food

A Cinco de Mayo Birthday Fiesta

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I’m still not sure how it happened. Somehow, my baby boy turned three this past week. Where the time went is absolutely beyond me, but here we are. . . and this occassion calls for a celebration! Since our little guy was born so close to Cinco de Mayo, we thought that would be a super fun birthday party theme and it was a huge success. Read on for all the scoop on how we pulled it off complete with loads of colorful photos, of course!

We decided to have the fiesta in our backyard and the Lord blessed us with amazing weather for the outdoor event. Houston in May is pretty hit or miss, but it was 70 degrees and sunny with very little humidity – a birthday miracle, for sure! To transform the space, we hung huge tissue paper flowers and paper fans (all found on Amazon) from the light strands that we strung over our patio last Fall. All of the color made for one festive fiesta! The fans were super easy to put together and even came with little white paperclips, which made hanging a breeze. The tissue paper flowers weren’t hard to put together, but were a bit more time consuming to fluff each one. They were totally worth it, but I recommend you buy yours in advance, rather than doing it the day of the party, like I did. Also, if you want to vary the height on them, you’ll need to buy your own coordinating color ribbon for them and using paperclips to attach them would have been SO much easier than tying each one, so toss some white ones in your Amazon cart as well.

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At the party entrance, we set out some flower hair clips for the ladies and self-adhesive mustaches for the gents, both found at Party City. For added flair, we set out some small piñatas and two blow up cacti (both borrowed from a dear friend) and a few bottles of Jarritos, embellished with a few of the sticky mustaches. I also potted some succulents in El Pato bean cans, which I bought at Fiesta. (If you don’t have a Fiesta near you, you can snag them on Amazon as well.) Those were an idea that I found on Pinterest and I love the way they turned out! They were easy, inexpensive and super cute. And now I have the goods to create a little potted succulent garden!

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For refreshments, we set out ice water and beer ‘ritas (recipe on the blog here) in these cute glass drink dispensers that we bought online at Pottery Barn about a year ago. They were a great investment. They’re really cute and we’ve used them a ton! Ours are the large size and we bought pretty silver stands for them to go on as well, which raises the spout and makes the dispenser useable even when it’s not on the edge of the counter, but we didn’t need them at this party. At first, I was leaning towards the acrylic version of the container, but in the end, I’ve really loved the real glass ones we bought. We also had wine and beer out and, of course, Jarritos and Topo Chico as well – what Mexican fiesta would be complete without those?! We tossed those, along with some juice and lemonade pouches for the littles into a cute galvanized metal tub on a stand that we bought on Amazon before our oldest son’s birthday party last Fall. It has come in quite handy at parties for a little extra counter space. We set out some fun striped paper straws and some bright green napkins along with some paper flowers on stems for a little extra pop of color.

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I tossed together a few brightly-colored flowers for a centerpiece on the gifts table, mostly because I’ll take any excuse to have fresh flowers in my house!

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We had El Tiempo Cantina cater a beef and chicken fajita dinner with chips and queso. The server was super nice and the food was delicious! And we had them bring tres leches for the adult dessert – yum!

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For entertainment, we set up lots of lawn games, just like we did for our oldest boy’s birthday Southern Lawn Party event. It was such a huge success and definitely a great investment on those games. We play them as a family all the time! Our boys particularly love ladder ball and corn hole and, of course, launching balls on our giant Angry Birds slingshot that my husband built.

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I LOVE the child-sized sombrero that I bought for the birthday boy and he loved it as well! It was well worth the $7.50, as it is quite well made and made for some really cute photos – highly recommend!

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All of our boys wore their monogrammed guayaberas, which they love. They’re comfortable and cool and super cute, especially with seersucker pants! I bought the two younger boys’ at The Monogram Shop here in Houston last Summer before a wedding, but they didn’t have one big enough for our six year old. (And, heads up, these things run small!) Thankfully, I found some online here and got one that matched exactly for him. Daddy wore his favorite one that we bought from my friend at San Cristobal Guayaberas. Theirs are gorgeous and I cannot wait until they start carrying kid sizes this Fall!

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The birthday boy playing ladder ball. People ask me about these adorable shoes all the time. They’re made by Native, but we bought them last Summer and they don’t seem to make them anymore. I’m just sick about it, as they’re my boys’ favorite shoes – and mine as well, because they work at church or on the beach! When they get dirty, I just hose them off in the sink. Seriously some of our favorite and most-often complimented shoes. Please bring them back, Native! In the meantime, these are the closest that I’ve found from them.

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“Flowers for you, mama!” Is my darling boy just the sweetest?

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I found this adorable paper flower crown (and the paper flowers on the table here) at Houston’s cutest party shop, Emerson Sloan. I was surprised how many people who asked me haven’t heard of it! It’s located in Rice Village and run by my friend Kim, who is so much fun. They’ve got upscale party decor, great gift items and fun gag-type gift items and hilarious cards as well. Get over there and check it out or shop online! (Also, my top is by Johnny Was. I’ve had it for a few years and I love it. It’s cool and comfortable and I always get compliments on it!)

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I snagged this sparkling number 3 at Emerson Sloan as well. I was amazed at what a huge hit it was! My boys thought it was the coolest thing ever. And we got some super cute photos with it as well (see the birthday boy’s face below!) I highly recommend it for your next shindig! We also picked up a golden number 3 balloon while we were there and from what I’m told – that thing will last months!

The cupcakes were from Moeller’s Bakery in Bellaire. We absolutely love this place. Their prices are super reasonable, their turnaround time is very quick (in case you’re forgetful like me and order the day before – oops!) and the taste is out of this world. I definitely recommend them for cakes, cupcakes and other treats.

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After the cupcakes, we remembered the piñata! (#oops again) and the kids had SO much fun smashing it with a baseball bat!

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All in all, it was a very successful party! All of the adults had fun, the kids had a blast and the next morning – the birthday boy was STILL talking about it. That’s the biggest win in my book!

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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.

 

 

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.)

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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A Dash of Paprika

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I love my iPad. Truly, I use it for so many things. It is great for working on the go, easier to travel with than a full laptop (but still allows me to blog and stay connected on trips), it keeps my littles entertained with movies on long flights, allows me to read books on my Kindle app, taking an entire library with me on the go, and so much more. But, this post isn’t really about my iPad. It’s about the so much more. (more…)