Monday, December 30, 2013

The Griffith Observatory

One of my favorite places in LA is the Griffith Observatory. Bradford and I went there almost 5 years ago when we were dating and I was excited to go back again. We arrived at about 4PM on the Saturday between Christmas and New Year's and to say it was a little crowded is an understatement. We were shocked when we were able to get tickets to the 5:15 planetarium show. Nice to know that our record-breaking pace hiking from our car up to the observatory wasn't for nothing. 

I love that the observatory does such a great job combining education with the natural beauty of LA. The exhibits are interesting and informative, the planetarium show is stellar, and the views outside are just unbeatable. Late afternoon was a really great time of day to go because we were able to enjoy the views in daylight, sunset, and nighttime. If you're ever in LA, I definitely recommend taking some time for this activity. 


As you can see in the above picture, there are lots of hiking trails all around the observatory. It'd be fun to bring a picnic and enjoy an afternoon of gorgeous LA views. 



{Daylight}

{Sunset}


{Nighttime}

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Sequins and Glitter!

With New Year's Eve right around the corner, I've been thinking a lot about sequins and glitter. From pants to sweatshirts to nails to shoes, there are so many ways to dress up your look and celebrate the New Year with some pizazz. 

1. DIY Edible Glitter - 1/4 cup sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of food coloring mixed, bake 10 mins in oven at 350 degrees
3. Nasty Gal Midnight Run Sequin Skirt - $48.00
4. Graftobian Glitter Hair Spray - $8.00
5. F-Troupe Glitter Bow Oxford - $109.99 (was $153.00)
6. LULUS Exclusive Reign or Shine Gold Sequin Maxi Skirt - $95.00
7. Nails Inc. GALAXY Knightsbridge Road Nail Polish - $11.00
8. MAKE UP FOREVER Sand 11 Metallic Tan Glitter - $15.00
9. ASOS Glamorous Sweatshirt with Sequin Sleeves - $39.93 (was 65.34)
10. ASOS Warehouse Two Tone Sequin Blazer - $90.75 (was $181.49)
11. ASOS Goldie Legging with Sequin Panel - $45.37 (was $79.86)

Image Sources: 1/2/3/4/5/6/7/8/9/10/11/12

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Andes Mint Chocolate Cookies




One of my all-time favorite flavor combinations is chocolate + mint. Thus, it's no wonder why Andes mints are one of my favorite candies. Last week, when I was searching for a cookie to include as part of my Christmas Thank You Gifts, I thought of this divine little thing. A chewy chocolate cookie with an Andes mint melted on top and swirled into perfection...divine.

Andes Mint Chocolate Cookies
From CookingClassy.com
Yield: 45 cookies
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 8 minutes
Total Time: about 45 minutes

INGREDIENTS:

3/4 cup unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips (about 2 cups)
2 1/4 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract (optional)
45 individual Andes mints

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium saucepan, combine butter, brown sugar, water, and salt, then set over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until butter melts. Remove from heat and add chocolate chips and stir until melted, then allow mixture to cool 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, and baking soda for 30 seconds. Pour chocolate mixture into the bowl of an electric stand mixer and, using the paddle attachment, blend in eggs, one at a time, mixing just until combined after each addition and adding in vanilla and peppermint extracts with the second egg. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add in dry ingredients and mix until just combined.

Scoop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls, shape into balls and drop onto foil or parchment-lined baking sheets, about two inches apart. Bake for about 7-9 minutes.

Remove from oven and immediately top each cookie with a single Andes mint. Allow to rest 1-2 minutes, then using a small spoon, spread the melted Andes mint over the top of each cookie. Transfer cookies to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.

Enjoy!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Thank You Gift Idea




Around Christmastime, there's lots of reasons to give. It seems that everyone is in a mood to go the extra mile to show their appreciation and love to friends and family. Yesterday, I sang in a Christmas choir at my church which I helped to organize. As a thank you to all the choir members who sang, I decided to make a selection of my favorite holiday cookies (including these Red Velvet Peppermint Crinkle Cookies) and package them up in Chinese take-out containers, which conveniently already have the words "Thank You" printed on the box. To add a little Christmas flair, I printed green "Merry Christmas" tags and glued them together around the handle of the box. 

It was a simple gesture but one that was appreciated by my choir members. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Wanderlust: Rajasthan, India








Lately, I've been dreaming of India. Since it's such a huge country, I decided to dig a little deeper and learn more about specific regions of this country. Rajasthan literally translates to "Land of Kings" and from the 7th century to the 13th century AD, was fragmented into competing kingdoms. Today, Rajasthan is known to have so many desirable attractions that one can overwhelm themselves trying to fit everything into a single trip to the region. If I were to travel there, I'd want to spend time in Udaipur, "the most diversified and romantic spot on the continent of India" according to Col. James Tod. Oh, and I'd also want to dine on Rajasthani cuisine, which I hear is an experience in and of itself.

{Click each photo to view the source.}

Friday, December 13, 2013

Pumpkin Bread



My mother's signature holiday treat is Pumpkin Bread. As a kid I can clearly remember walking into the house after a day at school to the amazing, fragrant smell of freshly baked pumpkin bread. Ah! I don't know if there's a better smell or feeling in the world. My mom still makes a couple batches each year and this seasonal treat tastes just as good now as it did when I was five. The holidays are about traditions and spending time with the people you love. I'm feeling especially grateful for the loved ones in my life right now and think that a gift of pumpkin bread is the perfect way to show someone you love 'em. 

Pumpkin Bread
Yield: 8 small loaves or 2 large loaves
Total Time: about 1 hour, 15 minutes

INGREDIENTS:

5 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking soda
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon nutmeg
4 cups sugar
1 large (29 oz.) can pumpkin
1 cup vegetable oil

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and spray loaf pans with cooking spray. (You may use 8 small loaf pans or 2 large loaf pans.)

Mix and sift the first five ingredients and set aside. In a very large bowl, mix together sugar, pumpkin, and vegetable oil, then add sifted dry ingredients and stir until completely incorporated. Pour mixture evenly into the pans and bake for 45 minutes-1 hour, or until a knife inserted comes out clean. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

It's the holiday season!


I've just finished decorating my Christmas tree and I'm so happy to be officially entering the Christmas season! Thanksgiving was a wonderful time to relax and have fun with family--the perfect way to start the holidays. I'm already preparing for some holiday parties and festivities in the coming weeks, including one of my favorite local traditions the Manhattan Beach Holiday Fireworks Show. What are your holiday plans?

A note about the Amazon Gift Card giveaway:
The giveaway has ended and a winner will be contacted this week. Thank you to all who participated! (Let me know if you win!)

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

$500 Amazon Gift Card


Hi friends! I know I've been pretty MIA lately, but I'm back today with a bang.

A friend of mine is starting a new business venture and she's looking to get 500 responses to a short survey. It takes less than 5 minutes to complete and as incentive to get a lot of participation, she's ponying up a chance to win a $500 Amazon gift card. Once the survey has been answered by 500 people, she'll select a winner to win the loot. Oh, and guess what, she's also giving a $500 Amazon gift card to the person who referred the winner. What better way to start this holiday season?

Click here to take the survey. Winners will be notified via email.

And please, spread the word about this awesome giveaway!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Roasted Cauliflower Cheddar Soup



This time of year, I love to cozy up to some nice hearty soups. Cauliflower is one of those vegetables that I'm not a huge fan of raw, but I love it when it's roasted and blended into a soup. This meal is warm and delicious: perfect for a chilly fall evening.

Roasted Cauliflower Cheddar Soup
From Cooking Classy
Yield: about 4-6 servings
Total Time:

INGREDIENTS:
1 large head cauliflower (2-2 1/2 lb.), cored and chopped into small, bite size pieces
1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 clove garlic, minced
3 cups milk
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream (optional: more delicious with it, healthier without it)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, plus more for garnish
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme (or a heaping 1/4 teaspoon dried)
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
4 oz. shredded sharp white cheddar cheese*, shredded (1 cup), plus more for serving if desired
1 oz. finely grated parmesan cheese (packed 1/4 cup)

*Can be replaced with regular sharp cheddar cheese

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place cauliflower on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake in preheated oven until golden, about 20-25 minutes.

In a large pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until tender, about 4-5 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, for about a minute. Then add in garlic and cook for another 30 seconds. While whisking, slowly pour in milk, followed by chicken broth, and then cream (if using). Add in parsley, thyme, bay leaf, sugar, and roasted cauliflower. Season soup to taste with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, and allow to cook until slightly thickened, about 10-15 minutes.

Using an immersion blender, blend the soup until smooth. Alternatively, you could slowly and carefully transfer the soup to a blender to smooth.

Remove from heat and stir in white cheddar cheese and parmesan cheese. Serve warm and garnish with additional cheese and herbs. Serve with fresh bread. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Creamy Dreamy All-Fruit Smoothie



I love making smoothies. In our house, we almost always drink a smoothie for breakfast and I love the way it starts my day with a big punch of nutrition and energy. I've been experimenting with different recipes and this creamy, dreamy orange-based smoothies is one of my favorites thus far. It combines the all-familiar delicious taste of an orange dreamsicle with the healthy benefits of a plate full of fruit. What could be better?

Creamy Dreamy All-Fruit Smoothie
Yield: 2 large glasses
Time: 10 minutes

INGREDIENTS:

2 oranges, peeled
2 bananas, peeled
1 pear, chopped
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1 cup frozen peaches

DIRECTIONS:

Put all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Transition


Pants: Target, T-shirt: Target Shoes: Target, Glasses: F21

It's that time of year when the weather can't quite make up it's mind. Some days it's as hot as Hades and other days, it's cool, crisp, and windy. I want to wear scarves, hats, and sweaters, but it's just not quite cold enough for that yet. Enter ankle boots--it's the one way I can welcome fall sartorially without unnecessarily overheating myself. Plus, boots are durable enough to allow you to climb on stairway railings. Cuz that's totally normal. Huzzah! 

In other ramblings, I'm totally digging this song, craving this drink, and loving this bedroom.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Brown Butter Cookie Company

In a sleepy little beach town called Cayucos, California, right off of Highway 1, there is a lovely bakery housed in a red barnhouse-style building that sells delicious, little cookies. It's called the Brown Butter Cookie Company and their signature brown butter cookie contains six simple ingredients. I'm not sure how they do it, but this cookie tastes like heaven on a beach. When you walk in, the folks behind the counter are quick to offer you a sample and as soon as you feel the sweet and salty crumbly texture of the cookie melt on your tongue, you're in trouble. You're in trouble because you immediately feel anxious about buying some of these amazing cookies. And before you know it, you're walking out of the store with a few less dollars in your wallet, but a few more amazing cookies for your belly. 






Monday, September 23, 2013

Western United States Road Trip Video



I put together a video re-capping our Western United States road trip this summer. We explored Utah, Nevada, and California by car and it was an incredible experience. On the trip, I remember thinking how amazing it was to see all that this huge, expansive part of the country has to offer. There are so many different landscapes and colors and beautiful natural scenery. There's also something that is so fun and freeing about driving from state to state in your own car. I hope this video captures that feeling of beauty, adventure, and freedom.

To read more about our summer road trip adventures, see below:

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Jerusalem on the BIG Screen


A new giant-screen film about Jerusalem is being released in IMAX and other large-screen theaters beginning this month. Jerusalem is not only beautiful and fascinating, it's an incredibly important city that holds a pivotal role in the world historically, spiritually, and politically.

I was blessed to live in Jerusalem for four months and it taught me so much. After coming back to the States, I remember thinking, "I wish everyone could visit and understand this great city." While travel to Jerusalem may not be realistic for a lot of people, perhaps this movie can help increase understanding of this important place in the world.

I love this portion of the filmmaker's statement:

"Our goal is to look at the roots of the universal attachment to Jerusalem: Jewish, Christian and Muslim. We hope the juxtaposition of these different religions and cultures – all with profound spiritual and historical connections to the city – will reveal how much Jews, Christians and Muslims have in common and inspire all of us to better understand each other."

Visit jerusalemthemovie.com to find a theater playing the film near you.





Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Fall is Coming...

Fall is coming... can you smell it? Yesterday the temperature felt a little cooler and I even turned the heater on in my car on my way home. Pretty soon, I'll be pulling socks on my feet and making hot cocoa to stay warm. And scarves. And beanies. And pumpkin bread. And Halloween. And plaid. And rain. And Thanksgiving. And Christmas...Eek! Yay! 

All images found on my pinterest page.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Chicken, Corn, & Green Onion Enchiladas


I mentioned yesterday that enchiladas are one of my go-to meals. After discovering this amazing recipe for homemade enchilada sauce, I'm even more in love with this great dish. It's delicious, filling, fairly healthy, and it's a crowd-pleaser. Plus, you can add or subtract ingredients to make it suit your own unique tastes: pork, chicken, beef, veggies, cheese, rice, beans, sauce. All of these can be swapped around to create the exact enchilada you like. I was really pleased with how these chicken, corn, and green onion enchiladas turned out and I'm excited to see what other variations I can think up. Really, the possibilities are endless.

Chicken & Corn Enchiladas with Red Sauce
Yield: 8 enchiladas
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Bake Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: about 45 minutes

INGREDIENTS:

2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded (I prefer this method for cooking delicious, moist chicken breasts)
2 ears of corn, cooked and stripped
1 cup shredded Mexican cheese
8 cooked tortillas
Chopped green onions

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease the bottom of a 8x12-inch glass baking dish.

In a large bowl, mix together chicken, corn, 1 cup enchilada sauce, and 1/2 cup cheese. Coat the bottom of glass dish with enchilada sauce. One at a time, add a large spoonful of chicken mixture to the middle of tortilla. Roll up tightly and transfer to baking dish, seam-side down. Repeat until the pan is filled. If you have extra chicken mixture, add to the top of rolled tortillas. Top generously with remaining enchilada sauce and sprinkle with remaining shredded cheese. 

Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes. Sprinkle with chopped green onions, let cool, then serve and enjoy! Add a side of brown rice and black beans for a full meal. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Homemade Enchilada Sauce



Enchiladas are one of my go-to meals for dinner. I seem to almost always have the main ingredients on hand and I love the way you can mix it up with enchiladas by using different sauces and different fillings. The other night, I wanted to make some enchiladas, but I didn't have any enchilada sauce on-hand. So I did what I typically do when I don't have an ingredient and I looked up how to make it online. I found this gem of a recipe and was so pleased with the result. It's got a great flavor that's a bit more complex than you'll experience with the canned variety. (P.S...enchilada recipe coming soon.)

Homemade Red Enchilada Sauce
From allrecipes.com
Yield: about 1 1/2 cups
Prep Time: about 10 minutes
Simmer Time: 15-20 minutes
Total Time: about 30 minutes

INGREDIENTS:

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon minced onion
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1/4 cup salsa
1 (6-oz.) can tomato sauce
1 1/2 cups water

DIRECTIONS:

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté for 1-2 minutes. Add the onion, oregano, chili powder, basil, black pepper, salt, cumin, parsley, salsa, and tomato sauce. Mix together, then stir in the water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Use to make enchiladas or as sauce for your favorite Mexican dish.

Enjoy!