Dreams + Plans + A Survey – Oh My!

White-Flower

If it’s okay with you, we’re going to start Monday off on a more serious (and longer) note. We’re going to have a chat about dreams and goals. Monday is the beginning of a new week, a fresh start and clean slate. So what better time to chat about the future of this little ol’ blog? Right off the bat, I want to say thank you so much to you for reading my piece of the great big Internet machine and for being a part of this journey with me. Your comments, emails, tweets mean the world to me and always put a big smile on my face. Thank you for being you and totally rocking at it. If you’re in a rush, here’s the link to my blog survey but I hope you’ll come back + finish reading about some ideas for DC Girl.

In 2011, I had time off between my junior year of college ending and a summer internship starting. I spent a month of downtime at home in upstate New York and realized I needed a creative outlet. While I love politics and am a total news junkie, I get a kick from cooking, putting outfits together, and DIYing the heck out of something. DC Girl in Pearls became that outlet and for the last three and a half years, the blog has grown up and evolved with me. It’s kinda mortifying looking back at some posts, think of the feeling you get when you look through your high school yearbook. Yikes!!

In the last year, I really started to buckle down. I read articles about SEO, tweaked my media kit and filled a legal pad with brainstorms of web design, branding and how I want my blog to feel and look in the coming years.

Now you’ve seen the glimpse into the thought process behind the blog, we can chat about my dreams and plans for DC Girl in Pearls.

Revamping The Blog Design

I’ve been brainstorming like ca-razy over here to make DC Girl look more polished and easy to navigate for you! I’m working my way through a coding class and WordPress design but I gave myself a deadline of end of November to have the major pieces of my web design come together. I’m writing this down so you (and I) can hold me accountable!

Constructive criticism + comments on blog design, layout are appreciated.

Stepping Up The Content

In the last few months, I’ve made a big push to plan and schedule my posts at least a couple days out. Planning out the content allows me to focus on the photography, another element I’m working to improve. Food styling is pretty darn intriguing, I gotta say. I also tossed the idea around of adding video into this little blog. What do you think?

Finding A Creative Space

Now, this is my pie-in-the-sky dream. I think it’s attainable but my other moving pieces and the stars and cosmos would all have to align for it to happen. In other words, I’m going to have to put in some serious hustle to “make it work,” to quote the warrior poet Tim Gunn.

So here’s my little secret dream: I want to have a studio just for DC Girl in Pearls. Right now I do my projects in my apartment and my dining table moonlights as a photo background. Having more space to play with backdrops and simply just spread out is very tempting.

But the big reason I want a physical creative space? To host classes! The idea of teaching people my Trader Joe’s hacks, DIYs, cocktails and maybe even subjects like personal branding IN PERSON makes my little heart soar. I’ve got a big cheesy grin on my face right now just thinking about it.

Okay if you’ve stuck through my rambling (Bless you), it’s your turn to take the wheel. I’ve loaded up a quick survey that won’t take more than 5 minutes. I pinky promise you. I want to know what YOU want to see on DC Girl, what do you like, what don’t you like and where you think this blog should go in 2014 and beyond!

Finally….what do you think about this potential new logo?

Proposed Header

Thanks for sticking through this longer post and THANK YOU for taking the time to complete my survey. I want to make DC Girl as entertaining and enjoyable for you as possible and will be using the survey results to do just that!

 

 

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Stuffed Banana Pepper Dip (+ a GIVEAWAY!)

Stuffed Banana Pepper Dip - DC Girl in Pearls

Okay, guys. I hope you’ve had your coffee or morning caffeine already because I’ve packed SO MUCH INFO into this blog post. But let’s not panic, because this info involves: a delicious recipe, all natural chips, a GIVEAWAY and for you DCists, a fun weekend activity. Are you ready?? Are you pumped?? Let’s do this! …I’ve definitely had my caffeine already.

When I go back home to Buffalo, New York, I make two lists: a list of places + people I want to see and then a second life of things I want to eat. My flights back to DC usually involve elastic waistbands.

Stuffed banana peppers are at the top of my list every time. The spicy appetizer is found in pretty much every deli in Western New York and I never imagined a life in which it would not exist. DC, get it together and introduce stuffed banana peppers to the local fare. I guarantee they’ll be a smashing success!

The banana peppers are stuffed with a blend of cheeses, crumbled crackers, banana pepper pieces and cream cheese. I mean, come on. It doesn’t get much better than that!

When Food Should Taste Good asked me to come up with a recipe, I knew I had to turn this favorite app o’ mine into another delicious appetizer. The stuffed banana pepper dip took me about 30 minutes from start to finish and paired with Olive and Multigrain chips, it was a deliciously wonderful way to break up the work week. Warm, cheesy, spicy dip + all natural chips with flavor that just doesn’t quit + wine + girl talk = best Wednesday ever.

Time for some dip foodporn and then we’ll get to the really good stuff: the recipe, weekend activity + a GIVEAWAY perfect for your Sunday football party or casual wine night with the girls. Or guys, that’s cool too. Are you a male reader? Don’t be shy, please say hi!

Stuffed Banana Pepper Dip - DC Girl in PearlsStuffed Banana Pepper Dip - DC Girl in Pearls

Ingredients

3, light cream cheese blocks (Room temperature and no, this isn’t a fire drill)

2, jars of banana pepper rings, drained (Spicy or Mild, dealer’s choice)

1/2 sleeve, crumbled Ritz crackers

1, cup of Parmesan and Provolone cheese (Plus additional for sprinkling on top)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, whisk the room temperature blocks of cream cheese for a few minutes.

Add the banana pepper rings. Note you might want to slice the rings into bite-size pieces.

Add the cheese and crumbled Ritz crackers. Combine ingredients with a spatula.

Scoop mixture into a lightly greased pan. Sprinkle additional cheese on top to your little heart’s content.

Bake in oven at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or until bubbly and cheese on top is golden.

Serve with Food Should Taste Good Olive and Multigrain chips!

As one of my friends exclaimed through a mouthful of dip + chips: “These Olive chips are really effing good!”

Can’t get a better testimonial than that, guys. Well, the empty dip + chip dish at the end of the night also spoke volumes.

And now the fun part where you can win all the trimmings for your own Chip Fest 2014! Would you go for a football smorgasbord or a wine night with the girls? Both? If so, I dig your style.

So what’s in the giveaway package? You’ll win:

  • 9-Piece Square Dipping Set
  • Nostalgia Electric Fondue Pot, including 6 forks
  • Stainless Steel Snack Bowl
  • $100 Visa Gift card
  • A Variety of Food Should Taste Good products

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And now the weekend activity: Food Should Taste Good will be celebrating Adams Morgan Day this weekend on Sunday from 12-7 with a 3-D chalk art from muralist Shawn McCann. You can also sample their Harvest Pumpkin, Sweet Potato and Blue Corn Tortilla Chips. If you’re planning a Friendsgiving or are hosting Thanksgiving this year (you brave soul), it’ll be a great source of inspiration + recipes. Check it out! I know I’ll be swinging by : )

Oh my goodness. We made it through all that info. I think we’ve really grown on this journey together. Hope to see you at Adams Morgan Day!

Stuffed Banana Pepper Dip - DC Girl in Pearls

Stuffed Banana Pepper Dip - DC Girl in Pearls

Cheers to the weekend!

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This post was sponsored by Food Should Taste Good Chips®.  All opinions and product sentiments are my own. 

Food Should Taste Good - DC Girl in Pearls

Thirsty Thursday: Cocktail Emoji

Cocktail Emoji - DC Girl in Pearls

I use Emojis all the time. It’s gotten to the point where I’m just as familiar with a QWERTY keyboard as I am with an Emoji one. The donut, the balloon, the okay sign, zzZZ, fist bump and the smiley face crying laughing are all repeat offenders in my Emoji game. Texting with Emojis should be considered an art form.

I’m so excited for the release of new Emojis to up the ante of my texting game!! But one Emoji has made me smile for awhile now. The fruity cocktail emoji.

It has a permanent home in my “Recently Used” column to say the least. And on more than one occasion, I’ve daydreamed about how the fruity cocktail Emoji would taste. Confession booth time, who has had a thought about how delicious this emoji would taste in real life? [Insert hand raising Emoji here]

So naturally, I had to give it the old college try to recreate it. And d*** is this cocktail good!

If I do say so myself.

Consider yourself warned.

Oh and p.s. I’m being a good blogger [Emoji pat on back] and continuing my Mix + Match addition to this series to show how to add more pineapple into your life. Because I’m pretty positive you were just wondering how you could do just that. What a coinkydink!

Thanks to Target, Forever 21 and others, you can. And on a budget! [High five Emoji]…Okay, I’ll stop now.

Cocktail Emoji - DC Girl in Pearls

Top: Lilly Pulitzer Elsa Top in Oh Cabana Boy (on eBay!) // Shorts: J.Crew Factory 3″ Chino Short // Mani: Essie Peach Daiquiri // Sandals: Jack Rogers

Cocktail Emoji - DC Girl in Pearls

Ingredients (serves 1) 

1 shot, Coconut Rum

1 can, Trader Joe’s Pineapple Juice

1 squeeze, Fresh Lime

1 splash, Grenadine

Directions

In glass, combine 1 part rum with 1 part pineapple juice. Top with fresh lime squeeze. Stir well. Add a splash of grenadine for color. Garnish with a lime wedge (optional) and add a colorful bendy straw (optional but strongly encouraged). Cocktail Emoji - DC Girl in Pearls

Cocktail Emoji - DC Girl in PearlsCocktail Emoji - DC Girl in Pearls

Cocktail Emoji - DC Girl in Pearls

 Photos by Caroline Holman

Mix + Match:

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Black, White + Pink All Over

Pink Blazer To Work - DC Girl in PearlsBlazer: H&M Pink Blazer (H&M Jacket + Pink Boyfriend Ponte Rolled Sleeves Blazer) // Top: J.Crew Jackie Shell // Skirt: Thrifted, similar: ASOS Color Block Midi Skirt in Scuba // Shoes: Ann Klein Opalize Black Heels // Lipstick: Estee Lauder Pure Color in Candy Shimmer

I’m not an all-black ensemble girl in the slightest. Nope nope nope. But when I was searching through my closet for a good outfit post, my mind considered this black midi skirt + black sweater shell. And then my brain practically cried for a pink blazer or another pop of color to break up this Addams Family reunion look (in my mind).

Black-on-black can be very chic and obviously slimming but I crave color when I get dressed. My main motivation to get out of bed in the morning isn’t a warm cup of chai tea but the excitement about adding personality to a 9-5 look. This pink blazer was the motivation I needed to make myself cute at 7 in the morning on a Tuesday. Trust me, it wasn’t pretty folks.

This look might be my thriftiest DC Girl  look yet: I scored the pink blazer from H&M on their Black Friday sale over a year ago for about $15. The black + white midi skirt was discovered at a Goodwill in Arlington and I paid less than $10 for the skirt: it’s in wonderful, like brand new condition and is so unbelievably comfortable. The piece de resistance are the Ann Klein opalize heels, which I snagged at a shoe sale for $12. Not even joking. For less than $100, a wear-to-work outfit that looks colorfully confident and just puts you in a good mood. Feeling ready to conquer the world? I thought so.

The other reason for my big smiles in these photos? Getting honked at by garbagemen + receiving blindingly white smiles from cute guys on an early morning jog. Yes, I do sometimes feel pretty silly shooting these posts but if you can’t laugh at yourself, you’re doing it wrong.

But seriously handsome joggers, call me!

Pink Blazer To Work - DC Girl in Pearls

Pink Blazer To Work - DC Girl in Pearls

Pink Blazer To Work - DC Girl in Pearls

Photos by Caroline Holman

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Everyday with Food Should Taste Good Chips

I’ve heard people are either salty or sweet snackers. While I am never one to turn down dessert, a pint of ice cream can last up to two weeks living in my freezer. A bag of chips and some dip? I give it 4 days, tops. When I need a snack, I need that satisfying crunch to feel full.

I try to make sure my chips habit is as healthy as possible. Moderation is key and I strive to make sure I’m not just mindlessly snacking on the couch working my way through my latest Netflix binge. It can be difficult but it’s important to turn the TV off when eating a meal or snack. If I’m watching The Big Bang Theory, I find I usually eat about twice what I normally would because I simply wasn’t paying attention. And then I have an uncomfortable food baby or even twins. Not a good feeling.

Thankfully, the good folks at Food Should Taste Good created a chip that is all natural and packs a seriously flavorful punch. I paired each chip flavor with a perfect complement dip. Think of them as snack BFFs. Because they are seriously made for each other.

Food Should Taste Good Chips Pairings - DC Girl in Pearls

Food Should Taste Good Chip Pairings - DC Girl in Pearls

For the olive chips, which are a blend of black, kalamata and green olives, I quickly whipped up a Mediterranean mix of sliced cherry tomatoes, feta and chopped basil. To get an extra olive kick, add kalamata olives to the mix. To be honest, olive might be my very flavor from the Food Should Taste Good assortment. But then again, I’m pretty partial to Greek cuisine. So I might be more than heavily biased.

Food Should Taste Good Chip Pairings - DC Girl in Pearls

The sweet potato flavor would do very nicely with a fruit-based salsa but I’m more of a heat gal myself. I want my salsa spicy, not fruity. I paired this chip with Trader Joe’s muy caliente serrano salsa: the sweetness of the chip tempers the zest of the dip very nicely. As a testament to this chip, when at a restaurant if given the choice between regular or sweet potato fries, I’ll choose regular 10 out of 10 times. It’s nowhere close to a Sophie’s Choice. But I actually loved the taste of this sweet potato chip and found myself thinking of ways to include it in more of my dishes. Will wonders ever cease? Apparently not. Consider this skeptical eater converted.

Food Should Taste Good Chip Pairings - DC Girl in Pearls

When I spied the guacamole chip flavor, my natural inclinations were to pair it with guacamole. Then I thought, “No way. That is just too much guacamole. It’d be overpowering.” Then I came to my senses (thank goodness) and realized that there is no such thing as too much guacamole. it’s science, people. No use fighting City Hall on this one. Though for you DC activists out there, I also sampled this chip, which has serrano pepper undertones, with Wisteria Garden’s Serrano + Ginger salsa from Eastern Market. If you can take the heat, you can definitely stay in this flavor kitchen. Woah is all I can say.

But Food Should Taste Good‘s chips are so good I couldn’t let dips have all the fun! My other tasty pairings for these feisty chips for your everyday:

Olive (pictured below) or Sweet Potato chips crushed over a healthy salad instead of croutons to add a new burst of flavor. Au revoir, #saddesklunch! Am I right?

Food Should Taste Good Chip Pairings - DC Girl in Pearls

You should also try Multigrain chips over a lovely autumn tomato bisque or minestrone soup. Really makes you wish the weather would get its sh*t together and act like fall, yes?

Come visit on Friday for a delicious dip recipe pairing the flavors of Food Should Taste Good chips with my hometown of Buffalo, New York! My city invented the chicken wing so I gotta do the Queen City proud, right? Stay tuned to see what I whip up and also, shhhh there’ll be a giveaway : )

But you didn’t hear it from me!

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This post was sponsored by Food Should Taste Good Chips®.  All opinions and product sentiments are my own. 

Food Should Taste Good - DC Girl in Pearls

Monogram Monday: Penny Cross Body Wristlet Purse

Marley Lilly Penny Cross Body Wristlet Purse - DC Girl in Pearls

 

 

Contrary to DC’s ridiculous heatwave this weekend, it’s officially fall. Because Starbucks and our overlord #PSL have declared it to be so. But I cannot emphasize enough how sweltering hot it was yesterday. I went to Eastern Market and after being outside for more than 15 minutes, I was dying and ready to attach myself to my AC for a solid three hours. Which is precisely what I did.

I am ready to break out my puffer vests and layers but DC’s temperate forecast says, “Slow down, girl. Slow down.” So in the meantime, I’m going to focus on fall pieces that won’t cause me to melt like an ice cream cone.

I’ve talked about Marley Lilly’s Cross Body Clutch before (here + here), it’s been a lifesaver on weekends. During the week, I’m a certified bag lady but on the weekends, I just carry the essentials: wallet, keys, lipstick. I feel like a liberated woman, I tell ya.

The Marley Lilly Penny Cross Body Wristlet Purse might just have to be next on my fall wish list. I love the wristlet strap for easy holding while I juggle my Trader Joe’s grocery bags onto the bus or am practically sprinting down the street because I’m late for brunch. Both situations happen more often than I’d like to admit.

P.S. Have you ordered a PSL yet? I can’t bring myself to do it just yet!

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Ratatouille

Ratatouille - DC Girl in Pearls For the long Labor Day weekend, I flew home to Buffalo for the first time in almost 8 months. Thankfully, Wegman’s in Fairfax, VA stocks most WNY goodies like Sahlen’s hot dogs, Weber’s mustard and Bison French Onion dip so I’ve kept my WNY cravings to what I thought was a healthy level. Apparently, my math skills are rustier than I thought and I miscalculated. If I listed what I ate, you’d think I’d turned into an eating machine. And I’d be kind of mortified. But c’est la vie. I came, I saw and I feasted. Except now my clothes are a little snug. So I’m turning to a different kind of comfort food: ratatouille.

When I first started my foray into the world of cooking, roasted vegetables were my bread and butter so to speak. There’s a certain level of comfort in chopping zucchini, tomatoes and other vegetables because it’s mindless. Ratatouille involves dicing the vegetables into bite-size pieces, tossing the veggies in olive oil and letting the skillet do its thing. You don’t really need to think and over-analyze the recipe. It’s a go-with-the-flow meal.

Plus, it’s vegetables, olive oil, a bit of salt + pepper, red pepper flakes and basil. Your waistline will be just as happy as Remy the mouse from Ratatouille when he’s cooking. Which, by the way, I finally watched for the first time this summer and it was just as adorable as I thought it would be.

Ratatouille- DC Girl in Pearls

Ratatouille- DC Girl in Pearls

Ingredients

2 zucchinis, diced

1 small red onion, diced

1/2 lb cherry tomatoes, halved

1 red bell pepper diced

2 garlic cloves, diced

1/2 small eggplant, diced

Salt, pepper + red pepper flakes to taste

Olive oil

Directions

1. In a skillet, heat olive oil over a medium-low heat. Once heated through, add the red onion, red bell pepper and zucchinis to the skillet. Toss to evenly coat with olive oil.

2. In another skillet, heat olive oil over a medium-low heat. Place eggplant in the skillet and add olive oil to prevent sticking. Let the eggplant cook for about 8 minutes.

3. Once the eggplant is cooked, add the eggplant, tomatoes and garlic to the main skillet.

4. Stir and let the skillet simmer over low heat for about 10 minutes. Stir a couple of times.

5. Serve, garnish with basil.

Ratatouille- DC Girl in Pearls

Ratatouille- DC Girl in Pearls

 

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Thirsty Thursday: Mixed Berry Margarita

Mixed Berry Margarita - DC Girl in PearlsSeptember is a tricky month in DC.  I’m ready to get excited about fall: cider, cider donuts, foliage, apple picking, apple pies, layering, cozy cable knit sweaters, gingham and Thanksgiving. But it’s hard to really get into the swing of the season when the temperatures are still in the 90s and high 80s. Layering and cable knit are completely out of the question.

Thankfully, I’ve found a great compromise between autumn and the hot hot heat outside. And like all great ideas, it involves tequila.

Three ingredients to make one delicious drink: Mixed Berry Margarita!

Speaking of great ideas, I’ve added a new twist on Thirsty Thursday. Scroll down to the bottom to ch-ch-check it out!

Mixed Berry Margarita - DC Girl in Pearls

Ingredients 

Trader Joe’s Agave, 1 bottle

Trader Joe’s Frozen Mixed Berries, 1 bag

Sauza Blue Agave, 1 bottle

Juice, 1 lime

Lime, 1 (optional for garnish)

Directions

Let frozen berries slightly thaw. Purée until smooth.

Combine berries with the remaining ingredients into a pitcher and stir well. If desired, rub the rim with lime and dip into salt.

Cheers!

Mixed Berry Margarita - DC Girl in Pearls

Mixed Berry Margarita - DC Girl in Pearls

Mix + Match:


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Trader Joe’s Macaroni ‘n Cheese Hacks

Trader Joe's Macaroni 'n Cheese Hacks - DC Girl in Pearls

Sometimes, a girl just needs a cheesy, gooey comfort meal for one. While watching New Girl on Netflix. Winston belting out the Wicked soundtrack cracks me up every time. Every single time.

There are evenings when I love coming home and putzing around my kitchen to whip up dinner and test out a new recipe. Then there are times when the very idea of cleaning up and doing the dishes sends me frantically digging through the freezer for a microwave meal. We’ve all been there, am I right or am I right?

My boyfriend Trader Joe’s to the rescue! I love their reduced guilt macaroni ‘n cheese on its own but with just one single ingredient this microwave meal takes on a whole new persona. It’s pretty much magical.

Want some crunch? You got it: just crush TJ’s potato chips with South African Seasoning (tastes like BBQ chips). Extra cheesy magical delight? It’s happening with the Spinach + Artichoke Dip. Need some oomp? Jalapeño Chicken Sausage has it covered. If you’re a jalapeño fan like myself, candied jalapeños and Trader Joe’s Jalapeño Yogurt Cheese adds extra cheese and extra spice. Everybody’s happy.

Do you have any mac hacks? Or Trader Joe’s hacks? Please share!


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Fall Riding Boots Under $200

Fall Riding Boots Under $200 - DC Girl in Pearls1. Ralph Lauren: $149 

2. LL Bean: $219 (okay, I kinda cheated a bit)

3. LifeStride: $100

4. Bandolino: $100

5. Corso Como: $120

6. Aerosoles: $120

Today’s high in DC is 96 degrees. I know with DC’s Indian summer, I’ll be extending the wear cycle of my Jacks long into the fall months. But even though I won’t have to switch out my summer closet for my autumn one for probably at least another month, I’m already gearing up for fall style. The top of my wish list? A pair of riding boots.

I snagged my current pair at a GUESS outlet store of all places. I’d been hunting for riding boots that were simple + sleek. It seemed like most of the boots were weighed down with hefty buckles and other busy details. If that’s your thing, rock it. But I like to keep it simple and wanted minimum embellishment on my boots. I found my riding boots on a Thanksgiving sale in 2012 and it was love at first sight. Unfortunately, that same love has caused the stitching around the heel to go. A tailor did a quick mend for me at the end of last winter to survive the rest of the season but I think it might be time to put them out to pasture.

Riding boots are an investment piece but I don’t want to spend more than $200 on a pair. I also don’t want to spend less than $100 because the quality drops off quickly in that price range for riding boots: ideally my new riding boots will also last me at least 2 years’ wear.

Searching the Internet machine, I found these lovely fall riding boots under $200 (there’s one pair just a teensy bit over but I couldn’t resist adding it to the list) with minimal embellishments and sleek lines. I think #4 is my top choice but #5 might be the Comeback Kid of riding boots!

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