Sunday, August 20, 2017

Gift Guide // For the Ice Cream Lover


Probably one of my favorite gift ideas, I’ve used this ice cream gift for several different occasions over the years including weddings, housewarmings, anniversaries, and birthdays. I mean, who doesn’t love ice cream, and these days, buying an ice cream maker is probably not high on most people’s list of needs, but they are always good to have on hand for family events with kids. I love seeing the looks on their faces when you pour in the base and within a few minutes serve them a bowl of delicious creaminess and let them lick the beaters.

Another great aspect of this gift is that it can be customized for your budget very easily. You could start with the Cuisinart Stainless Steel Ice Cream Maker which by itself is a lovely gift. This is the maker I had for years which is based around a canister that you freeze prior to placing it into the machine. The hardest thing about using this model is making space in the freezer for the canister and remembering to freeze it ahead of time.

A nice add on to the maker is the Ben & Jerry’s book. I’ve had my copy of this book for over 20 years, and I think I’ve made everything in it by this point. Basically, this book teaches you how to make your favorite Ben & Jerry’s flavor at home. Ever felt like there wasn't enough chocolate in your chunky monkey? Now you have the power to add more by customizing the recipe. 

If you are looking for a maker that doesn’t require pre-freezing the canister, the Cuisinart Ice 100 brings the ultimate in convenience. Because it has a self-contained compressor, it will even keep your ice cream frozen while you are serving it to avoid that immediate melt you get with most makers. The Ice 100 has a lift up panel on the lid for ease of adding those mix ins that the Ben & Jerry’s are famous for. 

If you want to add even more to your gift basket, these MacKenzie-Childs ice cream bowls are both practical and decorative. The glaze over steel construction means your treats will melt more slowly especially if you place the bowls in the freezer before serving. They are hand painted with an adorable and whimsical check and stripe black and white print. 

Finally the ultimate luxurious part of the gift is the Mary Jurek Helyx ice cream scoop. Not your traditional ice cream scoop design, this one is more of a mini ice scoop, creating great slabs of ice cream for your bowls. 


Whichever configuration you choose for your gift, the recipient will be thrilled with the potential of sweet treats. 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Dessert - Baked Chocolate Pudding



Over the last few years, A has taken over the baking duties in our house. I am still responsible for cooking dinner every night, but she is always on the hunt for the next big dessert. She has been so busy this summer that she really hasn't had time to bake, which is probably a good thing, but last night I felt like having a little sweet after our meal. Of course, I hadn't planned ahead, so it had to be with only things I had in the pantry, and I wanted it to be fast. I found this recipe for Baked Chocolate Pudding in one of D's old cookbooks that I had actually never even opened before. It's from 1000 Classic Recipes from Around the World by Jo-Anne Cox and Elizabeth Towers, and it fit the bill with only seven ingredients. I did leave out the walnuts as who wants crunchy bits in your pudding?


The other great part of this recipe is that it doesn't require a mixer. I softened the butter


and easily creamed it together with the brown sugar by hand.


Then I added two eggs that I had beaten with a fork


then mixed in flour


and unsweetened cocoa powder and baked in a buttered casserole for 35 minutes while we ate dinner.


When I pulled it out of the oven, I let it cool for five minutes then dusted the top with confectioner's sugar. The result is a creamy texture with some crispy, chewy bits around the edges.

Make sure you eat it warm!

Monday, July 17, 2017

DIY - Stamping Post-It Notes



Although I am faithfully using my DayDesigner right now, I sometimes have more "must do" tasks than the space for three that are allocated on every daily page. I've gotten so used to looking in that space for my Top 3, that if I don't put them there, I forget about them. I've tried squeezing them into the space and have at times covered up the space to make it more usable for my needs, but lately I've been resorting to this hack using basic ruled Post-It Notes  I pick up at Target, some stamps and ink.


I prefer the Versa Magic ink generally, but today I used Tsukineko Memento Dew Drop Ink in Cottage Ivy since I'm using the yellow Post-It notes. 


This set of stamps is obviously from way back in 2015 from Studio Calico; however it has great heading stamps that I use for lists.


I have  a set of these American Crafts Acrylic Stamp Blocks which no longer seem to be available but this one from Hestya is very similar. These blocks are great because they come in a package containing all of the various sizes and the indentations on the side make it so much easier to hold onto during stamping. I last showed them in action in this planning video.


I'm not the best stamper in the world, but I've found with cling stamps, it's easy to tell when you've got too much ink on the stamp when you lose the definition between the lines. Blot it off and start again.


These little wooden stamps are my absolute favorite. I have this little tin from the Target Dollar Spot that I keep on my desk full of them. I've got my numbers 1 -5 for my task list plus this cute girl who has the days of the week under her plus a sweet expression for the vibe of each day.


I do have a harder time inking the wooden stamps, but it doesn't really matter to me if I get the ghosting around the edges. This is just a to-do list after all.


And here's the finished product. If I know it's going to be a crazy week, I will stamp out a list for the entire week at the same time to save time and not have to do it everyday. I pop this Post-It into my DayDesigner, and it's perfect for attracting my attention to make sure I get things done plus it's a fun way to make a basic Post-It cute and functional.

Do you stamp page flags and sticky notes? I'd love to see some of your favorite ways to use them.



Monday, July 10, 2017

Martha + Marley Spoon Review

A few months ago we began using Marley Spoon for our meal delivery service. I mentioned in my May favorites post here that we really like it, so I thought I'd break it down a little further for you and also explain our history with meal deliveries as well as why we are using one now.



We've been in Nevada for one year full-time now officially, and although I think we've adapted well for the most part, there are some things that we still miss about Southern California. In addition to some of our favorite restaurants and hang outs, grocery shopping in Nevada is just not the same. We knew that we had it better than a lot of other places when it came to the variety and freshness of produce when we lived there, we really didn't expect it to be so apparent here. I admit that it is not horrible everywhere, but I don't really want to have to drive 30 miles to go to a store for fresh produce or pay over the top prices at Whole Foods for every meal.

I also found that we were being rather wasteful with our food and often not making the healthiest or smartest choices. Tired tonight? Why not have mac and cheese from Albertson's deli? Yeah, not good.

Even when we were in Pasadena, we had used Blue Apron and Diet to go at various times, but both left us with complaints. Blue Apron is, as A would describe it, pretty extra. Both the ingredients, instructions and prep time got to be overwhelming. It also didn't have as much flexibility as we would have liked. They may have changed that now, but at the time we were using the service in 2014, you either took what was being offered or you didn't. Some weeks found us bypassing all the meals because one or the other of us had issues with ingredients or the recipes seemed counter-intuitive to the time we were trying to save.

We tried Diet to go just before we moved last year when life was crazy with frequent trips back and forth between states and most of our time spent working or packing. The fact that the meals were precooked and simply needed to be warmed up seemed like a big benefit as well as being controlled portions. The only problem was the food was just passable and they seemed to have a dependency on using red bell peppers in almost every meal which are a vegetable D simply will not eat. He was living off of the same three dinner entrees every week which just got so boring for him. Also, after a few days, the meals just didn't taste fresh.

After subscribing to both Martha Stewart Living and Everyday Food for several years, I trusted that any meal service she was lending her name to would have quality fresh food; it was just a matter of how elaborate and time consuming the recipes would be.



Happily we have found all the menus easy to prepare, quick and the recipe creators seem to understand the concept of not wanting to dirty every pan in the house while you are cooking dinner. The dishes are usually a straight-forward mix of protein, healthy carb although there are always low-carb options every week if you have wheat issues or are on a low carb diet, and plenty of vegetables.

We feel like we are eating a really balanced diet and since there are only three of us utilizing the meal plan that is meant for two adults and two children, we always have enough left overs to feed two of us for lunch the next day.


The thing I really enjoy about Marley Spoon though is the flexibility. Every week there are 10 menu options from which we choose four meals. Options include vegetarian and a mix of beef, poultry, fish and pork protein options. We always seem to choose at least one vegetarian meal as well as the fish, but I have never felt like I didn't have options that would work for us. Plus Marley Spoon has an app, so I can always pull the next week's meals up on my phone or iPad to make changes up until a few days before the delivery. It's easy to skip a week like we did last week while we were on vacation. You have the ability to look at the entire recipe prior to choosing a meal to see if it will be too time consuming or complicated, but I've never had an meal that took longer than 30 minutes to prepare. Everything arrives in a box that looks way too small to hold four meals compared to the number of bags I'm usually carrying in from a grocery store trip plus they are well cooled and insulated when being delivered here in the Nevada heat.Once you open the box, each meal is individually bagged so you don't have to sort through everything looking for items for each meal. Blue Apron used to put all the ingredients for all four meals jumbled into the box together, and we would have to do an inventory to make sure everything had arrived and then we would put them into bags ourselves to keep them straight.

Also the customer service has been amazing. Two weeks ago, they had an issue getting our box out in time and not only did I receive an email from them, they called to make sure I would have enough time to pick up something for dinner. Last week, one of our recipes called for ciabatta rolls which were missing from the box. I went onto the website and chatted with a customer service rep who apologized and offered me a discount off of my next box to make up for the inconvenience.

If you don't believe that anything could be this good, I have a chance for you to try it yourself. I have three boxes up for grabs. All you have to do is leave a comment here with either an email address or your Instagram name and either follow my Instagram or subscribe to the blog. I will choose the recipients of the boxes randomly next Monday, July 17. 

Backyard Update





Back in October I shared this post about our new house and some of the work we were doing on the interior. Now I thought I'd share a little bit of the different work we've been doing on the side yard. Our pool, shown here in one of the original pictures on the listing of the house from early last year, is actually on the side of our house. The lounge chairs pictured here are against the wall that faces the front yard. To the left in the picture you can see the side of our next-door neighbor's house as well as some Italian Cyprus trees. As you can also see, the second tree in the line was already having some issues even before we bought the house. After we moved in, all of the trees continued to begin slowly die.

Since we had quite a few projects to tackle inside of the house, we really hadn't planned on starting anything in the yard, but when these trees started to all die and since they are visible from the front of the house, we had to do something about them to remain in compliance with our homeowner's association.



Here's the view of the cleaned out planter from the other end of the pool looking towards the back fence and the above ground hot tub.



And here's a view matching the original angle facing the side of our neighbor's house. We aren't very fond of the rock in the planter, so we've been weighing the options of different types of drought-resistant plants that are also pool-friendly so we don't have to worry about leaves and debris falling into the pool since it can be quite windy here as well. Right now we are leaning towards purple fountain grass



You can see the tree debris in this shot before we chopped it up and got rid of it. Also this is a good shot of the climbing jasmine that had gotten a little out of control on the side of the house. We cut this way back because we are about to have the exterior of the house painted.


This broken fish was found hidden behind the bushes in the planter when we started to pull them out.


We had been debating whether or not to keep this monstrosity when the argument was solved for us by it springing a leak. I don't like these above-ground units, but my husband liked it. This one had seen better days. I'm voting on turning this space into an out-door kitchen area. Once we get this out of the yard, we can also tackle that horrible vine behind it.