Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Happy Holidays (and an update)


Hello everyone! It's crazy to think that tomorrow is Christmas Day. I know this is a bit late, but I figure I should probably at least post something to sign off from 2014. I had made a Christmas Wish List post and accidentally forgot to post it last week, so I'm doing it now! (Even though I know it's way too late for you to find it useful.)

This has been one crazy year. We moved into our lovely little place just last December, I got a new job in April, and as of now, I am looking for a new one, unsure of the future but excited, also, because I think I'll really be able to figure out what it is that I want to do with my life that will truly make me happy. It's a little scary to think that I still don't really know at my age (I'm almost 30!), but according to those around me who I've spoken to about it, I'm not the only one. 

I've also changed my eating habits around completely since November. I stopped eating sugar, carbs, starchy veggies and legumes. It's been hard at times (especially during the holidays), but I've stuck it out and have lost over ten pounds and have way more energy than ever before. I'm starting to feel like my old self again. So it's definitely working. I've also joined Pop Physique which I actually kind of love despite my anxiety about taking exercise classes. And that's been helping me to stay toned and motivated, too. There are definitely lots of positives that have happened this year, along with some negatives (mostly things that have just recently happened, so at least I didn't have to endure the whole year this way), but I'm trying to keep my head up and stay positive. I have so much to look forward to in the next few weeks: A trip back to Palm Springs (and a stay in an Elvis-themed room at a retro b&b!), a trip to Lake Tahoe to see a bunch of friends, a coffee date with a new friend, time spent with family, and a lot of cuddles with my cat (and boyfriend). If I can just remember those things, everything else will balance out. I hope.

I hope you all have a great Christmas/Hanukkah and New Year, and I will be back the first week of January with new posts. I couldn't be more excited!

Now on to this Christmas Wish List that is wayyyy too late to be posting ;)


Thursday, November 6, 2014

Up The Coast (Pt 2)

 As soon as we pulled into the driveway of our B&B, I knew it would be an interesting experience. I used to be obsessed with the Gilmore Girls, and I always wanted to have an experience like Lorelai & Rory when Lorelai took Rory to visit Harvard, and stayed in a B&B where there were flowers all over the walls and cats everywhere (minus the fight). When we rang the doorbell, I didn't know what to expect. But soon enough, a very bubbly kind man came to the door to let us in. He was the innkeeper and had just mentioned he was sorry for talking with his mouth full, but he had just started eating a muffin, and was in the middle of baking when we rang the doorbell. As soon as I heard that, I knew I was in the right place.

  
 One of the bathrooms there is pink! And with a clawfoot tub.. I was in heaven when I saw this


We sat down at one of the tables in the cute little dining room, I signed the papers for our registration, and he gave us each a glass of wine and a cheese plate. We sat with him for a little while and talked, and then left the B&B for a night on the town. Downtown SLO is pretty much a college town. There are sports bars everywhere, Urban Outfitters (that's a pretty good indicator), some chain fast food restaurants (like Chipotle) and cute clothing stores. We stopped into a record store where I scored a $3 Elvis gospel record (have you ever heard his gospel music? It's amazing and the only genre of music he won Grammys for!) and then I found an amazingly tacky Elvis book at the used bookstore down the street. After having a beer and sharing a bratwurst at the local German restaurant, we made our way back to the B&B and watched Funny Face before falling asleep super early.

Our dinner / The coolest vintage movie theater in town

 

 The next day, we woke up to a prepared breakfast downstairs, and then checked out early and made our way up the coast to Hearst Castle. The innkeeper had told us about a town called Cambria that you pass on the way, and said it was a must to visit, so naturally we had to! He had also mentioned that this town has a scarecrow festival every year, where they make scarecrows out of paper maché and put them outside of their homes and storefronts. There were SO many, and they were all so amazing.

We ventured into a coffee shop, walked into a couple of antique stores, and overall had a great time. I would definitely visit Cambria again! They also had the most beautiful old Victorian houses.

Some of the paper maché scarecrows


  

We made it to San Simeon earlier than we had thought, which was great. What's so cool about visiting Hearst Castle is that along the way as you near the beginning of the property, you see zebras walking around! I wish we'd stopped to take some pictures. It was pretty amazing. They were just hanging out with the other animals that roam free there. We had learned on the tour bus (narrated by Alex Trebek) that Hearst at one time had his very own exotic zoo with all kinds of animals, including polar bears (another strange animal to have at your home), and once he started to lose money, he decided to donate most animals to zoos around California including San Diego and San Francisco.




We were lucky enough to visit Hearst Castle on a day that was super sunny and clear. It had rained the day before, which has been a really rare thing for us California people, so the timing couldn't have been more perfect. Our group was rather large, but Chris and I stayed in the back so that I could get pictures without other tourists in them.






During the tour, we got to see footage of Charlie Chaplin playing tennis here. Pretty cool.


The Roman pool was easily my favorite part of the whole tour. I mean, just look at it! Who wouldn't want to swim in that? Not to mention, the floors have actual gold built into them.



So glad we made it up to see everything in such a short amount of time! Our next trip is to Palm Springs for our five year anniversary! Until then, I'll be dreaming about those palm trees and mid century houses I love so much...

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Up The Coast (Pt 1)

 

Over the past weekend,  Chris and I took a trip up to San Luis Obispo, which is about 3 hours north of where we live. We used to take more trips up north to visit friends, but that's pretty much slowed down lately, and I'd been dying to go back to the Madonna Inn for some time now (which is basically the coolest and most bizarre hotel on the way to San Francisco). It was built in the late 1950's by a man named Alex Madonna who built this hotel as a stop for people traveling along the coast. We decided to stay at a bed and breakfast and just visit the Madonna Inn on our way there, because I thought that would be more interesting, and it was! In fact, the B&B was super cute and cozy, which is exactly what I had been hoping for. I'll be posting pictures of the rest of our trip tomorrow!

We arrived at the Madonna Inn on the way to our B&B (they were about 10 minutes away from each other). Of course, the first thing I had to do upon exiting the car was to snap a million pictures of the infamous Madonna Inn sign. I looked around me and noticed a few other people snapping pictures of signs around the property; clearly this is the norm here. Once inside the bakery, we sat down at a table by the window and I happily ordered a slice of their famous Pink Champagne cake, with coffee on the side. This cake did not disappoint! It's pretty much the best cake I've ever tasted, and it probably helps that the whole cake is pink and has marzipan ribbons (mmm marzipan).



 

After only being able to handle a few bites, we had it boxed up to go and made our way around the hotel to take more pictures. I stopped into the gift shop and purchased a few of their pink wine goblets before heading outside to explore (which I'll share another time).





I should mention that if you come to this hotel, go to the bar, talk to the bartender (he's really sweet) and order the Pink Cloud. It's like drinking a strawberry milkshake, only with a little vodka mixed in ;)

We headed outside to check out the views (there are gorgeous mountains everywhere) and I was curious to see what the spa/pool area looked like. I wish I'd been a little bolder and peeked into a room that a maid was cleaning, but I didn't want to be weird. If you didn't already know, each room is themed and pretty much every room has an abundance of color and textures, and they all have fun names (like Sugar & Spice, Love Nest and Fabulous Fifties, to name a few). I hope someday to be able to stay in this hotel! For now, I'll just continue to use their bathroom on the way to wherever I'm heading, pick up a slice of cake, and admire the scenery (and the pink!!)



Friday, October 3, 2014

Taste Testing with Malvi Marshmallows


I'm a sucker for small companies that sell really interesting products, especially when it involves anything sweet! About six months back, I made a post about Edoughble cookie dough that you could eat right out of the package, and now I'm here to tell you about Malvi Marshmallow Confections, based out of Georgia! Malvi is a company that prides itself on making delicious, bite-sized marshmallow treats, sandwiched between two petit beurre cookies, and they are as delicious as they look! They come in a handful of flavors including: Red Velvet, Vanilla Salted Caramel, Mint Chocolate, Spiked Espresso, and Raspberry Hibiscus! They sell the cookies separately. I especially love the punch of salted caramel in the Vanilla ones, but the Red Velvet are good, too! I'm definitely going to order some of these as gifts during this holiday season.

You can order your perfect pack of yummy Malvi marshmallows here!

 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Brown Butter Bourbon Rice Krispies Treats



As a child, I loved rice krispies treats. Of course, the famous kind that come in a shiny blue package were always nice to break open on a lunch break at school, but I remember having play dates with friends where we would spend the entire hang out making homemade rice krispies treats. I recently came across a recipe for a more adult version, with Bourbon as a main ingredient, with brown butter to add some unexpected nuttiness, and I knew I just had to try my hand at them. They're pretty simple to make, and with the added sea salt flakes on top, they are pure heaven. Recipe can be found here.

 


Because I totally failed at molding them and then cutting them into perfect squares, I just took a big hunk and shaped a heart out of it instead, and I think it looks pretty good! And just so you're aware, I ate the whole thing in a matter of seconds :)

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Perfect Fall Recipe: Braised Short Ribs



 I have a confession to make: I watch The Chew regularly on ABC. It's the first show I turn on when I get home from a long day at work. Aside from being super entertaining (they play so many games, and they're all so funny!), the food they make looks killer. I always save my favorite episodes so that I can go back and try my hand at the recipes later. I recently watched an episode where Michael Symon (of the famed Lola restaurant in Cleveland, OH) cooked this dish, and I knew I HAD to try my hand at it. I am a lover of short ribs, and I've never braised anything before, so the challenge just got me totally excited, plus it's perfect for fall since October is, well, today! It actually was one of the easiest meals I've ever made because it cooks in one pot!

Notes / /

I stuck to the recipe pretty much 100% but I bought less short ribs than the recipe called for because only two people would be eating it (I mean I bought only 2 pounds when the recipe called for 5! Pretty big difference, I would say), and reduced the other ingredients as well. The recipe also called for a cook time of three hours in the oven, but I took mine out after 2.5 hours, because I was worried it would burn (and it didn't - it was perfect!) I think I must have forgotten to not put as much flour in, as well, because the sauce was SUPER thick, but it was so, so delicious. I can't wait to have this for leftovers tomorrow!

On the side, I just cooked up some simple brown rice and added a little olive oil, salt + pepper.

For the full recipe and more great fall dinner ideas, visit The Chew's website and enjoy my photos below!



Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Bookshelf Wallpaper DIY


When Chris and I first moved into our 1920s apartment, it took us a bit of time to find the perfect bookshelf for our living room. We ended up purchasing our black and white simple shelving unit from Ikea, and I was very happy with it until recently. I started to feel like it was just blending in with the white wall behind it, and I knew I had to do something to make it stand out, but painting it was out of the question because I am TERRIBLE at painting anything. So, I decided to pick up some pretty paper and glue it on. And... it worked! It's SO easy and such a genius idea, because it's cheap, doesn't take that long to do, and adds SO much in such a small way! I had thought about adding colored paper to all of the walls behind each shelf, but decided against it at the last minute. I'm so glad that I did because that would have been way too overwhelming.

This is how it used to look:



The Look //
Go to one of your favorite stationary stores that carries fun wrapping paper (I went to Paper Source for mine, and I purchased the fine paper, which I was told would hold up better than the regular paper wrapping paper), and pick out your paper! Next, be sure to pick up a bottle of modge podge and a foam brush to apply the glue with. Make sure to pick the right kind of glue! I chose matte because I didn't think that a shiny look would be good but to each your own!






The Steps //
First, you will want to take your paper and cut it to the length of the area you're trying to cover. Once you do that, you will take your modge podge and brush the glue all over the area that you are going to adhere the paper to. Next, lay the paper down as flat as you can, smooth the paper out so that there are no bubbles, and then go over the paper with more modge podge and voila!



Thanks so much to Paper Source for providing me the cutest paper, and for always giving me great inspiration! You can find all necessary supplies at Paper Source, so yay for a one-stop-shop and a three step process!

And here's a photo of Ringo being cute as usual.. Oh! If you have a cat, be aware that they might get curious about the new addition to your furniture and he might try to scratch it off when you're not home (that's how I figured out how easy it is to remove the paper if you choose to switch up the print)



Monday, September 29, 2014

Peach + Raspberry Tart


Even though the summer is officially over, I felt the need to soak up the last of those fuzzy fruits I love so much: peaches. I learned this recipe from my boss, who is an incredible cook and I've been fortunate to learn so many recipes from her, with this being my favorite. It's simple and rustic, which I love because I'm definitely not good at fancy desserts, and it doesn't require too many ingredients or too much time! And, of course, you can substitute the fruit and jam for other ones, so it's easily adaptable. I love the peach & raspberry combo personally.

 Ingredients / /
- One package of frozen pastry puff dough (I like the DuFour brand, but I'm sure any other kind will do)
- Six peaches (depending), sliced thin, lengthwise
- Butter (to coat your baking dish with before you fill it)
- Raspberry Jam
- One egg, beaten, and brushed on the puff pastry around the edges before baking
- A couple pats of butter to place on the tart before it goes in the oven (I say a few tablespoons or one tablespoon divided into two pieces)

Optional / /
- Brown sugar to sprinkle on your peaches and a squeeze of lemon before the jam goes on top

 Step One:
- Before you do anything, you should preheat your oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit and take your puff pastry out of the freezer to thaw a little

Step Two:
- Slice up your peaches thin and place them in a bowl, put to the side


Step Three:
- Start prepping your puff pastry dough. This part is the most challenging! The puff pastry that I buy is very tricky to disassemble in one piece because it's folded into a square divided by thin pieces of wax paper. If yours is like mine and it breaks, you can always press it back together in your dish. Notice I have no photo of this step.. it was not a pretty sight!

Step Four:
- Butter your dish with the stick of butter that you took out of the fridge. Don't forget to rub the butter all along the sides as well as the bottom as you don't want anything to stick!

Step Five:
- Place the puff pastry down gently into your baking dish, pressing down so that it is in an even layer. If your edges are super long, just let them fold up and out of your baking dish (that always happens with mine)

Step Six:
- Place the peach slices next to each other and keep placing them down until there is no room left. I like to place them facing the same direction because it looks pretty that way, but you can do it however you want! Don't leave any space. The more slices, the better!


Step Seven:
- Spoon dollops of jam over your peaches. Before doing this, you can sprinkle some brown sugar all over and a squeeze of lemon to help them stay moist and get a little extra sugary in the baking process :)

Step Eight:
- Take the egg, scramble it up in a bowl, and using a pastry brush (or your fingers, that works too!), brush the outside of your puff pastry dough not missing an inch. This step helps your puff pastry to get golden brown while baking.

Step Nine:
- Place your tart in the oven. You should keep it at 375 and time it for 30-35 minutes depending on your oven. It can vary!


Step Ten:
- The tart is usually done when the peaches are bubbling and the crust is a golden brown. Take it out and let it cool.

And then enjoy! You can take a scoop of your favorite ice cream (I like vanilla), and eat it with that, or maybe even with some whipped cream, or just eat it by itself. It's one of my favorite desserts and I hope you all like it!