Thursday, January 30, 2014

Thursday Things

Cleaning out the closet can do wonders. It's a chance to rediscover "lost" passions, as well as make room for new ones. ; ) 
I am a lover of handbags.  
 Lately, I have been re-loving (yes, I know that is not a word) this Tory:
She is the softest bag ever. How on Earth have I forgotten about her?
So glad my friend, Anne, talked me into buying her during our NY trip.

Now, if I could only get my hands on this bag:

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Valentine's Day Card Carrier

Sophia's Valentine's Day class party is coming up. My friend, Dani, and I have 4 fun stations for the kids to enjoy. One of the stations is for the kids to make their own Valentine's Day Card Carrier.

Little sister modeling:
So cute, right?

Just click on the link above for the tutorial. We decided to make it a little easier and time saving by cutting out the templates for each student. We also skipped the step with cutting out the mouth and making an opening in the bag. If you do decide to make a mouth opening in the bag, make sure your bag is wide enough!

If you are planning a Valentine's Day party for your kid(s), here are some ideas that we have planned along with our cupcake decorating station:

Friday, January 24, 2014

Valentine's Day Exchange for Kids

Valentine's Day is fast approaching and being a room mom for both girls (at two different schools) means I need to get a little early start on their individual Valentines; aside from the class parties.
I found this super cute and easy Valentine at The Crafting Chicks

You can purchase an endless supply of balls at Oriental Trading.
Like 144 balls, to be exact. 

Grab your kid(s) and start the assembly!
4" by 6" clear bags (I bought mine at Michael's)
Bouncy balls (I used miniature balls and put 3 to a bag)
Printable tags (I used card stock but plain paper would be fine too)

Monday, January 20, 2014

Blood Orange & Vodka Fizz

It's really not cocktail season; which in my book is more like spring/summer only because it offers something cool and refreshing. Lately the weather has decided it really isn't January and therefore has warranted something quenching.
I picked up a bag of these lovely blood oranges on my Trader Joe's run.
You see where I am going with the photos?
An Absolut beauty :)
 Make one now!

Makes one cocktail:
1/4 cup fresh squeezed blood orange juice (about 3 tangerine sized blood oranges)
Absolut Mandrin Vodka (I am not going to dictate how much, but I used 1/3 cup)
Soda water (citrus flavored or regular)
Blood orange slices (optional)

Surprise from Hubby

My friend, Marina (Yummy Mummy), and I have late night texting every so often when either hubby is gone (trips or work). The texting usually involves a glass of wine or champers pic and/or our "justification purchase." 
Darling Hubby is gone all week for business. :(
To my surprise, I found this when I opened up my wallet:
I cannot wait for this to arrive:
Just in time for an upcoming ski trip; which I am praying for fresh snow!

Friday, January 17, 2014

My New Slow Cooker & Gumbo

The other day I asked Sophia what she wanted for dinner. Her response, "Gumbo." My response, "Huh? What did you say?" Sophia's response, "You made it last winter and I really liked it!" Well she was right. I did make it before. Like a whole year ago. I swear kids have the best memories. I can't even remember what I ate on Monday let alone last year.

Perfect time to play with this shiny beauty Darling Hubby bought me for Christmas.
Yes, I wanted a new crock pot for Christmas. What can I say? I am a simple gal.
Go to Williams-Sonoma and pick one up!

This dish is super easy. And if the weather in California was actually "winter-like" it would be a perfect dinner for a chilly night. But no matter when you decide to make it, I promise it will be yummy! Just ask my 6 year old. :)

Recipe adapted from Williams-Sonoma

2 boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into just less than 1 inch pieces 
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 pound smoked sausage, sliced into 1/2 inch rounds
5 celery stalks, chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 bell peppers (any color), seeded and chopped
3/4 bag of whole frozen okra, chopped
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups chicken stock
One 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes with juice
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Start Cooking:
In a large fry pan over medium-high heat, warm 1 tablespoon olive oil. Season chicken with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon cracked pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned on all sides, about 8 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a slow cooker, then add the sausages. Scatter the okra, bell pepper, celery and onion on top. 

Make the roux:
Return the fry pan to medium heat and warm the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle the flour in the pan and cook, stirring constantly, until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Stir in the broth and the tomatoes with their juice and increase the heat to medium-high. When the mixture comes to a boil, remove the pan from the heat. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon cayenne, then pour the mixture over the vegetables, chicken and sausages. 

Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 8 hours according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Adjust the seasonings with salt and cayenne. 
Ladle the gumbo over steamed rice and serve immediately. Serves 4 to 6.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Thursday Things

Old things make me just as happy. Especially treasures with a story attached or sentimental value; the later is always the best in my book..

Like my FAVORITE watch in the WHOLE WIDE WORLD. 
My dad gave me this watch almost 15 years ago. It is a classic Tag Heuer and  I wear it EVERYDAY.

Years ago, I collected Swarovksi.
I was turned on by the first piece my dad gave me from his trip to Austria.
It still makes my heart smile.

I truly love my Swarovski champagne flutes. We used these on our wedding day!

Last but not least, the first ring David bought me when we were dating:

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Thursday Things

Welcome to Thursday Things! Who knows exactly how long this will last. These are a few things that make me smile . . .
I don't really like nuts, but I LOVE these!
Gimme a Diet Dr. Pepper to go along and I am set.

 A recent trip to Target was a little more costly than I wanted.
I somehow managed to lose my favorite Tory Burch glasses. sigh
But I have fallen head over heels for these aviators:
Can't wait until they arrive!

The girls did a little online shopping and adored these on H&M:
This one for only $9.95

And this was a $6.00 steal!

And I scooped up more of my fave Jersey shirts in different colors, also from H&M. 
Only $9.95!

Last but not least:
Can't get enough of this view. 
It is January, right?

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Chewy Chocolate Chip Granola Bars

Nope, this is not going to be some altered recipe to make these bars less sugary. Sorry. The Halls like the real deal. You won't find one piece of dried fruit in this recipe. Not even peanut butter for the protein kick.

Is there anything more mouth-watering than this?
 Oh well, maybe this:
Dump this after things have melted and dissolved:
Get a cute helper:
After a few more steps, eventually this will appear:
 And a sneaky hand will make it disappear:
But you'll get a smile in return!

Thank you Once Upon a Chef for the idea!

* I did not use flax meal or wheat germ. And instead of just sliced almonds, I used honey roasted sliced almonds. Because there can never be enough sweetness. ; )

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Hail to Kale

No, this is not a New Year's Resolution. I really don't believe in making those commitments. And if you really know me, you know there is no way I am going to make a change in my eating habits. I rarely eat breakfast and I like to have a snack at around 10 pm (usually something sweet followed by something salty - like McConnell's ice cream chased with a handful of chips). Sue me. I love what I love, whether it be a tasty salad or a rib eye steak or roasted chicken or Flaming Hot Cheetos or Tapatia Doritos (my new found friend). Moderation is always the key, not deprivation.

In fact, if I was going to make a NY resolution it would be to:
Drink more bubbly!

Now on with the kale. I have been addicted to kale lately. Salad form has been my way of consumption. I don't like tons of ingredients with the kale either. I think it takes away from it when you start adding tons of other veggies. So I guess that's why the picture below looks pretty blah. But I promise you, it is a very tasty salad! You can really add whatever your heart desires.

This is what I used:
4 cups chopped kale (remove the tough stems)
shredded carrots
1 cup roasted corn
1 small Granny Smith apple, diced

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about 1/2 large lemon)
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Pecorino cheese, grated (I would say about less than 1/4 cup - sorry I don't measure)
1 clove garlic, mashed and chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
fresh cracked black pepper, to taste

You can make the dressing in a large bowl then add all the salad components on top and then toss. Let it sit in the fridge for at least 2 hours so all the flavors will merry. Then enjoy!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Jalapeño Popper Dip

Happy New Year! How did you celebrate? We gathered with our friends and had an East Coast New Year's Eve = 9 pm is the new midnight when you have kids. : )

Marcy graciously hosted at her house. 
Loved this fun tablescape, which the kids quickly raided and made lots of celebratory noises.

I made this quick and easy dip: Recipe from Simply Gourmet

I did make one substitution. Instead of using jalapeños, I decided to use pickled jalapeños. I thought maybe the tartness would cut through the bacon and variety of cheeses. And you don't really have to worry about the heat from the pepper seeds either.

6-8 slices of bacon, diced and cooked crispy
2 8-oz packages of cream cheese, soft
1 cup of mayonnaise (I used 3/4 cup)
4-6 jalapeno's, chopped and deseeded.  
1 cup of cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/4 cup diced green onion
1 cup of crushed crackers ( I used Ritz)
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 stick of butter, meltedTwo 8oz. blocks of cream cheese

You literally just mix everything together and sprinkle on the cracker topping and bake at 350 for about 25 minutes until bubbly.

Serve with crackers of tortilla chips.