Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Blue Aprons, White Aprons... Who Cares When It's Delicious!

If you're my Facebook  or real life friend, you know that I'm soon going to be writing a blog for the White Apron, a catering company based on the seacoast. I met the owner through my boss, the owner of Madeleine's Daughter. He was looking for a blogger for his company, so she recommended me! I can hardly believe I'll be blogging about food soon!

In preparation for my new role, I decided to write a quick blog post about another "apron" company, the Blue Apron. My good friend Tim gifted me a week of their service and I'm SO glad I redeemed it immediately!

The concept of the Blue Apron is simple: Membership includes a box of food once per week, but not just any old food. The box includes all the necessary ingredients to prepare three delectable recipes, developed by their chefs. When you sign up, you're able to specify your food preferences and any allergies you may have. Since I like pretty much anything and have no food allergies, signing up was a simple process. My free week included the following meals:

Cod over Linguine
Chicken and Mixed Mushroom Forager
5-Spice Pork Buns

I anticipated the Pork Buns being my favorite meal by a long shot, but while it was my favorite of the three, the other two were extremely close seconds.

Speaking of seconds, I thought it would be a drawback of this service that they will send meals for a minimum of two people. I usually hate leftovers. However, every single meal was such a delight, I actually looked forward to eating it again.

But back to the Blue Apron service- when my box arrived, I had gotten home a little late in the afternoon. I have no idea what time the box arrived, but they assure you on their website that the box can sit outside without the food spoiling. They pack so many ice packs around the food, it would have to be a pretty sweltering day to have an impact. And it's a cute box, too.

Upon opening the box, I discovered the beautiful, full-color, easy to read recipe cards, a short description of each meal and every single ingredient needed to make said recipes. At about $60/week, this service initially struck me as expensive. After opening the box and examining the contents, I officially deem it a great value. There are lots of interesting and unique ingredients that are typically very difficult to find in your average grocery store. The time saved alone is worth the price. But even more important is that they only provide you with enough of each ingredient to make the recipe. Instead of having to purchase a whole bunch of cilantro, they send just enough. To make each recipe would actually be pretty expensive if I was shopping at the grocery store and essentially being forced to purchase a lot more of each ingredient than I would actually need for the recipe, you know?

I think the only thing that they forgot to put in my box was an actual Blue Apron. Seriously, that would have been a very cool touch on their part. As it was, I still wasn't disappointed. Check out the contents of this box:

This is everything- fresh produce, herbs, spices, meat, fish, etc. 

I love how clearly everything is labeled. So awesome. 

The recipes and explanation- I love the beautiful recipe cards. I'll probably hole-punch them and put them in a binder. It will be fun to collect them! They're like extra-large foodie trading cards! 

There was a bag of "knick knacks" for each recipe. The ones pictured above were for the chicken recipe. Basically, the little bits of weirdo ingredients needed to complete the recipe. Again, it's SO convenient that there is only enough for the recipe, so you're not left with all sorts of leftovers of one weirdo ingredient. You're not stuck at the end trying to find ten more uses for the leftover thyme. 

Ok, on to the recipes. First, I made the Cod over Linguine. I fully expected this to be a very blah dish. I don't know why. In terms of preparation, it requires the most basic skills. A monkey could make this dish. 

Does that look delicious or what? I wish you could smell it. The fresh herbs and lemon that you add right at the end were the perfect finish. The dish included red pepper flakes and since I like spicy food, I used a lot. The flavor is very bright with the perfect amount of heat and it's a surprisingly light dish overall. In terms of portions, this could have easily fed three adults, especially if you supplement with a side salad. I could not have been more wrong about this. To describe is as "blah" would be foolish. 

Next, I tackled the Chicken and Mixed Mushroom Forager. This dish appealed to me as comfort food. It's a saucy chicken with a side of garlic bread. A HUGE side of garlic bread. I made it on a cold, rainy day and it was perfect! 

I hope I can adequately describe this meal. The chicken was earthy and so flavorful, but the addition of the lemon thyme added an unexpected brightness to the earthy flavors. It is officially my new favorite herb that I will need to grow in order to have it whenever I want. Seriously, if you have not cooked with lemon thyme, do yourself a favor and make this dish. SOOOOO good! The garlic bread was tasty, but not groundbreaking or even particularly special. But that's ok. Fresh garlic on a crunchy baguette is never a bad thing, even if it is a little pedestrian. Again, portion size was extremely generous and this could have easily stretched to three meals if I had any willpower at all. I do not. 

Finally, the 5-Spice Pork Buns. I fully anticipated these to be my favorite by a long shot. However, after making the first two recipes, I was starting to think they might be a disappointment. After all, three-for-three is pretty impressive and I really didn't expect the Blue Apron to deliver so solidly in my very first week! But deliver they did. 

I forgot to snap photos of the recipe card. My bad. 

These Pork Buns are what make the Blue Apron such a good value. With exotic ingredients like hoisin sauce, fresh thai basil, cilantro, Asian steamed buns, and pork belly, I was excited to try these from the moment I signed up for this service! In the end, these buns did NOT disappoint. The red cabbage salad was just ok, but the pork buns were amazing! 

In the end, I was happy to have experienced three completely different, but completely delicious meals. While none of them was particularly healthy (all three were pretty carb-heavy), I do have to admit that they were all incredible and they definitely exceeded my expectations, which is saying quite a lot. 

If you are interested in the Blue Apron, just visit their website for a little more information! If you like the idea of reading about food in addition to fashion, head on over to Facebook and "like" the White Apron. That's how you'll find out about the blog posts I'll be writing for them! And as always, thanks for reading! 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Stay-cation Shopping

I'm stay-cationing this week. It's like vacationing, but without the travel. I'm off work until Monday, and I'm enjoying myself close to home. I've visited friends and family and had the opportunity to visit places normally off my radar. For example, yesterday I went to the Mall of New Hampshire in Manchester. I very rarely visit that mall as I am very rarely in the area. But, due to stay-cation plans, I ended up in Manch-vegas and decided to stop by the mall. I'm so glad I did because I discovered the best new shop- it's called Charming Charlie and I may or may not be obsessed.

Honestly, what is so great about this store is that just about EVERY adorable accessory I've ever pinned on Pinterest seems to be there! Cute earrings, necklaces, bracelets, watches, handbags, scarves, even iPhone cases! I don't have an iPhone, but if I did, I'd go to Charming Charlie's to buy a case for it!

But even better than all their fabulous, of-the-moment inventory is the fact that it's all organized by color. And I'm not talking just the basic ROYGBIV. I'm talking individual shades of each color organized together! Kelly green, mint green, emerald green, turquoise blue, baby blue, electric blue, ballet pink, coral pink, fucshia- I'm NOT exaggerating.

I don't know about you, but I know this scenario has happened to me: I put together a fabulous outfit, whether new, or using older items in my closet, or maybe a combination of the two, and as I look in the mirror I think, "All this outfit needs is ___________." And usually that "___________" is something specific, like:

- A pair of moss green ballet flats
- A cluster-y bobble bracelet in various shades of brown and beige
- A cross-body bag in a specific size and the perfect shade of apple red

Do you understand? You know exactly what the outfit needs, but finding the perfect accessory can be like finding a needle in a haystack. Even shopping online can be difficult when you're looking for the item that's "just right." You're a real-life Goldilocks for a while. It lasts either until you find the perfect item, or you give up in frustration and either settle for something not-quite-perfect or go without. Sometimes what makes the item hard to find is that it's not trendy at the moment. Other times, it's right on-trend, but so new it's hard to find on the cheap. (I don't mind spending more on an item I know I'll wear a lot and for a long time. I'm less inclined to spend a lot on something super specific that I may not get a lot of use out of.)

Well, I think that Charming Charlie could solve that type of dilemma once and for all. Don't believe me? Check out these photos I snapped of just a handful of their sections of goods:

One of MANY selections of fabulous scarves

Watches! Lots and lots of watches- this was ONE section of a display that represented about 20% of the total watches in the store! 






Mint green!

They even keep gold and silver separated whenever possible and they even have this fabulous section of super trendy ROSE GOLD! 

Here's a "nautical" section. They also had another section up front themed "Garden Party." 

One final selling point for Charming Charlie: Everything is very inexpensive. It's not quite as cheap as Forever 21, but it's also a significantly higher quality store. I bought a ring, a necklace and a bracelet and spent $22. Look at how happy I am: 

So very happy. 

You can see in some of the pictures that's it's not strictly accessories. They have clothes there as well, but I didn't really look at any of them. I was so focused on the amazing accessories, I didn't even bother to look at a single dress. Maybe next time. 

I am not sure if there are other Charming Charlie's in New Hampshire, but they are most definitely a wide-spread chain with stores all over the country. Have any of you been to this fabulous store yet? What do you think? Do you agree with my assessment? Leave a comment and as always, thanks for reading! 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

To Market To Market

I'm writing this from the Amtrak wifi as we zoom on out to New York City for a whirlwind trip to bridal market. Also known as Bridal Fashion Week, we're going to choose the new dresses that we will carry at the shop. By whirlwind, I mean less than 24 hours- we're going to see just a handful of our top designers while we're there. Choosing the right outfit for this type of shopping trip isn't always easy, but I think I nailed it this time. 

We'll be on our feet the entire day, so flats are a must. It's important to look professional, but we also want to be a little comfortable. Also, it's spring, so I want to be a little colorful, too. I happened to snap a quick selfie when I was packing, so here it is: 

Let's break it down: dark wash skinnies, leopard flats, coral lace top, cream/coral seersucker jacket, Tiffany blue crossbody bag, seashell ring and flower earrings. 

This is a little more casual than I would typically dress for this type of trip, but the outfit was too cute to pass up. The leopard print shoes are probably an odd choice, but what you don't know about those shoes is that the inside of them is fuzzy. Like slippers. It's just the start of spring and my feet are so soft and pink right now. They can't handle long hours in spring shoes and sandals just yet. So, those shoes allow for the springtime no-socks look while keeping my tootsies super comfy. I wore a pair of leather ballet flats to work yesterday and my feet were protesting loudly by the end of the day. Summer feet, please come quick!!!

Anyone else feeling the winter-feet-to-summer-feet hurt? It's bittersweet, really. I'm super excited to not have to wear tights every single day, but then the rubbing on my tender feet makes me yearn for fuzzy socks. Like I said, bittersweet. 

If you're my facebook friend, I'll try to post a couple of photos from Market, but I make no promises. When I said whirlwind, I meant it. Less than 24 hours in the city. We're on the train now. We'll start at 9:00 AM tomorrow and work straight through till 6:00ish. Then we'll treat ourselves to a nice dinner and be on the 9:00 PM train back to Boston. Whirlwind! It's a good thing I'm on vacation next week! 

Thanks for reading, friends! 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Think Spring. Desperately Think Spring!

The sun is shining and it's actually starting to feel like spring around here. This was a ROUGH winter and pretty much everyone I know is looking forward to warmer weather. I can't wait until my first beach day! It's amazing how 45 degrees feels so incredible right now. Yesterday was the gloomiest, rainiest day and it was chilly to boot. Today feels like an entirely different season and I can't tell you how excited that makes me!

Before I head out for my morning run, I thought I'd give everyone a little springtime outfit inspiration.

Since we all work for a living, I thought I'd start with a great look for the office. I am currently obsessed with the idea of a monochromatic white outfit paired with the super trendy rose gold:

Cream and Rose Gold

For a punch of color, I added the light coral bag that works perfectly with the rose gold. I would love to wear an outfit like this to a business meeting. It's powerful in its simplicity. And who wouldn't take you seriously if you were dressed like this, am I right?

Next, I felt inspired to put together a fun, light, springtime outfit perfect for a date night out. It's restaurant week in Portsmouth this week and I can totally see myself strutting down the cobblestones on my way to an amazing dinner. My date? Who cares when I look this fabulous and am about to eat something really delicious. It's a minor detail I'll figure out later.

Date Night

And last but certainly not least in my springtime inspiration post is the perfect weekend outfit. Whether you are running errands like grocery shopping or a trip to Home Depot or an afternoon shopping with the girls, or even a quick pedicure, this outfit is perfect. Colorful, comfortable, stylish- what more do you need? (I personally need my summer feet, actually. They are SO not ready for sandals!)


Errands by rtboo featuring flat shoes

So there you have it- some springtime outfit inspiration. I hope this helps you feel like spring is actually arriving. It helped me a little.

Now it's time for me to head out for a quick run. Maybe one of these days I'll post about workout fashion. Or not. I'm not a fan of being sweaty.

Thanks for reading!

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