The Energizer Bunny

This is the first Easter I can recall in my entire life where I have literally had nothing (huge emphasis here) to do.  The boys are traveling for spring break, our family is far away, and our friends are with their own young children.  I am typically Martha Stewart on crack…cleaning, cooking, assembling Easter baskets, ironing napkins, plucking flowers from the garden, and psychotically photographing every second (at the risk of absolutely missing the moment itself).  But this year…well, this year is different. And as one of my dear friends said, it’s 3/4 amazing and 1/4 terrifying.

Now, I don’t know if we’ve met, but let me state for the record, I am not good at doing nothing.  I twitch at the thought of stillness.  My husband has taken to calling me the Energizer Bunny, which I’m pretty sure is not a compliment.

And yet still the idea of doing nothing sounded good to me…problem being, I could not execute.  So instead I became executive director of a seemingly small home improvement project, thinking it would serve as my NBD blog post, but let’s be honest, it’s turned out to be a BFD-  big fucking deal.  More to come on that.  **STAY TUNED

So while my husband painted (that’s your hint), I whipped us up a quick little brunch.  And it was so beautiful and colorful and healthy and cheerful, I had to share.

Let’s start with our cocktail.  A Greyhound seriously might be the most refreshing drink ever, but you cannot use anything but fresh grapefruit juice.

Start by washing and halving your grapefruits.

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Then juice them (If you don’t have this Aroma juicer, you need to really step up your game).

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You’ll end up with something like this.

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Fill glasses with ice and cover with vodka and a splash or two of St. Germain.

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Fill with grapefruit juice and treat each sip as a blessing.

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Next up:  berries, cottage cheese, and nuts. In my opinion this is the only cottage cheese worth purchasing.

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Wash fresh berries.
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Place in a bowl with cottage cheese and sprinkle with whatever nuts you have on hand (almonds, pistachios, or pecans).

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Now we’re ready for avocado toast.

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Slice the bread and toast.

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Cook the eggs.

 

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Get out your flake salt, pepper flakes, and avocado.

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Spread avocado on the toast and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

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Cover with egg and voila….

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Happy Easter!

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NBD.

You Can’t Hurry Love…or Can You?

 

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What are you supposed to do when it’s the Thursday before the Friday of Valentine’s Day weekend and you realize you should really bring in something festive for your team at work (being that they are the loves of your life when you’re away from your family, not to mention that you spend 40+ hours a week with them and all).  Only hiccup is that you still have to get the kids off the bus, then there’s karate and beach volleyball practice, and lunches to be packed, and homework to oversee, and dinner to be made, and hair that hasn’t been washed since Monday, and nails that are chipping, and ideally you’d sneak a run in at the track (but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen).

And I’m sorry, but I can’t half ass things, so going to the grocery store and buying pre-made cupcakes or sugar cookies is not an option.  That to me is about as depressing to me as an unmade bed.

My solution was actually surprisingly simple and involved just a quick stop at Ralph’s on the way to dropping the boys off at their activities.

I grabbed regular and red velvet Oreos, festive sprinkles, white and milk chocolate morsels and I was on my way.

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I fashioned a double broiler out of a bowl and a pot of boiling water and poured in the white chocolate morsels.  Side note: you cannot melt chocolate on a direct flame or it will burn…been there and done that.

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I learned 2 bags of morsels later that white chocolate does not melt easily because it’s not really chocolate.  However, Google advised that pouring in a tablespoon or two of canola oil or vegetable oil when it’s starting to melt will keep the consistency creamy and smooth.  What did we do before Google?

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The milk chocolate melted much easier and didn’t require as much work as the white chocolate.

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Then I dipped the Oreos half way in the melted chocolates and laid them on a baking pan lined with parchment paper, sprinkling them immediately.

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The color combos feel so festive, don’t they?

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Then I popped the trays in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes until the chocolate hardened and they were ready to be dispersed into treat sacks.

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I tied some red and white twine around them and called it a wrap.

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Only problem is we are still finding sprinkles stuck to our bare feet even after several runs of the vacuum, kind of like glitter from gift wrap that won’t go away.  But whatevs, I’m so laid back I hardly notice it.  🙂

NBD.

 

 

 

A Note on Holiday Notes

love holiday cards. LOVE.  But my absolute faves are the ones where someone actually took the time to write a handwritten note.  With all the effort that goes into sending them, it seems such a pity to just toss them in a basket, or worse, the trash.  So instead, I prefer to display them.

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I nailed a piece of white ribbon across the top of our kitchen doors and used hand painted clothespins to hang them.  Paper Source typically has a great selection, but I have no doubt Amazon Prime could have them on your doorstep by the time you finish reading this post.

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Trust me, it only gets cuter as the cards keep rolling in.

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NBD.

Turning Into White Pumpkins at Midnight

 

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This is actually a serious question, but as I type it, I realize it’s one only a very privileged, first world citizen would ever ask:  What the hell are you supposed to do when it’s the day before Thanksgiving and you can’t find the white mini pumpkins you’ve been planning for months to use for your Thanksgiving tablescape?

I literally scoured the corners of Southern California supermarkets (Ralphs, Trader Joe’s, Pavilions, Wholefoods, Gelsons, Bristol Farms…shoot me now) before accepting that my mini white pumpkins were not going to be found again until September 2016.  They’d all been replaced by poinsettias and cinnamon pinecones.  Problem #2345 with Americans:  we cannot live in the moment and are always looking ahead to the next holiday before the first has come to pass. But I digress.

Fortunately I still had all my mini orange pumpkins from Halloween, though obviously orange wouldn’t work for my silver, winter white, sage green and grey theme.  Orange is so October and we are only using it as an accent color in November.

So I picked up can of spray paint. And BTW, thank you Ace Hardware for employing the most helpful young man who didn’t snicker when I told him what I intended to do with my purchase (my best guess is there’s a neurotic, perfectionist woman somewhere deep in the corners of his life).  He guided me to an ivory semi gloss paint that turned out to be the perfect choice.

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So I set up camp outside.  Don’t mind our dead grass.  You can thank the California drought for the lovely backdrop of my project.

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I put tape on the stem of each pumpkin to keep it from the spray paint.
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Then I sprayed a nice even coat over the pumpkins and I’m not going to lie, this is deeply satisfying.

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Then I set them to dry over night.

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I pulled the tape off the steam and voila…white pumpkins.

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NBD.

Gratitude: Baked at 350 & Wrapped in a Brown Paper Bag

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 “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a gift and not giving it.”

– William Arthur Ward 

This is one of my favorite quotes.  Like ever.  And since I’m seriously dead over this pumpkin bread and Thanksgiving is around the corner, I figured we all might as well bake a few loaves and use them as a means to give thanks.  We all know someone that we could do a better job of appreciating, whether it’s a co-worker, a gardner, a neighbor, or a teacher.  This bread is as simple as it is delicious. It’s an old southern recipe from a dear Savannah debutante, tried and true for generations.   Wrapped in a recycled brown paper bag and tied with twine, it’s a perfect no-fuss way to express gratitude.

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In a medium bowl, use a fork to mix together 3 1/2 cups of flour, 3 cups of sugar, 2 teaspoons baking soda, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, and 1 teaspoon allspice.

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In a large bowl, mix together 1 can pure pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix) 2/3 cup water, 4 eggs, and 1 cup of vegetable oil.

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Mix with a hand mixer until smooth.

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Slowly mix the dry ingredients into the wet (in batches).

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You will end up with a smooth batter that looks something like this:

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Pour evenly into 2 loaf pans and bake at 350 for an hour and 15 minutes.

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Pull from oven and let cool.  If possible, save for the next day so the spices can settle.

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Wrap bread in aluminum foil and get a brown paper bag from the recycling bin.  You’ll need tape and scissors too.

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Cut the bag and flatten it (writing facing up).

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Place the aluminum wrapped loaf in the center of the paper and wrap it as you would a gift.FullSizeRender (20)

Tie with twine and a few fallen leaves (I had to hike a few miles to find some, but even in sunny So Cal I pulled it off).

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If you’re feeling really grateful, include a bottle of wine or Prosecco.

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NBD.

Willing Fall During Indian Summer

I am SO. OVER. IT.

Seriously California, if I wanted humidity and heat I would have moved to Florida (and at least wouldn’t pay income tax, not to mention I’d be closer to my beloved family).  The fact that we are in the second half of October and I can’t even look at a pair of jeans without sweating actually makes me angry.  Don’t even get me started on the new sweaters and boots sitting in my closet, tags on, snuggled in their boxes, unworn and unnecessary.  I really can’t.  Instead I reach for one of the same three maxi dresses I’ve been wearing all summer; the only ones that don’t actually touch my skin.  No matter how many times I’ve cleaned them, they still have the faint lingering scent of sunscreen, which is really the anthesis of true fall fragrance.

Normally by this time of year my house is covered with gourds and pumpkins and accents of orange and brown.  This year it just feels wrong to put a pumpkin on a table, much less an outdoor stoop, where it will likely rot in the sun long before Halloween.

Last week, out of desperation (and perhaps hope), I bought a scented candle at Bath & Body Works, called Leaves. We’ve taken to lighting it every night when the sun goes down and my husband I both agree that it provides a comforting, albeit pathetic, mental shift that perhaps the seasons are changing after all.

But nothing really says fall like the smell of a pot roast slow-cooking all day. As my husband commented, “It’s like fall air freshener!”  It takes all of 5 minutes of work (and then 8 hours of cooking) and your house will smell amazing, whether it’s 90 degrees or 30 degrees. And arguably the best part is that you don’t have to make your house hotter by turning on an oven.

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You’ll need a 2 to 2.5 pound roast, some red potatoes,  carrots, an onion, thyme, bay leaves, beef broth, salt, pepper, and a little red wine (but only if you have a bottle opened, which we always do).

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Slice an onion into long pieces and divide in two parts.

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Peel the knotty parts off the potatoes and scrub them.

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Put half of onions, potatoes, and pre-peeled and cut baby carrots at the bottom of the slow cooker.   Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and a few sprigs of thyme and bay leaves.  This will create a “bed” for the meat to rest on.

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Rinse the roast and then lay the cut of meat on top of “bed” of veggies. Cover with the remaining onion, potato, and carrots.  Garnish with a few sprigs of thyme and bay leaves.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and maybe some onion and/or garlic powder.

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Add 1-2 cans of beef broth (roast should be about 3/4 covered) and a 1/4 of red wine.

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Cover and simmer on high for about 8 hours, or until tender.

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The roast should easily fall apart with a fork.

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I served with roasted brussel sprouts, but a side isn’t even necessary.  And there you have it:  fall.  No big deal.

A Genius Idea (91 Dinner Parties Too Late): Tape Napkin Rings

I literally cannot believe I didn’t think of this sooner.  All this craft tape, all these dinner parties, all these years.  But my new motto is “Be Here Now” and no time like the present, right?  It all started when I was hosting my girlfriend’s baby shower a few weekends ago.  I knew I wanted to use this tape that my sister-in-law had given over a year ago, but I wasn’t sure how to incorporate into my chic-gold-and-pink-nonbaby-baby theme.

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But as I was setting the table I realized I really needed a little pop of color.  And the heavens opened up and it came to me:  tape + napkins= napkin rings.
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So I wrapped it around each napkin and secured it with a tiny piece of clear tape on the back and voila!  Napkin rings.

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Use any tape you want and any color/pattern napkins.  You can find it at Target, Michael’s, Paper Source, and Amazon.  It’s cheap and pretty.  What a great way to add a little sumpin’ sumpin’ to your table.

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NBD.

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

Kind of a true story:  My sister and her husband had my parents over for dinner the other night.  The next day I talked to my mom and she was literally raving about the chicken dish they served.  I know my mom would argue otherwise, but trust me, it’s kind of not that often (like, ever) that my mom compliments her children’s cooking, much less raves about it.  Don’t get me wrong, she’s glad we cook, she’s especially grateful when we cook for her, but at the end of the day she could always have done it better.  And we don’t disagree.

Obviously I needed this recipe immediately if not sooner.  I was actually kind of annoyed that this was the first I was hearing of it. Our family sibling code mandates that you share good recipes, especially ones that impress our Swedish, gourmet mother.  So I called my sister and asked what the eff was up with this chicken.

“Oh…that,” she said, “I can’t tell you.”  [Followed by maniacal laughter.]

Now that I’ve finally gotten it out of her (nothing wrong with blackmailing an older sister), I know why she was so reluctant to share.  She could have spent many more years blissfully serving this dish, purporting to have slaved away in the kitchen after working all day while my mom thinks to herself, “I don’t know how she does it????”   Well guess what, I do.

So, that’s not exactly how it went down, but it definitely makes for a better story and what do you care?  I’m sharing the damn recipe with you, aren’t I?

You’ll only need a few ingredients.  To be specific, four:  2 lbs chicken breasts, 1 packet taco seasoning, 1 packet ranch dressing, 1 can diced tomatoes.

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Who knew ranch dressing was still legal?

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Rinse chicken breasts and place in the bottom of the slow cooker.

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Cover with a packet of taco seasoning.

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Dump a can of diced tomatoes on top.

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Sprinkle the ranch. Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours (if you want to expedite, cook on high for 5-6 hours).

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The chicken will be so tender and flavorful it will literally fall apart with a fork.

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Serve it with whatever you like.   We decided on tacos, but it would be excellent with rice and beans or on a salad.  I could literally eat it in a bowl by itself, like cereal.  It’s insanely flavorful and delicious.

NBD.

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts

1 packet taco seasoning

1 packet ranch dressing

1 can diced tomates

Put all in a slow cooker and simmer for 8-10 hours on low (5-6 on high).  Serve in tacos or with rice and beans or over a salad.

#loveyousister

Gift Wrap: Inspiration

Who knew I had so many Leos and Virgos in my life????  WTF?  Don’t they have a visceral reaction to Pisces? Maybe it’s my gifts that keep us tight?  In any event, it has made for a hell of a gift wrapping session this weekend.  Not to mention my bestie’s baby girl that we are expecting in October … I can’t throw a stone without hitting an outfit she “needs.”  And we know that presentation is everything, so even if it did only cost $9.99 at Gap (plus the 40% off sale, in other words,  free), it must be beautifully wrapped to really feel special.  So this is what I’ve been up to this hot Sunday afternoon with no air conditioning:

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NBD.

 

Red, White, & Blueberries

Alright ya’ll, we’re going from trashy to classy in 15 minutes or less…southern style.  The Fourth of July is all about independence and living the American Dream, right?  No need to be shackled to your kitchen when there are burgers to grill and cocktails to be had!

You just need about $10 and some good serving pieces.  This is pretty much a perfect of example of presentation-is-everything.  We’re about to take this:

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To this:

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No big deal.

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Wash the berries and slice the strawberries.

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Mix thawed cool whip with a few splashes of vanilla.

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Slice the angel food cake.

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Place the cake in a bowl with a pretty napkin.

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You can cover the cake before serving so it won’t get stale and will stay moist (I know, I hate that word too).

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What?  NBD.