Thursday, December 30, 2010

Playgrounds & Lollipops - Early Bird Special

Here I sit at 10 o'clock in the morning all dressed up in sequins and silk lame.  We used to joke at the old company I worked at, known for their bedazzled jackets and tops decked out in sequins and paillettes, that a woman in Dallas would wear something like this out to lunch.  Well hello Dallas, here I come.  After this I'm taking the kids to the park and Target.  I think it's about time we turn things around here in casual Southern California.

But seriously, here's a little preview of what I'll be wearing tomorrow night for New Year's Eve.  We've never been much for going out on New Year's, too much pressure I think.  And since having kids we have the perfect excuse to stay in.  This year though we have reservations with some close friends at a favorite local restaurant at 6 pm, which gives us plenty of time to get home and ring in the New Year with the kids at 9 pm.  Does anyone else here on the West Coast watch the East Coast feed on New Year's?  The kids love staying up and blowing their horns.   I love being able to say I rung in the New Year, when really I was snug in my bed with my Kindle and pillow pet.
Outfit Details:
Top: Loft
Skirt: Loft
Belt: St. John
Tights: Donna Karan
Booties: Stuart Weitzman

Wishing all of you out there, even you way in the back, lurking around, a very Happy New Year!  Please be safe out there and enjoy, whatever you do!  I'll see you back here in 2011!

Much Love!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Look Up

Well from the looks of my blog reader, aside from Ohdeedoh and the forever hard-working Centsational Girl and Emily, ya'll are taking a vacation this week.  That's okay, I'll forgive you.  I too am on vacation and will be using this week to get a couple of much needed projects done around the house. I only have a couple of goals and I think they're rather simple and achievable.  What do you think?
  1. Clean out the kid's closets and donate toys to Goodwill
  2. Clean out my own closet and donate old work clothes to our local woman's shelter
  3. Get a manicure
  4. Cook every night (this one's the easiest I think)
I'm saying goodbye to my girls Giada and Ina for a while and saying hello to Bob.  Bob Greene that is and his Best Life Cookbook.  It's my go-to cookbook for relatively easy and very healthy recipes that have loads of taste and flavor.  Last night I made Tilapia with a carrot ginger puree and a side of Israeli couscous.  Have you ever tried Israeli couscous?  They sell it at Trader Joe's and it is much loftier and moister than traditional couscous.  I added some pine nuts, parsley and raisins to mine last night and it was dee-lish!  The rest of the week's menu looks like this:
  • Chicken Poached in White Wine with Tomatoes
  • Lamb Chops with Balsamic Roasted Garlic Puree
  • Flank Steak with Potatoes and Garlic
  • Roasted Chicken Breasts with Herbs on Collared Greens
The only night I will not be cooking is on NYE.  We're going out to an early bird special dinner with some friends and will be home by 9 PM to ring in the east coast New Year with our kiddos.  Are you all cooking something special this week to ring in the New Year?  Or are you trying to get back to somewhat healthy cooking?  If you're whipping up something that doesn't involve 2 sticks of butter and a pound of cheese, please share!  I always like trying new healthy recipes.

On another note, I'm still debating whether to wait until after New Years to take down all our Christmas decorations, as is our usual tradition.  The live garland isn't looking so lively these days and quite frankly it's becoming a bit of a fire hazard so we might be breaking tradition this year.  Do you guys take down decorations the day after Christmas or wait until New Years?

I stumbled upon this blog entry by Roger Ebert and it has got  me thinking so much.  The very last video in the entry How to Be Alone is very interesting to watch...Thoughts?

The last thing I wanted to share with you all is this lovely tree we collected berries from yesterday on our walk.
 It's about 5 houses down from ours and I had never noticed it before.  It just took me slowing down a bit to take the time to look up.  The kids had a ball just collecting the berries that fell on the ground, and they look so pretty settled in a little vase back at home.

Yesterday was a truly lovely of those simple days that as a mom you'll look back on and think "that was a great parenting day".  No yelling, no repeating directions, no fighting.  Just simple, relaxing fun.  Art inadvertently took my car keys to work yesterday and we had to in turn reschedule a playdate.  It turned out to be the best gift he could have given me, because we ended up having hours to ourselves to take our time at things.  He finally did bring me back my keys, and we made it out to do our errands, mainly the bank and grocery shopping.  Do you know how much more enjoyable Costco is when you can take your time to wait for the samples?  My kids love the Costco samples.  Anyhow, it was a great day and a nice way to set the tone for this week at home.

Now I'm off to an eye doctor's appointment!  I hope you all are having a wonderful start to your week too!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

He Used A Coupon

While Christmas 2010 will be remembered by many things, including the year Taylor got her first pair of roller skates, and Syd received his first remote control car, it will also be forever idealized because of the handiest little gadget I could have ever received, a milk steamer/frother.  For a coffee lover like me, it was the perfect gift and I have already used it several times since yesterday. 
This morning I took my cup of coffee up a notch by making some simple syrup.  I split the batch in two and added peppermint extract to one cup, and vanilla extract to the other (1/2 tsp of peppermint and 1 tsp of vanilla per 1/2 cup).  The results were heavenly.  While the sweetener that they use at regular coffee chains is quite rich, causing me to usually request half the number of pumps they normally add, this simple syrup is nice and light and just adds a hint of flavoring to the coffee.  I made a peppermint mocha and a vanilla latte for myself, and a regular mocha for Art.  To get more of that rich espresso flavor, I also added an extra scoop of beans to the coffee maker, which worked out quite nicely.  The frother that Art bought is made by Keurig, and although a little expensive, it works like a charm and is ridiculously simple.  Turns out he bought it at Bed, Bath and Beyond too.  It took all the strength I had yesterday morning to not go all Kate Gosselin on him and ask if he used a coupon.   I nonchalantly asked him a few hours later though and it turns out he did in fact use a coupon.  Good man.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Christmas Reminder

A reminder to you (well, really to myself), that the only perfect part of the first Christmas was the birth of our King.  Everything else about that night was pretty much a mess.  Over the next two days, we may still burn the pie, our royal icing cookies may not look so Martha-esque, our crazy Uncle Eddie, or in my case, crazy Cousin Tony, will still be crazy, and the kids will still bicker.  But through all the hustle and bustle that this season tends to bring, my wish for all of you this Christmas is that you're able to at least steal a kiss from your honey under the mistletoe, grab many, many hugs from your little ones, and sing a Christmas Carol or two.  Oh, and maybe have some Smog Nog as well.

Merry, Merry Christmas to all of you that read along.  And (an early) Happy Birthday Jesus! 

p.s. I've been told that I've been slacking on the fashion posts lately.  If I have time I may do a Christmas Eve Playgrounds & Lollipops.  I have a fun outfit planned for tomorrow.  Will any of you be around at all tomorrow to even see it?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


I'm feeling especially emotional today.  And I don't think it's a result of hormones or sleep deprivation.  As I was driving home from the grocery store this morning I got all teary eyed.  I was thinking about Art and his business, and how today his 2nd "official" employee starts.  It made me feel thankful and blessed, and not in a flippant "life is good" sort of way.  But I truly feel fortunate that we've made it this far through so many ups and downs.

Art quit his job of 9 years and started his business over 5 years ago when I was 8 months pregnant with Taylor. To say we were scared is an understatement.  Four clients that he had known from his previous job jumped ship and went with him because they trusted and had faith in him.  Since then he's grown that company from a home based business to one that required 500 sq. ft. of office space, to 900 sq. ft. and now to over 1800 sq. ft. with over 25 clients strong.  He's never taken out a small business loan, which is nothing short of a miracle.  We've fought over many things involving that business and it's taken a toll on our marriage at times.  It's been a bumpy road these last 5 years and I wish I could say that I always had the same faith that those first 4 clients had, but I'm human and I've had my doubts.  But here he is today, and I couldn't be prouder, and I know I don't say it enough.  I'm proud of myself in many ways too because I went back to work 4 months ago with focus and intent and we had our eyes on this prize.  As much as I am ready for 2010 to be over because of the many stresses and challenges it has brought, I also can't neglect the many ways it has blessed us.

Today, as I sit around the house with the kids on my first day of vacation and look around me, these are the little things I see and am enjoying on this rainy day.  I hope you too are finding some enjoyment in the little things that life brings our way.
 {grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup}
 {bedazzled horses}
 {sanding sugar for cookie baking tomorrow with the cousins}
 {impromptu art projects}
 {the JOY that reclaiming an old wreath can bring when you just add some scraps of ribbon}
 {pretty poinsettias}
 {Oh Deer - we have 2 men down}
 {the tree watering spout that allows me to add water without getting on my hands and knees}
 {cozy and festive beds that make me want to forget the dishes and take a nap}
 {cozy socks}
 {mercury glass trees}
 {pillow making fun}
 {rain, rain, don't go away.  we like you a lot}
 {no other time of year allows for your home to be so unabashedly shiny and sparkly}
{Christmas cards aplenty}

Monday, December 20, 2010

Annual Christmas Traditions - Baking Extravaganza

This big guy worked hard last night.
My mom and I held our annual baking night yesterday, where we bake all the goodies for the season to give out as gifts and and indulge in.  If you're thinking this sounds like a very quaint and idyllic evening amongst mother and daughter, scratch that and picture two women sweating away and barely speaking to each other except to mutter commands like "more baking powder" and "where's my butter?"  Still, we enjoy this yearly tradition and always marvel at all we accomplish in just one night.  It's amazing what can happen when two women put their minds and mixers to work.  

We usually bake about 10-15 items including the usual peanut butter and oatmeal cookies and of course fudge, lots of fudge.  I wanted to share two recipes that I've been making for the last several years.  These two cookies are my personal favorites, and I usually reserve them for special friends and family.  

The first are Pecan Snowballs (also referred to as Italian Wedding Cookies and Almond Crescents) and are actually my friend Ali's recipe.  I've tried at least 6 different pecan snowball recipes and have always been disappointed in how they turn out.  Either too dry so that the nuts don't form in the dough, or too dense so that you need a glass of milk to wash them down.  When I tried Ali's Pecan Snowballs a couple of years ago at a cookie exchange, I knew I had found my recipe.  The dough is pretty much fool proof and mixes together with the nuts perfectly.  The cookies turn out moist yet still flaky and buttery, so that the powdered sugar gives it just the right amount of sweetness.  These cookies are perfection.  Especially for someone like me who really is more of a savory girl.  Cookies consisting of gobs of chocolate, caramel or peanut butter make me gag.  Buttery little nougats like this though, yes please.  Scroll all the way down for Ali's recipe.
My other favorite are the Barefoot Contessa's Jam Thumbprint Cookies and you can find the recipe here.  While these cookies are rolled in coconut, which can often be a deterrent to some and evoke very strong dislike reactions, I promise that the coconut flavor on these are so faint you won't even know you're eating it.  The flakes toast up so nice in the oven that they form a nice little crispy, almost nut-like texture on the outside.  I don't even tell people they're made with coconut anymore.  I also use Smuckers for my jam and I've never been disappointed. 
For packaging I just place them in simple clear cellophane packages and then tie with extra wide grosgrain ribbon in pretty colors.  Chic and simple.
I'm giving these little packages to my coworkers this morning, along with a Starbucks gift card because at least once a day one of us makes a Starbucks run.  We have a drive thru across the street from our office and it never has a wait.  It's way too tempting that way.  
Happy Monday friends!  I'm linking up to Heather's Life Made Lovely Monday post.   

Ali's Pecan Snowballs:
1 C unsalted butter at room tempertature
1/2 C sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
2 C all purpose flour
1 1/4 C pecans, chopped into very small pieces
Powdered Sugar for rolling

Preheat oven to 350
Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar at low speed until it is smooth.  beat in the vanilla.  At low speed, gradually add the flour and salt.  Mix in the pecans with a spatula.  Roll approx 1 tbsp of dough into a ball the size of a large cherry.  Place onto cookie sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes.  When cool enough to handle but still warm, roll in the powdered sugar.  Cool on wire racks.

Friday, December 17, 2010

New Traditions - Lovely Classics

{weathered copy of Little Women}
My father started a Christmas tradition when I was about 10 that sadly only lasted a couple of years.  He started a collection for me of special and unique editions of hardbound classic books that I had loved reading.  It began with Little Women, then The Wizard of Oz, and stopped when I was 13 with The Chronicles of Narnia.  I'm not sure if he just forgot to carry on the tradition, or if he was so irritated with my pubescent teenage mood swings by the end of the year, that he gave up.  In either case, I cherish those few special books I have.  Last month Taylor discovered my copy of the Wizard of Oz and has now adopted it into her own collection.  Reading that book prompted her to change her Halloween costume from Sleeping Beauty to Dorothy.  Take that Disney.  

When I discovered that Penguin Books had released a collection of special edition clothbound children's classics in beautiful rich hues at Anthropologie, I knew I had to pick up where my dad had left off, and start a special collection of classics for my own children.  Hence, a new tradition has been born in our household.  
I chose Robin Hood for Sydney, The Secret Garden for Taylor (a personal favorite from my childhood), and Anne of Green Gables for a family friend.  I have not read the proper full length version of Robin Hood so I am excited to read it to Syd, although he is still a bit young for chapter books.  Taylor devours them and even though these copies do not have illustrations, I don't think she'll mind.
  The covers are so beautiful with bright colors and deep embossing
They look so pretty all lined up and stacked, ready to be loved.  I so look forward to a departure from the kid's usual selections of Junie B. Jones and Lightning McQueen.  Anthropologie carries 6 books, but in reading the reviews on Anthro's site, I noticed that the collection also includes The Call Of the Wild, another personal favorite of mine, and Black Beauty, Taylor's favorite story.  She already owns 2 copies of it, but my little horse lover would surely love a 3rd copy don't you think?  I've got to track those down to add to our collection, perhaps for their birthdays.

Are there any special Christmas gifts that you give every year?  I love hearing other Christmas traditions that families pass on.  Happy Friday everyone!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Enchanting or Strange?

A few posts back I introduced you to this intriguing little girl featured in the Saks Fifth Avenue holiday windows.  Some commented that she was a little creepy, others that she was fascinating.  I myself cannot make up my mind.  Her sleepy eyes, when looking right at you are a little disarming and cause a case of the shivers to run up and down my spine.  But when covered up with rhinestone goggles, she is rather cute, with her spunky pink hair.  Come along as we join this strange little girl, obsessed with snowflakes and bubbles, the theme of this year's holiday windows, on her magical adventure.

Blowing Bubbles
Driving around in her futuristic bubble car
Braving the throws of a feisty octopus
And deep sea diving with that same temperamental octopus
Sea Captain on her maiden voyage
And conquering flying trout (I think this one was my favorite because she was so tiny in this display)
At the circus taming a rowdy elephant
Getting swept away by a huge net of bubbles
And finally, capturing magical butterflies in the bubble forest
I don't know, this girl sure can rock a stripe like no other doll I've seen.  Lanie doesn't stand a chance when going head to head with this one.  Haunting eyes and all, I think I like her.  I just don't want to take her home with me.  I would have some serious nightmares imagining myself waking up to her standing over me with that giant net of hers.

What do you all think?


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