Friday, November 21, 2014

6 Holiday Dresses For Every Budget

This is getting to be the time of year when holiday parties start cropping up on everyone's agenda.  Personally, I relish in cocktail party season because what's more fun than getting all dolled up in a cute party dress with a dapper date on your arm?

Lately, I've been doing a lot of online shopping on Lulu's.  They have a great selection of cute party dresses that are all reasonable priced.  I find myself being drawn to classier dresses; favoring longer hemlines and flirty fit and flared silhouettes {which are flattering on almost all body types} with pretty lace detailing.  Below, I've featured 6 dresses that are perfect for any upcoming cocktail parties that you may have penciled in on your calendar.

Happy shopping!




Shop These Dresses:

From top left:  Red knit midi dress {here} //  Champagne colored lace dress {found here} //  Black lace scuba knit dress {such a great price here} //  Ivory lace dress {under $100 here} //  Navy blue sequin dress {perfect for NYE here} //  Lace jacquard dress {here}




More Dresses That I love:








Have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Most Delicious Homemade Cranberry Sauce Recipe

There are just some flavors that completely enhance one another, and cranberry + turkey is one of them.  If you've never made homemade cranberry sauce before because you thought it was too difficult, I'm here to tell you to put that can down!  Making cranberry sauce at home is a breeze and no one will know that you didn't slave over a stove for hours making it!  Be fully prepared to wow your guests :)

I like to add a bit of orange flavor to my cranberries - it just gives it a nice little tang that is absolutely delicious.  And trust me when I say that this tastes SOOOOOOO much better than it's canned counterpart.  

Hope you enjoy!




Ingredients

1  12oz bag of cranberries, washed & patted dry
1  cup sugar or sugar substitutue {I used Z Sweet}
1  cup orange juice
2  cinnamon sticks
1  tsp grated orange zest


Directions

In a medium sized saucepan, combine orange juice & sugar.  Bring to a boil, and add in cranberries & cinnamon sticks.  Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for 15 minutes stirring occasionally.  

Once sauce has boiled down, remove from heat and discard cinnamon sticks.  Stir in orange zest and allow to cool to room temperature before serving.




Don't forget to use your leftover Thanksgiving mashed potatoes the next morning and make my Cheddar Cheese & Chive Potato Latke recipe - SO scrump!  xx



Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Set The Table: Glass + Gold

Hi loves!  Hope your week is off to a good start!  If you follow me over on Instagram {andy_adler}, you may have seen the picture I snapped over the weekend showing my Thanksgiving tablescape progress.  I ended up making a few changes, and am really pleased with how it turned out!  Yesterday, I took a few higher quality photos and am excited to share them with you today.

I'll link everything that is available for purchase online at the bottom of this post if anyone is interested in purchasing the materials I used for my tablescape.

Let's get started.




The theme that I am going for this year is glass + gold.  I've been really inspired this past year with vintage glass, and have been slowly acquiring some beautiful vintage demijohns & various other glass antique pieces.  I wanted to somehow incorporate glass filled jars & cloches and pair them with luxurious gold accents since most of my flatware & dishes from last year have some form of gold on them.    




I recently purchased this large Hungarian mason jar from Restoration Hardware.  It is one of RH's authentic vintage pieces that they occasionally have, and as soon as I laid eyes on it I knew that I had to use it somehow in my tablescape. 

Last Friday, I popped into my local Pottery Barn to see what type of vase fillers they had, and was instantly drawn to the gold pod flowers which sadly are not sold online.  They ended up working beautifully in my large mason jar, and under my small glass cloche.  I also displayed a few faux white pumpkins under another glass cloche.





I picked up the plaid table runner from Pottery Barn a few weeks ago on serious clearance!  It ended up costing $17 - down from $69.  Love a good sale!  I layered it on top of another cream colored runner with tassels to add a bit more texture & visual appeal to my tablescape.




I love candlelight.  Love, love, love candles so finding the right candles for my tablescape was essential.  Both the gold candlesticks + the gold acorn candle plate are from Crate & Barrel.  They were the perfect match for the gold accents that I was looking for and tied everything together nicely.








The chargers, plates, flatware, and glassware were all purchased last year from West Elm, but I believe they still sell all the pieces in stores and online.  They are fairly inexpensive, and instantly dress up any table.  I've ended up using them all throughout the year whenever we have "special occasion" dinners and am really happy with them.  The linen napkins are new {purchased from Pottery Barn} and are currently on sale.  I used 2 different colors on each plate to add a bit of visual interest, and finished them off with basic gold napkin rings {also on sale for $4 each}  from Sur La Table.  




 For my place card settings I got a bit crafty.  I bought a bag of walnuts and painted them with metallic gold acrylic paint from a crafts store.  I attached the place cards with a bit of hot glue and voila!  Easy, peasey place cards that look so luxe!






I'm super excited to have a buffet in my dining room this year to place my Thanksgiving spread on top of.  I decorated it with a simple table runner, matching gold candlesticks, and an antique Italian ceramic vase circa early 1900's.  Do you guys recognize the pumpkin cast-iron cocotte from this post?  It is so festive, and I'm really happy that I bought it.  It's one of those pieces that will last for so many years, and can be handed down if we happen to have any children that share the same passion for cooking that I have :)




And lastly, the bookshelf technically isn't part of my dining room, but it sits directly off of it and I love to fill it with lit glass votives whenever we have guests over for dinner.   I ordered a fresh garland online from Pottery Barn and placed it on top of my bookshelf.  It smells AMAZING!!  It just adds the perfect festive element to the whole area....I love decorating for the holidays! 


I'm so happy with how everything turned out.  Now bring on Thanksgiving :)



Shop These Items:






If I missed anything, or if you have any questions/feedback leave a comment below in the comment section.  I always respond to your comments.  Thanks for reading! xx


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Triple Layer Pumpkin Cheesecake

Warning!  Since I normally like to post healthy/semi-healthy recipes over here, I feel like I should forewarn you guys that this recipe is not healthy in any form.  It contains real butter, sugar, and lotsa cream cheese, and the full fat version at that.  There are certain occasions that call for a serious case of indulgence, and I'd like to think that Thanksgiving is at the top of my list for these occasions! :)

This is technically a cheesecake, but it's SO much better than regular cheesecake and is a thousand times better than basic pumpkin pie.  Rich, decadent, indulgent, and so freakin' good!  I replaced the standard graham cracker crust with crushed gingersnaps which gives it a nice sweet & slightly spicy base.  The second layer features a thin layer of regular cheesecake, followed by the third layer: pumpkin cheesecake!

I've been making this dessert every Thanksgiving for probably 7 or 8 years, and trust me, it does not fail.  Even weirdos those who proclaim that they don't care for cheesecake will end up inhaling a piece, and everyone will be raving about how good it was for days to come.  Consider this the holy grail of all pumpkin desserts!

As a small side note, for this recipe you will need a 9-inch springform pan.  I purchased mine years ago from Williams-Sonoma and it has held up great!  For purchasing info, view here.

Enjoy!




Ingredients

2  10 oz bags of gingersnap cookies
6  tbsp unsalted butter, melted
4  8 oz packages cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1  1/2 c. sugar
4  eggs
1  c. canned pumpkin {not pumpkin pie mix}
1  tsp. ground ginger
1  tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4  tsp. ground nutmeg
Whipped cream for serving


Directions

Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees F.  Grease a 9-inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray.  Wrap a layer of tin foil around the base of the pan to catch any drippings.  

Using a food processor, pulse gingersnap cookies until they resemble coarse sand.  Measure out 3  1/2 cups and place in a small bowl.  Alternatively, if you don't have a food processor, you can place cookies in a large plastic bag, and pound with a meat tenderizer or rolling pin until crushed.

Combine cookie crumbs with the melted butter.  Firmly press crumb mixture in the bottom of the pan, and about 1 inch up the sides.  Bake for 12-15 minutes or until set.  Set aside to cool.

Next, using a stand mixture or a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat cream cheese on medium speed until smooth and creamy.  Take care not to overbeat.  On low speed, gradually beat in sugar, followed by the eggs one at a time, just until blended.  Spoon 3 cups of the cream cheese mixture into your pan & spread evenly.

Now stir in the pumpkin, ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg into the remaining cream cheese mixture and mix with a wire whisk until smooth.  Spoon over the cream cheese layer in the pan.

Place in oven on the middle rack and bake for 1 hour 15 minutes or until edges are set but center of cheesecake still jiggles slightly when moved.

Turn oven off, and leave the oven door slightly opened {at least 4 inches}, and leave the cheesecake this way in the oven for 15 minutes longer.  Remove from oven; place on a wire rack.  Do not release the side of the pan yet.  Run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the cheesecake.  Cool in the pan on the wire rack for 30 minutes.  Cover loosely, and transfer to the refrigerator to set for a minimum of 6 hours before serving.  The cheesecake may collect a bit of water on the top as it cools in the refrigerator, this is totally normal.  Simply blot with a paper towel before serving.

To serve, run a knife around the edge of the pan again to loosen.  Carefully release the side of the pan, and place cheesecake on a serving platter.  Fill a glass with hot water, and dip a knife into it to warm.  This allows for easier & cleaner slicing.  Serve with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon.





I LOVE to hear back from you when you try out one of my recipes.  So please leave any feedback & comments below.  xx

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Getting Ready For Thanksgiving

First off, Happy Veterans Day to any of my readers who are in the armed forces, are military wives, or have family in the military.  My brother is a Marine who has done tours in Iraq + Afghanistan, and is currently stationed in Cali, so I know firsthand how selfless they are to serve our country, often times highly underpaid and undervalued, and how difficult of a job it really is.  The typical "thank you for your service to our country" is so cliché and doesn't begin to describe how truly grateful I am for each & every veteran.  The fact that I live in a country where we have a fair judicial system, that I can travel freely to almost any country without having to obtain a visa, where education is free for our children, and as a woman I have the freedom to sit here and write whatever I please on my blog without fear for my life says so much.  Thank you, thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart.  We are so lucky to be Americans.

Now onto today's post...

Anyone who cooks the big dinner themselves knows that the few weeks leading up to turkey day is all about getting ready.  Planning out your menu, mentally checking off serving pieces that you will be using, making a list of new items that you need to buy, thinking about your tablescape, etc.  As I've said before, I love cooking & entertaining so this is the one time of year that I like to really go all out.

Last year was our first official Thanksgiving as a married couple, so I invested in a lot of the essentials that are needed to host a big dinner {platters, luxe serving utensils, etc}.  I also purchased these extremely affordable organic shaped dinner plates with a gold rim from West Elm last year that have become our special occasion plates for when we have company over and have gotten quite a lot of use out of.  Combined with any gold flatware, they look much more expensive than they really are and I highly, highly recommend them.  If you're interested in seeing my Thanksgiving table from last year you can view that post here.

So today I wanted to fill you in on a few items that are all Thanksgiving related that have been on my mind lately.  Some of them are decor related, others are just basics that I'm adding to my ever growing shopping list, and there's a few quirky items added in there as well :)

Lets get started...



I need a good roaster and am obsessed with this copper version.  This is definitely on the pricier side, but there's just some kitchen items that are worth the investment and this is one of them.  View it here


These napkins.  I need them in my life.  Unfortunately due to the lengthy shipping time, I can't get them in time for Thanksgiving.  I've been searching the depths of the internet to find them elsewhere, but I just can't track them down.  I'm now thinking about trying to do a DIY version, but I'm not very crafty and am nervous that I'll mess up a perfectly good linen napkin.  I'll keep you guys posted. 



I don't have a great pie serving set and have my eye on these gold beauties.  Perfect for serving up pumpkin pie :)  On sale here.


Confession: I've never actually made stuffing from scratch.  The idea of it kind of intimidates me.  The past couple of years I've bought this gluten free version from Williams-Sonoma and it is actually really, really good!  This is definitely on my shopping list this year.  


This is another item that I bought from Williams-Sonoma last year, and our turkey turned out SO good.  With everything else that I cook {I do it all with no help}, there is no way in hell that I have time in the days leading up to make my own brining blend!  If you're cooking a turkey this year, I definitely recommend this.



This banner that I found on Etsy is so sweet and would look perfect on our front porch with my harvest wreath that I ordered. 



My table setting is going to be different from last years {I'll share it next week}, and I'm contemplating these wooden chargers to finish my tablescape.  I think they would work with the look I'm going for, and would accent my gold rimmed plates nicely.



Call me old fashioned, but I love to send cards to my family & friends all the time, and actually still send a card to my grandmother for every single holiday.  It's just so nice to receive a hand written note in the mail.  While this is definitely NOT a card that I'd send my grandma lol, it would be perfect for one of my girlfriends!  View it here.


I recently just threw away our colander.  It started doing this weird paint peeling thing and I just felt like it probably wasn't the healthiest for us anymore, so in the garbage it went.  I need a new one asap, and this copper stunner would be perfect! 



And lastly, when it's crunch time and the turkey is out of the oven and you're making that gravy, this gravy seperator from Williams-Sonoma would make life so much easier.  Ingenious.






I have a great Thanksgiving recipe that I'll be sharing later on this week!  Have a great day & thanks for reading!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Boozey Apple Cider Sangria

First of all, I wanted to sincerely thank each and every one of you who reached out and personally left me words of encouragement & get well wishes over the last couple of days.  It was especially inspiring for me to come home after my surgery and read some of your own real life stories of your personal struggles with infertility.  I truly thank you for being so brave and sharing your journey for me and others to read.

These past couple of days have been pretty low key for me with lots of laying around resting in my sweats, and eating copious amounts of matzo ball soup {my hubby makes the BEST matzo ball soup}, saltine crackers, and ginger ale.  Whenever I'm feeling under the weather, this comfort food combo is the only thing that I seem to want to eat.  

Now, onto this amazing cocktail that I made last Friday for Halloween.  Adam & I sipped on this sangria as we passed out candy to our trick-or-treaters, and it is so, so good.  Like dangerously good since it tastes just like apple pie {no joke!} but packs a punch that can definitely creep up on you fast.  It's loaded with sliced apples, combined with spiced cider and crisp prosecco for a bubbly finish.  For this recipe, I also chose a higher end bourbon since I wanted a smoother finish, but any old bottle of bourbon will do the trick.  Plus boys seem to like bourbon, so they don't feel like this is too much of a girly drink...always a bonus!  :)

I can definitely see myself making this over the Thanksgiving holiday when my family comes to visit and am positive this will be a big hit with them!

Hope you give this a try & love it as much as we did!  xx



Ingredients

32 oz apple cider {I used an organic, no sugar added variety purchased from Whole Foods}
2 cinnamon sticks, plus more for garnish
6 whole cloves
1/2 cup bourbon
1 green apple, thinly sliced
1 red apple, thinly sliced {I used red delicious which turned out to be too soft and fell apart in the sangria, I would recommend using a crisper variety}
2 cups ice cubes
1 bottle Prosecco or sparkling wine


Directions

Combine the cider, cinnamon sticks & cloves in a medium stockpot and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat and gently simmer for 20 minutes.  Set aside and cool to room temperature.

Next, strain the cider into a large pitcher discarding cinnamon sticks & cloves.  Add the bourbon, and apple slices.  Stir to combine and refrigerate for a minimum of 3 hours to allow flavors to intensify.

When ready to serve, add the ice cubes and sparkling wine.  Pour into martini or wine glasses, and garnish with a fresh cinnamon stick.







Have a happy weekend!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Hope: My Struggles With Infertility




hope
hōp/
noun
noun: hope; plural noun: hopes
: the feeling of wanting something to happen and thinking that it could happen 
: a feeling that something good will happen or be true
: the chance that something good will happen
: someone or something that may be able to provide help : someone or something that gives you a reason for hoping


So many times I've thought about if I should share something so personal on my blog, and if so how do I finally open up and articulate what has seemed to consume my life for the past year and a half.  The idea of sharing my struggles with infertility on a public scale scares the hell out of me, but it also gives me a little hope.  Hope that by telling others about my journey I can set my own feelings of sadness & anger free, and also hope that I could possibly help someone else along the way understand that you're not alone in this.  For a long time I didn't even tell any of my girlfriends what I was going through.  I felt ashamed by the fact that I couldn't get pregnant on my own, and didn't want anyone to know about it.  Struggling with infertility can sometimes be a dark, lonely hole and the silence that seems to surround the topic only makes it that much harder.

Very few people in my life know that today I will be going in for surgery to hopefully correct some issues that have been preventing me from becoming pregnant. It has been a long process that has brought me to this surgery, so I want to start from the beginning.

I always assumed that getting pregnant would be so easy.  I'm still young, I'm healthy, I exercise, I take my vitamins, I'm happy, so in love with my husband, and we're ready to start a family so it should be easy for us, right?  I went off birth control right away after Adam & I were married last year, and for the first few months we were just enjoying being newlyweds.  While not actively trying to get pregnant, we weren't doing anything to prevent it, and I guess you could say that we had the "if it happens, it's a blessing and we're ready for it" mentality.  After several months with this attitude, and nothing happening, I started actively charting my monthly cycles so that I would know when I was ovulating.  This went on for 6-7 months, and each month like clockwork, I would get my period.  I started to feel like something was wrong.  Call it women's intuition or just being in tune with my body, but from early on I just had this feeling like something was off.

I never wanted to be one of those girls who was so desperate to get pregnant.  I had always joked that I would never use the ovulation detector pee sticks because the idea of using them just seemed so unromantic to me.  I didn't want this process of trying for a baby to ruin my sex life with my husband; for sex to become a "chore" rather than something we both enjoyed.  Like I said earlier, I just assumed it would be so easy to get pregnant.  I had so many friends who conceived their babies within the first few months of trying, and I never thought it would take this long for us.  Wanting to get pregnant started to consume my life.  I began reading books on natural fertility, taking various vitamins to make me more "fertile", drinking cough syrup at certain times of the month {I won't get into specifics here, just google it if curious}, charting various bodily fluids {sorry if that is TMI}, and yes, even started using those dang pee sticks that I swore I'd never use, but month after month nothing happened.  It's almost ironic that I spent the majority of my adult life taking daily pills, and having devices implanted in my body trying to prevent pregnancy, but once I actually wanted a baby more than anything else I just couldn't seem to get pregnant.

Somewhere near the one year mark feelings of frustration, and sadness started to creep into my life.  Something was wrong with me.  We should have conceived by now.  Each monthly period would bring the tears.  I cried a lot.  I cried to Adam, I cried to my mom, but mostly I just cried by myself.  I felt so angry at my body.  As women, this is what our bodies are designed to do and I felt like mine was failing me.  I also felt so alone in all of this.  None of my friends experienced problems with conceiving.  I didn't have anyone who I could relate to; no one who could tell me about their own experiences & feelings. 

For our one year anniversary, we took a trip to Israel & Italy.  While in Jerusalem, I wept at the tomb of King David praying to be blessed with a child, while Adam prayed with a Rabbi over on the men's side of the room that I would be able to conceive.  In Italy, I hoped that our prayers, combined with much needed wine + relaxation would be answered.  My period was 6 days late that month and I thought this was it!  Finally, I'm pregnant!  I took a pregnancy test every day during those 6 days, and every single one was negative.  It was such a letdown once I finally started.  My mom began urging me to go meet with a specialist.  Since it had been over a year of us "trying" at this point, I knew in my heart that it was time.  I was so afraid to call and make that appointment, so I put it off for a couple months.  I was afraid of all the testing, afraid of what they might tell me, and afraid of how certain results might affect my marriage.

Throughout all of this, Adam was so good to me.  He put up with my extreme mood swings, and consoled me when I cried.  I know I was so difficult to deal with, there were many moments when I was a flat out bitch, but he was always there by my side encouraging me to stay positive, and to think positive.  As much as he encouraged me, I couldn't get past the resentment that I felt towards my body.  This whole process had really messed with my feelings of self worth, and I started to become a bitter, disappointed, angry and sad person all at the same time.  People announcing their pregnancy on Facebook or Instagram had the ability to immediately derail my entire day.  It didn't help that everyone around me seemed to be getting pregnant, or having babies and while I was truly happy for my friends, I would always think why not me?  Why can't I have that moment where I get to stare down at a pregnancy stick and realize that I'm carrying a life inside of my body....

This past summer, I finally made that call & found a fertility specialist in my area that I really liked & felt comfortable with and we started the long process of all of the testing.  Adam was the first one to get tested to rule out the possibility that it was him.  Once he came back with an excellent report, we knew that the "problem" was me.  Over the next couple of months, I had blood drawn 5 times during various stages of my cycle, had vaginal ultrasounds performed, and a couple other invasive tests done.  All of these results came back perfect, which meant that my hormones were 100% not the problem.  They then scheduled me for an HSG test.  This test is an x-ray test that is performed by injecting dye through a catheter into your uterus & fallopian tubes.  The results came back that I have one fully blocked fallopian tube, which can not be repaired due to the significance in which it is blocked, and also that I have scarring in my uterus.  At this point to finally hear that we were doing everything right, but there is a problem with my body is almost a weird relief.  We were told that I'd need to have surgery to remove the scar tissue, and since I only have 1 working fallopian tube our chances of conceiving naturally on our own are slim. 

And so that brings us to today - surgery day.  I'm a little nervous since it is a surgery that involves full anesthesia, and I'm not sure what to expect in terms of pain, but on the other hand, it will be nice to make some progress towards starting a family!  The doctor told me that if everything goes well with the surgery, I would have to wait through one full cycle, and then we could start the process of IVF.

More than anything, I want to be a mother.  I long to experience those 9 months of pregnancy, to hear the pitter patter of toddler feet in our house, to cook weekend breakfasts with mickey mouse pancakes for my family, to experience all of life's first moments with a little human that I created with the love of life, to give Adam the gift of fatherhood and dedicate my whole life to my family....I want all of that more than anything else.

I know that there is a silver lining in all of this, which will reveal itself some day, even if it's just to make me a stronger woman.  But for now, all that I can do is hope.  Hope that the surgery goes well this morning, hope that I'm mentally strong enough to handle all that comes with IVF, and hope for a family.

Hope.

 

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