Friday, March 29, 2013

40 days of joy: if you like Panera, you'll LOVE this...

ST. LOUIS — Order a bowl of turkey chili at a St. Louis-area Panera Bread cafe and it'll cost you a penny. Or $5. Or $100. In other words, whatever you decide.

Three years after launching the first of five pay-what-you-want cafes, the suburban St. Louis-based chain on Wednesday quietly began its latest charitable venture that takes the concept on a trial run to all 48 cafes in the St. Louis region.

The new idea experiments with a single menu item, Turkey Chili in a Bread Bowl, available at each St. Louis-area store for whatever the customer chooses to pay. The new chili uses all-natural, antibiotic-free turkey mixed with vegetables and beans in a sourdough bread bowl. The suggested $5.89 price (tax included) is only a guideline. All other menu items are sold for the posted price.

Panera calls it the Meal of Shared Responsibility, and says the potential benefit is twofold: Above-the-cost proceeds go to cover meals for customers who cannot pay the full amount and to St. Louis-area hunger initiatives; and for those in need, the 850-calorie meal provides nearly a day's worth of nutrition at whatever price they can afford.

"We hope the suggested donations offset those who say they only have three bucks in their pocket or leave nothing," said Ron Shaich, founder, chairman and co-CEO of the chain and president of its charitable arm, Panera Bread Foundation.

If the experiment works in St. Louis, it could be expanded to some or all of the chain's 1,600 bakery-cafes across the country, though Shaich said there is no guarantee and no timetable for a decision.
Panera has long been involved in anti-hunger efforts, starting with its Operation Dough-Nation program that has donated tens of millions of dollars in unsold baked goods.

The first pay-what-you-want Panera Cares cafe opened in the St. Louis suburb of Clayton in 2010. Others followed in Dearborn, Mich., Portland, Ore., Chicago and Boston.

At those nonprofit cafes, every menu item is paid for by donations. Kate Antonacci of Panera Bread Foundation said roughly 60 percent of customers pay the suggested retail price. The rest are about evenly split between those who pay more and those who pay less.

The Panera Cares cafes generally bring in 70 to 80 percent of what the traditional format stores do, Antonacci said. That's still enough for a profit, and Panera uses proceeds for a job training program run through the cafes.

The new idea is fairly low-profile. Shaich said Panera is relying on media reports and word of mouth – no direct marketing, no advertising. Signs in the St. Louis cafes will tout the idea, and hosts and hostesses will explain it to customers.

"We don't want this to be self-serving," Shaich said. "We want to make this an intellectually honest program of integrity. A lot of cynics think Americans are just gaming the system," Shaich said. "Our experience is very different. People do the right thing and are willing to take care of each other."

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

40 days of joy...

Ryan Gosling = joy. 

All a twitter over chicken and artichokes...

I believe I've mentioned on here a time or two that I love the show The Chew. 

I've loved Clinton Kelly since the very beginning of What Not to Wear and I just adore the chemistry between the five hosts. Since I've been working from home, I've been cooking a lot more because I can prepare things throughout the day. So I've taken to trying recipes from the show since it's on when I take my lunch break.

Last week, Clinton featured a recipe called Chicken an Artichoke Tagine. It looked so delicious, I had to try it. It required cooking with chicken thighs, something I've never done, and had quite a few more steps than my usual recipes. But all-in-all it turned out really tasty!

I was so excited with how it turned out that I tweeted about it and low-and-behold, Clinton tweeted me back! I almost died!

This means we're basically BFFs doesn't it?

It was a delicious recipe and I urge you to try it yourself. GO HERE FOR THE RECIPE. I skipped using fresh artichokes and used canned ones instead, adding them during the final simmer stage.

Let me know how you like it. But don't you dare try to come between me and my new best friend, Clinton, ya hear?!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

40 days of joy...

This just warms my heart....


The story of a good deed has spread like wildfire online since Sunday, when an anonymous do-gooder left a kind note and $40 on a woman’s windshield in a Dunkin’ Donuts parking lot.

 “I noticed the sticker on the back of your car,” the note read, referring to a “Half my Heart is in Afghanistan” bumper sticker. “Take your hero out to dinner when he comes home. Thank you both for serving. Him deployed and you for waiting.” It was signed “United States veteran” and “God Bless.” 

The woman, Samantha Ford, a mother of two who lives outside of Boston, quickly snapped a photo of the note and the cash, and shared it on the Facebook page “Our Deployment: 101,” a sort of online support community for people affiliated with the military. 

"I just thought I would share with you all what happened to me today!” Ford wrote when she posted the photo. “Came out of Dunkin’ Donuts and found this under my windshield wiper. There are no words to describe how I'm feeling right now. Tears in my eyes. I just wish I could thank whoever did this! God bless our troops and all of those who stand behind them.”

By Tuesday morning, the post had a million and a half “likes,” had inspired more than 43,000 comments, and had been shared nearly 200,000 times. 

“It was crazy!!” Ford said in an email to, adding that she’d spoken to her boyfriend Sunday night and told him about the gesture. “He was so touched, and he said it’s people like this that make him proud to be an American Soldier. We are forever grateful and we will DEFINITELY be paying it forward! God bless our troops!”

According to, her deployed boyfriend, Albert DeSimone, is assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 1st Armor Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division based in Fort Stewart, Georgia.

Ford also said she hopes the photo will inspire others to appreciate the country’s military.

“They are all heroes,” she said. “I just happen to be in love with one.”

Monday, March 18, 2013

Family room update: coffee table time...

Slowly but surely we're transitioning our family room from green to neutrals with splashes of blue. Per usual, the mantel is giving me fits, but I just updated the coffee table with a simple vignette that I love.

 I was a little worried about the wood on wood but it blends nicely and makes the display warm but unassuming. Just sort of comfortable, like it's always been there. And it keeps my OCD in check because everything is contained an in place. 

The three blue mason jars were a gift from my mother-in-law at Christmas. 
One is filled with candy and another with playing cards.
A few more finishing touches and I'll be ready to share the final room design with you. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


not those mirrors, Justin Timberlake's new song, "Mirrors." It could possibly be my favorite JT song since "Cry Me a River." He performed it live last night on Jimmy Fallon as part of Timberweek. I'm counting down the days until the 20/20 Experience is released on March 19th. I swear the last week has been this die-hard boybander's dream week. New music from NKOTB and Justin Timberlake - it's like Christmas!

40 Days of Joy...

It is so easy to get overwhelmed with the stresses of everyday life. But even in this fast-paced world, it's important to take time for ourselves. That's why I invite you to join me in

It only takes 15 minutes a day. You listen to a short message, spend time in meditation and then journal your thoughts for the day. It's absolutely free and all you have to do is sign up. Do something good for yourself and your health.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

my weekend: a treasure hunting experience...

This weekend I decided to check out a local antique mall. I'd heard a lot about it but hadn't had a chance to make it there yet. It's called Duck Creek Antique Mall and if you live anywhere in the vicinity of Cincinnati, you MUST visit.

This place is massive. Two floors of booths. But it's not a flea market. It is quality stuff. I swear I could have lived in some of the booths. I spent over an hour and a half in there just browsing around, getting ideas. Here are some of my finds: 

This is one of the booths I could have called home. Super mod, cool mix of wood and leather with just the right gold/brass accents. Loved it! Especially those lamps. 

I have a dream that our front living room is going to have a cool lounge-y vibe from the Rat pack era. So of course that means a gold bar cart. This one was so cool because it had a handle to push the cart around and individual glass holders. A little brass cleaner and it would be good as new. 

I kept coming back to look at this piece. I NEED it for my office. Gold. Sunburst. Birds. Love. 

I was also obsessed with this vintage Ethan Allen credenza. This picture doesn't do it justice, but it was about 7 feet long and curved. All the doors folded up when you opened them. So cool. If only I had an extra $750 to spend.  

This lamp was a hot mess but in a weird way I loved it. A coat of spray paint in a bold color and that shade could be pretty hip. 

These lamps may have been the most hideous/intriguing thing I've ever seen. They looked like two pirate hats set upon a large branch with daisies jutting out of them. BIZARRE. Here's another look:

You just can't look away, can you? 

 I was super excited to see this! Remember the $12 magazine rack I refurbished over the summer?  This puppy was $60 and almost exactly the same thing. Except this one had an ash tray attached to the top. Practical for the 70s. 

The remaining pictures brought me to a realization: I have an infatuation with magazine racks. Maybe it's the OCD organizer in me. Or maybe it's just the great shapes these things come in, but I took more than my fair share of photos of magazine racks. For your viewing pleasure:

It was such a great place and I will definitely be going back there soon. And this time to make some purchases! 

Monday, March 11, 2013

40 days of joy...

keep on dancing. even if you have to put your purse down three times....

make sure you watch it until the very end. 

Saturday, March 9, 2013

40 days of joy...

everything about you is perfect for the heart that is meant to love you. beautiful message. pass it on! 

Friday, March 8, 2013

40 days of joy and a Friday Fave....

I should just stop the 40 Days of Joy right now because this about 1,000,000 days of joy all wrapped up into one awesome video. A fun song,  5 suited-up hotties and Donnie dancing... what more could you ask for? 

I present to you the video for New Kids on the Block's new single, Remix. 

I hope it gets you moving in your chair on this fabulous Friday! Have a great weekend!! 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

easy roasted potatoes: building blocks of a side dish...

If you're working on building your recipe repertoire, the best way is to start with the basics and build upon them. My dad has been making this roasted potatoes recipe for years. The first time he made it for us was the first time my now-husband (last name: O'Brien) came to visit my parents, thus O'Brien Potatoes were born. They have only a few ingredients, take no time to make and can be easily modified for more jazzed up side dishes. 

The basic recipe includes:

  • Potatoes (1 for each person you're serving)
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Butter
  • Salt 
  • Pepper
  • Garlic salt
  • Onion powder

Next cut up the potatoes into small cubes. O'Brien Potatoes are made with the skin on, but you can certainly make them without the skin.

Put them in a bowl and cover with a couple tablespoons of EVOO, salt and pepper to your taste, 2 shakes of garlic salt and 3 shakes of onion power. Toss a with a spoon, put the lid on and....

shake, shake, shake until the potatoes are completely coated. 
Then put them in the fridge and let them rest for about 30 minutes to an hour. 

Remove from the fridge and pour them on a baking sheet and put them in a 375 degree preheated oven for 30-40 minutes. Flip after 15 minutes so they cook evenly. The cooking time will depend on the size of your potatoes and how crispy you want them. Just keep an eye on them. 

And that, my friends, is how you make basic roasted "O'Brien Potatoes"– a surefire hit for any meal.  But why stop there? The beauty of this recipe is that it can be adapted a number of ways based on the flavors you like best. 

The night I made this recipe, I actually added paprika for a little kick. 

A few other options you might enjoy are:

Rosemary and thyme 
Oregano and lemon
Roasted red pepper flakes
A couple Tablespoons of your favorite BBQ sauce
Sweet potatoes with nutmeg, cumin, cinnamon and brown sugar

All you do is add your chosen flavor in when you're "shake, shake, shaking" your ingredients together. If you feel it needs some more, just add a few shakes over the top before you put them in the oven. 

Another way to jazz them up is to cut your potatoes into interesting shapes: crinkle cut, spheres, whatever strikes your fancy. Have fun with it! 

Now that you have the basics, try out different variations. They are potatoes, they taste good with everything, so you can mess them up. Let me know what interesting combinations you come up with! 

Monday, March 4, 2013

40 Days of Joy...

What a wonderful bond these brothers have. So beautiful....
(don't be fooled by the still shot, it's not about LeBron.)

Friday, March 1, 2013

40 days of joy: Day 14....

This letter may be the cutest thing ever. A little girl recently went on a trip with her family to Yosemite. A junior ranger herself, this little lady was horrified to discover that when she got home from her trip, she had accidentally put two sticks from the park in her pocket. Not wanting to be a thief, she mailed the sticks back to the park with the following letter: 

What a sweetie.