Friday Finds

It always seems to me as if the lavender was a little woman in a green dress, with a lavender bonnet and a white kerchief. She’s one of those strong, sweet, wholesome people, who always rest you, and her sweetness lingers long after she goes away.

– Myrtle Reed

It’s almost that time of year again, prepare for the purple haze!

A good read, image via Pinterest

book and lavender

Windowsill, photo by Jonny Lindh:

lavander in windowsill

Wedding favors, floral design by Twig and Petals, photo by Pictilio:

lavander wedding favors

Lovely details, floral design by White Ribbon Boutique Events, photo by Yiannis Alefantou:

napkin with lavander

Honey Lavender Macarons by Megan of Hint of Vanilla:

honey lavander macarons

Happy weekend!

Fruzsi

Our Trip to NYC

manhattan business buildings

It feels so good to be home and also, TAKE ME BACK! We were honeymooning and visiting family in NYC, and what a great time we had! Read on for a quick recap of our Big Apple experience:

New York City –center of the universe, epitome of big city life. Some say NYC is a bubble, but what a bubble!

Not a small one, for sure. Honestly! The realization day after day that NYC is not just big, it is enormous. Especially mind-numbing for someone like me coming from a country with about the same population as the City of Dreams.

Compared to European cities though, the pattern of numbered streets and avenues were very easy to navigate. Manhattan’s streets running for miles straight ahead felt like they were made purposefully for charging forward.

Also love to hate the most necessary evil, the subway: from sights to smells to sounds to the price to service changes to non-audible announcement, all the way down to turnstyles. It’s extremely convenient and efficient however, got to give you that.

There was a general sense of crammed-in-ness the first few days, but once we got used to that most iconic skyline, we began to realize how this lack of space makes planners seek innovative solutions. I find it amazing the way disused or run-down spaces are reclaimed and get transformed, my favorite example being The High Line. Love how a once-dilapidated structure was repurposed into a cultural landscape enrichment (that city needs all the green it can get).

Did our fair share of touristing too, visiting some must-see sights – check out my ‘gram for some #picsoritdidnthappen. Doing so, we walked some 95 miles according to my Health app tracker, discovering neighbourhood after neighbourhood. Speaking of walking: Walking is the secret ingredient. NYC is the recipe that requires this ingredient in all of its dishes.*

Did I just hear dishes? I think I did! 🙂

You can eat pretty much anything at any time in New York. Wanted to try as many new flavors as possible so we were going HAM at the food. Truly the most extravagantly I’ve eaten in a long time with no gym visits at all and that’s totally OK. I loved every minute of it! Most times you work hard to take care of yourself, eat well and work out regularly. Other times you get busy living.

Did not deny myself any indulgence the last few weeks, but now I’m back on track. Got my slightly bigger ass kicked at the gym this morning and a nice lean meal is waiting for me in the fridge. Don’t worry though, my plans for the week also include trying some new recipes I will share with you in due course.

Love,

Fruzsi

*from the article Why Everyone Should Live In New York City by Brian Rashid

Title image “blue manhattan district bottom tall” by onlyyouqj via Freepik

Friday Finds

Honey-sweet May, when the birds come back, and the flowers come out, and the air is full of the sunrise scents and songs of the dawning year.

Samuel Scoville Jr.

Rattan is back via Domino:

peonies on rattan chair

Find your passion:

Roald Dahl quote

Soft and luxurious decor via Style Me Pretty Living:

blush throw blanket on chair

Blush tablescape by Colin Cowie Weddings:

blush napkin tablescape

Roasted peach and lavender ice cream photo by Helene via Flickr:

lavender ice cream

Happy weekend!

Fruzsi

Healthy (Kinda) Fig Shortbread Bars

Healthier Shortbread Fig Jam Crumble Bars

You know the ‘How to have a bikini body’ meme right? I’m positive we shouldn’t stress so much about our appearances (at least lot less than the media would suggest anyway), but I also don’t want to be a hypocrite.

I do watch what I eat and work out regularly, not so much as to fit any mould but to respect my body by treating it right. At the same time I also allow myself the occasional indulgence which I think is necessary for balance in life, and those treats are the things I like to post about.

Today’s recipe is an in-between in a sense that it’s most definitely a dessert, but it’s way less bad for you and that beach bod of yours than the average sweet. That’s what I call a win-win! Read on for my healthier take on classic jam shortbread bars.

Shortbread is one part white sugar, two parts butter and three parts flour. Here I have:

  • substituted 2/3 of the flour with oats, nuts and protein powder
  • swapped the butter for margarine and used just 40% of the initial amount
  • used brown sugar instead of white and reduced it with more than 50%
  • the jam was a naturally sweet, no-sugar-added fig spread

And believe it or not after all this messing around, it turned out amazing! Let’s see why altering the original recipe is good for you:

White flour is heavily processed, the most nutritional aspects of the grain like fiber, vitamins and minerals are stripped away. The downsides to it are an overall lack of nutrients, highly refined carbs and also the gluten if you have sensitivities.

Oats on the other hand are among the most nutrient-dense foods you can eat. They are packed with important vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, and are high in fiber and protein compared to other grains. Nearly all of the carbs in oats come from complex starches, which you digest slowly. Also, they are naturally gluten-free.

Nuts were walnuts in my case, but the recipe would work with almonds, pecans, hazelnuts or pistachios as well, so knock yourself out! They are nutritional powerhouses: complete packages of protein, heart-healthy fats, fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.

I’ve been drinking protein shakes post-workout and just lately started replacing some of the flour with protein powder in baked goods. My favorite whey protein is gluten, lactose and also sugar-free, plus the vanilla flavor complements my sweets well. Work with 1:3 conversion, that is 1/3 cup of protein powder for every 1 cup of flour.

Figs are a great source of fibre and they are full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants as well. They contain prebiotics, which help support the good bacteria in your gut. Moreover, their potassium content helps regulate the amount of sugar which is absorbed into your body. The natural sugar content of figs also allows you to cut down on the amount of processed sugar used in recipes.

On to the old debate: butter or margarine, as fats and calories in them are about the same. The cold hard truth is, the healthiest option would be to skip both. The problem with butter lies in saturated fat and cholesterol, while the main concern with margarine is trans fats, the result of hydrogenation. Experts suggest consuming monounsaturated fats whenever possible (olive oil uncooked or vegetable oil for cooking). When baking, use a hard stick of trans-fat-free margarine in place of butter but whichever you select, limit your overall consumption.

What I also love about this healthier take is the texture; how crunchy it is thanks to the oats and nuts. Frankly, there’s still sugar and a fair amount of fat in these bars too, but they are incomparable to simple shortbread squares in nutritional value when being every bit as delicious as the guilty cousin.

But you know what? It’s perfectly fine to go a little harder on the dreaded sugar-butter-flour triumviri ocassionally. Just remember: portion size is key!

Shortbread Fig Jam Bars

  • Time: 15 + 50 min
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Healthier, crunchy-crumbly squares filled with a yummy fig spread.

Ingredients

1 cup rolled oats, fine

½ cup walnuts

1 cup AP flour

½ cup vanilla protein powder

1/3 cup brown sugar

170 g (12 tbsp) margarine, cut to cubes

¼ tsp salt

1 tbsp baking powder

1 ½ cup diabetic fig preserves

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 175°C (350°F), line a 22 by 22 cm (9×9”) baking dish with aluminium foil, covering the sides as well.
  2. In a food processor, pulse nuts until chopped but not too fine.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer equipped with the paddle attachment, mix oats, nuts, flour, protein powder, sugar, salt and baking powder for a few seconds.
  4. Add margarine cubes one by one and mix until a coarse crumb is formed and margarine is evenly distributed.
  5. With the back of a spoon, push 2/3 of the crumb mixture in bottom of tray. Bake until golden, about 20 min.
  6. Remove from the oven, spread preserves evenly on crust. Crumble remaining streusel on top.
  7. Transfer back to oven and bake until topping is golden, about 30 min.
  8. Remove from oven, let cool before slicing. Enjoy!

Healthier Shortbread Fig Jam Crumble Bars

Healthier Shortbread Fig Jam Crumble Bars

Healthier Shortbread Fig Jam Crumble Bars

Love,

Fruzsi

*Disclaimer: I like and use the products mentioned in posts on My Chest of Wonders. What I write about such items represent my genuine and unbiased opinion, I am not being compensated in any way through sponsorship, commissions or gifts.*

Some Thoughts on Turning 30

cake with succulents

You’re still a rock star – I whisper to myself as I take my multivitamin and go to bed at 9 pm.

Story of my life 🙂

I’m staring down my 31st birthday tomorrow and so I figured one year in is the perfect time to reflect on the things I’ve learnt and the changes I’ve experienced along the turn of a decade. First of all, life certainly did not end this time last year!

I simply think of my 30s as the next chapter in my life and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for me and my loved ones. Your 20s are usually spent figuring out what you want from life and indeed, nowadays I’m feeling more secure and comfortable in my own skin than before.

Adult life is full of things we are never taught how to do and I’m still very far from having it all figured out, but as you get older and learn who you are, it starts to get more straightforward. With an evolving perspective on life, there’s no denying after turning 30 things do begin to change a bit.

This is how it is for me, not necessarily in order of importance:

  1. The oldies station is now playing the hits of my childhood. I still need time to process that…
  2. Staying in over going out. Sitting on my couch with a glass of wine sounds way more appealing than a loud club with unflattering strobe lights. When I’m asked if I want to go out these days, I assume that means an outdoor adventure, binge drinking and falling asleep with my makeup on not included in the schedule.
  3. Start drinking like a grown-up. Alcohol is an acquired taste and the goal is to develop an appreciation for your beverages. Also, time to invest in proper glassware. For more on the subject read this, it’s hilarious.
  4. Heels hurt your feet. I’ve finally come to terms with not being able to navigate 6” heels graciously and so ditched all my cab-to-curbs. The few pairs of nice (and lower) leather pumps I kept are now called sitting shoes. Not here for blisters and bunions any more.
  5. Too old for ill-fitting underwear. Got rid of every odd piece I’d been holding onto: the too tight, too big, too low, too high, the itchy and the one that’s cheap but sexy but more cheap than sexy. Wearing pretty and comfortable underwear boosts your confidence, even when only you and your husband (and wandering eyes in the gym locker) know what your undergarments look like.
  6. Buying things that last. Quality duvets, bed and bath linens because I now appreciate it, and because manky, threadbare sheets and mildewy towels just no longer cut it. When it comes to clothing, spending on investment pieces and having a well-rounded wardrobe are the goals.
  7. Follow washing instructions when you’ve bought said pieces with your hard-earned cash. Well, mostly. I still don’t see why anyone would hand-wash the average cotton-blend tee, but apart from that, through trial and error I’ve established clothing care labels are not put on just to make you claw yourself.
  8. Sunscreen is your friend. Don’t even deny you too preferred to be orange like Paris back in the day! I only buy moisturizer with SPF now, said farewell to self tanners a long time ago and keep visits to the tanning salon to a minimum.
  9. Discovering that first white hair. This actually resulted in less of an emotional breakdown than expected. NBD, I’ve been coloring my hair anyway. At least that’s what I think now, we’ll see what happens when there are a bunch of them.
  10. Accepting the skin you’re in. By now I’m pretty sure being 5’4” won’t change. Less comparing yourself to others, learning to work with what you have and figuring out the style that works for you seems to be the key here.
  11. Respect and embrace your body, be kind to your soul. In the end, your health is the most precious thing you’ll ever own. Eat well, exercise, get enough sleep, take care of your mental well-being and live a balanced life. All this will make point 11. less of a struggle.
  12. Time-management skills are a must. There will probably never be a time ever again in your life when you aren’t juggling multiple personal and professional priorities. But also, repeat after me: you can’t do everything. I’ll finish up with the laundry tomorrow, and that’s fine.
  13. Planning for your financial future. Start saving and tackle budgeting. Setting up a savings account for paying off our mortgage, contributing to a retirement account and a health insurance policy are things I think my 50-year-old self will thank me for.

Can you relate to any of this?

Love,

Fruzsi

Photo featured in title image by Emily Wren

10 Absolute Steals from Aliexpress

Let’s get the elephant out of the room right away: I’m no fan of copyright infringement to say the least, and I am well aware of the bad rap Alibaba Group is getting. Asia’s biggest Internet company has, on multiple occasions, been labeled a haven for knockoffs and put on the blacklist for fakes, surely not entirely without grounds.

Despite their damaged credibility in the U.S. though, I’m determined to demonstrate to you how AliExpress can still be your go-to for scoring pretty cool (and not fraudulent) stuff by showing you some of my favorite purchases on the global retail marketplace.

To call the following items affordable would be an understatement, dirt cheap explains the case better. Sometimes you can’t help but wonder, how on earth is it possible to maintain such offers? And it’s not just the prices either!

It’s true I could get some of these items locally from brick-and-mortar shops, but why would I really, when I can order from the convenience of my home to be delivered – with free shipping! – right to my doorsteps.

You might argue the importance of keeping local enterprises in business and I wholeheartedly agree, especially when it comes to the food economy (see my thoughts on honey). These products however are not made here. Stores are just re-selling them, probably sourced from the very same place anyway.

I don’t mind the waiting either, because what I buy from the site is never needed acutely. It arrives when it arrives, usually within 2-3 weeks (20-60 days being the official estimated shipping time).

But what about buyer protection? In hundreds (oh my!) of transactions, the few problems I had so far were all satisfyingly resolved. With full refunds if you don’t receive your order, and partial or full money-back guarantee if your item is not as described, you are covered.

Still not convinced? Check out these products and remember, you’re just a few clicks away from such bargains. Thank me later 🙂

10 Absolute Steals from AliExpress:

Chalkboard stickers. Reusable and removable in different shapes, 8 pcs from $0.37.

chalkboard stickers

Paper cupcake liners. Many shapes, sizes and patterns, 20-50-100 pcs starting from $0.63/lot.

paper muffin liner

Paper straws. For all your soirées from $0.86/25 pcs, in many colors and patterns.

 

paper straws

Glass vials with cork. I’m thinking favors! Different shapes and sizes available, per piece or per lot.
glass vials with cork

Baker’s twine. 4-8-12 ply, over 40 colors available (even metallics!) by yard or spool.

baker's twine

Kraft paper tags. Many shapes and sizes starting at $0.16, from 10 up to 1000 pcs.

kraft paper tag labels

Silicone moulds. Unbelievable selection for ice cubes, chocolate, fondant or even candles.

silicone heart mould

Tea bags. Empty, with a string seal. Get 100 pcs for as low as $1.12

tea bags

Satin ribbons. With different widths, a variety of length and all colors of the rainbow.

satin ribbon

Cookie cutters. The cutest, funniest and weirdest you’ll ever find, starting from $0.46

jigsaw cookie cutterLove,

Fruzsi

All images via AliExpress

*Disclaimer: I’ve visited, and/or used services offered by business establishments mentioned in posts on My Chest of Wonders. What I write about such entities represent my genuine and unbiased opinion, I am not being compensated in any way through sponsorship, commissions or gifts.*

Friday Finds

April, April, laugh thy girlish laughter, and the moment after, Weep thy girlish tears, April.

– Angus Wilson

Dusty rose peonies (via Ma Sérendipité):

dusty rose peonies

You are responsible for your own happiness:

her own world

DIY modern pom pom pillow (by Molly of Almost Makes Perfect):

pom pom pillow

Ivory Farmhouse Canisters from Pier1:

ivory farmhouse canisters

Content and comfy (via Tumblr):

comfy cat

Happy weekend!

Fruzsi

Crème de la Crème: Mom’s Liptauer

hungarian liptauer

Quick and easy to prepare, körözött is a tangy cheese spread very popular in Hungary. Such a word must be close to impossible for most of you to pronounce, but good news: it’s also known as Liptauer (pron. lip-tower).

The name derives from Liptau, German for the Northern Slovakian region Liptov that is also called Liptó, for it was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Why yes, it was quite busy around here in the last 1100+ years 🙂

I’m sure after this brief lesson in history it will come as no surprise that Liptauer appears in cuisines of all our surrounding countries. And if you guessed it’s made a little different everywhere, you were right. Let me tell you how much so!

Not every nation, not every region, not even every family, but each household has a very own recipe. Liptauer is a highly personal matter, regardless of the fact that all are variations on the same theme. Now good luck determining the „original”!

One thing that’s sure: the recipe was based on Bryndza, a type of sheep milk cheese but nowadays it’s usually prepared with quark (the same cottage cheese-like dairy product that makes my country’s favorite dumplings).

Liptauer is traditionally eaten on an open sandwich or toast, but is equally delicious as a dip with crackers or raw vegetables. An essential to every picnic basket and a great side to your leftover Easter ham as well.

hungarian liptauer on bread

The recipe below comes from my mother. I was spooning it straight out the bowl not once – that is how deep my love for it goes, but don’t tell her that. She is from Veszprém county so we could consider it Liptauer à la Balaton-Highlands, but other family members from the same region would surely disagree. So why do I still think it appropriate to raise this one a little above others?

Because we have been asked to share the recipe on multiple occasions and some friends specifically ask us to bring this to potlucks. It must be hard for the uninitiated to understand the full complexity of this high art, but in a country where everyone’s fully convinced of the superiority of their own recipes, this is quite a big deal.

hungarian liptauer

So, Liptauer: seasoned quark with onion, sour cream and butter. Did you just say margarine? I’d heard rumors to that effect but as your informal representative in this matter, I would strongly advise against that. Oh and no cumin in this one either. #sorrynotsorry

Hungarian Liptauer Spread

  • Time: 10 min
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A tangy cheese spread popular in Central-Eastern Europe.

Ingredients

250 g quark

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp black peppecorns, ground

2 tsp paprika powder

1 small onion, or half of a medium one

2-3 tbsp sour cream

1 1/2 tbsp butter, cold

Directions

  1. Peel and very finely chop onion.
  2. Put quark in a medium bowl. Season, add paprika, onion and thin slices of the cold butter. Give it a good stir with a fork.
  3. Add sour cream 1 tbsp at a time, and mix until you reach desired consistency (quark can be creamier or more crumbly depending on the producer and fat content).
  4. Let rest for 1 hour before serving.
  5. Keep refrigerated, but it won’t spoil if you take it on a picnic).

What is your favorite schmear?

Love,

Fruzsi