Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Soundtracks: Sweet Love

A lot of my all-time favorite artists are included in these next two, love-inspired soundtracks. I'm a total sucker for Snow Patrol, not to mention the fact that these albums are packed beginning-to-end with fantastic artists that I have loved and known for years. The combinations of songs are absolutely genius. Enjoy!

The Last Kiss
Featuring: Snow Patrol, Joshua Radin, Turin Brakes, Coldplay, Cary Brothers, Athlete, Imogen Heap, Rachael Yamagata, Ray LaMontagne, Remy Zero, Fiona Apple, Aimee Mann, Amos Lee, Rufus Wainwright and Schuyler Fisk

Wicker Park
Featuring: Stereophonics, Lifehouse, Death Cab for Cutie, Snow Patrol, Broken Social Scene, The Stills, Mazzy Star, The Legends, The Shins, Jaime Wyatt, Mates of State, +/-, Mum, The Postal Service, Aqualung, Mogwai, and Danny Lohner & Johnette Napolitano

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Upcoming Party Inspiration

I'm getting really excited about some upcoming parties I'm planning! It's always fun to pull together inspiration and ideas to help me get on the right track. I've started using Polyvore (thanks to my friend, Tiffany) to display things that have inspired me during each planning process. Without giving anything away, I thought I'd share my inspiration for the next 4 parties on my To-Do-List. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Dear Heart, Don't Stop Fighting.. Prepare, Ride the Lightning

Lots of things have happened in the past several weeks..

Work has been OK but stressful.. Every year around this time, I face the fear of losing my job, as a result of job cuts and downsizing. I can only trust that God has something great planned for me, whether it's this job (that I love) or something else, somewhere else.

I'm coming up on my 4-year anniversary of living in South Carolina. So crazy! Has time really gone that fast? It feels like just a few months ago, Justin was helping me pack my car to the brim and head down to warmer weather. Since then, we've been married and seen friends get married, we've made new friends, we've gone through the excitement of babies being born and soon-to-be born, we've had a ridiculous amount of parties and beach trips.. Oh, and speaking of weddings and babies? Eeee! I'm so excited for my friends! I can't wait!! More excitement on some big news later (and no, I'm not preggo).

Justin and I had the sweetest Valentine's Day. We made our usual reservation at P.F. Chang's and dinner was delish (as always) and our server was really cool. The only downside to the whole evening? If you've ever been to P.F. Chang's (or at least the one in Greenville), there is some good seating and some blah seating. We knew it would be too much to ask for a booth, so we followed the hostess to our table against the wall (half booth/half chairs). The wall-side tables are spaced really close.. almost too close. Everything was great and lovely until a really awkward couple was seated right beside us. The guy actually looked like he might be her dad and the girl had crusty hair and was dressed like she was getting ready to host a Garage Sale. They stared at us for most of the evening, which was ignorable. The part we had a hard time ignoring was every single time Flannel Girl hacked up phlegm and made gurgling sounds as we were eating our fantastic Lettuce Wraps and Crab Wontons. C'monnn! Besides the gagging and gurgling, the couple didn't even interact! They were on their phones the whole time. Happy Valentine's Day, weirdos!

We agreed not to exchange gifts this year, but of course Justin broke the agreement. We even had the discussion a few weeks ago: "So, babe.. 'no gifts' this year really means 'no gifts', right? It's not the kinda thing when we say 'no gifts' but then you go and get something anyway, is it?" Riiighht. Well, I sure felt like a loser when Monday rolled around, and my husband surprised me with beautiful flowers, a cute card, chocolates and a little gift bag for me. What?? Cheater! I couldn't believe it.

Me & My Valentine..
His "Lil' Monster Valentine" card cracked me up!
Pretty Daffodils & Irises
The first time I've ever received boxed chocolates!
Although I didn't get him an actual gift, I did cheat a little myself. After my client cancelled for Monday afternoon, I chose not to tell Justin. Instead, I planned to clean the apartment like a crazy-woman and bake some yummy things for him. I made one of his favorite desserts from when he was a kid - Funny Cake, and a new dessert that I haven't had a chance to make yet. It's called "Better-Than-Sex-Cake".. The name is a little risqué, but the cake is flippin' amazing. We spent the rest of the night rotting our teeth and watching movies. Man, I love Valentine's Day.

The recipe came from my Aunt Sheree.. I can't believe I haven't made it before! It's SO EASY!

Better-Than-Sex Cake 
1 box chocolate cake mix (I used a fudge cake recipe)
1 jar butterscotch/caramel ice cream topping
1 (8oz) Cool Whip
2-3 crushed Butterfingers

Bake cake according to box (I used 2 springform pans and when they cooled, I stacked them with a super-thin layer of chocolate frosting between). After the cake has cooled, poke several holes in the cake with the handle of a wooden or plastic spoon. Drizzle butterscotch/caramel topping over cake, making sure it flows into poked holes. Frost with Cool Whip and sprinkle with crushed Butterfingers.

Other than working and baking (ha!) I have been planning quite a few parties! I have a Rockstar Birthday Party coming up at the end of this month that I'm helping with, as well as a bridal shower, a birthday party and a baby shower for the month of March. Am I crazy?! Either way, I can't wait! PLUS, Marta is coming back for Round Three! She flies in on March 10th to celebrate my birthday and make even more memories together. I can't even put into words my excitement when friends/family come to visit!

I guess that's basically the latest.. No crazy stories for now, but I'm sure we'll have some soon enough. Oh yeah, one last thing.. Justin and I are super-pumped for an upcoming show we're hitting in May. Sleigh Bells!! AUGH! Gonna be insane.

What I'm Listening To:
Sleigh Bells


[Lyrics: Sleigh Bells - "Riot Rhythm"]

Monday, February 7, 2011

A Birthday Party Inspired by Piggies

Yay for more parties!!! For our friend Theresa's birthday, her husband, Josh, gave me a budget and 3 weeks to create a "fabulous birthday party", doing anything theme I wanted to. Hello, dream! I have learned a few things while planning and throwing parties in the last couple years, especially that parties can get expensive. I have also learned that they don't have to get expensive if you do it right. I love doing DIY-type stuff as it is, which is probably why I love planning parties so much!

I really wanted to come up with something fun and new for this party (which was this past weekend). I know Theresa (like me), loves turquoise, so I wanted to incorporate that color in with my ideas. Theresa also has a crazy love for pigs, so I decided to throw a sweet little "Pig Party". Planning this party was a little trickier than usual. The party was at Josh & Theresa's friend's place - people we've never met. Luckily, their friends and I were able to chat before the party, to get an idea of what I had to work with. Not to mention, Jody helped me (bigtime!) with setting up. Having her there made it way less awkward, since we were literally transforming some strangers' dining room into a birthday wonderland.

Since it was a party inspired by piggies, I had to include pink (duh!). Seriously, what's cuter than pink & teal?! I was surprised not to find any inspiration from other party blogs and usual sources I go to for ideas. It totally didn't matter though, because I feel like I came up with some pretty fun ideas of my own. Of course, I had to make a garland and decided to do one with wide-flags. I found a bunch of fabulous paper at Hobby Lobby.. light and hot pink solids and patterns and a couple turquoise tones. To balance the party from being mostly all-pink, I made some fun little poms with turquoise tissue.

I wanted to get a little more creative with the poms, since I use them so often. Instead of doing them the regular/common way, I decided not to shape the edges. I folded and secured them as usual, and cut each folded-crease vertically, giving them more of a cheerleader-pom look. They were absolutely perfect. 

While I was at Hobby Lobby, I checked out their tulle and found it on sale. I bought a couple yards of net-tulle, instead of the standard kind. I thought it would be super cute to create a couple tulle-poms to add to the "hanging centerpiece".

Each place setting included a 'pig nose' which I made from sticks and cardstock. I found the perfect little pigs (actually pencil-top erasers) at Party City, along with some adorable, turquoise goblets. Continuing with the pig-theme, I bought some pink pipe-cleaners and twisted them around the base of each goblet, to look like pig tails. I found the perfect 'pig tail' paper at Hobby Lobby, and used a sheet for each setting.

Lots of candles! I used paper and ribbon to dress up some cute, stemmed candle-holders I found at Dollar Tree last Thanksgiving. I wanted to add some more glass and candles, so I went back to Dollar Tree for some more. Square holders with white, lavender candles. I wrapped each square holder with paper, ribbon and some sweet, silver chord.

I loved the way silver looked with all of the pink and teal. I incorporated some candlesticks we have from Ikea. Instead of using candles. I placed 4 of the smaller hollow yarn balls I made for my Italian Party, last December.

Theresa requested her favorite Hawaiian Cupcakes I make (well, my mom's recipe). I made some fun little toppers with extra paper and ribbon. I found the image on a kids' free coloring pages website - Image.

Yummy Italian for dinner.. Angel-hair Spaghetti, salad with {Jody's} homemade dressing and croutons, bread with {Jody's} homemade butter and Italian-seasoned oil. Yuuhhuum!

Happy Birthday, Theresa!! What a fun night..


Sunday, February 6, 2011

Recipe: Stuffed Shells

My sweet, little mom is one of the best cooks I know. I couldn't possibly be more blessed with an abundance of mouth-watering recipes and knowledge, thanks to her. For dinner the other night, I made one of my favorite recipes of hers.. Stuffed Shells. It's so delish, I thought I'd share.

Stuffed Shells
To get started, boil a box of large pasta shells. Meanwhile, fry a pound of beef with with minced onion and garlic powder. After you drain, combine meat with a jar of traditional Prego and about 3/4 cup brown sugar and simmer for a few minutes. I am a nerd who loves (and I mean, LOVES) brown sugar. I add brown sugar every time I make spaghetti, chili, baked beans.. you name it. Be sure to rinse your shells with cold water. In a 9x13 dish, cover the bottom with a little of your sauce.

(My little cooking buddy)
As your sauce continues to simmer, combine 1-1.5 cups mozzarella cheese, 1 beaten egg, 1 Tbsp season salt and 1 Tbsp garlic powder. Add to sauce.

Fill each shell meat sauce and arrange in dish, facing up. Be careful, the shells love to stick together/tear and the sauce will be hot.

Cover stuffed shells with remaining 1-1.5 cups mozzarella cheese.

Cover with tinfoil/aluminum foil and bake 50-60 minutes at 350°F [Be sure not to over-bake.]

I love to serve this with New York-brand "Five Cheese Texas Toast". Oh man, the best.

Stuffed Shells:
1 box jumbo pasta shells
1 large jar Prego Italian Sauce
1 small/med. onion, minced
1 lb. ground beef
3/4 c. brown sugar (to taste)
2-3 c. mozzarella cheese, shredded
1-2 eggs, beaten
1 Tbsp season salt
2 Tbsp garlic powder

Fry beef with onion and 1 Tbsp garlic powder. Drain. Add Prego and simmer.

Boil shells and rinse with cold water.

In a bowl, mix well: 1/2 of mozzarella cheese, beaten egg(s), season salt and remaining garlic powder. Combine with meat sauce.

In a 9x13 pan/dish, cover the bottom with a little sauce. Fill each shell with sauce and place in dish, facing up. Cover with remaining mozzarella cheese. Cover with aluminum foil and bake 50-60 minutes @ 350°F.

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