Friday, December 30, 2011

The 80's Are Back (In A Good Way): Leg Warmers
These are actually homemade out of sweater sleeves by ThreeBirdNest on Etsy. Ah-mazing!
Jessica Elmore, Pinterest
Perfect for Valentines Day!

So, are you for or against this fashion revival?
For those looking to steal this style ASAP, Kohl's is currently having a 
great New Year's Sale on leg warmers. Happy shopping.
- J

Uggs for Cleveland

Cleveland's yucky weather has forced me to invest in a nice pair of winter boots. I was going for waterproof and realistic rather than cute and not-so effective. After trying out several different brands and styles the only pair that felt comfortable and met the criteria were the Ugg Womens Adirondack Tall boot. I've never spent this much on a pair of boots, and never did I think I'd actually purchase a pair of Uggs, but they're the type that will last me for years. They aren't your typical, slipper-looking Uggs, but this Cleveland weather doesn't mess around so I had to go rugged.

So now I officially have a pair of real Uggs, as opposed to my previous pairs of fake Uggs, or "F.U.'s" as I called them.

While the weather during our Christmas trip to Montana was unseasonably nice, there were a few days that they came in handy:

The Mr. and I freezing our butts off in Yellowstone as I model my new "R.U.'s"!

They also come in a super-cute, dark brown "Obsidian" color, which I now want as well.

Christmas in Montana

For the last nine years it has been a family tradition to spend Christmas in Costa Rica. Unfortunately, my brother couldn't get out of working this year. That coupled with the fact that he'd been asking us to come visit him while he's in college at Montana State for the last few years, helped us decide that maybe we should go the White Christmas route this year.

The Mr. and I decided to head out a few days before my mom and sister so we could get some skiing in at Big Sky. Then they joined us in Bozeman at an awesome rental cabin located on the banks of the Gallatin River. We even took a day trip to Yellowstone National Park, what was open at least.

It's going to be a picture overload so here we go...
After years of skiing we realized we didn't have any action shots of the two of us so we gave in and paid for the professional photos they take on the mountain. They turned out pretty good. I'm currently entertaining offers to be on the Olympic team.

Most of the fam in Yellowstone
Overlooking the Burning River
Burning River Hot Springs in Yellowstone. I didn't have the guts to wear a bathing suit in 24 degree weather, but the Mr. did (the guy way in the back waving, not the random dude about to fall over in the front)
Shopping was definitely on the agenda. At one of the stores I found the following interfaith "display". My mom and I got a kick out of it. 
I did buy these two super-cute candles. They totally fit my natural decorating style. My mom recommended burning them for a bit until they create a hole big enough to hide a tea candle. This will preserve the exterior appearance.
After all that shopping we were super-hungry. Even though we were in Montana, we still enjoyed our traditional Costa Rican Christmas dinner, lobster c/o my brother's work. They were so amazing. I had never cooked lobster before. Neither had my brother, who works at a seafood company, but he at least knew a lot about them. The end result: really tasty, but really messy. I'm talking lobster guts all over! So glad we cooked them in a rental home rather than my own kitchen. My mom cried as we were shoving them in the pots and shrieking (us not the lobsters). She's so cute, she can't even kill a spider.
Arriving back in the 216

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Man In The Moon

When we were younger, our dad would pick one lucky kid each night to carry outside and admire the starry sky. But he wouldn't just pick you up and take you outside. He made a long, drawn out ordeal out of it and we loved it. Usually he would start with a selection process that utilized eenie meenie miny mo. He would then lie the chosen child down onto an open blanket and wrap us up like a burrito. This took several minutes as he would spend time meticulously tucking in all of the corners, starting over if need be.

Once the selection and preparation process was over he would lift our 40 pound frames acting like we were the heaviest things on earth and, knowing he was overexaggerating, we'd yell, "Daddy, I'm not that heavy!!!" Laughing he would bring us out onto the back porch, prop us on the railing, and we would spend forever looking up at the stars. We'd wonder what was out there, neither one of us more intellegent on the subject than the other. And it was in those moments where I knew that his whole world revolved around me as if I was the center of the universe. Content in this thought I would fall asleep there in his arms under the sky and he'd eventually carry me to bed.

It is because of these memories that I've thought of "purchasing" a star in his name. However, through a fairly detailed search of different companies in the business of selling stars and reviewing the International Austronomical Union website, I realized that there is no such thing as naming a star after someone. No company actually owns the rights to sell a star so you are essentially paying for the paper the "certificate" is printed on. The only way to truly name a star is by discovering a brand new, never before seen star. Then, the several-year process of verfiying it's actually a star must be done before you are listed as the discoverer and can then pick a name. Needless to say, I decided against naming a star after my dad and simply chose a well known object in the sky instead. And thinking about it, my dad isn't just one tiny speck in the night sky, he has to be the biggest thing that you can see. So about a year ago I decided that he would be my moon.

Every time I look up I see it and say, "hi dad" or "goodnight dad". I'm comforted in the steadfast belief knowledge that he's perched up there on the moon watching me while I sleep, keeping me comfort during the loneliest hours of the day.

Since making this decision there have been numerous occasions where I've known he was there. This past August, just a few days shy of his one year anniversary, we took a trip out to Rattlesnake Island on Lake Erie with the in-laws. All afternoon it had been cloudy and rainy. By 10pm, while it was still cloudy, the rain had let up and there were about seven of us sitting out on the deck by the pool listening to the music coming from the jukebox in the bar as we chatted. It was pitch black and began thinking about how much my dad would enjoy sitting there with us. As I often do while listening to music since my dad died, I started to cry. Quietly so no one could hear me, but still, full on tears streaming down my face. 

The actual photo from that moment (as well as the one above)
Right as it was about to turn into a full-blown, audible cry (despite my attempts to avoid it because I had an audience) I kid you not, the clouds parted revealing a nearly-full moon, reflecting beautifully off the lake. Simultaneously, the song "Dancing in the Moonlight" began playing on the jukebox. Tears streaming down my face, I began to laugh. The song to follow also had "moon" in the title, but I can't remember it.
While that wasn't the first time I'd been convinced my dad is still here watching over me, it certainly was a much-needed affirmation during that dark night.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Urban Spoon Dinner Club - Club Isabella

The Urban Spoon Dinner Club (USDC), or Us-dick as the mature members of the club call it, came about through a necessity for trying out new restaurants after becoming bored of our usual eateries. We knew there had to be other places to try, but couldn't think of any that we could all agree upon. So we decided to Urban Spoon it and go with the first restaurant that we "shook up". We quickly termed it the USDC and, after a few drinks, the less classy term was coined as well.

There are several ridiculous rules that I won't bore you with, but essentially it has to be a place that most of us have never tried. Also, whatever Urban Spoon comes up with you have to go with. This way we don't spend hours trying to decide on an option we can all agree upon and we are constantly experiencing something different that the city has to offer. The group consists of six key members, but we do allow "temporary membership" for individual outings.

Our most recent venture was to Club Isabella in Little Italy. This quaint restaurant sits just over the railroad tracks from Case Western Reserve University. The interior decor is warm and inviting, while simultaneously upscale and modern. We arrived a few minutes before our 8pm reservation and were able to relax fireside in their lounge while we waited. The added ambiance of the musician playing at the other end of the room made the night romantic.

The meal began with a Sushi Amouse Bouche.

Tartar Trio Appetizer (Beef, Salmon & Tuna) with deep fried egg & toast.
Split between the hubby and I, we were expecting thinly sliced pieces of meat, but this was equally as tasty. I figured the tuna would be my favorite, but I fell in love with the salmon instead.

Wedge salad with deep fried egg.
 Consistent with what you would expect from a wedge salad.

Beef Cheek Ravioli
So different from what you picture as beef ravioli, but so amazing. This was by far my favorite part of the meal. The beef is literally from the inside cheeks of cows so it's super tender and tasty. Sometimes I'm disappointed by the number of raviolis you get while dining at fancier restaurants, but the combination of the appetizer and salad leading up to the main course and the richness of the beef cheek made five raviolis about all I could handle.

Of course, there's always room for dessert. The hubby and I split their Vanilla Bean Creme Brule, but were so eager to dive in that I totally forgot to take a pic. Sorry!!!

Cozying Up To Coats

I'm from Denver where the saying, "If you don't like the weather, wait 5 minutes" really does mean something. The May before I moved to Cleveland it was 80 degrees one day, the next day it snowed a foot, and the day after that the 70 degree weather had melted the snow by noon. That, my midwesterners, is a true example of "wait 5 minutes".

So it makes sense that us Coloradans don't always leave the house bundled up or prepared. On top of the fact that we're rugged and used to the cold, terrible weather doesn't last that long anyway. The only fashion accessory you never leave the house without in Colorado is a pair of sunglasses. Night and day they were on. I wore them 24-7, either as a headband so they were readily available, or for their intended purpose.

For the past three, long Cleveland winters I've suffered through these cold temps often coat-less. It's not that I don't have any coats, I just haven't wanted to wear them. Despite getting yelled at by co-workers, in-laws, and friends. I went coat-less mostly out of habit, but partially out of principal. However, I've decided this is the year for change. Funny that the year I choose to embrace coats it's the middle of December and 50 degrees, but I'm still sticking to it. No longer will I suffer.

So now I'm excited about the new fashion that these coats will add to my wardrobe and I can't get over all the new, and classic, styles available for those of us gearing up for a long, grey, cold four months.

My new love, Cape Coats. They remind me of what fairytale characters would wear, think Little Red Riding Hood, yet they still translate to the modern day, real world. Keep in mind the cape coat limits your handbag options. Pairing it with a clutch will secure a classic, effortless look.

Photo Courtesy Mr. Newton
Photo Courtesy of I Am Fashion Weak
Zara crossover cape
Staple Button Up Cape Coat
BB Dakota Calhoun Cape Coat
Yinhoo Hooded Cape Coat

Friday, December 9, 2011

Christmas Wreath Cookie Recipe

Okay, this will bring you back to the 80's. This festive version of the Rice Crispy Treat is an annual Christmas staple in our house and a must-have for our Christmas Tree Decorating Party. Lucky for you, they're fairly easy to make.

1/3 Cup of Butter
42 Large Marshmallows (typically the full bag)
1 Tsp. Green Food Coloring
1/2 Tsp. Almond Flavoring
1/2 Tsp. Vanilla
4 Cups of Cornflakes
Red Cinnamon Candies
Gold & Silver Candy Balls (I can never find these, if you can, please let me know where you got them!)
Bowl of Water

Melt butter and marshmallows in a large, high rimmed pot. Add coloring and extracts. Fold in the cornflakes until well coated.

Use about one large spoonful for each cookie. I've found that placing them on parchment paper is best because they don't stick to it as much as they stick to waxed paper. While still warm, dip your fingertips into the bowl of water and shape each spoonful into circular wreaths. Then, before the wreaths have completely cooled, place a few of the cinnamon candies and gold and silver candy balls onto each wreath. Allow to cool several hours.

It is best to keep the wreaths on the parchment paper to serve. Once the wreaths have cooled, cut out the paper into individual circles around each wreath. Each recipe makes about 10-12 cookies so double or triple if need be.

These are a perfect project to make with kids. Send with them to school as a thank you to teachers or as a treat for classmates.

Friday, December 2, 2011

3rd Annual Christmas Tree Decorating Party

The shopping list is underway for tomorrow's 3rd Annual Christmas Tree Decorating Party. I'm going with a red and green color scheme for the food, except for the chocolate chip cookies. Those are pretty much a standard party favorite.

For coverage of last year's party and more detail on the background of our Christmas traditions, click HERE.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Taco Presentation Ideas

This unique idea comes courtesy of Pier W here in Cleveland. Over Thanksgiving break I wanted to take my family, in town for the holiday, to a unique Cleveland restaurant. We chose Pier W for their breathtaking views of downtown Cleveland and excellent culinary skills.

As an appetizer we ordered their tilapia tacos and were impressed by the presentation. Rather than your typical restaurant that serves the tacos lying on their side with the stuffing falling out, Pier W uniquely places their tacos on a bed of guacamole. This technique holds the tacos in an upright position and prevents the messy fallout of ingredients. I am now obsessed with this idea.

View from Pier W
Another helpful taco tip that I learned years ago: When serving hard tacos, place a full piece of lettuce between the taco and the stuffing. This will help avoid any content loss due to the cracking and breaking of the taco. The lettuce serves as a backup taco if you will.

So you've learned two resourceful, clever ways to serve tacos. Now I'm hungry!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Marcel The Shell

Internet sensation Marcel The Shell With Shoes On came out with part two on Monday and in less than three days she's already got over one million hits on YouTube.

If you ask me, the original Marcel the Shell (with over 12 million hits) is still the best one:

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday

 This is how we often find Breck, passed out under our bed like the Wicked Witch of the West. She loves it!
Now for the wordless part...

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Shoe Organization

The key to successful organization is to realize your weaknesses and work around them. I've spent so much time trying to change my innate habits, but eventually found the easiest, most successful way of tackling my clutter is to work around who I am.

Case in point, our foyer. It's filled with shoes. At least 18 pairs. And that's just ours. You should see it when we have guests over. We both recognize it's a problem, but in two different ways. The hubby thinks the shoes don't belong there at all. While that may or may not be true, that's where they've been for 3+ years, so that's where they'll always be. Lesson learned. No point anymore in trying to change.
Photo courtesy of

So off I went on a search for shoe organization. My initial thought was a rock-filled shoe tray. They're gorgeous, functional in that they drain water and snow away from the shoes, and they fit my style perfectly. However, finding a tray that fit our foyer perfectly was not in the picture. Plus, they only fit one level of shoes and would take care of about 1/3 of our problem.

Photo courtesy of
Luckily, during my Thanksgiving preparatory trip to Costco I found the Seville 3-Tier Metal and Bamboo Storage and Shoe Rack.  I bought two, of course. They're super easy to put together (no tools needed) and can be assembled in many different combinations to fit your space/needs. The end result is a totally organized foyer and time saved trying to find matching pairs.

P.S. This lesson can be applied to more than just organization. Playing to your weaknesses rather than trying to change them is the easiest way to accomplish your goals.

Friday, November 4, 2011

A Knitted Cake

Since I'm now the official resident cake baker in the family, I was recently asked to create a cake for my husband's grandmother with the only stipulation that it be chocolate. Otherwise I was working with a blank slate. For the record I prefer that so much more than when you approach me with specific details of exactly what you want. While in the shower (all my best ideas come to me in the shower for some reason - I need to get a water-proof whiteboard for notes) I pondered "Nanny's" favorite things. Knitting was the first, and easiest, idea that came to mind. Right then and there I pictured a dark chocolate cake draped with a half-way complete white blanket. The contrast would be simple, yet elegant.

So I got to work creating the inside of the cake as I always do. From two Duncan Hines boxed mixes spread into three circular 9" pans. For those who are counting two cake mixes technically fill up four 9" circular pans. I used the remaining 1/4 of mix to make cupcakes (you'll see why later). The finished product: a three layer cake with a raspberry filled center.

Next I created the dark brown fondant, aka the first part of the visual contrast. It took three mini-bottles of dark brown coloring and just one recipe of my special marshmallow fondant (I'll share this easy and inexpensive recipe soon) to cover this cake.

With the easier part complete, my biggest worry was how to create the actual knitted piece. I first envisioned rolling out hard fondant like you would a snake out with play dough and then "braiding" them together, but soon realised piping out butter cream frosting would be much easier and quicker. I practiced a bit before beginning.

Since the knitting was suppose to look like a work in progress I would need knitting needles. All of my actual knitting needles were mid-project themselves since I haven't knitted in years, but have high hopes of continuing. So I went with regular old chopsticks. I'm addicted to sushi so I have plenty of those sitting around.

I started by piping out frosting every centimeter or so over the needles. Once I had "casted on" the first layer I simply looped the frosting from there. Creating layer after layer over the top of  the cake and then draped down the sides. This is where the cupcakes come in. I used two, one is sufficient though, cupcakes and completely covered them with piped buttercream frosting, giving the idea that they were balls of yarn. Then I continued the yarn up into the knitting for a complete look. One ball of yarn was used to supply the blanket and the other used to create the Happy Birthday!

Rarely do my cakes turn out close to what I had envisioned. However, this is the first time that the finished product looked identical to what I had first pictured in the shower. Let the record show it was a huge hit and I was her favorite grandchild for the night.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Stuffed Poblano Peppers

Inspired by a friend who recently served stuffed banana peppers, I made a last minute run out to Whole Foods last night to concoct a similar version for dinner. While I didn't look too hard, I was unable to find fresh banana peppers so I went with Poblano instead. Awesome choice!

Stuffed Poblano peppers are typically served as a Mexican dish, but I had an obscene amount of sweet Italian sausage at home (thank you Costco) so I went with an Italian theme instead.

One thing about me, as a cook. I am not a measurer. Baking of course, cooking rarely. Especially if I'm not going off a recipe and just making it up on my own (which I love). Often the hubby just looks at me and sarcastically questions, "You just CAME up with this on your own?!?!" Like he doesn't believe things can be made without following recipes.

This held true for last nights "recipe" as well. I mixed several casings of the Italian sausage (removing the sausage from the actual casing first) with Monterrey Jack cheese. No idea why I went with that cheese. I should have used Mozzarella, but I think that would have been Italian overkill anyway. I threw in a dash of dried Oregano and Basil seasonings and mixed together.

Now the gloves come off. Remove all jewelry and get your hands dirty. Stuff each hallowed out, washed pepper full of the sausage and cheese mixture till it's overflowing. Next, place the stuffed peppers on a pre-heated grill pan. My sister gave us one for our wedding from Crate & Barrel. They're perfect for grilling when the hubby's gone or the back deck has a foot of snow on it. Especially if you go with cast iron, which seasons itself the more you use it. I want to get one for my mom so she can grill whenever she wants.

Anyway, cook on both sides until you get nice grill marks. The sausage won't be cooked through though, so you'll have to place the peppers in a pan and finish cooking at 350 degrees in the oven. This should take about 20 minutes.

Since there are really only three main ingredients it's an easy, no-recipe-to-follow dish to take a risk on. The Poblano peppers give a little kick and crunch to the dish. Add a can of marinara sauce and serve on a bed of Penne pasta for a complete meal.

I'm Falling For Fall

Photo courtesy of
Especially in Cleveland! Summer is way too hot and humid, Spring is really rainy and wet, and Winter? Well everyone knows about Winter in the Cleve. (The people here don't know how to drive, it baffles me that anyone would buy a 2WD here, and the snow stays on the ground from December through February.)

Fall is by far my favorite season everywhere, but I appreciate it even more now that I live here. Fashion-wise, it's the best. Scarves, boots, vests, corduroy pants, etc etc. It's the one and only time I appreciate all of these monsterous trees (there's nothing like seeing the rolling area hills on "fire"). Did I mention the weather relief?

It seems I'm not the only one either. Every other day I'm reading on Facebook how my friends are relieved that fall has arrived.

In honor of this glorious season, I'm planning some awesome fall blog posts. Places to visit, recipes to cook, crafts to make, and drinks to, well, drink. The list is bountiful. Some might be Cleveland-tailored, but you can adjust by region.

To kick-start us off, I just found out the Cleveland Botanical Garden is hosting their Second Annual Ripe! Fest. Featuring local chefs and farmers, cooking demos and tastings, live bands, a farmers market, and children's activities. It starts today, but you can stop by this whole weekend (September 23-25) to get yourself in the fall mood. While you're there, peruse the grounds to take in all of the fall folliage. Visit for more information.
For those not in Cleveland, check out your local farmers market. Their bound to have some awesome prepared seasonal foods to grub on (think caramel apples on sticks for the kids) as well as fall vegetables to stalk up on. Are you excited yet?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Use Number 797,654 For Ziploc Bags

Once again I find myself in the middle of a home painting project. We can never get anything completed in one day so there's always a "middle". I enjoy the painting, it's the cleaning up part that I hate! Depending on how many brushes and rollers I use, it can take a good 30 minutes at the end of the day (aka middle of the night) to clean. After day two of our latest project, painting our remodeled kitchen, I remembered a trick I saw my parents do once.

If you place your paint brushes in Ziploc bags, seal them tight pushing out excess air, and store them in the refrigerator the paint will stay wet for several weeks and the brushes won't get ruined. Rollers don't last as long as brushes do because of the added air that surrounds them. Essentially, it's almost more beneficial to pack on the paint before you place them in bags for storage. As to why you should put them in the fridge, I don't have a good reason. That's just always what my parents did.

And you thought there were no more uses for Ziplocs. Paint away!

P.S. Pics of our finished remodel job to come. Aren't you loving that deep Merlot color though? It's actually "Blackberry" by Sherwin Williams.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Re-Purposing Liquor Bottles

Wondering how to get a second life out of those pretty liquor bottles that once adorned your bar? So was I after the hubby finished off his Jack Daniel's Single Barrel (with the help of friends) and was preparing to throw it in recycle. In a desperate attempt to convince him not to toss it, it dawned on me; why not use it to class up the bathroom.

Specifically, I refilled the Single Barrel bottle with green mouthwash.

While I brought this bottle upstairs because it's pretty, he just loves the fact that every morning he's taking a swig from a Single Barrel bottle. Can't get more manly than that.

Another, less manly option: Bubble bath. It's probably the only safe way to use these bottles in the actual tub as BB is typically applied before you get in when your hands are still dry.

Just don't get them mixed up!

Of course, this may not be a great idea if you share the bathroom with little ones. Both for breakage and responsibility purposes.