Monday, December 30, 2013

The Holidays (So Far)

 Just popping in to wave hello and share some holiday pics so far! We're celebrating with Sean's family for the next couple days and then it's back to the real world...dun dun dun. Last week, we did a whirlwind tour visiting my dad, mom, hometown friends and grandma, plus we managed to see "American Hustle" and "Nebraska."

 I loved seeing my nephew, Spencer, who I only see once a year, but he's always so much fun! He's becoming so smart!

 I loved watching holiday movies with my mommy, who cries in all of them, just like me.

I was blown away by thoughtful presents from my friends, including the full set of American Girl Samantha books (I'm 9 years old again just looking at them!), YSL Touche Eclat concealer and Wise County-made wine.

 And it wouldn't be the holidays with them without naughty word games and Melrose Place cast pictures.

 Sean and I had a low-key Christmas morning together...he, as always, did his signature Christmas wrapping with newspaper.

I got up early and made Pillsbury cinnamon rolls, to at least make it feel a little more Christmasy (Sean had to work. boo!)

 I delighted in Sean's gifts to me: a Jackie O needlepoint pillow by Jonathan Adler and taco holders!

 For dinner I made an apple-stuffed, bacon wrapped pork tenderloin that was not really the best thing ever, but what can you do?

And we finished with mammoth pieces of Dewey's Moravian Sugar Cake and eggnog. It was too sweet and just perfect.

What was your favorite part of the holidays? Favorite gift: go!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Sunday Best v.186

Diamond pinata by Prospect Goods.

Are you ready to celebrate the New Year? I am! 2013 wasn't awful, but we had a lot of family deaths, pain for our friends who went through tough stuff and in general, have felt a lot of stress and angst about what's next for us (seriously...we have no idea where we want to live. It's ridiculous). So I'm hoping 2014 brings some sweet resolutions, love and happiness for our friends and family. We're just now getting ready to go celebrate the holidays a bit late with Sean's family, so bear with my prolonged radio silence!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Sunday Best v.185

Our packages before packing them up!

Hello from southwest Virginia! We are traveling until Christmas Day, when Sean actually has to go to work (boo!). Pass the time off by checking out some of the awesome/touching/hilarious links I spotted this week:

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Wine Club Christmas at Chow

Wine Club ventured out for our Christmas celebration this year, trading gifts and laughs at Chow, an emporium of fat-stuffed, no holds barred Southern-fried deliciousness. It's a totally charming place, with a beautifully hand-lettered chalkboard menu, excellent cocktails and good-to-the-last bite food.

We had, going clockwise, burgers with fried green tomatoes and pimento cheese with a side of mac; a lamb shank atop asparagus risotto; fried chicken with mashed potatoes and cornbread; and blackened catfish. We also sampled the fried goat cheese (OMG!!) and the best fried pickles ever (OMG!!!!).

We did another white elephant gift exchange and in all seriousness, I think everybody made out with awesome stuff. I'm so happy to be in this club and all you ladies who've told me you would like to start one, DO IT! It's been one of the most rewarding things in my adult life.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Hot Dogs & Coozies at The Barking Dog

December might be a weird time to try the local hot dog joint on a marina, but we had a sweet and cozy first visit to The Barking Dog the other night. It's a super chill hot dog place, with dressed-up dogs, brats and sandwiches and a great beer selection served up in coozies. It's also literally chilly this time of year, but they've got some space heaters and it's kind of sweet to go in the off-season.

I sampled the Sky Blue golden ale, which was just about perfect and hit the spot.

And for my hot dog choice, I went with the Carolina dog, topped with pulled pork, cole slaw and a red pepper aioli. It was tangy and delicious! I also tried the original Barking Dog, topped with chili and onions, and that tasted like going home to Southwest Virginia. It was a sweet night on the marina!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Holiday Fun: Christmas Town & Glassblowing

 The Christmas spirit has taken hold! I've spent the past week at fun holiday gatherings, including our annual trip to Busch Gardens' Christmas Town. It's always so much fun to see all the pretty lights and drink my weight in peppermint hot cocoa, but it was even more fun to bring friends and family who had never been! It really is magical.

I would love to see Busch Gardens someday sell some of their decorations in their stores...I'm in LOVE with the north star lights hanging from the trees.

 Speaking of decorations hanging from trees, I also had a super fun time at the Chrysler Glass Studio in Norfolk, where some friends and I signed up for a "Blow Your Own Ornament" workshop. It couldn't have been easier...they really do walk you through each step. Here, I'm rolling the clear glass in colored "silt."

 I then placed the glass back in the fire and rotated it. It was crazy to watch it get so melty! We tapped the glass blob on a stainless steel counter before the glass artist helped get it ready to blow.

 She used tongs to shape it, while I blew through a rubber hose. It was so cool!

 Once it was done, another glass artist turned the glass top to create a loop for the ornament. After a day of cooling, we were able to pick up our ornaments!

Mine is Barbie-perfect! It was a really cool experience and just enough to get me interested in learning more! The workshop was super fun with girlfriends, but would also be an awesome first date spot!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Sunday Best v.184

Princess Grace & kids in Gstaad

Only 10 days to Christmas! Most of my shopping is done, save a few small things, but lord, that felt like a whirlwind with one less week to prepare than normal. I have a LOT of great links for you to pass the time.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Jams of the Week

Oh man, it has been a while since I've done one of these! It's been a little bit busy these days, but these are some things I've been lovin' lately. I picked up this Essie color, Meet Me At Sunset, a week ago and I swear, since I've painted my nails at least four people have stopped me to ask the name of the color. It's the perfect red-orange and looks both Christmasy and a little unexpected.

 I couldn't resist the urge to pick up a little something for myself while doing some Black Friday shopping and I am SO FREAKIN EXCITED to rock this polka dot down vest this winter. It's from Land's End.

 I am a total sucker for holiday food/drinks/candy and scooped up a bottle of this at the grocery store a couple weeks ago. It is so good and leaves a pleasantly minty feeling after each gulp! I was so obsessed with it when we had it, I dubbed it my "peppermint drank."

 About a month ago, I downloaded the Timehop app, which connects with your social media networks and every day, delivers a little nostalgia trip to your phone. It shows what you were doing 1, 2, 3, 4 and more years ago. I've found it's the best part of my morning!

I know I'm about the last person on Earth to read Cheryl Strayed's Wild, but I'm finally doing it and it's great so far. I've loved her writing for years as Dear Sugar on The Rumpus, truly the greatest advice column there ever was.

Over the past couple weeks, we FINALLY sat down and watched all the seasons of The League, one of the best comedies on TV. You don't have to be into football to think these wackjobs are hilarious. The recurring jokes, sense of genuine camaraderie and fearlessness of the actors make every episode LOL-worthy.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The 2013 Christmas Wrapping Scheme!

Longtime readers know I do not kid around when it comes to Christmas wrapping. Every year I obnoxiously pick a color scheme and push myself to come up with as many variations on that theme as possible. You can see previous schemes here and here. Last year, I snagged some Rodarte for Target moonprint wrapping paper on clearance after the holidays and knew I wanted to do the moon and stars. Easier said than done!

I searched for sophisticated star-print wrapping paper and the well came up pretty dry. I did find some awesome paper at Zazzle, but luckily I also found some locally at Target and of all places, my local Harris Teeter. I decided to accent the moonprint paper with black, silver and gold this year.

People have asked where I find paper and it's a wide mix. On occasion I've bought really fancy paper at Paper Source or craft stores, but for the most part, my paper comes from TJ Maxx, Target and World Market. I get ribbons at Michael's and sometimes, order super special fancy ribbon from M&J Trimming.

This year, I even bought a little stretchy sequin ribbon for a little extra somethin' somethin'!

Now that I've got the gifts under the tree, I'm noticing black and gold everywhere (including in my beloved typewriter ornament)!

So that's the wrapping 2013! Do you choose a color scheme? What's yours this year? I'm thinking next year I really need to go for some COLOR. The past few years have been _____ and gold, so I think I have to push myself out of that safety net.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Herb-Crusted Pork Tenderloin

 Pork tenderloin can be so tricky. Just a little too long in the oven and you're chewing cardboard. I usually sear it, then roast, which locks in the juices. But on Sunday, I tried just slathering it in spices and roasting it and it was amazing. Here is how to make the easiest, most delicious and perfect pork.

  1. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. I bought the "garlic" Smithfield tenderloin, so it already came with some flavor. I don't think that's necessary, but it didn't hurt.
  3. In a bowl, mix 2 tablespoons of cracked black pepper, grated parmesan, rosemary, thyme and then add a little garlic powder and1/4 teaspoon of salt. 
  4. Pop it in the oven for one hour and go wrap presents. Seriously. That's it! 

The pork was perfectly juicy and plenty flavorful. I topped mine with some leftover cranberry sauce and it was delightful! Easy peasy breezy.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Sunday Best v.183

The Kennedys celebrating a White House Christmas. Picture from here.

We're having a fun and busy weekend, but I'm so happy to be bundled up in PJs and Irish sweaters during this cold rainy day! I'm working on wrapping gifts and signing holiday cards today. Yay for lazy Sundays!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

DIY Star Christmas Wreath

As longtime readers might recall, I made a beautiful ruffled paper wreath a few years ago. It was surprisingly beautiful for how easy it was, but unfortunately it hasn't held up out in the elements so well. Over time, it's become a little discolored and lost a little of its shape. It seemed like the right time to try something new.

I considered several different DIY options, but wanted to draw inspiration from our other regular decor, which includes the glitter stars from my wedding. 

I went to A.C. Moore, where I bought a small "evergreen" wreath and then bought a bunch of mini star-shaped tree toppers and mini ornaments. I'm pretty sure I bought the entire section, and I think the check-out girl must think I have a mini-tree obsessive disorder.

 I tried to get a variety of colors and shapes to make it more visually interesting.

I used floral wire to connect the stars to the wreath and wreath frame. All told, the entire effort cost $23 and took about 45 minutes. Annnnnnnnnd.....

Voila! Now our front door is consistent with our indoors. And don't worry; the paper wreath is now hanging inside, where it's safe and sound!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Butternut Squash Gratin + Thanksgiving 2013

Another year, another giving of thanks, or as Sean has dubbed it, "National Food Instagram Day." It's true, and it's grand.

 My mother-in-law set her table with her brand new one-of-a-kind artist-made runner and red plates in what she called her "Fire & Ice" theme. I insisted on putting out my guinea feathers.

 Miss Margaret with the beautiful turkey!

 My sister in law Katie made the most amazing root vegetable salad, with chopped carrots, parsnips and red onions covered with an olive oil-rosemary dressing. So good!

And I was excited to try to recreate a dish I had recently at a restaurant: butternut squash au gratin! I used my mandolin slicer to cut the squash into disc-shaped slices, 1/16th thick (or thin). I buttered a dish and then, between my layers of butternut squash, I sprinkled grated parmigiano reggiano and shredded gruyere cheese.

On the stovetop, I heated 2 cups of heavy cream with minced garlic, nutmeg, thyme, salt and pepper (I eyeballed the amounts of each...not helpful, I know). I let the mixture bubble up and reduce a bit, then removed it from the heat and poured it on top of my layers of squash.

 I let the mixture settle and then did the fun part: smothered it in shredded gruyere!

 I finally put it into an oven preheated to 375 degrees and let it cook for a full hour...

Until the cheese was perfectly browned and burnt on the edges and scrumptious!!! 

Click below for the full recipe!