Christmas- A Day Late

First, let me just say, I meant to make this post happen much sooner, but I got strep throat and it has kept me a little preoccupied the last few days. Even as i type this my fingers feel exhausted from all the “bleh” I have been feeling this week. Anyway, B was out of town visiting family for the actual day of Christmas, so we decided to make Monday Christmas round 2! I’m willing to say it was better than Christmas round 1- for me at least. We started out the day by picking up B from the airport and heading to RnR for breakfast! Mmmmm Mmmmm! I love RnR, especially for breakfast! Best. French. Toast. Ever. Then we went to the grocery store to capitalise on the post Christmas sales. We got some hats and mugs and our tree! See below!

When we got home we started the Mulled Wine, (on a side note, I tried to get more Mulling Spices tins from Trader Joe’s last week to make cute little mulled wine gifts, but they are all out. I called all the Phoenix stores! I guess too many people are reading my blog and cleaned them out!) set up the tree, and got the house and ourselves ready for Christmas.
Cali rocked a Christmas collar
gifts under our "tree"
Our Christmas hats!
Then we unwrapped our presents. I got an adult onesie!!! and I gave B this painting among other things.
My interpretation of waves
Then we settled in with our mulled wine and several pre-recorded Christmas movies. By the way, if you haven’t watched Home Alone recently, and by recently, I mean as an adult, do yourself a favor and watch it. It is seriously hilarious. And uncle Frank is a real jerk!
Our new Christmas mugs filled with holiday spirits!
Then I made poached turkey breast (see previous post for recipe link), homemade mashed potatoes, green bean casserole and stuffing. It was a delicious feast! Stay tunes, another feast is planned for New Years Eve- assuming I don’t still feel like death warmed up!
The feast



Just a short post today. First off, Merry Christmas! I hope you enjoyed the day with family and those you love!
One of my favorite things around Christmas is wrapping gifts. I know, to some that sounds crazy, but I love how beautiful gifts can look before they are opened! I always wrap with a theme. This year, I was feeling candy canes! I didn’t have many gifts to give out this year, but here is the finished product!
A couple other Christmas tips: make sure you have plenty of food before Christmas day, grocery stores and fast food are not open! Chinese food and gas stations are pretty much the only options! Looking forward to tomorrow for a little post Christmas celebrating with the boy.


Ode to the Start of the NBA Season

I know I have been a bit absent lately, but I have an update coming soon. In the meantime, I had to share this press shot of my favorite polish, (potential serial killer,) big teddy bear, NBA stars. Gortat you have certainly won a place in my heart with this. A big thank you to the NBA for working your shiz out and giving us holiday basketball! Gooooooo Suns!


Weekend Rewind

This weekend was not very eventful (craft party aside) however, I did make a fantastic dinner and I found a fantastic store.

Two words: Hobby Lobby. I am not sure if I should be cursing everyone who has never told me how great it is or if it is a hidden gem that I am uncovering to the world, but holy moly Hobby Lobby is the greatest! I found (and purchased) such pretty things and most of it was more for decorating than for crafting. Yes, there are a million hobby items there, but the decor was amazing. Do you ever walk through model home and wonder where they get all the cool stuff they have on the walls or in the nooks? They knew about Hobby Lobby. Well now I do too and I have already added some great items to my life. And more importantly, they have black and white stripped fabrics- the material anomaly. Check out a few of my other adorable finds
I mean, totally adorable right? I didn’t even take pictures of all the cute furniture, Christmas decor or most of the wall. Do yourself a favor and take a trip to Hobby Lobby!

I cooked one heck of a delicious meal on Saturday night. Spinach tortellini bake, garlic parmesan knots brownie and mulled wine. I can’t take credit for the brownies, those came from a delicious Ghirardelli box, but I highly recommend the bake and the knots and most importantly the mulled wine.

Start with the wine first. You can follow recipes for mulled wine, or you can go to Trader Joes. They have a mulling spices can. It’s a combination of cinnamon, cloves, orange peel and some other spices. All you do is stick a few tablespoons in some cheese cloth and add it to a couple of bottles of wine in a pot on the stove (you can do this with cider too). For those that like a little kick, add some brandy. Heat on med-low heat for 20 minutes. Do not let it boil. I know hot wine sounds weird, but I tell you it tastes and smells like Christmas.
Wine and brandy in the pot with a pouch of mulling spices on medium heat.
Christmas in a mug! Absolutely delicious!
For the cranky pants that’s hungry in the other room, I love to make this easy appetizer. Cream cheese, pesto and some crackers. It looks a little funny but it’s delicious and it will keep the hungry at bay.
Cream cheese and pesto-yummy, cheap and easy!
Then get started on the tortellini spinach bake. I got the recipe on pinterest and made some adjustments. Below I copied the recipe with my adjustments.
Pretty delicious looking right?
Tortellini Spinach Bake in Creamy Lemon Sauce Recipe by Our Best Bites
12 oz bag Barilla Cheese & Spinach Tortellini (I used 2 bags of Trader Joes cheese tortellini)
4 oz bacon or pancetta, (about 4 strips bacon)*
3 cloves garlic, pressed in garlic press or finely minced (or make it easy and by a jar of minced garlic)
2 Tbs flour
2 C milk
¾ tsp salt
⅛ tsp black pepper
1 1/2 tsp dry basil
¼ tsp red pepper flakes (1/2 tsp or more if you like spicy)
1 medium lemon
2 C loosely packed fresh spinach
¾ C grated mozzarella cheese
¾ C grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Fill a large stock pot with water and bring to a boil. Add tortellini and cook according to package instructions.
Place bacon in a medium-sized skillet on the stove-top at medium-high heat. Cook until crisp. Remove bacon from pan with slotted spoon and set on paper towels to drain. Reserve two tablespoons bacon drippings in pan and discard the rest. Add garlic to pan and cook until fragrant and tender, about 1 minute. Add flour to pan and stir with a whisk for about 1 minute. Slowly add milk and continue to stir with whisk until smooth. Add salt, pepper, basil, and red pepper flakes and bring sauce to a simmer.
While sauce is heating, use a microplane grater or a fine-holed cheese grater to zest lemon. Then cut lemon in half and remove juice. Add 2 teaspoons zest and 1 tablespoon lemon juice to sauce. (Note: I really love lemon so I added this to my tastes. If you don’t want as strong of a lemon flavor, I suggest cutting it down to 1 teaspoon zest and 2 teaspoons lemon juice) . Continue to stir until thickened, 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat.
Drain tortellini and place back in stock pot. Reserve 1 tablespoon of the cooked bacon and add the rest to the pasta mixture. Add spinach, 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese and 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese. Add sauce and gently stir to combine. Place pasta mixture in an 8×8 or 9×9 baking dish and top with remaining 1/4 cup mozzarella and 1/4 cup parmesan and also crumbled bacon.
Cover pan with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes, until cheese on top is melted and pasta is bubbly throughout. Remove from oven and cool for 10 minutes before serving.
* For a vegetarian meal, omit bacon.
Serves 4-6 (I doubled everything and could eat it for a week by myself or feed a small army)
While the tortellini is cooking, you can get started on the knots! These are super easy and super delicious. My mouth is watering thinking about them! Also a pinterest find. I have included the recipe with photos!
Easy Parmesan Knots
  • 1 tube (12 ounces) refrigerated buttermilk biscuits ( I used Pillsbury Golden Layers Refrigerated Buttermilk Biscuits)
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese (I did use the green can stuff)
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
  1. Roll each biscuit into a 12-in. rope and tie into a knot; tuck ends under.
This is what my knots looked like
  1. Place 2 in. apart on a greased baking sheet. Bake at 400° for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the remaining ingredients; brush the warm knots with the mixture.
Just painting with parmesan
Yield:10 knots
Bon Appetite!


Arts and Crafts For Kids And Adults

This week was quite the crafty week. With the holidays approaching and my holiday shopping budget miniscule to say the least, crafting will become a regular downtime activity for me. I started december off with bang, by (cheaply) redecorating my office, Doing an art project with a classroom of 2nd graders, and having an adult craft night (wine included) with some of my friends.
First, I began working on my office redesign. Here is the before:
Pretty much just a boring, messy office. So i decided to make it more me. When you spend the majority of your time someplace, it might as well be a place you love right? My boss shot me down when I asked if I could paint a wall. but I managed to make it “a little bit Ashley” anyway.
Covered my bulletin board with fabric and got rid of the junk. Made a classy white board by placing fabric under the glass of a frame.
Cleaned off my desk, added some bling and added another fabric covered bulletin board. Brought in one of my black sequined pillows from home! My favorite new addition is the row of clip boards right next to my desk. They keep all my various paperwork organized and easily accessible. Probably covering them in fabric soon.
The bookshelf is still a work in progress. I lined the back with fabric and brought in some things to make it feel more like my space. Friends, Dance, Travel and Love- everytime I look over I am reminded of my favorite things!
Now if only I could have white or black furniture? Yeah right, I work nonprofit!
Then it was time for crafting with kiddos! As a leave behind holiday gift for the fire stations we work with, we decided to make holiday cork boards. Unfortunately we needed to make 56 of them. What better way to get them done quickly than to enlist the assistance of twenty-two 2nd graders! Ms. Novak’s class was a huge help. For a millisecond I thought, “hey it would be fun to be a teacher. Then Lauren told me that one of her students threw a chair at her just before we arrived. Nevermind, I will stick to Communications. The kids did a great job with our little art project! Here are a few of my favorites!
Then it was time for adult crafting. I believe all crafting should be done with good friends, inappropriate conversation and a glass of wine (and a few jello shots). The ladies did not disappoint. I wish I would have taken more pictures, but the food was fantastic (homemade potato soup, greek layer dip with pita chips and pesto stuffed mushrooms). Elisa was a wonderful host and even had our craft projects organized for us and examples pre-made (for the crafting challenged). It was a fun night of catching up!
Hard at work on our ornaments
My cardinal made out of a pine cone, a nut and some ribbon
Felt, a styrofoam ball and pins
I am happy to report I am attending another crafting girls night tonight! I just love the holidays!


Christmas on Crack

So the Christmas Mania has begun. Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas as much as the next person, but there is a point when it’s overkill. Tonight’s bronze snowflake award goes to this house that turned their garage into Santa’s cozy living room.

The silver snowflake award goes to this house just around the corner. It made my bronze winner look like child’s play! My favorite part of this display shad a giant trash can where they were collecting canned goods for the hungry!

Finally we have tonight’s golden snowflake award for Christmas on crack! Boy, would Jesus be proud (and SRP is thrilled by how much this homes electricity bill skyrockets in December!). Don’t worry, when it gets closer to Christmas, Santa will be sitting among the over 20 blow up decorations collecting your Christmas wishes. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if this family forces the kids to dress up like elves too. This is what you would see if you drove by.

Great job showing up the rest of the neighborhood.


Weekend Rewind

Because my weekends are always filled with something different, I decided to start a weekly weekend rewind to muse over the events that filled my days off! This weekend was particularly eventful since I have had a five and a half day weekend! Here are a few of the non-holiday related happenings!

This weekend I…
…went to my first hockey game
Yes, I am 26 and up until last week I had never been to a hockey game. It was fun, but I was hoping to see the “flying V” or something. The Coyotes were playing the Ducks after all! There weren’t even any real fights. On the plus side, I did my god deed for the day by catching a little stuffed SRP alien thing and giving it away to a little kid. (But only after checking to see if it was a winner. Sorry kid, but you wouldn’t have gotten “cuss” if it had been a winner!)
…watched a lot of Sex and The City
One of the items I find hard to resist on Black Friday is a good DVD. When I saw all the Sex and the City seasons on sale for only $7.99 I picked up season 5 and 6. Then I proceeded to watch both seasons followed by the movie (which I already owned). I think I might write a longer post about the women of SATC later. It was a lovely to spend part of my holiday in New York with the girls though!
…bought Fantastic Mr. Fox
A friend of mine told me a while ago that this was a fabulous movie. I hadn’t gotten the chance to see it yet, so when I saw it on sale at Target for $3.99, I was in. For as long as I can remember, I have found talking animals to be absolutely hysterical. Something about it just kills me! So this movie was sure to be a home run. The fantastic Mr Fox did not disappoint. Not only did the animals talk, but they were sarcastic and sassy. Because of the movie, I have officially adopted the word “cuss” to replace all cuss words. See above. Example : What the cuss! Maybe it will help me to tone down my unladylike rants.
…made Sunday dinner deliciousness
I love to cook, when inspired. Tell me to host a dinner party and I will take the day off work, just to make a ridiculously elaborate spread. However, I find that when it comes to just making dinner every night, I get bored and quite honestly I am often to exhausted just thinking about cooking after a long day, so I opt for something carry out. This Sunday when it was time to come up with a cheap dinner for 2, I tried to make it easy and delicious. Mission accomplished. I sautéed spinach with garlic and olive oil and cooked some risotto and ginger miso shrimp that have been hiding in the fridge. Best dinner I have had in a long time. I was pretty proud of my creation.
Here’s to a fantastic week ahead!

Strong Is The New Skinny

You laugh because it’s true!
I know I am not the only one that struggles with losing weight. (Of course I haven’t lost it, I know right where it is!) Staying in shape is constant struggle for just about everyone I know except for the blessed few that the rest of us hate. You know who I’m talking about, the fat kid stuck in a skinny girls body. Well I for one am done being a fat girl stuck in a fat girls body! Tomorrow I am going back to the gym. Sure it’s the holiday season and all of those little cottage cheese-like lumps that are cleaverly disguised as sweet holiday treats are about to be unleased. I like a challenge. So tomorrow, the gym and I are getting back together.
I was hoping to upgrade to the fancy Lifetime Fitness down the street, but those dreams were squashed when I got a price quote and realized it was going to cost me twice as much as my current gym membership. So instead I have set it as my first goal. When I lose 25 pounds, I get to upgrade myself to a fancy gym. There is something to be said for enjoying the space you are working out in, so it gives me something to work for. For now, LA Fitness, I’ll see you on the daily.
I am also lucky enough to live in a place that winter hiking does not require snowboots. So I used part of my weekend to start spending more time outside. I love being outdoors anyways, so if anyone is looking for a hiking buddy, give me a call.
Most importantly, I am not focused on being skinny. Strong is the new skinny and I would much rather get back my athletic body than be a skinny waif. Besides, I have to get my body beach ready if I am going to live near one soon!


Lessons I Learned Today From Pop Culture

The last couple yeas, haven’t been the easiest for me. I know everyone has good times and bad, but with the black clouds that have been following me lately, I feel like I must be due for a world of sunshine any day now. I am a big believer in bringing the good into your life by expelling the negative. I can’t say it is something I have done a very good job of lately.
My Black Friday consisted of little shopping but a lot of self realization. Do you ever have a day that just seems to be slapping you in the face? Everything you do, listen to, see, seems to be saying “wake up idiot and get your life together!”? That is what happened to me today.

First I went to The Muppet Movie expecting to enjoy a an hour and a half of silliness. Well the movie is everything you would expect and for me, there was a particularly poignant speech at the end. Gary is telling Walter that it’s time to grow up. I wish I could remember/successfully stalk the exact quotes, but what I took away from it was that you have to stop waiting for your life to start, it’s time to start being brave and go get what you want. It’s time to grow up. Well not to spoil it for anyone, but Walter firgures out what he needs to do to grow up and I think it’s time I follow his lead.

Then as I was driving home,it seemed as if life had handed me a personal soundtrack. We started out with Florence + the Machine’s Shake It Off. Please, if you are not already obssessed with this song, or this band, go right now and download! I’ll wait for you here. I have heard this song a few times, but didn’t really listen to the words until today.
“It’s hard to dance with the devil on your back so shake him off.”
“I’m done with my graceless heart so tonight I’m going to cut it out and restart”
Light bulb. “Yes Florence, you’re right. My heart has been pretty sour lately! I’m shaking that devil right off my back!” I thought as I drove down the 101. But my soundtrack of consciousness was not done there. Next it was Fly, by Nicki Minaj and Rhianna.
“I came to win, to fly, to conquer, to thrive. I came to win, to survive, to prosper to rise, to fly.”
Another light bulb, “Rhianna and Nicki, I did come to win. Thanks for reminding me of that!” Finally, as I pulled in the driveway, that infectious Colbie Caillat’s Brighter Than The Sun came on. How can you help but smile when listening to her songs (except for maybe her painfully beautiful cover/mashup of Breakeven and Fast car) ? This one didn’t hold any particular significance for me, but it was a nice, happy song to finish my drive with.

With all these light-bulbs shining, it was getting pretty clear that I can’t wait for New Years to make some resolutions. So, my Black Friday resolution is this: From here on out I will be focusing on the positive and flushing out all the negative from my life. I’m going to grow up, dance, fly and be brighter than the sun. Thank pop culture for reminding me how to get back on track.


Thanksgiving Thanks

I am a long way from hosting a Thanksgiving dinner. I think you have to at least have your own place for that. However, it hasn’t stopped me from dreaming of my future dinner plans.
First off, anyone who knows me knows I have a serious aversion to animal bones. The idea of cooking a boney turkey kind of makes me want to die. Fortunately, a few years ago I got this incredible recipe off an episode of the biggest loser courtesy of the fabulous Rocco DiSpirito. The recipe is for poached turkey breast and I promise it won’t disappoint. I have made it a few times and it has always been a huge hit! The meat is juicy and oh-so flavorful! I really wish I had a picture to add. But seriously, try it, it’s awesome!

Also if you know me, you know I believe ambiance is everything! With that said, I love tablescapes! You can’t table scape if all the food is all over the table, so I believe in buffets. Check out a few of these beautiful buffets and tablescapes.

Like I mentioned I like things that sparkle. Especially sparkly mini pumpkins. Okay, Okay, any excuse to use a mini pumpkin is fine by me. Is everything just better in miniature?
And finally, With all the cooking and decor, we women forget about another important part of Thanksgiving. FOOTBALL. So here are a few treats I found on Pinterest to satisfy the football fanatic in your house. (And it will keep them from bothering you about snacks while you are finishing the Thanksgiving feast.)

I have about a million things to be thankful for this year and I hope you do too. Have a wonderful and delicious Thanksgiving. Happy Eating!