Berry Strata

>> Wednesday, December 29, 2010

My favorite part about Christmas is the food! When I was younger, I would wait not-so-patiently in the front of the oven for the gooey cinnamon rolls to rise, so I could get breakfast over with. Cinnamon rolls on Christmas was our family breakfast tradition before tearing through our piles of presents. In recent years I've been spending Christmas morning with my boyfriend's family and we usually do different breakfast items each year (cinnamon rolls are still on the list though).

This year I found a Berry Strata recipe from Italian chef, Giada in the January issue of In Style magazine. The recipe looked simple enough and the end product looked delicious, so we decided to give it a try. Here is the recipe:

Berry Strata
(serves 6 with leftovers)

2 tbsp unsalted butter
3 tbsp honey
4 large eggs
1/2 c. whole-milk ricotta (or skim)
3 tbsp sugar
1 c. whole milk (or skim)
1/4 c. orange juice
4 slices bread, torn into 1" pieces
1 10 oz. bag frozen mixed berries, thawed and drained

1. Melt butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Turn off heat, add honey and stir. Set aside.
2. Place eggs, ricotta and sugar in a large bowl. Using a fork, mix to combine and beat eggs. Add milk, orange juice, butter and honey mixture, and then add bread. Stir to combine. Gently fold in berries.
3. Pour mixture into a two-quart baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 12.
4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake strata until golden on top and baked through, about 40 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes. Spoon into dishes and serve.

End product - delicious!
I wanted to take photos of the process along the way, but didn't have my new camera at the time (it was waiting to be unwrapped. The BF did great!). The nice thing about this recipe is that you can substitute many items for lower fat versions, therefore making it healthier. It's also good for a winter brunch with friends - you can make the night before, refrigerate and pop it in the oven in the morning.


Happy Holidays!

>> Friday, December 24, 2010

I realized I took a hiatus on my blogging, but December been so busy! From Holiday parties to flying up North to visit my family, there hasn't been a dull moment this month.

On this Christmas Eve, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on what a great year 2010 was. I got to visit my family more this year, I made new friends and definitely more memories. I'm grateful to have spent another year of my life with my amazing and patient boyfriend and enjoy more wonderful times with his family. I got to visit some new places and try different things. I don't think there is much more I could ask for. It may seem that Christmas is all about shopping and gifts, but I think the best gift is to have the love of your family and friends and most of all, the memories that go along with it.

I hope everyone has a very merry Christmas and is safe getting to wherever they  may be going this year!


'Tis the Season

>> Wednesday, December 8, 2010

This last Saturday, my boyfriend and I hosted a holiday cocktail party at our house. It was my first "grown-up" cocktail party, and I was excited to entertain all of our friends at our quaint little townhouse. I had to make a spreadsheet to organize all the necessities we needed and I know I was driving Jon absolutely crazy stressing over every little detail (sorry babe). Jon put together the food platters containing everything from Genoa salami, vegetable crudites and chips with salsa. I would say he put any caterer to shame with his outstanding presentation skills. My contribution were the fudge brownies, red velvet cupcakes and Christmas-shaped sugar cookies - Yes, I had to cheat and used the boxed stuff because there simply wasn't enough time to go scratch for everything. I wanted to post pictures of the outcome, but unfortunately it's time to replace my point-and-shoot camera (Santa, are you listening?).

One item on my drink menu was to find some kind of cocktail using gin. I feel vodka and gin are a must-have for any party and can be used interchangeably. While searching on All Recipes for different cocktail drinks, I came across a great one for gin sangria. I thought it was a little odd at first to pair gin with white wine, but I gave it my best shot. Two pitchers later, my guests could not get enough. This is a great drink to make anytime of the year and especially if you're entertaining guests:

Not just for summer days
Lisa's Super Sangria

1 lemon, sliced
1 lime, sliced
1 orange, sliced
1 1/2 cups gin
2 (750 milliliter) bottles dry white wine (such as Chardonnay)
1 cup orange juice
1/4 cup frozen cranberry juice concentrate, thawed
1/2 cup tonic water
3/4 cup pomegranate seeds (from a fresh pomegranate)

Arrange the lemon, lime, and orange slices in the bottom of a pitcher or punch bowl. Pour the gin over the fruit slices; cover. Refrigerate overnight.

Just before serving, pour the wine, orange juice, cranberry concentrate, tonic water, and pomegranate seeds into the gin; stir. Enjoy!


Fab Finds

>> Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Like most red-blooded American women, I love getting a great deal when shopping. I've been following Jennifer's blog The Looks for Less for the last year now and absolutely love it. Her site is dedicated to helping readers find fashion-forward clothes, shoes and accessories at affordable prices.

Of course I'd love to have a closet full of designer duds, but unfortunately my wallet (or credit card limit) doesn't allow for that. When it comes to trends I try to get the best deals, as they generally come and go out of style. Like many savvy shoppers, I'm willing to invest a little more money into classic pieces, and usually find that they mix well with my trendy pieces. I have gotten so many great ideas from Jennifer's blog for mixing current trends with classic pieces, all at a price I can afford.

OK, a little bit of this is tooting my own horn. Often the blog showcases a reader's "Look for Less" submission, which feature an outfit where each piece is priced less than $50. So, on my recent wine tasting trip in Santa Barbara I came up with an outfit that I thought was perfect for a fall day at the vineyards (and definitely budget-friendly).  Today my look was featured on the blog! Check out my look for less. Below is a photo of my outfit as well. Thanks to my wonderful boyfriend for taking such a great shot!


All That Sparkles

>> Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I love the holidays. Whenever I think of Christmas and New Year's, I immediately think sparkles. Every fashion magazine and store catalog I've picked up has pages dedicated to the glittery obsession, and this season I've already indulged. From nail polish to accessories, sparkles are definitely in style.

I scored a pair of Steve Madden Miami pumps in Gold Glitter for $59 $45 at DSW (I used $15 worth of rewards certficates). Can you say LOVE? Here is a similar pair that I liked also, but the heel was a bit tall for my 5'11" frame.

Steve Madden 'Caryssa' pump

Of course you'll need some sparkly nail polish too to go with these fabulous shoes. I just tried Sally Hansen's Xtreme polish in Celeb City. At $1.99 a bottle, it's a keeper!

Sally Hansen 'Celeb City'

OPI 'Burlesque' collection
In the midst of looking for New Year's Eve attire, I found a cute alternative to the standard LBD or sparkly dress (although I always love those too!): a sparkly tank with a pair of trouser shorts, tights and cute platforms or booties. I may just have to rock this look instead of my 'ole go-to dress this year. 

Whatever sparkly piece(s) you choose this holiday season, you'll be sure to stand out. Happy shopping!




>> Wednesday, November 17, 2010

While in Santa Barbara, I discovered the most amazing natural bath and beauty store ever: LUSH. I'm sure I'm the last person to have heard of this store, as they don't have a shop in San Diego, but boy am I glad I discovered it! When I strolled by the brightly-lit store front with all of the fresh, handmade products in the window, I couldn't pass up stopping in for a peek (hey, I was on vacation).

Immediately I was greeted by a knowledgeable sales person who was so enthusiastic about the products, it made me want to work there. I tried an array of massage bars, lip balms and sugar scrubs. Each product was more amazing than the next. Another sales person gave me a demo of their Candy Cane Bubble Bar, which I immediately scooped into my shopping bag to try back at the hotel. Who doesn't love an extra bubbly, awesome scented bath?

The great thing about LUSH is that all of their cosmetics and bath products are made with fresh, organic  fruits and vegetables, safe synthetics and essential oils. The packaging proudly displays who invented and packed the particular item, adding a very personal touch to the buying experience.

You can check out two of the items I purchased:

LUSH -- Once a Year
LUSH -- Bubble Bath Product - Candy Cane BUBBLE BAR slice

Sugar Plum Fairy Scrub

Bubble Gum Flavored Lip Tint

Once A Year Massage Bar

Candy Cane Bubble Bar
I was sent home with a sample of a bath bar appropriately named Honey, I Washed The Kids. I don't know about washing any kids, but it sure has kept me squeaky clean.

If you're unlucky like I am to not have a shop located near you, LUSH will ship items directly to you lightening quick (2 day) for just $8.



>> Friday, November 12, 2010

November is generally the time when we think about giving thanks, and this past year I have thought of many things to be thankful for throughout the year. This Thanksgiving and all year, be sure to let others know what you're thankful for. Here are is some of what I'm thankful for:

  • My handsome and amazing boyfriend, which I don't know what I do without (he is currently taking care of me while on bed rest for getting my wisdom teeth pulled). When he had his surfing accident earlier this year I was absolutely terrified that I would lose him. I'm so thankful for him everyday.

  • My wonderful and amazing friends, who may be spread across the country, but are always there for me no matter what. I love you all!

  •  I'm thankful for my very large and loving family. Many of them have helped shape who I am today and for that I'm forever grateful. I'm looking forward to visiting them at the beginning of December (these are just a few photos I could find).

  •  Lastly I'm thankful for the talents I have been blessed with:  
Making others laugh
Being a great friend


Four years

>> Friday, November 5, 2010

Wow, I've been busy. Halloween came and went and now everywhere I look it's Christmas! Crazy how fast time flies.

On Wednesday my boyfriend and I celebrated our 4 year anniversary. I can't believe it's been that long already. It seems like yesterday we were going on our first date and now we are living happily together and planning for our future. We are taking off tomorrow morning for Santa Barbara to celebrate our love. I'm so excited to get away, relax and just enjoy each other for a little while, away from a our everyday life. I look forward to many years to come with Jon. I truly believe I have met the one person on this Earth that I was meant to be with forever.

Whatever you're doing this weekend, have fun and enjoy!



>> Tuesday, October 26, 2010

'83 came on during a John Mayer iPhone shuffle sesh yesterday in my car and it immediately brought back memories of sophomore year in college. I remember listening to Room for Squares on repeat on my multi-disc CD player and never getting tired of it. I felt like I could relate to so many of those songs and I loved how it felt like the music was speaking to me. I've always loved John Mayer's music (regardless of all the tabloid BS written about him). Sure, he might not be an American Idol as a person, but his music is written from the heart.

I brought up this song because there is a verse that talks about him missing his brother, Ben who is 18 months younger than him. Coincidentally my boyfriend's name is Jon and is younger brother is Ben. I chalk it up to fate - I'm sure my boyfriend thinks I'm crazy, but I think it means something special. I always knew there was a reason I loved this song.


Cocktail Rings: Big & Bold

>> Thursday, October 21, 2010

Lately I've been really into finding unique cocktail rings. For me, the bigger and brighter, the better! Since I consider myself part of the "Young, Fabulous & Broke" crowd, I'm always looking for a fun statement ring at a budget-friendly price.

So far in my search, Forever 21 has been my gold mine for finding rings I can afford. You can also find some great rings at online shops such as Etsy, where individuals sell their handmade and one-of-a-kind items. I like the rings to be larger than my ring-finger size, so I can wear them on my middle or forefinger. I get a thrill out of hunting for the perfect ring for an outfit and usually discover it will work well with many different items in my closet. Statement rings are also great for showing off an awesome manicure. Whatever piece you find, it will be sure to dazzle!



"Crushing It"

>> Friday, October 15, 2010

Happy Friday everyone! I'm thankful we had Monday off for Columbus Day, so this week really seemed to fly by.

I wanted to share this inspiring book I'm currently reading called Crush It! by Gary Vaynerchuk.  I received a copy of the book at a seminar my company put on recently and have been reading it intermittently since. The title refers to the author's idea that anyone can take their passion and make money using social media networks (i.e. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, blogging, etc.). His main idea is that social media outlets help an individual build a personal brand. This book contains valuable information on how the Internet is changing people's everyday interactions with one another and how virtually anyone can use social media to start a business and expand their brand.

Vaynerchuk goes into great detail using his own successful company, Wine Library TV as an example. Basically, he took his knowledge and love of wine to YouTube and started stating his opinion to the public. Love him or hate him, people were tuning in and subscribing to his channel. From there, he built a platform for himself in the online business world and started making money talking about wine. Who wouldn't like getting paid for that?

As I've stated in a previous post, I would love to make a decent living as a writer. The author has a section discussing journalists and how they can use social media platforms to jump start their careers making considerably more money than what the usual poorly-paid journalist currently brings in. Of course this immediately sparked my attention and got me thinking how I can use the Internet to make my dream a reality.

I highly recommend this book to anyone seeking a change in their life and who wants to make a living doing what they love most. I liked the fact that the book is a quick read and the concepts are easy to grasp. It was definitely written to appeal to the average Joe. You can pick this book up at or local retail bookstore such as Borders. Here's to "crushing it!"


Pumpkins Galore

>> Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Fall is my favorite season by far, and I would say October is my favorite month. I'm not sure if it's the seasons changing or the transitioning into the holiday months, but I love everything about fall. Living in San Diego it's hard to see the leaves change or even the temperature, but on occasion when the night air gets crisp and I have to pull on a sweatshirt, we get a little taste of fall.

This year I've been getting especially into the fall season. My house is now decked out in different pumpkin spice candles and other fall foliage. My boyfriend and I were just talking about how the pumpkin smell makes us crave pumpkin cheesecake, so I spent my day off on Monday making one. I'm proud to say it turned out great! You can check out the recipe for Double Layer Pumpkin Cheesecake here. I have almost a full can of pumpkin pie filling leftover, so I'm going to try another recipe from Libby's for
Pumpkin Cranberry Bread. The recipe looks super delicious and easy to make.

Another favorite fall activity is going to Bates Nut Farm in Valley Center. I've always loved visiting the pumpkin farm each year in my hometown when I was younger, so when I moved to San Diego four years ago, I was happy to have discovered Bates. My boyfriend and I have made it a tradition to go each year since we met (which was coincidentally on Halloween), so this Saturday will be our yearly visit. I can't wait to pick out our pumpkins and carve them. And the best part is toasted pumpkin seeds when we're finished!



>> Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Photos by Samantha Prather
This is my adorable nephew, Christian Joseph, who is now 17 months old. My best friend, Samantha took this photo at the end of summer at my hometown fair. To my great surprise she forwarded this photo to me this morning and it seriously made my day! Just looking at his precious face fills my heart with joy. It amazes me how much he grows everytime I see him, and it also saddens me that I don't get to see him as often as I would like, as my family lives 9 hours away. I'm hoping my sister will get down here for a visit soon, so I can take him to the beach and the zoo and just spoil him rotten. I suppose that's my duty as an auntie anyway.

It's photos like these that make me so grateful to have my wonderful family and friends in my life. Now, when I start to get down about petty things in my life, I hope to look back on photos such as this one to remind me that there are amazing things still waiting to be accomplished and plenty of love to help me along the way.

Check out more of Samantha's amazing photos on her blog:


Goin' Bananas

>> Tuesday, October 5, 2010

I always feel bad for the over-ripened bananas that are constantly being thrown out around our place week after week. Although we send them off to the compost bin where the worms happily munch them away, I still don't like wasting food. This past Saturday I decided to save a pile of organic bananas that were past their prime. I found the following recipe for a delicious banana bread on :

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 1/3 cups mashed over ripe bananas


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9x5 inch loaf pan.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar. Stir in eggs and mashed bananas until well blended. Stir banana mixture into flour mixture; stir just to moisten. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan.
  3. Bake in preheated oven for 60 to 65 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of the loaf comes out clean. Let bread cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack.                                                                                                                                         
Yield - 1 9x5 inch loaf pan

I adjusted the recipe a little bit with the following: 1 c. light brown sugar (what I had in my cabinet) and  4 med. mashed over ripe bananas. Also, depending on your oven the bread may not need to be baked as long as the directions indicate. I let mine go for 60 minutes and it was a little toasty around the edges, but the flavor was great. I think for the next batch I may add in some walnuts and raisins for more texture.


Candy Land

>> Tuesday, September 28, 2010

OK, I know Halloween is a month away but it's never too early to start planning your costume. This year I decided to get a jump start on my costume, so I'm not scrambling at the last minute to throw something together. In the past I would buy a ready-made costume from an online store or my local Halloween shop. This year, I wanted to have a little more fun with my costume and try out a creative, budget-friendly idea. When I got to thinking about who I could dress us as, the first person that came to mind was Katy Perry. This year has been a big year for the pop superstar with a chart-topping new album and an upcoming wedding to Russell Brand. I decided to commerate her success into my own homemade costume.

I'm planning on doing a costume from Katy's "California Gurls" music video. With so many creative outfits in one video, it was hard to choose. I decided to go with the candy button outfit, as it was the least risque and the most age appropriate. These are the supplies I'll be using to complete the costume:

  • White tube dress ($4.99 at The Closet)
  • Pink, yellow & blue plastic Easter eggs ($0.79 for 10 ct at Party City)
  • Jewel glue ($2.99 at Michael's or any craft store)
  • Long blue wig ($9.99- $16.99 on
  • White or nude platform Mary Jane's (already have a pair in my closet)
I will be using the jewel glue to attach halves of the Easter eggs in rows to the white tube dress. This will make it to look like old-fashioned candy buttons. I'm only going to do the front, so I am able to sit down without ruining the costume. For my makeup, I'll use blue glitter eyeshadow (you can find cheap at any drugstore), bright pink lipstick (already own M.A.C. Viva Glam Gaga) and a pair of false eyelashes that are in my makeup kit waiting to be used. I will probably go mystic tanning (no UV rays) the day before Halloween to get some color, so the white dress doesn't look pasty against my fair skin.

The great thing about this costume is that I have many of the items at home already and it should cost under $30! I'm super excited to see how the costume turns out, and I will be sure to post pictures of the final result. Now if I could only get my boyfriend to agree to dress up as Russell...


A picture says a thousand words

>> Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Recently I received a promotion code in my e-mail for a free 8x8 hardcover photo book . This was sent to me by Shutterfly, a popular online photo storage and printing company. In the last couple years I've been far too lazy to take my memory card to an actual brick and mortar store, upload the photos and request prints. Instead I've opted for making photo albums online and printing only the pictures I choose. My prints are shipped to me and I never have to leave the house!

I put together my free book with photos of a trip Jon and I took to Disneyland and California's Adventure Park this summer. It was so fun to choose the different lay outs and placement of the photos. After an hour or so I was ready to place my order for the finished product. The only cost I paid was $8 for shipping and handling, and I received my book approximately two weeks later. I thought the promotion was a great idea to get patrons to try out the books, as the cost for each book starts out at $20 (not including shipping). The 8x8 book comes with 20 pages standard, but more pages can be added at an additional cost per page. I chose to leave two pages near the back blank so I could paste ticket stubs and other paper goods to commerate our visit. These books make great gift ideas and they're super simple to put together (even for the creatively-challenged, such as myself).

The finished product!


Grow little garden grow

>> Wednesday, September 15, 2010

This past March my boyfriend suffered a serious head injury doing what he loves best: surfing. Thankfully he had amazing doctors and his recovery has been more than excellent. I seriously thank my lucky stars everyday that he is still here with me.

While his beloved sport is now crossed off his list of what he can do (at least for a year anyway), he has had more than enough time on his hands to find some new hobbies. One of the first ones he decided on was gardening. We only have a small cement patio in the back of our townhouse, so I was interested in how he was going to build our garden. Jon quickly bought a couple "how-to" books and got to work building a compost bin and planter boxes for an "urban" garden. An urban garden is basically a garden grown without use of grass or land. On our patio we have several large buckets, planter boxes and pots. Together with our worm compost bin we were able to start an organic garden in an urban setting.
The beginning of the garden (June)
It has been a few months since the garden was started and there has definitely been rough patches along the way. San Diego had the coldest summer this year since 1933, so that definitely did not help our strawberries, cucumbers or tomatoes. Also, since the garden is organic, no toxic pesticides are used which leaves room for all the little garden creatures (aka caterpillars) to snack on whatever they please. Let me tell you, Jon wanted to go to war with these little guys until he finally found an organic solution to remedy them. I'm happy to report we used our first batch of romaine lettuce last night to make dinner, and it was a great feeling to know where the food we were eating came from.

While the garden hasn't produced everything we hoped it would, it has been nice to see my boyfriend so happy and full of life. I have really learned a lot about gardening just from listening to his everyday observations and trials with it. The garden has definitely been therapeutic in Jon's recovery and I'm glad he has found joy in something once again.There is always next spring/summer for our little garden and we will definitely hope for warmer weather. In the meantime we'll be testing out what we can grow in winter. Wish us luck!


Spinach plant
The garden now (September)
"How fair is a garden amid the trials and passions of existence."  ~Benjamin Disraeli

"No two gardens are the same.  No two days are the same in one garden."  ~Hugh Johnson