Dinner, Lunch, Nosh

Blood Orange Champagne Vinaigrette

January 14, 2015
Blood Orange Champagne Vinaigrette

Over the holidays, we had champagne for a few occasions at the house because who doesn’t love bubbly? Every time we have it though, we are always left with a quarter of a bottle here, or half a bottle there. Usually I toss it. Flat champagne is no fun. This time though, thanks to good old Pinterest, I had a plan! There couldn’t be an easier way to use it up with absolutely no effort! You can leave the champagne out, in a jar or any container really, leave it uncovered, or add some cheesecloth to keep out bugs in cases of warmer weather, and make champagne vinegar. Then forget about it for anywhere between a few weeks to a few months. See? Easy!

Once the vinegar is ready, you can use it a number of ways. I chose to try it out in a dressing using my favorite produce this time of year, blood oranges. They are so pretty. Sometimes I feel guilty eating them, but then I don’t because they’re tasty too. I snagged a bag of Moro blood oranges, with the most vibrant hues, at Trader Joe’s for $2.49. Sold! I’ve been eating them as snacks, much like my prior obsession with clementines, but really wanted to use that color to make this beautiful Blood Orange Champagne Vinaigrette. It makes eating healthy as part of my resolutions all the easier. Appealing food is just more enjoyable.

Blood Orange Champagne Vinaigrette

What you need
  • 3 Moro blood oranges
  • 2/3 cup champagne vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons whole grain Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

Optional: If you’d like a little less tang, add a bit of honey. I left it out because I like tangy vinaigrettes.

Make it
  • In a bowl or jar, (I used a 5 cup glass measuring cup) combine all of the ingredients and whisk well. You can alternatively whisk everything together and slowly add the olive oil or even blend all the ingredient to emulsify it, but I like the separation and just shake the bottle up before adding it to salads. Keep refrigerated.

Blood Orange Champagne Vinaigrette

Reading Challenge, Recently

2015 Reading Challenge

January 9, 2015
2015 Reading Challenge

In my early twenties, my most favorite ways to unwind were late night drives to nowhere listening to music, writing, and solo trips to the book store. I hardly ever went with a book in mind and even when I did, I loved walking through Borders’ or Barnes and Noble’s literature section. I would choose a book that caught my eye off the shelf, read the back or inside cover, then if that made the cut, I read one random page from the middle of the book. I spent way more money on books than clothes or shoes, and I wouldn’t really have it any other way.

When I got into the “real world,” my love for reading got pushed to the back burner, my late night drives weren’t an option, and my writing inspiration was hit or miss. I missed the calm of the book store evenings, instead opting to use my Kindle app on my tablet for new reading selections. With the surge of resolutions floating around online recently, I was inspired by PopSugar’s and Goodread’s challenges to pick a number of books I would like to read by the end of the year and then certain categories these books should meet. I do still read a fair amount, so I didn’t include this on my own list of resolutions, but this still steps back up my book worm game, by specifying what it is I’ll be reading, and will allow me more book store visits again.

Book Tower

I want to read 26 books in 2015. Two per month seems like a decent goal, since I don’t often have the time to sit and read them straight through like I did in high school and college. Hopefully, I’ll exceed this goal, but since it’s more for me-time and relaxation, I don’t want to set the bar too high. Here’s how I’ll break what my selections will be into categories:

  • 3 works translated to English: It’s always good to have a new perspective
  • 3 non-fiction: I tend to read works of fiction, so I’ll broaden my horizons
  • 3 books I’ve started, but never finished: I think I only have 3 books I’ve left unfinished for one reason or another, so I plan to revisit those from the beginning
  • 3 memoirs: They are much more fun now than they used to seem when I was a kid
  • 2 with over 500 pages: A small challenge within a challenge
  • 3 banned or challenged classics: I have read quite a few, but I’m sure there are many that I have not yet gotten to
  • 1 sci-Fi: I like to get outside my comfort zone from time to time
  • 3 philosophical: I’m always interested in other ways of thinking and expanding my knowledge of theories
  • 5 recommended by friends: Any suggestions?

That covers my 26 reads. If a book falls into more than one category, I will only count it for one to make sure I reach my goal.

UHGDE

 

To start my 2015 reading challenge, I am going to go with one of the books I’ve started, but never finished. The first will be The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy  by Douglas Adams. This one is sentimental to me, which may be why I put it off. Back when I was 23, I packed up my station wagon and moved to Nashville. I wanted to “find myself” and it didn’t feel like I’d be able to do that in PA. I was very confident about my decision to move, but as the date drew closer, I began to second guess myself and thought about backing out. At the time, Adrian and I were at a cross-road in our relationship. I was sad to leave him, as we were always close friends, but we weren’t exactly ready to settle down at the time. Before I left, he gave me this book and wrote “Don’t Panic” in the cover. It gave me the last little push that I needed. I still really believe if you want to try a new city, you definitely should. The world is vast and just because you were born somewhere doesn’t mean you were meant to stay. I would suggest making sure it’s for the right reasons, but even though Nashville may not have been for me at that time, I learned more from that trip than any other, which is worth its weight in gold. I hope reading this brings back a reminder of the appreciation for what I have and maybe a bit of wanderlust as well.

Do you have any reading goals this year? If you have any suggestions for books to meet one of my categories, I’d love to hear them! Or even better, join me in my challenge and up your book worm status!

 

 

 

Breakfast, Brunch, Nosh

Strawberry & Goat Cheese Baked French Toast

January 7, 2015
Strawberry Goat Cheese Baked French Toast_Table

This cold knocked me down pretty hard. I was out for the count most of the weekend, dragging myself off of the couch for all of four hours to have our friends over to the house to watch the UFC fights instead of our original plan to head to this gastropub we love that airs them. Needless to say, I headed to bed before the main event. I did get to watch four movies in a weekend though and that never happens, so there’s always a positive side, right?

Back on New Years Eve, we had a small get together, and I made up a cheese and charcuterie spread on our table. I used parchment paper as a table runner, then wrote out the names of the different meats and cheeses down the length of the table. I garnished it with some olives, peppers, dried fruit, fig spread, pretzels, crackers, and baguette rounds.

Like always, I had a lot of leftovers, including a freezer bag of the baguette rounds. Once I started feeling a bit better, I headed to the kitchen to do something about them. I was antsy with cabin fever, craving a comforting breakfast, and eager to not waste an entire baguette. Breakfast and creating something new always boosts my mood.

This Strawberry & Goat Cheese Baked French Toast is not too sweet and the goat cheese adds a nice contrast to the dish. Broiling the top gives it an almost caramely texture that I love. Oh, and of course there was bacon.

Strawberry & Goat Cheese Baked French Toast

Strawberry & Goat Cheese Baked French Toast

Strawberry & Goat Cheese Baked French Toast

Strawberry & Goat Cheese Baked French Toast

What you need
  • About 48 baguette rounds (1/2 inch slices)
  • 3 cups unsweetened almond/coconut milk blend
  • 7  large eggs
  • 1/2 Tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 jar (15.25 oz or ~ 1 1/2 cups) Polaner All Fruit strawberry preserves (or another of your choice)
  • 3 Tbsp. orange juice
  • 4 oz. goat cheese
Make it
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Lightly beat eggs, vanilla extract, and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl
  3. Whisk in milk, until well combined
  4. In a greased casserole dish (9×13 or similar), lay one layer of baguette rounds
  5. Spoon eggs mixture over first layer, leaving enough for the next layers
  6. Continue until all bread has been used. Press down lightly on the bread, so that all of the mixture can be absorbed.
  7. You can optionally let this sit anywhere from 30 minutes to overnight to soak up more of the mixture. (I let mine sit for two hours, while Adrian was out running errands)
  8. Before you bake it, add preserves and orange juice to a small saucepan over medium and allow it to thin a bit for pouring (3-5 minutes)
  9. Pour preserves over top of the casserole
  10. Slice or crumble the goat cheese and top the french toast with it
  11. Cover the casserole with tinfoil and bake for 30 minutes
  12. Remove tinfoil and bake for 10 more minutes
  13. Now broil the top until the cheese browns a bit. (6 minutes for how I have it)
  14. Let cool, top with syrup if desired, and enjoy!

Strawberry & Goat Cheese Baked French Toast

Does a weekend “wasted” frustrate you as much as it does me or do you go with the flow and enjoy the down time?
Recently, Well-Being

2015 Resolutions: Bring On the New Year

January 2, 2015
2015 Resolutions

Does it feel like 2015? I can’t get over how fast the time passes the older and busier I get. I’m sure I feel this way every year, but it’s just not something I am ready to accept! It scares me really, but I like to think of that fear as fuel.

I’m starting off the year with a cold. I was so excited for the new year and now this head cold is sucking the motivation out of me. Never fear, I’m stocked up on meds and tissues, so I am pushing through. I really do feel good about this year’s open floor plan and I can’t wait to turn it into something great. I have my husband, our home, our fur babies, a huge and supportive family, and me!

This year I want to put more emphasis on me. Not in a selfish, I-don’t-care-about-anyone-else sort of way, but a need-to-fix-and-make-me-the-best-I-can-be way! I’m turning 28 in less than two weeks and I am not waiting around until I’m 30 to jump on the bandwagon of change. If it sounds cliché that I am putting these resolutions out there now, I’m sorry, but I’m actually not sorry. People find motivations in all different places and if this January start is where my inspiration lies, then so be it! I’m working on a solid approach with a follow through plan to help these stick because this year, it’s about the why not the what.

2015 Resolutions: Bring On the New Year

Be more mindful and present

I’m a very reflective person. I spend a lot of time thinking about the past or what others are going through. This isn’t all bad because I have learned many lessons this way from past mistakes or positive changes and my concern for others helps me grow my relationships and understanding of others in general. In addition to the past, I also tend to look forward to upcoming happenings, which can be nice because it’s good to be excited about what you’re working towards or what’s going to bring a smile to your face. As the years go by, I have stopped countdowns for major events and this became especially last year with the house and wedding because I know the time is going to pass faster than it should anyway, but I still let my mind wander forward to those events from time to time. I’m a big day dreamer and always have been.

The downside to my past and future fixations is sometimes I forget about the here and now. I want and plan to soak up more of the day to day joys. I remember as a kid, stopping to stare at a sunset on vacation, and hoping if I looked just long enough, I’d be able to come back to those moments like a catalog in my brain. I want to add more of those moments to my catalog because these day to day, minute to minute occurrences are just as important as the big things. We just need to pay a bit more attention.

Improve my health

It is so easy to let our health fall (or get pushed) off the radar. I will strive to lose some weight to get more energy, confidence, and boost my overall mood. To do this, I have some sub-goals to reach the big goal:

  • 21-Day Sugar Detox: I’m going to ease into healthier eating over the next couple of weeks, then begin the 21-Day Sugar Detox after my birthday. It’s no secret I have a major sweet tooth, so I want to kick start things by getting that issue under control. I ordered the book off Amazon and it will be here Monday, so I will do some major planning then. If you are interested in doing this with me, let me know! (It would help keep things even more accountable.) After the detox is over, I will be cutting back on alcoholic beverages (there will be zero consumed on the detox), working on eliminating refined sugars and incorporating them in my recipes instead, and following the 80/20 rule to keep me on track without having a small slip up derail my efforts.
  • Get back in shape: There was a time where I got into running, participated in some 5k’s and 5-milers and really felt good about myself and my achievements. I’d like to bring those feelings back by getting back to running, beginning with 3 workouts per week. I also really want to try yoga to improve my flexibility and use it to assist my first resolution of mindfulness and being present more.
  • Meal planning: I partially do this now to make things a bit easier, but there are some weeks where I have no plan for meals and then we tend to order out or go out. To improve this in our home and to help me reach my goals, I will work out a system that works for me to pack daily lunches for work, without scrambling before I run out the door. I also want to have at least 4 dinners at home decided before Monday each week. This will have to be flexible, with our ever changing evening schedules, but I’m hopeful we will manage well once a system is in place.
Blog On

I just started out in the blogging world about two months ago and I’m still every excited about my little corner of the internet. That being said, there is a lot of improvement to be made here and I’m ready for the work ahead.

  • Create a schedule and post consistently: I am learning to juggle working full time and having a social life while blogging. Since this is something I chose to do because I love the creative outlet and connecting with readers like you, I plan to carve out some designated time to write and engage each week to achieve a balanced lifestyle. I would like to get myself on a schedule where I post three times each week as well.
  • Become part of the community: I am happily overwhelmed with the community bloggers live and work in. It’s so wonderful seeing relationships between people from all over the world with common interests and goals. I would really like to immerse myself more in this community and open myself up to making new connections.
  • Improve photography: I have become interested in pursuing photography as a hobby and enhancing the images for my posts in the process. A picture tells a story on its own and I want mine to really speak to you throughout my posts. I put a lot of effort into my recipes and having photos that match that effort would give me an especially warm and fuzzy feeling inside.
Budget

Budgeting is something that I adjust every year, as spending requirements never tend to stay the same. We have our old home to fix and rent out and are currently covering both mortgages in the process, so there is definitely always room for improvement. Adrian and I will sit to down discuss our budget as a newly married couple and I will reevaluate my personal spending to allow for extra savings to purchase things on my wish list and rainy days.

Home Improvement

This one I am excited for! We put any home changes on hold because of the wedding and then the holidays, so now I am ready to get into things! I plan to start working on each room of the house, one by one, until our lovely house is truly our home! I also want to establish a cleaning schedule, so there are no more big cleans necessary when we are having company over. Plus, a clean space is so nice to come home to and really takes the unnecessary stress out of daily life.

Marital Bliss

A happy marriage doesn’t just happen on its own. It’s something that always requires effort from both individuals in order to really succeed. We signed up for this, so it isn’t really a chore, but still falls into an ongoing resolution for me. Adrian and I plan to:

  • Establish date nights: Adrian is incredibly ambitious and it’s something I always loved about him, but between his ongoing projects and goals and my own, we sometimes forget to make time for each other. A date night will allow for serious quality time and a break from our current gigs to enjoy one another. It might not happen each week, but the goal is at least twice a month.
  • Communicate: Everyone has heard that communication is key in a relationship and I couldn’t agree more. This is another one for us that can always improve in some small way, so I will be working on this year round as well.

2015 Resolutions: Bring On the New Year

Phew. I seriously feel better, even with this awful cold, just by writing all of this out. I hope this will motivate you to consider your own goals, if you haven’t already. It will take work, but everything worth having does!

What are your 2015 resolutions? Do you have any tips for achieving your goals?

 

Breakfast, Brunch, Nosh

Cheesy Grits, Bacon, & Asparagus Frittata

December 31, 2014
Cheesy Grits, Bacon, & Asparagus Frittata

Yay, New Years Eve! Our last day of 2014. I’m really looking forward to good food, good friends, and all the champagne punch I’m going to make. We’re also doing a beer tasting countdown, where we all try one winter beer for each month of the year. It should be a great evening and the comfort of celebrating at midnight in our own home makes it even better for me.

I couldn’t have been more lucky in 2014, but I am still very excited for 2015. In 2014, we bought a new house, got married, and got our puppy, but there’s something about a new year’s fresh start that always brings me optimism and glee. I plan to share my resolutions… but first, I want to bring you breakfast for tomorrow (or brunch, depending on how much punch you’ll be having!)

Cheesy Grits, Bacon, & Asparagus Frittata

So, Adrian goes on kicks with food. He loves having something over and over until he tires of it. We’re very different this way because I would almost never make the same thing twice (unless it’s a breakfast or lunch staple) if it weren’t for him. Now, I try to switch up his kicks, while still giving him what he wants.

Cheesy Grits, Bacon, & Asparagus Frittata

One of his recent benders has been grits. I’ve only recently tried grits for the first time. It was always just a Southern staple to me that didn’t seem all that appealing… that is until I had a taste and actually really enjoyed them! They’re versatile in that you can prepare the dish savory to sweet and I’m definitely a fan of that. Adrian has been enjoying cheesy grits with eggs for our weekend breakfasts, so I wanted to come up with another way to bring them to the table. Hello, Cheesy Grits, Bacon, & Asparagus Frittata and welcome to the new year!

Cheesy Grits, Bacon, & Asparagus Frittata

It sounds kinda weird, right? Trust me, it’s not. The cheesy grits act as a faux crust, putting a classic frittata right over the edge. If you’ve never tried grits before, try them this way. Oh, and you should probably serve it to the guests you’ll be partying with tonight too if they stay over. You can thank me tomorrow morning, after your leftover-champagne mimosa!

What you need
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup quick cooking grits
  • 1 1/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese (I used sharp white)
  • 1/2 cup Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1 lb. center cut bacon
  • 1/2 fresh asparagus bundle
  • 1/2 of a large yellow onion
  • 1/2 cup whole milk (or milk of choice)
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp. whole grain Dijon mustard
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Make it
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Prepare grits according to package, but cook 3-5 minutes longer to thicken. Once finished, add 1 cup of the cheddar and the 1/2 cup of Monterey Jack cheese and mix well. Set aside.
  3. Chop bacon and cook over medium in a large pan. Once bacon begins browning, add in the onion, and cook until translucent and bacon is cooked, but not crispy. In the last minute of cooking, add the asparagus.
  4. Remove bacon mixture from heat and drain grease.
  5. Whisk eggs, milk, cayenne, mustard, salt and pepper in a medium bowl.
  6. In a greased pie dish, lay a layer of cheesy grits in the bottom.
  7. Cover grits with bacon and asparagus.
  8. Pour eggs over top and push down any asparagus poking through. Sprinkle the rest of the cheddar on top.
  9. Bake frittata for 30 minutes or until the frittata’s center doesn’t jiggle.
  10. Let cool and serve. Enjoy!

Cheesy Grits, Bacon, & Asparagus Frittata

 What are your plans for tonight? Have you already made a list of resolutions for the new year?
Dinner, DIY, Monday Musings, Recently

Monday Musings: Fancy (Without the Fuss) Gift Wrapping Ideas

December 22, 2014
Countdown to Christmas

Two and a half days until Christmas! Yippee! I’ve been keeping track with this nifty Christmas Countdown. The Christmas gifts have been bought, the decorating is done, the cookies have been baked. Ahh, feels nice to be in a good spot. The only things left to do are spot clean the house, prepare for our Christmas guests, and wrap, wrap, wrap! I’ve collected a bunch of fancy gift wrapping ideas to keep things interesting before ripping the presents apart!

  • First is a gift wrapping tutorial by Apartment Therapy to show off your awesome skills. This is one thing I have never quite gotten down, but I’ve always hoped my gift receivers would think my extra folded paper in the creases under tons of tape was charming. Gift bag anyone?
  • Speaking of bagging those presents, I thought Paper and Stitch’s super easy Ink Blot Gift Bags were the perfect flare to add along with the tissue paper and bows.
  • Looking to use up all those last inches of paper left from last year? A Beautiful Mess came up with wonderful ways to use scraps for creative gift wrapping!
  • DIY Acrylic Gift Tags from Design Sponge are a great way to personalize your presents with style.
  • Mashable has 25 ways to hand-personalize all your goodies! The first one uses washi tape… See, I told you it was amazing!
In other news
  • I tried this trick for falling asleep faster, and though I don’t know if I beat the minute mark, it definitely had me snoozing way sooner than usual!
  • Happy Winter Soltstice! The shorter and shorter days cut into my productivity, so I am welcoming the longer days to come! Here’s a bit of science behind our seasons.
On the menu

And just for fun, I spruced up one of Archer’s latest photos because we’re both nuts about Christmas!

Archer Santa

 

 

I hope you have the happiest of holidays! Do you have any neat wrapping ideas or embarrassing Christmas photos of your pets to share?
DIY, Organize, Recently

His and Hers Holiday Survival Kits + Man Crates

December 21, 2014
His and Hers Holiday Survival Kits + Man Crates

I’m so excited because Adrian took some time out to join me in today’s post! (I’m hoping he’ll start stopping by more often. 🙂 ) Not only did Adrian work on this with me, but Man Crates reached out to us to share their awesome and unique gift offerings for the men in your life! We are down to the wire, with Christmas just a few days left, so we wanted to share with you our holiday essentials and give you a peek at what Man Crates has to offer!

(We were not at all compensated for this post and all ideas are our own. We just think Man Crates is really onto something with their mission to provide dudes with perfect gifts!)

His

 

His and Hers Holiday Survival Kits + Man Crates

Hey! Jaclyn usually asks me to proof-read her posts, but this is the first one I get to help write!

I always forget about my vacation days until the end of the year, and I have to use them or lose them. This year, I used a bunch for our honeymoon, and now I’m using the rest of them for a sanity break. I figure I’ll finally get to unpack from our recent move and put all of my things away in my “man cave”, play some video games, and write some songs.

Here are a few things I need to keep me from going nuts!

  1. Amazon Prime: This isn’t just for the holidays, but Amazon Prime really comes in handy for last-minute gifts! $99/year for two-day shipping of purchases, and tons of shows and movies I can watch to keep myself sane while I holiday shop at home.
  2. A New Guitar: I love to play guitar! Every guitar sounds and feels different based on how it’s put together, and a diverse sonic palette inspires creativity, so I always like to add to my collection. I have been looking at four or five different guitars to gift myself this season. The most unique model I’m looking at is the Kenny Hickey (of Type O Negative fame) signature model Schecter C-1 EX S. Its most unique feature is a “Sustaniac” pickup in the neck position, which is used to create an electromagnetic feedback loop — you can create feedback without going deaf standing in front of a cranked amplifier!
  3. Event Tickets: The holidays can be festive and social, but sometimes I feel “stuck” at home. Winter is cold, it’s dark, there’s snow and ice on the ground, and it’s hard to find the motivation to do anything. Tickets to a concert, a sporting event, or a show are opportunities (and because they cost money, obligations!) to go out and have fun. Every year, Jaclyn surprises me and takes me out to something fun: rock concerts, basketball games, professional wrestling, the list goes on!
  4. Guitar Strings: If you play guitar, you always need a good supply of strings on hand. I usually tune down to CGCFAD or DGCFAD, so I need a thicker string with good tone, but I don’t want them to feel like power cables. My string preference is Ernie Ball Coated Electric Titanium RPS Power Slinky — the coating keeps them sounding good for a long while!
  5. Guitar Picks: I go through picks like crazy. I like Jim Dunlop Gator Grip picks at .96mm, sufficiently heavy while able to provide some nuance.
  6. Beer: I am a craft beer enthusiast — not a beer snob! — so I enjoy drinking different styles and brands in my search for “the perfect beer”. (I also like getting Jaclyn to try them with me!) My palate changes with the seasons, so I’m not sure I will ever find “the perfect beer”… but it sure is fun to try! An annual favorite of mine is the Sly Fox Christmas Ale.  It’s a “winter warmer” type of beer, slightly heavy, a touch of malt, spicy and flavorful, and delightful for cold weather and relaxation.
  7. A Christmas Story: It’s just not Christmas without this classic movie! It has a special place in my heart, because I watch this every chance I get with my father, and we still laugh like idiots every time. “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid!”
Hers

 

His and Hers Holiday Survival Kits + Man Crates

Here are some of my favorite things during the holidays, along with other things I couldn’t get by without!

  1. Coffee All the Time: This is a must year round, but I have to have my holiday specialty drinks this time of year.
  2. Cookies: I am a sucker for sweets always, but it’s 10x as bad during Christmas.
  3. Bottles of Wine: Wine is a perfect gift for neighbors, coworkers, stocking stuffers, you name it. I always have extras for anyone on my list I may have forgotten last minute, but I also like to have extra for planned (and sometimes unplanned) guests.
  4. Comfy Pajamas: When I come home from work, if we don’t have anywhere to go, I immediately change into my pajamas. It’s the best feeling in the winter!
  5. Target Boots (and Moccasins): I have to admit, I’ve never actually owned a pair of Uggs. I prefer to get boots and moccasins at Target each year instead. I’m notorious for stepping in unexpected puddles or wearing them in the snow, so I don’t have to stress when they get a bit beat up.
  6. Mad Elf: #6 and #11 go together here. They are my favorite holiday beers! I always get super excited to see them on the shelf at Wegmans!
  7. Repairing Lotion: My skin gets way too dry in the winter. I started using Vaseline’s intensive care lotion this year and it’s been wonderful. I never get cracked or dry skin now. (Tip: Leaving it by your hand soap in the bathroom reminds you to apply after hand-washing.)
  8. Jane Iredale’s Lip Drink: When I went for my wedding makeup trial, my awesome makeup artist took one look at my lips and knew I am not always the best at staying as hydrated as I should. She gave me a sample of this and I’ve been hooked ever since. I usually put in on first thing when I’m doing my makeup in the morning. You can add whatever you want over top.
  9. ABC Family’s 25 Days of Christmas: Whenever Adrian isn’t watching Football, I have this channel on. It keeps the Christmas spirit up in the house. My favorite Christmas movies are Elf, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas (both the original and live action), and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (the 1964 version.)
  10. Amazon Prime: I started using Amazon Prime about two years ago because we learned you can share your account with another member in your household (so I of course jumped on Adrian’s) and it’s THE BEST THING EVER. Seriously. Last minute shopping is super-easy. I found a couple Minecraft items on my little brother’s Christmas list that I couldn’t find in stores and they arrived two days after ordering with free shipping. Sorry I’m so excited, I just don’t get how everyone doesn’t use this as much as I do.
  11. Southern Tier’s 2XMAS: This goes with #6 and although I thought it couldn’t be true, I actually prefer this over the Mad Elf if I was forced to choose. So good!
  12. Address Book: I procrastinate on writing out the holiday cards each year, so I have to have an address book to keep me organized and make the process of getting them out the door that much faster.
  13. Ugly Sweater Kit: We go to an annual ugly sweater party each year. The past few years, Adrian and I went scavenging at local thrift shops to find our beauties. This year we found these awesome Ugly Sweater kits with everything we’d need to create our own. So much fun! AND we won best couple at the party with them this year!

 

Man Crates

In addition to sharing our holiday survival kits with you, as I said before, Adrian and I teamed up with Man Crates to bring you great gift ideas for your guy! If you haven’t heard of the before, they design crates full of themed presents, that you open with mini crowbars! There is a fit for any of the men in your life! Adrian loves Man Crates’ style and I love that they take the guess work out of buying and deliver gifts your guy will actually want. Too good not to share this time of year!

They have lots of awesome choices, including gadgets, gear, and video games. Here are Adrian’s favorites to give you a glimpse of what they have to offer:

The High Roller

This is classy and coordinated. Great for poker, drinks, and stogies with friends!

His and Hers Holiday Survival Kits + Man Crates

Original ‘Honor Guard’ Playing Cards Printed exclusively for Man Crates by the USPCC, Original ‘Generalissimo’ Playing Cards Printed exclusively for Man Crates by the USPCC, 2 Evil Genius Sphinx Glasses, 2 oversized whiskey soapstone rocks, 2 felt and slate coasters Stainless steel cigar cases, Evil Genius Sphinx black matte flask

 The Snack Pack

This has a ton of variety, and it’s not just candy, it’s substantial snacking!

His and Hers Holiday Survival Kits + Man Crates

Oreos, Nutter Butter cookies, Chips Ahoy cookies, Theater Box of Starbursts, Peanuts in the Shell, Pringles Potato Chips, Nature Valley Granola Bar, Premium Popcorn, Corn Nuts, Rice Krispy Treats bar, Sunflower seeds, Hot Tamales spicy cinnamon candies, Cracker Jack box, Huge box of Crunch & Munch

 Super Retro Gamer Crate

… And there goes an entire weekend!

His and Hers Holiday Survival Kits + Man Crates

 

We definitely recommend checking them out for Christmas. If your guy’s already covered, they’d be the best just-because gifts or birthday presents too!

What would you include in your holiday survival kit? Which Man Crate do you think is the coolest?
Recently

The Best Songs of 2014

December 18, 2014
The Best Songs Of 2014

I don’t usually post twice in a day, but I saw Helene’s link up and just couldn’t resist! I spent a ton of time going through all of my favorite songs for our wedding soundtrack a few months back, but now it’s time to showcase my top four best songs of 2014!


I probably listened to this song about 200 times since it came out.


A sweet little tune to just hang out with.


This song is truly captivating and that voice. So dreamy.


Had to include the obvious perky favorite from Taylor. Super catchy!

Did you love any of these too? What are some of your favorites from 2014?
Breakfast, Brunch, Dessert, Nosh

Darling Clementine Skillet Cake

December 18, 2014
Candied Clementines_2

A tradition I adore, but isn’t typically practiced in my area, is finding a clementine in the toe of your stocking on Christmas day. They are the cutest little gifts and fit perfectly in the palm of your hand. How sweet!

Darling Clementine Skillet Cake

Did you know clementines are the result of an accidental pollination between a tangerine and sweet orange, found by Father Clement Rodier in the gardens of his orphanage in Algeria?

Darling Clementine Skillet Cake

I was interested in how the Christmas clementine tradition began and was brought back to the story of Saint Nicholas, formerly Bishop Nicholas, of Turkey. There are many variations, but if you haven’t heard them, the story goes there was a man with three daughters, too poor for dowries to marry them off. Bishop Nicholas was known to be a generous giver. He visited the home at night and threw a bag of coins (sometimes pictured as gold balls) down the chimney, landing them in the stockings left to dry on the fireplace. These coins became represented by the clementines children find in their stockings today.

Darling Clementine Skillet Cake

This lovely tradition is one I plan to bring to my family when we have children. (Even if they won’t be as excited about it as I will be!)

Darling Clementine Skillet Cake

I have been buying clementines all season and wanted to find a use for them other than snacking on them whole. I’ve also been wanting to try out different creations in my new skillet, so without further ado, here is my Darling Clementine Skillet Cake. Oh, my darling, clementine!

Darling Clementine Skillet Cake

Candying the fruit is surprisingly easy and it comes out wonderful!

Darling Clementine Skillet Cake

What you need
  • Candied clementines
    • 2 clementines, washed, ends removed, and thinly sliced
    • 2 oz. Cointreau (or another orange-flavored liqueur)
    • 1/4 cup water
    • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3 clementines, peeled and pureed (about 1 cup)
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
Make it

Candied Clementines:

  1. Combine Cointreau, water, and sugar in deep frying pan
  2. Over medium heat, stir mixture until the sugar is dissolved
  3. Add the clementines to the pan in a single layer
  4. Allow the clementines to cook until the syrup evaporates some and the clementines begin to crystallize, flipping them halfway through (this will take about 20 minutes start to finish)
  5. Remove clementines from pan and place on greased dish to cool

Cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
  2. In a cast iron skillet*, melt the butter and remove from heat
  3. Sprinkle the brown sugar on top
  4. Arrange candied clementines over the brown sugar
  5. Mix the dry ingredients in one bowl and the wet in another
  6. Add the wet ingredients to the dry
  7. Blend well, either by hand or in a mixer
  8. Pour the batter over the clementines and brown sugar
  9. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean
  10. Let cool for 10 minutes, then run a knife around edge if it needs to be loosened
  11. Cover your skillet with a large plate and flip

*I used a 12-inch skillet. If you are using a 10-inch, increase the baking time to about 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Then, let sit for 20 minutes before flipping the cake over.

Darling Clementine Skillet Cake
What’s your favorite holiday tale? Do you have any traditions you’ve always admired?
Dinner, DIY, Monday Musings, Recently

Monday Musings: DIY Gift Ideas

December 15, 2014
Monday Musings

10 days ’til Christmas! So exciting, but I still have lots to do. My face can be found under procrastinator in the dictionary, that’s how bad it is. I have my decorating done and have been watching lots of Christmas movies and baking lots of goodies, but just haven’t gotten on board with the shopping yet, and that’s kind of important now that we’re under the two-week mark! It’s been gray and chilly lately and we’ve had some back-to-back holiday parties, so when I have time to spare, the movies and baking just won over the crowds this time of year. I also need to come up with a dessert for Christmas Eve to bring to my mom’s and I need a menu for somewhat late plans to host overnight guests on Christmas day. Eek!

Even with only ten days to go, I want to stick with adding some personality to my gift choices by making a few myself, so I hit up my Pinterest (Let’s follow each other!) and looked through my recent favs. These are great ideas if you are looking to add some charm to your presents this year too.

DIY Gift Ideas:
  • I love this tutorial for DIY Marquee Letters. I want to make them for myself for a makeover project in 2015, but know that these would definitely be popular for many of the girls on my list!
  • This little Gift Wrapping Starter Kit is perfect for college goers or those on your list who just moved into their first place.
  • A Simple Light Up Shadow Box would be a lovely gift for almost anyone, since you can use a fond memory photo or a couple’s photo that you adore for your friend or family member.
  • Washi tape is so versatile and can be given as a stocking stuffer to make this, this, or these awesome wall accents!
In other news:
  • The last sequential date in at least twenty years landed two births at 10:11 on 12/13/14! There were also many, many weddings. How neat!
  • Lena Dunham’s gift to Taylor Swift was just too cute not to share. I need to find an affordable option like it on Etsy for my pet-loving friends!
On the menu:
  • I saw this Honey and Lemon Roasted Pork Loin yesterday and meant to make it, but my pork loin didn’t thaw early enough for me to marinate it as long as I wanted to… So, tonight it is!
 Are you already set for Christmas or do you have items on your list left to tackle yet?