This Weekend: Best of the Fest Children’s Film Series and The Antiques & Garden Fair


Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending the first installment of Best of the Fest Children’s Film Series, produced by Chicago’s Facets Multi-Media and presented at Gorton Community Center in Lake Forest.  Milos Stehlik (pictured above), founder of Facets, travels the world to find films for children that engage, entertain, and empower.  Last Sunday’s short films carried themes of persistence, music, love, acceptance, courage, and the environment that were told mainly from children’s perspectives but loved by viewers of all ages.   The familiar sounds of children’s chatter, wiggling seats, and rustling popcorn bags came only in the moments between short films.  During the showings, kids in attendance were completely engrossed in the films, letting out bursts of infectious giggles and sometimes shouting enthusiastic proclamations of plot discovery.   This Sunday, April 13th, Facets returns to Gorton at 4pm to present three book-based short films, including the Oscar winning “The Gruffalo.”  Seating is limited but tickets are still available on Gorton’s website (link here).  Tickets are also available on Gorton’s site for the last installment on April 27th.

Also this weekend is one of my favorite Chicago Botanic Garden events, the Antiques and Garden Fair.  Friday through Sunday from 10am to 5pm each day, gorgeous floral displays surround 120 booths filled with treasures from around the world.  Year after year I walk out with a lighter wallet and a heavier trunk (remember this goody from last year?)!  Tickets available on the Chicago Botanic Garden’s site (here).

Happy Early Weekend! xo

Tomato Season

First Big Tomato!“There’s only two things that money can’t buy – true, true love and homegrown tomatoes.” – from Kevin West’s Saving the Season, a cook’s guide to home canning, pickling, and preserving

We picked the first giant, juicy yellow tomato from our garden last night and sliced it into a caprese salad while it was still warm from the sun.  My daughter remarked, “Don’t you love the way your hands smell when you’ve just picked a tomato?” “One of life’s great pleasures,” I replied.

This is barely a recipe it’s so simple!  When ingredients are this fresh, almost nothing needs to be done.  Here, the tomato’s sweet acidity is balanced by creamy fresh mozzarella then finished with fragrant, spicy, basil and a drizzle of best quality extra virgin olive oil.

Caprese Salad

serves two

  • two large, ripe homegrown or farmers’ market tomatoes, sliced to desired thickness
  • 1/2 pound fresh mozzarella, sliced to same thickness as tomatoes
  • washed and dried leaves from 2 stems of basil, sliced into thin ribbons*
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  1. Divide tomatoes and mozzarella between two plates, drizzle each with a tablespoon of olive oil, top with basil.  Sprinkle liberally with kosher or sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

*Chiffonading basil: Stack several basil leaves on top of one another and roll lengthwise into a cigar.  Slice across the roll to create thin ribbons.

First Harvest

veggies copyThe cold temperatures of spring and early summer gave our garden a very slow start.  Despite a 24′ x 8′ bed filled to the brim with plants and seedlings, we’ve only had lettuce and herbs to enjoy.  Until now!  Seemingly overnight, bright pink tops emerged at the base of radish greens, several teeny tiny green beans exploded into full size, and sweet banana peppers grew almost too big.  The ‘sun sugar’ yellow cherry tomato plant (one of eight varieties I planted) gave us our first tomatoes of the season, reminding us that a homegrown tomato is one of nature’s greatest delights.  And yes, I should have let the radishes grow a little longer, but I was itching to pull something out of the dirt!creamy basil avocado dressingI sliced up all of the veggies along with a handful of mixed fresh herbs, then tossed the salad with this Creamy Basil Avocado Dressing.  (I also drizzled some over grilled salmon, which was crazy good!)

Creamy Basil Avocado Dressing

makes 1 1/2 cups

  • 1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup parsley leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 jalapeno (seeds and membranes removed), chopped
  • 1 small ripe avocado, seeded and peeled
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup light sour cream
  • 1/2 cup light mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  1. Place all ingredients in a blender and blend on high until dressing is smooth and creamy.

recipe and photos via the aesthete and the dilettante

A special thank you to my son who patiently taught me how to add text to photos.  Extra allowance this week, Little Man!

Two New Obsessions + The Perfect Summer Marinade

DSC_0195Last month I wandered into Williams-Sonoma in need of a new paring knife.  The Shun’s unusual blade and gorgeous wood handle caught my eye, but I almost passed it by as the price was almost double that of the other paring knives.  I asked the sales associate if Shun was really twice as good and she was emphatic about the quality.  “Try it,” she said.  “You’ll be back for the chef’s knife in a week.”  She was wrong.  I told my family I wanted it for Mother’s Day, so technically I waited two weeks.  Not only do they feel amazing in your hand, they are as sharp as a surgeon’s blade.  (So sharp, in fact, that after my first week with the paring knife I had Hello Kitty Band-Aids wrapped around three of my fingers.)  Now that I have the chef’s knife, all I want to do is chop things.  I literally cannot wait to make dinner just so I can get my hands on the knife.  I’m obsessed.DSC_0205Weck Jars are my other new obsession.  I’ve been stashing leftovers and decanting pantry staples into them, loving how they look stacked up and that they are dishwasher safe and chemical free.  Yesterday I put the knife and one of my new jars to good use by making a favorite summer marinade.  It’s a flexible recipe for just about anything you throw on the grill, and it does double duty as a dressing for simple greens or grilled veggies.  Herbs are the only things ready to eat in my newly planted garden (the strawberries are close!), so I snipped basil, parsley and a smidge of thyme to use in the recipe, though most any combination of herbs would do.DSC_0227

Lemon Garlic Herb Marinade

makes 1 1/4 cups

  • 2 lemons, zested then juiced (about 1/3 cup)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil and/or parsley
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon or thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl or add all ingredients to a jar and shake to emulsify.


all photos via the aesthete and the dilettante