Friday, January 24, 2014

5 on Friday: Vacation Edition

I'm trying to get back in the groove of writing this month. My personal goal for myself over winter break (my school gave us 2 weeks off!) was to relax and not blog one bit. Well, I did that and THEN some!
A 5 on Friday post is just what I need, as I have lots of fun upcoming trips to share with y'all!
Hope you enjoy reading, and check out AprilDarciNatasha, and Christina's blogs as well!

This time next week I will be in LAS VEGAS! 5 of my girlfriends and I FINALLY took the plunge on buying plane tickets, and we also got Britney Spears tickets. We are going to have the best time! We also have been sending each other the items in our Forever 21 carts. It is going to be ridiculous.

Connor and I will be heading to Folly (again) for Ryan's birthday weekend over Valentine's day. We rented a huge house a block from the beach and are hoping we have decent weather. Last year it rained the whole trip but we still made it a lot of fun. I can't wait to party with my favorite hooligans!

The weekend after Valentine's day, Connor and I are flying up to NYC for his sister's baby shower. I am helping 2 of her friends plan it (can't wait to share the details with y'all!), and his parents decided to come up for it as well. I LOVE visiting New York (we went over Labor Day last year, recap here and here), as we always have the best weather and food. We're hoping to try ramen this time (hoping to try Ippudo!)

Connor and I decided to take a week during my school's spring break (first week in March, also the weekend right after NYC) to explore the west coast. We are flying into Portland and out of Seattle. We are so excited for this trip! We are hoping to eat TONS of good food, try lots of great beer, tour some vineyards (Willamette Valley's Pinot Noir!), and generally try to {unsuccessfully} fit in with the west coast hipsters. If you have any suggestions for either city, please let me know! We will be doing 3 nights in Portland and 4 nights in Seattle.

We're going to be super super busy this late winter/early spring time, which never happens. I can't wait for all of our upcoming trips!

We're also headed to Charlottesville this weekend. We'll hopefully be cheering on the Hoos on Saturday as they destroy the Hokies (BOO TECH), and we'll be visiting with his parents as well. We can't wait!

Hope y'all have a great weekend!

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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Foodie gifts on a budget

I wanted to share the gift idea I had this year for my family's $10 limit Christmas. I looked high and low for small gifts with meaning, and was having a really hard time. I then looked on Pinterest (here's my holiday board) and an idea struck me: homemade gifts!
I kept the same budget rule for my co-workers. I packaged the marshmallows that I made along with a homemade hot chocolate mix (recipe here...used real powdered milk, not soy). I took some festive tartan & gold fabric, cut it into squares, and placed it over canning lids that went with the jars we got for our wedding. I also made little tags to tie on with twine, which had instructions on how to add the mix to hot milk.
  We obviously had to taste-test the mix + marshmallows! My co-workers said it was all just so rich and divine.

For my family, here is what I made:

I made a few pounds of spiced nuts (recipe here) and split them up evenly into plastic treat bags*. I was happy using this little kitchen scale we got as a wedding gift. It made sure that everyone got the same amount of nuts!
I also made little tags and tied the bags with more baker's twine.
I made my family small jars of the hot chocolate mix as well. I used cute red with white polka-dot fabric under the lid and striped red/white twine to tie on the tags.

For the 4 ladies, I made tea bags filled with black tea and chai spices. I kind of followed this recipe, but knew that masala chai is always different with each cook so it's OK to kind of throw different things together and fudge it. Again, I made more tags and packaged them in little canning jars.
For the 3 boys, I made a batch of bacon jam, recipe from the Kitchn. This was the only perishable item, so I had to keep it in the refrigerator and cooler during Christmas. It is an awesome and easy recipe that I think everyone should try. I packaged it in cute jars like the ones above.

For wrapping, I found these amaaaaaaazing Boston Terrier Santa & Mrs. Claus bags at Marshall's. They even had glitter on them. I mean, these were meant for me, right?
My mother texted me the other night, and mentioned that she and dad had dug into the tea and hot chocolate mixes and loved them. They are especially perfect for this damn Polar Vortex 2.0!

Hope you've gotten some inspiration for your next hostess/birthday/Christmas/whatever gift!
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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Winter break pt. 2

When we got back to Charlottesville, I picked up a full-blown headcold. One of those 48 hour bugs that just knocked me out. I managed to work up enough energy to go to dinner on Friday, to visit with my cousins and aunt/uncle. We ate at Zocalo, one of my favorite oldie-but-goodie restaurants on the downtown mall. Their menu has literally never changed since they opened, so we don't go too often. It totally hit the spot that night, though!
I started with a baby spinach & oyster salad. Fried oysters are one of my very favorite foods
For my entree, I ordered the mussels (off the app menu). I wasn't hungry enough for a full meal, and the spicy broth hit the spot.
My cousin ordered these gorgeous scallops. Those are always a hit! Other people ordered the steak and salmon. We had a great meal.
The next day, I could barely get out of bed. Bowser and I did lots of couch snuggling.

Sunday, I started to turn the corner, so I hung out with my bff Karah. She modeled her unicorn hat, a gift from her parents, and we goofed off all afternoon. 
We went to see American Hustle and then headed downtown for some snacks. We stopped at our favorite bar to get the cheese fries and watch some football. We then headed to our other favorite bar for a moscow mule (or 3). Then we went over to my sister's friend's house in Belmont and played a round of Cards Against Humanity. Seriously, I love that game.
I headed back on Monday morning with Bowser in tow. We didn't hit any traffic, so had a smooth ride. Bowser wanted to model his new hat and scarf that my aunt gave him for Christmas. I think he looks quite dapper.
On New Year's Eve, Connor and I popped some bubbly and had fun watching Miley videos while we got ready. I wore ALL gold!
My girlfriend Mary came over for a drink and we primped. Lots of fake eyelashes!
We headed over to a friend's house in Wilmore for some snacks & drinks before going to Nan & Byron's for the celebrations.
We had a ton of fun! The crowd was great, the music was really upbeat, and there were party favors
Connor decided to wear the hat he got when he was a groomsman in the Fall
We had a great time!
And then got rowdy....
I found this on my phone the next morning. I definitely was thinking my shadow was super artsy. Who the hell knows?
I had to take a whole day to recover. I basically stayed in bed and watched Bones while sipping chicken broth.

Thursday I got my act together and started planning for a 2-week detox. I decided to start swimming again (swam for 11 years!) and trying to regulate my diet. Not a New Year's resolution, but just an acknowledgement that I need to watch what I eat on the regular...

Friday we met Meredith & Casey at Tupelo Honey Cafe for dinner. We got the southern egg rolls (B-) while we waited.
Connor ordered the fried green tomato/bacon/pimento sandwich and tomato soup
I ordered the fried chicken sandwich. It was so juicy and delicious. They must soak the chicken in buttermilk. Since I was trying to be more conscious, I only ate about half of it. It was enormous!
The next day, we headed to Deep Sea Fish Market down on Monroe Road. Connor found it one day while searching around Yelp, and we were excited to finally try it out! They have super fresh fish/seafood options daily, and they also have a lunch menu. We ordered a salmon filet (and made it a few days later....such good quality!)
We shared a cup of oyster "pan roast"/soup. It was basically cream and tomatoes with fresh HUGE oysters plopped in. This was mind-blowingly flavorful
We shared the fried flounder sandwich and the mahi mahi banh mi. They were both so fresh and delicious. We definitely could have just split one sandwich!!
They use house-pickled veggies and sauce for the banh mi. It was just incredible.
That night, we got ready for a Mad Men themed fondue party with some of our foodie friends. I went ALL out! (and took a creepy selfie)
We brought the meat and broth fondue, and there were tons of veggies and 2 different cheese options as well.
I also made a curry/yogurt sauce, and there was also a chimichurri sauce. We had a blast!
Tons of wine was tasted, and our hostess showed off her adorable bottle stoppers
We had a blast at this foodie dinner party, and are hosting the next one in just 3 weeks! Yikes!
I hope to get back to regular blogging, but the beginning of the year always has me bogged down for some reason. Trying to lose the holiday weight, staying warm, and planning for LOTS of fun upcoming trips (will share soon!) has kept me super busy!
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