Monday, April 29, 2013

Hello Monday.

I think this photo of Ham captures my feelings about Monday pretty accurately. This week brings studying for finals and finishing a final paper as well as work and class. But, on the bright side, after finals is my birthday (which means a delicious dinner at our favorite restaurant, Snackbar) and a week-long trip to the beach! I will hopefully be able to blog more than last week—we had an arts festival in town this weekend and visited with lots of friends and family, so I didn't have much time to sit down.

What are your plans for this week? I hope it includes having a great Monday.

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Happiest Place on Earth: Ikea

Andrew and I visited his parents in Atlanta this weekend, and in addition to family time, celebrating his mom's birthday and eating some great meals, we visited Ikea for the first time! Ikea, y'all, Ikea. For the first time. A new (financially limited) homeowner's dream. We walked out with some goodies and lots of ideas for future home improvements (bigger items that we'd like to measure for before purchasing, mainly). So I don't forget some of our ideas, I'll share. But first, our loot:

The candles are on our mantel, which is coming along quite nicely with the DIY succulent garden.

And the Picasso prints hang on the main wall in our living room—we've been in search of original artwork for this wall since we moved in, but who knew a $40 Ikea print would do the trick? (We mainly like this one because of the little dog in the middle.)

The brandy glasses were Andrew's purchase. He's wanted them (for beer—however, he seems to be filling them with wine) since we visited the Cheeky Monk a couple years ago in Colorado. (I thought I had a really cute photo of one of us with the giant glasses at the Cheeky Monk, but alas, I think it died with my last phone.) However, here is Andrew hand modeling his new glasses:

So that's our loot! We stuck to small stuff this time around, but have some serious ideas for the next time we visit Atlanta. (You think we would have, um, gotten chairs or bar stools so we can eat without Ham trying to jump onto our plates from the back of the couch. Alas, we did not. Maybe later?)

Here are a few of the ideas we have for our future Ikea trips:

We're going to do some major work on our deck this summer, and I love cozying it up with a small patio set:

5-piece outdoor suite—$119

I also love this small bar cart. (Perhaps to display these monogrammed cups that I do not own?) It's $25, so it may be a little flimsy but I loved they way they had it set up in the showroom. (See below.)
Bar cart—$25
 I wouldn't go for such a retro look, but I think it's pretty cute for $25!

And last, but not least, shelving. I love shelving, especially when maximizing space. I have a vision for our dining room that involves some type of gallery shelving that displays mason jars of rice and couscous and other items, making it functional and cute. At Ikea, we found multiple options but I liked these the best:

White wall shelf—$14.99

 To sum up our trip (excitement yet slightly crazed) here's a crazy eye photo:

Where do you shop for inexpensive, cute home decor? Do you like Ikea?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

5 Things I'm Loving: April Edition

How is it already halfway through April? Time flies in the spring and it's about to pick up big time in this college town. We've got a music and art festival and 10k in town next weekend and then it's time for finals, commencement (if only I was graduating—I'm one year into my three-year, part-time MBA plan) and then, finally, a much-need vacation before a June full of statistics night classes! So since we're well into the month, here are a few of my April loves.

First, monogrammed mint julep cups!
$46-$50 for set of 2

Specifically I want a mint julep cup so that I can make this Concord grape mint julep from Garden & Gun. I have literally wanted to make it for years, since I saw it on the cover of the magazine but you can't make a mint julep without the proper accessories!

Image via

2. Floppy straw hats
Pretty sure I'm going to pick up this $8 colorblocked hat from JCPenney today. It comes in white, black, brown, orange, pink and turquoise, and did I mention it's only $8? This is perfect for hitting the beach this summer.

 3. Cilantro
 We just bought some cilantro plants for our salsa garden and it Where do you stand on the cilantro debate? Love it or hate it?

4. Tortoise shell sunglasses
This one is kind of a cop out because I already have a pair of tortoise shell wayfarers, but they're a couple years old, scratched and gnawed on (by dogs of course) so I've got my eye on these pairs:
Tory Burch cat-eye sunglasses in spotty tortoise
Light Havana Ray-bans

 But the best part of April? 
5. Spring itself, of course! 
Spring flowers, thunderstorms, sunshine, warm weekends, after-work runs, dog walks—I love it all.
(Even though three bugs hit me in the eye on my after-work jog, which was really gross.)

Who doesn't love a daffodil with a beagle in the background?
What are you loving about April? The list could go on (neon, neon, neon) but I have to fold clothes mountain, which is the large pile of clothes that has amassed on our dining room table. It has been sitting there since Sunday. (Remember, our table has no chairs. However, while this seems like a good excuse I am told it is not.)

Happy Thursday, everyone!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Fresh Pico de Gallo

Andrew is a connoisseur of salsas, but fresh, simple, six-ingredient pico de gallo is his favorite. We eat it with chips, add it to tacos or taco salad and top steaks with it—delicious!

1 small white onion, diced (or 1/2 a large onion, diced)
2 large Roma tomatoes, cored and diced (taking out the seeds reduces excess moisture)
1 large jalapeno, cored and diced (or 2 small jalapenos, cored and diced)
juice of 2 limes (we used 3 in this recipe because they were really small)
Cilantro, chopped, to taste
Salt to taste

1. Mix diced onion, jalapenos, tomatoes and chopped cilantro in bowl.
2. Wash hands after handling jalapeno! I forget this step a lot, and it is no fun putting contacts in the next morning.
3. Squeeze lime into onion, jalapeno, tomato and cilantro mixture.
4 Salt to taste.
5. Toss, taste and adjust ingredient ratios if needed.
6. Toss and refrigerate. (Or eat immediately—we think it's better if it sits for a little while.)
7. Enjoy with chips, steak, tacos or whatever you'd like!

Chopping onion.
Coring jalapenos.
Dicing jalapeno.
Andrew requested I add this photo so that he could tell the blogosphere to always choose the ugliest tomato as it will be the most delicious.
Chopping cilantro. We add a lot, but you should add it to taste.
I come in and do the fun things, like squeezing limes and drinking wine.
Sprinkling salt.
Ta-da! Spring has arrived!
Do you make homemade salsa? Please share if so! We are planting a salsa garden soon and hope to try all kinds this summer.

Very excited to link up with Ali at Jam Hands and Kerrie, Jessica and Jamie for Wonderful Food Wednesday! Check it out for some delicious recipe ideas.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Green Thumb - Succulent Garden

It was in the 70s and sunny on Saturday, so I dropped Andrew off with a friend (to clarify, we are talking about my husband—we share a car) and set off to plant a succulent garden. I've been looking for something green to go on our problem fireplace for months now, but I'm not very good a keeping plants alive (fingers crossed for the succulents), so I thought this might be a good way to add a pop of green with little maintenance. Last time we had succulents, Ham got onto the kitchen counter (long story) and ate them out of the windowsill. Thus is life.

You need:

A container with a large opening (Martha says a large opening helps prevent accumulation of moisture.)
Cactus, palm and citrus potting soil

These are pretty simple to plant, although one of my little succulents fell apart. I planted a few pieces of it anyway and am rooting for those tiny ones to take root! They're the three small ones that look alike in the photo below.

I ended up arranging these on top of the fireplace, and while it's not quite there yet I think this is a definite improvement! (Check out part one of my house tour for the mantel's last arrangement.) I have plans to put flowers or branches in that brown vase for height. That cute glass frame was an engagement gift from Nikki at the Fashionable Wife! I still love it.

I won that cute A print (by Arian) a few years ago through a giveaway at This Life of Ours. It's the only giveaway I've ever won, though I did win a pair of boots recently in a Pin It To Win It contest. The boots, however, did not make it onto the mantel.
What to do, what to do about that empty space in the middle? Ideas are welcome. Our fireplace tends to collect clutter, so I put a ceramic flower pot up to hold things like wallets, keys, dog leashes, etc.

Did y'all have nice weather this weekend? If so, did you plant anything? Linking up today with Molly and Carly at #YOLOMONDAYS.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Grown Up Ice Cream Float

Not that ice cream needs to grow up, but if you like beer and you like ice cream, you'll love this chocolate stout and ice cream float.

Rogue chocolate stout + French vanilla ice cream = deliciousness.
Just pour some chocolate (or triple chocolate, if you're feeling especially awesome) stout into the bottom of your class and add a large scoop of ice cream. Then, add some more beer and top with a generous portion of ice cream. Delicious! Cute paper straws from Etsy and float glasses (I think—does anyone know what kind of glasses these are?) from the Goodwill don't hurt either.

We've made this with French vanilla (pictured above), salted caramel and coffee ice cream, so as long as it pairs with chocolate, it's probably going to be good. 

Don't let the idea of a beer float discourage you—it's chocolate, after all.

This is Andrew's favorite dessert, so if your husband is anything like mine, file it away for a birthday or Father's Day meal. (We celebrate Father's Day because we have dogs ... is this odd? One year, the dogs sent Andrew on a scavenger hunt for gifts, replacing some of the items they'd eaten over the course of the year, including things like a pork chop and earbuds.)

What's your take on a childhood favorite? Have you used beer in a dessert? Or for cooking in general? Do tell!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Travel Log: San Francisco - Eat

In part two of our San Francisco recap, we eat! I'm a coastal girl who no longer lives on the coast, so I was very excited to eat some San Francisco seafood. Ciopinno, oysters on the half-shell, sushi—you name it, there's a 70 percent chance we ate it. Here are our top three favorite food experiences near the bay.

Andrew's brother found the Hollywood Cafe on TripAdvisor, so the whole family headed over there one morning around 10 a.m. There was a decent wait (I want to say 30 minutes or so) to get into the tiny restaurant but, I mean, look at the food. Just look at it. With complimentary bread and jam and breakfast specials ranging from the Marilyn Monroe (French toast and fresh fruit) to the James Dean (eggs, toast, fruit and a choice of ham steak, bacon or sausage), it is impossible to leave Hollywood Cafe hungry. It's also open for lunch, which I'm assuming is equally delicious.
My turkey and avocado Eggs Benedict with chipotle hollandaise and fresh fruit
Andrew's giant crab omelet, stuffed with crab, avocado, scallion and Swiss cheese with a huge side of hashbrowns
2.) Clam Chowder

Apparently (I had no idea and just spent like an hour reading about it) clam chowder is like chili or barbecue — there are longstanding rivalries involved, specifically between New England clam chowder, which is milk or cream-based with potatoes, onion and clams and Manhattan clam chowder, a tomato-based version introduced by Italian immigrants in the mid-1800s. It's serious, y'all. In 1939, a bill was even introduced in Maine to outlaw the use of tomatoes in chowder. But I digress. San Francisco clam chowder is traditionally New England chowder served in a sourdough bread bowl, and we ate a lot of it! (Sans the bread bowl — I've heard I'm missing out, so I'll have to go back.) For fun, check out this rhyming recipe for "chouder"—the first printed chowder recipe, from a 1751 issue of the Boston Evening Post. I took photos of every bowl of chowder anyone in our group ate on our trip, but I'll spare you and only share my very favorite.

California clam chowder from the Blue Mermaid with asparagus. Not sure what this means for the whole chowder debate, but it was delicious!

3.) Dungeness crab
Crab and melted butter. Need I say more? Plus, when you eat crabs, you get to wear a really cool bib. Look for this on lots of San Francisco menus or buy it off of street carts down by the bay.

Next and last on the San Fran recap is a hotel suggestion, more sightseeing and some light (but not on the wallet) shopping. In case you missed the See & Do portion of the trip, click here for my top three must-do recommendations for first-time tourists. So, what do you think? Who wins the in the New England vs. Manhattan clam chowder debate?

Monday, April 8, 2013

Travel log: San Franscico - See & Do

My in-laws have a really cool holiday tradition. Instead of exchanging gifts, they plan a family trip, so for the past six years (wow - long time) I've been lucky enough to travel with them. In December, we visited San Francisco—definitely on the top of my favorite trips list. Three days isn't enough time to see all of the city, but we fit in as much wine tasting, clam chowder eating and sightseeing as possible. I narrowed down our activities to the our top three favorite, listed below in no particular order. Stay tuned for more San Francisco recaps coming soon!

See & Do

Fisherman's Wharf was really, really packed the week after Christmas, but it is worth braving the crowds to see the sea lions at Pier 39. They're just so cute, like water dogs. Perhaps if you don't like dogs they are not as cute, but I would highly recommend a trip to see them.

Touring Alcatraz is a must. The only thing that would have made it better is wine, but that's sort of true for everything.  It's a short ferry ride from San Francisco to Alcatraz. When you get there, take the cell house audio tour or a guided tour and prepare to be really, really intrigued as you hear about prisoners' escape attempts and learn about every day life on the island. The prison employees and their families lived on Alcatraz and the kids took a ferry into the mainland for school everyday. On Christmas Eve, they sang carols outside of the prison. We debated not taking the audio tour, but everyone was glad that they did.

Outlines of the knives in the kitchen, so staff could see quickly if one had been taken.
"Warning: Persons procuring or concealing escape of prisoners are subject to prosecution and imprisonment."
Breakfast menu from the day the prison closed. Prisoners were allowed to take as much food as they wanted but were required to eat everything on their plates.
We loved Alcatraz so much that we watched Escape from Alcatraz shortly after returning home. Another plus of the trip? The ferry ride makes for some pretty photos of the bay.

3.) Day trip to Napa Valley

Andrew and I couldn't come this close to wine country and not visit Napa Valley! We booked a day trip through, and highly recommend it. Our tour included transportation to Napa (via a bus), stops at four wineries, lunch and and a ferry ride back to San Francisco. The morning started early—we got up at 6 a.m. to catch a cable car over to the Ferry Building. Once we got on the bus, our tour guide gave us a short history of San Francisco as we drove out of the city. We also stopped to take photos at the Golden Gate bridge, which was a huge plus of the trip.

Since wine tasting started at 10 a.m. at Franciscan Estate, we shared a few tastings (a few, not all, mind you!) throughout the day. Some people did not share tastings, which was entertaining. Next up, we visited our favorite winery of the trip, V. Sattui. During Prohibition the owners built a false wall so that they could keep producing wine. V. Sattui had great tastings and lots of delicious food samples. We wished that had been our lunch stop! We ended up having lunch at Andretti Winery after tasting a Sangiovese straight from the barrel. The wine tour ended at Rutherford Ranch Winery, where we bought our only bottle of the trip, the Predator zinfandel. (We weren't checking bags on the flight back the next day, so we didn't stock up.) If you have more than a couple days in San Francisco and you love wine, definitely, definitely, definitely consider a day trip or a day tour.

Wine country is beautiful even when the grape vines are bare! (Please ignore the glare - I took this from our bus window.)

So those are our top three favorite activities from San Francisco! There's obviously a lot more to do, so I'll be back with more posts about delicious food, where we stayed and other highlights from our trip. Have you visited San Francisco before? What were your favorite things to see and do?

I'm linking up to #YOLOMonday today because you only live once, right? Also, it is Monday.