Happy Blizzard Day!

We’re about to have the first blizzard to hit the East Coast since 2009, which I have to admit I’m not terribly excited about. But it does mean that we have an excuse to stay indoors all weekend to eat “storm food” (whatever’s in our pantry, which includes some really delicious and terribly unhealthy stuff), watch movies, and enjoy each other’s company. Whether or not you’re stormed in this weekend, here are six things you should absolutely check out because they’ll add a little bit of light to your life.

These are temporary, but I’m thinking I’d like permanent ones.

Even though we swore off pets for awhile, this has me reconsidering.

There are so many talented people in the world — especially in France.

Know any men who act like boys? When they wonder why no one wants to have sex with them, send them here.

Chocolate x 25 – guilt = happiness.

A wall of love notes? If your love language is words, this one’s for you.

Oh, and if you haven’t entered the Caravan Shoppe giveaway, there’s still time! The drawing happens on Sunday at 10pm EST, so spill your beans about your first crush and you could win some gorgeous wall art.

5 Things Guys Actually Want for Valentine’s Day

Do you find guys hard to shop for on Valentine’s Day? I do.

For one thing, it’s just not the manliest of holidays. Also, the gift is meant to be sort of romantic — and most guys just aren’t excited about sentimental things.

James, for example, would have been happy about the cufflinks I gave him for Christmas, but the only reason he was excited about them was because they double as USB drives. (Cue spy theme music.)

So ladies, because I used up so much of my brainpower trying to figure out what the heck to get my gentleman for Valentine’s Day, I decided to use my new knowledge for good by sharing it with you. And wouldn’t you know it — what works best for this holiday are activity gifts rather than stuff. Here’s what I mean:

Valentine’s Gifts for Awesome Guys

Event Tickets: Check around to see what’s happening near you in the next couple of months. We sometimes go to music shows, but we’ve also seen touring Broadway shows, as well as performances by David Sedaris, Ira Glass, and Mike Birbiglia. (We also belong to the group NPR Addicts Anonymous.) Of course, it’s easier if you have similar taste in these things — otherwise half the gift is enduring the evening cheerfully. This is the idea I went with this year! We’re going to go see the comedian Marc Maron on Friday night, which has us both feeling like Friday can’t get here fast enough.

Massages: Some guys get weird about getting massages, so make sure you know how he feels about them before booking one. But if he’s keen on the idea, it’s a great way to indulge. And while you’re at it, book one for yourself and make it a couple’s massage. (Happy Valentine’s Day to you!)

Classes: If your guy is always talking about learning Italian or how to make sushi, or if he wants to take better photos or learn more about woodworking, look into local adult education centers to enroll in a class together. For example, the Cambridge Center for Adult Education is near us, and they offer a pretty awesome selection of cooking, art, and language classes that last anywhere between one night and several weeks.

Master Shave: Every single guy I know would be down for a real luxury shaving experience. James says this about why men are drawn to it: “It’s a melding of manliness and pampering, which is hard to come by for guys.” He also explained that most of them have some difficulty shaving, so the idea of having it done well, as a craft, by a master barber is a pretty big deal. The Art of Shaving offers luxury shaves by Master Barbers, but you can also find similar services with an equally luxurious vibe at upscale barber shops and hotels with spas.

Staycation: It’s expensive to stay at nice hotels, but not having to pay for airfare makes it a lot more feasible to enjoy them. Book a night at one of the fancy hotels near you, and enjoy the city with fresh eyes — or stay in. On New Year’s Eve, we lucked out with a perfect view of the fireworks over the Charles River when we stayed at a hotel in Cambridge. It was so much fun that we vowed to hop around to the other upscale/weird/fun hotels in Boston to play tourist more often.

What are you getting your favorite dude for Valentine’s Day?

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Simple Recipe: Ice Cream Jello

As a teenager, I worked at a cafe where I learned how to make a perfect cappuccino — but didn’t drink coffee. Then in college, I worked at a boutique chocolate shop — but didn’t really eat chocolate. And though I’ve since begun eating chocolate every now and again, I’ve always been more attracted to fruity things, like this ice cream Jell-O.

My aunt has made this recipe for family parties since I can remember and it’s a crowd pleaser: creamy, fruity, and light. For Valentine’s Day, I’ve made it with strawberry Jell-O, but I’ve also made it with orange (for Halloween) and lime (with some vodka, for St. Patrick’s Day). It makes a big batch and takes only about 10 to 15 minutes of hands-on time, so it’s the perfect thing for a party. Or you could be like us and just eat the whole batch yourself. No judgments.

Ingredients:

2 big boxes of Jell-O (I used strawberry)
3/4 quart vanilla ice cream
1 packet Knox gelatin
4 cups of water

Instructions:

1. Boil the water and then transfer it to a big bowl. Add in the Jello and gelatin. Whisk until dissolved.

2. Add in the ice cream and whisk until it’s all melted into the mixture.

3. Pour the mixture into a 9 x 13″ casserole dish. Refrigerate overnight, or for at least four hours. The ice cream will rise to the top, making pretty layers.

4. Cut into squares or use a cookie cutter to make shapes. I found it easiest to make a hole in the middle so that you can slide the cookie cutter out rather than trying to lift it with the Jell-O in-tact. This is also a great excuse to taste test, using that middle piece.

Refrigerate for up to 3 days.

What desserts are you craving for Valentine’s Day?

Spotlight on Claire Pettibone

I’m going to let you in on a secret: even though I love pretty things — sometimes so much that I have to close my eyes if we’re driving through a particularly ugly area (hello, Route 1!) — I’m a pragmatist. In pretty much all aspects of my life, I search for things that are beautiful and functional. Like, I swear James only enjoys furniture shopping with me for entertainment value. I insist on flopping, rag doll style, on every couch I’m interested in. If my feet don’t fly into the air while the rest of me sinks into a cloud of fluffy cushions (the literal translation of “head over heels”), I’m not sold. Pragmatist.

That said, for the longest time I wasn’t that big on lingerie. I guess my thought was that it all just comes off anyway, so what’s the point? Well, as most of you know, I write for other blogs too and one of my assignments was to write about different lingerie styles. That’s when I discovered Claire Pettibone’s Heirloom line and fell in love. Non-sensical, must-have-it-right-now love. With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, I thought that you might want to lay your eyes on these lovelies too — if only to inspire a little romance.

Some women insist that wearing beautiful underwear makes them feel more confident all around, and I have to admit that there’s something to that.

What are your feelings about lingerie? Love it? Hate it? Just want some to hang in your window and look at lovingly while dreaming of the next episode of Downton Abbey? Let’s have some girl talk.

Just so you know, Claire Pettibone didn’t sponsor this post — I just really love this collection.

The Velvet Revolution

Cupcakes are my weakness — this wasn’t always so. It really wasn’t until my friend Rachel Blumenthal went on a cupcake quest for her food blog Fork It Over, Boston! that I became a true addict. We tried a whole bunch of cupcakes in the spring of 2010 (you can see the entire quest here), and the addiction followed me across the country when I moved to Portland. Here, I hit the jackpot on the first try: Cupcake Jones, home of moist, delicately flavored, filled cupcakes. Pure heaven.

My favorite is the red velvet, which happens to be on their menu daily. So as Valentine’s Day approaches, I’ve considered braving the crowd and getting some — because these cravings are vicious — but instead I’m attempting to make these red velvet whoopie pies. (I’ll hit up Cupcake Jones after the big day!) And apparently it’s not just red velvet cake that I’m in love with, because I must must must have this red velvet headband as well. Quite Blair-Waldorf-meets-Little-Women, don’t you think?

1. ThreeBirdNest Red Velvet Headband  2. Food Network Red Velvet Whoopie Pies

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