Quiet Mornings

I secretly love gray, rainy mornings. A darkened, drippy day automatically slows me down and I ease my way through my morning routine. I sit a little longer in my cozy living room, my sweet dog at my feet, and quietly enjoy my coffee. I curl up and indulge in starting a new book or reading the paper before I address any of my work obligations for the day. I let new messages sit unanswered in my email inbox. I send all phone calls straight to voicemail. I give myself the freedom to be quiet and still and soothed by the sound of rain pinging against the windows.

I am looking forward to the sunny forecast this weekend, though. Rainy days mean my garden has exploded with weeds, and the late start to spring has set back our patio-building plans. I am excited to have a nice weekend at home to knock out some of these outdoor tasks and really take advantage of our outdoor space. The fall was all about setting up the new house. We didn’t get much of a chance to enjoy our yard before winter hit and you had to drag me out of the house kicking and screaming. Now that the house is comfy, organized and basically finished for the time being (minus a few pictures that we still need to hang), ’tis the season for outdoor projects. I look forward to sharing our progress soon.

Have a great weekend!


No Muss No Fuss: Salsa Chicken

Salsa Chicken is my absolute favorite crockpot recipe. It makes a ton of food that you can save and reheat easily. We have served it a variety of ways: over rice, in a taco salad, in tortillas with all the usual taco fixings. You could add it to some chili. It’s easy, it’s versatile, it’s delicious. And it doesn’t require a ton of ingredients so it’s pretty easy to make in a pinch.

What You’ll Need:

  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
  • 1 1/2 cups of salsa of your choice. (A chunky salsa works better)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • pinch of red chile powder
  • 3 tbsp fresh lime juice.

What You’ll Do:

  • Coat slow cooker with nonstick spray and arrange chicken breast halves in it.
  • Pour salsa over chicken.
  • Cover and cook on HIGH about 3-3 1/2 hours, until chicken is tender and cooked through. (The salsa will thin out a bit as the chicken cooks and makes it’s own juices.)
  • Stir in the cumin, chile powder and lime juice.
  • Cover and cook another 15 minutes before serving.





Previously: Whole Poached Chicken; Simple Sesame Noodles

No Muss No Fuss: Simple Sesame Noodles

I’m beginning to think that my favorite food is Peanut Noodles. I love them. I could probably eat them every day. Cold, warm, room temperature. I’ll eat them as leftovers for breakfast, scarf them down before I have my coffee. They are perfect for lunch, or as a quick snack between appointments on a busy afternoon. We often make them for dinner, in large batches and try our best not to eat them all in one sitting so that we can continue to enjoy them throughout the week. Peanut noodles are the best. The only problem is that they require a few too many ingredients–as least the recipe I use and love–and I often find that we are missing an ingredient or two, and far too often the ingredient we’re missing is the one we need most: peanut butter.

These Simple Sesame Noodles from Pioneer Woman are my backup whenever I’m craving some asian-style noodles but don’t have everything I need to pull together my peanut recipe. They are so quick and so simple and really, really tasty. And like my favorite peanut noodles, you can make them in really large batches and eat them throughout the week. They keep really well, store easily and if you’re feeling adventurous, you can add some chopped veggies, tofu or chicken for something a little more substantial.

Whether you’re super busy with kids, super busy with work, or just super busy feeling too lazy for anything complicated, I highly recommend adding these noodles to your regular rotation.


No Muss No Fuss

By my best estimate, it would appear that a solid 80% of the women I hold dear either currently or will very soon find their lives taken over by teeny tiny humans. Babies, I think they call them. It is my understanding that newborns fill your life with joy and wonder, while simultaneously sapping all your energy and free time. I do not have children, but I have heard many stories of how hard it can be to find time to shower during those first few months, much less find time to make dinner each night. So in honor of all my sweet friends who find themselves sleep deprived and strapped for time, I will be taking the next few weeks to share some of my favorite fast, no fuss meal ideas.

I’ll start by sharing my favorite crockpot secret, which is that you can cook an entire chicken in one of these things. It is so simple! D and I have done this a few times and it gives you a lot of food for two adults. All you need is a crockpot and a whole, thawed chicken. We gotten ours at Trader Joe’s in the past and they are affordable and perfectly sized for a medium to large crockpot.

All you have to do is wash and dry the chicken. Remove giblets, etc if they are still included and cut off any lumps of fat. Season the inside and outside of the chicken with salt and pepper and then place it in the slow cooker, breast side up. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 7 hours until a meat thermometer inserted into the thigh reads 180. That’s it! The chicken will make it’s own liquid so you don’t need to add anything to the crockpot except the chicken.

When it is done cooking, the meat is so tender that it just falls away from the bone, making it easier to transfer from the crockpot to a plate. Pull all the meat off and store it in your fridge. Add strips to salad, dress some with a little plain greek yogurt and curry powder for an easy chicken salad sandwich, heat some up in the oven with a little rice and some steamed broccoli for an easy, healthy dinner. Like I said, it makes a ton of food for two people and is a great way to make sure you’ll have a lot of protein on hand that is easy to add to other things to complete a quick meal.

My recommendation is to get it all set up before you go to bed, leave the chicken uncooked in the crockpot in the fridge overnight, and then all you have to do the next day is plug it in and set it to low with enough time for it to be done in time for dinner.

Easy, peasy!


Snow Days

I have a very strange relationship with snow. I feel that I should like it more than I do. I don’t remember seeing snow, real snow, until I was 12 years old. I am sure that I played in the snow as a small child. My family lived in New York and Illinois until the time I was 5 and it is impossible that it never snowed once in that time, in those locations. But my earliest weather memories are so fully tied to tornadoes, to the wail of the siren and sitting down in the basement for what felt like hours but surely couldn’t have been, while my mom went up and down the stairs to get more toys, grab food, check on the darkening sky. The excitement, terror and confusion of riding out a tornado simply eclipses all other weather memories, and thus there was no room in my developing brain to store away the feeling of my very first snowfall.

I was 5 when we moved to south Texas and apart from a few small flurries that would shut down the entire town, cancel school and once actually made a friend of mine suggest that we try sledding down what would best be described as a rain-soaked, mud hill, there was never much in the way of what anyone who has ever dealt with snow would refer to as snow.

When I was 12, we moved to Michigan and I finally got what I had been waiting to see my whole life. Snow. Real snow. The first winter was mild and we only got a few inches here and there, and we thought, ha, this is great! Michigan winters aren’t as bad as everyone says! The next year, we had mounds of plowed snow at the bottom of our driveway that towered over my head, and it was probably the end of June before you could pull into the parking lot of a strip mall and not spot a pile of snow off in some far corner.

It was fun at first. It stayed fun when it was Thanksgiving or Christmas and outside was a beautiful blanket of freshly fallen, undisturbed snow. It was less fun when it was the middle of April and I’d wake up on the morning of my birthday to see flakes drifting down past my window. It was fun when they canceled school for the day in high school, which was rare, but glorious when it happened. It was less fun when they never, not once, no matter how many inches we got and however many more were on their way, canceled school in college and I always ended up with the one professor who lived in walking distance to campus and expected us all to be there for morning lecture. A 9AM class on a freezing cold February morning after months of gray days and months more to come, where you have to trudge through snow that comes up to your hips in some places and completely soaks through your pants so that you spend the rest of the day wet and shivering and as miserable as the cold, cruel, dirt-spattered snow world that surrounds you? That’s not so much fun.

Our third winter after moving to Baltimore was the now somewhat infamous Snowmageddon storm. The city was basically shut down for over a week. D couldn’t make it into work because the plows didn’t make it through our neighborhood until about 5 days after the snow stopped falling. It felt like the entire city had been frozen in place and while it was fun for a day or two, after a week or more of being trapped, you really just want to get on with your life. I imagine it’s how most people in the Northeast have been feeling. Snow is fun if you’ve gone 12 years without seeing it fall, less so if you’ve barely gone 12 hours.

Today was a snow day for most of Baltimore. I can tell through Facebook and Instagram that my friends are very excited by the first real snowfall we’ve had this winter. But I find that it is always the anticipation of snow, rather than the reality of it that excites me most. Perhaps it’s because I control my own schedule, so I can take a day off anytime I really need, and don’t have to rely on the weather to gift me a much-needed reprieve from work. I think, though, it’s more about having grown up with the desire for snow that would never come, immediately followed by the experience of a winter that never seemed to end.

Last night when the snow started falling, I thought, “oh yay. This is lovely.” After shoveling the road this morning (the city is not responsible for plowing the streets in our new neighborhood), and spending too much time crouched into a squat while I pick small chunks of ice and muddy snow out of the hair that lines my dog’s belly, I would say I’ve had my fill. This snow is welcome to melt now. No more is welcome to fall. I’d be fine if winter ended tomorrow and spring began to poke its way through the thawing ground. We all got our snow day (some of us, more snow days than we bargained for). Can we agree it’s time to move on?

Come on crocuses. I will be on the lookout for you.


One Pot Pasta Dinner

It’s a new year, and I’m still trying to adjust.

I don’t tend to make resolutions because I find that January, right in the thick of winter with still so far to go until spring, is the absolute worse time of year to resolve to do anything. You start out so optimistic and enthusiastic that this year, things will be different, but then the polar vortex suddenly reappears and you endure a string of cold, gray, miserable days, and the toes of all your shoes and cuffs of all your pants get covered in salt and you just throw your hands up in the air and say screw it, who cares if this year is just as crappy as the last one?

What I mean to say is that winter beats the resolve right out of me, and I prefer not to fail at things before I’ve been given a proper chance to succeed. Instead, I like to pick one goal for the year. An attainable, measurable thing that I can do, not a lifestyle or personality change that must be both reached and then maintained. One thing, and I have all year to accomplish it. Something that takes some work, but is manageable. Last year, it was to run a full marathon. I did that in December; it was hard, but rewarding. This year, I want to have a piece of writing published. Essay, article, story, poem. Any piece of writing in any publication that is not a personal blog. That’s it. I can do that.

My only other intention for the year is to simply slow down a bit. Last year came and went in such a flash that I still can’t fully wrap my head around the fact that it is over and I’m already 13 days into a new year. I worked a lot, too much and too hard. I beat myself up physically, from both work and marathon training. We bought a house. We tried (and failed) to sell a house. We moved, and moving is the worst. I slept terribly. I worried constantly. I stressed myself out way too often.

This year, I’m giving myself permission to just sit back and relax a little more often. I’m taking an hour each morning to sit on the couch with a cup of coffee and a book and delay responding to emails or answering phone calls. Nearly everything in life can wait an hour. I’m trying to do things more when I want to, because I want to, and less out of an obligation to myself, to an imagined other, to some confused sense of timeliness. On my days off, I am no longer looking back at my day and admonishing myself for doing nothing. I read. I cleaned up the house. I took the dog for a long walk. These are somethings. These are not nothings. I will not judge myself for how I choose to spend my time. It is my time. I can do whatever I want with it, and this year I will.

Aiding in my effort to take more time to relax and restore, is the One Pot cookbook my mother-in-law gave me as a holiday gift. Though we upgraded in overall space and comfort with the move to a new house last fall, we downgraded in terms of kitchen modernity, and find ourselves living without a dishwasher for the first time since college. Washing dishes is a pain in the butt and a huge time suck, so cutting out any extra pots, pans, bowls and other items from the nightly dish load is definitely a big positive for me. So far, I found most of the recipes we have made from this cookbook to be simple, relatively quick, and really quite delicious. The following Linguine with Tomato and Basil may be my favorite for both how incredibly easy it is to make and how wonderful it tastes.

Linguine With Tomato and Basil

What You’ll Need:

  • 12 ounces linguine
  • 12 ounces cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 online, thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (it was pretty spicy, would recommend only 1/4 tsp)
  • 2 sprigs basil, plus torn leaves for garnish
  • 2 tbsp EVOO, plus more for serving
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 1/2 cups of water
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for serving

What You’ll Do:

  • In a large sauté pam, combine pasta, tomatoes, onion, garlic, red pepper flakes, basil, oil, 2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper and the water.
  • Bring to boil over high heat.
  • Cook, stirring frequently with tongs until pasta is al dente and water has nearly evaporated, about 9 minutes.
  • Season with salt and pepper and garnish with torn basil
  • Serve with oil and cheese if desired.

photo (2)

My Newest Jewelry Designs

View More: http://urbanrowphoto.pass.us/cmarietdesigns


Just in time for holiday shopping, the jewelry designs that I’ve been working on all season are finally completed and ready for purchase in my Etsy shop!

I am so excited to share these designs in part because I am really proud of them.




I love the color combinations and the balance of wire work and beading that I created.

View More: http://urbanrowphoto.pass.us/cmarietdesigns View More: http://urbanrowphoto.pass.us/cmarietdesigns


But mostly I’m excited to share them because I am so ridiculously pumped about how incredible these photos look!

I don’t tend to think of myself as an especially successful person in any traditional sense, but one of my greatest accomplishments in life has been to surround myself with so many smart, talented and inspiring women. Among this group is my dear friend, Naomi, an amazing photographer who took all of these wonderful photographs for me. I basically handed her all of the jewelry and told her to do whatever she thought would look good and, as always, Naomi did not disappoint.

If you live in the Baltimore/DC area and are ever looking for a great photographer who is an absolute joy to work with, seriously, look no further than Naomi at Urban Row Photography. She’s amazing and delightful and she’ll make you look great in pictures even if you’re like me and you don’t know how to smile naturally or rarely manage to keep your eyes open.

To check out the rest of the photos, and purchase my newest designs, please visit my Etsy shop. You can take $5 off your purchase by entering the coupon code MARKET at checkout.

Happy holiday shopping everyone!