A Sunday Ritual


Julia Child's Ratatouille (from Debbie Carlos)

For me, Ratatouille is one of those dishes that totally captures the taste, feelings, and memories of summer. Um, besides ice cream, of course. It utilizes the best of the best of in-season summer vegetables, the number of components are not many, and while the ingredients by themselves are humble, the end result is quite spectacular. This time, I tried out a recipe from Julia Child’s classic tome on French cooking, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Feel free to substitute with whatever herb/s you have. Her original recipe calls for parsley, but I only had basil. I’ve also seen this dish cooked with thyme and rosemary, so go with your heart! Serve this with a cool glass of white and a slice of grilled bread brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt.


Adapted from Julia Child’s recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking

1lb eggplant
1lb zucchini
1 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons olive oil
½ lb thinly sliced onion
2 thinly sliced bell peppers (red, green or yellow)
2 cloves garlic, mashed
salt and pepper to taste

1 lb firm, ripe tomatoes, chopped
3 tablespoons minced basil (or parsely or thyme & rosemary)

sliced zucchini and eggplant for Julia Child's Ratatouille (from Debbie Carlos)

1. Cut the eggplant in half and slice further into 1 inch wide pieces. Cut zucchini into similarly sized pieces. *Note that original recipe calls for peeling the eggplant. I don’t usually do this, especially if you’ve got nice, organic ones. A lot of the nutrients and the fiber of vegetables are in the skin.

2. Place eggplant and zucchini in a large bowl and toss with salt. Let sit 30 minutes, drain, and dry each slice on a clean towel.

3. Heat 12” skillet with olive oil and saute eggplant and zucchini one layer at a time on each side until browned, about 1 minute per side. Remove and set aside

4. Saute onions and peppers in olive oil in the same skillet until softened. Mix in the garlic and season to taste. Lay the tomatoes over the onions and peppers, season with salt and pepper, and cover. Cook for about 5 minutes over low heat, until the tomatoes have rendered their juices. Baste with the tomato juice. Cook further, uncovered, until most of the juice has evaporated.

5. In a heat proof casserole, lay 1/3 of the tomato mixture on the bottom, sprinkle with basil, and layer over with eggplant mixture. Repeat layers, ending with tomatoes and basil. Cover and cook over low heat for 10 minutes.

6. Uncover, tip the casserole, and baste with juices. Raise the heat and cook uncovered for another 15 minutes, basting every so often. Careful not to scorch the bottom.

You can make this ahead and heat just before serving or you can also serve it cold.

Editor’s Note: this post is part of the series “A Sunday Ritual” by guest blogger Debbie Carlos.

Faire Play

Dose Market

Sarah West Ervin, Brian West, and Laura Bock at Chicago's Dose Market

If Chicago feels like a dark, dead wasteland of misery in the winter (I exaggerate a bit), then I’m happy to say it really comes alive in the summer. There are more festivals and markets than you can shake a stick at. Brian and I have finally been taking advantage of these exciting outings, with some help from a few friends. Last month, our buddy LB (pictured above right) was able to drag us out of our apartment to visit the Dose Market, which happened to be celebrating it’s first birthday. If you’re not awares (as we, ourselves, were not), Dose is a monthly, indoor market, with an impressively curated list of food and fashion vendors (aka Dosers).

coffee at Dose Market

After arriving, we decided to fuel up with some horchata from Crop to Cup. I think my love for horchata is rivaled only by my love for chocolate milk.

upcycled speakers at Dose Market

We then started winding our way through the crowd, the tables, and the impressive displays. We were quite impressed with Gentleman’s Boombox, which wins the award for most creatively repurposed object.

yummy treats and sweet kicks at Dose Market

LB and I drooled over some treats from Bake and Brian drooled over some finely handcrafted leather shoes from Oak Street Bootmakers.

handmade leather goods at Dose Market

There was some more fine leather work…

camping supplies at Dose Market

And some vintage camping gear from Camp Wandawega.

Laura Lombardi's handmade jewelry at Dose Market

Then I noticed one of my favorite local jewelry makers, Laura Lombardi. It’s always such a treat to see her work around town.

handmade jewelry at Dose Market

peanut butter! at Dose Market

We then made our second purchase: some chocolate peanut butter from Yumbutter. Yum is right!

handmade scarves and other accessories at Dose Market

fresh berries at Dose Market

handmade clothing at Dose Market

After we enjoyed our complimentary drinks (beer from Goose Island and cocktail creations combining whisky from  Spicebox Whisky and snow cone syrups from Jo Snow), I grabbed a bottle of  smoky heirloom tomato catsup from The Scrumptious Pantry (lord knows I love my condiments!).

Laura Bock & Sarah West Ervin at Dose Market

We also took full advantage of the Smilebooth before we headed out.

being silly at Dose Market

We even got Brian to join the fun. And you know how much he hates fun….

goodbye, Dose Market! we had a blast ;)

All in all, it was a wondrous adventure!

Featured, Out & About

Dollymoon: Louisville

21 C Hotel in Lousville, Kentucky

We’ve been dragging out our Dollymoon recaps for awhile, but now it’s time for our final look back. After taking in the fine sights, smells, and tastes of Woodford Reserve distillery, we headed further west to Louisville to spend two days dining, relaxing, and exploring the so-called “Austin of Kentucky.”

infinity mirror in 21 C

We decided to stay at the 21c Museum Hotel, which is part art gallery, part hotel located right downtown. It sounds a little strange, but it was definitely cool to be living in a place surrounded by art installations for a few days (like the infinity bulbs in the elevator, pictured above).

21 C Hotel room

Our room was minimalistic and modern with smart and whimsical touches throughout like the rubber ducky in the shower.

exposed brick in a 21 C Hotel room

bird art in Proof on Main in Louisville, Kentucky

We ate at Proof on Main the first night, which is a fairly fancy restaurant located within 21c. It tends to get pretty good reviews, but we were a bit disappointed. The food just didn’t quite meet our expectations.

Brian West and Sarah Ervin in Proof on Main in Louisville, Kentucky

bison burger from Proof on Main

Louisville Slugger manufacturing building

Downtown Louisville is also home to the Louisville Slugger factory, which you can peer into from the street. If you are having trouble locating the factory, just look for the really large replica of Babe Ruth’s bat outside!

Louisville Slugger and golden David statues in Kentucky

There was full moon on our walk…

Brian West falls in love with a red penguin from Louisville's 21 C hotel

And Brian met a friendly penguin.

Hillbilly Tea in Louisville, Kentucky

Our final full Kentucky day started out at Hillbilly Tea, which had an incredibly charming aesthetic and some great food and…well, tea. The iced mint green tea was just perfect for the weather.

Louisville's Hillbilly Tea

vegan pancake breakfast from Hillbilly Tea in Louisville, Kentucky

Next up was a stop at Glassworks for a walk-in glassmaking workshop, which turned out to be a major highlight for Sarah. After just a few minutes of instruction, we were on our way to making a little Arkansas shaped magnet and a ring for Sarah. Talk about honeymoon keepsakes!

making glass magnets at Louisville's Glassworks

Glassworks studio in Louisville, Kentucky

The whole process was surprisingly simple and fun.

blue, green, and red glass fragments at Louisville's Glasswords

glass owls

Within the Glassworks building was also the Flame Run gallery filled with colorful glass creations, including the owl bobbleheads above. That’s right–their little owl heads bobbled!

handmade glass ornaments and vases

Flame Run glass studio

We even got to see some glassblowers in action!

glass artwork at the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft in Louisville

Next we walked down to the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft to see their current exhibit, 50 Years of Studio Glass. Their were some beautiful glass pieces, and some fun glass pieces, and some downright weird glass pieces.

tacos from Louisville's Taco Punk

All that craft and culture made us hungry, so we headed to Taco Punk in Butchertown for some radically scrumptious tacos and guac.

Taco Punk in Louisville, Kentucky

Scout in Louisville, Kentucky

Then we perused the eclectic shops in the area, including Scout, a super fun home decor & jewelry boutique. Sarah snagged a handmade necklace and a peanut eraser.

interesting housewares at Louisville's Scout

baby limb figurines at Scout in Louisville, Kentucky

Gifthorse in Louisville, Kentucky

We also found some deals and a tired dog at gifthorse.

fashion and accessories at Louisville's Gifthorse

Dot Fox in Louisville, Kentucky

Before calling it a day, we headed up Bardstown Road and stopped in Dot Fox where we got some fun cards and Sarah snagged some snazzy clothes.

fashion and accessories at Louisville's Dot Fox

cool women's fashions at Louisville's Dot Fox

The final stop on our shopping excursion was Why Louisville for some souvenir T-shirts and a few postcards.

Brian West, the strongman, and Sarah Ervin, the bearded lady

shopping in Louisville, Kentucky

We had to head back to the hotel and take a break (and take inventory), before heading out to dinner at the Blind Pig. If you happened to follow our last trip to Louisville, you might remember this was one of our favorites restaurants. It didn’t let us down this time, either.

The Blind Pig in Louisville, Kentucky

Before saying goodbye to the South and heading back North to Chicago, we took a walk to the Ohio river.

The Ohio River

And said hello to the Belle of Louisville. Maybe we’ll take a boat ride next time. We can’t wait to go back…

The Belle of Louisville riverboat

Featured, Out & About

Dollymoon: Nashville

Welcome to Nashville road sign

We just made it back from our Dollymoon (Dollywood + Honeymoon), and it was probably the best honeymoon that anyone has ever taken. Ever. Oh, you think yours was the best? Let’s just agree that you’re probably wrong and move on with our recap. We’ve got lots to share with you — so much, in fact, that we’re going to break it up into a few different posts. There was just too much fun for one post! Today we’ll take you through the first two days of our trip in Nashville.

back of the Union Station hotel in Nashville

We stayed at the Union Station Hotel in downtown Nashville, which was built in 1900 as Nashville’s main train station. It was turned into a hotel after all train service had stopped in the 1980s.

lobby of the Union Station hotel in Nashville, Tennessee

The exterior of the station and the lobby area were clearly pretty fancy. You can certainly tell what an opulent place this would have been in it’s heyday. Although, the station used to have two alligator pits, and we can’t decide if that’s opulence or a sign of a security problem.

retro carpet in the Union Station hotel in Nashville, TN

vintage staircase in the Union Station hotel in Nashville, TN

Brian West and Sarah Ervin

We were so happy to be starting our long awaited Dollymoon that we had to capture our excitement with a quick photo right there in that vintage, yellow stairway.

Union Station hotel bed and salmon dinner at the Germantown Cafe in Nashville, TN

Pretty snazzy room, no? After a food detour to the Germantown Cafe just north of the Capitol Building, we headed to Lower Broadway, the touristy strip with bright lights, live music, and Nashville’s famed honky-tonks.

neon cowboy bars in Nashville, TN

neon cowboy bar signs in Nashville, TN

To be perfectly honest, we expected to be underwhelmed by this part of town. While the area does have its fair share of duds (I’m looking at you, Margaritaville), we had a really fantastic time.

honky tonk bar band at Robert's Western World in Nashville, TN

We stopped into Robert’s Western World and grabbed a table in the back to watch a few excellent bands. We also ran into Pokey Lafarge and the South City Three at the bar who just happened to be in town recording for their next album.

breakfast in bed at Nashville's Union Station hotel

The next morning, we decided we’d better continue the high life and get room service.

Purity milk carton

Then it was on to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. There was so much to see there, but we especially liked the display of Hatch Show prints that they had along the third floor wall. It was so inspiring to be so close to instruments and lyric sheets and clothing belonging to all of county music’s legends. Afterward, Sarah decided that she wanted to pick up yodeling…

Hackberry Ramblers and Hatch Show Print Wall at Nashville's Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

wall of gold records at Nashville's Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

gold records and Elvis Presley at Nashville's Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

The endless walls of gold records and the majestic (yes, we said it — majestic) Hall of Fame were also amazing to see.

Country Music Hall of Fame circle in Nashville, Tennessee

We made sure to say hello to Elivs (above), our beloved Dolly, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, and a few others, and we snapped another honeymoon portrait (albeit, a strange one) in a reflection of copper in the museum. We like to keep things a little weird around here…

Brian West and Sarah Ervin copper reflection

After the Hall of Fame, we walked back through Lower Broadway and found a more subdued scene than the night before.

Park Paradise neon sign in Nashville, TN

Robert's Western World and country bars in Nashville, TN

Arnold's country cooking in Nashville, TN

Then it was time for some grub! After grabbing the car, we were off to Arnold’s, which might just be the food highlight of the entire trip! It’s a cafeteria-style place that serves up some classic southern dishes and even throws in a few twists along the way. Spicy chocolate chess pie…yes, please.

country food at Arnold's in Nashville, TN

After scarfing down far too much food, we headed out to do a little shopping. Our first stop was Savant Vintage, which was packed with cool, but pricey, wares.

Savant Vintage in Nashville, TN

vintage Elvis painting, cowboy hats, and boots at Savant Vintage in Nashville, TN

Next up was some ranch dressing at Katy K Designs. Sarah splurged on a snazzy pair of white cowgirl boots, and I’m sure she’ll be sharing some photos of those in the near future.

Katy K Designs in Nashville, TN

Sadly, between a fantastic midday meal and a show to see that night, that’s about all the shopping we had time for in Nashville. I guess that means we’ll have to go back…

Jack White show at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, TN

We were a little tired by that point, but it was amazing to see the Alabama Shakes and Jack White at the Ryman. Obviously a great venue, and both bands didn’t disappoint.

Jack White and band at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, TN

After the show, we decided to stop back into Robert’s to grab some fried pickles that we just didn’t have room for the night before.

retro rockabilly band at Robert's Western World in Nashville, TN

A fun fifties rock band was playing, which made for a great post-show show. Plus, Brittany Howard from the Alabama Shakes was just hanging out and was kind enough to let Sarah take a picture with her!

Sarah Ervin with Brittany Howard of the Alabama Shakes in Nashville, TN

Then we rushed off to bed in anticipation of the next leg of our Dolly-tastic journey: Dollywood! We’ll give you the scoop on that fine time, as well as on some surprisingly fun times in Gatlinburg, Tennensse, tomorrow.

Fine Fixin's

Fine Fixin’s: Easy Little Bread

We went through a brief, if not inevitable, cold spit last week, which I used an excuse to get back to the oven. If there’s a cure for a drafty old house, it’s got to be a hot oven, and one of the best ways to utilize an oven is with bread! Who doesn’t love munching on bread straight from the oven. Luckily for us, we stumbled upon a ridiculously easy recipe at 101cookbooks.com.

Easy Little Bread

1 1/4 cups / 300 ml warm water (105-115F)
2 teaspoons active dry yeast (one packet)
1 tablespoon runny honey
1 cup / 4.5 oz / 125 g unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup / 5 oz / 140 g whole wheat flour
1 cup / 3.5 oz / 100 g rolled oats (not instant oats)
1 1/2 teaspoons fine grain sea salt
2 tablespoons butter, melted, for brushing

In a medium bowl, sprinkle the yeast onto the warm water and stir until the yeast dissolves. Stir in the honey and set aside for a few minutes, until the yeast blooms and swells a bit – 5 – 10 minutes.

In the meantime, mix the flours, oats, and salt in a large bowl. Add the wet mixture to the dry and stir very well.

Brush a 8-cup loaf pan generously with some of the melted butter. Turn the dough into the tin, cover with a clean, slightly damp cloth, and set in a warm place for 30 minutes, to rise.

Preheat the oven to 350F / 180C, with a rack in the middle. When ready, bake the bread for 35-40 minutes, until golden and pulling away from the sides of the pan. I finish things up by leaving the bread under the broiler for just a heartbeat – to give the top a bit deeper color. Remove from oven, and turn the bread out of the pan quickly. Let it cool on a rack so it doesn’t steam in the pan. Serve warm, slathered with butter.

Makes 1 loaf.

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Maker's Remarks

Maker’s Remarks: Debbie Carlos

{ Black Mountain }

While looking for a new photo print for our bedroom that was both large and affordable, I came across this crazy cool Mountains poster by one Debbie Carlos. I just had to have it, and how (!), so I messaged Debbie to make sure I could get it quickly. I’m about as patient as a spoiled kid on Christmas Eve. I also wanted it as part of a mini apartment facelift before our first wedding guest arrived. But mostly, I just wanted it now! Debbie turned out to be very accommodating. So sweet, in fact, that I thought, “Gee. I bet she’s a lovely, interesting person, and I sure would love to learn more about her and feature her gorgeous work on our blog.” So that’s what I did! Debbie kindly agreed to participate in our Maker’s Remarks series and has answered a few questions about her work, her life, and her inner crab.

{ Lake }

Your photos seem to express a love of nature. How do you find things to shoot despite living in a big city?

I don’t often take pictures of the city itself, choosing to focus more on the home and the quiet surprising/beautiful moments that happen sometimes. But Chicago is great in terms of greenery. There are tons of parks and  preserves within the city limits that I often shoot in. I also tend to take the most photographs when I’m traveling.

{ Woods }

Do you have any current or upcoming creative projects that you’re excited about?

I’m collaborating on a project with my brother, who is an amazing graphic designer based out of Minneapolis. He designed the award winning catalog for Yves Klein’s traveling exhibition and is senior designer at the Walker Art Center so you know this is going to be good! We are finalizing the design and about to go into production. It should be making its debut at this year’s Renegade Craft Fair in Chicago!

What’s your spirit animal?

The Dancing Crab

{ Blue Egg }

You also have a food blog! Can you share one of your favorite recipes with us?

Since it is summer, I feel like I must share with you the recipe for Watermelon Shake! Its a take on a Mexican Agua Fresca but its name is a shout out to my Filipino background (we call our blended fruit drinks shakes even though there is no dairy in them).

Watermelon Shake

Watermelon, cubed
Cold Water
Lime juice
Sweetener (Sugar, Agave Syrup, Honey, Splenda etc)

Use about a  4:1 ratio of watermelon to water. Pulse in a blender and taste. If its too watery, add more watermelon or add water if mixture seems too stiff. Add a small pinch of salt and season with lime juice and sweetener to taste.

* to make this a little boozy add some tequila

{ Gradient / Jade }

And you make jewelry? How do you balance all of your creative drives?

I feel like I always need to have a project going on. I think if I sit still for too long or if nothing is on the horizon, I get really anxious. I also think its really great and healthy to change it up a bit every once in awhile. If I get tired of working on photos, I know I can go and work on some jewelry.  If I get tired of both, maybe I can go into the kitchen and have a cooking project. There are a lot of things that I’d like to be able to do that just don’t happen and thats ok and sometimes it does get overwhelming but I kind of wing it based on mood. Its always good to have something going on.

A Pretty Pair

A Pretty Pair: Watch What You Eat

{ Memories In A Bottle by Thomas C. Chung }  { Thanksgiving 2006 (Anaconda Camp) by Derek Dunlop }

Needle Drop

Needle Drop: Those Darlins

So I feel like I’m cheating a bit here since I am using another LandroMatinee video this week, but I guess that’s just how the cookie crumbles. Fridays usually necessitate fun music, and today is no exception.

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Fine Fixin's

Fine Fixin’s: Carrot Tangerine Bread

Sometimes I just feel like making bread, and I have a sweet tooth all of the time. So whenever I want to bake bread it is generally best if it is sweet. Here’s a recipe that you can pretend is good for you since it has two cups of grated carrots.

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1.5 tsp baking powder
1.5 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
4 large eggs
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 tbsp tangerine juice
Grated zest of 1 tangerine
2 cups finely grated raw carrots

makes two 9″ x 5″ loaves

from The Bread Bible { Photo Credit: bread bag by Martha of Chickadee’s Nest }

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Fine Fixin's

Fine Fixin’s: Inside Out BLT’s

illustration of inside-out BLT's recipe

Do you like BLT’s?  If so, you’re gonna love this.  If not, you’re probably still gonna like this.  I’m not crazy about BLT’s myself.  I blame the tomato.  I try to like tomatoes… I really do.  Every time I get a sandwich, I restrain myself from saying “hold the tomato, please”, because I think “this time, this time I’m gonna like it.”  And you know what always happens?  I pick the tomato off.  But praise the lord!  I have found a tomato I can appreciate, thanks to BUST Magazine.  In their Dec/Jan issue, I found this intriguing recipe, and because of my blind determination to like tomatoes, I decided to give it a try.  We served these Inside-Out BLT’s at Brian’s birthday party, and they were a big hit.  Unfortunately, we didn’t get a good photo (before Sarah H. scarfed them all down), so I drew a wee picture to illustrate their cuteness.  Ok, ok.  I helped Sarah eat them all.

“Start with 2 pints of cherry tomatoes.  Cut off the top and scoop out the insides of each one.  Fry a package of bacon (turkey or tempeh bacon works too) until crispy.  When it’s cool enough to handle, crumble and mix with a shredded head of iceberg lettuce.  Fill your tomatoes with this and top with a drizzle of mayo.  These can be made up to a half hour before serving but no earlier, as they can get soggy.”

If you’re like me, you’re not afraid of a gut-filling glob of Miracle Whip and a heartier (anti-artery-er) portion of bacon.  Instead of the bacon bits and shredded lettuce combo, I mixed the lettuce with a few spoon-fulls of the Miracle.  Then each little tomato buddy was topped with a single chunk of bacon.  Heaven, people.  Heaven.