Monday, December 31, 2012

Angel Crunch

I make these delicious little candies once a year and every year, someone asks me for the recipe!  As a matter of fact, I got the recipe from my cousin Deanna.  I love recipes that your friends and family have already tested!

Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups Captain Crunch Peanut Butter (if you can't find these, you can use the Reese's cereal)
2 1/2 cups Rice Krispys
2 1/2 cups lightly salted dry roasted peanuts
2 1/2 cups mini marshmallows
24 ounces White Almond Bark (aka white chocolate)


Oops, forgot to include the White Almond Bark in the pic!


Mix all ingredients (except for almond bark) in a large bowl.


Melt the almond bark - I usually do this in the microwave in 45 second intervals.


While you're melting the chocolate, lay out wax paper on your work space.


Pour the melted almond bark over the dry ingredients in the large bowl and stir.


 Drop by spoonful onto wax paper.  Sorry for the blurry pic!  Not all of the candies will form in a perfect mound, but not to worry.  They'll still taste great!


See how wonky all of mine are?  Allow to cool and dry completely.


I box mine up to give as Christmas treats, or pile them on a tray to take to a party.  Enjoy!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Company Christmas - in Costume


It was only a few weeks ago that I told you I was working on a top secret costume for my company Christmas Party and today, I can finally reveal all of the tomfoolery.  We were instructed to come to the party dressed as our favorite 'Christmas Character'.  Wanting to be original as well as over-the-top, I chose to be the Snow Queen from The Nutcracker.  There were lots of fun costumes at the party!
From left to right: Christmas Tree, Leg Lamp from A Christmas Story, Snow Queen, Elf



I was selected as a finalist to win Best Costume, but soon discovered that I couldn't compete with a man in drag!


Santa took some time to hear my Christmas list.


Everyone at the party loved my glittery eyelashes!


Posing away!  By the way, the party was downtown on the San Antonio Riverwalk, so I had to walk from the parking garage to the restaurant wearing this costume.  It garnered several cat calls from random gentlemen on the street.  Lots of fun with great people!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Cocktail Party

This year I decided to host a small Christmas Cocktail Party at our house!  I am fond of entertaining and all the fun that goes along with it, especially at Christmas.  


Our house, dressed up for Christmas.


Living room and Christmas Tree.


Christmas spread with lots of yummy food!


Crudite, Brown Butter Pecans, Cheese Straws, Cheese Ball


Shrimp Spread, Mixed Nuts, Pesto Cheese Blossom


Charcuterie, Cheese Plate, Olive Bar


Fresh fruit and a soft, herbed sheep's milk cheese.  Are you hungry yet? 


Bar - Pomegranate - Cranberry Punch with Vodka & Cointreau, Champagne, Red & White Wine


Isn't my little nutcracker plate so cute?  I found it at West Elm a few years ago.


Waterford stemware on a Reed & Barton silverplate tray.


Dessert in the dining room.


Darling Husband slicing oranges.


Bestie Katrina sips the Pom-Cran Cocktail



My first fresh Christmas-y arrangement, inspired by one I saw in Southern Living.  

Merry Christmas to everyone - may you enjoy the holidays with the ones you love most and give thanks for the blessings in your life!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Shopping on Magazine Street in NOLA

My Darling Husband (DH) and I kicked off our third day in New Orleans with some beignets and coffee at Cafe Beignet on the recommendation of a shopkeeper on Royal Street.


The couple sitting across from us had a little visitor perched at the bottom of their table and I couldn't resist snapping a photo!  After finishing our breakfast, we headed to Magazine Street to do some major shopping!  The shopping on Magazine Street consists of independent stores selling everything from antiques to clothes and homegoods.  Don't make the mistake of thinking you can walk the entire area - it spans six miles!  My suggestion is to plan ahead by researching which stores you'd most like to visit.  With my list in hand, we first stopped at The Shops at 2011 Magazine.  Various vendors rent space inside this store, where you can find lots of fun things for the house.  I picked up some tea towels embroidered with a fleur de lis and crown.  Our next stop was at Source, a shop I instantly fell in love with!  I just adored all of the beautiful furniture and accents - everything was exactly my style! 


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Sadly, most things just weren't in my price range for this trip - but I enjoyed perusing this store and hope to return very soon!



One of my favorite shops on Magazine Street is Perch, a homegoods store that does a great job of mixing modern and vintage pieces to make very stylish interiors.  I didn't buy anything this time, but in the past, I purchased fleur de lis dinnerware and Alexa Pulitzer stationery.  I just love the owner's aesthetic as well as her personal home - which has been published in multiple venues.

Bryan Batt's store, Hazelnut, is another one of my fave stores to visit in New Orleans.  It's filled with fantastic decorative items for the home, including glassware, serveware, decor and so much more.  I think I made about twelve circles around the store just taking it all in!  Bryan (who played Salvatore on Mad Men) was in the shop and I couldn't resist introducing myself and telling him just how much I love his two books, Big Easy Style and She Ain't Fat, She's My Mother.  He was completely gracious and offered to have his friend Debra Shriver sign her new book that I purchased in his store and send it to me.  I also purchased Hazelnut's signature New Orleans toile drink coasters to go with my dinner napkins.  I just love them!


The toile depicts New Orleans landmarks, such as St. Louis Cathedral, street cars and Audobon Park.  Although I don't live in New Orleans, I consider it my 'adopted city'.

Next we headed to Scriptura, which I read about at The Uptown Acorn.  Scriptura is a fantastic stationery store, filled with high quality invitations, notepads and wrapping paper perfect for paper junkies/connioisseurs.  While I was looking at some Christmas cards, I glanced up and thought I recognized the guy standing next to me.  Lo and behold, it was Ron from The Uptown Acorn!  I couldn't help blurting out, "Are you...?!"  And it was.  Let me just say that I love Ron's blog as well as his style and this was akin to meeting yet another celebrity in New Orleans!  Face red with shyness, I practically gushed while talking to him, hoping he didn't think I was a stalker!  He and his partner were at Scriptura shopping for their Christmas cards and I promise it was a total coincidence!  I told him just how much I loved his blog and his beautiful historic home in Uptown and he had his partner take a photo of us.  It was lots of fun meeting Ron in person and this was the first time that has ever happened to me.  Ron told us to check out La Petite Grocery for lunch and we headed straight there because I am convinced that Ron is an unofficial New Orleans Ambassador.


Yummy shrimp at La Petite Grocery.  Ron's recommendation was perfection!



After our yummy lunch, we shopped at Passages Antiques, where I fell in love with the bombe chest in the top right photo.  Unfortunately, it wasn't large enough for our space.  This shop was filled to the brim with lots of lovely antiques.


Since I was on a mission to find a chandelier, I insisted that we stop at Julie Neill Designs.  Every single piece in Julie's store is a work of art and I left wishing that just one could be mine.

Tired from our long day of shopping, DH and I decided to drive around the Garden District to oggle all of the lovely historic mansions.  One day, I will purchase a historic home of my very own there!



Later that evening, we had dinner at one of our favorite restaurants - Galatoire's.  The Crabmeat Maison was delicious as was the Pompano.  While the food is special at Galatoire's, the atmosphere makes a meal at this restaurant an unforgettable experience.  The mood is joyous and the waiters are professionals who want to ensure you have the best meal of your life.


If you visit New Orleans during the Christmas season, you absolutely MUST visit The Roosevelt Hotel.  The branches wrapped in lights make the lobby completely magical.  Relaxing in the Sazerac Bar, we sipped on a brandy milk punch and what else?  A Sazerac. 



We had our nightcap at Arnaud's French 75 Bar, which might just be our favorite bar in New Orleans.  It's very old school, with a beautiful carved wood bar, cozy seating and perfect cocktails.  I ordered a French 75 and DH had an Old Fashioned.  It was the perfect end to our day.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Ten Year Anniversary - Day Two


After a good night's sleep at the Royal Sonesta Hotel, my Darling Husband (DH) and I headed out for lunch at just one of many New Orleans' institutions - Acme Oyster House.  Our mouths were salivating as we walked down Bourbon, anticipating the awesome flavors to come!

We immediately ordered their chargrilled oysters, which I assume must be passed around on trays in heaven.  We dug in so fast, I didn't even get a chance to take a photo, but above you see the remnants of our greedy appetites.

Next we continued to explore the Quarter and walked in to one of the most incredible antique stores in America - M.S. Rau Antiques.  We visit this 'shop' each time we're in New Orelans to see their museum quality pieces. Enormous sets of Tiffany & Co. sterling silver and priceless Baccarat crystal fill the displays of this wonderful store.  It's so fun to look at the rare and beautiful antiques - a chair from Versailles, elaborately carved pool tables and risque sculptures.  The V.P. of M.S. Rau Antiques gave us a personal tour of their Impressionism Exhibit, describing the Monets, van Goghs, and Reniors as we viewed the three floors of art.  What's so amazing is that most of the paintings, sketches, etc. are for sale - ranging from a few hundred thousand dollars to several million dollars.  How incredible that we were able to view pieces you would normally only see in a museum or at Sotheby's! 




Upon hearing that I am in love with jewlery, the V.P. insisted that I try on a few 'trinkets'.  I selected a 20ct canary emerald cut diamond ring and it immediately came out of the case and perched on my finger!  It was so stunning and could have been mine for just a million dollars.  Not too bad, right?  God help DH if we ever become truly wealthy!  Next to grace my finger was a beautiful four carat emerald cut white diamond.  Unfortunately, once you've had a 20ct canary sparkler on your had, nothing else can compare! 




Finally, I admired a glamorous Persian polished turquoise and diamond necklace that I swear had to have been from Elizabeth Taylor's collection.  It consisted of 108ctw of turquoise, surrounded by 60ctw of diamonds.  Out of the case and on to my neck...gulp.  There are no words.  Santa Baby, these two pieces of art are on my wish list.  By the way, in case you think it might be easy to just 'run off' with one of these gems, think again.  The armed guard at the door will have something to say about that. 

Still in shock from my jewelry high, I stumbled over to another favorite shop - Luccullus.  Filled with culinary antiques, this store makes my toes curl.  From gorgeous china to French glassware and linens, I feel the urge to whip out a credit card and make some very irresponsible purchases!  My favorite find here was a 170 year old set of French raspberry, gold and white china, monogrammed with an 'A'.  Seriously?  It's not fair!  Why is it that when you are on a mission to buy a certain item, you instead find something SO tempting that is equally as fabulous????  I swooned over this perfect set, lamenting that it just wasn't in the budget this time around.  DH wanted to buy it for me, but I insisted that we needed a chandelier more than an antique set of monogrammed china.

Tearing myself away from precious jewelry and china is a tough task, but we continued walking around the Quarter, enjoying the breezy weather as well as the street performers.  The artists, musicians and street performers make up some of my favorite parts of New Orleans.

After watching the antics of a magician in Jackson Square, we took a break at Antoine's Hermes Bar.  DH ordered a mint julep and I had a 'Magic Lemonade'




Antoine's Hermes Bar has a display of Mardi Gras regalia that is fun to check out.  They have photos of all the queens of their Krewe since its inception.  Pretty girls and exquisite gowns.  After finishing our drinks, we purchased some pralines and chocolates at Leah's and headed back to the room for a nap!

Then off we were to a fun concert at the Blue Nile to hear Kermit Ruffins and the BBQ Swingers!




Apparently DH didn't have time to focus the camera, but this is Kermit and me.  What a great concert!  Kermit sang a variety of songs, including a Charlie Brown Christmas song and the Treme song - which was SUPER fun for me as I am a fan of the show.  At one point, Kermit invited all the ladies on stage and we jammed right along with the band!  Lucky for me that DH was ok with his wife dancing on a stage in NOLA on his anniversary.

Hungry for dinner, we made our way to Emeril's restaurant - NOLA.  I ordered a 'Saints Sparkle' cocktail and the boudin balls - both of which were yummy.  Then...all of a sudden...I started feeling sick.  Not blaming the food or drink, not sure what hit me.  We had to get our entrees to go so I could go lay down in bed at the hotel.  So that's how we ended our ten year anniversary night - eating a very expensive 'to-go' dinner in bed.  That wasn't exactly the plan, and even though I was sick, we both enjoyed our time together.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Ten Year Anniversary in New Orleans


Each year, my Darling Husband (DH) and I take a trip to celebrate our anniversary.  We had originally planned to vacation in New York City, but my fears of unoperational subways, hotels still without phone service and other damage from the hurricane prompted me to change our plans.  New Orleans is one of our favorite cities, so we decided to revisit our old friend.  We arrived in New Orleans at the Royal Sonesta Hotel on Bourbon Street to find the most beautifully decorated entrance.  These live Christmas trees instantly put a smile on my face!

After a yummy breakfast at Cafe Amelie in the Prince Conti Hotel, we began wandering the streets of the French Quarter.  Hopping in and out of some of the most incredible antiques stores in the world can occupy my time for hours upon end!  New Orleans antique shops house rare finds from all over the globe, spanning thousands and thousands of years.  Most of the pieces are completely out of my price range, but a girl can dream, right?  My particular goal in this shopping trip was to purchase a chandelier for either my living room or dining room.  After perusing all day, I realized I was about $5,000-20,000 short of what I'd need to buy a chandelier on Royal Street.  It was still fun to admire the fine furniture, mirrors, silver and artwork.  I was especially excited to find a set of Flora Danica china - the most expensive porcelain in the world.  I've never seen it in person, only via the web.  It was every bit as beautiful as its astronomical pricetag.


DH was very patient with my nonstop shopping, but we did duck in to a drug store to purchase some gel insoles for our shoes that afternoon!  We also stopped at the Hotel Monteleone for some leisurely cocktails.  Coincidenally, I stayed at the Monteleone ten years ago for my bachelorette party in NOLA.


One of my favorite drinks to order while staying in New Orleans is a Brandy Milk Punch.  Love it!  The Hotel Monteleone recently completed a renovation to expand its Carousel Bar, adding more seating and a second bar area.  I loved the color scheme and fabrics they chose - so luxe!  This is one of my favorite hotels!


Beautiful grays, creams and velvety upolstered seating.

Next we headed to a favorite shop of mine - Fleur de Paris - a custom millinery store with high quality hats of all designs.  The gorgeous hats are adorned with silk flowers, feathers, pins, jewels and more!  I would LOVE to commission a hat from this shop one day when the occasion calls for it coupled with a generous budget.

Image via fleurdeparis.net

Ready to listen to some fun music, DH and I freshened up and headed out to see Kermit Ruffins play at Vaughn's in the Bywater.  As soon as we walked in, we immediately felt out of place.  We were definitely overdressed, although we weren't dressed that well!  Instead of a welcome, we were told not to sit at the 'locals' table.  Ordering a couple of beers, we settled in to wait for the concert to begin.  Unfortunately, we soon discovered that there was a Saints game night and Kermit would not be playing afterall.  After finishing our beers and listening to all manner of expletives aimed at the television, we left, hoping that the locals wouldn't berate us upon our exit.

We headed back to the Royal Sonesta to check out the swanky Irvin Mayfield's Jazz Playhouse and it did not disappoint!  James Rivers and his band played fantastic music that had most of the bar singing along, clapping and dancing.  Singing everything from Christmas songs, Frank Sinatra, Blues and Fats Domino, James gave an excellent show!  He also proved to be a dynamic musician - playing the saxaphone, harmonica, flute and even the bagpipes! 



When the band took a break, I looked around and realized that we were younger than the rest of the crowd by about 20 years!  What's funny is that you would never guess that this old-school-elegant music venue is right off of Bourbon Street and only steps away from the racuous partying.  New Orleans is like that - it can be saucy or sophisticated.  This trip was for more of the latter.  The fun music, delicious cocktails and darling husband made for an unforgettable evening.