Thursday, December 30, 2010

What Are You Wearing on New Year's Eve?

OK, so I admit that one of my guilty pleasures is watching reality TV, namely The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. I'm always amused with the types of get-ups the girls pull out of their bags, but was thrilled with Jillian Harris' wardrobe in Season 5 of The Bachelorette. Thanks to Jillian I now know about Aritzia.
Aritzia can be found in select cities across the US and Canada, and trust me it's so worth a trip to visit this store. If you're lucky enough to have it nearby, check out their latest selection of party dresses. My favorite is the Wilfred Vintage Lace Dress in black. If you are not so lucky, Forever 21 has a ton of party dresses for a fraction of the cost.
If you are already set with a dress, and need that extra wow factor, visit Anthropologie for costume jewelry and accessories. I am loving their Brocco Bobbies!!
Whatever you wear, and wherever you are......I wish you the best 2011!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Kiddies and Parents will love this sweet recipe!

If you have kids like mine, than you definitely know Dora the Explorer. Turning on The First Day of School or Explore the Earth is a sure way to get my dear two year old to quiet down during an important phone call, or to get her to stay at the breakfast table to eat that last bite of eggs.  Since my family knows how much my little one adores Dora, it was of no surprise that she was inundated with Dora gifts out of the wazoo for Hanukkah and Christmas. One gift that she got was the Dora & Diego Let's Cook book.
My daughter is very picky with food. However my mother thought that if a food was "Dora endorsed" then she may be willing to give it a try. As we flipped through the book, the little one was captivated with the pictures and wanted to know what was going on in the pages {we were off to a good start}. The first thing I noticed were the recommendations and guidelines for cooking with young children in the preface to help make the experience enjoyable for both the adults and children alike. The first recipe that we decided to try was the Incan Quinoa Pudding. We had the little one hold and pour the ingredients, stir when appropriate, and help serve into a bowl for tasting. She loved participating and enjoyed doing something a little different to help break up the day. Unfortunately when it came time for the taste test, she screamed at the top of her lungs and didn't want to have anything to do with it {that's a two year old for ya}. After the adult taste test, it was decided that we will make it again and hopefully have better luck with the kiddie next time.

Let's Make it! Vamonos!

Incan Quinoa Pudding

3 cups apple juice
1 cup quinoa
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
1 cup low-fat milk, plus 2 to 3 tablespoons
2 eggs
1/4 cup honey
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 small bananas, sliced
1/4 cup dulce de leche or caramel ice cream topping, warmed
{optional for adults - for chocolate lovers, we added one Hershey's Kiss on top along with the dulce de leche topping}

  1. In a large saucepan on medium-high heat, bring apple juice, quinoa, and apricots to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15 to 20 minutes or until quinoa is tender.
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk the 1 cup milk, eggs, honey, and cinnamon until well blended {kids help}. While stirring, slowly add egg mixture to cooked quinoa. Cook, stirring constantly, for 3 to 5 minutes or until thickened. {Pudding will coat the back of a spoon.}
  3. Transfer pudding to medium bowl; cool slightly. Cover surface with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours until fully chilled.
  4. To serve, spoon into dessert bowls. Top with banana slices {kids help}. Thin dulce de leche with 2 to 3 tablespoons of milk, if necessary. Drizzle pudding with dulce de leche.

Makes 8 servings.

{Source: Dora & Diego Let's Cook, page 108}

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Smell of Christmas

Corn husks soaking in hot water
Grinding spices together, but you can use bottled spices as well
Add meat on edge and roll
Make sure the roll is tight
Fold over the end to close
Finished product and ready to be cooked

For the past 74 years, it has been tradition for my beloved grandmother to make tamales for Christmas. She passed that tradition on to my mother, and now that I have a family, I tend to keep the tradition alive. A few days ago my abuelita came over to show me the magic of making Christmas tamales. She originally makes them from scratch, but that is very time consuming. Since I don't have a full day to spare we went the easier route, which is more feasible for me.

Texas Christmas Tamales:

  • Purchase "Ready to Go" Masa from your local grocery store. We purchased 14 lbs. of masa, which in theory should produce 14 dozen tamales. Store in refrigerator until you are ready to use. Take out about 30 minutes before you start making the tamales {The HEB grocery store here in Texas carried it, however definitely call beforehand to make sure - or try a Mexican-American store in your local city}
  • Decide on a filling. We used 8 lbs. of beef chuck roast {you can use anything from pork, beans, turkey, etc.}. Place in a slow cooker until tender, making sure there is enough liquid covering the meat so that it won't dry out.
  • When the meat is cooked, place it in a large container, peel away the fat, and pull the meat with a fork or knife {it's faster to do by hand}
  • Add spices: black pepper, 1 garlic bulb minced, chili powder, cumin, salt, and smoked paprika {there are no measurements because we do it "to taste". I added smoked paprika to the mix and thought it added a little flare. Play around with the spices depending on your preferences}
  • You will also need corn husks. We got 4 bags {quantity was not specified on the bag} and had plenty left over. Separate the corn husks and soak them in hot water for about 4 hours to soften.
Putting tamales together:
  • Grab your corn husks. Use the back of a spoon and spread the masa on the smooth side of corn husk {start about half way and spread down to the wider side of the husk}. Grab the meat with your fingertips and place it on one edge of the husk, then roll. Fold the remaining part of the husk up to close.
  • Place tamales standing upright in a steamer, cover, and cook for about an hour. If the masa sticks to the corn husk they need to be cooked a little longer. Once they aren't sticking, they are ready to eat! Unroll the tamale from the husk and devour away.
Feliz Navidad!

Forever 21, literally

Somehow I found myself venturing into Forever 21. I swore to myself that I would never go back in there after college, but here I am blogging about it today. Since I've been on a hunt to find stylish clothing at a reasonable price, I thought why not....let's see what they have. I was slightly embarrassed and at first felt {ahem} my age, when all I noticed were teenage girls rummaging through the racks. I kept my cool and kept walking when I noticed an entire section devoted to vintage inspired clothing. This certainly got my attention. The pieces were not only stylish, well made, and very reasonably priced I found myself with more than 5 items in my hand ready to try on. They now have sections dedicated toward the trendy "what's hot now" fans, a denim "Heritage" line, a kids section, contemporary section called Love21, 21Men, and Twelve by Twelve. Oh and you can shop for maternity clothes as well online! So much has changed in twelve years, but definitely for the better. I ended up spending $100 on seven items {party dress, cardigan, sweaters, cute printed thermal tops, and a dressy top}. Sorry kids, I'm coming back.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Precious Gifts - the Silhouette

For starters, I have or never will claim that I am anything close to a "Martha Stewart", but in the state of our economy I try to be as crafty as possible to stretch the dime. Being that I am a mother of two children {2 years and 4 months} I have very limited time to do anything. So this requires me to find crafts that I can do in less than an hour time. For this Christmas I wanted to give my parents a little something special that was both quick and affordable. I was thinking back to my elementary days and remembered doing silhouettes for a history project. I quickly snatched up my 2 year old, put the iPhone in her hand, and told her to stand sideways and play away. It took me all of 2 minutes to get "the" shot with my digital camera. I used Photoshop to make the silhouette but it can also be done the old fashioned way {see below for instructions}. Find an old frame, glue the silhouette on contrasting paper, and viola! and instant treasure for years to come!
{Tip: be creative and use anything you have lying around the house for that extra cool effect. Instead of black paper, use colored paper, paper with a fun design, or even fabric. The possibilities are limitless!}

Instructions for using Photoshop to create a silhouette:
  1. Photograph subject, in profile, with a digital camera. Your camera should be on the same level as your subject. Try to shoot against a pure white background: This makes it easier to digitally remove the background later on.
  2. Open your photo in Photoshop. With the Magic Wand tool, select the {preferably white} background for removal. Once clicked, the background will be outlined and highlighted. Go to 'edit' and select 'cut.' The background will disappear.
  3. Go to 'image' and select 'adjustments.' Select 'desaturate' as this removes all color. Also in 'adjustments' select 'brightness/contrast.' Both lower the brightness, and increase the contrast: your image will take on the form of a silhouette. If your picture hasn't fully silhouetted, fill in the rest of the figure with black, or another color, using the Paintbucket tool.
  4. Adjust the photo to your desired dimensions. When satisfied, save the file as a JPEG.
  5. Print your photo. Trim the edges, and place it in a  frame.
 Instructions for creating a silhouette the old fashioned way:
  1. Photograph subject, in profile, with a digital camera. Your camera should be on the same level as your subject. Try to shoot against a pure white background: This makes it easier to digitally remove the background later on.
  2. Make a copy of the photograph and carefully cut out the profile with sharp scissors. 
  3. Trace the silhouette onto heavy black paper, using either a white or yellow lead pencil that will show up on black paper. Cut out the tracing carefully.
  4. Choose heavy white or ivory paper as background paper for mounting the silhouette portrait. Apply rubber cement to the back of the black silhouette and affix it to the background paper. Frame as desired.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Brows Galore

 I have been searching for "THE" place to get my eyebrows shaped over the past 10 years - from LA, San Francisco, Seattle, San Diego, and everywhere in between - and had "OK" experiences until now. This past week I ventured into ULTA, like I have many times before, to get shampoo. I was perusing the aisles and stopped at the eyebrow shaper kits. A lovely sales woman greeted me and suggested the ULTA Benefits Brow Bar. First, I had no idea that it even existed because like most ULTA locations I have visited, the Benefits Brow bar is not noticeable {as it appears on their website}. I made an appointment, but they also take walk-ins. The experience was magnificant! The wax they use is perfectly smooth and awesome for sensitive skin {like mine}. It was painless, fast, and the esthetician was very knowledgable and guided me through every step. It was a quick, affordable, and glamorous experience. I will definitely be back!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

OPI Love

With the holiday season in full swing {and plenty of photo ops to come}, it's time to show off that new haircut and your perfectly manicured nails. OPI Nail Lacquer's "You Don't Know Jacques" is chic, playful, and elegant. It's the perfect shade of gray that matches everything. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE.