wait to share with you!


xoxo

Alejandra

Canine Kitchen: Crunchy BBQ Liver Dog Treats (wheat-free)

Well you must have known this was coming sooner or later!

As I mentioned in this post about Hudson's adoption, I've been making all of his food at home from scratch. I also have been making him homemade doggy treats, and decided to share this recipe for my Crunchy BBQ Liver Dog Treats with you.

He absolutely LOVES these treats and can sniff them out anywhere. I brought a few of them in my purse to my parents' house this weekend for my dad's birthday, and Hudson kept trying to attack the purse in an attempt to get his treat!

The recipe for these is very loosely inspired by Thomas Keller's Fois Gras Dog Treat recipe from the Bouchon Bakery cookbook. They're the treats that Keller sells at his bakeries and at The French Laundry. My amazing friend Lindsay sent me the recipe via email last week and I instantly knew I wanted to give it a try, with a few significant changes

Hudson is on a wheat-free diet, so I changed the original recipe around quite a bit, replacing the white flour with good, wholesome ingredients like oats, flaxseed, sweet potato, and organic gmo-free cornmeal. (Wheat isn't really the best for dogs, and for shih tzus in particular, avoiding it helps keep their eyes clear and without too much discharge.)

I also used calf liver for my treats and halved the amount of bacon in them, although you can really use just about any kind of liver--chicken, beef, and yes--even fois gras should you feel spendy. Keller's treats are mostly grain, but I wanted mine to be primarily protein so I changed the ratio and added eggs to hold everything together.

The treats bake up into crisp little cookies with a great meaty smell.

Eugene, a huge fan of liver, actually tried one of the treats and said they were "Like a nice cracker with a liver flavor." (I did not try them, so I'll just take his word for it.)

Keller's tops off his treats with a ketchup glaze, but Hudson loves smokey flavors, so I used a simple bbq sauce instead, which I think works really well.

This recipe makes a huge batch, and the treats keep well at dry, room temperature for about 4-6 weeks, so it's a great way to stock up on wholesome homemade goodies.

As you can see, Hudson is a happy doggy!

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Love Always Order Dessert? Let's connect! Follow me on Twitter or Pinterest, become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates. And if you ever need any entertaining or cooking advice, please don't hesitate to e-mail me. Thanks for reading!  


Crunchy BBQ Liver Dog Treats (Wheat-Free)
Makes about 40 2-inch treats

Ingredients
1/2 pound bacon
1 pound liver (such as calf liver, chicken liver, beef liver, etc.)
1 cup cooked mashed sweet potato puree (substitute carrot, pumpkin, or butternut squash)
1 cup rolled oats (not instant)
1/2 cup coarsely ground cornmeal (preferably organic/gmo-free)
1/2 cup flaxseeds
1/2 cup chicken broth (salt-free or low sodium; you can also use water)
2 large eggs + 1 egg, divided
1/4 cup bbq sauce (use a non-spicy variety)

Directions
Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper or a silpat and set aside. Arrange 2 baking racks in middle of oven.

Cook the bacon on a skillet over medium heat until the fat is rendered and bacon is a bit crisp. Remove from skillet and transfer to food processor. Drain all but a thin layer of fat and add the liver pieces, cooking them in batches about 2 minutes on each side, until cooked completely through (will be stiffer and shrunken a bit). Add the cooked pieces of liver to the food processor and puree into a paste. Add the oats, flaxseeds and cornmeal and puree again into a thick dough.

Transfer to a mixing bowl or stand-up mixer, and add the sweet potatoes, chicken broth, eggs and egg yolk (reserve the 3rd white). Mix well until a thick, sticky dough forms and gathers into a ball. If too wet, add a bit more ground cornmeal until you reach the right consistency.

Sprinkle cornmeal over your work surface and turn out the dough. Using a cornmeal dusted rolling pin, roll out the dough until it's about 1/2" thick. Use 2" round cookie cutters dusted in cornmeal to cut out circles, and transfer them to the prepared cookie sheets (they can be placed close together). Re-roll out any remaining dough and repeat until all dough is used.

*No cookie cutter or just want a quicker way? You can also just cut the dough into 2" squares with a knife or pizza cutter.

Place in oven and bake until dry and crunchy--3 hours for regular oven or 1 1/2 hours for a convection oven. (Check about 20 minutes before end of time to make sure they're not burning.)

Remove from oven and lower heat to 200 degrees.
Whisk together the remaining egg white and the bbq sauce. Brush on the still-warm treats and then return to the oven for another 40 minutes for regular ovens or 20 minutes for convection ovens to allow the glaze to set.

Store completely cooled treats in an air-tight container for up to 6 weeks.






Springtime Prop Shopping

While cleaning my dresser a few weeks ago, I came across an unused Pier 1 giftcard that I'd gotten as a gift last year. I tucked it in my wallet, and when I spotted a Pier 1 Imports located near Hudson's vet's office, I asked Eugene if we could stop there for a bit and do some shopping.

I don't really shop for props as often as I should (or rather, would), because I just don't have the room to store things. In my dream world, I would have a whole room just filled with interesting dishes and glasses and linens to use in food photos and when entertaining.

But this is New York City, and we don't have any rooms to spare.

On this trip, I found some gorgeous linens at 20% off. I bought 4 placemats, three of which are reversible, and will give me more options for backgrounds.
I also found some pretty napkins. I love the green and turquoise striped ones. You can tell, but they also have contrasting piping on the edges, which will be fun.

The cream one with black handwriting is a Thanksgiving napkin, which was on sale for a dollar.

I think these blue bowls will be gorgeous with soup in them--I'm picturing a bright green pea or asparagus soup, or maybe even a perfectly white cream of chicken with a bright green garnish.

I got a lovely rustic looking cream dish and this bright green dessert plate that I think will be perfect for spring recipes.

I also got this heavy woven placemat, because I love the rich stripes of colors. I think that one will work well with Latin dishes like tacos or grilled fish.

I usually stay away from square plates (I don't like how they photograph), but I loved that this one had a round center and dark rims. This will work for Asian-inspired recipes and salads.

I'm totally inspired to get in the kitchen now. Keep an eye out for these plates in upcoming posts!

Note: This post is NOT sponsored by Pier 1. I just love their dishes.

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Love Always Order Dessert? Let's connect! Follow me on Twitter or Pinterest, become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates. And if you ever need any entertaining or cooking advice, please don't hesitate to e-mail me. Thanks for reading! 

 




Wandering Around New Jersey

Little Hudson had to go in for umbilical hernia repair surgery this week. It wasn't serious, but as his vet is about an hour drive away in Morris County, NJ, we had to make a day of it, staying in the area in case of any complications and waiting to hear when he would be discharged.

(BTW, the reason we drive an hour to take him to the vet when there are perfectly good ones nearby is because this vet has a partnership with the rescue agency and so we get discounts. For example, they didn't charge us for the anesthesia for his surgery, which saved us quite a bit.)

So while not terribly convenient, it's kind of nice because each trip to the vet ends up turning into a mini road trip.

After dropping him off on Wednesday, Eugene and I  drove to a nearby diner for a classic NJ breakfast. I ordered my favorite lox & onion omelet with a toasted butter-drenched bagel and a side of Taylor Ham. Eugene got corned beef hash and fried eggs.

He'd never tried Taylor Ham, a New Jersey staple, before and said it reminded him of "Russian baloney that's been left too long in the fridge until it dries out so then you fry it in butter on a skillet."

Whatever.

After breakfast, we checked our phone to find some local attractions.

Photo via Hidden New Jersey
There were, unsurprisingly, not many local attractions except something called the "Stickley Museum," which I first misread as the "Stickey Museum" and we spent an excessively long time laughing hysterically about the kinds of things you'd find in a museum of sticky things (honey, tree sap, the glue used on Post-its, waterproof caulk, etc.).

Unfortunately, the Stickley Museum is only open on weekends, so we decided to head towards the only other area attraction:

The Rockaway Townsquare Mall.

It took us forever to find it; the GPS made us drive around a huge US Army base, and Eugene kept complaining about getting lost in "the sticks." I pointed out that cell phones don't usually work in "the sticks" and that we were actually in what is called as "the suburbs."

We finally made it and actually had some good times at the mall. I stumbled onto a ridiculous H&M sale and bought 8 items for $36. (Everything was 50% already reduced prices, so that floral blouse cost $7. The purple dress was $5.)

I also discovered a very cute shop called Francesca's, where I picked up the above red peplum blouse, a turquoise dress with gold accents, and a funny birthday card for my dad.



We then went to Brookstone and played with the drones . I was trying to figure out how you attach the weapons which can be used to kill American citizens without warrant, but they explained that these weren't the killing kind of drones; just meant for recreational spying on your suburban neighbors and/or freaking out your dog/mall passersby. 

After that, we headed over to the Piercing Pagoda, where I bought a new nose ring. The girl tried to upsell me a warranty package for my $20 nose ring and I was like, "No, thank you," in a way I hope conveyed how ridiculous I thought that idea was.

By our third time around the mall, we were bored, so we headed to a nearby town for lunch. We ended up at a cute little Mexican restaurant in Dover named El Tapatio, and had some pretty delicious tacos.

I went with chorizo and Al Pastor (seasoned pork with pineapple), which reminded me that I really need to get an Al Pastor recipe up here soon. Stay tuned for that!

We still had about 45 minutes to kill, so we headed to the Pier 1 that I remembered spotting next to the vet. I had a $50 gift card that I figured I would use to buy some gorgeous springtime props.

(Such gorgeous things I think they deserve a post of their own!)

We finally got the call that Hudson was ready and headed to the vet to pick him up. He was a little woozy, and promptly fell asleep in my arms where he stayed the whole way home.


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