Thursday, December 15, 2011

a homemade holiday

Last year's cookie tins!

To be honest, the husband and I have spent a small fortune on Christmas presents this
And it's ok! Really.
We love to buy presents. There's nothing better than buying someone you love a really great present you know they will enjoy.
But at the same time, these aren't exactly the best of times.
And before you go into a panic about how you haven't even started your Christmas shopping yet, let me remind you that it doesn't have to be synonymous with copious amounts of debt.
For most of my presents, I give away little Christmas cookie bundles.
I make about 5 or 6 different cookies, tuck them neatly into little cookie boxes and tins lined with pretty Christmas tissue paper, make a name tag out of some construction paper (th
ough scrapbook or even wrapping paper can work), and call it a day.
And you know what? Everybody loves them.
Because it came from the heart and you took the time to make them and it's much better than going out and getting some gift card.
Which, ahem, I actually also love to give and receive.
But I digress.
Below I'm listing some homemade gift options that I think are really great. I hope you like them, too.
As for me? This year will hit all the notes: chocolate, coconut, fruit, gooey, chewy, nutty, and delicious.

Cookie Mix in a Jar

The easiest gift to make, and it just looks so pretty! Take your favorite cookie recipe and a mason jar and begin! Layer all of the dry ingredients, leaving out the wet (butter, eggs, extracts). Attach a name tag along with instructions and they may just love you for life.
Just about any recipe will work. I'm partial to the good ol' chocolate chip and peanut butter varieties.

Similarly, you can scratch the cookie mix idea and fill a mason jar with pancake mix. Yes, pancake mix. Homemade pancake mix, mind you. Label a tag with "Christmas morning pancake mix" and pack it up alongside some hot cocoa mix and marshmallows. Talk about one lovely breakfast.

Nigella Lawson's Instant Pancake Mix
Adapted from Nigella Express or Nigella Kitchen. I can't remember..

4 c all-purpose flour
3 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons sugar

1. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Separate into jars or tins, containing 1 cup of pancake mix each, or pour into one big jar.
2. For each cup of pancake mix, add 1 egg, 1 cup of milk and 1 tablespoon melted butter. Mix batter and make pancakes. Each cup makes 15 3-inch pancakes.

Optional: you can even add mix-ins to the dry pancake mix like chocolate chips or granola. yum.


Who doesn't love a good holiday liquor?! And this year, why buy one when you can make one. Oh yes, make one.
Limoncello is fantastic. Seriously.
Like the lovechild of tequila and lemonade. Sort of. Ok, maybe not.
Served as a digestif and meant to be sipped, not shot (calm down there frat boys), it's a really smooth, syrupy-sweet, delightful lemon liqueur.
Most recipes you'll find for it, like this one, call for vodka. When we used to make it at the restaurant, we actually used 190-proof Everclear grain alcohol. We covered it up nice and tight and let it sit for about a month in a dark, cool place.
And if you took off the plastic wrap and didn't stand back, you would get one big alcoholic punch in the face.
While letting it sit for 3-4 weeks was great, it's not entirely necessary. You can leave it to sit for as little as 4-5 days and it will be ok.
As for the best storage? The freezer. Limoncello is meant to be served ice cold in a nice, frosty glass.
You could pour the limoncello into a decorative jar and pack it alongside some shot glasses and you, my friend, have become the life of the party.
Similarly, you could omit the lemon and go for orange or grapefruit instead. OR. You could infuse vodka with another flavor altogether.

Possibilities are endless!
Exercise your creativity. Give homemade. And have yourself a merry little wallet.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

it's all greek to me


Up until a couple of days ago, it was still pretty hot.
And while the sun still shines quite bright, there is a nice breeze that has come around and cool air that has come with it.
This is a good thing. This is a great thing.
Cause I don't like sweaty armpits in winter.
Anyway, last week, in the midst of the heat, the husband and I decided to try out our new grill and make a nice grilled lunch.
Some grilled chicken, some grilled zucchini, some grilled broccoli, and some grilled ciabatta - for the Greek bruschetta, of course.


And this should really be called "Greek" bruschetta, because it's really no more Greek than Taco Bell chalupas are "Mexican" or Olive Garden is "Italian".
But moving on!
I found this recipe in a Kraft foods magazine and loved it the second I made it.
The original recipe is a bit different than mine and calls for kalamata olives. I'm actually not a kalamata fan, so just opt for the delicious green spanish olives instead.
You can use day-old or stale bread for this, which is great. I usually find myself with a rock-hard piece of leftover bread and instead of throwing it away, this is a great use.
And on a winter day, this is a little bit of summer sunshine.

Greek Bruschetta
Adapted from

2 tomatoes, diced
1 cup olives, diced (kalamata or any kind, your choice)
1/2 cup feta, crumbled
2 cloves garlic, minced to a paste
3 stalks scallions, finely diced (optional)
handful parsley, chopped
handful basil, chopped
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 T olive oil, plus extra for bread
salt, pepper

1 loaf ciabatta, or other bread, split lengthwise

1. Mix all ingredients, minus the bread, in a bowl. Adjust seasonings if necessary. Let sit in fridge for about 5-10 minutes. (This can even be made a day or 2 in advance).
2. Lightly drizzle oil on cut side of bread. Place on grill to get a good char.
3. Top grilled bread with tomato-olive mix. Enjoy.


Friday, December 9, 2011

flashback friday: santa, is that you?

Santa has seen some better days.

circa 1993?

Have a nice weekend!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

pink & black



Glasses: TJMaxx. Top: Ross. Jeans: Old Navy (also seen here).

Oh how I love a good stripe on a (Florida) winter day.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011



While the Extreme Couponing ladies are stockpiling mounds of groceries in their garages, bathrooms, and bedrooms, I'm stockpiling clothes.
Yes, clothes.
I don't know why it is and I can't really help it. I'll find myself shopping and purchasing fantastic pieces only to have them sit in my closet for months.
I think, "well it'll come in handy some day!"
And it does. So that's good.
I originally bought this dress and jacket back in June, because I considered using it as a birthday dress.
It did not become a birthday dress, but worked beautifully as a dress for dinner with the husband for his birthday.
And because it was nice and flowy, it allowed for me to stuff my face and not have to suck the tummy in too much.
Always an important feature!



Dress, Jacket, Necklace (turned inside out), Purse (turned clutch): Forever 21.
Sandals: Rampage / DSW

Friday, December 2, 2011

flashback friday: my first

It is officially December! It is officially holiday season!
Up until I met the husband I'd actually never had a real tree. I never even knew about real trees.
Most of my childhood was filled with a 4 foot artificial tree we propped up on side table and filled it with lights, garland, tinsel, and numerous ornaments. It was fantastic.
But I have to say that I'm pretty sure I've become a real tree fan for life.
Everything about it screams holiday fun: picking and choosing, taking it home, opening it up and getting a whiff of that pine smell, watering it, and decorating.
This year we put on Pandora's holiday station while decorating and Sandy puppy watched from her little pillow.
We even got a little fence around it and some fake fluff snow to puppy-proof the tree.
But enough about that tree!
The first time going out to pick a tree was exciting to say the least.


Can you tell??
That cross-body bag was found in the Target clearance section. I loved it cause the color screamed "HELLOO!". I have since grown tired of it, of course, but that sweater?? The best $7 sweater I've ever owned.
Here's to the holiday season.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011



This was honestly the first year I had enough leftovers to really revel in the leftovers. You know, turkey sandwiches for days.
Except there was also a turkey omelette, turkey frittata, and then the turkey shepard’s pie.
And how incredibly fitting since shepard’s pie was created as a way to use leftovers.
And I used them all up. It was the easiest cooking I’d done in a while.
Open Tupperware container, pour out contents, repeat.
And did I mention so delicious?!
So she’s not the prettiest girl at the Thanksgiving party, but she is the tastiest.


After Thanksgiving Turkey Shepard’s Pie

Olive oil
2 cloves garlic
2 cups turkey, diced
½ cup leftover vegetables (I used my glazed carrots here)
½ cup spinach (I used the leftover spinach salad with a bacon vinaigrette. Hellooooo)
½ cup stuffing
¼-½ cup gravy, or chicken stock
1-2 cups mashed potatoes
2 T parmesan cheese

1. Preheat oven to 400F.
2. Heat up oil in a medium saute pan. Cook garlic. Add in turkey, vegetables, spinach, stuffing, and gravy. Add in some chicken stock if necessary to make a bit of a sauce.
3. Stir together until heated up and bubbly. Season with salt and pepper, if necessary.
4. Pour into a baking dish, top with mashed potatoes, sprinkle with cheese, and bake for about 10-15 minutes.


Thanksgiving reborn!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

giving thanks

Somewhere along the line, I became the busiest girl on the block.
In between moving, birthday trips, a hectic work schedule, and the holidays, posting was, well, post-poned.
But things are slowly falling back into normal mode.
And the holidays are here!


I worked on Thanksgiving, but got out in time for some Black Friday shopping.
How can you not love Black Friday? It combines two of my favorite things: bargain shopping and sheer pandemonium.
Ha. I kid.
Sort of.
I didn't need any electronics this year, instead just opted to go for the fun of it. And I brought the husband along with me (his first time!). He didn't punch anybody once. I'm so proud.
We did snag a good bit of toys, stocking stuffers, and extras here and there.
I am really determined to get all of my shopping done before Christmas Eve this year.
Usually my work gets in the way of this..
Either way, after our Black Friday shopping, we went home, slept, and made a little post-Thanksgiving lunch.
It was simple, intimate, and absolutely delicious.


My mom seasoned and cooked the turkeys (yes, plural), Brad made some of his delicious cranberry relish, I cooked up some glazed carrots. Along with a spinach and bacon salad, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and some really tasty gravy, it was a really wonderful Thanksgiving lunch.
And did I mention delicious?
Sometimes it's just the little things that make me happiest. And I am thankful for all of it.
But of course after lunch, I slipped into the obligatory after-dinner nap/coma. I managed to sneak one in right before heading out for work again.
And speaking of Thanksgiving food comas..


Hope your Thanksgiving was just as lovely!

Friday, November 18, 2011

flashback friday: birthday boy


With the husband's birthday quickly approaching, I thought we'd take a look at a picture taken around the time we started dating, circa 2007.
A co-worker's band was set to play downtown, but when that got cancelled everybody's plans shifted to a house party.
So we packed the place and hung out all night.
That shirt I'm wearing? I got it as a gift and swore by it for a good year or 2. I'm like that with most of my clothing, really.
I haven't decided if that's a good or bad thing yet.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

currently loving: countdown

To be honest, I'm not really a Beyonce fan.
Some of her songs are catchy and recently some of her music videos have been fun viewing (helloo, Single Ladies).
But this video is just so much fun I can't help but love it.
From the colors to the subtle Audrey Hepburn/Micheal Jackson homages to the one piece and wide-brimmed hat to the simplest of details like that ponytail she swings around.
This video is all kinds of fantastic. And it doesn't hurt that the song has me dancing all over town.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

currently loving: long jewels



Necklace: Forever 21. Glasses: Forever 21. Shirt: Derek Heart / Marshall's. Belt: American Rag / Macy's. Jeans: Old Navy. Bracelet: Kameleon


on another note, currently hating packing. but we're almost there!
apologies for the lack of entries.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

back in action/i think we're alone now

It's been a pretty hectic couple of weeks.
In between packing, working, and a super-mini vacation, my days have been full to the max.
But I am back in action!
So what better way to celebrate than by giving a lovely Halloween recap?


I hadn't done anything for Halloween for the past 3 years and really had the itch to do something this year. The horrible weather rained on the Halloween weekend parade (literally), but Halloween day was a fairly clear day.
In a random flash of genius (I have lots of those..), I decided to be Tiffany.
You know, "I think we're alone now"?
Redhead 80s teen queen?
Debbie Gibson's BFF?
Anyway. It's not like I had a particular adoration for Tiffany or anything (although once I did decide to be Tiffany, her song got stuck in my head for the rest of the month), I just wanted to do a really fun, really cheesy homage to the 80s.


I got a red wig, bejeweled a denim jacket, threw on some leggings and neon green socks and called it a day.


I was the extravagant version of Tiffany with purple eyeshadow and big tacky earrings reminiscent of pop-tarts.


Though of course once I put on the wig I became less Tiffany, more trailer park tramp. And once I got to the party and everybody made comments that I looked like Peggy Bundy, it was official.
Also, having to explain to everybody who Tiffany annoying!
Get your pop culture knowledge together people!
Either way, it was one hilarious time.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

my hot and steamy affair


So the weather has managed to flip-flop back and forth since that lovely day at the park, but it's ok, because in that time I managed to squeeze in some soup making.
I've got a bit of a steamy love affair with soup.
I went through a serious soup-making phase last year around this time.
Potato soup and broccoli soup and beef and vegetable soup, oh my!
It's incredibly comforting.
You can build a great pot of soup with just about anything and it requires little effort. Throw everything into a pot and let it simmer for a little while.
Some soups I let simmer for 2 hours, some for only 30 minutes.
And either way it's a labor of love.
Last week I made some broccoli cheese soup because I happened to have lots of cheese and broccoli handy.
It was warm, comforting, delicious, and it hit the spot.
All of the criteria for one fantastic soup.


Broccoli Cheese Soup
I happened to have sharp cheddar and colby jack cheeses handy so I used both, but feel free to just use cheddar if you'd like. But don't cut out the parmesan. It adds great salty flavor. Also, I use a blender to puree the soup, but keep in mind that hot liquids expand in a blender so if you fill it more than half-way full, you will have one hot mess on your hands. If you'd like, you can use a handheld (immersion) blender. It's a fantastic tool, but I don't like it for this very much because the fibrous broccoli tends to get stuck in the blade.

2 T olive oil
½ c onion, chopped
1 carrot, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large head broccoli, or 2 cups (or so) broccoli florets
Salt, pepper
1 t smoked paprika
2 c chicken stock (or vegetable stock for vegetarian friendly)
1 c sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 c Colby jack cheese, shredded
¼ c parmesan cheese, shredded

1. Heat up a big soup pot to medium heat and add in olive oil. Once hot, add in onions, carrots, and garlic and saute for a couple of minutes until soft and translucent.
2. Add in broccoli, pinches of salt and pepper, and smoked paprika.
3. Add in stock and simmer for about 10-15 minutes or so, until broccoli is fork tender. You want the broccoli to retain that bright green flavor so keep the simmering to a minimum.
4. In about 3 batches, add the soup to a blender and puree just slightly. I like to keep a little texture. Move pureed soup to a separate bowl until all batches are done.
5. Once all the soup is pureed, pour it back into the soup pot and bring the heat down to low.
6. Sprinkle in the cheeses, a handful at a time, while stirring the soup in a figure -8 motion. It's important to melt the cheese into the soup on low because if you boil it to try to melt the cheese faster, it will separate and cause a grainy soup.
7. Once all the cheese is in, double check for seasonings. Serve with crusty bread for dunkin' and enjoy. Preferably with a blanket and a movie.


Friday, October 21, 2011

flashback friday: jazzercise


The last time I actually celebrated Halloween was 2008.
I won a $25 gift card to Spirit from the Round Up and used it to buy a simple DIY costume staple: a wig.
Remember how I said wigs are the basis for a great DIY costume?
So I threw on my trusty fishnet stockings, some basic black pinstripe shorts, a black laced shirt, some black sequined flats, called myself The Jazzercise Hooker and called it a night.
The best costume out there? No, no.
The most fun I'd had in a while on Halloween? Oh yes.


Wig: Spirit. Shirt: Derek Heart / Dots. Shorts: Charlotte Russe. Flats: Sirens. ($10! And I still have them!)

Thursday, October 20, 2011



The past 4 days were nothing but rain, cloudy skies, and crap.
And I love a rainy day as much as the next person - when I don't have to actually do anything.
Work, driving, errands, carrying my scared-of-leashes puppy: all inconveniences.
But when I woke up this morning, the sun had finally come out to play and it was a perfect, beautiful 66 degrees.
In south Florida?? In mid-October??
I love it!


This called for a trip to the dog park and my favorite lightweight button-down.
Even though it has a plaid-like pattern, this shirt is really a basic staple for me.


Shirt: Forever 21. Jeans: Old Navy. Sunglasses: Forever 21. Belt: I have no idea. Flip Flops: Old Navy.


being a ham.

Paired with a pair of skinny jeans (I've had a whiplash-enducing love/hate relationship with) and some basic flip-flops (because it still is Florida after all), it was one lovely afternoon.
And Sandy made some friends! Not that you can tell from the picture below, but still..


Sunday, October 16, 2011

(belated) flashback friday: marilyn

The whole week, including the weekend, has been busy and hectic so Flashback Friday has arrived a little late this week.
And in honor of Halloween quickly sneaking up on us, here's a goodie:


This costume actually came together like most do: I needed a costume for a party at the last minute so I went to Party City and bought a costume. The end.
Terrible, I know.
This was about 8 or 9 years ago. And while I still have the dress, the wig has gone missing.
I really wish I still had that wig.
These days I mostly enjoy really fun, really silly DIY costumes and a good wig is always a great start.
I did consider doing a Marylin Monroe costume this year, but I'm not too sure yet. I haven't done anything in about 3 years since I always have to work.
But this year will be different!
I hope.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

currently loving: seasonal


A confession: I love seasonal novelty items. I practically wiped out my bank account last year stocking up on buttloads of Christmas nonsense.
Well, it wasn't nonsense to me!
And what's better than seasonal novelty items? Seasonal novelty items on sale! or also, really cheap seasonal novelty items!
I made a quick run to Target last week and, as always, made a stop by the dollar spot first. When my eye caught sight of these adorable candy dishes, I knew I had to have them.
And at $2.50 apiece, how the hell can you say no??
I am practically shrieking with glee as I type this!
Sure, "investment holiday pieces" are nice. But I just love really fun, really kitschy seasonal things you can find on clearance, in dollar stores, in sale sections, and even discount stores.
Do we get a lot of trick or treaters? Not really.
Will we be throwing a party? Nope.
Does it matter? Absolutely not!
I will sit on my couch eating Halloween candy out of those candy dishes and be one happy girl.

peanut butter cookie time


Who doesn't love a cookie? And really, who doesn't love a peanut butter cookie?
Well, I can name one. And he might as well be disowned.
Joking aside, a good peanut butter cookie is a wonderful thing. Warm from the oven with a nice glass of cold milk. How can you go wrong?
I have actually tested out many peanut butter cookie recipes in my day, some crispy and crunchy, others puffy and chewy. While my chocolate chip cookie is practically an institution in my brain, I'm open to any kind of peanut butter cookie recipe - always ready to find a recipe to compete with the last.
So it was pretty interesting to see a peanut butter cookie post in Orangette.
While I have yet to make those really delicious-sounding cookies, I did make my current stand-by peanut butter cookie recipe. They're puffy, chewy, crumbly, melt-in-your-mouth, little morsels of yummy-ness.
And what more could you ask for from a cookie?
I am actually going to post the recipe for those, pictured above, and post the recipe for the stand-by recipe I used to use before. Both are great and both use the same amount of peanut butter, sugars, and butter, but the similarities end there. The first peanut butter cookie recipe I really loved, the peanut butter cup cookies, call for half the amount of flour and eggs. This really leaves room for a crispier cookie, but still very delicious.
The addition of baking powder in the chocolate chip peanut butter cookies make for a puffier version.
Whichever you prefer, there is a recipe for you.

Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies
My current stand-by recipe. Puffy, chewy, delicious. The recipe says to bake 10 minutes, but they tend to take a little longer for me, even with my oven running hotter than normal. Keep an eye on them and check starting at 10 minutes.
Adapted from

½ c butter
¾ c peanut butter
½ c sugar
½ c brown sugar
2 eggs
1 t vanilla
2 c flour
½ t b powder
½ t b soda
½ t salt
2 c chocolate chips
½ c peanut butter chips, optional

1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Cream together sugars and butters on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.
3. Add eggs one at a time, mixing until fully incorporated.
4. Mix together dry ingredients and add to mixer on low speed. Mix just until incorporated. Fold in chocolate (and peanut butter) chips.
5. Bake for 10 minutes. Cool on baking sheet 5 minutes.

Peanut Butter Cup Cookies
If you like crisp cookies, this recipe is for you. The cookies are a perfect balance of peanut butter, chocolate, and crispness. A couple of notes: my oven runs pretty hot so these cookies take about 15 minutes. I would suggest keeping an eye on them starting at 12 minutes. Also, the original recipe calls for half butter, half shortening. If you’d like to try that, by all means.
Adapted from Sun-Sentinel and Big Fat Cookies by Elinor Klivans.

1 c flour
½ t b soda
1/8 t salt
¾ c peanut butter
½ c brown sugar
1/3 c sugar
½ c butter, softened
1 egg
1 t vanilla
1 10oz bag mini peanut butter cups, chopped (or a couple packages of king size reese’s cups, chopped)

1. Preheat oven to 325F.
2. Mix dry ingredients in a bowl. Set aside.
3. Cream butters and sugars together on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.
4. Add in egg and vanilla. Beat 1 minute more.
5. Add in dry ingredients and mix on low speed until just incorporated. Fold in peanut butter cups.
6. Drop by tablespoon-fuls about 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper (or foil, or a silpat). Bake 18-20 minutes. Cool on baking sheet about 5 minutes.

And, as always, enjoy.


Friday, October 7, 2011

flashback friday: diy jewelry


Continuing in the theme of teenage fashion, let's a trip back to when bright, tacky jewelry was the norm. And leading the pack for me was a serious favorite: toothbrush bracelets. In cleaning up and looking through old things, I found that I still had mine. Well, one of them anyway.


I've made many toothbrush bracelets in my day.
The trick is to get a kiddie toothbrush since they're thin and plastic and they're much easier to manipulate.
I do love to manipulate a toothbrush.
Moving on! The best instructions are here. I like to use oven mitts to help me shape the toothbrush once it comes out of the water. It seems to work best.
Talk about a fashion statement. And possibly a lovely addition to a Man Repeller arm party??


currently loving: easy breezy


It seems a lot of the shirts you'll find hanging on the racks these days are oversized and loose. Unfortunately the oversized and loose trend does not work well with my - ahem - shapely figure. But when I saw this top, I was compelled to try it on.


Shirt: TJMaxx. Shorts: American Rag/Macy's. Necklace: Forever 21 (also seen here).

I was attracted to the print first. It's vibrant and bright. The fabric was fantastic, too. So I thought, why not?
I have worn this top about 3 days in a row now. My closet's feeling a little unloved, I'm sure.
When I put it on, I was instantly comfortable. It's fit in the right places, it's loose in the right places. It doesn't make me look like a big sack of potatoes; it's got movement.
Most frequently I've paired it with these white shorts that are quite possibly the best shorts I've ever purchased. They feel fantastic, fit perfectly, and go with just about anything.


And if I start to feel like a sack of potatoes, a thin belt can add a waist. But for now, I'll stick to this comfortable shirt in this still-uncomfortable heat.


Belt: Forever 21

But the weather is a-changin! Until then, this will be a staple til I have to swap it for shirts with sleeves. Ha. Sleeves.