Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year's Eve

As the last hours of 2010 wind down, I just wanted to thank all you blog readers for another amazing year! I wish you much health and happiness in 2011! I have a feeling it will be a good year... please check back soon for exciting new posts in January!

Happy New Year's Eve!

Thursday, December 30, 2010


My friend Nikki sent me a wonderful article today about the benefits of drinking Champagne, from Champagne is not only a health booster, but can help calm dry skin, and be a great slim cocktail alternative with only 78 calories per glass! The article also gives a great recipe for salad dressing using leftover champagne from New Years, and starting off 2011 with a healthy meal. And its last benefit: a Spirit Lifter... I think we all knew about that one. Check out the article here, and join me as I toast to 2011, and start drinking more champagne!


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Cold Days, Warm Nights

Since we have been waking up to 30 degree temperatures here in Florida, I find myself gravitating to warm foods for every meal. Last week, while at dinner with my mother, the local restaurant chef sent out a small tasting of what was a tomato black bean soup. I thought about it all weekend, even with all the other delicious Christmas food we consumed. So this week, I just had to recreate it. Here's the recipe:

Tomato Black Bean Bisque
2 cans Campbell's Condensed Tomato Soup
2 cans Black beans, drained
1 onion, chopped
3 Tbsp Garlic
3 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp dried Oregano
2 Tbsp dried Cilantro
1 Tbsp Chili Powder
1 Tbsp Paprika
Lime Juice
Tabasco Sauce

In a large stock pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, chopped onion, oregano, cilantro, chili powder,  and paprika. Mix and cook until onions are translucent. In a food processor, add the black beans (make sure they are drained) and lightly shop/grind them until they are in coarse pieces, but not pureed. Once the onion mix is fully cooked, add the tomato soup (no need to add milk or water, just the contents of the can) and the processed black beans and stir. Let simmer over medium heat until boiling. I added about 2 Tbsp of Lime Juice and about 10 dashes of Tabasco sauce for a southwestern kick. I like mine a little spicy, but due to the mix of thick tomato soup and black beans, it takes a little more than usual to spice it up.

Added bonus: throw in some shredded chicken. I just grilled some chicken strips and placed on top, but it is better with the pieces mixed in. Top with chives and sour cream, and you have a perfect bisque for a cold night. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Merry Christmas 2010

Since my Christmas cards are now in the mailboxes of most of our friends and family, I can show you what we ended up with for this year:

I was pressed for time to actually take a good picture of us, so I went through our belated Honeymoon photos in California from this summer, and found a decent enough picture of us on the rocks in Monterey/Carmel. The best part about this picture is that we actually set the camera on a rock and used the self timer, and it is certainly one of our favorites from the whole trip!
Merry Christmas To You and Yours!

Monday, December 20, 2010

DIY: Sequin Ball Earrings

A frequent visitor to the Martha Stewart site, I always look at her homemade gift ideas for the holidays. I always have a DIY party favor for guests at an annual dinner with some girl friends. I loved her Sequin Ball Earrings (at right), but after reading the directions, it seemed a bit difficult with the whole chain drop and making the sequin ball.

However, after perusing Pier 1 for another gift, I came across these Sequin Spheres for $5 a box! I loved that they came in three festive colors, and that there were 30 balls in the box, which could make 15 pairs of earrings.  This was one easy solution to the problems I had with Martha's how-to! So off to the craft store for the rest of the supplies needed to make the earrings.

I purchased gold plated hooks and gold head pins to feed through the balls and attach to the earring hooks. I also used jewelry pliers that I already owned to help bend the wires. I think the entire project cost me under $10. Here is the step by step how-to make the sequin ball earrings:

Step 1:
Set out your supplies by pair, so you make sure you have enough of each. You need two sequin balls, two hooks, and two head pins.
Step 2:
Feed one head pin through the sequin ball. The middle of the ball is styrofoam, so it it easy to press the pin through. Try not to force it, as the pin bends easily and you want to keep it as straight as possible before the next steps.

Step 3:
Push the head pin all the way through the ball until the head is flush with the bottom. Be sure not to push too hard that the head actually goes into the ball. You want it to remain outside of the sequins.

It should look like this when you have it through.
Step 4:
Feed the hook onto the head pin.
Step 5:
Clamp the hook and head pin with one set of pliers and hold in place while performing Step 6, below.

Step 6:
With a second set of pliers, grab the end of the head pin and bend it in half to form a loop. Obviously, I could not take a picture of the pliers bending the wire, as I needed both hands, so here is what it should look like after you bend it. 

Step 7:
Continue to use both sets of pliers to bend the pin around the stem of the loop to secure it in place, until the entire pin is curled around the loop.
Step 8:
Repeat all steps above for second earring. Voila! You have a pair!
I really love how they came out and in such festive colors. I wrapped them up in little boxes and randomly set them at each place setting. It was fun to see which guest got what color! And I kept a gold pair for myself that I will be wearing year round for that party perfect sparkle!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Ribbon Place Cards

I have become a bit obsessed with vintage letterpress, and after scouring the internet for a set of block letters to use for stamping, came up with a cheap and fun idea for place cards.

I found an inexpensive rubber stamp kit at Michaels that I used a 50% off coupon during the black Friday sale for around $5. I also got a gold ink pad for about $4 and some white and gold ribbon for $0.50 a spool.

About half an hour before an annual Christmas dinner with some friends, I cut the ribbon into 12" pieces, and simply stamped their names onto one end, and tied them onto my vintage stemware. The stamp set I bought was the Typewriter font, and included both capitalized and lowercase letters. I chose to use the lowercase for my names since it looked a little more fun and festive. I love how they turned out, and the ribbon really dressed up the glasses too!

I also bought black ink that I can use on a darker color ribbon, like red for Valentine's Day, or a more elegant party or shower. Of course you could use the stamps on some colored paper for gift tags too.

I kept the dinner simple with red square paper plates from Target, and some bright green polka-dot napkins from the party store. Each guest got a brightly wrapped gift - check out the How-To tomorrow!

Cheers and Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Easy Christmas Decor

I needed something to add to our house this year that would just be a little more festive than lights. I came up with an easy and cheap idea that just looks like it was meant to be for my house!
 I went to Michaels and found 12" wreaths for $6 a piece on sale at 50% off! I also found the pre-made bows on sale at $1 each, and I bought a large spool of velvet ribbon for $1 too!

I cut a 4' piece of ribbon, and looped it around the wreath. Then I nailed the two ends of the ribbon into the top of the window frame. I used a little extra ribbon to tie a bow at the top to disguise the nail, and give it a little more pizazz. I then attached the pre-made bows to the wreaths.

Voila! It was that easy! The three wreaths cost me under $15 total, and only took about 20 minutes of my time. And the house looks so much more festive too!

(We do actually have white twinkle lights in the large front hedge and mini trees, as well as candle lights in the windows to make it look even more lively at night!)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Our Christmas Cards

A few weeks ago on Pepper Design Blog, I won the $50 gift certificate to Tiny Prints! Tiny Prints is one of my favorite online sites to order announcements, invitations, and Christmas cards. Here was ours from last year:

Since it was our first Christmas as a married couple, I decided to use one of our  favorite wedding photos. This year, I chose a photo from our summer trip to California. To all our close friends and family, you'll just have to check your mail next week to see ours for this year!

PS- Tiny Prints did not pay me for my review, I just love their site and products! Thanks again to Pepper Design Blog for the gift certificate to order my cards this year!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Giveaway From Blogher and Intel

Check out my Facebook page here for a great holiday giveaway from Blogher and Intel.

Friday, December 3, 2010

French Onion Soup Stuffed Mushrooms

I found this recipe on Pioneer Woman and just had to try it! French Onion Soup Stuffed Mushrooms - yummy! Go here for the full recipe.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Hostess is on Facebook

It is the inevitable. Everyone is on Facebook. My mother was on Facebook before me, if you can believe that. For many reasons, I will not have a personal page, but see the potential of having one to promote this blog and and to easily share the recipes and ideas that I post here. So please come by and check it out here, and be a FRIEND of the Hostess!