Slow + Simple :: The colors of the sun


How often do you take note of the "small stuff?" We are so busy rushing through our lives, trying to get to point B from point A, trying to make it to this meeting and that meeting... chasing the kids, pulling the kids, driving the kids, entertaining the kids, working, meeting deadlines, and trying to get done all that needs to get done by day's end that often we're speeding by with such speed and haste that we don't have a moment to look at the simple beauty around us.

I hate to run. I am not a runner. Sometimes I force myself  to run sprints when I'm out for my long morning walks. I feel as though I should - that somehow it's better for me. But I don't enjoy it and I'm so focused on getting to where I need to get that I don't pay attention to much else.

I live in a wonderful, beautiful, peaceful and tranquil part of the country. I am in a small, almost sleepy, coastal Connecticut town just outside of New York City. You might think that such a place doesn't exist. But it does and it's what drew me to this particular area. When I am able - when I have the time and when the weather cooperates - I get out of the gym and onto the street. I have a coastal route that takes me by the harbor and the beach. I can go all 7 miles, or if I haven't the time I can shorten it to 5 or even 2 miles. No matter how many times I travel these paths I notice something different. A new house, a new flower, a small ladybug grazing upon a large delicious leaf...

Last week as we were driving home from Newport along the terribly unromantic I-95, cluttered with many too many trucks, billboards, telephone poles, and the concrete malls and buildings that make up for most of the scenery, I noticed the most magnificent orange sun setting in the distance. I had to pay attention to the road and as much as I wanted to, I could not focus on the sun. My 13 year old son took my camera that was already fitted with my zoom lens and started clicking away.

The next day I came across his images while I was downloading them onto my laptop. I cropped them ever so slightly to remove a building, some telephone poles and wires and saw the incredible detail, bright and fiery colors and incredible textures. I couldn't possibly slow down, I couldn't possibly stop and focus on the incredible sight myself but I had the photograph. The photograph that reminded me just how important it is for us all to slow down and take notice - It's something I make a point of doing regularly. I hope you do too.


Slow + Simple :: How to make delicious homemade bread without a breadmaker




For years I've wanted to make homemade bread - not a quick bread and not a bread-machine bread, but a good old fashioned loaf that's made of simple, basic ingredients - flour, yeast, water, salt... A loaf that has substance and crunch and chew. My problem was two-fold: I was afraid and I am surrounded by some incredible boulangeries, some of the best around.

But in my own mission to try all those things I have wanted to try, take chances and conquer my fears, I decided I ought to try my hand at bread baking. I searched around for a recipe that seemed easy and fairly straightforward. The Kitchn seemed to have just the recipe was just what I was looking for. And so with the aid of my 15 year old daughter, we set out on an adventure!

We did what we were told... and then we botched it up and forgot a step... We continued on nonetheless...Our dough seemed a little sticky and I knew enough to slowly add flour to my mixture. Eventually it seemed perfectly pliable and less like glue... We tossed it into a bowl, covered it up and set it aside. I was amazed and thrilled when, a couple of hours later, I saw how much it had risen. I continued along, and decided that instead of a large loaf we would make large dinner rolls... We placed the roundish balls into the oven for about a half an hour... What emerged were little round bits of perfection... crusty, chew, airy, perfect!

We let the bread cool but too impatient to wait until dinner, we brought out our home-made butter and had a perfectly slow + simple home made snack.

Here is the recipe via The Kitchn - I've incorporated my own notes.

What You Need:

Water - 3 cups total
Yeast - 1 teaspoon total
Flour - 6-7 cups total
Salt - 1 Tablespoon

Equipment:
Large Mixing Bowl - We mixed the dough in our KitchenAid mixer, with paddle for bread on slow.
Spoon
Baking Pans (optional) - We used 2 parchment lined cookie sheets
Baking Stone (optional)

Instructions:

1. Make a Poolish (Optional) - In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup of water, 1/2 teaspoon of yeast, and 3/4 cups of all-purpose flour. Mix it for a few minutes, until it forms an elastic and smooth batter. Cover and let this sit for 2-10 hours. It will look like the picture above when it's ready. - We did NOT make the poolish.
Skip this step if you don't have time, but it's an easy way to add flavor and good texture to your bread. It's also a little insurance to make sure the dough rises! If you skip it, just add the ingredients into the main dough.

2. Measure the Water - Measure 2 1/2 cups (or 20 ounces) of water into a large bowl.

3. Measure the Yeast - Add a half teaspoon of yeast to the water.

4. Let the yeast sit in the water until it has dissolved. Don't be concerned if you don't see any bubbles at this point.

5. Add the Poolish - If you made a poolish, add it into the bowl now. - We skipped this step.

6. Stir the water, yeast, and poolish together until the poolish is dissolved into the water. You might see some bubbles and foam, but don't be concerned if you don't. - We did see the bubbles
7. Add the Flour Add 1 cup of flour.

8. Stir until a thick batter is formed.

9. Stir in 1 tablespoon of kosher salt. Salt can inhibit the growth of the yeast, so it's good to add a cup of flour first to give the yeast a little protection and then add the salt. We used sea salt

10. Add 4 more cups of flour and stir until the dough is too stiff to stir anymore. It's ok if there's still some loose flour left in the bowl that hasn't been incorporated into the batter.

11. At this point the dough will look shaggy and be very sticky.

12. Knead the Dough Sprinkle a little flour on your work surface and scrape your dough on top. Begin kneading, adding up to another cup of flour if the dough is very sticky. - We had to add more flour, small bits at a time until the consistency was right.

13. The dough is finished kneading and ready to rise when it springs back when you poke it, if it holds its shape in your hands, or if you can form a "window pane" without it breaking (as in the picture above)

14. Put it in a large oiled bowl and let the dough rise until doubled in size, 1-2 hours. We forgot to add oil to the bowl!

15. Shape the Loaves - Sprinkle a little flour on your work surface and turn the risen dough out on top. Divide the dough into two pieces and shape the dough into round loaves or sandwich loaves as desired. Let these loaves rise until they've nearly doubled in size, about 1 hour. We forgot this step and placed our dough right into the oven!!
16. Bake the Loaves - Preheat the oven to 450°. Quickly cut a few slashes 1/2-inch deep into the tops of the loaves with a serrated knife and place them in the oven. Round loaves should be baked on a baking stone while sandwich loaves in baking tins can be baked right on the oven rack.

17. Bake for 30-40 minutes until the loaves have developed some color on the crust, sound hollow when tapped on the bottom, and the inside registers 190° on an instant-read thermometer. Let the loaves cool before slicing into them. We baked our smaller rolls for about 20 minutes and even without letting the dough rise before placing it in the oven, the bread came out perfectly!


How to live graciously when there's a snow day :: Slow + Simple living


Winter is exhausting.
While the days are shorter, they're really just longer, never-ending darker extensions of themselves.
Snow is beautiful.
Snow is exhausting and relentless.

But I will take the snow over the sub-zero temperatures and ugly grey landscape any day. I don't much love winter... I don't much care for it to be honest, but I do find the snow to be beautiful. I am a visual person and so give me something pretty to look at and perhaps photograph and I am happy.

But snow is inconvenient. It creates havoc with our lives, messing with our schedules, trapping us indoors, forcing us to put a halt to meetings and plans that we may have. A couple of years ago I would have complained about this. I did complain about this. But I don't any longer. Maybe it's because my oldest is leaving the nest in 3 short years.

Now of course these are my views as a working parent whose life is greatly impacted by the weather.
There's not much we can do about the weather, is there?

We can do the best we can.
We can reschedule meetings and try to work from home.
We can try to replace meetings with conference calls.
We can take advantage of emails and our laptops.
We can enjoy our children and our time with them.
We can send them out to play.
We can have the older ones help with the shoveling.
We can gather 'round the fire.
We can read in bed and encourage the kids to as well.
We can spend some time together interacting and playing board games.
And we can demand some peace and quiet for work.
We can make it work.
Do we have a choice?
We can slow down.
What's wrong with slowing down?
When did slowing down become a bad thing?
When did living graciously become a bad thing?
Maybe it's time that we all learn how to live simply.
Maybe it's time we all learn how to live graciously...
Like our parents did when we were children.

I can't do anything about the weather but make the most of it and I intend to do just that...
after I toss a log onto the fire!





Cheers to slowing down living simply and graciously!

Jessica

all images via Tumblr

Stylish notes on Fashion :: Black is the perfect Slow + Simple color


Black happens to be one of my favorite colors. I simply adore it. It's casual yet sophisticated. It's elegant yet relaxed. It goes with everything and stands boldly on its own. It works well with others and works well alone too. Black is mysterious. It's easy. It's simple. Very little thought needs to go into a black outfit or a simple black dress. It bridges morning to evening and everything in between. It's effortless without looking as though it is. Take a simple black dress or a simple black pair of pants and black top. Simple, clean, easy. Slip on a pair of flats in the morning and trade them for a pretty pair of slingbacks or elegant boots and chunky pearl necklace for dramatic nighttime attire. One's wardrobe can never have too much black!Yes, you can quote me on that! Black is the perfect Slow + Simple color for your wardrobe.










Now, as I get ready to head out I must decide between a black sweater dress and black boots or black velvet jeans with a black sweater and fab necklace... decisions, decisions, decisions!

10 Slow + Simple ways to stay warm during a Polar Vortex



Gosh it's cold out! I'm really ready for summer... but sadly, that's far off on the horizon... I'd love a trip to some place warm, balmy, tropical... and well, that ain't happening either! Meantime I will think warm thoughts and do whatever it takes to keep warm!

1. Cover up!
Don the flannel.
Don the cashmere.
Don the fur.
And by all means layer them all if you must!

2. Stay inside + take cover!
Call it a snow day. Call it a mental health day. Call it hookey. Tell your boss it's ok, I said so!



3. Wrap yourself up.

Grab all your blankets, fur throws and duvets and wrap yourself up. 

4. Light a fire.
Bring your wrapped up self and some pillows and sit in front of the roasty toasty fire. Slowly you'll be able to peel some of the layers away. Bring a book or a magazine or just gaze into the mesmerizing fire.

5. Take a long hot bath.
When I'm chilled to the bone. When nothing else works to keep me warm, I take a long hot bath. For some reason baths work better than showers. Add some of your favorite bath salts or bath gels. Don't forget to moisturize well when you're done. Bring a book. The bath happens to be my most favorite reading nook! The hot water and the heat can be terribly drying.

image via Washington Post
Boeuf Bourguignon via Anthony Bourdain
6. Bake or cook. 
Keep the stove and the oven on. Dishes like chili, mac and cheese, stews, and soups will also warm you to the core. Did you know that the body burns more calories when it's cold out? Go ahead, bake a batch of Tollhouse cookies!

7. Keep a large pot of boiling water on your stove.
The steam will permeate the air adding much needed moisture to your home. Did you know that moisture traps heat? This may explain why the desert doesn't feel as hot as New York City when it's summertime! Add a few drops of vanilla, orange or lemon flavoring from your pantry to add a subtle and clean fragrance to your home.


8. Keep drinking.
Warm fluids will keep you warm. Drink lots of tea and if you drink cocoa or coffee you can enjoy a cup or two as well but watch the sugar and caffeine levels. You may even want to enjoy a nice glass or two of mulled wine at the end of the day!

9. Keep your thermostat set to one temperature.
It's been said that on extremely cold days that it's wiser to keep your thermostat set to one temperature as opposed to lowering it at night and bringing it up during the day. When the temperatures skydive our furnaces have to work doubly hard to bring the temperatures back to a comfortable level and use much more energy. This is especially true in older homes that are not as airtight. Therefore keeping the temperatures up is actually more efficient. If you must lower the heat, consider lowering it to 67 degrees instead of 64.


10. Snuggle up with your honey!

How else do you keep warm? I would love to know! Brrrrrrrrrr!!!
Jessica

10 Slow + Simple ways to destress

We Heart It

Iden Convey

Tumblr


In addition to my "Stylish Notes" I have been and will be focusing a good bit on "Slow + Simple" as a means to try to uncomplicate our busy lives. We all need to slow down. We all need to appreciate the beauty around us. We need to refocus and regroup. When we are well rested and relaxed we perform better. We work better. We feel better!

Whether you have a few minutes or a few days, it's extremely important to stop for a moment, regroup, refocus and re-energize. If we don't  we become run-down, irritable, exhausted, cranky and stretched too thin. It really doesn't take much. If you can give yourself even 20 minutes, do. If you can give yourself more, even better!

1. Take a long, hot bath
Bring your favorite book or magazine, a glass of wine or soothing cup of tea. Lie back, soak and luxuriate. Let your family know what you're doing and not to disturb you for at least 20 minutes. Do you have a favorite bath gel or bath salts? Lavender is soothing and epsom salts are said to pull all the toxins from your body.

2. Build a fire
There's nothing like a fire to put you into a relaxed state. The warmth, the smell, the colors all evoke peace and serenity.

3. Cook, write, create!
Do you have a passion? A creative outlet may be just what you need. Write a long letter, start your journal, write a memoir. There's nothing like cooking on a cold winter's day. Your home will smell divine! Bundle up and take your camera out for a spin.

4. UNPLUG!
Lose yourself in a great book or catch up on all the shelter magazines that are piled up on your coffee table.

5. Re-plug!
Participate in a marathon - a movie marathon that is! Watch some of your favorite classics and romantic comedies... a day with Nora Ephron, perhaps? I can think of worse things!

6. Go for a run, walk or spin!
There's nothing like generating a really good sweat to get those aggressions out. Download some new iTunes and get pumping. You will feel fantastic. Afterwards, sneak into the bath to relax those muscles!

7. Listen to music.
At home, in the shower, in the car... wherever you may be. Transport yourself back to your favorite era and let the music rehash some of your favorite memories. Or do as I do, and sing at the top of your lungs in the car. Be sure to make sure that all your windows are rolled up and that all the children have safely exited the vehicle!

8. Daydream.
Go ahead. Stop what you're doing for a moment and close your eyes and daydream. Daydream about the past, daydream about the future. You'd be surprised at how refreshed you'll feel afterwards... inspired even!

9. Pour yourself a glass of wine and put your feet up. 
After dinner, before dinner... it doesn't really matter when so long as you just take a moment to sit and regroup. I have a glass of wine at the end of every day - well, nearly every day. It's my desert and it's my zen. I find a quiet spot away from the children, and put my feet up and relax.

10. Get up a little bit earlier every day.
Believe it or not this really helps. Ease into your day quietly, gracefully and peacefully. A slow start is the best start. Watch the sunrise. Turn on the news... read the paper, savor your morning coffee. Then, when you're ready, go and set the world on fire!

Pinterest

Pinterest

Jessica

10 Healthy, Slow + Simple snacks to satisfy your cravings that won't break your resolutions!

Jessica Gordon Ryan/ The Entertaining House
1. Roasted, spiced chickpeas.
Packed with lean protein. These will satisfy any salt craving! Recipe here.


Jessica Gordon Ryan/ The Entertaining House

2. Edamame.
Pre-shelled and seasoned, these can be found in your grocery store, usually near the fresh veggies. We eat them straight out of the container. Sometimes we sprinkle them on salads. I wonder how these would be spiced and roasted? Hmm, I will have to get back to you on that!

Jessica Gordon Ryan/ The Entertaining House

3. Popcorn.
We love Jiffy Pop! Remember watching the aluminum dome expand over your stove top when you were a kid? It's just as fun now! Truth be told microwave popcorn is worrisome to me. And it really doesn't taste that good. Looking for a sweet alternative? Kettle Corn is a little sweet and a little salty without the sugar and calories that caramel corn has!


Jessica Gordon Ryan/ The Entertaining House

4. Chocolate covered strawberries.
Sounds decadent? It shouldn't! These treats are super easy to make. Use semi sweet or dark chocolate which is better for you than milk chocolate. Melt your chocolate. Dip your strawberries and let them harden on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. A few of these are packed with nutrients. And chocolate makes you happy. And has antioxidants. What's not to love about these?


Jessica Gordon Ryan/ The Entertaining House

6. Chocolate dipped clementines.
I cannot eat enough citrus. I love all sorts of oranges. Blood oranges are a favorite of mine but there's something about the Clementine. So portable, so easy to peel and so easy to eat, I usually keep a couple in the car for an emergency. For a special, slightly decadent treat we love these dipped in chocolate. Pop 'em in your mouth perfection! 1 clementine has 10-12 slices, so, if dipped in chocolate you may not want to have more than that... Vitamin C and antioxidants... I say this will keep the colds at bay, don't you?!

7. A cup of homemade soup. 
I love soup and often have batches sitting around for a meal or a snack. Soups are warming and filling. We nosh on tortilla soup, low-fat bean soups, and chicken soup all the time. They're great for meals and the leftovers are perfect for snacking on. (Do stay away from the cream-based varieties!)

8. Greek yogurt with peanut butter and honey.
Peanut butter makes me happy. I cannot get enough of it. Add just a teaspoon for a hint of flavor with your honey and you have a wonderfully decadent treat that's low in sugar and packed with protein.

9. Cheese, crackers, fruit and nuts.
In moderation. We love cheese and crackers, serve with a side of fruit, some grapes, a sliced apple or pear and you'll be recharged in no time. Note, this also makes a fine dinner with a glass of wine!


Jessica Gordon Ryan/ The Entertaining House

10. Dark chocolate fruit and nut bark.
I have a chocolate problem sometimes. I've learned not to deny my cravings. I found that when I avoided them I ate everything in sight, and then still craved what I craved. So now, if I want something I allow myself to have it. In smallish doses. And I try to make it healthy. So a small piece of fruit and nut bark often does the trick. I use really good chocolate for this. In my mind Ghirardelli is the best that is easily found. Use whatever kinds of fruit and nuts you prefer, as many as you want. Pour the fruit and the nuts directly into the melted chocolate and stir well. I used about 1 cup of nuts + 1 cup of dried fruit to 1 bag of 60% dark Ghirardelli chocolate chips. I spread the mixture onto a parchment lined cookie sheet and tossed it into the fridge to set. Once nice and hard I stuck the top of a sharp knife into the chocolate and chipped away to make generous bite-sized pieces.


It's still January... too early to fall off that wagon. Hope these keep you inspired for a little while longer!

Jessica

Hummus + spiced homemade tortilla crisps :: A perfect slow + simple snack!

Jessica Gordon Ryan/The Entertaining House


Last week I shared one of our favorites, spiced roasted chickpeas. We also love hummus. Our absolute favorite is Sabra. It doesn't last long. I'm not sure why it's so different and so much better than the others out there, but it is. And so I've stopped making my own. Our favorite is the garlic. A couple of weeks ago I ran out of "good" crackers. By "good" crackers we are referring to crackers that the boys like. Of course everything I buy is good... So we had a brand new container of hummus that begged to be opened but no "good" crackers to spread it on. I happened to have had a ton of flour tortilla shells in the pantry... all it would take was a pan, some spices and, of course, my magic, to turn these plain flour disks into an amazing snack! These are simple and quick to make and are not fried!

Ingredients:
12 - Flour tortillas (we like the small ones)
Pam, or similar, olive oil spray
Sea Salt
Paprika
Cumin
Garlic powder - Sprinkle seasonings to taste... You may have to sample a couple along the way!

Directions:
Spray each side of the tortilla with your olive oil spray and place in your pan
Sprinkle the side facing up with your seasonings, cook on medium high for a couple of minutes. You will see the bottom turn a light golden brown or the tortilla will puff up, when this happens flip sides and season the other side. Cook for a couple more minutes. Toss onto a plate and repeat until all the tortillas have been cooked. If you want to keep them warm, place them on an oven-safe plate, in a warm oven (about 250-300 degrees) until you are ready to serve. Using a knife or a pizza cutter cut each tortilla into 12 pieces. Any extras will store in a plastic container for a couple of days. We love these with soups as well!

Note: If you are going to be serving the hummus with a warm tortilla, take it out of the fridge to take the chill off.

Jessica Gordon Ryan/The Entertaining House

Jessica Gordon Ryan/ The Entertaining House

It's cold, damp and dreary outside... I'm thinking this will be a perfect snack for today!

Jessica

Have a Wonderful Slow + Simple Weekend!

saying images
Sometimes we need reminders. Sometimes we need to be reminded to take care of ourselves as we are always so busy taking care of everyone else. Be sure to take time for you this weekend. Be sure to slow it down and keep it simple. Take some time off or take a time out. Put the work aside for a while. Spend some time with the kids, then put them aside too :)

Take a bath, take a nap... take a walk or a hike. Lose yourself in a good book, watch a movie, catch up on your favorite television series, dig into your growing pile of glossies.... Cook something, bake something, paint or draw something... be inspired... do something new, see something new, taste something new... do something just for you!


eat live run

Tumblr

Flickr
  
Tumblr

Wishing you all a wonderful, happy, relaxing slow + simple weekend!
Jessica

Roasted, Spiced Chickpeas :: The perfect (healthy) Slow + Simple snack

Jessica Gordon Ryan/The Entertaining House
We adore roasted, spiced chickpeas.  Keeping myself healthy is one thing. Keeping my kids healthy is something else entirely. To find and give them nutritional snacks that can compete with the non-healthier ones out there is always a challenge. I try not to keep much junk in the house. We snack on lots of popcorn, crackers and cheese, yogurt and fruit. But after a while the kids get bored and need variety. "I'm sick of popcorn!" and "I'm not in the mood for fruit!" are words frequently whined in these parts. We are a home that needs variety. We happen to love chickpeas and when we roast them up I must make a double batch. There are rarely leftovers! Warm, soft yet crispy, salty and flavorful, they're a great wintertime snack.

Roasted, Spiced Chickpeas

Ingredients:
1 or 2 cans of chickpeas (garbanzos) rinsed and drained.
1 can of olive oil spray, such as Pam, or 1-2 tbs olive oil. (I find I use much less oil when I spray!)
Spices to taste:
Cumin
Sea Salt
Garlic Powder
Paprika -

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Pour chick peas onto a cookie sheet with sides or a jelly roll
Spray generously with olive oil spray. (If you don't have this you can coat them well in 1 - 2 tbs of olive oil)
Then generously shake your spices over the chickpeas so that they are well covered. Some of the seasonings will stick to the pan. This is why you will want to over-season!
Place your chick peas into the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes, gently shake the cookie sheet every 10 - 15 minutes so the brown evenly. They will turn a lovely golden brown. The skins will get nice and crunchy but the insides will stay soft.
Refrigerate any leftovers and then simply pop into the toaster oven and reheat for a few minutes for future snacking.


Jessica Gordon Ryan/The Entertaining House

Happy snacking!
Jessica

Stylish notes on fashion and decor :: Grey is the perfect Slow + Simple color


via Vanessa Jackman

I think that grey gets a bad rap. When you're feeling grey, you're usually not feeling sunny... When the weather's grey usually it means it's got you down. Eeyore was grey. I, however, happen to adore the color. I think grey is fabulous. When I think of grey I tend to think of thick, cozy, warm sweaters - Sweaters that are perfect for today as the entire country dips into a deep frozen tundra! I heard on the news that many of us are as cold as Sibera! I'm wearing a long, heather-colored cashmere sweater over two shirts! Grey is often my go-to color. While I adore black - one can never go wrong with black, grey is a softer black, in my opinion and goes with every color possible. Grey is perfection. It really is. It's strong and yet subtle, sophisticated and elegant, yet completely casual. Grey lends itself to the workplace, to any formal social gathering, and of course to the comforts of home. From fur to sweats, from outerwear to footwear, from fashion to decor... I simply adore grey.  Come on in out of the cold, come in and warm up and cheer up with the warmest color there is! 

Valentino

via Pinterest

via Seams for a Desire


Valentino - Style Bistro

Valentino - Style du Monde 

Dior

Valentino

via Pinterest

Tumblr

Thom Filicia

via Remodelista

Jessica

A perfect Slow + Simple supper for a Monday or any night


Jessica Gordon Ryan/The Entertaining House
When it comes to preparing food I often think less is more. Therefore sometimes the simplest of dishes are the tastiest of dishes. There are admittedly plenty of times when I want to play around in my kitchen - when my kitchen looks more like a scientist's laboratory than a kitchen. And there are those nights when I just need to get something into our bellies without any effort at all... without sacrificing taste. I'm not really a pre-packaged food kind of girl. I like simple, fresh, easy and quick. I especially like this when little people who are particularly hungry keep nipping at my heels and begging "feed me now!"

This was the dinner I served on Saturday. My quick answer to feed hungry bellies when I really had no desire to be slaving over the stove for hours. And truth be told, old Mother Hubbard's cupboards were bare. There are a few things I am rarely without in my home. I am never without pasta - many boxes in all sorts of shapes and sizes. I am never without lemons. I am never without olive oil and almost never without Parmesan. These are necessary staples. And tossed together they make the most amazing pasta!

I have a roasted garlic infused extra virgin olive oil that I keep on hand as well. To make this is simple. Take 6 - 10 cloves of garlic and 1 cup of extra virgin olive oil and place together in a saucepan and turn the heat up. When the oil starts to get hot, turn the heat down to medium heat and let the garlic brown so it's nice and golden, 5 minutes or so. Let the oil cool and transfer to a glass jar. I love Bonne Mamman jam jars and reuse them for many things. They're perfect for salad dressings and flavored oils. Spread some of this oil over a halved loaf of good Italian bread for an amazing garlic bread, or dip any good crusty bread into it... I also like to use it on pasta.

After you've cooked your box of pasta per directions on the box, drain the pasta, then transfer back into the pot. Add enough olive oil so that all the pasta is covered, maybe 4 tablespoons or more if you desire. Squeeze the juice of 1 lemon - add zest too if you desire, and mix well. Then add in some grated or shredded Parmesan cheese. Add as much or as little as you want. Start out with 1/4 Cup and add as much as a half of a cup if you wish. Add a couple of large cloves of well chopped fresh garlic and toss well. Add sea salt, pepper and crushed red pepper to taste, and top with some freshly grated Parmesan. You'll be amazed at just how amazing this simple dish tastes. This blows any mac and cheese out of the water. And it's healthier, much! We devoured every bite. This also makes a wonderful side dish, whether with salmon, chicken or steak. But I just prefer it by itself. Right out of the bowl. It's my idea of comfort food. Slow and simple, but quick and easy to make!

Ingredients for the pasta:
Juice of 1 lemon, zest optional
2-4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
4+ tbs extra virgin olive oil (or garlic infused olive oil)
1/4 - 1/2 cup of grated or shredded Parmesan
Sea Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste

Ingredients for the garlic oil:
6-10 cloves of garlic, peeled, whole
1 cup of extra virgin olive oil

Jessica Gordon Ryan/The Entertaining House
Buon Appetito!

Jessica

Stylish notes for a perfect Slow + Simple day

Jessica Gordon Ryan/The Entertaining House

To me a perfect day is one that is part productive and part relaxing, so that you can feel accomplished without feeling over-taxed physically and emotionally. Hercules, the season's first storm paid us a visit deep into the night on Thursday. We waited for the snows to fall and accumulate on Thursday and finally, long after the sun set they finally came. Cozy at home with fire roaring and furnace blasting, I welcomed Hercules with open arms. While I work from home I never seem to have time to tackle all the projects needing of my attention... the boring things that we all tend to keep putting on the back burner and that stay on the back burner until we accidentally turn on that burner, and poof! up in smoke they go. Being trapped inside in a snowstorm would be just what I needed!

Hercules came, and while outside the winds howled and hurled themselves angrily, the snow really didn't amass to all that much - certainly paled by comparison to the storm that dumped 36 inches on us last year! Still too cold to do much outside I thought I would embark on one of my resolutions; simplifying my home, which perhaps is a much nicer term than de-cluttering it! After all, a cluttered life is not a simple life. How can it be so?

I started in the fridge. The ignored fridge that had been begging for my attention and a bath for months. I worked my way through it slowly, methodically, and with purpose. I came to the conclusion that kids are messy! Most of what I cleaned up, drips, splatters, crumbs, came from careless youthful fingers. When the fridge was done she sparkled! Well, as much as an old fridge can. From there on in I went through every container, glass jar, condiment, etc and checked expiration dates and chucked what was necessary. Anything relatively unused that looked as though it hadn't been used in a while and most likely never will again, also got tossed. (Fancy jams, strange salad dressings, etc that seemed exciting and exotic and turned out not to be.) Then I got a sudden urge to bake banana bread. What's better on a cold day?

Once the fridge had been tackled I tossed another log onto the fire, made a cappuccino and plopped down onto the couch with my daughter who was deeply ensconced in her Gossip Girl marathon. After a nice respite I tackled the pantry with the same gusto I did my fridge. I made 2 piles; one for tossing and the other for donation - non-perishable goods. This one didn't take too much effort. Next came collecting all the Christmas decor and ornaments. Much too cold to venture up into my non-insulated attic and much too cold to drag the de-ornamented Christmas tree outside, so we've put that off for just one more day. My poorly insulated 1930s home sucks in the cold from the outside... I might as well just leave all the windows open for crying out loud. 

By Noon my main projects had been tackled. I thought I deserved to reward myself with a hot bath and my copy of Bridget Jones, Mad About the Boy. Clean house, long soak, hot fire. All good so far!

The day ensued with more relaxation and more productivity. The best part of being trapped indoors, in my opinion, was that not one child cried out boredom! Everyone, it seems, was content to lead a quiet day inside. The iPads glowed, markers rolled and Legos built. Meanwhile Gossip Girl still airs... I remembered the days when my children were younger when it was absolutely impossible to rest for a day... when it was impossible to complete one chore without interruption. Those days weren't that long ago and so I do not take my peace and quiet (or my productivity!) for granted. 

The day ended on a perfect note, a simple bowl of pasta dressed in olive oil, garlic, lemon and Parmesan with a few red pepper flakes for kick and a glass of Malbec. Have you ever had pasta this way? It's magnificent. Way better and healthier than Mac and Cheese, my kids will concur! Recipe to follow shortly!

Wishing you all a wonderful Slow + Simple Sunday!

Jessica

17 Slow + Simple Non- Resolutions to ease you into the New Year




Last year I rode into the New Year with a big bang, eager and gung ho to make my mark in the world. I made small, reachable goals, and while I don't really remember what they were, I think most of those goals were met. This year I haven't been able to, maybe I haven't wanted to, make or set any goals. There is one huge project I would like to tackle and of course grow this site and fill my basket with writing assignments, but I have no resolutions this year... If I lose 10 pounds great, if not it means I've had another great year filled with fabulous food and great wine... The resolution thing isn't resonating here this year...

But there are a few other words that are... maybe instead we should all try to:
Renovate
Reinvent
Renew
Redo
Rejuvenate
React
Resume
Realize
Rebuild
Reboot
Reconcile
Reflect
Reconfirm
Reconnect
Redefine
Redirect
Reaffirm



So what do you think?
Will you all join me in a non resolution?


Jessica

Put a cork in it :: a slow + simple way to preserve your Champagne


Jessica Gordon Ryan/The Entertaining House
For many the festivities are still continuing... Lazy late morning brunches make way for early afternoon glasses of bubbly by the fire. Unlike wine, it's simply not possible to put a cork back into a champagne bottle. You could try a wine cork, but I am quite certain that air would escape, allowing those precious bubbles to do the same... That would be tragic! Nearly as tragic as letting any remaining champagne go to waste. My grandmother, who embodied all things proper and chic, would be aghast to let any Champagne go to waste. She devised this most simple and most clever of ideas. With what you have in your kitchen you can preserve your champagne for nearly 3 days after it's been corked! I would not kid you about a matter such as this.

All you need is a piece of Saran - or any clear plastic wrap, a rubber band and your bubbly. Simply place the plastic wrap securely over the bottle's opening (as pictured above) and then tie the rubber band around it as tightly as possible. Instantly you will see a small pocket of air being trapped, this ensures that your bubbles are trapped as well.

So go pop that cork!
Enjoy those bubbles!
And now, knowing that you can safely preserve what hasn't been consumed, maybe you'll have champagne more often... with Chinese food, or pizza even!

When Dom Perignon first tasted his Champagne he is purported to have said
"Come quickly, I am tasting the stars!"

And I am quite certain he was.

Jessica

2014, off to a perfect slow + simple start

Jessica Gordon Ryan/The Entertaining House

In my quest for a slower, more simple lifestyle I thought that my New Year's should reflect this new philosophy of mine... a philosophy that I hope to instill in my children... Life isn't about running around like crazy, trying to cram in as much as possible, it's about making choices, picking a few events and savoring them, enjoying them... taking in as much as possible so that the memories linger and the smiles that are created linger, and hopefully last a lifetime. It's taken me a long time to understand that less really is more. Savor, enjoy, relish...

Our New Year's eve was slow and lovely... we eased into the night gently... I didn't go crazy over prepping and cooking, instead we opted to have sushi, champagne and chocolate fondue. We ate in stages, slowly, lingering over our delicious treats. We lit a fire and watched a movie and then turned the television on to watch the ball drop. We sipped champagne and adjusted the fire, allowing it to completely put us at rest, to warm our hearts and our souls. We bid farewell to one year and welcomed a new one with open arms. Shortly after Midnight, when the fire had subsided, we turned down the heat, turned off the lights, our hearts light, our stomachs satiated, our bodies warm, and climbed into bed. We fell asleep as a new year and a new day had already begun...

Jessica Gordon Ryan/The Entertaining House

Jessica Gordon Ryan/The Entertaining House

Jessica Gordon Ryan/The Entertaining House

Jessica Gordon Ryan/The Entertaining House

Jessica Gordon Ryan/The Entertaining House


I woke up this morning to darkness all around me. I tried to get back to sleep but my mind wasn't about to settle down and my body seemed to want to follow suit. I trudged down the long corridor, bare feet cold on the hardwood floors, and made my way into the kitchen to prepare a mug of coffee. I moved without thought, my body programmed to go through the early morning motions, and settled onto the couch with my coffee, blankets and television remote. Outside the sky was still dark with a purple undertone... the house was quiet, the children still asleep. I built another fire.

I need to ease into my day slowly. I've always been this way. I cannot wake up, jump into the shower and dash out of the house, I must start my day slowly, deliberately, with purpose and with the pace of the snail. This allows me to think about the day ahead and plan accordingly. I need to savor my morning coffee, not toss it back as though I'm taking an aspirin with a glass of water. And so this morning began like every other morning. But it was a new morning. It was the first morning in the new year. And from my couch, I can look out my over-sized window and watch the world around me. During the cooler months it's most spectacular, for the bare branches allow me to see for as far as the eye can see. I can see toward Long Island, all the way across the sound. In the early morning I can watch a new day dawn. There is no sight as lovely as the sky before the sun actually rises. A sherbet like rainbow of colors fills the horizon with pale greys, lavenders, pinks and oranges... and the colors then shift, becoming bolder and stronger until the bright red ball appears, a sign perhaps, that we now have permission to leap forward and seize the day. I'll seize the day, but I will do so slowly... I'll spend much of my day writing and planning my new year!


Jessica Gordon Ryan/The Entertaining House

Jessica Gordon Ryan/The Entertaining House

Jessica Gordon Ryan/The Entertaining House

Happy New Year to you all - I wish you all health, happiness and prosperity... and I hope you all take the time to have a slow and simple year and savor all the wonderful things that will come your way!

Jessica

2014 Resolutions :: Slow + Simple





Somehow, without planning, event, or thought slow + simple became a way of life and a way of thinking. I prefer a life less complicated. I always have. I always will. While I've always marvelled at the many talents and creations of Martha Stewart, she always seemed too complicated for me. Why do in 20 steps what you can do in 5? For a long time I thought I was lazy. I thought I was looking to cut corners... I thought I was looking to cheat, for the easy way out. But that wasn't so. I was really looking to simplify. Life is complicated enough. Life keeps us busy and on our toes, so, therefore why add extra steps? Instead, I thought why not try to eliminate a few along the way. Why can't we enjoy good food, good times, and other worldly pleasures on a simpler level, at a slower pace? Why must we complicate? Why must we rush?

As a photographer I hate to rush. When we rush we miss so much. We miss beauty. We miss opportunity. We miss pleasure. We miss our loved ones. Life is too short to be missing all these wonderful things. I'm fortunate, my camera forces me to slow down. I'm not much of a runner. I don't have a runner's body. It takes its toll on my knees, neck and back. And yet I find myself, sometimes when I am on my long power-walks of 5+ miles wanting to break out into a sprint. And I do, for short spurts. And I notice as I run that the world becomes a blur. And I hate that. I love my walks. I love the clarity of them. I love that I can get a chance to clear my head and I love that I can see far across the Long Island sound, above tall stone walls, through wrought iron gates, through the trees, along the grasses and tall pines. I see wildlife and flowers and beauty and color all around me. And when I run I see none of this. And so why run through life. Why do we not slow down to appreciate the beauty and the simplicity all around us? Life is so complicated. Filled with unanswered questions and worry and wonder... filled with events and plans... filled with much that is beyond our control, so why not control what we can, slow down, simplify, enjoy and still live a life well lived!

So, along with many other things I would like to accomplish this year, 2014 will be a continuation of my quest for the slow + simple. I hope you'll join me!

Jessica

Stylish notes on silver for a slow and simple Christmas table

Silver Magpies 

I have asked dear friend and silver expert, Nancy Stuckwisch of Silver Magpies, to contribute a piece on silver for the holidays. Below she shares tips, insights, and ideas on how to use and care for your silver for a slow and simple table for Christmas and throughout the year.

***

Let your table shine this Christmas. Jessica's series on a slow, simple Christmas has really spoken to me, so when she asked if I'd be interested in guest posting on the Entertaining House about silver, I jumped at the opportunity. Thank you, Jessica! Today, let's focus on some thoughts about using your silver in your slow, simple Christmas. To those of you who don't know me from elsewhere, know that I'm all in favor of using your silver every day. Don't just save it for the best events, because all too often when best rolls around we just don't have the time or energy to dig the silver out of storage, then clean and polish it. Frankly, it's a lot of effort for a once a year event. However, if your silver is in the attic or safe deposit box rather than sitting in the cutlery drawer of your kitchen, don't despair! You can make a plan, include your silver in your celebrations, and best of all, then be able to enjoy your silver all year round.

What, where, and how?

First things first. The best way to start using your silver during your slow, simple Christmas is by making a list. What events will you need it for?
  • Only for a Christmas dinner for 6, 8, or 20?
  • Or for dinner, plus a cocktail party for 50, and another event in between?
What's on your menu or menus?
  • There is no point finding and polishing the soup spoons if you aren't serving soup.
  • Or in serving soup if you have no spoons to eat it with!
How are you going to serve?
  • At a formal table? If possible, set up ahead of time. At the very least, make sure you have all the bits and pieces accounted for silver, linens, plates, glasses, serving dishes and utensils.
  • Buffet style? Again, gather all the items you need - plates, glasses, silverware, napkins. As far in advance as possible, set-up the buffet area.
  • Sticky notes are your friend. Put a sticky note on every serving dish so you know what goes where...often this has saved me from leaving a dish in the oven or fridge!
Silver Magpies 

Wine coaster turned cookie bowl...no one will mind! Have some fun!
  • Feel free to mix and match.
  • Don't be constrained by the name of an item. This wine coaster doubles as a great cookie bowl.

Your plan is made, now for some action.

Once you've figured out exactly what you'll need, now is the time to take a look and what needs to be done with you silver to get it ready for use. If you use your silver on a regular basis, the likelihood is that very little polishing will need to occur. Remember, the more you use your silver the less you need to polish it. In the event it has been in storage for a long time, set aside an hour one night to polish away all the tarnish. It's a job that can be done well in advance. Use a good quality polish that you rub on and can rinse off. Goddards Silver Polish Foam is my favorite. Once the holidays are over, don't put your silver back in its box in the attic. Keep it out. Use and enjoy it every day.

silver magpies

After the holidays, keep your silver out. Use it and make every day best.

Nancy Stuckwisch has had a life-long fascination with silverware. Silver Magpies is where she sells, values, researches and blogs about vintage silver. She believes we should get the silver out of the cupboard, onto the table, and then into the dishwasher. Nancy blogs on her own website, and in addition writes for The Daily Basics, and is a featured columnist for Silver magazine.. Her shop features a large assortment of unique pieces.

Stylish notes on a slow + simple Sunday :: Weathering the storm

Jessica Gordon Ryan/The Entertaining House

Yesterday, we had our first major snowstorm of the season. It was the perfect a day to hunker down and  get to all those projects in the home that have been pleading for our attention.   As much as we all need to get out and run errands, what with Christmas now less than 2 weeks away, sometimes mother nature knows best. Yesterday was the day to take comfort in the warm comfort of our own homes, sip on warm cups of tea, build fires, curl up with a good book or Christmas movie, write Christmas cards, wrap presents.The snow began early morning on Saturday and didn't stop until late at night, long after the sun went down, when the sky was nearly purple black, then the icy cold rains came and froze everything they touched. This morning, when the sun was up, I looked outside and marvelled at how everything just glistened beneath her bright rays. The branches of the tall pines, oaks and maples shone as though they'd been enveloped by crystal. Mother Nature was kind, she was gentle this time, her touch gentle not destructive. I took a moment to admire the beauty all around me this morning before heading out to shovel and clear a path towards freedom!

Jessica Gordon Ryan/The Entertaining House
Jessica Gordon Ryan/The Entertaining House

Jessica Gordon Ryan/The Entertaining House

Jessica Gordon Ryan/The Entertaining House

Jessica Gordon Ryan/The Entertaining House

Jessica Gordon Ryan/The Entertaining House

Jessica Gordon Ryan/The Entertaining House

Jessica Gordon Ryan/The Entertaining House

Jessica Gordon Ryan/The Entertaining House

Jessica Gordon Ryan/The Entertaining House

Jessica Gordon Ryan/The Entertaining House

Enjoy your Sunday!

Jessica

Stylish notes on the perfect Slow and Simple Christmas Tree

via Style Estate

While I love to stare and marvel at the opulent, exaggerated, elegant and over the top Christmas tree, there's something sweet, lovely about a simple Christmas tree - beautiful in her own natural way. Graceful, elegant and peaceful. Often, in many settings, less is truly more. 

I couldn't have a tree without ornaments here; the children would never allow such to happen! Our tree, little, but lovely and lush this year, tells a story. We have ornaments of the past - that the children made when they were young and they coexist beautiful with the red and white candy canes my daughter insists we hang every year, that coexist beautifully with the fragile glass, and crystal ornaments. Our tree is not overly filled - she has just enough. She tells a story, the story of us. We have lights on our tree. I love nothing more than, in the morning before the sun is up, to come in to the living room, turn on the tree and admire her beauty while I slowly ease into my day with a soy candle burning and my cup of cappuccino. 

I do love these simple trees below, the children have been asking for little trees to be placed in their rooms....


via Blissfully Content

via Home Depot

via Me and Alice

via Pinterest

via Tumblr

via Tumblr

via Vintage Chic

via Pinterest

via Zsa Zsa Bellagio

via Traditional Home
I promise to get some photos of our own slow and simple Christmas decor up to share with you very soon!

Jessica