Thursday, February 28, 2013

Nerdy Nautical Nursery Inspiration

That's right, Nursery inspiration for Baby U that is both NERDY and NAUTICAL.  What a great pairing!  Okay I lied, really it's not that nerdy - it just involves the letters of the alphabet - and Nerdy started with an "N" which sounded good in front of Nautical, to make the title more catchy.  To-MAY-toe, To-MAH-toe.

Alright, so hubs and I (okay I lied again). Hubs and I have been scouring ideas for nursery inspiration and relentlessly FORCING hubs to look at them and provide feedback.  And we've both pretty much agreed we like the idea of an alphabet theme and/or a nautical theme.  Now, I'm not talking matchy-matchy, baby-baby, themes here - I'm just talking a general direction to inspire my creative juices to start lil' man's room.  And the line I'm walking between a cute baby room and a cutesy baby room is very thin, people.  It's so hard to find sophisticated decor that will look good in a nursery and "not too grown up" or cute and fun decor that doesn't look too cheesy. 

Alas, I think I have finally settled on some images that have successfully inspire me and also challenge me to create the perfect hub.  The perfect hub of course, that is to be: Baby U's haven of ever exploring nautical inspirations to encourage him to chase his dreams, with an undermining tone of the alphabet to inspire focus and the importance of higher education surrounding his peaceful and splendid nurserydome (I'd add more adjectives if I was clever enough to think of them, because I feel they are indeed THAT necessary to depict excitement and convey my intensity - although, let's be honest, really I just think it looks pretty).

Okay, enough talk.  Need more action.  So here goes - my inspirational pictures.  Don't worry, I'll make sure to narrate as we go along :) And SHWING this is my first attempt at using polyvore to create a board! Sooooo fun.  I may have to use this more often - Lord help us all.


Baby Nursery Theme 2


Alright, so here's what we're working with.  As I mentioned, we both could agree on being fans of either an alphabet theme or a nautical theme. But I was really having a hard time finding one that I totally was in love with.  I kept finding some elements that I liked but I couldn't find a way to bring it all together. That was, until I stumbled upon the great photo of all the letters individually framed in the top left of the collage.  

I LOVE LOVE LOVEEE all of the different letters, and I love even more the idea of utilizing different picture frames to separate them from being one large clutter. But I LOVE the gallery wall vs. painting or printing directly on the wall.  So, my plan is to find all different kinds of letters (SHOPPING. STARTS. NOW!) and mod podge them with a sepia/tan tone vintage map to help keep it sophisticated and neutral.  THEN, agh I die, the next step is to incorporate some nautical pieces into the alphabet.  These will allow for some pops of color while also layering the theme.  So I'm thinking a boat life savor or a sailor captain steering wheel (as seen above) as the "O" or light house as the letter "I", for example.  

The alphabet wall will obviously be the main focal point, and other pieces will just be accents throughout the room.  We're currently torn between 2 cribs:
....OR....
I think I'm kind of leaning more towards the Davenport, because it looks a bit more bold and has a little more character.  But Larkin was my original choice, so I'm always nervous to throw a change up this late in the game.  

Another FUNN finding.  Hubs and I were strolling through our local Peddler's Mall this past weekend and stumbled upon this beauty.  Which I think will be the most PERFECT piece of accent furniture to Baby U's nursery, don't you? LOVE.



So that's it my loves.  A truly fabulous Nerdy and Nautical Nursery.  The Hubs and I are taking a babymoon in a couple of weeks, so we're planning to gather all of the materials before we head out.  That way when we return it's full on nesting mode to put the finishing touches on lil' man's bedroom! EEEeeeek.  It's all becoming so real!


Monday, February 25, 2013

Recipe Monday: Inspired by Tuesday

Alright friends, let's get down to it.  Everyone has that one restaurant dish that simply thinking or driving by the neon sign makes your mouth water.  And although if you had the recipe you would either mess it up or you'd cook it so often it would no longer be a tasty treasure - you still secretly wish you could decode the recipe and have it anytime you want it, RIGHT (or is that just me)??

Well, I'm not ashamed to admit I have SEVERAL of these items.  And I am by no means above throwing the waiter a few extra bones if he could let me in on some of the secrets.  That being said, the recipe I'm after today was first discovered about two years ago.  Ruby Tuesday is one of those restaurants that I have always seen, but never actually frequented.  And truthfully for no reason other than we chose O'Charley's or something over Ruby's when we were looking for that kind of place, because we knew the menu better, maybe? I don't know ... it just wasn't a place we frequently dined.
However, a couple of years ago when I started working at my new marketing job, I was located directly across the street from a Ruby Tuesday's.  Since then there have been several additional restaurants that have been put in on this exit (Qdoba, Zaxby's, Logan's Roadhouse - to name a few) that have really upped the ante around lunch hour - which was much needed. But prior to this, any quick lunch meetings that needed to be held at an off-site location, and needed to be at a classier establishment than say a McDonald's or Arby's ... Ruby Tuesday's became a great meeting hub.

What I quickly learned is Ruby Tuesday was harboring one of the greatest items on their menu known to man ... plus they offer free garlic cheddar biscuits (SCORE!).  What I'm trying to say is: I'm glad I gave it a chance. You see Ruby Tuesday has an unlimited Garden Bar for about $8.00 and the ingredients are pretty fresh for a salad bar.  So it's a super simple pick up if you're needing a healthy "at your desk" lunch as well.  But the hidden little gem that is also located on said Garden Bar is their Ham and Pea Pasta Salad. OHH-EM-GEEE is this stuff good.  Now, if you don't like peas or ham - don't stop reading yet.  Because, ironically I'm not a huge fan of either item either - but in this salad - they WORK IT.


So, I set out on a mission to find a copy cat recipe for the mouthwatering, delicious concoction you see pictured above.  And here is what I've uncovered:
  1. This pasta salad has a bazillion raving fans other than myself (who knew?)
  2. There are many copy-cat recipes
  3. Lots of the copy-cat recipes call for ingredients that are CLEARLY NOT in the Ruby Tuesday pasta salad, so why do these at-home chefs think they can just add them in on their own accord?? - WHY
Alright, so I have narrowed the copy-cat recipes down to the three that sound the closest to what I taste.  I'm going to share all 3 with you, and over some time I will make all 3 and announce the winner. But for now, I just have to hold onto hope that one of these babies will be my saving grace and present us with the best pasta salad dish there ever was.  My current (pre-tested) vote goes to Recipe #3 -- I'd put all my money there just reading ingredients and what not.

.......................................................................................

Recipe #1
Ingredients:
  • 1 lb box of rotini pasta
  • 1 cup ranch dressing
  • 1 cup mayo
  • 1 package of diced ham
  • 1 (10-ounce) package frozen peas, cooked and drained
  • 1 bag of shredded cheddar cheese (note: there is no evidence of cheese in RT's recipe)
  • 2 TBS of  Paula Deen's seasoning salt (P.D.'s seasoning mix - 1 cup salt, 1/4 cup pepper, 1/4 cup garlic salt -Put it in a small bowl and mix it well. Put mix into empty salt shaker.)
Directions:
  • Cook pasta, drain and rinse
  • Mix all ingredients
  • Serve cold 
Thoughts:
  • We could be onto something with the seasoning salt, sometimes I can tell a more garlic-y or more pepper-y flavor and if they add too much or too little of one, I could see where this would effect it
  • As mentioned above - NO USE OF CHEESE in the RECIPE!
.......................................................................................

Recipe #2
Ingredients:
  • 8 ounces macaroni, cooked and drained
  • 8 ounces ham, 1/4" cubed, about 2 cups
  • 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, 1/4" cubed
  • 1 (10-ounce) package frozen peas, cooked and drained
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise (not salad dressing)
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
  • 2 teaspoons dried tarragon
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Directions:
  • In a large bowl combine salad ingredients.
  • In a smaller bowl, mix dressing ingredients. Pour dressing over macaroni mix and toss to blend well. 
  • Cover and refrigerate several hours or overnight.
  • Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before serving. (More mayonnaise or sour cream may be needed.) 
Thoughts:
  • I think this recipe will be the last one I try
  • It sounds great, and there are a lot of items - but some of them I don't normally keep in my pantry, and I'm not even sure I taste them in the recipe anyways - so this just may be a fun rainy day - but I'm not betting on it
  • As mentioned above - NO USE OF CHEESE in the RECIPE!
.......................................................................................

Recipe #3 - MY VOTE FOR FRONT RUNNER
Ingredients:
  • 1 pound rotini pasta
  • 3/4 cup reduced-fat ranch dressing
  • 3/4 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
  • 1/2 teaspoon seasoning salt
  • 8 ounces diced ham
  • 1 cup frozen green peas, defrosted
  • 4 ounces (1 cup) shredded cheddar cheese, optional and not in the original recipe
  • 1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper
Directions:
  • Cook the pasta according to package directions. 
  • Drain well and place in a large mixing bowl.
  • Whisk the ranch dressing, mayonnaise and seasoning salt. 
  • Toss the dressing with the pasta and then gently stir in the ham, peas, cheese and bell pepper. 
  • Taste and add more seasoning salt, if needed. 
  • Refrigerate several hours or overnight.
  • Makes 8-10 side dish servings.
Thoughts:
  • This recipe gets my vote and I will be trying it soon.  I'll keep you updated on how it goes :)

.......................................................................................


So that's all folks, Ruby Tuesday Copy Cat Pasta Salad -- Easy Peasy (no pun intended)! Have a great week.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Recipe Monday: What kind of person are you?

It's that time of year again.  The time of year where all the cute little gals come out of the wood work and sell you the most delectable cookies you've been waiting for since last spring.  Usually these land right around the time I have decided to give up sweets for Lent and they taunt me for the next couple of weeks.  But THIS YEAR, I've given myself a "get out of Lent free" card when it comes to giving up beloved foods and beverages.  I mean, gimme a break, I've already given up caffeine (for the most part), sushi, and cold lunch meat sandwiches to name a few.  So I'm putting my efforts of giving something up to giving something more. And focusing on good deeds and thoughtfulness.


Nevertheless, back to girl scout cookies.  As far as I'm concerned there are 2 kinds of people in this world: Samoa Lovers and Thin Mint Lovers.  You can be a fan of both, but you have to pick a side.  It's a very simple choice for me, and I made my bed years ago and continue to happily lay in it...A BED OF SAMOAS.

Now, I hear on the West Coast these are called Caramel deLites, but that is totally bogus.  They are Samoas, and I don't want to hear another word about it.

So,  if one is unable to control themselves and can't wait or appropriately ration their hoarded share of Samoas from the year before; what on earth is a girl to do?!  Especially when pregnancy hormones are raging and you are 100% unable to think clearly because you do badly want a chocolately, caramely, coconut dusted shortbread cookie.

I'll tell you what a girl is to do.  She is to find an alternative solution, that's what!  And lucky for anyone out there who is in the same position as me.  I have done just that :0) -- you can thank me later.

Alternative solution #1:

Buy the Keebler Elf version of Samoas: Coconut Dreams.  There is a MAYBE minor difference, but if you're really needing a fix - they can 100% get the job done.  They can be found at almost any grocery store in the cookie aisle.  Good portion size, and as aforementioned they taste - G.O.O.D good.


Alternative Solution #2: 

Find a homemade recipe of course :-P
So here's the recipe my loves!

Ingredients:
  • For the cookies:
    • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 2 Tablespoons milk
    • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • For the coconut topping:
    • 3 cups shredded sweetened coconut
    • 15 ounces store-bought soft caramels
    • 3 Tablespoons milk
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 8 ounces dark chocolate 


Directions: 
  • Make the cookies:
    • Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
    • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
    • In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. In three increments, add the flour mixture to the creamed butter, mixing between each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add the milk and vanilla extract, blending until combined and the dough begins to come together in large pieces.
    • Use your hands to divide the dough in half, pressing it together to compact it into two disks. Wrap the disks securely in plastic wrap and refrigerate them until firm, about 1 hour.
    • Once the dough has chilled, roll each disk out onto a lightly floured surface until it is 1/8-inch thick. Cut out as many cookies as possible with a doughnut-shaped cookie cutter. (See Kelly's Notes for cookie cutter alternatives.) Place the cut-out cookies on a Silpat or parchment paper-lined baking sheet and repeat with remaining dough.
    • Bake the cookies for 10 to 12 minutes, rotating the baking sheet half-way through, until the cookies are pale golden brown. Transfer the cookies to a wire wrack to cool completely.
  • Make the coconut topping:
    • Spread the coconut flakes onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake the coconut for about 10 minutes in a 350ºF oven until toasted, stirring frequently to ensure even browning and so that it does not burn. (See Kelly's Notes.) Remove the toasted coconut from the oven and set it aside.
    • Melt the caramels, milk and salt in a double-boiler by placing the caramels in a medium sauce pot set over a large sauce pot of simmering water. Cook, stirring, until the caramels are fully melted. Remove the sauce pot from the heat and combined 3/4 of the caramel with the toasted coconut in a large bowl.
    • Carefully spread the remaining 1/4 cup of caramel atop the cooled cookies then press on a portion of the coconut mixture. Let the cookies cool for 30 minutes. If the caramel-coconut mixture thickens too much at any point while pressing it onto the cookies, return it to the double-boiler and warm it until it's spreadable again.
    • Melt the dark chocolate in a double-boiler or in the microwave. Dip the bottoms of the cookies in the chocolate and place them on a wax paper-lined baking sheet. Use a fork to drizzle the tops with chocolate. Let the cookies sit until the chocolate hardens fully.
Additional Notes:
  • If you don't have a doughnut-shaped cookie cutter, you can use two cookies cutters (such as a circular 2-inch and a circular 1-inch) to form the ring shape. Alternately, you can use the caps to any dry spices to serve as cookie cutters.
  • If the dough is too firm to roll out after being refrigerated, let it rest at room temperature for 10 minutes before rolling and cutting out the cookies.
  • The shortbread should be very pale golden in color. When in doubt, under bake it!
  • If using dark chocolate chips, 8 ounces is equal to about 1 1/3 cups chocolate chips.
  • Coconut burns very quickly, so keep an eye on it and stir often!
  • Spreading the cookies with the reserved 1/4 cup of caramel gives the coconut mixture a stickier base to adhere to.


See the original recipe post with pictures here on Just a Taste. 

So there you have it!  The perfect solution for my fellow Samoa lovers out there. Happy Girl Scout Season!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Lovey Dovey - Oh So Yummy!

Happy Valentine's Day my loves!  I found this adorable little recipe and wanted to share it with you all.  It is obviously a Valentine's Day Theme, but this could EASILY be versioned to any occasion with a change out of the ole' cookie cutter.

Petit Fours sound so fancy, and they are oh so delicious.  (My sweet friend Quinn brought me some last week from Fresh Market and Hubs and I smashed the entire box in 2 days! Whew.)  And seeing as to how easy these cute little morsels are to make ... I couldn't help but squeal with excitement in knowing I can now make these perfectly sized, delectable little cakes for all future occasions. Oh the endless possibilities :0)

I have yet to try and make them myself ... but you better believe they are on our dessert menu for the sappy hallmark holiday evening! Ohhhhh baby. Mini cakes that are both tasty and adorable.  Is there anything better?

Since I love all of you and it's the day of hearts, I won't make you wait any longer. To see the original post check out the Purple Chocolat Home.  Here are some photos and brief instructions according to their site:

What You'll Need:
  • 1-2 packages of Sara Lee Pound Cake (freezer section)
  • Betty Crocker ready made frosting (or your own favorite frosting recipe)
  • Fancy, fun and cute decorations to add some extra flare!
Directions:
  • Slice pound cake into thin layers
  • Frost one side with desired frosting 
  • Sandwich together
  • Using small cookie cutter - cut into fancy shapes
  • Put cut shapes on cooling rack with wax paper underneath
  • Heat icing in microwave, 15-20 seconds until soft
  • Spoon icing over cut cakes covering well
  • Let icing harden - VOILA - perfectly, adorable scrumptious morsels!






Enjoy your sappy love day my dears. Kisses, Smooches, and Besos galore! Muah.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Sharing Fail.

Wow. Sorry. For those of you who's alerts and blog rolls have been blowing up with posts from me. Clearly you can see what kind of post I am working on next.  

Teaser: I believe I have finally found the missing link to the nursery planning puzzle.  And I'm working up a big fancy post to share.  In doing so, I also enlisted the help of our friendly favorite website polyvore.  BUUUUUT I failed to notice while setting up my account that I accidentally linked it to my blog and therefore ANYTHING I do shows up as a new post.  It is downright SPOILING by nursery surprise for all of you and I'm literally having a screaming fit over it.  Nevertheless, I have deleted the accidental posts, so if you try to click on the pictures to see them in more detail you CAN'T! HA! So there.  Well, at least not until the big reveal.

But anyways, I figured I'd formally apologize and then leave you with a Bathroom update.  We're SO CLOSE Y'ALL.  I'm talking SO CLOSE.  If you've missed the initial posts you can find them here and here.

So here are some pretty pictures of where we are.  I've been taking pictures as we go along, so some of the more unfinished are from 1 or 2 weeks ago and the others are from LAST NIGHT (sorry about the terrible picture quality I've just been snapping them on my phone)!  EEEkkkk.  I almost have my bathroom back, and constructions workers gawwwwn.  Buh bye. Leave me my beautiful stone and get out. Please and thank you.







So that's it.  We've still got some fixtures to replace, minor plumbing to complete, walls to be painted and decor to be added.  But after that, I think ladies and gentleman we will have our master bath completely renovated. WHEW!  And I'd say that MORE than deserves a pint of this....if only I hadn't eaten it all yesterday for Fat Tuesday...hehehe :)


Goodbye my loves!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

It's a ........ GENDER REVEAL!

Goodmorning, from your friendly neighborhood, over the moon excited little Mama!!  Whew ~ you know the saying "how long a minute is depends on which side of the bathroom door you're on?" ~ Well from take it from me, the same is true for how long a couple of months is when waiting to find out the sex of your baby!


Shane and I couldn't decide which side of the fence we wanted to be a part of: 
  • Do you find out the sex so you can plan, buy appropriate clothing, decide on only one name, etc (which let's be real - it's our first baby, my OCD planning is out of control, and the unknown is not a comfort to me - so I don't know why we even considered the idea or entertained it at all) 
... or ...
  • Do you remain team green and go the gender neutral route for the duration of the pregnancy, so you have the exciting OMG IT'S A BOYYYYY or OMG IT'S A GIRRRRRLLLL?!?!
Well, again, I refer to my previous statement.  This is our first baby, our first go round with the whole pregnancy thing, SO many unknowns and so many questions.  Therefore, if we can be certain of one thing - let's at least know what it is, a boy or a girl.  Now, in saying that, I do think it would be fun to wait and find out with one of the later kiddos, but for the first - the decision seemed pretty clear.

But then came the dreaded wait. The constant reminder that you did not know as you comb through the aisles at the store and so desperately want to purchase that little pair of top siders or perhaps that ADORABLE pink polka dotted bow. But having to restrain yourself, and furthermore putting restrictions on your shopping patterns to no longer be teased by the adorable mini outfits. Pink or Blue ... Purple or Red ... AHHH! Enough to make a momma crazy I tell ya!


So, now it was all up to Baby U to give us a good show and reveal the best kept secret of all.  And you better believe this child did just that!  I'm talkin' spread eagle, absolutely no modesty or a shadow of a doubt that Baby U is indeed a 
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.

.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.

.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.

.
.
.
BOY!!!!!!!!!!

We are over the moon excited and truth be told, I was concerned I was going to have to restrain Shane from trying to chest bump the nurse.  But I guess now that we know it's time to start narrowing in on nursery ideas and stocking up on blue booties!  Our doctor told us to go out and buy something blue to celebrate -- any excuse to baby shop?! I'll take IT!!

So we bought the most make my heart melt adorable, yet MASCULINE, onesie one can find at Buy Buy Baby ... and made sure get it BLUE because blue looks good on everyone right?! (hehe...Go CATS!)




Holy Bageeeze.  We can't wait to meet out little man <3