Monday, January 28, 2013's what's for dinner

It's cold. Eat soup. That is all. That's been my mantra since the weather turned cold in Charlotte (read: below 50 degrees). But seriously, we did get an ice storm this weekend. Well, we got a few ice particles that the local weather team called a "storm." Whether they overreacted or not, it's been cold, and you can't argue that. And it's not getting to 70 degrees until later this week. (Seriously, it's going to 70 later this week. This weather is bananas.) In the meantime, try some of these steaming hot soup recipes to warm your soul during the winter months. 

Check out THIS collection of 20 soups I wrote about for the General Mills site Tablespoon. 

And THIS collection of super simple soups I jotted down for Proctor and Gamble's Home Made Simple site. 

We've got Spicy Black Bean, classic Chicken Noodle and much much more to warm up your insides this cold time of year! Check them out and make tonight a soup night :) 

I'm super excited to come back this week and share photos of an adorable baby shower I did over the weekend! Have a wonderful day and stay warm! 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Fireplace Re-do and Fabulous Mantel Ideas

This is first and foremost a blog with foodie priorities and entertaining ideas out the wazoo. But sometimes a girl's got to talk about her crib. And by crib, I mean mi casa. Aka my lovely abode.   About once every few years I start to really care about doing "projects around the house." This is one of those rare times. Here goes... and don't worry, we'll soon get back to our regularly scheduled foodie and entertaining programming ;)

My big project really wasn't so big. It was transforming my (admittedly dull) fireplace from blah...


... to bright! I love the new bright look. 

This project took me 2 hours and $44.00. I followed THIS simple tutorial almost exactly. I also did my usual at Home Depot...obsessively ask questions and let them know that I know next to nothing about home renovations so they spell it out for me like I'm five. 
Thanks Home Depot for taking pity on a non DIY-er ;) 

Now that I have this new (but old looking on purpose) fireplace, I am going to play with some new mantel decorating ideas. Home decorating ideas are rampant on the Internet, but I found a few I liked before I got wildly overwhelmed and started doing something else. 

I like the look of this big mirror and smaller items flanking the side. 

I like decorating mantels for holidays, and this Valentines mantel is no exception! So cute.

I have to say I LOVE this busy wall above the bright yellow fireplace. I don't think I could pull off the yellow, but I do plan to pepper my walls with mismatched frames. 


This plate collection is super duper cute. 

Maybe you're into funky, colorful art...if so, this looks simply badass above the fireplace.

If you don't have a natural eye for decorating (ahem, I'm talking to myself), this simple "How To" Decorate a Mantel" diagram should come in handy.

Other home projects on the horizon...we just got a new kitchen table and are getting new floors very soon. I might as well strike while the obsession is still going on!

 Next up, I promise a NON-home related post. Have a great week! 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Custom Placemats

Happy Saturday! I'm thrilled to have a weekend where I have unexpected time to do a blog post. My weeks have been busy with work and booking weddings and events for the upcoming year (yay!). My agenda for the day is to hit up a local market in town with Mr. Fo, have a quick meeting about an upcoming event and then nap and eat. Pretty standard and pretty awesome.

If you know me, you know that my ideal dream job in all the land would be to host dinner parties pretty much every night. I love setting tables in creative ways and coming up with menus. It's my jam. One day I'll have a giant house meant for entertaining and I'll throw THE most fabulous dinner parties. You are all invited ;) Big house or not, there are many ways to jazz up a dinner party, special occasion, baby shower or birthday dinner. The latest way to personalize your party is Custom Paper Placemats. Offered by tons of great shops, these placemats are affordable, unique and will have your guests thinking you are the coolest. Which you are. 

Paper Source carries great options. If you aren't as lucky as me to have a Paper Source store in your town, you can order these online. I especially love the "Oh baby!" placemats which are perfect for a baby shower luncheon! You can even use the placemats as place cards!

 The Stationary Studio also has good options, including an anchor placemat for all your nautical needs. Or if you just like anchors because you're a Delta Gamma like me - Anchors Away DGs! (So cheesy, I know. But after 4 years of anchors, you still feel a little thrill when you see an anchor, I swear.)


Yet another reason I love Etsy... 


And another fabulous Etsy find... I love the grey and yellow color combo! 

Forget about the boring, lackluster placemats from the days of yore - shake things up with a badass custom placemat for your next soiree to really show you care. :) 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Milk and Cookies Baby Shower!

Combine milk, cookies and cute baby clothes and you've got a recipe for a successful baby shower. This past weekend, a few friends and I threw a baby shower for our good friend Lauren and her first baby...a little girl (whose name we don't know because she is keeping it a secret...that's more willpower than I'll ever have!) 

Lauren's got a sweet tooth and loves her some cookies, so picking a cookies and milk theme was a no-brainer. 

I used the Milk and Cookies invite from my invite go-to gal Party Box. Love her and her invites are always a hit. Here's the invitation template: 

The party decor was really simple but cute. I found pink wire containers and a few wooden crates to resemble milk crates to prop up the cookies. Per my latest stamp obsession, I used an "It's a girl" stamp for the food identifiers and the napkins. 

Party favors were miniature pink cardboard "milk" cartons with little chocolate chip cookies inside. I got the "It's a Girl" tags and the Banner from the Etsy shop 505 Design:  


Underneath the banner we placed cookies, mini glasses of chocolate and regular milk and the party favors. The milk had straw flags that matched the invites from Party Box. Pink and white roses were arranged in mason jars wrapped in pink and brown twine.





Here's cute Mama Lauren holding up one of her adorable baby outfits!

Congratulations to Lauren, Rob and their new bundle of joy coming very soon! 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Stamp Obsessed

... And I ain't talking 'bout no postage stamps... But side note, how expensive are postage stamps these days? I remember back in the day when they were 30 cents. For a correspondence enthusiast like myself, I spend way too much on stamps. But I digress.

What I'm really talking about are fun crafty stamps! Found at craft-store havens like Michaels and Paper Source, stamps come in every letter, number, holiday theme and clever phrase you can think of...the list goes on and on! With a plethora of ink pad colors, you can make anything your creative little heart desires. From hand stamped napkins to place cards to greeting cards, get your stamp on! 

I used an Eiffel Tower stamp for the Parisian Chic Luncheon to dress up simple place cards. 

I made plain white napkins adorably festive with a gingerbread stamp for our latest Cookie Exchange Party. 

Return address stamps are all the rage these days. I was gifted one for Christmas this year and I LOVE it! Here's a cute model from Paper Source.

These customized place card stamps are perfect for a winter dinner party place setting. In fact, I adore these entire table setting! 

This stamped paper tablecloth is another creative way to dress up a table setting with stamps. Martha does it again! 

These large letter stamps jazz up brown kraft wrapping paper with a personal touch! 

If you still partake in the old fashioned handwritten note (like myself), pick up some stamps from the dollar bin at your local craft store (these are from Michaels) and add a design to plain white notecards. Not only will people love getting mail that's not bills, they'll love your extra effort. Plus, stamping is fun. And it's not for dorks like you may think. Stamps are cool. 


Non-homemade non-stamped Valentine's Day cards are lame-o. Said me. 

So spend a few bucks and get creative with stamps. They'll spice up your table setting, notecards and people will be impressed with your mad crafty skills. For reals.  

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Major Catch-up time!

Oh man...oh MAN. It's been awhile, I know. In fact, it's a new year since we last spoke. I guess the holidays got the best of me? And a trip to NYC. And a yucky sickness. Between eating cookies, holiday traveling and tons of cold medicine, I've neglected my blog. But I'm back and I'll hope you'll forgive me. Sit back and relax, this is a long one....

Believe it or not, I actually started this blog post before Christmas to write about our 4th annual Cookie Exchange Party. The holidays have passed, but the party is still worth taking about! You can see our 3rd annual party HERE and our 2nd annual party HERE. The original has to live on in our memories because it happened before this blog existed! Here are pictures of this years Gingerbread themed soiree! 

We found Gingerbread flavored Peep marshmallows for the hot cocoa, how adorable are they?

The cocktail this year was simple, a Gingerbread White Russian made with Kahlua Gingerbread  (amazing) and milk. It was a HIT! I hope they bring back the Kahlua Gingerbread again, it was fantastic.

The cookies went home in these adorable boxes. 

Gingerbread Men danced around...

... and the Gingerbread Man and Woman (found at Hobby Lobby for 50% off!) chilled on the mantel to welcome everyone. How happy do they seem? I want what they're having.

My new obsession with stamping things led to these hand stamped napkins with a gingerbread stamp from Michael's. 

Some of the most memorable cookies were:

Melting Snowman Cookies (made by my BFF Kalle) which won Most Creative - How adorable are these?! 

I loved the presentation of the Rosemary Shortbread cookies. They were nice and savory!

And these homemade Samoas were amazeballs.

As were the Kissy Pies which were made from pre-made pie crust and had a chocolate kiss in the middle. 

The cookies sat on a bed of "snow."


Here was my plate of cookies... so many good options! Best tasting was Homemade Baklava, and it was well-deserved. (I'm in awe of anyone that can make this.) The overall winner was the Lemon Sandwich Cookie, which would honestly be a perfect cookie any time of year. 

I'd say this overflow of cookies started the holiday eating season off right. To continue the gluttony, we headed to NYC where my brother lives. My dad, bro, Mr. Fo and I ate our way through the city until it almost wasn't fun anymore. For serious. 

Obviously we spent some time at can see my previous post on Eataly HERE and how much I adore it. 

Note: The below picture is my idea of a really good time, fresh mozzarella and prosciutto:

While in the city, we saw the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall which was a blast. Man they are really in shape. It made me tired just watching them kick.

We hung out with some celebs by the tree. We were lucky to be staying less than a block away from the tree so we would go visit it after dinner each night. And if you're wondering if I hit up the Today Show Plaza one morning, you'd be right. I totally geeked out...
how could I NOT being that close to Rock Center?!

Funny story: This Santa told me he also moonlights as the pyschic on the show "Ghost Hunters." He actually pulled down his beard to show me his face (which I didn't recognize because as I told him, I don't believe in ghosts so therefore I don't watch the show). Then he asked for a tip. So did Elmo and Cookie Monster, which I didn't think was very Sesame Street of them. Some Christmas spirit guys.

Speaking of tips, I bet you've never been asked for a tip by a Human Cannoli. After we ate at the fabulous Little Italy restaurant Il Cortile, we were harassed by the guy in the cannoli suit to take a picture with him. If we're being completely honest, I actually harassed him to take a picture with my dad and I and then he made us tip him. I believe the direct quote was (and imagine it with a gruff NY accent): "Don't forget to tip the cannoli."  Whatever. It was worth it because now I have an awesome photo with a cannoli. 

We went to NJ for Christmas Day to visit the rest of our family and enjoy some home cooking. Even though Grandma explicitly told my dad NOT to bring anything because they had enough food (and believe me, they did), we swung by this amazing Italian Bakery called DeRobertis. They have a website AND they ship their goods. One of these days I'm shipping myself a plateful of pignoli nut cookies just for fun. There are some things you just can't find in NC! 

Mr. Fo and I had a blast walking around the city and hanging with my fam, it was a non-traditional Christmas but it's so fun being in NYC for Christmas. I love all the hustle and bustle :)

After our busy trip, I was looking forward to a few days of relaxation at home and boy did I get it. In the form of this:

(Side note, who looks this polite when they sneeze? I'm certain I look like a wild beast when I sneeze.)

Yup... I got totally knocked on my ass and was out of commission for a solid 5 days with a fever/sore throat/congestion situation. Which means my New Years Eve plans consisted of me on the couch with medicine and tissues, and no live Avett Brothers concert like I had planned. Sad face. It sucked, but I thank my lucky stars I didn't get it while I was in NY. On the bright side, it allowed me to catch up on some reading and movie watching. And sleep...lots of sleep. 

  I highly recommend 2 books I read during this time:

Both books were excellent and both true stories (which makes them even better). Wild is about a woman who after dealing with devastating issues in her life decided to solo-hike the Pacific Crest Trail. Needless to say, she's a badass as I am positive I would have given up after 3 hours with a) no one to talk to and b) no phone. You may have heard of Unbroken, about the wonderfully amazing Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner who was a captured POW in WWII. The book is about his life and his time growing up, what he went through in the POW camps and then the aftermath. It's absolutely, unequivocally one of the best, most inspiring books I've ever read. Make time to read it, I promise you won't be sorry! 

I'm catching up on my life now and getting back to the "real world" as they say. I'm gearing up for a busy season at work, preparing for a baby shower next weekend and putting together details for my 2013 weddings.  In the meantime, here are a few articles I've written lately that I'd love for you to peruse in your spare time! 

Quick and Easy Appetizers - including my go-to recipe for Miniature Baked Bries that is a fabulous dinner party starter! 

For those of you with snowy weather, check these out. Also send some snow my way please, I'd love to get some!