Ringing in the New Year

In 2012 we welcome in the New Year on the beach in Costa Rica

In 2013 we welcomed in the New Year on a yacht in the British Virgin Islands

This year, we welcome 2014 in Jersey. IMG_1082-MOTION

I’d say life is moving in the right direction.

After a few years of pretty intense trips with our friends, we decided to tone it down a bit and stay local. Thankfully, a lot of our friends made the same choice. And our two favorite San Fran natives added the dirty Jerz on their east coast tour, so they were in town to celebrate with us as well.

Matt and I spent December 29th making our own decorations for the party. Needless to say, Matt was thrilled with this idea.

We made a few garlands and added some NYE-themed artwork to our faux “mantel” shelves.

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To make the circle garlands, Matt used a 1.5″ circle punch on gold, silver and black glitter paper. I then broke out my sewing machine to stitch the circles together in one long line. I chose not to put any spacing between each circle but if you want to make a longer garland, you can certainly do so.

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To make the tassel garlands, I followed these instructions (thanks Linen, Lace and Love).

It really doesn’t look like we did a lot, but somehow we were up until 1am making these things…

We ended up having 13 people over our apartment – a good number but one that proved a little challenging for food. It was a small enough group that we needed to provide more than just appetizers/snacks, but a big enough group that a full sit down meal would be a little challenging.

Dun dun da dah — Crock pot to the rescue!

After starting with a few different appetizers: Spinach and Cream Cheese Pastry Puffs, Buffalo Chicken Meatballs and a new Flatbread (this one Matt liked, as compared with this)

Our main menu consisted of the following:

Pulled Pork Sliders w/ creamy coleslaw
Baked Beans
Mac and Cheese Casserole
Cape Cod Potato Chips (regular and salt & vinegar)

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Matt went out the morning of the 31st to pick up a pork butt. He came back with a 6 lb piece of meat. It goes without saying, we will be eating pulled pork for a while. Thankfully they make GREAT leftovers (and Matt will actually eat them)

Starting the year off with leftovers!
Starting the year off with leftovers!

Thank you to all of our friends who helped us ring in 2014 in our new place and in style. We are so lucky to have you in our lives. Can’t wait to see what the new year brings for all of us!

"Family" photo
“Family” photo

Favorite Things, Mother’s Day Edition

This post was inspired/request/demanded from a loyal blog follower. I was thrilled to received a request for two reasons:

1. It shows that I am becoming a source for trust information (look out Google).
2. It makes blogging much easier as coming up with ideas is 75% of the work.

So here is my list Mother’s Day Edition of My Favorite Things

DIY GIFTS

Candles

I love candles as presents. You really can never have too many because are things that you use up (much like food of bath products). While candles aren’t super expensive, there are a lot of fun and easy DIY candle projects.

Dipped Candles

Tea Cup Candles

Scented Soy Candles

Decoupaged Candles

Diptyque Candles

Totes

A girl can never have too many tote bags, especially if they are cute! And with eco-chic being all the rage, mom can use this for her grocery sopping and farmer market trips.

Cherry Branch Tote

Basic Tote

Minimalist Tote (for the most advanced DIY-er)

Doily Tote (we did something similar for the “welcome bags” at our wedding)

Vases & Pots

Flowers are a solid go-to option, but after a week, there won’t be much gift left. Why not add a little something to your bouquet of flowers with a DIY vase or pot?

 Swirl Vase

Decoupage Pot

Rainbow Drip Pot (good options for kids)

Colored Pencil Vase

Neon Rope Vase

THINGS TO BUY

Nothing like a cute quote to make her smile.

Print (could be a DIY)

Key Chain

Sign

Jewelry is usually a safe bet. Here are a few that celebrate motherhood.

Morse Code Necklace

Fingerprint Charm (perfect for new moms!)

Dogeared

Simple XO Necklace

Name Necklace (another good one for new moms)

Let’s be honest, moms spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Get her something that will make it more enjoyable.

 Agrate Trivate

Mini Colored Colanders

Colored Spatulas

Medallion Table Cloth (DIY? I dare you.)

Recipe Box w/Card Holder

DIY – Dish Cloth

And if you are lucky enough to actually see your dear mother over Mother’s Day, here are a few resources to help you host a Mother’s Day brunch.

 

Mother’s Day Brunch via Cup of Joe, Delish, Real Simple, Epicurious and Martha Stewart (it wouldn’t complete without MS)

And for those of you who break out in a cold sweat at the idea of hosting a brunch, here are NY Mag’s top restaurant picks.

And last, but certainly not least, surprise mom on her special day with a new tattoo!

Ritz Peanut Butter Cups

Growing up, Ritz crackers with peanut butter were a popular snack in our household. And if you were rally lucky, you might even get Ritz peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. YUMMY! I love the classic combination of peanut butter and jelly. It just brings back so many memories of brown bag lunches and white bread (before we knew it was bad). The only thing I like more than peanut butter and jelly is peanut butter and chocolate! So last night I took to the kitchen and made some delicious treats to bring into work today – Ritz Peanut Butter Cups that I found here.

You only need 3 ingredients: Ritz crackers, chocolate (I used semi-sweet Ghirardelli chips) and peanut butter.

First, line a muffin tin with cute cupcake liners. I purchased mine at New York Cake – the most wonderful store in New York City.

Next, melt you chocolate. I don’t have a double broiler so I melt mine in the microwave. The microwave that came with our apartment is awesome and has a “melt” function specifically for chocolate. It heats the chocolate at a very low temperature and seems to work perfectly every time. I only wish that I had discovered this function earlier (before I burned multiple pounds of white chocolate during my holiday baking fest.

Pour 1-2 tablespoons of melted chocolate into each cupcake liner. I had to bang the tray against the counter to even out the chocolate. Place the tray in the freezer for approximately 5 minutes (of until the chocolate hardens).

While the chocolate is cooling, smear approximately 1-2 teaspoons of peanut butter onto the crackers. I didn’t measure this – I just tried to make sure the cracker was coated similar to a double stuffed Oreo like the recipe suggested.

Take the tray out of the freezer and place one peanut butter topped cracker in each cupcake liner. I did mine peanut butter side up, but I don’t think it matters (sort of like Dr. Suess’ Butter Battle).

 

I melted the second half of my chocolate and added another 1-2 tablespoons into each liner. I popped them back into the freezer to cool for another 5-10 minutes.

As you can see, the treats came out pretty well but I have a few suggestions/comments:

1. I think I prefer using milk chocolate (as opposed to semi-sweet) when melting. I have done a little research and it doesn’t look like one is suggested over the other. If anything, people suggest using semi-sweet so feel free to disagree.

2. I would probably add a teaspoon of vanilla to the melted chocolate. I find this helps thin it out a little and gives it an interesting flavor.

3. Ideally, I would have preferred to make these using a mini muffin tin — each cup is rather larger. However, you would need to find mini Ritz crackers and I have no idea if these, or something similar, exist.

4. Make sure you get chocolate on the side of the cups so it surrounds the entire Ritz cracker. You may be able to see in my final picture that the bottom chocolate part separated from the top. I think it was because the two chocolate layers didn’t touch – essentially gluing the sandwich together.

5. I wish I had put sea salt on the tops. It just makes everything better!

6. Matt was my guinea pig last night. His comment was that the chocolate was super melty. I am not sure why as they had been in the freezer for a while. I am not sure if a different type of chocolate would fix this.

Delicious Banana Bites

Growing up, my sister gave me a lot of advice. It started with simple stuff. Wear your backpack on one shoulder, not both. Tight roll your stone washed jeans. Don’t buy hot lunch at school. As we got older it progressed into more practical advice. Which classes to take in high school. Run for Class Officer not Student Council. Park in “the pit” not on the streets. And now as we have entered our adult lives, and I’m married while Abby is living the single life, the advice comes, but maybe not as often and not as serious. Find a job you love. Watch My Red Neck Wedding (clearly we have the same appreciation for trashy reality tv). And texts saying “Turn on the Today Show! Now!”

But one thing that I rarely receive from Abby is baking advice. I have appointment myself as the baking guru of our family so, typically, I am the one making things and sending pictures to my family. However, ever since Abby moved to Virginia and started “nesting” things have started to change. She has started to encroach on my Martha Stewart talent and I am not sure I like it. I’m not going to lie – I feel threatened. And there’s nothing more threatening than the combination of peanut butter, chocolate and banana.

Pinterest has given Abby the ammunition she needs to over take my talents. She made chocolate covered pretzles during Christmas that she found on Pinterest. I think they were most popular than the Oreo truffles Matt and I brought to the table. She made a super cute paint chip banner, melted crayon art and don’t even get me started on the Birthday party she threw for her dog Bexley. But now, she went to far – she made these delicious banana bites and wouldn’t stop talking about just how good they were. Naturally, I had to make them myself.

I started by following the receipe –

1/3 cup chocolate chips
1/3 cup peanut butter

While I melted them together I cut 3 bananas into bite size pieces.

Then I dipped the banans into the chocolate/peanut butter mixture and placed them on parchment paper. Now here’s where I took things to a whole new level.

I added sea salt to the tops. YUM!

Molly 1, Abby 0.  And all feels right in the world.

 

DIY – Stencil Quote Pillow

A few weeks ago, I spotted this incredible DIY project on Whit & Whistle. Immediately, I knew this was something I wanted to add to my “projects on my to do list” Pinterest board.

I am happy to report that I can now add it to my “projects crossed off my to do list” Pinterest board (yes, I actually have those two boards).

I followed the instructions from Whit & Whistle – except, I had a hard time seeing the pencil outlines so I skipped that step. Well, unfortunately do to my ADD and inability to focus on just one task at a time, I made some “stencil-os”  so I would either keep the stencil step, or have someone read you each word of your chosen quote.

As with many DIY projects, I can’t wait to set up a sweat shop and churn out a few dozen of these bad boys to use as gifts.

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And for those of you who are curious, the quote I used is from the Velveteen Rabbit that was read at our wedding.

Happy DIY-ing!

Guest Blogger – Garden in a Jar

I am so excited to announce my very first guest blogger today, Dan Parziale. Dan is new to the blogging world, but not new to the world of gardening. Growing up in Ojai California, lemon, avocado and orange trees lined his driveway and fresh, homegrown food was always incorporated into their meals.

One time when Dan came to visit Matt and I in New York City, he suggested that we cook dinner in one night, a suggestion that I am ALWAYS happy to hear. We decided to cook up a Mexican dish and Dan offered to make fresh salsa. We went to the local grocery store, where our Dan was appalled by the outrageous price for herbs like cilantro and mint.

In today’s post, Dan outlines an inexpensive and fun way to spruce up your cooking! Thank you Dan for being a “big thing” in our life and for always providing “little things” to focus on that make our NYC life a little more fun.

GARDEN IN A JAR:

Do any of the following refer to you?

1) No yard

2) No money

3) No green thumb

4) Desire fresh, homegrown food

5) Running water in your house/apartment

6) You’re a kickass, interesting person willing to try new things

If so, homegrown sprouts are for you. If not, homegrown sprouts are probably still for you. All that is needed is some counter space and a jar and you’re well on your way to healthy, fresh, homegrown sprouts. Keep in mind that any/all of the recommendations here are just that–recommendations. Feel free to alter what you use given what you have or have access to. Its pretty hard to screw this up. That being said, I’ve tried different ways and I think this is the easiest and I’ve had the most success with it.

First, get a large mason jar with the screw on top and some fine screen (not fine like good looking, but fine like small holes). You want the kind of top that has both the ring and lid as you will only be using the ring for this. For the screen, if the holes are too big, then whatever you are sprouting will fall through the screen. I went to the hardware store and bought the screen they sell for screen doors by the foot. You just need enough to overlap the sides of the top of the mason jar by about an inch. I recommend having 2 or 3 jars/tops/pieces of screen so you can sprout different things at the same time. That way, if something doesn’t sprout or if you don’t like the taste of one of the varieties, you will still have good sprouts. That, and it looks badass to have a bunch of different things sprouting in your kitchen.

The screen is extremely cheap. I bought enough for about 8 jars for less than a dollar. You can get the mason jars new at most markets and if you already have jars, but don’t have the tops, you can buy the tops separately. It’s about $15 for a case of 12 quart size jars/tops. Luckily mason jars are sweet for doing things like drinking beer too, so the extra jars won’t go to waste (or you can learn how to make jam–I use half of the remaining jars for beer and half for jam which I think is a good balance).

Next, pick out some of the dry beans/seeds you want to sprout. I have used raw sunflower seeds, lentils (both green and red), black quinoa, pinto beans, black beans and mung beans. I have had the most luck with the black quinoa, lentils and mung beans. In my experience, anything too small (like white quinoa) packs too densely when soaked and tend to rot because they stay too wet.A small one pound bag of lentils will give you about 20 quarts of sprouts so it’s incredibly cheap and I’ve found that the sprouts last longer in the fridge than the sprouts you get at the store.

OK, you’re ready to start sprouting. Put about a half-inch of your product (lentils, for this example) in the jar. For sprouting, you will not use the disk part of the top as you will be replacing it with the screen. Lay the screen on top of the jar and screw on the top (without the disk). The reason you use the screen is so you can fill the jar with water without having to remove the lid and you can pour the water out without worrying about the lentils falling out. It also allows air flow into the jar throughout the day.Start out by filling the jar with enough water to submerge the lentils. Fill it enough so that when the lentils absorb some of the water over the course of the next 24 hours, they will still be submerged. After 24 hours, pour out the water, refill, and pour out again. For the next 3-5 days, you will need to rinse the lentils twice a day. Simply add water through the screen top until all of the seeds are covered and then pour out the water. There will be enough residual water on the lentils to keep them sprouting.

After the 24 hour soak, I lay the jar on its side so the lentils have space to spread out and grow vertically. Depending on the conditions, it should take 3 or 4 days to complete the sprouting but some things take longer–I’ve found the black quinoa takes about 5 days. The sprouts will fill the jar, so don’t use more than a half-inch or so of raw seeds/beans to begin with. You want to remove the sprouts from the jar and put them in the fridge once they look ready to eat. I’ve heard that allowing them to “oversprout” (you start to see some roots form at the bottom) causes them to lose some of their benefits including the ability for your body to absorb all of the nutrients, but they still taste good and are good for you even if they go a day or two too long.

See which kinds of sprouts you like the best–they are great on salads and sandwiches, but there are always new uses for them–as a topper for omelets or on top of stir fry for a little extra crunch. Enjoy!

Three different kinds of sprouts. Top is green lentil, right is black quinoa and bottom left is mung bean
Oversprouted mung bean sprout
The three items you need--quart size mason jar, ring of the top and screen mesh
Submerging the lentils for first 24 hours.
First step of the process--submerging the lentils in water for 24 hours.

Everything’s Coming Up Roses

Growing up in New Hampshire, everyone has a yard. And while most people fight to have the greenest grass on the block,  my father (the gardener in our family) put all of his time and attention into his flowers, rather than the lawn. I think that was a result of the fact that at our first house, we have very limited grass. Our backyard was basically a forest and our front yard was a giant hill. This hill was so steep that landscapers had turned it into large “steps” and my dad put a flower bed in each one; limiting the amount of grass to nearly none. I don’t remember a lot about our first house, but I do have a very distinct memory of “helping” my dad tend to the plants in these flower beds. My favorite plant was called a “bleeding heart.” I think even at such a young age, I could appreciate the dramatic nature of this plant. 

 

When we moved to our new house, my parents did a lot of landscaping to increase the size of our front lawn. And while is tends to look pretty good most of the time, my favorite time of the year would be when the giant bed that contains hundreds of daffodils is in full bloom. I remember spending one year planting the bulbs. I thought we were planting potatoes… boy was I surprised when hundreds of yellow and white flowers appear the next spring! I love going to my parents house during the month of April because there are always vases full of these flowers around.

At my wedding, I was lucky enough to have two very good family friends do all of the flower arranging for me. They did it all, from the center pieces to my bouquet. And the best part is, they used flowers from my dad’s garden! We had a lot of peonies, all placed into antique ball jars that had raffia tied around the tops. I loved the way they looked and only wish the flowers would have lasted forever. Unfortunately I don’t have any really good pictures of the flowers – hopefully when I get the professional photos this weekend there will be some. Until that point, here is the best I could do (these lasted until the breakfast the NEXT day!)

Last night, I hung out with my favorite entrepreneur, Jessi Walter of Taste Buds! I love hanging out with Jessi, not only because she is an awesome person, but she always has fun and interesting things for us to do. Often times, we attend cookies or baking classes, but last night was something different – it was flowers! Jessi had found a deal on living social for a flower arranging class at Celadon & Celery Events. While the class was a little shorter than I had anticipated, it was something that was fun to do.

A few tips that I walked away from the class with:

1. Clean your vase really well before you put your flowers in it. One of the main reasons that flowers can die so quickly is because bacteria can get into your water. Washing your vase with cleaner or bleach will help prevent this.

2. Change the water in the vase every day – add a little plant food each time

3. To keep hydrangea  from wilting, dunk the flower heads in cold water for 5 minutes before you put them in the vase. You also want to remove nearly all of the leaves. If you don’t, the leaves will soak up all of the water before it reaches the flowers

4. Cut your stems at an angle and then cut up the stem twice so that it splits into 4 different pieces all attached to the bottom of the stem (see picture here: http://www.israelflorist.com/store/images/site/7.jpg)

5. Try to keep your arrangement no more than 3 times the width of the vase and 2 times the height.

In the end, I walked away with a beautiful arrangement of flowers! Hopefully I can apply these skills without the instruction of the teacher. And one day, maybe I will be doing the flowers for a friend’s wedding!

My HGTV Crush

I have only been married for 1 month and I already have a new man in my life… David Bromstad.

After spending an entire day with him last week during a “Color Splash” marathon, I must confess… I am in love with David. Not only is he super cute and has an addictive personality, but he is talented as well. The rooms that he transforms on his tv show are amazing. I love everything he does! He inspires me to step outside my Crate and Barrel comfort zone and take risks.

Now, not only can you see David on his tv show “Color Splash” but on Monday nights, he appears on the HGTV reality show “Design Star.” This is the show that launch his career forward after he won to design contest. This year, David will be serving as the mentor to this year’s contestants, offer advice and a friendly smile.

Matt and I just re-signed our lease for another year in our current apartment. With all the wedding planning, we didn’t have enough time to really look and see what else is out there. And while I really do like where we live, I am getting a little tired of it. I want to start fresh, with a new blank canvass to decorate. So now, I will dedicate the next 12 months to finding that perfect place. Let’s just hope it comes with two bedrooms, some outdoor space and an inexpensive monthly rent! And when I find it, I am going to invite my new BFF David over to help me get started!

Hey, a girl can dream, right?

Food Network Challenge

While Matt and I both enjoy some of the same tv shows, like Boardwalk Empire, Gossip Girl, The Sing-Off and Mad Men, there are a few shows we disagree on. I can’t even be in the same room as Matt when he is watching True Blood, and he doesn’t fully appreciate Glee in the same vein that I do. One of the biggest tv disagreements is over “Challenge” on the Food Network. Every time I put this show on, Matt feels the need to tell me that he doesn’t understand the point of it, and quickly grabs the remote. If only there were a lock feature on the tv that would prevent him from changing the channel on me.

Last night, our apartment turned into the set from this very show. After coming home from work, spending some much-needed time in the gym and a quick shower, I spent the rest of the evening making holiday treats. I worked quickly to make as many different things as I could before my 11pm bedtime! I made fudge, peppermint bark, puppy chow and chocolate peanut butter bark. Only after I spent hours in the kitchen did I check my mailbox and see that I had received a package from my grandma containing nearly the same exact treats! Great minds really do think alike.

While the puppy chow is certainly my favorite treat to eat, the chocolate peanut butter bark is my favorite to look at. It looks like art – I had a hard time breaking it apart into smaller pieces because I didn’t want to ruin the overall design.

Happy Holiday Baking!