Food

Beer ‘Ritas Recipe

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When you’re throwing a Cinco de Mayo party and don’t have time to test and sample margarita recipes for the best one, you ask a few of your most “in the know” friends for a recommendation. And when you’re friend’s eyes light up and they say – ask Nancy Jane – she has an amazing recipe for Beer ‘Ritas – you do it. NJ did not disappoint. I cannot even believe how delicious these were. You’ve absolutely got to try them! (Sidenote, Nancy Jane is quite possibly the sweetest realtor in Houston. If you’re looking for a house, she can help you out – with patience, kindness and a bright smile. She’s wonderful!)

Everyone loved these at our party tonight (more fiesta details on the blog tomorrow!) So, without further adieu, here it is.  Enjoy!

RECIPE:

1 mexican beer (just pick your favorite kind)
1 can minute maid limeaid
1 can of good quality tequila (just fill the limeade can) – we used Tierra Fertile, which was recommended by the guy at Spec’s
1 can of Fresca

Mix & serve over ice! Serves probably 8-10 smallish margaritas, perfect for a party.

 

 

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My Rooted Garden

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How beautiful are those greens?! Swiss chard, arugula, dinosaur kale and banana peppers abound in my garden right now and I am so excited to make a salad with them tonight! Curious about how this all started? Read on, dear one.

I first met Nicole Burke of Rooted Garden when I inherited a garden at the home we moved into over this past Summer. Nicole had started the garden and in the lovely, temperate climate that is July in Houston (please note the sarcasm here), I was tasked with learning about what she had done and how to maintain it. Honestly, gardening is one of those things that I have always romanticized (likely because my mom did it when I was a little girl) and wanted to learn more about, but never really had the time. I always sort of figured I’d learn to do it when I got older and my kids were grown. Isn’t that what Southern women do? (Note: There’s a strong possibility that Ouiser cemented this idea in my head. If you don’t have any idea what I’m talking about, check out the graphic I made below to bring you up to speed and then, for the love of laughter, curl up with Netflix and watch Steel Magnolias ASAP. It is one of my very most oft-quoted movies ever!)

 

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Anyway, back to my darling friend Nicole. She has coached me through six months of gardening now and, while I have not learned nearly enough about gardening yet (which is no reflection on her, but more a result of the fact that my retention for things is severely diminished at this stage in my life) I have learned some valuable takeaways for life…

  • It’s never too late to learn new things, so quit putting off what you really want to do if a lack of knowledge is all that’s holding you back. Grab a book or find a friend who is an expert and learn alongside them.
  • Pruning (cutting back) is required for growth. (Ouch, there’s one I need to reflect on more!)
  • Your garden requires daily (or at least semi-weekly) maintenance. Just like anything important in life, truly investing in something requires being present and taking action. We are far too quick to automate things these days and let them go.
  • Kids love digging in dirt and get a HUGE thrill out of picking fruit and veggies they’ve helped to maintain. (Here’s hoping they start getting that same thrill out of eating them!) Our children today need more time outdoors. That’s a simple fact. Growing a garden together gives you a task at hand to focus on together and heaven knows we need more of that in my family! It’s a bonding experience AND its lots of fun.

In case you’re debating undertaking a garden project, let me encourage you to give it a try. Even if you don’t have a green thumb (I’m positive mine is black!) you can do it. Will you grow prize-winning vegetables? Likely not. But, will you relish the food that you eat that you have grown yourself in your backyard? I’m pretty sure you will! There is something so grounding and inspiring about eating something you’ve planted and cared for and grown and reaped. And, bonus – it’s organic! Well, unless you spray your garden with scary pesticides, in which case – yuk! And, at the very least, you’ll have some lovely landscaping in the process.

So, if you’re in the Houston area, check out Rooted Garden. Nicole can do as much or as little as you like. She can offer a consult on what you should plant and tips on how to care for it or she can take your existing “blah” space and turn it into a gorgeous urban edible landscape and then she can come back and care for it and then deliver the fruits of your (her) labor right to your door for you. If you do want to get out there and garden next to her, you’re sure to learn something and have a lot of fun in the process as well! If you’re not in the Houston area, Nicole offers virtual consults as well, so don’t let that stop you! And if you’re just interested in a dabble, follow her on Instagram. Her feed is lovely!

 

My Best Invention EVER

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I’ve been designing jewelry for fifteen years now. I LOVE the thrill of designing something completely new, especially when it is something I can’t wait to wear myself. Often, my designs come from a need in my own wardrobe, which makes them all the more satisfying when I finish hand making them and get to flaunt them!

Recently, however, I invented something completely different. (Let’s just agree to use the term “invent” loosely, so as not to burst my bubble of excitement, okay?) My sweet hubs and I are on our second round of Whole30. (Between you and me, I like to call it my third round because our first go at it, we did 62 days in total – I really feel like that should count as two, but I digress, so…back to my genius.) A key component of a Whole30 is the homemade mayonnaise and I’ve discovered since making it that it is WAY better than any store-bought mayo I’ve ever tasted. In fact, I’m not even sure they should share a name, it is so much better. We use the mayo in burger bowls, mixed with lemon juice and fresh dill on top of salmon, mixed with chicken pieces, slivered almonds and grapes for a quick chicken salad protein fix or mixed with tuna, slivered almonds and chopped apple.  It’s even good as a salad dressing when thinned out with lemon juice and spices of your choice. And, of course, its the base for the dressing (almost like a tzatziki sauce) for my very favorite dish – Deconstructed Gyros. Like I said, its a key ingredient for us.

My favorite recipe for said homemade mayonnaise is from Mel Joulwan on her blog Well Fed (please note this was formerly listed in my other posts as The Clothes Make The Girl, but I think she has changed her blog name because it now redirects to Well Fed.) The only bummer about making homemade mayo for a poor planner like me is that you need to let your eggs and your lemon juice come to room temperature before you can start (hello, waiting an hour) and that you have to pour the oil into the Vitamix VERY, VERY slowly. (Sidenote: I love my Vitamix. We have the professional series one, though the standard model is equally fabulous, and it was definitely an investment, but that little machine has MORE than paid off over the four years we have had it. It is my most often used tool in the kitchen and BY FAR my favorite part about it is its self-cleaning setting. That’s a huge part of the reason that I use it so often. It’s incredible. Okay, back to the amazing mayo you can make in it…)

But the great news for you, my friends, is that I have solved the second of these problems. With a little inventiveness and a splash of creativity, making homemade mayonnaise got WAY easier. I’ve done two rounds of Whole30 with a group of dear friends/amazing women, because it is just so much more fun that way. And all I have to say is that you would think I solved the world peace problem by the reaction my girls gave me on this invention (of course, that may be why we are such dear friends!)

All you need for my invention is. . . a styrofoam or plastic cup and an icepick or needle or the like. That is it!  It helps if your styrofoam cup is a super cute one like mine pictured below. I mean, how funny is that at preschool baseball practice? Anyway…

All you do is remove the center of the top of your Vitamix, poke a TINY hole (and I mean tiny) in the bottom of your disposable cup, set said cup on the top of the Vitamix and pour in the extra light olive oil that you’re supposed to be patiently pouring at a snail’s pace in order to make the perfect fluffy, emulsified homemade mayonnaise. Then, you turn your Vitamix on and voila it does all of the work for you as you sit back and take a short (and well-deserved) rest. I like to store mine in a quart-sized wide mouthed mason jar for easy access and I have lots of those on hand for my to-go salads! Per the recipe, the mayo should be good for about a week past the expiration date on the eggs you use in making it.

Go ahead. Give it a try and tell me if it isn’t just life-changing!

 

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I love the lighter flavor olive oil (this one is from Kroger) since it doesn’t give an olive-y taste to the mayo. (Note that the spices shown in the photo are for the Deconstructed Gyro dressing linked above.)

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Mint, parsley, red pepper and za’tar = yum!

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Here it is, folks! Best. Invention. Ever. (And crazy inexpensive!)

 

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PS. How fun is my styrofoam cup? (And it’s not really vodka.)

Tasting at Ovid

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Living in San Francisco spoils you in many ways. Beautiful views at every glance, incredible food, abundant culture and proximity to fabulous vacation spots abound. One such spot is, of course, the wine country.

When we lived in SF, we could be in Sonoma in 45 minutes and Napa just a smidgen longer and we took advantage of that. . .a lot! When driving up for the day was as common as it was for us, we didn’t have to choose our vineyard visits and tastings very carefully – after all, we knew we could drive up again next weekend!

Now that we are back in Texas (and seriously missing those wine country visits!) we were so thrilled to take a trip back to Napa for a visit. Our friend turned 40 this year and his adorable wife planned the most incredible party for him at their ranch in the wine country. It was an absolute blast! (But I digress…)

Hubs and I decided to head up a few days early (our first trip sans kids – yikes!) and do a little wine tasting – and getting to know one another again. It’s amazing how much talking with one another we got done when we weren’t being interrupted by little voices the whole time! As you know, hubs is a major wine guy, so he planned all of the tastings. He loves research and during his reading, he asked me if there were any places that I wanted to visit. Well, hubs may be the wine guy, but I have a dear friend who is a sommelier (which is not an easily-earned title, let me tell you!)  See? I have connections, too! So, I emailed my friend Amy who recently founded the Bay Area Wine Company who gave me a few “not to be missed” tasting ideas, one of which was Ovid. Hubs was ecstatic, as that was one of the wineries on his list, so a phone call later, we were booked!

Ovid sits on Pritchard Hill and let me tell you, I wasn’t prepared for the fabulousness of this wine tasting experience. The surrounding beauty, the gorgeous facilities, the incredible wines and the lengthy two-on-one chat with our friendly hostess, Janet, a managing partner at the winery, were absolutely unparalleled. We had some great tasting experiences on our trip, but this was probably our very favorite.

Ovid makes only three wines and doesn’t even make each of those every single year. They create as the harvest allows and are committed to only using the best of the best in their wines, which means that some years, a particular wine doesn’t get made. Ovid grows four Bordeaux varietals:  Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot and farms them all organically. Varying proportions of each are used in their blends. You can read more about their wines on their lovely website here.

If you’re near Napa or planning a trip there soon, I highly recommend giving Ovid a call to see if they can fit you in. There is a waiting list for their wines, but we were able to purchase a few at our tasting on their beautiful property on Pritchard Hill. I’m positive that your palate will thank you!

For now, take a “mini tour” through our photos below. As you can see, they are committed to making each visitor feel special and literally set out the silver and crystal for us. We enjoyed such a nice, long chat with Janet and truly felt like we left as friends, having talked about wine, the changes in the California landscape, raising children and just about everything else in between! Did I mention that they sent us a handwritten thank you note after our visit? Astounding attention to detail, my friends. THAT is what great products are made from!

 

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When you first walk in, you’ll notice that your name is written on the Ovid chalkboard.
They’ve been expecting you and you’re an honored guest!

 

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So much so, that THIS is your lovely place setting.

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No attention to detail has been left to chance

 

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It is like a friend set the table beautifully, just for you.

 

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Sweet details

 

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Delicious bites!

 

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Thoughtful details.

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A lovely living-room-like setting for a tasting!

 

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(PS. I fell in LOVE with this glassware!)

 

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How lovely is THIS piece of furniture?

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Beautiful and meaningful – I wanted to open each one of these!

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A fire pit on the balcony

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Stunning views from the tasting room

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You can see so much of Napa Valley from up here!

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Lovely

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The valley

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Pretty sure I could sit here for hours and never tire of it!

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Ovid Vineyards…a must-visit!

Happy First Birthday!

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I’ve been designing and making jewelry for fifteen years now. There are both good and bad sides to being a creative. One of the good things is that a lack of ideas is never a problem. I literally have creative ideas all day long. When I sit down to design a collection, having enough ideas has yet to be an issue. One of the bad sides of being creative, however, is that a lack of ideas is never a problem. And that can be incredibly exhausting. It can also be frustrating when you don’t have the time, energy or resources to pursue every idea. And therein lies the crucial challenge of running a creative business – being able to weed through the clutter to the very best.

My sweet little baby boy is one year old today. I’m having a really hard time believing it, since I’m fairly certain that I brought him home from the hospital as a newborn just yesterday, but alas, he’s walking (along furniture) and talking (mama is still his favorite word, thankfully!) and even attempting to ride his big brothers’ scooters (unsuccessfully, thank goodness!)

When a creative mama who adores her little one sits down to plan his first birthday party, craziness ensues. I had so many ideas that had a really hard time reigning it in. (See above note about creative problems.) We decided on a family birthday party for him since he’s just one and we’ve got two “big boy” birthday parties coming up in the next few months. I’ve been doing quite a few jewelry shows lately, so I really needed to keep it simple. (Well, simple by my standards, anyway…)

I decided on a “mustache bash” for our little man’s big celebration and it was really fun. We did a Sunday brunch (which is, by far, my favorite meal) and it was wonderful having a smaller celebration with family. And the birthday boy had an absolute ball, which was the best part. When we started singing to him, he grinned from ear to ear, and by the end of the event, he (and his seersucker birthday outfit) were completely covered in chocolate, so I consider that a huge success!

I wanted to share a few of the photos from the event with you, in case you’re looking for ideas for an upcoming little boy’s birthday party (or a cute baby shower theme.) I’m all about sharing the creativity! Have questions about any of the items you see below? Let us know in the comments. If you’d like to know more about any of the DIY decorations, let us know that, too. We love sharing ideas. And please share your birthday party ideas, too – you can never have too many in the queue for the future!

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How adorable is this mustache balloon?  And the giant “one” is bigger than the birthday boy!

 

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Baby Mum-Mums are a must at any one year old party! Our children have always loved them. They’re an easy way to entertain babies who are too little to eat with you at a restaurant, but also don’t want to feel left out – or to give to a baby as you’re fixing dinner when they’re unhappy with slow service!  I buy them on Amazon Prime in bulk here.

 

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I love to bake (which may be because I enjoy the fruits of my labor!) so making a birthday cake is really fun for me. This is the “smash cake” that I made for our little man. I used the recipe from the Magnolia Bakery Cookbook, which is one of my absolute favorites and a must-own for anyone who loves to bake. I’ve been going to Magnolia Bakery in New York since the West Village was the only location and they’re cupcakes are still my very favorites – not to mention how adorable the place is!

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Pink peonies are my absolute favorite flower and I recently found some at the grocery store down the street – yay! I’m also a huge fan of hydrangea and think that the two together are really lovely. I made a similar arrangement for a jewelry show that I had last week and got lots of compliments on it.

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For the main centerpiece, I put hydrangeas and roses (always a classic combination) with snapdragons for a little pop!

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I’m a big fan of puffs for the same reasons as Mum-Mums – their high entertainment value. Plus, what they lack in nutritional value, they make up for in hand-eye coordination training, right? I like this brand, which I also order on Amazon Prime because they bring it right to my doorstep with no shipping charge – which is crazy helpful for this busy mama. (If you haven’t yet tried Amazon Prime, they’re offering a free 30-day trial of the service and I’m pretty sure you’ll be hooked after that! Just click on the graphic at the bottom of this post to claim your trial.

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 This is the “big cake” I baked.  (And it was SO yummy!)

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 Yay for first birthday gifts

 

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 Party favors. (Note the cute furry mustache stickers on the boys’ bags!)

 

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 I made these mustache milk bottle vases for table decorations, which
doubled as adult party favors!

 

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I made these place holders using my new embossing tools that I found at Paper Source. After the sweet (and clearly rather smart) sales associate there made a bookmark for my oldest son when he asked what the embossing tool was as we were browsing in the store, I was hooked.  I mean, how fun are these?!

 

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The big boys using the multi-colored marbled heart-shaped crayons that I made for kids to play with during the party. (We also sent a few home in the party favor bags, too!)

 
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 One really cannot have too many flowers, right?

 

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The table

 

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 Chocolate-covered = success in my book!

 

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 The birthday boy!

 
 
 
 

Variety is the Spice of Life

Homemade Cooked Spaghetti Squash Pasta

If you’ve been reading the blog lately, you know that a week ago Friday I lost my mind and agreed to do a Whole 30 challenge with some girlfriends. (Clearly they are really dear girlfriends or I never would have agreed to join them in such insanity. Love y’all!) After a week of eating clean, I had some thoughts to share and possibly encourage you to join us. One of those thoughts was that trying new things is key. When I get stuck in an eating rut, my engrained habits kick in and I want to eat things off the plan. When I plan well, though, and have yummy foods to eat, I really don’t feel deprived in the least. And I’m certainly not hungry on this challenge!  Here’s why. . .

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My First Week of Whole30

Salmon with Spinach

What a week it has been! On Friday, I agreed to do a Whole30 challenge with two of my girlfriends and on Sunday, we began. I didn’t have a lot of time to plan or prepare since they had already chosen a start date when I jumped on board, so I did a quick internet search and relied a LOT on their help. After a week of doing this eating challenge, I have a few thoughts to share.

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My Whole30 Challenge (Yikes!)

Baket with eggs

As of this morning, my life was completely normal. My days were filled with lattes and croissants, chocolate and breads. Well, not only with those things, of course, but I certainly indulged in them as treats, and not just on rare occasions. (That’s one of the benefits of pregnancy and breastfeeding, right?) Anyway, today started off with a delicious homemade latte and a yummy bowl of Fage yogurt with fresh berries and a few cornflakes for crunch.  I dropped my oldest off at school and went on about my day. Little did I know what was about to happen. . .

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