HomemadeBanana |
Clothing, Shopping, Style

Golden Girl

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Dress: Forever 21 (old, similar shown below) // Earrings: Forever 21 (old, similar) // Jacket: Forever 21 (old, similar) // Watch: Michael Kors (similar) // Bracelet: Julie Vos // Bag: (old, similar) // Shoes: Nine West (old, similar)

When I painted myself a mental picture of the life I would lead in Iowa, it did not include red carpets. But wouldn’t you know it, that’s exactly where I found myself last weekend: getting my picture taken at a movie premier in downtown Cedar Rapids (hello, big-city living). Thanks to one of my coworkers who played a very convincing Elf #4 in the family-friendly, locally made masterpiece Up on the Wooftop, I finally had the opportunity to get all dressed up in this little gold number (originally purchased as part of a Bond girl Halloween costume and heretofore hanging forlornly at the back of my closet, waiting to be worn in earnest).

I would absolutely love it if there were more movie premiers in my future, but as that’s not currently the case, I guess I’ll have to settle for some dressed-up holiday parties. As evidenced by my aforementioned love of Goldfinger and my choice of premier garb, I’m a big fan of the gilded look. Thankfully, the fact that the ’70s redux is now in full swing coupled with the fact that it’s the season of all things shiny and bright means that gold dresses abound. From the short and sequined to the strappy and wrapped, there’s a golden dress with your name on it. But just be warned: you might be stopped for an autograph the first time you take one of these 14-karat frocks out for a spin.

Clothing, Style

Dare to Flare

button-down-and-bell-bottoms-11 button-down-and-bell-bottoms-2button-down-and-bell-bottoms-10 button-down-and-bell-bottoms-1button-down-and-bell-bottoms-9 button-down-and-bell-bottoms-6button-down-and-bell-bottoms-18button-down-and-bell-bottoms-5button-down-and-bell-bottoms-7button-down-and-bell-bottoms-4Shirt: J.Crew // Jeans: Old Navy // Scarf: Target (old, similar here) // Belt: Old Navy // Necklace: Julie Vos // Bag: Coach (sold out, similar here) // Shoes: Target (old) // Sunglasses: Karen Walker via DITTO

I have this image in my mind of my grandma, standing tall at five-foot-nothing, shoulders back. In this image, her hair is black and straight and down to the bottom of her back. The year is probably something like 1972 and she’s rocking some seriously low-slung bell bottom jeans like nobody’s business.

After those very clear details, the rest becomes fuzzy. I can’t quite recollect if she’s wearing the infamous blue-and-white polka-dotted crop top with those jeans—I don’t even remember if the photo is in color. All I know is the woman looks stylish. But that’s no surprise. My grandma has always had impeccable taste—in clothing, in interior decorating and in gift giving. So although I’ve chosen to pair my high-waisted bell bottoms with a breezy linen-blend boyfriend shirt instead of that vintage crop top, I like to think of this look as a modern tribute to my grandma’s signature style.


Chicken Tortilla Soup

chicken-tortilla-soup-recipe-4chicken-tortilla-soup-recipe-5First let me tell you this: I’ve never not made a double batch of this stuff. I fill my trusty Dutch oven to the brim with all sorts of tomatoey, peppery, chicken brothy goodness, let it simmer away for a half an hour or so and blend it up with some masa until it’s thick enough to suspend a generous heaping of all my favorite toppings.

After first falling in love with tortilla soup at a kosher Mexican restaurant outside of Chicago, I devoted a few months to perfecting my own ideal version. I nixed the cream and added shredded chicken for healthier, heartier option. Of course, cumin and chili powder play a prominent role, but to me, the real stars of the show are the roasted peppers. I always throw in a poblano, jalapeño, and chipotle in adobo, but depending on how cold it is outside, I may toss in an extra serrano or two and maybe a dried chipotle fora little extra spice. And, as with most good soups, this only gets better with time, so it’s the perfect option for workweek lunches.

• 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
• 2 Tbsp olive oil
• 1 1/2 tsp cumin
• 1 tsp chili powder
• 1/2 tsp salt
• 1 cup diced onion (or half an onion)
• 1 roasted poblano
• 1 roasted jalapeño or serrano pepper
• 1 or 2 chipotle peppers in adobo
• 4 cloves garlic, minced
• 2 14 1/2 oz cans of fire-roasted diced or crushed tomatoes
• 1 32 oz carton of chicken broth
• 3 cups hot water
• 1/3 – 1/2 cup masa (depending on desired thickness)

• sour cream
• avocado
• red onion
• cilantro
• Fritos (trust me)

*Note: as written, this recipe has a pretty good kick to it! For a more mild option, skip the jalapeño and chipotle peppers.

1. Start by roasting your poblano and jalapeño under the broiler on high. Rotate the peppers every couple of minutes until all sides are nice and black, and the peppers are relatively soft. Let cool then roughly chop with the skins on. I like the little flecks of black and the slightly charred taste this adds to the finished soup.

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix cumin, chili powder and salt together. Place your chicken breast in a small baking pan, drizzle 1 Tbsp olive oil on top, then sprinkle on a small amount of your spice mixture. Set aside the rest of your spice mix.

2. Bake chicken for 20 to 25 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through. Let cool then shred into small pieces with two forks (trust me, this is much easier to do once the chicken has cooled). Sometimes I don’t feel like cooking the chicken, so I just pick up a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store, shred one of the breasts, sprinkle some of the spices on top and call it a day—works just as well!

3. Heat the other tablespoon of olive oil in a pot over medium high heat. I like to use my Dutch oven for this. Add onions and cook for about ten minutes, or until they are mostly translucent.

4. Add your remaining spice mix and stir to combine. Then, add in your poblano, jalapeño and garlic and stir it all up, making sure the spices coat everything.

5. Pour in the canned tomatoes, chicken stock and hot water. Plop in one or two of those delicious chipotles in adobo (you can leave them whole). Bring the whole thing to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer uncovered for about 30 minutes.

6. Grab your trusty immersion blender and go to town. Make sure everything is well blended, then start adding in the masa a few tablespoons at a time. Give it a good stir. The masa will be lumpy, but that’s okay—just keep blending until your soup is nice and smooth. I usually add closer to 1/2 cup of masa, because I like my soup to be thick enough to support a good heap of toppings, but you can add as little or as much as you want.

7. Add in the shredded chicken, ladle into bowls and garnish! After having tried store-bought tortilla chips, homemade tortilla chips and everything in between, I really have to say that I much prefer the under-appreciated Frito to top my soup. The strips are already the perfect size for each bite, they stay crispy far longer than your run-of-the-mill tortilla chip, and I find the extra punch of salt corn flavor they provide to add the perfect finishing touch.

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Accessories, DIY

DIY Faux Fur Pom Pom Loafers

diy-pouf-loafers-2diy-pouf-loafers-6As I mentioned earlier this week, I’ve gone full-on vegan Cruella de Vil in my single-minded obsession with all things faux fur. Thankfully, running to the craft store and paying a couple bucks for these charming faux-fur pom poms is both much easier and much more ethical than kidnapping a whole litter of dalmatian puppies. But I digress.

This is one of those DIY projects that was borne of my (usually conflicting) desires for instant gratification and relative frugality and is almost embarrassing to share because it was so easy to make. I saw a similar pair of shoes on one of my Saturday-morning online window shopping trips, dug these old canvas smoking slippers out of the back of my closet, ran to Hobby Lobby and had furry toes before the sun went down. Not too bad for a fall day’s work.

diy-pouf-loafers-4For this project, you’ll need the following:
• a pair of loafers/smoking slippers
• two small faux fur pom poms (this is the size I used)
• a needle and thread

1. If your pom poms came with elastic bands attached to them, simply snip those off to start. Thread a needle and start stitching your poms onto the toes of your loafers. Make sure to pull the thread tight with each stitch so your pom pom isn’t floppy. After it feels nice and secure, knot the thread on the inside of the shoe and trim any excess thread.

That’s all there is to it!

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Accessories, Style

Faux Fur for Fall


Vest: Treasure & Bond // Shirt: J.Crew (similar) // Skirt: Banana Republic // Stole: Forever 21 (taken from this poncho) // Shoes: Charles by Charles David // Earrings: BaubleBar // Sunglasses: Karen Walker via DITTO // Bag: Rebecca Minkoff // Watch: Michael Kors (old, similar here and here) // Bracelet: Banana Republic

Transitional weather is the very best. One of the most prominent items in the pro column of my running Is It Fun to Live in Iowa? list is the fact that we get to experience each one of the four seasons in its most quintessential form. Snow-covered winters, impossibly fertile springs filled with all manner of blooming things, blazing hot and uncomfortably humid summers, and, of course, resplendent autumns with actual tractors on the side of the road harvesting actual corn.

Besides the Flaming June-orange leaves currently erupting in my backyard and the flocks of tiny birds eagerly picking the last of this summer’s berries off of the bushes outside my window, I’m particularly enjoying the rash of 60-degree weather we’ve been having. I love being able to transition my favorite warm-weather skirt, marked with breezy micropleats, to a slightly cozier look by supplementing the outfit with an all-purpose military vest and the newest addition to my rapidly growing faux fur collection.

Clarabelle’s lucky—she gets to wear real fur all year ’round.

Clothing, Style

How to Style Culottes for Fall

blue-striped-gaucho-pants-ruffled-off-the-shoulder-top-1blue-striped-gaucho-pants-ruffled-off-the-shoulder-top-3blue-striped-gaucho-pants-ruffled-off-the-shoulder-top-8blue-striped-gaucho-pants-ruffled-off-the-shoulder-top-9 blue-striped-gaucho-pants-ruffled-off-the-shoulder-top-4blue-striped-gaucho-pants-ruffled-off-the-shoulder-top-7blue-striped-gaucho-pants-ruffled-off-the-shoulder-top-5blue-striped-gaucho-pants-ruffled-off-the-shoulder-top-10blue-striped-gaucho-pants-ruffled-off-the-shoulder-top-2Top: Boohoo // Pants: Alice + Olivia // Shoes: J.Crew (similar, lower-heel option here) // Brooches: vintage // Bag: Vintage // Bag Charms: Amazon // Sunglasses: Karen Walker via DITTO // Bracelet: Banana Republic // Rings: BaubleBar // Watch: Michael Kors

If you thought I was going to say stick a sweater on top and call it a day, you were wrong. You were very, very wrong. Yes, autumn heralds the advent of knitwear, but it also marks the beginning of open season on all things sparkly. And furry. And ruffly. Right?

I recently discovered these epic Alice + Olivia high-waisted culottes on major clearance at Nordstrom Rack. Admittedly, they are from the Spring season, but having admired them from the time I first spied them on the Style.com (RIP) presentation recap, I knew I had to pick them up and never let go. I floated out of the store—thanking my lucky shopping stars—determined to repurpose these charming umbrella-striped culottes for fall use.

My usual instinct is to pair a voluminous piece with a streamlined one, to balance out the silhouette. Here, however, I went full steam ahead and paired these pleated pants with an equally billowing top. I affectionately refer to it as my Puffy Shirt and I love it very much. Next step in fall-ifying this look? Add as much sparkle and lush texture as possible without looking gauche. That means silver cracked-leather pumps, a trio of vintage brooches and a sublime silver-and-gold box clutch all found at my very favorite local antique shop, and a cluster of furry pompoms for good measure.

Were my shoulders a little cold? Maybe, but sometimes you have to shiver a little to look good.


Caramel Apple Hand Pies

caramel-apple-hand-pies-2caramel-apple-hand-pies-14caramel-apple-hand-pies-10Hand pies are my new favorite thing. They are self-contained and so are perfect for transporting to one’s office to share with one’s coworkers. They offer a blank canvas on which to express secret ambitions of pastry chef glory in the form of flaky dough appliqués and way too much sanding sugar. They can play host to any range of delicious fillings from the savory mushroom, sausage and potato breakfast hand pie to the perfectly sweet and tart caramel apple hand pie we have here—which is, in my opinion, the best way to use up all those apples you picked on your requisite fall trip to your local apple orchard.

But the very best part of baking a hand pie (other than eating it, of course) is the fact that they offer loads of baking cred with surprisingly minimal effort. I know many very capable and very intelligent people are intimidated at the prospect of making pies, dough and all, from scratch. But let me say it once and for all: it’s not that hard! The single most important thing to remember is that you want to keep your dough nice and cold so that those little chunks of butter don’t melt and mix in with the rest of the dough. If you can do that, you’ll end up with flaky, buttery, delicious crust every single time. And you can quote me on that.

I love a good apple pie as much as the next American girl, but I wanted add a little bit of ooey-gooey warmth to these bad boys, and the addition of some store-bought caramels into the filling does the trick quite nicely. A big scoop of vanilla ice cream and some more caramel sauce on top for good measure ensures the irresistible deliciousness of these fall treats. And if you were to toss said hand pie, ice cream and caramel sauce in a blender to make yourself a little pie milkshake action, I wouldn’t judge you. I wouldn’t judge you one bit.


Caramel Apple Hand Pies
Pie dough recipe from Martha Stewart; filling recipe adapted from Freut Cake.

Dough Ingredients:
• 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 tsp salt
• 1 tsp sugar
• 1 cup (2 sticks) of butter, chilled and cut into cubes
• 1/2 cup ice water (you might not use all of it)
• 1 egg mixed with 1 Tbsp water (for egg wash)
• crystal sanding sugar

Filling Ingredients:
• 2 cups peeled apples, diced very small
• 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
• 1 tsp cinnamon
• 1/4 cup sugar
• 10 store-bought soft caramels, cubed
• the juice of half a lemon

1. To make the dough, combine flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Add butter and blend until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 8 to 10 seconds.

2. With the machine running, add ice water in a slow, steady stream through the feed tube. Pulse until the dough holds together without being wet or sticky; be careful not to blend more than 30 seconds. To test, squeeze a small amount together—if it’s crumbly, add more ice water 1 tablespoon at a time.

3. Divide the dough into two equal balls. Flatten each ball into a disc and wrap in plastic. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill for at least one hour.

4. Preheat the oven to 425ºF and line a baking sheet with Silpat or parchment paper. Set aside.

5. Now it’s time to make the filling! In a small bowl, combine the apples (diced nice and small!), lemon juice, cinnamon, sugar and flour. Mix until the apples are thoroughly coated. Set aside.

6. Roll out the pie dough to about 1/8″ thickness on a well-floured surface. Depending on how big you want your hand pies, find a cup or bowl that matches the diameter you’re going for and cut out as many circles as possible. For reference, mine were about 5″ to 6″ wide and I was able to make five hand pies (10 circles of dough).

7. Then, gather all your dough scraps (refrigerate intermittently if they start to get too soft), roll them out and use a festive cookie cutter like this leaf one to cut out decorative shapes to top your pies.

7. Spoon about two tablespoons of the apple filling into the center of half of the pie circles. Make sure to leave enough of a border around the filling to seal them shut.

8. Top the apple filling with a few pieces of caramel.

9. Brush around the edges of the dough with a pastry brush dipped in egg wash. This will be the glue that holds the pieces together.

10. Place a second dough circle on top each filled circle and use a fork to crimp the edges together.

11. Brush each pie with plenty of the egg wash so they get nice and brown, layer on your pieces of decorative dough and add more egg wash. We want a beautiful golden finis! Then cut two vents on the top of each pie with a sharp knife to prevent unsightly explosions. Sprinkle the pies with crystal sanding sugar and place on prepared sheet pan.

12. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

13. Bake the pies for 20 minutes, or until they’re golden brown. Enjoy!


Lifestyle, Style

What to Wear Apple Picking


Hat: Tommy Hilfiger // Scarf: Zara // Sweater: Target (similar) // Shirt: J.Crew // Pants: Express // Boots: Hunter in Raspberry // Bag: Deus Lux // Necklace: Julie Vos// Bow Ring: Kate Spade // Nails: Deborah Lippmann in Laughin’ to the Bank

What’s that phrase again? As American as apple pie?

As the idiom goes, few things are more quintessentially Yankee than apple pie, baseball (hats) and Tommy Hilfiger. And so, on a recent trek to our local apple orchard, I thought it most appropriate to don a Hilfiger baseball cap sewn with a vintage-inspired felt “H” that I like to pretend stands for Hannah (viva la monogram!).  A cozy knit atop my go-to chambray popover fit the bill for comfort and warmth, while a requisite Zara plaid scarf was ready and waiting for a chilly October breeze to rustle through the apple tree leaves.

For the sake of functionality—and, let’s be honest, fashion—I begrudgingly tempered by All-American look with a new pair of Hunter wellies, beautifully unadorned in all their British glory. Anyway, Brits like apple pie too, right? I’ve found that apart from their trendy appeal, these raspberry-hued rubber beauts are lighter weight and far more comfortable than their less spendy counterparts. I also appreciate that they come in a shorter size, making them much more proportionally appropriate for my five-foot-three frame.

A crisp autumn afternoon spent tromping through tall grass in search of the perfect assortment of ripe apples is one well spent, in my opinion, and made all the richer by cozy clothes and charming company.


Homemade Honey Roasted Peanut Butter Cups

homemade-honey-roasted-peanut-butter-cups-24homemade-honey-roasted-peanut-butter-cups-22 homemade-honey-roasted-peanut-butter-cups-23Truthfully, I’ve never been much of a peanut butter girl. Up until a few months ago, I’m not entirely sure that I had ever purchased a jar of peanut butter. That is to say, the last time a tub of Jif occupied a prominent place in my pantry, I was probably 18 years old and still living at home (Hi Mom!). Apart from playing a crucial roll in some of my favorite store-bought candies, I really never craved the stuff. And then everything changed.

When you’re 27 years old and you live in small town Iowa, a new grocery store coming to town is a darn big deal. It merits a special trip on opening weekend, and it definitely merits a taste test down the aisles to get a handle on how this newcomer will fit into your current grocery shopping rotation. It’s riveting stuff. And so it was that on this fateful Saturday,  I stumbled upon a teeny tiny Dixie cup filled with a swirl of freshly ground peanut butter. Honey roasted peanut butter. It was a revelation.

Now, I’m not sure whether it’s the consistency (hovering somewhere between crunchy and creamy to achieve the ideal texture) or the flavor (nutty, sweet, salty, roasty), but I do know that I’ve smeared a whole mess of the stuff on top of a whole wheat English muffin for breakfast nearly every day since I discovered the stuff—and I don’t even usually eat breakfast (but that’s a whole other story).

I became so enamored with this freshly ground honey roasted peanut butter that I began to daydream of other ways to use it. Would it be good with apples dipped in it? Of course. Would it be the perfect after-work snack when eaten spoonful by spoonful straight out of the tub? No doubt. Would it take the already beloved peanut butter cup to new heights of deliciousness? I had to find out.

Spoiler alert: it does.

homemade-honey-roasted-peanut-butter-cups-26 homemade-honey-roasted-peanut-butter-cups-25

Honey Roasted Peanut Butter Cups
Adapted from Martha Stewart

• 1 cup powdered sugar
• 1 1/2 cups all-natural peanut butter, preferably honey roasted
• 3 Tbsp unsalted butter
• 1 lb semisweet chocolate chips
• small paper candy cups
• edible gold leaf for garnish

1. Combine sugar, peanut butter, and butter in an electric mixer and beat on medium-low speed until combined. Transfer mixture to a heavy duty ziplock bag with one corner snipped (for use like a pastry bag).

2. Melt chocolate in the microwave, heating for 30 seconds at a time, stirring between each increment. Stop microwaving before all the chocolate has melted, and then stir the chocolate until the last chips have melted. Make sure you don’t get any water in the chocolate or it will seize and turn grainy.

3. Use a small spoon or small paintbrush to coat insides of the paper candy cups with the melted chocolate, making sure to cover the bottom and sides well. Transfer cups to a rimmed baking sheet and transfer to freezer until set, about 10 minutes.

4. Remove cold chocolate cups from the freezer. Pipe peanut-butter filling into each cup until three-quarters full. Spoon melted chocolate into each cup to cover. Return to the freezer until set, 15 to 25 minutes.


Accessories, Style

3 Ways to Tie a Silk Scarf

three-ways-to-tie-a-silk-scarf-3three-ways-to-tie-a-silk-scarf-2 The neck scarf—tolerated by flight attendants, beloved by Daphne and worn with a stylish sense of machismo by the perennially cool gaucho—is staging a comeback. Seen tied jauntily around the craning necks of the blogging elite this summer, the bandana lent a sense of borrowed-from-the-cowboys nonchalance to any number of distressed denim shorts and draped t-shirt combos, further popularizing a trend that started on the runways of Prada and Saint Laurent last season.

I, too, succumbed to the casual allure of the bandana, but as temperatures drop and heavier textiles (hello velvet! how do you do faux fur?) start making their way to the front of my closet, I sought a neck scarf that could keep up. So, I tucked away my collection of red and blue cotton squares and tucked into the basket of vintage silk scarves at my favorite local antiques and vintage shop. The aforementioned designers showed their neckwear skinny and monochromatic—a look I love, to be sure—but for this dress I preferred the on-trend ’70s vibe afforded to me by this sherbet-hued silk square. Possibly even better than the Mick Swagger this vintage beauty adds to any look is the versatility with which it can be worn. Here are three simple, chic ways to style a silk scarf.

1. I’ve always loved the look of a brightly colored scarf tied casually to the strap of a leather handbag—extra points if it’s Hermès—so this style was my immediate go-to. This look is carefree, slightly bohemian and easily transferable from outfit to outfit.

three-ways-to-tie-a-silk-scarf-142. Roll the scarf at an angle and knot it loosely around your neck for a Mick Jagger-inspired look that’s as cool as it is retro.

three-ways-to-tie-a-silk-scarf-5 three-ways-to-tie-a-silk-scarf-6 3. Skip the bracelets and wind a scarf around your wrist for a playful take statement jewelry.


Scarf: vintage // Dress: Lush // Bag: Coach // Sunglasses: Ray-Ban via Endless Eyewear // Shoes: Target, old // Necklace: Julie Vos // Bracelets: BaubleBar, Julie Vos, H&M // Nails: Wallis by Butter London