Paris on my mind...

September 27, 2011

For some reason I cannot get Paris off my mind. I was fortunate enough to visit the City of Lights on a trip to Europe 3 years ago with 8 of my friends and it was an experience I will never forget!



I would LOVE to take a trip there with Steven, we both enjoy traveling and he went to Paris the summer before I did. I can picture us walking down small cobblestone streets, eating crepes, sitting outside little cafe for coffee and croissants and having picnics on the lawn near the Eiffel Tower.

The funny thing is - as much as I would love to visit Paris, I can't get moving to France off my mind! :) I think part of it has to do with me discovering Oh Happy Day. Oh Happy Day is the blog of San Francisco party planner and artist Jordan who moved to Paris for a year with her husband and two kids. I admire the bravery it takes to transplant your family across the world and am little jealous of the unique memories they will make there.

As much as I wish we could take the leap and do this too I think Steven and I are in Atlanta for the long haul. We both have great jobs and amazing family and friends we can't imagine leaving. I guess for now I will have to live vicariously through Jordan's Paris pictures, DIY craft directions, and my own homemade macaroons. :)

paris bakery from Oh Happy Day!
eiffel tower from Oh Happy Day!
diy cake platter from Oh Happy Day!
For now I will be dreaming of Paris and saving up pennies so Steven and I can have a Parisian get away.


BirchBox September 2011 Goodies

September 26, 2011

Last month I read about Birchbox on LizMarieBlog and decided to give it a try. Are you thinking, "what is Birchbox?" If so, that's okay. I didn't know what it was either. Trust me though - you want to know.

Basically, each month Birchbox sends you a box full of beauty products, in trial sizes, so you have the opportunity to try different things from mascara to face lotions and nail products before you buy them. I was so excited to sign up for this because it is only $10 a month and I love beauty products (just ask Steven, our bathroom is overflowing with them). This program gives me the chance to make sure I love something before I buy it and have to hassle with returning it if I don't like it. Also, the trial sizes are perfect for travel!

The boxes go out on the 10th each month, and I was so excited when I got home the week before last to find my Birchbox in the mail (it felt a little like Christmas!). The outside package is bright pink and right when I saw it, it automatically brightened up my day. (Who doesn't love getting a package?)



Inside the pink box is a second attractive brown box with pink lettering.



Finally, after opening the second box you get to the goods. Apparently Birchbox sends out different boxes to its members each month based on their "beauty profile". (The company identifies your beauty profile after you sign up and answer a few quick questions.) This is what I saw when I first opened my box.



Inside I found:
Incoco Nail Polish Applique - I haven't tried these out yet, but I am excited to. The only downside of this product is that I wish that I got a solid color. My box came with the "All that Glitters" print and I think this will be fun to try once, but if I was going to use the nail applique on a regular basis I would most likely use a nail cover from their solid color line.


All that Glitters

Pangea Organics Facial Cream - I like how light the face cream is and how moisturized my face is after I use it. One negative of this product is that I don't love this smell. The scent is nigerian ginger, sweet lavender and thyme, and it just isn't me. I would consider buying this product in the store in a different scent.

Nigerian ginger, sweet lavender and thyme

La Grotta Ristorante Buckhead

September 25, 2011

This week has been super busy. My dad came into town on Wednesday morning and is staying until Tuesday. This means he has been taking me to work and picking me up every day, which throws off my workout schedule. But it has been worth it to spend some time with him. My parents still live in California, and I love when anyone gets a chance to visit. One thing I love about visits, especially if it's my dad, is that we usually go to really nice places for dinner. Last night we ventured into Buckhead to La Grotta Ristorante Italiano.

There are two locations for La Grotta, one in Buckhead and one at Perimeter. We chose to go to the original location off Peachtree Road that has been open for 33 years. (My parents used to eat dinner at this location when they lived in Atlanta 27 years ago!) I have driven past La Grotta numerous times but never been in.

On Saturday we were greeted at the curb by a very nice valet. As he took the car around we walked inside to find the restaurant. I was thrown off a little because La Grotta is located in the bottom of an apartment building. When you arrive, you take the elevator down to the Garden Level and round a few corners before you get to the hostess. We were right on time for our reservation so we were seated immediately outside at a nice table that overlooked the garden.

Since we were out to dinner with Richie we let him order the appetizers and wine. 

We started with Calamari Fra Diavolo, Seared Calamari with a Spicy Tomato Marinara Sauce, which was great. Usually when I am out to eat we get fried calamari so this was a little bit different, but I really enjoyed it (even the pieces of calamari that still actually looked like a miniature squid!).

calamari fra diavolo

The other appetizer we got was Prosciutto di Parma con Melone, Shaved Prosciutto Ham with Fresh Melon, Mint, with an aged Balsamic Glaze. This prosciutto was really tasty paired with the honeydew. I am typically not a honeydew fan, I think because most people serve it before it's ripe, but this time it was perfectly ripe and sweet.

prosciutto 

My dad got Scaloppine di Vitello Antonio, Veal Loin Scaloppine with Sautéed Shallots, Fresh Herbs, Sun Dried Tomatoes & Lemon Butter Sauce, for dinner. He thoroughly enjoyed it, and I had a bite and thought the light sauce really complimented the veal.

veal scaloppine with sun-dried tomatoes

Steven decided to order the Gamberetti Fra Diavolo con Linguini Aglio Olio, Sauté of Mediterranean Shrimp with Spicy Tomato Sauce and Linguine tossed with Olive Oil and Fresh Garlic. This was the other dish I was contemplating ordering and I was a little jealous when I saw this come out. These were some of the largest shrimp I have ever seen, and the tastiest. (I had to try a little of everything!)

shrimp and linguini

After 15 minutes of deliberating - there were so many good things I seriously could not decide - I went with the Scaloppine di Vitello alla Grotta, Veal Loin Scaloppine with Wild Mushrooms, and Creamy Marsala Wine Sauce. This dish was similar to my dad's with a different sauce and mushrooms instead of sundried tomatoes. I don't order veal often so this was a treat for me. It was very tender and cooked perfectly.

veal with wild mushrooms

The temptation of the dessert menu was too hard to resist. My dad ordered the Tiramisu, which I again had to try (and of course it was great), and I had the Creme Brulee. The dessert was "torched" perfectly, and I loved the raspberries on top. (Much to Steven's dismay, I now want my own kitchen torch to make creme brulee, and this will likely lead to me burning down the apartment.) Unfortunately, there is no picture of the non-eaten creme brulee because I was so excited I started eating it immediately.

mostly eaten Creme Brulee

To top off our meal we got a plate of La Grotta milk chocolate with the check! Way better than a mint!

our chocolates!

In the end, I was happy with my dinner choice and would probably order it again if there weren't so many other things I wanted to try. Also, my dessert was to die for. I cannot wait to go back (this probably won't happen until my dad comes back to Georgia) and try some other items on their menu!

Also, I feel like I should officially apologize to Steven and my dad for embarrassing them by taking pictures at dinner and accidentally having my flash on. OOPS! :) You will thank me for the pictures one day when you are too old to remember what you got for dinner that time at La Grotta. :)



Chevrons on Etsy

September 23, 2011

Chevron patterns are everywhere you look online and in stores - on chairs, on prints in frames, on pillows... you name it, I am sure it comes in a chevron design.

It was actually about a year ago that I realized this awesome zigzag pattern I was seeing everywhere had an official name. Since then, my love for chevrons has grown exponentially.

I am dedicating this Etsy Find Friday to anything with a chevron pattern.  I was not surprised at all when I first started looking for this week's finds and there were over 6,000 items that came up in the search results. It was hard to narrow everything down, but I was able to pick some favorites.

(images from etsy. direct links below.)


1. Personalized Lucite Tray from PrettySmitten, $70.00 - This customizable tray was one of my first finds. I have been looking for a clear lucite tray for our apartment for some time. I really like how PrettySmitten gives you the option to select a custom pattern, color, and add your personal monogram. This tray would be perfect for our entry table as a catchall or on our coffee table for channel changers and coasters.

2. Black & White Chevron Party Dress from Yellowcake, $92.00 - I was immediately drawn to this dress. (It might have something to do with the fact that it is UGA colors!) The boldness of the red combined with the black and white chevron is attractive to me. Also, I love any dress that has pockets (easy storage for a camera and lip gloss) and can be dressed up or down like this! Something great to note about the seller Yellowcake is that they donate 5% of all sales to a different nonprofit every month!

3. Chevron Italian Stone Coaster from MeadowTea, $30.00 for 5 - Hand painted chevron coasters on Italian stone!? What more could an Italian girl ask for? These coasters are beautiful, and I love the fact that no two are the same (since they are handmade). I think these would look great in our apartment and effectively save any coffee table from water rings.

4. Faux Bamboo Dining Set from datsolady, $400.00 - I am not on the market for a new dining room table, but I did love this set. The soft blue of the chevron fabric and white faux bamboo give the table and chairs a really romantic feeling. Shipping would be expensive for this 5 piece set, but if I lived in Seattle and was looking for a new table and chairs I would snatch this up. Side note - I am in love with that teal elephant teapot/vase! I will now be scouring the internet to find one!

5. Chevron Desk Calendar from stelledesign, $18.50 - This minimalist chevron calendar caught my eye pretty quickly. I love the simplicity of the design and even how it is displayed (in a CD case). This would be great for a desk at work or hung on a nail in a home office.

6. Yellow & White Chevron Clutch from waterpath, $25 - I love clutches. That being said, I only own 2. I am one of those people who carries around a huge purse, typically with my Kindle and other necessities in it at all times, and I can never find my phone when it is ringing. I would, however, love a small bag like this for a night on the town. It would force me to actually only carry my essentials, which would be nice.


And, how could I only pick one paper item (the calendar)? There were just too many great chevron prints that I had to add a few more finds to my list.


(images from etsy. direct links below.)


7. Blue Chevron Hang Tags from MonkeyandtheWhale, $5 for 3 - These hang tags would be the perfect addition to any gift! (It's all about presentation, right?) The shades of the blue color scheme are definitely working for me as is the simple font. If you like these tags check out MonkeyandtheWhale's other items. She has some cute stuff (and is from SF!).

8. Life is Short Print from hairbranedschemes, $15 - This print spoke to me. :) Life is short and unfortunately, we sometimes need a reminder. This print is a great way to give yourself a little push to live every day to the fullest, and it could also add a little beauty to your wall.

9. Love You Art Print from partiesiheart, $10 - I really liked the design and simplicity of these two prints. However, this listing is a little different. You actually get a virtual file emailed to you and you are able to print it at home/Kinko's/Costco. This is a great option for someone who wants their print right away and wants to have some freedom in selecting the paper themselves.

10. Chevron Road Trip Map from CirclePrints, $18 - This map is such a cute way to remember a road trip or even all the places you visited in a year. Steven and I love to travel and usually take a few trips in the summer and around the holidays, so this would be perfect for us. I can see it hanging up in the apartment now. :) This print is also completely customizable. You get to choose the chevon color, the map color, text, dates, cities and the seller is open to adding anything else you can think of!

Steven better watch out. After doing this Etsy search, he may come home one day to find our apartment completely filled with chevron-patterned items. :)

To see more of my Etsy finds go here, here, here, or here.


Homemade Pizza

September 21, 2011

The other night Steven and I decided to get back to my Italian roots and make some homemade pizza!

me in riomaggiore, italy
We cooked these pizzas in our oven on a baking sheet, but I would really love to get one of these Pizza Grill Stones from William Sonoma. (Stevens response to this was "okay, but we need a grill too." Lets just add that to my 'wants' list!)



Anywho... We started off our pizza with some dough from Publix. One of my best friends Jenna introduced me to these bags of dough that get you off to the right start. You can find them in the baking section, usually in a a cooler or a small fridge.



The first thing you have to do, per the directions on the bag, is to tear a hole in the plastic to let the dough breathe for about an hour before you start cooking. (Also, you can preheat your oven to 350 now.)



Once your hour is up, remove the dough from the bag and start stretching/rolling/throwing. I will tell you - despite my Italian genes I was no good at this. There were a few close calls with the ceiling and kitchen appliances. However, in the end I was able to get a somewhat circle formed on my pan.

*Note - if you are rolling your dough out on the counter use some flour when things start to get sticky. You can put flour on the counter, a little on top of the dough and some on your rolling pin as needed.



We decided to bake the dough a little before we added toppings. I don't know if this is an official pizza making step, but this is what I have done with Jenna before and I think it makes the final product taste delicious. Before we threw these in the oven we spread a little olive oil and garlic on the pizza.



The now garlic pizza crust went into the oven for ten minutes. You don't want to to brown at all. Just at the point where the dough starts to rise up a little.

Can you tell whose pizza is whose?

my interestingly shaped "circle" pizza

stevens almost perfect square pizza

I am clearly no perfectionist. :)

While the pizzas were cooking I took the opportunity to cook my pesto. We made these pizzas before I got my new food processor so I had to make pesto from a pouch rather than fresh (and lets be real, I didn't want to spend the time making it from scratch).


Mini Caprese Salad Skewers

As I mentioned, we had DZ dinner club on Monday. It was so much fun, and I really can't wait to do it again. For the dinner I made these mini caprese salad skewers/kabobs and wanted to share my quick and easy recipe.

This recipe calls for only 5 things...
grape or cherry tomatoes
fresh mozzarella
fresh basil
toothpicks
balsamic vinegar

The first thing I did was wash the tomatoes.

grape tomatoes

make sure you wash well


Next, I rinsed the basil and ripped it into smaller pieces. I'm sure you could also slice the leaves, but this is cooking by Traci - as simple as possible.


clean basil


I then took my hunk of mozzarella and sliced it into smaller chunks.

sliced mozzarella


A great and easy alternative to cutting a block of cheese is to buy mozzarella pearls which are already the perfect size.

mini mozzarella ball alternative (source)


The last major step is to put everything together. Since I was making so many of these skewers I decided to assemble them in stages. I first put one tomato on the end of a toothpick. When I was done with 20 or so I added the cheese to each toothpick. Lastly, I placed the basil.

step 1

step 2

step 3

Also, I pulled out this little ramekin to put balsamic, salt and pepper in for dipping.

 mini ramekin from pier 1 (source)

This modern take on an Italian classic was delicious.

mini caprese salad

I can't wait to make these again and try to come up with a new Italian recipe remix.

DZ Dinner Club

September 20, 2011

W.O.W.... I have already been neglecting the recent updates in my life. I have been super busy with a very fun visit from one of my best friends from CA and the start of football season. (High school football games and UGA games!)

Lauren visiting from San Diego
DZ's tailgating at North Campus for the UGA vs South Carolina

But amidst the craziness, I still try to make time to see my friends. As I get older, I am finding more of my friends getting married and/or moving to different parts of town and having as crazy a schedule as I do, and this has caused me to realize that I really have to put forth the effort to keep in touch with the people I care about.

DZ dinner club was something that my good friends from our sorority and I tried to start 8 or 9 months ago. We were able to do 2 or 3 dinner parties, but then people started moving out of the state, or out of Atlanta for school/jobs and the whole thing kind of fell apart (almost all the girls in the picture above, who were DZ's with me, moved from atlanta within just about 6 months of each other). Well, last month Carol and I were talking and decided it was time to get this supper club going again.

We contacted some of the younger girls from our sorority who live in Atlanta now and started the organizing process (which actually wasn't that bad with almost 20 girls, surprisingly). We threw out a few dates and the idea of doing a theme (who doesn't love a theme party) and the ball started rolling!

Once the date was decided, so was the theme.... Italian.

(source)

No, not Italian as in Jersey Shore. More like Italian as in the land of my people (I'm half Italian). You can tell I am Italian because this is a real picture of my dad the night of my wedding (he is a mobster and reason #5 why you don't want to mess with me. He will whack you.)

Richie. (image from out of focus photography)

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