If you haven’t already entered my Lucy Belle’s Charms Giveaway, you still have plenty of time! You have until Friday to check out her shop and tell me what you love in it for a chance to win a set of 6 blue beach-themed wine glass charms.
As something special to go along with the giveaway, Jessica has offered the readers of Chocolate & Wine a discount in her Etsy shop. When you’ve made your decision on what to buy and are ready to check out, use the code LOVECHOCO25 for 25% off your purchase!
You guys… I’m excited. No, more than excited. Chocolate & Wine is proudly pairing with Lucy Belle Charms for an awesome giveaway that you should enter as many times as you can!
I recently got an e-mail from a girl named Jessica in Colorado who has an Etsy shop selling something that is right up my alley.
Have you ever been at a party or a wine tasting and you set your glass down for just a second, only to turn back to it and realize you have no clue which glass is yours? Anyone? I know it’s not just me.
Well, it’s definitely happened to me, admittedly more than once. Jessica’s shop, Lucy Belles Charms, offers a variety of handcrafted wine glass charms to give you and your guests a creative and super cute way to tell your glasses apart. She offered me a custom set to give away and of course I jumped at the chance! (By the way, she also makes earrings that everyone should check out….)
As you can see, the charms are beautifully blue-and-beach-themed, which is perfect for this time of year. I don’t know about you, but Jessica and I are ready for some sun, some sand and some sangria. These beach-y charms will be the perfect accent to your wine glasses for the upcoming months… or all year long if you constantly dream of summer like me!
So, here’s how to win:
Visit the Lucy Belle’s Etsy shop and post a comment (in the comment/reply box below) telling me what you love about it or which specific set you would buy for yourself/as a gift. Simple and fun! (Maybe do a little shopping while you’re at it!)
1) Follow @ChocoAndWine and @LucyBelles2013 on Twitter and you get a comment per follow (that’s 2 extra entries for a few clicks on Twitter!) to tell me that you did.
3) Tweet the giveaway and include the hashtag #CWBlogGiveaway. Leave a comment telling me you did.
4) Subscribe to Chocolate & Wine by clicking the “SIGN ME UP” button on the right sidebar (under the “Craving More Chocolate & Wine” category) and leave a comment saying you did.
That’s a total of 6 chances to win so don’t miss out! The Giveaway will end on Friday, March 8th at 11:59 P.M. EST. I will pick a winner using Random.org and announce it here and e-mail the winner. Good luck!
I can’t believe it’s been 12 days since my last post!! I’m currently working on one encompassing everything I’ve been up to since July 6th, but at the moment, I’m slightly preoccupied…
Tomorrow morning, at 3:20am, a bus will take me, Justin, Keesa and Matt to Luton airport. I don’t know about you, but I only know what 3:20am looks like because I’m usually up on Skype or g-chat until 4am… But to actually have to be a functioning human being who is traveling to another country, I should probably take a nap or go to bed super early or something.
We’ll be spending the next 4 days in the beautiful city of Paris. Think of it as a mini vacation in the midst of my program here. We had spent the past 2ish weeks taking a special topics class on the Olympics, took our final this morning (aced it) and I have one package already done that should be posted on boston.com sometime next week. We’ll be going nonstop for the 3 weeks after Paris in full-blown internship mode so after already being here for a little over 3 weeks, a getaway to France is more than perfect.
The last time I visited Paris, I was 9, and as much fun as I’m sure I had there being hauled around by Len & Shirl, I am bouncing-out-of-my-chair excited to get to experience it again in a different way. The four of us are even considering a day trip to Versailles on Saturday.
And the best part? It’ll be my birthday while I’m there… Oh hey, how did you spend your 24th birthday? In Paris… no big deal.
So the next time you see me, I’ll be a little older, probably none the wiser and hopefully full of good French wine. Always gotta have wine..
Greetings from London, England!!!! (Warning: Lengthy post ahead…)
It only took me a total of 15 hours to get here from the time I left my house at 2pm US time last Tuesday afternoon to when I arrived at my aunt’s place in London at 10:30am Wednesday England time (5:30am US time.)
All-in-all, the travel day wasn’t horrible. 6 hours from Boston to Frankfurt on Lufthansa’s business class is an extremely luxurious (cough cough SPOILED) way to travel. My dad works for Lufthansa so it just makes sense and all….
We landed in Germany at 5:30am their time before boarding a much smaller airplane for the 1 and a half hours to London, where the time changed again, back 1 hour.
Now, I’ve traveled abroad a lot in my life and jet lag isn’t something that normally hurts me too much, but this time around, it was BRUTAL. I don’t know if it’s because we left the USA so late in the day or if it was the 3 hours getting from Heathrow to my aunt’s house because of a massive line at the UK border or the amount of luggage we had or the time on the tube but either way, I was dying for sleep by noon.
After taking the fastest hour-long nap of my life, we were back up and off to one of my favorite places in all of London…
I proceeded to practically run around the store, buying things like Harrod’s brand red wine. Don’t judge me.. this is good stuff.
The rest of my week looked a little something like this:
On Thursday, we visited Windsor and saw the castle where the Queen is currently residing. We didn’t actually get to see her, but we did get to see her guards and their stellar hats.
We tried some on just for fun.
Friday….Stonehenge and Bath!
Stonehenge was beautiful, albeit a bit chilly but by the time we got to Bath, the weather changed completely.
We toured the Roman Baths and checked out Bath Abbey. Bath is the setting of one of my favorite books, Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, so it was incredible being there where the story takes place.
That night, my cousins took me and my sister out to experience the London nightlife. Ever met an Irish kid you couldn’t understand because his accent was so thick? Now I can say I have…
One night club in particular looked slightly familiar..
Later that night, I decided it would be smart to stay up until 2:45am thinking that I’d get to sleep in the next day. My dad, however, had other plans, strolling into my room at a casual 7:00am to inform me that I needed to get up RIGHT THAT MINUTE because we were going to miss the 8:21 train to Oxford. Fail sleeping in.
Oxford included a tour of the gorgeous Blenheim Palace and scoping out Oxford University’s campus.
The rose garden of Blenheim was by far my favorite.
By the way, I got a new camera…can you tell? No more iPhone photos for me!
100 British pounds to whoever can name what movie this courtyard was featured in…. Hint: It’s one of my favorites series of all time.
After falling asleep on the train ride home, my family went to dinner at one of my favorite spots in London: Kandoo. This hole-in-the-wall Persian place is BYOB and serves incredible food. Even my mom, the pickiest eater in the entire world, loved it.
Today I finally got to sleep in and didn’t wake up until… noon. With my parents out of the house (they decided to go back to Bath and spend a few more hours there), Melissa and I printed a map, got some tips from our cousin Ali and hit the streets of London for our own pub crawl.
First up, The Beehive..
Then, The Marylebone, which ended up being my favorite stop of the day. I recommend the Passionfruit Bellini.
Third, The Prince Regent, where I had my first-ever glass of Zinfandel. I usually stay away from this type of red because I’m biased towards Merlot, Cab and Malbec, but this one was surprisingly delicious.
Our last stop, the Barley Mow, was cute too.
About three seconds after we left the Barley Mow, we got a call from Ali who told us to come to a bar called The Globe to watch the Italy-Spain “football” game with her, Gabby and bunch of their Embassy friends.
…And then Ali spilled her full beer all over the place and our new friend Derek laughed at her.
All-in-all, a successful pub crawl around London and a great way to end my first week here.
So that’s my trip to London up until this point. Tomorrow I move to BU London at Courtfield Gardens in Kensington and have orientation before starting class on Tuesday! Once I’m settled in, I promise more pictures and maybe a few more posts so they aren’t as long…
I want to know… Have you traveled or studied abroad? What’s your best advice for getting around London and/or Europe? I’m dying to get to Paris and Rome but I’m not sure of the best way to go about it… help!!
Happy Valentine’s Day all!! Welcome to my February edition of Chocolate & Wine’sRestaurant Review.
This month, I wanted to find something completely different than anywhere Stephen and I have been. Plus, being Valentine’s Day, we decided to go out on Friday for a nice, quiet evening instead of fighting the crowds today.
I’ve gotten lots of restaurant recommendations (Thanks! Keep ’em coming!) but this is a place I found via Google. I wanted something in the “hidden gem” category and that’s exactly what I found: The Landing at 7 Central in Manchester-by-the-Sea, MA.
I made a reservation for two at 8pm (ya know.. just in case) and we found it pretty easily. It was elegantly lit and very inviting. The hostess sat us right away, directly across from a cozy fireplace.
Our waitress, who’s name escapes me, was friendly and attentive. She took our drink orders and returned quickly with ice waters, freshly baked rolls that were still hot and the most delicious olive oil I have ever tasted. A few minutes later, my Argentinian Malbec and Stephen’s Sam Adams-something-or-other-beer was in front of us. It was efficient service without the feeling of being too rushed.
The menu itself was ridiculous. There were so many options and everything sounded incredible. Things like “Chicken Jessica” and “Pan Roasted Salmon” jumped out at me but in the end, I settled on what I really wanted but rarely get: Seafood Risotto. Stephen got the Prime Rib special.
My risotto was flawless. It had muscles, tender scallops, perfectly cooked shrimp, mushrooms, spinach, tomatoes, all wrapped in a not-overly-cheesy bed of puffed up rice. I had to stop myself from eating too much of it, knowing that I could devour the whole bowl if given the opportunity. (Not that it made it until the next day anyway due to a midnight snack craving but that’s besides the point..) Stephen’s prime rib was perfectly medium rare, accompanied by a blue cheese butter (amazing) asparagus and thick, garlicky mashed pototoes – comfort food for a chilly night.
Tip: Always ask what the special is!
There was only one thing that threw me about The Landing. The tables were set with white linen tablecloths with a blue overlay, lovely cutlery and a single candle. And then, resting on the dinner roll plate, under said cutlery was… a paper napkin? Wait, come again? A beautiful restaurant with paper napkins? Again, it’s small. Tiny even compared to the wonderful time we had but I think a place like that should reconsider the paper and switch to cloth. Just my two cents.
Overall Rating: 9 out of 10.
Just like January, we had another terrific restaurant experience. Wonderful, friendly service, gourmet food, good prices and the perfect atmosphere for any romantic date night out. Be aware that for young adults and students on a budget, it may be a little pricier for you, but still 100% worth it.
But please Landing friends, lose the paper napkins…
I want to know: Do you have a restaurant you’d like me to review? Been to The Landing and have a difference experience than I did? Let me know!
I want/need/must tell you about an amazing opportunity to make a huge difference. A difference to a first-time marathon runner and an incredible charity. And an opportunity to get some delicious goodies!
Simply visit her website between now and January 28th to bid on the items. All of the proceeds go towards the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and will help her reach her goal. Amanda is a kind, passionate person who wants nothing more than to run 26.2 miles successfully and have an impact on this charity. YOU can help her make it happen.
Questions? Shoot me an e-mail! And please let me know via comment if you bid on anything/win anything, especially if you bid on/bid on my Double Chocolate Oreo Balls!
For every Chocolate & Wine reader who bids on a baked good from Amanda’s bake sale and leaves me a comment here telling me you did, I will donate $1 to Amanda’s charity. For every baked good a Chocolate & Wine reader bids on AND WINS, I will donate $5 to Amanda’s charity. And if a Chocolate & Wine reader wins MY Double Chocolate Oreo Balls, I will donate $15 to Amanda’s charity site!! Either way, this is a win-win-win situation to help people in need!
Rules: (PS – these are based on the honor system. If you say you bid on something, please make sure you do…)
1. Bid on an item on Amanda’s bake sale and leave me a comment telling me you did. Include what you bid on and how much you bid.
2. If you win an item, leave me a comment telling me what you won and how much you paid for it.
3. If you win MY Double Chocolate Oreo Balls, leave me a comment telling me you did and how much you paid for it. Then enjoy them immensely when I send them to you!
I’ll keep a pledge tally and tell you how much I will personally be donating at the end of the bake sale.
2012 promises to be a huge year for me. I have big ideas, big dreams and big goals.
This year will include a lot of milestones. I’ll turn 24, study abroad in London covering the Summer Olympics, create and present a media thesis project, choreograph for DanceWorks Boston and Kinetic Synergy, work my 4th summer with the National Dance Alliance, finish my last 2 semesters of grad school, run a bazillion more races… the list is endless.
Goals-wise, I am all about the resolutions. I love ’em. Not the kinds that say “I’m going to drop such-and-such amount of weight” but the ones that make you feel good when you accomplish them and make you want to work harder if they slip away from you.
– Run 10 5K races. I know this is attainable. I just need to buckle down and register.
– To go along with my 5K race goal, I want to run the 2012 Marblehead Beach to Beach 5K again this year. It was my first ever race and I’d love to keep running it every year.
– Run a sub 27:00 5K. That’s about a 9:00 min/mile. I can do it.
– Run 5 longer races this year, 5-milers, 10Ks and one half marathon. Holy crap, I can’t believe I’m writing that, but there it is, out there for the world to see.
– Choreograph 3 more dance pieces. It took me until 2011 to realize how much I love choreographing and I don’t want to stop!
– Try out and review 1 new restaurant a month. I want to expand my food horizons and experience as much of it as possible… on a budget.
– Work 3 NDA camps. This one might be tough because of London, but I think three is a good compromise since I usually work 9.
– Ace my study abroad. 6 weeks, 1 class, 1 internship, 1 chance. An internship with a huge news networks could lead to a possible job. I want to kick ass during my time in London; it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and could set me apart from a million other applicants in the real world.
– Rock my media thesis. No specifics just yet but it will include a website where I am happy to say I just buy the domain. It will come with a lot of physical and mental changes and challenges. Stay tuned.
– Finish graduate school successfully. Without too many meltdowns would be ideal.
– Save money. This year will be especially difficult since London alone is very expensive, but I have a number in mind and achieving it at least once this year would be great.
– Love others more. Personal goal. Be nicer also ties in here.
Overall, I hope 2012 will be as successful, productive and eye-opening as 2011 as been. Thank you to all of you who read Chocolate & Wine and support me through everything I do.
I raise my glass (of Asti) to you.
Last question of 2011: What are your biggest goals for the new year?
Lots of people ask me what I cook this time of year for Christmas and the various holiday parties I go to. To be honest, the list is endless. I try not to bring the same thing to the same place so it’s always a never-ending search for new recipes to try.
This year, I narrowed it down to a few winners.
For my best friend’s ugly sweater party, I made kale chips. The recipe could not be simpler. Take a bunch of fresh kale and wash thoroughly (they can be gritty so really let ’em soak). Then rip the leaves away from the stems and place on a baking sheet coated with non-stick spray. Top with more cooking spray (instead of oil to save some cals!), a little salt and a little black pepper and pop into a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes. They become crisp and golden and melt in your mouth. A really great snack or appetizer for hungry girls watching their waistlines!
For a Christmas Eve appetizer, I pinterest-ed a recipe (did I mention I’m on Pinterest now? And obsessed with Pinterest? Well, I am.) And I found mini toothpick caprese salads. So easy, so healthy, so beautiful! I’m even going to make a balsamic glaze to drizzle over the top.
Christmas Day is my favorite. Because I come from a large Italian family, we do things in a traditional way. And by tradition, I mean we eat and drink for approximately 6-8 hours and pass out in food comas at the end of the night.
Christmas is a time for family and the Torto family’s ancient recipe for homemade raviolis. These are no joke, my friends. We already made them (in November) and they are sitting in plastic baggies in my aunt’s basement freezer waiting for their bath in from-scratch, simmered-for-hours tomato sauce.
Christmas day is served in multiple courses. Antipasti, then escarole soup, then the ravs with meatballs, sausages and pork, then salad, then dessert. Not to mention the finger foods we munch on before sitting down to the table or the bottles and bottles of Asti Spumonti and 2-Buck-Chuck red wine we go through.
And that’s only with my family. I mentioned that Stephen is Italian too, didn’t I? That’s a whole ‘nother story (and food coma..)
I hope your holiday is filled with family, friends, and great food. And maybe a surprise or two!
It’s officially the middle of November.. when the hell did that happen?
I only have 3 full weeks left in my first semester of grad school. That is an amazing sentence. I could do a cartwheel with that sentence.
The beginning of November included lots of filming, lots of editing, some friend-filled parties, more editing, a trip up the the Tonry Tree Farm in New Hampshire, applying for the London Summer program at BU, dancing, running, and some freaking out. There is always a little bit of freaking out. Here’s the first half of my month picture-style:
My best friends from undergrad and I have pulled Secret Santa names and determined a theme (let’s just say it centers around sports). This is going to be an interesting gift swap! I already bought my gift and it’s AWESOME.
This is RD Sahl. You may know him. He was an anchor on NECN forever. He’s now one of my teachers.
This is what we call a Live Shot. It took a few tries but we got there.
And when my DanceWorks friends get together, well, wine and dancing are always the most populat combination.
And we learn dances sometimes.
And this is Fred.
He’s a great snuggle buddy.
That’s been my month up til now. Running has been more of a priority this month and dance has been the top priority in my workout world. The DanceWorks Boston show is less than a month away (only 2 rehearsals left!) and I’m so excited.
So what’s coming up?
I’ll be driving up to Hampton Falls, NH again this weekend but this time, it’s to film for my final project for my Visual Media class. The Tonry Tree Farm (where we get our tree) has agreed to let me capture their beautiful farm and their history on camera. I think it’s going to be the perfect Christmas ending to my semester.
Family dinner to follow that night… my parents, Stephen’s parents. They’re best friends, it’s all very cute. I’ll be going to bed on the early side because I have my fourth 5K race, the Lynnfield Turkey Trot, on Sunday morning. I’m gunning for that PR and my goal is to run it around 32:00 but anything under 32:30 works for me!
Next week is a 3 day week school/work week! 2 days of class + 1 day of work + 1 amazing holiday + Black Friday = Happy Marie.
Next Thursday is obviously Thanksgiving and I will be creating some healthier versions of my favorite holiday foods. Example: Hungry Girl’s stuffing with apples and cranberries. I’ll also be sticking to lots of veggies and some white meat turkey. And probably a small slice of Boyfriend’s apple pie because it’s just that good.
Black Friday is not a typical shopping day for my family. I don’t enjoy the 5am rush to the mall. I don’t enjoy being pushed and shoved for “on sale” items that are still over-priced. I do enjoy listening to Christmas music and driving an hour to New Hampshire. We spend the day shopping for something very special: our Christmas Tree! Together, Stephen’s family and my family go up to the Tonry Tree Farm, find our (very large) trees, make Stephen cut them down, strap them to the hoods of our cars, make a pitstop at Market Basket for some tax-free beverages and then head home to put the trees up and decorate all. night. long.
Well, I’m certainly not going to do that…
Next Saturday means homemade raviolis and my 5-year high school reunion. Strange. 5 years.. seriously? I’m kind of excited though. I get to see people I haven’t seen in a really long time and I think it’ll be fun. And Sunday is my friend Sandy’s 24th birthday which we will be celebrating the following Tuesday night. The rest of the month leaves a couple of paper deadlines, lots of filming and editing and getting ready for the end of the semester/my dance show/Christmas!!
I wanna know… what are you looking forward to most this month? What is your favorite thing to eat on Thanksgiving? Is it too early for you to listen to Christmas music? (I don’t think it is….)
Like I said in my last life update, Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. I got my first real kiss on Halloween (I was 15), I’ve dressed up as everything from a cowgirl to a pirate, the pink Power Ranger to a Hocus Pocus witch (Mary Sanderson complete with a floor length black and red cape), and living in the town next to Salem, Massachusetts definitely has its perks in October. Besides Christmas, Halloween is the best day of the year.
On Friday night, a few of my BU friends ventured to Lynn to the first time to eat, drink and carve pumpkins.
Yes, it is okay to be a full time graduate student, drink yummy beverages and cut faces in pumpkins.
I made nachos with homemade guacamole, pizza and Hungry Girl pumpkin cupcakes with my own buttercream and a candy corn garnish. It was the casual, college kid version of a Torto dinner party.
Saturday brought one of the laziest days I have had in while. I relaxed most of the day with a brand new 21-year-old and watched Halloween movies (Double Double Toil & Trouble is one of the ultimate classics.)
On Saturday night, DanceWorks Boston hosted a huge Halloween party at Au Tua Nua in Boston. My good friend and fellow DWB-er, Devlyn, and I headed to our friend Dana’s to have some wine and get ready for the party. For my cat costume, I wore a black, high collared lace-covered dress, black heels, white lace hand gloves, a jingle heart necklace (in place of a bell), cat ears and of course, my bright yellow contacts. I coated my eyes with liquid eyeliner and smoky black make-up. It was pretty cool. Almost everyone noticed, most people freaked a little. Loved it.
I kept my beverage intake to a minimum knowing I would have to wake up somewhat early and do my best on my third 5K: the Witch City 5K in Salem (race report on another day!)
Sunday morning’s alarm came WAY too quickly. And as usual, I woke up to the alarm and said “WHY DID I SIGN UP FOR THIS RACE?” I told you I’m not super positive in the morning. I got up, got dressed, stretched, had my pre-race toast with peanut butter, slugged some water and woke up BF who picked me up from the party on Saturday night and crashed on the couch at my house.
The race, overall, went just okay. Running with a friend is definitely better but my stomach was not feeling it. It was also the coldest race I’ve done to date. But the scenery was lovely and I finished it. A little slower than normal, but ya “win” some, ya lose some.
Sunday also brought about some fun research. Enough said for now.
On the baking front, I made pumpkin snickerdoodles yesterday. I brought them to work today and everyone loves them. They taste like pumpkin pie filling and I could’ve eaten all of the batter myself. And I think if I neglect to post the recipe, I’ll be beaten with something. Enjoy!
Adapted from pagespak.com
1/2 cup softened Brummel ‘n Brown margarine spread
3/4 cup Splenda/Brown Sugar mix (trust me on this one..)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup canned pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground giner
1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray 2 baking sheets liberally with nonstick spray.
2) In the bowl of a stand mixer (this can also be done with a hand mixer), cream together margarine and brown sugar until smooth. Beat in egg and vanilla and then the pumpkin.
3) In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, ginger and pumpkin pie spice.
4) In batches, add the dry ingredients to the wet until fully incorporated.
5) Drop tablespoons of batter onto prepared baking sheets. Bake 18 minutes until set, slightly puffed but not browned.