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Food and Travel

Free For All Friday….

Anyone else glad to welcome in Friday?  It has seemed like the never-ending week around here and we are looking forward to a relatively low key weekend with having a few friends and their kids over for a BBQ being the only thing planned.  Looking forward to 5 o’clock today!

With school starting up next week for us and likely soon for those of you in the east, it has me realizing that the holidays will be here before you know it.  Given we traveled so much this summer I thought I’d share two products that were lifesavers in toting my toiletries and jewlrey to and fro.  (They happened to be given to me as Christmas gifts last year).

First, is Vera Bradley’s Hanging Organizer.  This little organizer has tons of compartments for everything from your make-up, travel sized product bottles, Q-tips, toothbrush, etc.  And what is even better is that there is a hook inside so that you can open the organizer and hang it on a towel rack or door knob for easy access.  (I was thinking it might even be a great going off to college gift….for the trip from the room to the bathroom in the dorms.)  It comes in a ton of different patterns but this is the one that I have.  Having been in Australia for 5 weeks….and moving around a lot while there….this was a lifesaver.

Vera Bradley Hanging Organizer

Vera Bradley Hanging Organizer Inside

The other gift that I loved so much that I even use it on a day to day basis for many things is their jewelry folio.  No more rats nest of tangled necklaces and missing earrings around here anymore.

vera Bradley jewlrey folio

vera bradley jewlrey folio inside

I love that it has a place for rings and tons of individual compartments for necklaces, earrings, etc.  And I also love that you can see what is in each compartment.  There is also a panel behind the one at the top that you cannot see.  And, the best part is that it folds into a nice flat little folio that is easy to stash in your carry-on (I never check my jewelry).

And while we are speaking of airline carry on……the kids and I went to Virginia to visit my family and friends last week.  All was great, kids were great….it wasn’t stressful or chaotic….I was quite proud of our first solo trip without my husband.  Until I went to pack to go home and realized the CD case that housed EVERY one of the kids DVDs was missing in action.  (My husband has told me more than once how much $$$$ I lost.)  I am sure it slipped under a seat as we were landing…..and of course, it wasn’t turned in to the airline lost and found.  But, shame on me for not having my name on it.  I am now going to be much better about putting my name on everything when I travel—not just the stuff I check.  I thought these high tech luggage tags were kindof fun.  You can update your address on a website to keep the tags current.

Digital Luggage Tags

I think the luggage tags would make great stocking stuffers.  I always struggle with what to get for the adults!

Do you have any tried and true travel must haves?

Care to share?

My Visit to Black & Spiro

Well, we are back from Australia and have had precisely two days to get back into the swing of things.  Laundry is done, thank you gifts for the police department and a fabulous neighbor who watched our house for five weeks are ready to be delivered this AM and my office is beckoning me.  We are getting over the jet lag and hopefully we’ll be back to “normal” in the next day or so (travelling east is so much harder….argh!).

Anyhow, one of the first blogs I started reading in 2009 when I started mine was that of talented Brisbane based designer, Anna Spiro (Absolutely Beautiful Things).  In addition to her design work, Anna has a shop in a great area of Brisbane.  Last time I was there we ran out of time to pop in.  This time, we made a day of exploring that fun part of the city.  Here’s me and the kids outside the shop….Harry energetically sniffing a bar of soap Maddie had purchased.

Black & Spiro

When we arrived at the shop I immediately spotted Anna behind the counter with a flurry of customers around her.  She later told me she was alone in the shop, with one of her “girls” on an overseas holiday and one out making a delivery.  I asked if I could snap a few photos and wish I had taken more time…..they don’t do the shop justice…..but I was afraid my kids were going to break something….or that my husband was going to lose interest.  I’ll let the photos speak for themselves….I love the vignettes she has created in the shop.  The eclectic mix works when one might think it wouldn’t.  And I love her use of vibrant color.  And don’t even get me started on all of the gorgeous pillows!

Black and Spiro Shop Photo taken by Maddie G Designs

Black & Spiro Vignette via Maddie G Designs

Black & Spiro photo snapped by Maddie G Designs

Black & Spiro Visit from Maddie G Designs

Black and Spiro Shop Visit from Maddie G Designs

Anna told me that the shop used to be bigger but because her design business has really taken off she has closed off the back rooms to be used as office space.  She gave me a quick tour and I wish I had asked to take photos but she was busy and I was really not wanting to be an imposition.  So I pulled a few photos from her Instagram page and around the web.

Black and Spiro Back Office PhotoGoogle Search, via.

These two images above are of the hallway off the front shop (through door on the upper right) and the back offices.  The paper is from Anna’s new collection for Porter Paints in Australia.  After seeing it in person I am tempted to do the stairwell up to my office in it.  It is stunning in person.

Below is Anna’s office in the back of the shop.  I pulled this from her Instagram photos…..such a cheerful spot!

Black and Spiro Back Office Photo via Instagram

skirted table Black and Spiro

The above image is of the check out table in the actual shop.  (It isn’t my image but it looked about the same).  It has actually been in my “office” Pinterest inspiration board for some time.  Skirted table and ticking stripe, what’s not to love?

In any case, in addition to her busy design business, the shop and her collection of wallpapers (with new patterns in the works), Anna told me she is working on a book as well.  She is one busy lady!  It was so nice to meet you, Anna, and thanks again for the office tour and quick chat!  I hope to be back next time we are in Brisbane!

Peeking In……

Sorry for falling off the face of the earth.  The week leading up to our summer holiday was very hectic and I didn’t have the time to post.  We are having an extended vacation in Australia and it has been jam packed so far.

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We are fortunate to have a direct flight out of Dallas and the kids were FABULOUS on the 15 hour flight.  Honestly, I was so scared…..but they were perfect.  It couldn’t have gone any better.  (Hope I am not jinxing the return).  We have been enjoying lots of family time….the kids reuniting with Grandma, Aunties, Uncles and Cousins.  We have done a week at our favorite beach here, Noosa Beach on the Sunshine Coast.  I believe it is heaven on earth.

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It is winter here but we have enjoyed some beautiful weather that has allowed ample beach time.

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So, please forgive me if my posting is sparse (or perhaps even non-existent).  The technology hiatus is kindof nice (even though I did find a way to get caught up on some missed reality TV via iTunes).

Hope you are having a great summer!

PS–I’ve been better about keeping up with instagram so follow me over there if you like.

xoxo-Susie

Wrapping Up Work….

Slim AaronsSlim Aarons

If you follow me on Instagram you’ll notice summer has hit over here (as I am sure it has for you).  I’ve been doing pool in the Am with the kids….running home, passing them off to our nanny and showering and hitting the design center, upholsterer, art framer, etc.  to wrap up client work.  With the blessing of my husband, I have made the decision to close down the buying service until August.  We’ll be busy all summer and I’d rather lose a few sales than take one and leave a client feeling neglected.  It’s the good and the bad of running a small business—-but gives me the flexibility I craved when I worked in private equity.  I hope you understand.   August will be an exciting month for Maddie G, with the launch of Shop Maddie G!  I cannot wait!

I do still plan to blog and check and respond to emails during this time……but it might be from somewhere like here vs. the desk in my office.  (Who am I kidding, like my kids are going to let me lounge for long…..)

Poolside Ocean Viewvia

Anyways, I am wrapping up final orders that are in process through next week.  That also means my designer remnants are going down (this Sunday) as well.  I never quite got around to getting them all photographed but many of them are up there.  I’ll do a final shipment out on Wednesday so if you want to order, do so asap.  They are first come, first served.  After that they may or may not be back when I launch the shop in August.  Or they might be back in another form (e.g. pillows, etc…..)

Sidebar Market Promo

I hope you have a great weekend and I’ll see you next week.

Food Talk….

I haven’t done one of these posts in a while….probably because I have found Instagram to be an easier way to snap photos that are usually less than blog-worthy. But, I thought I would share some recent keepers.

First, I pretty much don’t buy bottled salad dressing anymore and have a few in my current rotation that we have quite frequently (some healthier than others!)  This one, not so much…..but when my husband has been travelling he loves to come home on Friday night to this salad and some steaks marinating.  I am telling you, this salad is worth the effort and the calorie splurge!

Wedge SaladImage and Recipe, via

A little on the healthier side, I’ve been obsessed with the simplicity of Greek Salads since the weather started getting hot here in Dallas and I use the easy dressing in this salad I found via Pinterest.  I added chopped iceberg lettuce and green pepper to the salad and it is a solid weeknight meal.  (My kids are obsessed with olives by the way…..so I have to hide them while making dinner!)

Greek Salad RecipeImage and Recipe, via

Finally, I love a good Asian chicken salad…..and found this recipe (used a Rotisserie Chicken from Whole Foods) to be super easy and a big hit in our house.

Chinese Chicken Salad via Maddie G Designs Blogimage via me, recipe via

Earlier this week, we had a nice pork chop and salad recipe from the June 2013 issue of Cooking Light (did you know they post all of the recipes from the magazine online each month?  Just go to their site and search “June 2013 Recipe Index” or whatever month you are looking for.)  We followed the recipe as written….including the salad and the grilled nectarines.  It was so good and so quick and easy!

Cooking Light Pork Chop RecipeImage snapped for Instagram from the magazine, recipe here

Finally, I’ve made a couple of desserts recently.  The first, which I make as a triple layer is a coconut cake that I first made years ago….then my mom got ahold of the recipe and would make it……so I stopped because it was more fun to eat hers.  But, I pulled it back out recently to take to some friends’ house over Memorial Day.  I snapped this before we walked out the door…the kids were half way down the driveway on their scooters so I didn’t have time to make it look any prettier….but I promise it is so good.

Coconut Cake via Maddie G Designsimage via me, recipe can be found here

Finally, I felt like making a fruit tart a couple of weeks ago and found some inspiration on Pinterest.  This pear and walnut tart on a shortbread crust was pretty good!

Pear and Walut Tart via Maddie G Designs Blogimage via me, recipe can be found here

You have any new favorites to share?

I am always looking to try something new.

Food Talk…..

I don’t think I’ve done one of these in a while…and the hazard with that is that I forget what I’ve made.  Here are two from this week that are keepers though…

First, we love Indian food around here…even the kids if it isn’t too spicy….seriously, Maddie picked take-out Indian over Chick-fil-A after her soccer game this week.  In any case, this healthy recipe could not have been easier and was such a quick weeknight meal.  It would make a great side too but we ate it over rice. 

Chickpea Curry with Basmati Rice

chickpea-curry-basmati-rice-ck-xPhotography by Carolyn Tesini, Cooking Light January 2013

I also made a new spinach salad this week to go with our standby gnocchi that is different each time we make it….depending on what we have on hand.  I love fruit and nuts in my salads and the candied/curried pecans in this salad are addictive (warning….don’t make extra if you have no self control like me!)  I’ve never made my own candied pecans and it was EASY (something I really didn’t need to know!)

Spinach Salad with Curried Pecans, Blue Cheese and Apples

Baked Brie Spinach Salade with Curried PecansImage and Recipe via Baked Bree Blog

I am sure I’ve made other new recipes since the last time I posted in this series….but honestly, I cannot remember.   I am off for spring break next week but am determined to get back on the cooking wagon when the kids are back in school!

Happy Weekend!

I heart….

My birthday was last week (two years off from a major one, yikes).  I was spoiled by my family on the actual day….and then was taken to a wonderful dinner Friday night and cooked for, and generally waited on all weekend, as I spent literally EVERY waking moment on my new website. 

Maddie and Chris made me a Cherry Clafoutis on Saturday night.  Watching them make it was fun….eating it was even more fun.  (BTW, Maddie had in her head that I needed a cherry cake….I was impressed that my husband pulled out not one but two cookbooks and made it happen.  We were both initially a bit perplexed as to what she could make with cherries!)

Cherry Calfoutis via

This week, I need to give the kids a little quality time after being so engrossed in work over the weekend.  I thought we could make some fun heart shaped brownies and have a playdate one day.  I think this is one Pinterest inspired project that I can handle.

Heart Brownies Martha Stewart Martha Stewart

What is on tap in your world?

Food Talk…..

I dropped the ball on food talk over the holidays but I’ve got a reinvigerated interest in cooking more healthful meals for our family and it goes hand in hand with my personal resolution to lose some weight and get healthier.  I’ve gained nearly 15 lbs since we moved to Dallas just over two years ago….not good.  Anyhow, I joined WeightWatchers® online and am loving the flexibility of the plan.

Chris was out of town for work all last week so I really didn’t cook much in the way of meals, per se…..but I’ll share a few things I did get around to making.

First, Maddie and I made Banana, Oat, Chocolate Chip Muffins from the blog Emily Bites.  Maddie loves the combo of chocolate and banana and I’ve been finding one of these muffins is great with my morning coffee and keeps me filled up until lunch.

Weight Watchers Chocolate Oat Banana Muffins

From the same blog as the above, I made muffin tin mock French Dips.  I’ve got to admit I was glad as I started to assemble them that Chris was out of town….I am not sure he would have been overly impressed with them as his dinner but they were good  re-heated as well….so they made an easy lunch for me later in the week.  For what it is worth, our nanny tried one while I was out the next day and made me email her the link to the recipe right away before she left.  I found them to be a bit salty but other than that they were a fun little treat.  I like the idea of using the won ton wrappers and muffin tins to make individual portions.

French Dip Cupcakes 9b2via

Last weekend I made Bircher Muesli for the first time.  Before I had Maddie I worked in private equity and traveled to Europe for business a fair bit.  This was often a staple on the hotel breakfast bars.  I looked at a ton of recipes online to figure out how to make it and ended up putting old fashioned oats in a bowl with chopped dried prunes, apricots and raisins.  I then soaked this mixture in a combination of fat free plain yogurt and milk overnight.  In the morning, I served with grated red apple.   Yummmmmm.

Bircher Mueslivia

Finally, last night I made baked ziti and an autumn salad.  Friday is usually take out night around here but I am trying to change that when I can so I can try to stay on track with my goals.  I also think that my husband was happy to come home to a cooked meal rather than being diverted to Indian or Thai on his way home from the airport last night!

Weight Watchers Baked Ziti and Fall Harvest Salad

The baked ziti recipe was very basic and would definitely be a hit with kiddos.  It makes a lot and at first I thought the portion size (it makes 12 servings if you are counting points) would be scant.  But I ended up not being able to eat it all with the big salad too.  The roasted butternut squash which was tossed in the smallest amount of olive oil, chopped rosemary and a pinch of sea salt was to die for.  I could have eaten it plain for dessert it was so good.  I’ll definitely be making it as a side even when I am not making the salad!  The salad greens are Arugula and definitely were key to the salad’s success.  Finally, it was super quick….the kids and I ran the grocery store at 5 and I had everything ready to go by the time they were done with their dinner and ready for bath time and stories.

So, that’s about it from last week.

Did you make anything worth sharing?

Food Talk…

Sorry I’ve been so absent.  I have been racing around like a mad woman trying to get the house in order for our holiday guests, parties at the kids schools, adult holiday parties, holiday activities with the kids, lots of orders at Maddie G, continued work on my new website,   etc.  Plus, I have been sick since Wednesday and have officially lost my voice completely (kinda think the kids and husband are enjoying this….as I cannot tell them what to do!)

I’ve enjoyed a teeny bit of downtime this weekend….not wanting to turn on live TV this weekend with the kiddos around…..Maddie and I snuggled watching taped episodes of Ina Garten and Giada.  (I even found Maddie watching an episode when I was off doing something else).

But, given what’s been going on in the world and the tragedy faced by those in CT, I feel more grateful than ever that I have these mundane moments to share with my family.  I cannot stop thinking about, and praying for, those who have been touched by this tragedy. 

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I only cooked twice last week as we had plans out the other nights.  One meal was a tried-and-true and one is a definite repeater.  First, we had a cold spell early last week (today it was 75 here!) and I was craving some comfort food.  I have been making Cooking Light’s Italian Meatloaf with Fresh Basil and Provolone for about 10 years now.  I remember it being served at a cooking club I was in in DC way back and thinking….who the heck would serve meat loaf for a cooking club.  But, this meatloaf is so easy and so delish.  Sun-dried tomatoes (which I buy julienned so I don’t have to soak and cut per the recipe), smoked provolone and fresh basil make this such a great meatloaf.  I serve it with mashed potatoes, peas, gravy and rolls.  Also, I should note that we don’t even finish 1/2 of this so I freeze 1/2 of it for another meal when I am in a pinch.  (If you don’t have a foodsaver….I recommend one….I think my husband about had a heart attack when I asked for one for my birthday a few years ago…..but we love it!)

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The other meal I made was Ina Garten’s Winter Minestrone.  This was pretty easy to make, very filling and tasted even better for lunches later in the week!  It was good for the kids too because it was thick…..so I could just give them less broth to contain the mess!  I served with crusty bread and parmesan.

image via moi

This week will be a crazy one with family streaming in Thursday, Friday and Saturday.  My stepsons are visiting from Australia and we are looking forward to it.  The kids love their big brothers and the eldest’s girlfriend, Natalie.  So, please excuse me the next couple of weeks if my posting is sporadic (what’s new, right?)  If I can get some good photos I’ll try to share some new additions around our house….the hard press has been on to get furniture, rugs and accessories in place before everyone arrives.  And then in the new year…..I am so excited to share my new website with you.

Good luck to you all this week as you finish preparing for the holidays!

Food Talk….

Phew, what a crazy two weeks.  The Home Tour yesterday was a huge success but it was a CRAZY day.  We were blessed with incredible weather and the homes looked fabulous!  Chris was out of town a lot the last week so I didn’t cook much while he was away. 

Last weekend I made a bread pudding from one of my go to cookbooks, The Joy of Cooking.  Actually, I usually do a combo of that recipe (which I linked to a place I found it on the internet) and the the ones from the big yellow gourmet cookbook but my result pretty much comes from the above link.  Excuse my (lack of) photography skills.  I took this photo as an afterthought…..and had been sitting at the counter enjoying wine, reading magazines and watching my husband cook for a while at this point!  (My favorite way to spend a Saturday night!)

And I made my tried and true caramel sauce to drizzle over.   This sauce is to die for and so easy to make!  Scroll to the bottom of the recipe in the link for the toffee sauce (although, I will tell you the sticky date is my husband’s birthday cake of choice and this is a great recipe.)

I really only managed to cook weeknight meals two nights last week.  Each was simple and pretty good.  Nothing to scream praises about but solid and relatively healthy.  First I made a Tomato soup that has fennel and uses whole wheat baguette to thicken it.  It is a solid soup recipe from the cookbook “Cook Yourself Thin.”  We had ours with a grilled cheese which probably defeated the purpose but sure was good.

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The other recipe I made was a pasta and chicken sausage recipe from the blog Skinnytaste.  I find most of her recipes to be pretty good.  This one is a Pasta with Butternut Sauce, Spinach and Spicy (Chicken) sausage.  The only modifications I made to the recipe were to add a few toasted walnuts, used mild sausage because of the kids, and cut the sausage out of the casing before I cooked it.

image via SkinnyTaste

And now that home tour deadlines are behind me I can start to focus on finishing up our Christmas decorating.  I started to add little touches last week but have a ways to go.  I’ve got four of these little guys on our kitchen table…..but took one up to the foyer to try to get better light….

My current obsession is finding magnolia garland for over our fireplaces. So, finding that, getting presents wrapped and mailed to our Australia family and getting my Christmas cards out are on my list for this weekend.

Happy Weekend!