Going for Gold

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Happy Monday! It’s always hard getting back into the working routine after a relaxing weekend, but a positive environment can make it much easier. Get excited about being back at your desk with a bright notebook and cheerful coffee mug! I get a little too excited over school supplies, especially new notebooks and planners. When I saw this hot pink and gold notebook on sale at Home Goods, I couldn’t pass it up. Now I can’t wait to go take notes! Yes, I’m a big nerd…

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I am currently loving gold details and calligraphy on pretty much everything. My skills need a little fine tuning (okay, a lot), but I decided to give it a try and decorate a simple coffee mug from the dollar store. I used a gold paint pen to write “Enjoy today,” which is a phrase I came across on Pinterest and thought it was a good reminder to make every day count. My goal is to do one thing that I enjoy each day, whether that’s baking some cupcakes, treating myself to a new piece of clothing or a relaxing yoga class.

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For this DIY project, you only need a plain mug, paint pen and favorite quote. You can use the inspirational mug for your morning coffee or to hold writing utensils at your desk.

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Happy National Ice Cream Day!

ice cream CollageWith temperatures in the 100’s my favorite dessert to make right now is ice cream! We got an ice cream maker for Christmas and have been putting it to good use making delicious flavors such as chocolate Thin Mint and brown sugar bourbon. I’m always looking for new combinations to try, so with July being National Ice Cream Month and today being National Ice Cream Day, I thought it was fitting to share some recipes that I can’t wait to whip up! Calories don’t count on holidays, right? Looks like July is a free pass for these tasty treats!

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{Watermelon Ice Cream Cones)

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(Roasted Strawberry Ice Cream from The Novice Housewife}

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{Coffee Hazelnut Ice Cream from Top with Cinnamon}

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{Ice Cream Sandwich Cake from A Subtle Revelry}

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{Doughnut Ice Cream Sandwiches from Paper & Stitch}

 

Tomatillo Avocado Salsa

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Rob loves snacking on chips and salsa, so when we bought a food processor the first thing he made was tomatillo avocado salsa. We loved it as the fresh ingredients make it stand out from store-bought dips. It’s the perfect combination of salsa and guacamole with just enough spice. Pair it with a refreshing margarita and you’ve got a flavorful fiesta!

Tomatillo Avocado Salsa

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds tomatillos, husked and sliced in half
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 jalapeño, deseeded and sliced in half
  • 1/4 cup onion, coarsely chopped
  • 6 cilantro sprigs, coarsely chopped
  • 2 ripe avocados, halved and pitted
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450F. On baking sheet covered with foil, place the tomatillo halves, seed-side down, jalapeño and garlic. Cook (or broil) for about 10 minutes, until tomatillos and softened and slightly charred. Let cool.
  2. Add tomatillos, garlic, jalapeño, onion, cilantro and scooped avocado to a food processor. Pulse until smooth.

 

Summer Packing Essentials

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Summer is the perfect time to take a weekend road trip and explore local and regional gems, whether it’s a great restaurant or a scenic hiking trail. Living in Las Vegas, we have numerous destinations within a five-hour driving radius. To the west we have San Diego for a beach retreat while up north we can explore the forested hiking trails in Zion National Park. We want to take advantage of this convenient location and experience as many unique places as possible.

Packing for a weekend trip can be challenging if you haven’t planned out every activity and restaurant. The best way to be prepared for any occasion is to bring versatile pieces that can be dressed up or down and can be mixed and matched. These are a few of my packing essentials for a weekend getaway:

  • White v-neck t-shirt. I love a basic tee because it can easily be dressed up or down, creating a simple, sophisticated look. Plus, chances are it will match all of the bottoms you packed.
  • Gray tank. This is another piece that is versatile and can be interchanged with the v-neck. Pair it with shorts and sandals for an easy ensemble.
  • Simple, black dress. There’s a reason why every woman should own a LBD – they are elegant and create an instant outfit. For day, pair it with your shades and throw your hair in a top knot; for night, add a statement necklace and let your hair down in beachy waves.
  • Floral skirt. This floral, asymmetrical skirt can be worn for both daytime excursions and a night out on the town. It’s trendy and easily paired with both tops.
  • Denim shorts. An obvious favorite because they are comfy, casual and neutral. For an unexpected look, dress up the distressed denim and a basic tee with a colorful statement necklace.
  • Neutral tote. Since you’ll be living out of a suitcase, it’s ideal to have  a large tote that carries all of your essentials (sunglasses, sunscreen, wallet, camera, etc.). A neutral-colored bag that matches the other pieces you packed will make it easy to grab and go.
  • Classic sandals. Flat sandals that are comfortable to walk in are a must. For maximum packing efficiency, it helps if they match your casual outfits, but also look dressy enough for a nice restaurant.
  • Aviators. These stylish shades make any outfit look effortlessly put together. They will also come in handy if you are doing some outdoor sightseeing.
  • Statement necklace. This is the easiest way to fancy up a basic tee or dress. Add the stand-out accessory to your basic ensemble and you have an entirely new outfit!
  • Straw fedora. No time to wash your hair before your next activity? A stylish straw hat and side braid can fix that!

 

Save the Date Inspiration

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Now that we have officially set the date, I’ve started the process of picking out our save the date cards and invitations. Since our wedding will be at a farm with rustic decor, I want our save the dates to match the theme of our ceremony and reception as they will be the first impression of our special day. I envision something simple, elegant and country chic. Minted and Wedding Paper Divas have some adorable postcards (pictured below) that fit with the look we are going for. Even though we have more than a year until we say “I do,” I’m so excited to start planning!

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Do you know of any other cute sites for wedding invites?  Let me know :)

DIY Striped Coffee Table

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After a successful kitchen table makeover I decided to tackle our boring coffee table. Most of the wood furniture in our house has a darker stain, so this light-colored table stuck out like a sore thumb. Instead of adding more dark wood to our living room and kitchen area, I wanted to brighten it up a bit. Since a solid white table would get dirty too fast, I scoured Pinterest for more ideas. I saw several patterned tables and thought that a striped style would add a chic, modern touch while also matching our simple furniture. stripe table v2To make the table, I removed the stain and sanded it until smooth (similar to the tutorial for the kitchen table). Then I spray painted the entire table white. After it dried, I measured the stripes and covered the sections that were to remain white with painter’s tape. To protect the bottom half of the table, I used painter’s tape to hang newspapers directly under the table top (picture a hula skirt of newspaper beginning at the top of the white rim). I sprayed one final coat of white paint to secure the tape and prevent the gray from bleeding underneath. Once this layer had dried I sprayed several coats of gray, until they were solid stripes. I removed the tape after the final coat had dried and the result was a brand new table!

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I wasn’t sure how to style the table, but I came across this tray at Target and knew it would work perfectly! The clear base allows the stripes to show through, but the white design adds an interesting detail. To add some color I bought pretty flowers and placed them in a simple clear vase. I’m also on the look out for some stylish coffee table books to place on the other side. Emily Schuman’s video about how to style a coffee table on Cupcakes and Cashmere was really helpful in visualizing the arrangements I wanted to create.

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Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

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For a summer-inspired dinner yesterday, I grilled zucchini slices to have as a side with our barbecue chicken. We still had one left over, so I decided to mix it up and make a sweet treat instead. Since it would only be for the two of us, I didn’t want to make a batch of two dozen. Instead I created this chocolate zucchini recipe that only yields eight muffins, which is a much more manageable amount. Although I could probably finish a dozen myself, I would prefer to be able to fit into my jeans.

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If you’re looking to sneak some vegetables into your diet, this is a good way to enjoy some zucchini. It’s not exactly healthy, but I guess you have to start somewhere. The zucchini flavor is hardly noticeable as the chocolate is the dominant flavor. You can vary the amount of chocolate by using more or less cocoa powder and by adding or omitting the chocolate chips.

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The muffins turned out nice and moist with a firm top, creating a nice texture. Next time I might try the recipe with bananas or apple sauce instead of the oil and substituting the all-purpose flour with whole wheat to make it a little healthier.

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Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

{Makes 8 muffins}

Ingredients

  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup grated zucchini
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/8 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line muffin tin with paper liners (I found these cute parchment paper cups at Target).
  2. In a large bowl, beat the egg. Beat in sugar and oil, until combined. Add cocoa, vanilla and zucchini, stirring until fully incorporated.
  3. Stir in the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt, mixing until just moist. Gently fold in the chocolate chips.
  4. Pour batter into prepared muffin tins filling them 2/3 of the way full. Sprinkle the tops with additional chocolate chips, if desired. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove from pan and let cool on wire rack.

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San Diego To-Do List

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Although it may seem like all we did was eat while visiting San Diego (check out my favorite restaurants here), we actually did a lot of sightseeing, too. We explored the beautiful Balboa Park, kayaked to the La Jolla sea caves, sunbathed in front of the famous Hotel del Coronado and cheered on the Padres. From museums and parks to shopping and beaches, there is so much to do and see. The quaint neighborhoods along the beach were a welcomed break from the desert. I also enjoyed the chic, urban areas with trendy restaurants and stylish boutiques. We didn’t make it to everything on our to-do list, so we will definitely need to visit again!

IMG_2886{Taking a walk along Ocean Beach}

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{Beautiful flowers at the rose garden inside Balboa Park}

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{Balboa Park Carousel}

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{The deer on the vintage carousel reminds me of trendy home decor}

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{Colorful patio inside Balboa Park’s Spanish Art Village Center}

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{My floral shades checking out La Jolla}

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{Hotel del Coronado}

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{Seaport Village Fudge Shop. I love the pink, retro look of the storefront.}

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{Padres baseball game on the 4th of July}

Chocolate Thin Mint Ice Cream

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Shockingly, we still had a box of Thin Mints sitting in our kitchen cupboard. I don’t know how it has lasted since Girl Scout cookie season in March. I would like to credit it to my strong self-control (yeah right…), but most likely I have just been preoccupied with other sweets. We decided to put our ice cream maker to use once again and make this chocolate treat. With the cookies melted into the batter, the mint flavor can be tasted throughout the creamy dessert, not just from the crushed pieces. Chocolate and mint is the perfect combination for a post-dinner treat. I like to think it helps sooth the stomach… maybe not, but it is delicious :)

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Chocolate Thin Mint Ice Cream

Yields 1 quart

Ingredients

  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 box Thin Mints, divided
  • 5 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

  1. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together egg yolks and sugar until slightly thickened and light in color, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add cocoa powder and whisk until no lumps remain. Gradually add whole milk and heavy cream, whisking constantly. Finely chop 10 Thin Mints and stir into dairy mixture. Pour into saucepan.
  2. Heat dairy mixture on medium-low and cook, whisking constantly, until mixture thickens and reaches 180°F. Remove from heat and mix in chocolate chips, stirring until fully melted. Add salt to taste, then pour into a medium-sized bowl. Cover with cling wrap, pushing it all the way down so that it touches the surface of the ice cream base to prevent a skin from forming. Chill for at least 8 hours or overnight in the refrigerator.
  3. When fully chilled, churn in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Roughly chop remaining Thin Mints. When only a few minutes remain, add chopped cookies. Transfer ice cream to air tight container and freeze for at least two hours before serving. Or serve immediately if you like it softer, similar to the consistency of a Blizzard. Enjoy!

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Açaí Bowl

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I have read a lot about açaí bowls in magazines and on Pinterest, so I finally tried one at a local cafe. It was cool, refreshing and (best of all) healthy! It didn’t look too hard to make at home, so I decided to give it a try. While looking at various recipes online, I came across Sambazon açaí smoothie packs. The frozen puree, which can be found at Whole Foods, makes for a tasty treat that can be made in minutes. The açaí mixture is blended like a smoothie and then topped with your favorite fruits and granola. The colorful concoction is a simple summer snack!

Below are some variations from fellow bloggers that I look forward to trying:

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Açaí Bowl

Ingredients

For the açaí mixture:

  • 2 ounces unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/2 banana
  • 1/2 cup strawberries
  • 1/2 cup frozen blueberries
  • Açaí Smoothie Pack

For the topping:

  • sliced banana
  • sliced kiwi
  • sliced strawberries
  • fresh blueberries
  • granola
  • sliced almonds
  • coconut chips
  • honey

Run frozen smoothie pack under hot water for 5 seconds. Add ingredients for the açaí mixture to blender and blend until smooth. Pour into bowl and sprinkle with desired toppings. Enjoy!

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San Diego Treats

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Rob and I went to San Diego last weekend for a wedding, so I did a lot of research and made a list of places to visit since we had never been. Of course my top priority was finding the best restaurants. Although we didn’t have time to try them all, we did have several scrumptious meals! San Diego has a fun culinary scene with a variety of fresh seafood and chic gastropubs. Gaslamp Quarter is full of trendy dining destinations and we also liked Little Italy, which has a bustling farmers’ market. We tend to stay within the $ to $$ range on Yelp, so the below restaurants are pretty affordable, but still delicious!

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My favorite restaurants + bars:

  • Prepkitchen. I knew this was going to be a great restaurant when I walked in and saw the rustic chic décor. We went on a Saturday afternoon when they were still serving brunch, so I ordered the chilaquiles made with chipotle braised chicken, avocado, onion, queso fresco and over-medium eggs. It had great flavor! My friend ordered the poppy seed pancakes topped with strawberries, rhubarb whipped cream and almond crumble – it was unreal! With the fluffy pancakes and flavorful toppings, she definitely had the best order. They also offer a self-serve coffee and scone bar (pictured above), which I thought was a cute idea.
  • Blue Water Seafood Market & Grill. Rob and I love watching Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, so we try to visit at least one of those restaurants when we go to a new city. Since we were in San Diego, we also wanted to take advantage of the fresh, local seafood. Blue Water did not disappoint! I loved the mini Calico Amber Ale beer-battered shrimp tacos. The portions are good-sized, too, so you definitely get your money’s worth.
  • Donut Bar. Before heading home we stopped for some sweet treats. The artisan doughnuts come in a variety of delicious flavors, such as salted caramel (pictured below), Nutella, red velvet and chocolate espresso. These doughnuts are HUGE. I thought they might be a little overpriced when I was looking up the flavors online, but these are at least three times as large as a typical grocery store cake doughnut. We were in a sugar coma on our drive home, but well worth it!
  • El Indio. This popular San Diego establishment catered the wedding, which made for a tasty fiesta! We enjoyed the mini chicken burritos, fish tacos and chips topped with guacamole. Next time we will try out the actual restaurant, too!
  • The Fish Market. After touring the USS Midway, we were starving and looking to grab some grub right on the harbor. We came across this waterfront restaurant and had a savory lunch while sitting in the sun. It was pretty crowded, but we found a table on the deck with an amazing view of the water. We loved the baked crab & artichoke dip and king crab BLT.
  • Werewolf. Before heading to the Padres game on the 4th of July we fueled up at this American pub with seared ahi soba noodles and some drinks. It’s a fun atmosphere with a great menu and within walking distance of the stadium.
  • Frost Me. While looking for some waterfront attractions I came across Seaport Village, which is full of shops, restaurants and entertainment. I saw that there was a gourmet cupcake shop that had been a champion on Cupcake Wars, so I immediately added it to our to-do list. Located in the heart of the bustling village, the bakery has a long list of classic and specialty flavors. I tried mocha (pictured below), which was made with chocolate cake topped with a layer of chocolate ganache, espresso frosting and crushed espresso beans – delicious!
  • Noble Experiment. This chic speakeasy is hidden inside Neighborhood, a gastropub located in Gaslamp. To get in you have to text a number to make reservation. Luckily, they were able to squeeze the eight of us in last-minute. After you walk through the secret entrance, you’ll find an intimate bar where they specialize in craft cocktails. I didn’t know what I wanted, so I told the bartender I liked wine. He made a delicious drink with fortified wine and strawberries. It was exactly what I wanted without even knowing.
  • Taste and Thirst. This restaurant is divided into a bar and an eating area (hence taste AND thirst). When we stopped by, they were offering a 4th of July special, which was half off of all drinks. We are always down for a cheap drink! It’s a casual atmosphere with a tasty menu – hello, truffle fries!
  • Shiku sushi. Located in the heart of La Jolla, this tasty sushi restaurant has fresh seafood and unique rolls – we loved the soft shell crab. It was the perfect post-kayaking lunch.
  • South Beach Bar & Grille. Great food and great deals! We enjoyed the Taco Tuesday specials – all tacos were $2.75 and much larger than I expected for that price. Great surfside dining!

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Do you have any suggestions on where to eat next time? Let me know :)

 

Basil Quinoa with Red Bell Pepper

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I promise I don’t live off of cookies and cupcakes although it might seem that way from my blog posts. More often than not, I try to cook healthy meals. There were a few ingredients in our fridge that I wanted to use up, so I decided to make a healthy side for dinner with red bell peppers, basil and quinoa. It makes about four servings and paired perfectly with our tilapia and broccoli.

Basil Quinoa with Red Bell Pepper

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup red bell pepper, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, combine cold water and ice cubes to make an ice bath. In a small saucepan, bring 1 cup of water to a boil. Add basil to boiling water, stirring once and then draining immediately. Quickly place basil in ice bath to cool. Remove and gently squeeze out excess water.
  2. Place basil, cheese, lemon juice, olive oil and garlic in a food processor. Cover and process until nearly smooth.
  3. In a medium bowl, stir together warm, cooked quinoa and bell pepper. Add basil mixture and stir until coated. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.

Lemon Poppy Seed Pancakes

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Rise and shine! Continue your celebratory 4th of July weekend with some tart, yet sweet treats. These tasty pancakes are made with whole wheat flour and cornmeal, giving them a heartier texture. Sprinkle blueberries and raspberries on top to keep with the red, white and blue spirit!

Lemon Poppy Seed Pancakes

Ingredients:

  • 1 3/4 cups buttermilk, divided
  • 1 1/4 cups cornmeal
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 3/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 Tbsp. poppy seeds
  • zest and juice from 1 lemon
  • cooking spray

Directions

  1. In a microwave-safe bowl, whisk 1 1/4 cups of buttermilk and cornmeal together. Cut butter into four chunks, then add to mixture. Cover and microwave for about 15 seconds, until butter is melted. Stir to fully incorporate and then microwave for another minute, until slightly thickened around the edges. Let sit for 5 minutes.
  2. Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. In a small bowl, beat eggs and remaining 1/2 cup of buttermilk. Whisk into cornmeal mixture, then add to flour mixture and whisk until combined. Stir in poppy seeds, lemon zest and lemon juice. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes.
  3. Evenly coat a large skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium-low. Using a 1/4 cup scoop, pour batter into pan and cook until edges are set and bubbles begin to form on top, about 1 to 2 minutes. Flip and cook until second side is golden brown, about 1 more minute. Repeat with remaining batter and serve warm with syrup or fruit.

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Brown Sugar Bourbon Ice Cream

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One of our favorite Christmas presents has been the ice cream maker that Rob’s parents gave us this year. Since it’s officially ice cream season, we finally decided to give it a try this week and made some vanilla ice cream with bites of Tagalongs, creating a peanut butter and chocolate flavor. It was good, but I wanted to try something more flavorful and unique.

After raving about our fun ice cream maker to my mom, she sent me a recipe that she saw for brown sugar bourbon ice cream with Theo chocolate from Floating Kitchen. It looked amazing, so we decided to give it a go.

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The bourbon is the focal flavor, but not overpowering, while the brown sugar makes it buttery and sweet. This recipe was softer and creamier than the first batch of ice cream we made, which I really enjoyed. It didn’t last long – between the two of us it only lasted five days. We will definitely make it again!

Brown Sugar Bourbon Ice Cream

Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbsp. bourbon
  • 3 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • Ice cream maker

Directions

  1. To make the ice cream base, combine the milk, heavy cream, brown sugar and vanilla extract in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring the mixture to a low boil.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk together the egg yolks and granulated sugar in a separate bowl, until the egg yolks become pale yellow and slightly thickened.
  3. Temper the egg yolks by whisking about a 1/2 cup of the boiling milk mixture into the egg yolks. Then add tempered egg mixture back into the saucepan with the milk mixture. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it begins to thicken and coats the back of a spoon, about 2 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and pour into medium-sized bowl. Cover with cling wrap, pushing it all the way down so that it touches the surface of the ice cream base to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours or up to 24 hours.
  5. Once chilled, pour the ice cream base into the frozen canister of your ice cream maker. Add the bourbon and churn until the mixture is nearly frozen, about 20 minutes. Add chocolate and churn for additional 5 minutes, until evenly distributed.
  6. Serve and transfer remaining ice cream to a freezer-safe container to store in freezer. It makes 1 quart.

 

Kitchen Table Makeover

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Moving in with my fiance meant acquiring some of his furniture that is far from stylish. After seven months in Vegas, we still hadn’t gotten around to buying a new kitchen table, so I decided to try a little DIY magic on a table that his parents had bought for him at a garage sale many years ago. It’s amazing what some sanding and staining can do. Intricate details that I thought were tacky now add charming character and the distressed wood (not in a trendy way…) now looks crisp and classy. Since we saved money by making over our table, I decided to splurge and buy some floral chairs from Target to complement the modern look.

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What you’ll need:

  • 1 can Citristip
  • Plastic scraper
  • Orbital sander
  • Sand paper of varying grits (100, 120, 220)
  • Tack cloth
  • Newspapers
  • Brush or cloth
  • White spray paint (I used Valspar paint + primer,  about 3 cans)
  • Stain (I used Minwax Red Mahogany)
  • Polyurethane

How-to:

  1. Remove the finish. Move the table to a well ventilated area and place it on top of a tarp or cardboard to protect the surrounding areas. To strip the existing finish, I sprayed the table with Citristip and let it sit for an hour before scraping it off with a plastic scraping tool (read can for safety and detailed directions).
  2. Use an orbital sander to smooth the table, going with the grain. Do most of the initial sanding with 100-grit sandpaper, then step up to 150-grit and do a final pass with 220-grit. Wipe off the dust with a tack cloth.
  3. Cover the top of the table with newspapers, taping the edges with painters tape to create clean lines. Spray paint the base of the table; it may take a few coats.
  4. Remove newspaper before applying the wood stain. Apply stain with a brush or cloth, following the wood’s natural grain. Follow the directions on can to achieve desired result. Apply at least 2 coats. If the wood seems rough, sand between coats and remove dust with a tack cloth to smooth the surface.
  5. After the final coat of stain has thoroughly dried, apply polyurethane according to the manufacturers’ instructions. Apply at least four coats since a kitchen table should be durable. Let dry for 24 hours before using the table.

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Farm Fresh Caprese Salad

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One thing I miss about living in Washington is the variety of farms and fresh produce. There’s nothing better than a juicy Honeycrisp apple straight from the orchard in the fall. I was excited (and surprised) to hear about a farm here in Las Vegas where you can pick fruits and vegetables right from the source.

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Gilcrease Orchard offers a nice break from the brown, dry desert. It was fun to walk through the fields and orchard, looking for the freshest produce. We went home with some beautiful tomatoes. I will definitely be back in the fall when there are pumpkins and apple cider doughnuts!

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We decided to put the fresh tomatoes to good use and make a refreshing caprese salad. Since we had one tomato left from the grocery store, I used that, too. The difference between the tomatoes from the store and the farm was amazing! Physically, those from the farm were darker in color, juicier, softer and had more seeds. The store-bought tomato was easier to slice because it was firmer, but when it came to taste, it was kind of plain and watery. Lesson learned – farm fresh is much more flavorful! Even Rob, who is happy with non-organic produce from Walmart, was genuinely shocked at the difference. Because this salad is so simple, top-quality tomatoes and mozzarella are important and very noticeable.

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Farm Fresh Caprese Salad

Ingredients

  • 4 large, ripe tomatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 pound fresh mozzarella, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1/3 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • fine sea salt to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste

On a large platter, evenly space out tomato slices. Top with mozzarella sliced and then basil leaves. Drizzle with olive oil and season with sea salt and/or pepper.

Tuesday Trends: 4th of July

It’s officially time for fireworks, sunshine and barbecues! The 4th of July has always been one of my favorite holidays because it’s the epitome of summer complete with outdoor celebrations with friends and family, patriotic treats and red, white and blue fashion. Below are a few links that have inspired me to plan a fun, festive day!

4th cookies

{My 4th of July sugar cookie bars topped with red, white and blue}

4th cake

{American Flag Cake from FOOD52}

4th fashion

{4th of July fashion inspiration on Pinterest}

4th candles

{Patriotic Glitter Candles from A Pumpkin and a Princess}

4th decor

{Independence Day decor inspired by The Golden Sycamore}

 

Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies

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It’s hard to beat a classic chocolate chip cookie, but I decided to sprinkle on some sea salt to create that salty, sweet flavor and it was a hit. I made them for a pool party that we went to this weekend and I was happy to take home an empty container – success!

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I have tried numerous recipes on my quest for the perfect chocolate chip cookie, but my mom suggested that I try this foolproof recipe. The cookies stay thick and fluffy because of the cornstarch, which is exactly what I was going for! Flat, crispy cookies are not my idea of a mouthwatering sweet treat. It’s safe to say that I found my new go-to recipe!

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Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • Sea salt

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Mix in egg and vanilla.
  2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine flour, cornstarch, baking soda and salt. Add to butter mixture and mix on medium speed until combined. Gently fold in chocolate chips.
  3. Drop a tablespoon of dough onto baking sheet and lightly sprinkle with sea salt. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until barely golden brown around the edges. The tops will not brown, but don’t cook longer than 10-11 minutes. Let cool on wire rack.

Homemade Piña Coladas

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When it’s hotter than 100 degrees, all I want to eat is something cool and refreshing. I bought an entire pineapple the other day, but before cutting it up to snack on, Rob suggested that we use it for drinks instead. I didn’t disagree. To cool down by the pool this weekend we made our own piña coladas – complete with a pineapple cup (I used this tutorial to hollow out the pineapple). Just one sip made me feel like I was back on the beach in Cabo!

Piña Colada

Ingredients

  • Ice cubes
  • 3/4 cup rum
  • 1 8-ounce can coconut cream
  • 3/4 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup pineapple chunks.
Fill blender halfway with ice cubes. Add rum, coconut cream, coconut milk and pineapple chunks. Puree until smooth. Serve in a pineapple cup. or glass garnished with a slice of pineapple and maraschino cherry, if desired. Cheers!