Friday, December 21, 2018

New Year's Card Favorites (Because: Procrastination)

So, there's less than one week until did that happen?!  In years past, I've been so good about ordering and sending cards, but not so much this year.  I was actually having this conversation with my friend; it's surprising how late we are both feeling with everything Christmas-related even though Thanksgiving was so early this year.  There was definitely a lot of procrastinating going on this year.  I am usually the first one to have cards out (here's ours from last year) but still haven't even ordered.  I've even had the best Christmas card photo ready for almost a year from when it snowed in January in Charleston.  Christmas decorations in the snow in South Carolina?!  Yeah, that's not going to happen often.  Oh well, I guess I will be sending New Year's cards this year!  As always, my favorite, Minted has some awesome designs.  Here are my favorites:

Are you a card-sender?
Did you get Christmas cards out on-time this year?

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Easy, Homemade Toffee

I absolutely love this recipe.  Yes, it took me two tries the first time I made it to get it right, but now that I have, I swear, it's so easy.  You really just have to look for the right caramel color as you whisk, and the peanut butter trick is the best - more on that below!
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
- sprinkles, sliced almonds, or Maldon (flaked) salt for topping

1. Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper.  Do not use aluminum foil (it will cause a reaction in the toffee, and it will burn).
2. In a medium saucepan, combine butter, sugar, vanilla, and salt over medium-low heat.
3. Whisk until the butter has melted and the mixture is the color of peanut butter.  My peanut butter trick is to take a jar of peanut butter out of the cabinet, flip it upside down, and compare the caramel and peanut butter as I whisk.  This whisking will take 10-15 minutes.
4. Immediately spread the hot caramel mixture evenly across the wax paper.
5. Melt chocolate and drizzle over the caramel.  Top with nuts, sea salt, or spinkles, if you wish!
6. Allow to cool in the refrigerator for an hour before breaking into pieces.
This stuff is deadly, and I could seriously eat a whole tray.  Our favorite topping is the sea salt - the sweet + salty flavor is amazing.  This stuff will last for about a week (if you don't eat it before then).  On the first day you make it, it will be extremely hard, so I suggest making it a day in advance to soften up just a little bit (don't worry - it'll still be plenty crunchy).

Friday, December 14, 2018

Holiday Gifting Traditions: Stockings

Every year, stockings are always one of my favorite things to open.  Over the last 8 years, Mike and I have brought our family traditions together and always pack our stockings with the same few little gifts: a mix of practical and fun.  We do, however, still alternate between opening the stockings first (as my family did) or last (as his did).  This year, I went all-out on Target for shopping.  They just have the best little gifts.  I'm sharing a bunch of links with you to see what goes into our stockings each year, and what we specifically bought for this Christmas!
Socks - I always struggle with this one, whether to get something practical or cozy.  This year, it's been unseasonably cold in South Carolina, so I went with warm and fuzzy.  I couldn't resist these! How cool are these "12 days of socks," too?

Hot cocoa - I love buying single-serve cocoas to buy a couple different flavors.  These double chocolate and peppermint varieties look so good!  I couldn't find a link to them, but Land O Lakes makes delicious single serve ones, too.

Band aids - This is something I started adding in a few years back: fun band aids.  Yes, we're both in our 30s, but having cool Star Wars or Grinch band aids in the closest is just exciting, okay?!

Gift card - StarbucksNetflix, your favorite fast food, or stick with the stocking theme and go with Target!

Chocolate - My family's stocking tradition has always been a box of chocolate covered cherries, so those always make it in, plus some Ghiradelli.

Tissues - Everyone always needs a go-pack for their car or purse.  It's that time of year!

Koozies - This is a "southern" addition we started to add into our stockings a couple years ago.  Sometimes we grab and save them from places we've traveled to or find holiday-themed ones!

Small toy - This is another one Mike's mom has always had on his list, and as adults, we've had fun with this one.  Anything from those little wooden airplanes to mini Lego sets to games like Uno or Rubik's cubes have made it into the stockings.

Chapstick - For us, this is a real "his and hers" stuffer: he loves the Nivea balm and I love Vaseline lip therapy

and an orange at the toe!

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Frosted Sugar Cookies

It's cookie-baking season!  One of my absolute favorite are those big store-bought sugar cookies with the perfect proportion of frosting and cookie (in case you're asking, that's about 50/50 of each).  Last year, I had these cookies for the first time, and both the frosting and cookies are better than anything you can possibly buy.  They taste perfectly buttery, and like almond and vanilla.
Sugar Cookies:
- 2 1/2 cups cake flour
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup softened butter
- 1/4 cup all shortening
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 egg white
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Vanilla Buttercream:
- 1/3 cup softened butter
- 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1-2 drops almond extract
- 3 tablespoons half-and-half
- sprinkles and food coloring, optional
1. Sift together flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl.
2. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer whip butter, shortening, and sugar on medium speed until pale and fluffy; about 4 minutes.
3. Add in eggs, vanilla, and almond and mix until well combined.
4. With mixer running on medium speed, slowly add in the sifted dry ingredients.
5. Transfer the dough to a plastic container and refrigerate 2 hours.
6. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
7. Scoop dough into 1 tablespoon balls on a greased pan and flatten to 1/2 inch thick.
8. Bake for 9-11 minutes.
9. As cookies cool on a wire rack, combine all frosting ingredients and mix with an electric or hand mixer until light and fluffy.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Christmas Wish List

Happy Friday, friends!  I hope everyone is full into the holiday swing of things.  Decorating our home and spending time with friends (another gift swap party tonight!) has definitely taken over our lives, and this little blog has been taking the hit - haha.  I promise, though, I have a few posts up my sleeve to share over the next couple of weeks with delicious recipes and photos to share from around our home and around downtown Charleston.  

For now, I thought I would start December with one of my favorite things to read on fellow bloggers' pages: wish lists.  
I love seeing what other ladies are asking Santa for this year, and honestly, I get a lot of my own ideas from them.  I tried to mix some practical things like a new crossbody (I've been using the same one for 4+ years) and new makeup brushes (we won't talk about the last time I went shopping in that department...) with some splurges like a Capri Blue candle or (even more) nail polish.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Weeknight Dinner Made Easy: Baked Ziti and Avocado Caesar Salad

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #KitchenCraftedItalian #MichaelAngelosMeals #CollectiveBias

This time of year always has us going in about ten different directions every night.  Whether I have a work event, we're playing tennis, or out with friends, we always try to make it a point to eat dinner together.  Even when we don't have a lot of time, we obviously always want delicious meals with homemade taste and simple, clear ingredients.  Michael Angelo's is one of our new go-tos.  Their line of premium, slowly crafted authentic Italian meals has something for everyone.  Our current favorite is their Family Size Baked Ziti with Meatballs, and to go with it, I always like making a little something from scratch.  My avocado caesar salad is both fresh and delicious.
Avocado Caesar Salad Ingredients:
For dressing:
- 1 avocado, mashed
-2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 anchovy fillets, mashed
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
For salad:
- 1 heart of romaine
- croutons
- grilled chicken, sliced
I shopped for all of my fresh produce and Michael Angelo's meal at my local Walmart, in the freezer section.  Not only do they make one-step meals like the baked ziti we enjoyed last week, but also meal starters like lemon chicken and shrimp scampi as well as calzones and family-sized dinners!
1. Combine all dressing ingredients in a medium bowl and stir until smooth.
2. In a large bowl, tear apart the romaine heart into small pieces.  Toss with dressing.
3. Add in croutons and top with grilled chicken.
These Michael Angelo's meals are easy, family-favorite and single-serve meals in minutes, and pair perfectly with warm garlic bread or a fresh salad, just like my avocado caesar.
Make sure you visit this link for even more Michael Angelo's-inspired meal time inspiration, and when you go shopping, click here to earn cash back on Michael Angelo's products with Ibotta!

Thursday, November 15, 2018

October Review

Well, it's midway through November, so it seems about right to finally recap October, right?!  Looking back, writing this review just makes me tired.  I have no idea how, over the course of 7 weekends through September and October, we were gone for 6 of them (the seventh being Hurricane Flo).  Needless to say, when we got back about halfway through the month of October, we did all of... nothing.  And it was magical.

My birthday started the month, and Mike definitely made the big 3-0 special.  We met up with friends for happy hour, then he drove me all around downtown Charleston in circles to surprise me for dinner.  Well, apparently he was giving time for our friends at the happy hour to get to dinner, and a whole bunch of additional friends were waiting for my favorite - hibachi!  He also made me a delicious cake, themed with my favorite movie: 13 Going On 30.  He's a good one :)
The next two weekends we were in Minneapolis and Cape Cod for our final two weddings of the year.  They were both absolutely beautiful, and Mike was a very handsome best man for the second time this year!  
Spending time in New England is always my favorite this time of year, but when we got back, I could not wait to relax (aka not leave my house for like 2 weeks straight - haha).  I made my favorite soup, and when we got stir-crazy enough, we walked around Charleston to see all of the pretty fall decor!
There's nothing better than fall treats, and October always gets me.  Halloween candy is still flowing at our house, Second State has the best candy corn latte, and I can never pass up a festive donut!  Plus, Kelley hosted a super fun cookie decorating class with Emy.  If you are in the area and looking for the most beautiful (and delicious) cookies - definitely look her up!
And now, we are already almost at Thanksgiving!  I can't wait for my family to get into town this weekend and to eat ALL of the delicious food!

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Fall at The Cape

Last month, Mike and I were in Massachusetts for his best friend's wedding and spent time in one of the quintessential New England areas, just north of Cape Cod.  There are so many cute seaside towns between the Cape and Boston, and with the changing leaves and fall decorations, it could not have been a better time to visit. 

For most of the trip, we stayed in Scituate, just a block from the shore and a half mile from the lighthouse.  My absolute favorite part of staying in Scituate was walking out the peninsula to the lighthouse.  All of the little shore houses were so cute and the ocean views were amazing.
We also spent time in Marshfield, a little south of Scituate, for the actual wedding and rehearsal dinner.  The buoy collections are seriously one of my favorite things about New England towns.  Every fisher and lobsterman in the area decorates their buoys with their own designs to distinguish them from fellow boaters.  Inevitably, some of those buoys float away, and they end up on people's docks and beaches - hence, the collection!
And, of course, we found two adorable little coffee shops while we were in town - what else would you expect from us?!  The first was in Cohasset, Sea Bird Coffee.  We went on Friday morning, and it was "donut Friday."  I was obviously thrilled!  They get their donuts from a little bakery in Quincy and sell out almost every week.  Plus, the seasonal Brown Sugar Cardamom latte was perfect for the stormy weather.
The second coffee shop was back in Scituate, Lucky Finn Cafe, and we were so lucky to go on the best weekend of the fall.  Beach Plum Floral created the most beautiful installation and sold flowers for Alice's House.  Lucky Finn had some of the best cannolis I've had in my life and the seasonal hot, spiced apple cider was amazing!

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