Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Dinner Party

This past weekend hubby and I had our friends Dory and Tim from The Doyle Dispatch over for dinner. I love to entertain and definitely don't do it enough, so I was excited to plan a yummy meal and get out all of my fun serving ware. Side note: I wish I could be that quintessential Southern woman who sets the table every night and uses my good serving pieces, but some nights I can not even get it together enough to have dinner at the table. Yes, I am talking about dinner on the couch. Oh dear, I feel like I have just revealed a deep dark secret to you. I will blame part of it on my profession (which I love), but after taking care of 17 other little people all day and running on full speed every moment, the only thing I want to do when I get home is put on my pajamas at 3:00 and laze around and do nothing relax and rest.

Annnnnway as usual, blah blah blah, I am off topic. SO--on the menu were some of my favorites, and luckily our guests seemed to like them too!

We started with baked brie. I topped it with cranberry jalepeno jam and pecan chips. This jam is so delicious and I have also served it over cream cheese as an appetizer. I got it from my friend who sells Wildtree. Have you heard of it? It is a fabulous company that offers quick, simple, and delicious food items AND all of their products are all natural and organic. So amazing! Here is her website if you want to check everything out. Seriously not a product promo, I truly love this stuff! Annnnnnyway....I served the brie hot out of the oven with some crackers and it was mega delish!

For our main course we had hubby and I's absolute favorite soup and a fall/winter tradition in our house: Ina Garten's roasted potato and leek soup (recipe here). Oh yummy yummy. Everyone must try this, and it doesn't really require too many ingredients or steps. The recipe is really simplified if you have an immersion blender because then you can dump everything in the pot and blend it up at once. Best.invention.ever. I didn't take a good picture of the soup served up, but you top it with these crispy shallots and fresh grated parmesan cheese {my mouth is watering...}.

With the soup I served a simple salad of baby field greens, pears, shaved parmesan, and dried cranberries, as well as some warm crusty bread with butter or garlic dipping oil (also from Wildtree).

For dessert we had chocolate lava cakes courtesy of Trader Joe's. Gotta love something you can take out of the package and stick right in the oven!

We were pretty lucky hosts, because not only were our guests our great friends who we really enjoy spending time with, but they brought us some pretty rocking host gifts. Hubby received the most ridiculously awesome beer/drink caddy that was handmade by Tim! Make sure you check out the super cool bottle opener he attached to the side. It was filled with some of hubby's favorite beers as well as a few Cheerwines. They know him so well. :) How amazing is this:

And lucky lady me got some homemade brown sugar scrub. Mmm it smells like sweet deliciousness and it is fabulous for my poor winter cracked hands. In fact its so good I think it could be used for more than hands. After my next shower I will be smelling like a out!

I hope you enjoyed visiting our dinner party!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Adventures in Christmas Wreath Making

Two Saturdays ago I went with two friends to Deck The Halls, an annual fundraiser for Hilliard House. You can read all about Hilliard House and this fabulous event here.

We got to the farm where the event was being held a little later than we had originally planned because that morning my friend Katie and I had been canning applesauce. This was only my second time canning and the process is still a little slow going. Anyway...

Once we got there we dove right in by getting our wreath forms and choosing our greens. The event was super organized and there were areas for each type of green, wreath accessories, bows, etc. We found ourselves a table and began crafting. Let me tell you it was really overwhelming. Where does a non crafty person begin with a pile of greenery and a metal circle?! Bit by bit is the answer. I didn't really have a "vision" but I slowly started attaching little bits. Here is what the start of my wreath looked like. Puny right?

Here are some pictures of the girls working on their wreaths:

This special creation has a story to go with it. Check out my friend Dory's blog over at The Doyle Dispatch for the low down on this:

Here we are with our finished products!

And here is my little wreath hanging on my front door. Its a little wonky, but not too bad for my first attempt. I wanted to go with the natural Christmas look, which is why I chose the pinecones and burlap bow. 

After our adventure here are some lessons we learned for next year:
1. Bring a folding camp chair. Standing over a table for several hours gets a little tiring.
2. Get there at the beginning so you can create all day. It takes longer than you think to make one thing and if you want more than one (you can make as much as you can carry) then you need a lot of time.
3. Bring a tote bag to easily get your creations home.
4. Go to Homemades by Suzanne in Ashland for lunch first because it is amazing. We were so sad we didn't think to do that this time around!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Liebster Award!

Super excited to share that my bloggy friend Samantha from Designer in Teal nominated me for The Liebster Award! Samantha and I found each others blogs through Virginia is for Bloggers, and she always has great things to share!

The Liebster award is given to an up and coming blogger who has less than 200 followers. Blogs are nominated by fellow bloggers, and while there is not an official organization that runs this or chooses a winner, it is a fun way for bloggers to get to know each other and discover new blogs. I have to say this motivates me to get off my tooshie and be better about updating this blog. Poor little thing has been ignored in the last few weeks.

Here are the rules:
1. Post 11 random things about yourself.
2. Answer the questions that the nominator sets for you.
3. Create 11 questions for the people you nominate.
4. Nominate 11 blogs that you love (also with less than 200 followers). Link them to your post and let them know they have been nominated.
5. No tag backs!

11 random things about me:

1. I am an only child.
2. I am always cold. Brrr even right this second as I am typing this.
3. I am a kindergarten teacher, but my bachelor's is in business and economics--weird quarter life crisis thing happened there...
4. I love sweets!
5. I took a class in college called the Chemistry of Winemaking (it was also a travel course to Napa). Also the start of my total appreciation for wine. Yum!
6. I joined Delta Zeta sorority in college.
7. I love to read and sometimes on the weekend or in the summer I will sit and read an entire book in a day.
8. I love to be outside. I like hiking, being at the beach, being in the mountains, sitting on my deck, laying in my hammock, eating outside, etc.
9. I am super sensitive and will cry or get sad over the smallest things: a sad commercial, something on the radio or tv, movies, books, a animal on the side of the road (squished), etc. It doesn't take much.
10. I have a thing for statement necklaces and love to spice up an outfit with a big gob-o-something necklace.
11. I do not like sports. At all. Ick. Call me an extreme girly girl if you'd like. ;)

Questions from Samantha:

1. Where is the coolest place you have ever vacationed/visited? Definitely Austria. Hubby and I went there with my parents the summer before last and it was amazing. It was so beautiful. We spent a lot of time exploring smaller cities and towns and everything was so charming. I cannot even begin to list everything I loved about this trip.

2. What is your favorite meal? Well in my family we call it a "pick-up". Basically it is just lots of little appetizers and yummies. The ideal pick-up includes different cheeses and meats, crusty bread, olives and other goodies from the olive bar (pickled veggies, olive tapenade, etc), and a good bottle of wine! Oh dear, I'm drooling...

3. What season do you enjoy most and why? Fall, fall, fall! I love everything about it! I love the cooler crisp air (I've always been a jeans and sweater kind of girl), being cozy, fires in the fire place, making soups and stews, baking, colored leaves, hot apple cider, apple picking, pumpkins, yummy fallish scents, and a million more things.

4. What is the best gift you have ever received? Hmmm for some reason that is tough for me to answer. I will go with my engagement ring because it represents the love and commitment between me and my hubby (Too mushy? Sorry friends.)

5. Do you prefer coffee, tea, or neither? I am going to go with tea. I have loved tea since I was little and can remember picking out a {decaf} tea bag from my Grammie's tea jar when we would go to visit her.  I went through a coffee phase last year, and while I still enjoy it, I am back to tea which has always been my fave anyway.

6. Are you an early bird or night owl? Neither. I need a good night's sleep to function and for me that means going to bed at a decent time and sleeping until a normal time (not the 5:30 time that my alarm goes off every morning). My hubby can attest to the seriousness of this! :)

7. What was your favorite subject in grade school? Science. I still love science and it is one of my favorite things to teach my students.

8. How did you come up with your blog name and style? I have always been a classic pearl kind of girl, but I also love a t-shirt and jeans. My family used to tease me about wearing pearls with everything, so the name was fitting. For the style I like cute preppy colors and designs plus I thought they matched the name well.

9. Cat person or dog person? Dog. I don't have any pets, but my preference is dogs. My dream is to have a male Yorkie that I will name Scooter. One day!

10. What does an ideal weekend look like for you? In my dreams...a weekend get away in an exotic place. In reality, relaxing at home. I am a homebody and love to be cozy at home reading, relaxing with hubby, watching a movie, or having friends over. The perfect weekend will also include spending time in the kitchen baking up a yummy treat and making a good meal that I wouldn't normally take the time for during the week. Some people may consider it boring, but I consider it perfection!

11. If you could live in any other era, what would it be? The 1920's. I love the fashion and culture of this time period.

The 11 {awesome} blogs I nominate!

1. Dory @ The Doyle Dispatch
2. Meggan @ Lila Grace
3. Luisa @LaBelleMadeleine
4. Anna @ My Semi-Charmed Life
5. Robin @ Our Semi-Organic Life
6. Tricia @ Saving Room for Dessert
7. The ladies @ RVA Brunch Club
8. Kristin @ Vignettes

Well I didn't quite follow the rules. :( Many of the blogs I follow have more than 200 followers and while I am still discovering new blogs every day this is all I could come up with right now.

Questions for the nominees:

1. What is one wish you have for your blog?
2. What is your favorite ice cream topping?
3. What is your dream vacation?
4. Cake or cupcakes?
5. What is your favorite accessory and why?
6. Windows down or air conditioning in the car?
7. What is your favorite holiday and why?
8. What is your favorite dessert?
9. What are two things you carry in your purse at all times?
10. Wine, beer, or neither?
11. What is your favorite style of food (Mexican, Italian, Asian, etc...)?

Well thanks for reading friends! I hope you enjoyed learning a little more about me. Take some time to check out these fabulous other blogs I have nominated!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Tea Time

While hubby and I were in Maryland with my family for Thanksgiving my mom and I snuck off for some girly time. This included a little shopping (it always does) and tea.

Going to tea is a tradition my mom and I has always been our special thing we do together. The tea room that we go to is Tea by Two (visit their website to get lots of good info and link up with them on FB, Twitter, and Pinterest) in Bel Air, Maryland (my home town), and it is the absolute best tea room there is. Hands down. Done. I keep hoping I can find a place close to me that will be a good stand in, but nothing ever compares. I think I will make visiting every tea room near my house my mission, starting now. Definitely top on the list is tea at The Jefferson. Any other places I should try? I have only been to Feathernesters so far. On a side note if I can't find one that I love I would really just like to start my own. How fun would that be?! To run a charming and cozy little tea room and drink tea and eat tea sandwiches whenever I wanted?! P.S. I am sure I sound totally like a grandma sophisticated and elegant right now. Ha!

I don't know where to begin with why Tea by Two is so amazing. Firstly there is the atmosphere. Tea by Two was started by two best friends and that friendly comfortable feeling extends to their customers. You can't help but feel at home. In fact mom and I have been there so often that the owners recognize us when we come in. I even had my bridal luncheon the day before my wedding there. The shop and tea room are lovely, right down to the eclectic china plates and tea cups and three tiered serving trays on the tables. Tea by Two has a fabulous selection of 60 different loose leaf teas and I love that they encourage you to try more than one. Then there is the food. Oh my. Homemade soups, tea sandwiches, scones, and sweets. My mouth is watering. I want some now. Please and thank you.

Tea by Two--Isn't it charming!
Although I will have to wait until my next trip to MD for the yummy treats, I am going to be able to enjoy my favorite teas here at home because Tea by Two now has online ordering!! This is super exciting! Even better they have weekly specials and this week's is buy one package of Nutcracker Sweet tea (one of my ultimate holiday faves) and get a second package 50% off! Believe me, its totally worth paying shipping for. Shop here.

Nutcracker Sweet Loose Tea
When we were there over Thanksgiving our server shared the holiday tea menu with us and also said that she could make any of the caffeinated teas decaffeinated. Of course this was intriguing so I asked her to explain. She said that when you brew tea the majority of the caffeine is released in the first 30 seconds. So after 30 seconds of steeping you pour out what has been brewed and then re-steep the tea with fresh water. This is thought to remove around 80% of the caffeine. In preparation for this post I did some more research on this and there seems to be a lot of disagreement about this method. So, there is no way to know for sure, but if you are trying to cut down on caffeine, or want your favorite tea before bed, go ahead and give it a try! No promises on the outcome though, and no blaming me if you are stuck awake until all hours of the night.

Happy tea time!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Fresh Cranberry Relish

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving! Mine was fabulous, and it was so great to spend time relaxing with my family. It is definitely just what I needed and I am feeling refreshed and ready (as I'll ever be...) to get back to the grind.

I really love everything, I mean everything, about Thanksgiving dinner, but I have a few things that are my absolute faves. The first is stuffing (preferably cooked in the turkey because it is so much more flavorful that way) and the second is my mom's fresh cranberry relish. There is no congealed can shaped blob of cranberry at our Thanksgiving table. If that's your thing go for it, but this relish is the ultimate deliciousness. It is so fresh and is the perfect balance of tart and sweet.

Mmm doesn't it look glorious! This recipe is suuuuper easy to make:

Use a blender or food processor to grind 1 bag of fresh uncooked cranberries--make it as chunky as you like
Put the ground cranberries into a bowl and add the zest and juice of 1 orange
Add 1 cup or sugar--more or less to taste
Mix well, refrigerate for a few hours for the flavors to mix, and enjoy!

Using raw cranberries not only gives the fresh crisp taste, but raw cranberries retain more antioxidants than cooked cranberries (source). Did you know that cranberries are a superfood? They contain Vitamin C and fiber and have more antioxidents than most fruits and vegetables, including the well known super foods strawberries, spinach, broccoli, red grapes, apples, raspberries,  and cherries (source). Some of the health benefits cranberries are thought to provide are: possible protection from heart disease and cancer, decrease in production of cavity and plaque producing bacteria in your mouth, reduction in bacteria associated with stomach ulcers, and healthy urinary tract (source). I am not a doctor so make sure you discuss any health concerns or preventative measures with your doctor, but it seems to me that Mama's Fresh Cranberry Relish is something you can feel pretty good about having on your Thanksgiving table. Fresh cranberries are still in season, so you can enjoy this treat even now that Thanksgiving is over. Be aware that while you still get the health benefits of the cranberries the more sugar you add the less healthy the dish becomes.

Have you had fresh cranberry relish, or do you prefer cooked or canned? What other Thanksgiving treats did you enjoy over the holiday?

Friday, November 16, 2012

A Little Holiday Cheer and a Bargain!

It seems like just yesterday that I was going on and on and on about Fall, but here I am starting to get in the Christmas spirit already. It seems a little early for me, but I just can't help it! Maybe it is my hubby, the Christmas nut, finally starting to change my ways.

I am still completely appreciating everything Fall and taking in the beautiful colors around me and crisp but not frigid air, but every once in awhile a little Christmas creeps in.

This afternoon I got my first "red cup" of the season and it is filled with a hot and amazing peppermint white chocolate mocha. Oh yummy!! Starbucks holiday drinks are my absolute fave. This fall I discovered for the first time (shocking I know) the pumpkin spice latte, which is delish, but nothing can compare to the Christmas drinks. They are my obsession.
Today's visit was extra fabulous because starting today through Sunday, November 18 Starbucks is offering buy one get one free holiday drinks from 2-5. So, grab a friend and go get an afternoon pick me up. Or, if you have no one to go with, get two different flavors and enjoy. Oh dear, did I say that out loud? Ummm...I meant don't be a piggy and find someone to go with you...By the way I did have a friend to go with and am not enjoying two lattes at the moment. :) We also got a fabulous little goodie when we were there that is another promotion that will be running from Monday, November 19-Sunday, December 2. Between these dates you can purchase 5 holiday drinks and get the 6th free. I am sure I can find it in myself to buy 5 holiday drinks in a 2 week period. In case you're wondering the holiday drinks include: caramel brûlée latte, eggnog latte, gingerbread latte, and peppermint mocha--and any combination of the above.

Have you had your first red cup of the season yet? What is your favorite Starbucks holiday drink? I hope you get a chance to take advantage of these two promotions!

Disclaimer time: From what I understand the promotions are company wide and are not specific to certain Starbucks locations, but just to be safe feel free to check with your local Starbucks. I am not speaking as a representative of Starbucks so I can't be positive what your specific Starbucks is offering. 

*This post was not solicited by Starbucks and is all my own opinion. 


Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Makeover...

Not for me, my house! If you have been following A T-Shirt and Pearls since the beginning you know that hubby and I had plans to have the outside of our house repainted. In case you missed that post you can catch up here.

Well, we (and I mean our contractor...I hope you don't think we were actually going to paint the outside of our house...we don't paint in this house) finally got moving on this project and now it is all done! I wanted to share the results with you. We are so happy with it and love the sunshiny new look!

We went with our original choice for the front door, Benjamin Moore Hawthorne Yellow. For the siding we made a change from our original color choice and went with Benjamin Moore Amherst Gray. We are so happy with how the colors turned out. The look is fun but still classic, and it is totally different from anything else in our neighborhood. 

Here is a close up of the beautiful buttery yellow door (we still need to spray paint that pesky door bell):

You also get a close up of my pretty fall wreath. I made that last year with a plain grapevine wreath, some berries and chinese lanterns from the craft store, and hot glue. It was super simple and cheap! 

Since we were updating things we also got new hardware for all of our doors. Here is the fancy hardware for the front door:

I hope you like the new look. Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Be A Guest Blogger?

...Don't mind if I do! Stop on by Virginia is for Bloggers by clicking here and see my guest post from today!! I'll give you a involves some holiday fun. Hurry on over and while you're there check out some of the other VA bloggers on the site. They are pretty awesome. Happy Tuesday friends!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Classic Chili

There is something about the fall and winter that puts me in the mood to cook and bake. I especially love to make soups and stews. This week hubby and I were craving some chili. I have tried making chili once before and it didn't turn out so great. This time I looked up tons of chili recipes to get an idea of the proportion of meat and veggies to liquid so I would have a general idea of how to get the right consistency. From there I thought of the flavors I wanted in my chili and began creating my recipe.

Oh my. It turned out amazing. Both hubby and I were shocked. I mean I am a decent cook, but there are plenty of times I try and make some new creation and it turns out terribly. Not this time though. This chili was rocking!

Here is my recipe:

1 medium yellow onion, diced (save some out for garnishing your chili if you like fresh onions on top)
1 green bell pepper, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced (I use a garlic press because its easy and I like easy!)
1 lb ground sirloin
2 mild italian sausages, casings removed
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes, do not drain
1 15 oz. can mild Rotel, do not drain
Half of 1 small can of tomato paste
1 8 oz. can of tomato sauce
1 15 oz. can red beans
1 15 oz. can pinto beans
2 tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
Cayenne pepper to taste, I used a dash
2 dashes oregano
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste

Heat a dutch oven (you can use a pot...I just love my heavy enamel coated dutch ovens for making soups and stews) over medium heat. Add about a tablespoon of olive oil to the hot pan and sauté the onion, pepper, and garlic until soft and slightly brown. Add the ground sirloin and sausage (chopping sausage into crumbles with your spoon as you sauté) and cook until meat is no longer pink. Drain grease from pan.

Reduce heat to low and add your dry seasonings: chili powder, cumin, cayenne, oregano, salt and pepper to taste and mix in well. Important note: My chili powder has other seasonings mixed into it. It is called Valle del Sol Chili Powder and it is the 365 Everyday Value brand from Whole Foods. The ingredients list chili peppers, cumin, dehydrated garlic, oregano, coriander, cloves, and allspice. I definitely think this added to the flavor of the chili. If you want to use what's in your panty though just play around with your spices and maybe throw in some of the things that are in my chili powder to create your own.
This picture really wanted to be blurry and I don't know why!
Add in the wet ingredients: undrained diced tomatoes and Rotel, tomato sauce, and the half can of tomato paste (save the other half in case you need to thicken your chili up at the end). Drain and rinse your beans and add them. Cover and let simmer for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Make sure to taste towards the end to check your seasonings and see what you need to add. I get this from my mother who does not measure anything when she cooks but rather throws things in and comes up with something delicious.

If you follow the recipe as I have given it the chili will come out pretty zesty. I love spicy things and this was the right amount of heat for me. Not too hot, but not bland either. It was the perfect heat. Be careful of getting too crazy with the cayenne or choosing to use hot Rotel instead. That is why I recommend tasting your seasonings at the end and then adjusting. It's hard to recover a burning spicy pot of chili but it is super easy to add more heat if you want it.

Serve chili hot off the stove with your desired toppings. I like sharp cheddar cheese, diced onions, and sour cream. Cornbread is the perfect side for a bowl full of chili. I wish I could claim the cornbread recipe too, but one recipe creation in a night was enough for me, and I resorted to the good old box of Jiffy out of the pantry. ;)


Monday, October 29, 2012

Say what? A butter mold!

Firstly, I am so sorry for falling off of the face of the earth for a few weeks! After my last post, Sickie Poo, I was sick for almost 2 weeks and then I got seriously overwhelmed at work. I am just beginning to resurface...

I was sitting down the other evening reading my newest issue of Southern Living (you can read about my magazine obsession here) and I came across the most amazing thing...

WhysperFairy via ETSY
A butter mold! How Southern can you get?! This amazing little gadget comes from Julie of WhysperFairy. Click here to visit her ETSY shop and get one for yourself. She has lots of other molds too (not just for butter), and they are all super reasonably priced.

Of course I immediately felt like I needed this butter mold for the nonexistent many times that I entertain. Seriously though I love to entertain and I don't get to do it enough.

Being a fall girl (I talk about that here and here) I love love love the autumn themed butter pats. Wouldn't these be so beautiful on your Thanksgiving table?!

WhysperFairy via ETSY
You may be wondering why you should be molding your butter into cute little shapes or classy monograms, but I wonder....why not! That is the fun of entertaining. You don't need a reason. These molds are an easy and inexpensive way to add a wow factor to your table and make your guests feel extra special.

So get molding ladies and enjoy the title of hostess of the year. No thanks needed. :)

*Pictures used with permission. Everything in this post is of my own opinion and was not solicited. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Sickie Poo

Well it's that time of the year again...I made it through the first month of school and the germs finally got to me. Nothing major, just a bug that has me feeling yucky. The worst is that tired achy feeling being sick gives you. This morning (before I started feeling really bad and left work) I decided to stop at Starbucks for a little feel better drink. Did you know that they have special concoctions they will make for you when you are sick {you could order them anytime really, but like ginger ale I can only drink them when I don't feel well}? Different baristas have different recipes that they make, so here are some I have come across so far...I made the names up, but the combos come straight from the baristas at my local Starbucks:

Apple Chai
Steamed apple juice
1 Chai tea bag
2 packets of honey
*this is what I had this morning and it was wonderful

Apple Refresher
Steamed apple juice
1 Refresh tea bag
2 packets of honey

Sinus Buster
1 Calm tea bag
1 Refresh tea bag
2 packets of honey
Steep in hot water

Lemon Sinus Buster
Steamed lemonade
1 Calm tea bag
1 Refresh tea bag
2 packets of honey

Lemon Calm
Steamed lemonade
1 Calm tea bag
2 packets of honey

Lemon Refresh
Steamed lemonade
1 Refresh tea bag
2 packets of honey

You can have any of them with or without honey, but I think it is soothing for a sore throat and always like to add it to my sickie drinks.

Hopefully you don't need to enjoy these any time soon, but if you do I hope they help. Do you have any soothing sickie beverages you drink?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Feeling Thrifty

So my latest wild hair (read about my tendencies for a wild hair here) was to start thrifting. I have a long history with antiquing as I was "dragged" along to antique shops with my mom, aunt, and grammie throughout my entire childhood. I always thought these trips were boring, and the only thing that made it worthwhile was browsing the estate and costume jewelry glittering up from the cases at me (I've been a girly girl from the start). To me thrifting and antiquing are practically the same, but thrifting includes finding more recent second hand items and using them as they are, or repurposing and up-cycling them into something new.

I was inspired to start thrifting after reading an article in the October 2012 issue of Southern Living Magazine about "The Southern Table". In one of the table settings there were some beautiful green goblets that the hostess got for 25 cents each at Goodwill! What a deal! And if a southern woman featured in Southern Living (the ultimate guide to southern entertaining, dining, traveling, gardening, and decorating, in my opinion) could buy glassware for entertaining at Goodwill then why couldn't I?!

I have compiled a fabulous list of local thrift and antique shops to check out, all of which came from suggestions by friends. While I have been to a few so far, my best discovery was at a place that I happened upon on my own, Hickory Creek Antiques in Ashland, Virginia.

I knew when I walked into the store that this was a fabulous place. We were greeted by one of the owners who had just put out a fresh pot of coffee and homemade cookies (side note: I love good customer service, in part because it seems to be so hard to come by these days--do I sound like a crotchety old lady here?!). The space for the antique mall was a good size and there was a nice variety of items. Some primitive, some traditional, and some collectors items. The prices on most things were very reasonable too. The owners were kind, welcoming, and willing to work with us. {My aunt ended up getting a bowl that was marked not for sale but they worked something out with the vendor for her}

As we were browsing around I spotted a table and went over to check it out. On the tag were 2 pieces of very important information: the table was a 1928 sewing stand and the price was $65. Yes, $65!!!!!!! It was in beautiful condition and I could not believe how inexpensive it was.

I caught up with my mom and aunt to tell them about my find and then continued shopping around. But, I could not stop thinking about the table. Yes I had no place for a table, but that didn't matter, I had to have it before someone swooped in and got it. So, I zoomed back to where it was and staked my claim. No really, I put my hand on it and would not walk away. At this point my mom and aunt are still talking and shopping around the corner. "Mom....Aunt Kathy....Guys....Hello....Can you please go get someone to help me....?" Cue kind owner who previously offered us cookies and coffee. He asked me if he was allowed to get near it since I was so intent on guarding it. I didn't realize I looked that serious about it...

As if $65 wasn't a good enough deal, I told him that I noticed several other booths were having a Columbus Day Weekend sale, and I wondered if there was any way we could do better on the price. {For me making a deal on an item is part of the fun of's just part of the game.} Lucky me, they gave me 10% off!

Here is a picture of my new table all dressed up. {I made it my new sofa end table, and more good news, the old end table is going to get sold at our yard sale this weekend...fingers crossed}

Isn't it gorgeous?! And that luscious lamp...

Both the lamp and the shade are from Target and together cost $50. The basket you see under the table above is my new magazine and book basket that I got at Homegoods for $13. That means for an entire new look I {*and my mom and my aunt Kathy...thanks for spoiling me! :)} spent $121.50. Talk about thrifty!!

And now for a close up of the beautiful wood grain on my solid wood 1928 sewing table that was $58.50...I did mention all that, didn't I?!

Some people might mind the split down the middle where the table opens for the sewing machine to fit in, but not me. I love that it is part of the table's story. I like to wonder where it came from and who used it. I am just dorky like that when it comes to old places and things.

Do you like my new look?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Cheers to Fall!

This past weekend I was so happy to have my family in town. Every year during Columbus Day weekend we have "fall family fun weekend" where my parents, aunt and uncle, and grammie come into town (we were missing a few of you this time!). Cheesy name I know, but that's what I call it. There were lots of fun adventures that I will share with you in the next few weeks, but for tonight I want to give you Pumpkin Pie Cordials.

I have always been a little afraid of creamy liqueurs. And milky liquor just seems wrong and weird and gross and wrong. But, my mom brought a bottle of pumpkin liqueur as a hostess gift and being a brave eater and drinker (I will try most things once), and a lover of all things fall and pumpkin, I kept an open mind.

On the evening we opened up the bottle I decided to create a Pumpkin Pie Cordial. I used small glass and added a few shots of the pumpkin liqueur (can be found at any liquor store this time of the year) and topped it with whipped cream and a sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice. Viola! Pumpkin Pie Cordials. The result was delicious! It was creamy and pumpkiny and warm and spicy, and had just a bit of a kick too.

I am still scared of creamy liqueur in general, but pumpkin liqueur is ok by me. My next adventure with it will be a Pumpkin Pie Hot Toddy (good for a nightcap): a cup of decaf coffee with a shot of pumpkin liqueur topped with my trademark whipped cream and pumpkin pie spice. Delish!


Thursday, September 27, 2012

I'm Official.

Last month I introduced you to my friend and blog mentor Darby over at Life With The Hawleys. If you missed that post you can catch up by reading it here. Every once in awhile Darby will post about meet ups that she attends with local bloggers in her area. They go to fun events, try new restaurants, go to local shops, do blogger networking things, etc. {Insert whiny voice here} I wanna go toooooo! The problem is that Darby lives in Texas. Not happening.

So, I put my big girl panties on and decided to find my own network of local bloggers. I love the support, friendship, and new ideas and growth that come from these groups and I really wanted the opportunity to participate in one. In order to find a local network I did the first thing that came to mind--a Google search. It solves so many problems. One of the first hits was a website called Virginia Is For Bloggers. Well, hello new friends! I was so excited to find this amazing resource for Virginia Bloggers. There is a blog roll categorized by area of the state, and I was super excited to see a long list of Richmond VA bloggers! There is also a section on the website for upcoming blogger events--just what I have been looking for!

In order to become a member of the site you have to submit your blog. Oh my. I was nervous. I have this brand new baby blog with a small amount of followers, and still growing confidence about who out there actually wants to read my random thoughts, and what am I going to write about anyway?! When I submitted my blog to Virginia Is For Bloggers I think I said something like "Not sure if my blog is up to par...but I'd love to join." I felt like I was back in middle school IMing a boy I had a crush on..."should I press send? Eek! I did it! Now I wait for a response..."

Well a few days later I got an email from the fabulous Liz at Virginia Is For Bloggers that I was a new member and I should add their button to my blog. Um, yes please! I even know how to add buttons now. Go me! If you visit the VABloggers page here you will see the list of bloggers around the state. I really encourage you to take the time and visit some of the blogs listed. I am still working my way through but I have discovered some awesome blogs and even "met" some new bloggy friends already. You might even see a little blog you recognize called A T-Shirt and Pearls in the Richmond section. And, 542,931 words later I get to the point...I'm official...a for real blogger (at least I think so...)!

And I heard a little rumor that there is a Richmond area bloggers meet up in the works for October. Yippee! I am so excited about this bloggy journey and meeting fabulous new people. Thanks for coming along with me. :)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Just one of those days...

Don't worry, this isn't a downer has just been one of those fabulous days. I am snuggled in my coziest red flannel moose pajama pants (I got them on a family trip to Alaska several years can you leave Alaska without a pair of red flannel moose pajamas?! I mean really people...) drinking an Angry Orchard Hard Apple Ginger Cider (major yum, I love hard cider in the fall!) feeling really content and happy, and I just felt like I had to share. In thinking about all of the things that I am thankful for today I was reminded of this video from YouTube:

Did you ever see this when it went viral? I seriously love it. I think it is partly the kindergarten teacher in me, but kids just make me smile.

And for those of you who are insanely jealous of said red flannel moose pajama pants, below is a little peek in case you want to begin the search for your own. I already washed my face (=no makeup) and despite the fabulousness of my pajamas I am not looking too cute, so you only get a leg view...

Goodnight friends! 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Wine and Cheese Please

Hi friends! It feels like forever since my last post even though its only been a few weeks. The first few weeks of school for a teacher, in kindergarten no less, are all consuming and exhausting. Two Fridays ago (the end of the first week of school) hubby went out with some friends for the evening (side note: they went to a new brewery in Richmond, Hardywood--have you been? Hubby loved it!), and I had no plans. Well, what's a girl to do on a lonesome Friday night? Prepare an indulgent meat and cheese "board" and open a good bottle of wine of course.

What a perfect end to a long and draining week. On my way home from school I first stopped at the library to get some good books (the perfect addition to a relaxing night on my own) and then I ran into the grocery store to get all the things I needed for my indulgent meal. I feel like I need to preface this with the fact that this was my whole dinner and there were possibly a few things left over?! Here is what I included:

  • Prosciutto 
  • Olives from the olive bar: mixed greek and blue cheese stuffed--my ultimate favorites are garlic stuffed and olives with red chilies (the dinky grocery store on my way home didn't have those kinds though...sad) P.S. I LOVE an olive bar. I mean LOVE. Sometimes that is my treat to myself at the grocery store--getting a tub of olives. It doesn't take much to amuse me. 
  • Warm french bread--I bought a mini loaf (perfect for one!) of the french bread you get in the bakery that is "pre-baked"--you have to put it in the oven for about 15 minutes to "bake" it. I like it because it gives you that warm fresh baked taste.
  • Dark chocolate bar with hazelnuts--any dark chocolate that has nuts or dried fruit in it would be delicious in my opinion
  • Baked brie with honey and pecans--Oh yummy! I LOVE brie!!! Just put your wheel of brie into an oven safe baking dish (I really want need a brie baker...hint hint, anyone?) and top with a drizzle of honey and some pecan chips. Bake at 400 degrees until the cheese starts looking ooey gooey (about 15 minutes). There are so many delicious options for baked brie so play around and find your favorite combination. 
Now, onto other important must be wondering what's in my wine glass! That is Viognier from Pippin Hill Farm. Viognier is know as Virginia's signature wine and this wine by Pippin Hill Farm lived up to its title. I discovered this fresh, fruity, crisp wine on a wine tasting trip with my mom back in June (thanks for buying me a bottle, mom!). Every few months we like to do a little "girls" trip and this last trip was to Charlottesville, VA where we did wine tasting at Pippin Hill, and then went to The Boar's Head Inn for spa treatments and an overnight stay complete with a lovely dinner. Here are some pictures from our trip to Pippin Hill:

After our wine tasting we had lunch on the patio overlooking the mountains. It was a perfect June day with cooler temperatures and bright sunshine. We had the cheese board and the charcuterie (I can never say that word correctly!)--ie. meat board. There were delicious homemade mustards, preserves, and spreads to accompany the meats and cheeses, and it all came with some delicious crusty french bread. Oh yummy! We had the most amazing time at Pippin Hill and I insist that you go give it a try. The atmosphere, food, wine, view, and service was all top notch. I can't wait to go back.

You can see all of my other wine and cheese ideas on my Wine and Cheese Please Pinterest board here. There are lots of yummy and fun ideas on there.

Well, I have gone off on a tangent as I usually do, so I will leave you with one last thought...

"There comes a time in the day that no matter what the question...the answer is wine."

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Happy Fall Ya'll

Happy first day of Fall! Yes, I know that technically the first day of Fall is not for a few weeks, but in my world (the only one that matters...haha, just kidding) it starts today. You see today was also the first day of school. So, for me the beginning of September and the start of school is all I really need to consider it Fall. I have had my fall Scentsy scents warming for a few weeks now, and I am just itching to get my decorations out. I think that is on the schedule for next weekend!

If you follow my blog or follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you may have caught on to the fact that I am slightly obsessed with Fall, I mean I only mention it 542 times. You might be wondering what I think is so fabulous about this season. Well, I have made my first attempt at one of those cute little posters you see floating around Pinterest to share with you some of things I love about the Fall.

What is your favorite thing about Fall? I know for tons of people it is the return of the Pumpkin Spice Latte to Starbucks. Embarrassing confession: I don't think I have ever had a PSL and if I have I don't remember it. There I said it. I feel like I am cheating on Fall by saying that. Don't worry, drinking a PSL is on the top of my Fall to do list this season. I have however, already had my first Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffin from Starbucks, which you must try if you have not is one of my Fall must haves. Make sure to check out my FALL in love Pinterest board for more Fall cooking and decorating ideas, as well as some fab printables I have come across!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Butterfinger Blondies

In case you haven't caught on...I love to eat. Anything and everything. Really, there are not many things I don't like. I would like to grow up to be a foodie. I would like to plan a vacation around visiting amazing places to eat. I especially love sweets, and that's where Butterfinger Blondies come in. 

Butterfingers are hubby's favorite candy, and on one of our random occasions {when we had the urge to bake up something fattening and delicious} we decided to incorporate Butterfingers.These were super dangerously simple to make.

I started with a recipe for basic blondies that I got from Food Network and then I mixed in some crushed up Butterfingers and added more crushed Butterfingers on top before baking. That's it. 

Here is the blondie recipe from Food Network with a few of my changes:

  • 1 1/2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt 
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 six packs of fun size Butterfingers crushed into small pieces (I just used my hands to break them apart since they are so crumbly)
  • 2 full size Butterfinger bars crushed into small pieces
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter and flour a 9 by 13-inch glass baking dish.
Put the sugar in a large bowl. Melt the butter in the microwave. Stir the butter into the sugar until smooth, cool to room temperature.
Meanwhile, in another medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together.
Beat the eggs and vanilla into the sugar mixture. Add the flour mixture a bit at a time and mix until a smooth thick batter forms. Mix in the 12 mini crushed Butterfingers.
Spoon the batter in to the prepared dish and spread evenly. Sprinkle the two full size crumbled Butterfingers on top of the blondies. Bake until the blondies are light brown around the edges and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes.
Remove from the oven and let cool. Cut into squares and try not to eat the entire pan in one sitting. 

I would love to try these blondies with other mix-ins. What do you think would be good in this batter?
P.S. Please pardon my high-tech point and shoot photos. One day I'll tackle "real" photography, but until then my plate is full....with Butterfinger Blondies that is. ;)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

In A Pickle

The hubby and I like to watch Food Network, but it never fails to get us in trouble. I mean, how can you watch total deliciousness being made in front of you and not want to eat massive amounts of unhealthy foods?  I guess if you have a little something called willpower you can resist, but here in this house there is sometimes a shortage of that. Last week we were watching The Best Thing I Ever Ate: Finger Food and one of the segments included fried pickles from The Blue Ridge Grill in Atlanta, GA. I already had pickles on the brain since I was getting ready for my first adventure in pickling and canning by making homemade dill pickles the next day, and seeing these yum-o fried pickles being made put me in even more of a pickle mood. Fast forward a few days (homemade pickles are made and set aside for their 2 weeks of fermenting--is it just me or does that word make them sound totally gross? I prefer not to think of my food fermenting...) and I was still thinking about those fried pickles. Well, it was another rainy cozy day which always puts me in the mood to cook or bake something delish. Cue, fried pickles. I had everything on hand including a jar of Vlassic dill pickle chips. The one thing I took away from The Best Thing I Ever Ate: Finger Foods was that the chef at The Blue Ridge Grill used cornmeal in his batter. From there I dug around in my pantry and pulled out some additional things to whip up a batter. Here is my recipe:

Fried Pickles

Dry Batter:
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal (I had white on hand but I am sure yellow would work just fine too)
1 tablespoon of cornstarch (this makes the batter super nice and crispy!)
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Cayenne pepper, to taste

Wet Batter:
1 cup milk
1 egg
A few dashes of hot sauce, to taste

*Note: We made a small serving of fried pickles, so we had a fair amount of batter left over. Next time I  make them for just us (hubby is still deciding how he feels about pickles so he barely ate any anyway) I would half the dry batter recipe. You can't really half the wet batter unless you want to mess with trying to separate out half of an egg...? I didn't think so. If you are making pickles for a crowd the full recipe should do.

Drain your pickle chips in a strainer (you will still want them wet--don't pat them dry or anything--but let the excess drip off into the sink). Coat the bottom of a dutch oven or deep skillet with vegetable oil. It does not need to be deep enough to cover the whole pickle, just enough to cover the bottom of the pan and one side of the pickle. Heat oil over medium heat. While oil is heating, mix up dry ingredients in one bowl and wet ingredients in another bowl. Once your oil is hot and lightly bubbling and popping you are ready to fry. {We did a single pickle first to taste test our batter seasoning. After our "test pickle" we went back and spiced things up with more cayenne and hot sauce.} Dredge your drained pickle chips into the dry batter first. Shake excess off and then dredge them in the wet batter. Dredge them once more in the dry batter and then carefully put them into the hot oil. Let them fry until golden brown and then using tongs flip them to the other side to fry. It only takes a minute or so for them to get brown so keep a close eye on them! Remove fried pickles from the oil and place onto a paper towel lined plate to drain. Serve immediately with a side of ranch dressing. I used store bought light ranch dressing (I had to save calories somewhere you know) although these would be 10 times more delicious with homemade ranch. I wasn't up to that for a random afternoon snack made from items in my pantry, but I would definitely step it up and make homemade dressing if I was serving these for guests. So, who wants to come over and be my reason for homemade ranch dressing?

Dry and Wet Batter
"Test" Pickle 

Yummy Fried Pickles!

Pickles and Ranch

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Low Fat Oatmeal Banana Nut Bread

Every once in awhile I get a taste for a banana. They are not my favorite fruit, but I like them. I like my bananas almost a little green and they turn so quickly that many times I can't eat them all before they get too ripe, so I only buy a few at a time. Translation: I am that person at the grocery store who pulls 2 or 3 bananas off of a bunch and leaves the rest behind. Sorry.

I recently learned a trick from my Aunt Kathy to help bananas keep a little longer. The trick is to break the bananas apart when you get them home and then use a sharp knife to cut off the very tip of the stem. This did seem to work and kept them fresher a little longer. But, this last time around I still got stuck with 2 very brown bananas (I got a little overzealous at the grocery store and bought 4 at once?!) that were about to be sentenced to the trash can. Lucky for them I had the idea to bake up a banana bread instead. On the day I decided to do this it was unusually cool outside and it was a dreary rainy day. In other words, it was a perfect day to be snuggled inside in my comfies baking. Between the weather and the smell of freshly baking banana bread I could almost close my eyes and pretend it was fall. It was fabulous!

As I thought about baking my bread I decided that I wanted to change things up by adding oatmeal to my recipe. I searched the internet for different oatmeal banana bread recipes and I found one for Low Fat Oatmeal Banana Bread from Joy the Baker that looked pretty tasty. I made a few changes and additions of my own to come up with my recipe.

Before you read on I will warn you that this bread is not like your traditional sugary fluffy banana bread. This is like power banana bread. It is dense, like seriously dense. It makes a delicious and really filling breakfast, especially if you toast it and put some peanut or almond butter on top. While it is still not the healthiest option, the protein from the oats and nuts along with the low fat content make this bread a pretty decent choice, especially compared to traditional recipes. You could clean it up even more by using a whole wheat flour and a natural sugar substitute such as Truvia or Agave Nectar (taking away the brown sugar will change the flavor).  

Low Fat Oatmeal Banana Nut Bread

1 1/4 c. flour
1 c. uncooked old fashioned oats
1/2 c. packed brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3 tsp canola oil
1 whole egg
2 egg whites
2 very ripe bananas, peeled
1/2 c. toasted walnuts
1tsp vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350. Heat a small skillet over medium low heat and toast walnut halves until lightly browned, set aside to cool. Butter and flour a loaf pan and set aside.

In a large bowl stir together all of the dry ingredients.

In another bowl mash the bananas with a fork, add the oil and whole egg and stir to combine.

Add the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix well. Take the cooled nuts and use a knife to give them a rough chop (I kept mine pretty chunky but its up to you). Incorporate the chopped nuts into the batter. It will be very thick and it won't look like a lot of batter.

Set the batter aside and in a separate bowl use an electric hand mixer to beat egg whites into medium stiff peaks. Fold the egg whites into the batter in three additions.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake at 350 for 35 minutes or until golden brown and firm on top. *I used the convection setting on my oven which I find often cooks things more quickly. You may need to bake your bread up to 45 minutes. Keep a close eye on it and test for doneness by inserting a toothpick  super cool cake tester.

Isn't it the cutest thing?! I registered for it from Crate & Barrel when we got married. I remember getting teased about it at my bridal shower when I unwrapped it along with some other goodies, but what can I say? It doesn't take much to amuse me and I seriously loved this cute little guy.

Speaking of cute kitchen gadgets I also have a brown sugar bear. I got him randomly from Plow & Hearth. I went in to the store with a friend and there he was. The purpose of the brown sugar bear is to keep your brown sugar from crystalizing into a hard rock. I wasn't too sure about it, but let me tell you, it works great!! It seems to be made from some kind of clay? To use it you soak it in a glass of water for about 10 minutes. Then I pat the excess water off and stick him down into my bag of brown sugar. The bear keeps the sugar for months before you need to remoisten it. I looked for the bear on the Plow & Hearth website and couldn't find it. :( I am not sure if they no longer carry it, or if it is a store by store kind of thing. Anyone know where else you can find a brown sugar bear? It has become one of my kitchen must haves!

Happy Baking!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Giveaway, A Bloggy Friend, and Fabulous Earrings

Hi Friends! Today I am excited to introduce you to my friend Darby at Life With The Hawleys. Darby and I were sorority sisters in college (yay Delta Zeta!) and in recent months she has become my blog mentor. I have followed along with Darby's blog via her Facebook page, so when I first got the idea to start up my own blog Darby popped into my mind right away. I emailed her that night asking for advice on starting up my own blog. I had questions about who I would write to, what I would write about, and how I would do the technical part of creating a cute (very important to me!) blog. Darby has been gracious, helpful, and encouraging from the beginning, and I am so thankful I have had her to help me along the way.

Starting today Darby is having an awesome giveaway on her blog for a beautiful pair of Grace Adele earrings. Click here to visit Life With The Hawleys and view the details for entering her giveaway. You will definitely want a chance to win these fun, fancy, and stylish earrings! I love how they can transfer seamlessly from day to night. While you're on her page make sure you stay awhile, check things out, and sign up to follow along in her adventures!

**Giveaway Closed**

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Hello, Gorgeous!

The other week I posted about my must have fall item, riding boots. In case you missed it you can read that post here. Of course once I get an idea in my head I have to make it happen, so just a few days after my original post I went shopping. I had received a DSW coupon in the mail for $20 off (!) and it was about to expire. Obviously the right thing to do would be go to DSW and see what I could buy. I mean who would waste a $20 coupon?! I don't always have luck at DSW but they had tons of boots in stock. I was really excited to have so many options to try on, and everything was available in my of the advantages of shopping for fall items in the summer. By the way, it is totally frustrating that you have to start shopping 2-3 months ahead of a season so you can get what you want before it is sold out. Have you noticed that? For example Hobby Lobby has had Christmas decorations out for weeks now. If I wait until October (which I think would be the appropriate time to start thinking about Christmas decorations) to shop I can bet that they would all be on clearance and completely picked over. There is something wrong with that in my opinion, it seems like our world is happy to live in fast forward. What happened to living in the moment and enjoying the now? But anyway, before I get too deep, back to the boots!

The pair I chose are made by Matisse and all things considered were a pretty good in general are just expensive, but the DSW discount price plus my coupon made the cost bearable.

What do you think? I can't wait for fall and to start wearing my fabulous new riding boots! Now I just need some cute new outfits to pair with the boots. Hmm, I guess I have more shopping in my future! ;)

Monday, August 13, 2012

Oh, la, la....

...a French braid! I am once again growing my hair out and this has been the most successful attempt so far. I usually get impatient (there's that word again...hmm) and chop it all off when it gets to the weird in betweeny stage. Anyone know about that? It's the worst! Anyway, I think I am about past the weird in betweeny stage and I am still holding strong--no itch to chop it off. I think I am at about the longest my hair as ever been. in. my. life. This is progress. But as usual I am off topic...

Whenever my hair gets long enough I like a french braid as an alternative to the wet pony tail or bun on days that I don't feel like/don't have time to do anything with it. Those days seem to happen pretty often. Whenever we are at the beach I always have my sister in-law braid it for me, but now that I am rocking the long hair I figured I need to know how to do it myself. So, I did what anyone in my generation does when they want to learn something new, I went onto YouTube. I clicked on one of the first videos I found and it was so easy. I mean easy. How have I missed out on this for the last 15 or so years? Here is my braid on my second attempt:

Its a bad phone camera pic, but that's a pretty good braid, right?! Wow, I didn't really realize how long my hair has gotten until I see this picture. Now that I have conquered the braid I want to work up to all of those super cute hairstyles you see pinned on Pinterest. I always think, yeah right who can actually do their hair like that, but now I feel like I can do anything! Haha! No, really. I do. I add the hairstyles I like on Pinterest to my Hair and Accessories board. You can check it out here.

Here is the YouTube video I used if you want a quick and easy tutorial on french braiding your own hair. I think one of her best pieces of advice was when you are just beginning don't use the mirror, just do it by feel.

Happy hairstyling!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

One Sauce, Two Meals, Happy Wallet

This week has been a little out of the ordinary for me because we have made two meals that are based around a red tomato sauce. Italian is one of my least favorite types of foods, and I am not a fan of red sauce in particular. I know that is probably offensive to some of you but I just can't help it! However, on a rare occasion I get a taste for Italian, and brace sauce. 

This week Hubby had a craving for spaghetti. That sounded pretty good to me, but I knew that we would no way eat a whole jar of spaghetti sauce, so I brainstormed a recipe that would use the leftover sauce (another crazy moment--I planned to eat leftovers! Ick, they are not my favorite either), and I came up with Rustic Veggie Polenta. This recipe was actually inspired by a frozen meal that I sometimes get during the school year for lunch (ironically I think I was able to make the entire recipe for not much more than the frozen version--although I think Amy's is a bit healthier than mine!)

Image Source
Here is my sauce recipe that was the basis of the two meals. It is pretty simple (another goal of these meals was to keep them budget friendly) and it is something I thought up as we were making our grocery list.

Simple Sausage Pasta Sauce:

1 jar of spaghetti sauce--I used Prego Light Smart Traditional Sauce. I liked that it was 100% natural, had lower sugar and calories, 1/2 serving of veggies in 1/2 cup, and was on sale...yippee!
1 small can tomato paste 
3 mild Italian sausages, casings removed
1/2 of a medium yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced or use a garlic press

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Use a sharp knife to gently slice through the sausage casing. Remove and discard casing and put sausage in heated pan. Use a spatula to break apart sausage into small crumbles. Add the diced onion to the pan and let meat and onion brown, stirring often. Once the meat and onion are almost done add your minced garlic (the garlic is more delicate and will burn quickly--that is why I saved it to the end). I used a garlic press and pressed it right into the pan. Once your meat, onion, and garlic are nicely browned and happy, drain any grease and add your jar of sauce and can of tomato paste to the pan. The tomato paste gives the sauce a nice thickness and flavor. Turn your heat down to low and let the sauce simmer about 20 minutes.
*Note: We used pork sausage to keep it classic, but you could clean this up by using an all natural turkey Italian sausage. 

Meal #1:

Spaghetti with Simple Sausage Pasta Sauce--I must admit we had regular pasta but you can clean it up with whole wheat pasta instead. We cooked a small portion of pasta and added the amount of sauce we wanted directly on top of our pasta. Remember you are saving the rest of your sauce for meal #2! 

Steamed veggies--We love using the Bird's Eye steamer bags. They are all natural and a super easy and healthy side dish!  

Meal #2:

Rustic Veggie Polenta

1 small green pepper, diced
1 small red pepper, diced (I used half of a large one and saved the other half for Asian grilled chicken salads later in the week. I told you all this was budget meal week!)
1/2 medium yellow onion, diced (the other half that I saved from the sauce)
1 package white button mushrooms, sliced
Leftover Simple Sausage Pasta Sauce

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add a dash of olive oil. Wash and dice your veggies and add them to your hot pan. Sauté the veggies until they are soft and slightly browned. Add in the leftover Simple Sausage Pasta Sauce and turn the heat to low. Let the sauce simmer while you prepare the polenta. 

We use Trader Joe's Organic Polenta. It comes pre-made in a handy little tube and you just slice it into rounds. Bonus at our TJ it is only $1.99 (yay budget friendly!!). We followed the instructions on the tube for pan frying the polenta in olive oil. The only change was we wanted the polenta nice and crispy brown on each side, so rather than cooking for 4-5 minutes per side on medium-low heat it was more like 10 minutes (I think they took longer to brown because we had too much oil in the pan). 

Once your polenta is done put it on your plate and top with Rustic Veggie Sauce and a shake shake of parmesan cheese. This is an entire meal in itself, no side dishes needed! Delicious! 

Note: I named this recipe Rustic Veggie Polenta because of the rustic veggies. You see, I am not good at chopping. Usually when I attempt to start chopping something my hubby steps in and takes over--my chopping skills do not impress him. He wasn't around to help me this time because he was making a last minute run to the grocery store for the ingredients to make a yummy dessert (I'll have that post for you later this week!). I think my issues with chopping are due to {ok, fine} not great knife skills and impatience. I really just want to get it done, and here is what that looks like:

Do you notice how none of the veggies are the same size?! My favorite is the ridiculously tiny red pepper piece. I figured "rustic" was a nicer term than "hot mess", so that's how Rustic Veggie Polenta was born. 

I hope you enjoy!