Transitioning your home from October to November

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Now that Halloween is done, time to pack up the pumpkins and get out the Christmas decorations- right? WRONG!! Did someone just forget to tell Pier 1 about the best holiday of the year?? Don’t get me wrong, I love decorating for Christmas, but Thanksgiving will always be number one for me.

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A simple, cheap and easy way to transition from Halloween to Thanksgiving is gold spray paint.

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No need to get rid of all the fabulous pumpkins you gathered for the trick or treaters – just give them an elegant makeover for the pumpkin pie eaters!

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Fall Brunch

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Have I mentioned that I love fall? With fall comes so many decorating and baking opportunities, and this weekend I had the pleasure of hosting the “Girls in TV” brunch!

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Planning a menu for a bunch of women in general can be tricky – but especially so for a bunch of women producers, in Los Angeles! Talk about a carb free, gluten free, dairy free, alcohol free, nut free, headache! Good thing I really like these girls.

So I kept a few fully loaded favorites and snuck in a few more healthy options as well.

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Bread pudding – is my ‘go-to’ for EVERYTHING. It’s so easy to make, it’s always a crowd pleaser, and it can be adapted with each seasons fresh fruit. I took my “hot dog bread pudding” recipe and replaced the berries with diced roasted apples. This is now my favorite way to make it! https://wishiwereahousewife.wordpress.com/2013/03/28/berry-bread-pudding/

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You can’t have a fall brunch without a pumpkin flavored item – so I went with this great pumpkin muffin recipe by Something Swanky http://www.somethingswanky.com/pumpkin-pudding-muffins/  The best secret ingredient ever? Instant Pumpkin pudding mix! So this might not be one of my healthy options, but it tastes damn good.

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Since I had two sweet baked items, I decided to bake one last classic brunch staple: Quiche. Once again I turned to Queen Martha for a recipe since I had actually never made quiche. (My mother doesn’t believe in quiche for some reason- but I think this recipe could make her a believer).  http://www.marthastewart.com/868429/shallot-mushroom-quiche#Favorite%20Quiche%20Recipes|/275606/quiche-recipes/@center/276953/brunch-recipes|868429

I changed just a few things to Martha’s recipe – I took out the shallots (for selfish reasons – because I hate anything to do with onions…I know), I used half and half instead of the full cream, I sautéed the mushrooms first and drained the extra liquid,  and I FORGOT to add the fontina! Whoops! But when I brought the left overs in to work one of my colleagues asked what kind of cheese I used because she loved it. Guess I lucked out – or it doesn’t need the cheese.

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Ok so for the healthy guests, I set out berries and honey flavored yogurt and made the cutest tangerine pumpkins with pipe cleaner stems! I also served a kale salad with roasted, diced butternut squash and goat cheese (On the side of course).

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A great ways to frame all the food you’ve prepared is with a natural fiber mesh- with wire, so you can bend and twist it around each dish. It’s a great alternative to a table cloth- which seems dated at the moment. I also love using chargers to bring a pop color (in this case gold) to your table. I found these plastic ones at sur la table and bought them in both gold and red.

Happy fall everyone! 🙂

Keep Your Hair Heathly This Summer

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In this day and age, when long locks are coveted it’s almost impossible to keep your hair healthy. To make up for my everyday hair dryer and curling iron abuse, I started experimenting with hair masks. These are three that I love and totally recommend: Moroccanoil Intense Hydrating Mask, Bumble and Bumble Creme de Coco Masque, and your regular old, household extra virgin olive oil!

Moroccanoil makes your hair smell like you just came from the salon while the Bumble and Bumble smells deliciously like coco! Both instructions suggest combing masks through damp hair and leaving in under 10 minutes before rinsing. I like to do it a little differently. I comb it through dry hair so I can really feel all the dry problem areas that need extra moister, put my hair in a bun, and leave it in overnight. If I don’t have a hair mask around I use the same technique with olive oil, which works just as well! To ensure my pillow cases stays nice and clean I’ll wrap a plastic bag around my hair and tie the handles on top of my head. When I wake up, wash my hair, and start to blow dry I can instantly feel the silky difference!

My hair is very thick so these masks don’t weigh my hair down, so be cautious with these if you have thin hair. Enjoy!

Tools to Have Around the House

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This pink tool box was one of the greatest high school graduation presents I got! I have used its contents countless times and don’t know what I would do without it. This is one accessory no woman should go without.

Here is my list of top ten tools to have around the house.

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1. Hammer: Hanging up wall art and seasonal decor

2. Screw Drivers (Phillips and Flat-blade): Assembling furniture

3. Staple Gun: Hanging Christmas lights around your home or garden, reupholstering furniture and attaching curtain ties

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4. Exacto Knife: Great for cutting tape when painting or tracing paper molds to hang a wall collage

5. Wrench: When you made a mistake and need to get that nail or screw out. Oops!

6. Drill: Hanging up curtains, shelves or building gardening boxes and other fun things

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7. Pliers: Get a good grip on anything you can’t pull out with your bare hands

8. Sander and Sand Paper: For the crafty woman who likes to refinish furniture or to smooth out any rough surface

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9. Nails and Hooks: To hang up wall art and seasonal decor – you’ll always need them.

10. Measuring Tape: FOR EVERYTHING! Measuring the perfect position while hanging wall art, making sure the furniture you liked at the store will fit into the space you have, laying out plans for your living room to space out everything perfectly. (I recommend a travel measuring tape as well to keep in your purse – just in case you find something you love on the go!)

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You can get your own Pink Ladies Tool kit here : http://www.collectionsetc.com/Product/105-piece-pink-ladies-tool-kit.aspx?utm_source=www.google.com&utm_medium=CSE&mr:trackingCode=3DFDD1BF-696A-E111-9D2A-001517B188A2&mr:referralID=NA

Shortbread Cookies for Mom

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Drinking tea before bed is a time-honored tradition with the women in my family. As long as I can remember, my mom, aunts and grandmother always made a cup of Lipton‘s tea with a dash of milk – sometimes accompanied by a cookie. When my mom helped me move into my LA apartment, the first things she got at the grocery store were Lipton’s tea, milk and shortbread cookies. For this Mother’s Day, I thought I would make her some homemade shortbread cookies to enjoy with her nightly tea!

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INGREDIENTS:

3/4 Pound of Butter (Room Temperature)

1 Cup of Sugar

1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

3 1/2 Cups of Flour

1/4 Teaspoon Salt

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Luckily for me, shortbread is relatively easy to bake and only requires 3 ingredients! This recipe is based on Ina Garten‘s shortbread cookie.  First mix the butter, sugar and vanilla with an electric mixer.

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In a separate bowl,  sift together the flour and salt. Sifting flour brought back my most vivid memories of my grandmother, or Grammy as I like to call her. She was ALWAYS sifting flour, so I made sure not to skip this step, because who wants chunks of flour in their cookies? Thanks Grammy!

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Combine the flour and butter mixtures until it comes together as a dough. Kneed together and wrap tightly with Saran Wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

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Cover rolling pin and cutting board with flower, and roll out the dough until its about 3/4 inch thick.

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I picked out a cute little star cookie cutter for these cookies. I think making smaller cookies is best, because shortbread is quite rich as it’s packed with butter! Cut out the cookies and arrange on an un-greased cookie sheet. Greasing the cookie sheet causes the cookie to expand on the bottom, loosing their form. Since again, these cookies already have so much butter, they will pop right off the pan no greasing needed. They also don’t expand like other cookies while baking so you can fit a lot on your baking sheet without worry of overcrowding.

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Traditional shortbread cookies have little dots in the middle, so I took a fork and pricked three times in the center of each cookie and sprinkled the tops with a little extra sugar.

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Bake in the oven at 350 for about 10 minutes until the edges start to brown. (Ina says 25 minutes, but I found this to be much too long for a smaller sized cookie)

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Since my mom lives in Sacramento, I found this adorable cookie tin and ribbon at the Container Store to send the shortbread in. I lined it with wax paper, piled in the cookies and wrapped it all up in a pink polka-dot bow.

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My mom is the inspiration for this blog. Even though she works countless hours as a pediatrician, she always makes time to tie the perfect bow, cook the best pot roast, throw unforgettable parties, arrange the pillows just right, and bake a three-tiered cake for my birthday no matter what. Her ability to balance her career and being a mom and homemaker so flawlessly is something I hope I can live up to. She is the epitome of style, class and poise and I’m lucky to have such an amazing role model. Happy Mother’s Day!

Enchiladas A La Gringa

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When it comes to Mexican food, I’m totally lost. I’m more literate in Italian cooking, but I realized that they are both very similar in spirit – focusing on comfort foods, made from fresh ingredients, and meant to be served family style. Yes, for this recipe I use a few short cuts, but these enchiladas taste pretty authentic to me!

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INGREDIENTS:

16 Small Corn Tortillas

1 Rotisserie Chicken (with juices)

1 Lime

1 1/2 Cups of Corn

1/4 Cup Queso Fresco

1 Cup Shredded Mozzarella

1/8 Cup Chopped Cilantro

I Can (4 ounces) of Diced Green Chiles

1  Can (19 ounces) of Las Palmas Green Chili Enchiladas Sauce

1/2 Tablespoon of Both Salt and Pepper

1/4 Tablespoon of Cayenne Pepper

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The biggest time savor to this recipe is grabbing a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. It’s already cooked, super tender, has tons of flavor and no one has to know! Just pull apart the whole chicken removing any fatty bits and skin. Make sure the pieces are  bite size.

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Add chopped cilantro, canned green chiles, corn (fresh or canned works), the juice of one lime, salt, pepper, cayenne and 1/2 cup of the juices from the chicken. I like to let the mixture sit and marinate for about an hour if I have time – otherwise it’s ready to assemble as is. If the corn tortillas are a little dry or stiff just throw them in the microwave wrapped in a damp paper towel for 15 seconds.

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Take the corn tortillas, add a spoonful or two of the chicken mixture, top with a little mozzarella and roll.

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Line the enchiladas in a baking dish. A 10×15 dish can hold about 8.

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Cover the enchiladas with the green chili sauce. I like a lot of sauce to keep everything moist and fill the baking dish up about half way. I usually I prefer to make everything from scratch, but this canned enchilada sauce is so good I’m sticking with what’s simple.

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Sprinkle the top with mozzarella and queso fresco and pop into the oven for 15 minutes at 350 degrees. Remember everything is already cooked – the oven is just to heat everything up and make the cheese all brown and bubbly.

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What’s great about this recipe is you can prepare it in advance, and all you have to do it cook it for 15 minutes when you’re ready. I’m no Mexican chef, but I hope you enjoy my enchiladas a la gringa!

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Cinco de Mayo Margarita Bar!

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I thought a fun way to celebrate Cinco de Mayo was a do-it-yourself margarita bar, because let’s be honest – I can’t always be the hostess with the mostest – so make your own damn drink!

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I put out 3 different kinds of juice: classic lime, orange and grapefruit, and raspberries, blackberries, and lime slices as garnish.

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Can’t forget the tequila and Cointreau!

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I put out instructions for a classic margarita – but let my guests decide what fruit juice and garnish they’d like.

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Two combinations I liked were 1 ounce of lime juice and 2 ounces of grapefruit, mixed with both blackberries and limes.

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My other favorite was simply using orange juice with raspberries.

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I think mango and pineapple could be a fun addition to this margarita bar as well. What are some of your favorite margarita recipes?

Sauteed Zucchini with Cherry Tomatoes and Basil

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I hated zucchini my whole life – all squash for that matter. My boss gave me some huge zucchini from her garden and I had no idea what to do with them but didn’t want to say ‘no thanks’. I decided to mix it with my favorite vegetable- tomato, and my favorite herb – basil, thus starting my obsession with zucchini!

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INGREDIENTS:

2 Cups Cherry Tomatoes

2 Medium Zucchini

1/4 Cup Chopped Basil

1 Tablespoon of Butter

2 Chopped Garlic Cloves

1 Teaspoon of Cayenne Pepper

Salt & Pepper to Taste

First chopped the basil, slice the cherry tomatoes in half and the zucchini into 1/4 inch wide slices.

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Melt butter on high heat and add the zucchini. Sprinkle with cayenne pepper and garlic.

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Sautee for about five minutes until the zucchini is tender and slightly browned.

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Add tomatoes until they are heated through, about 3 minutes. And finally add the basil for the final minute.

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Now that all the veggies are warm and tender they are ready to serve. This salad can stand alone, or be served along side a protein like my whole grain mustard salmon…

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or tossed with pasta. You decide!

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Budget Bouquets

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These homemade arrangements are so easy make, and would make the perfect centerpiece for a bridal or baby shower.

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I found these adorable pantry jars at Marshalls for under $4 to use as the vases.

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These ranunculi and viburnum from my local farmers market made this arrangement look both rustic and elegant. I love the bright green and pink color combination.

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No need for a florist! These budget bouquets were less than $15 dollars each and were a huge hit.

All Tied Up

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I finally decided to hang my curtains- and stop giving my neighbors a show. I needed a way to tie them back but didn’t want to use tasseled ropes because it seemed so formal. My solution was both affordable and girly: Grosgrain ribbon.

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Grosgrain is a heavy ribbon made from silk or nylon with ribs. I used one that was about 3″ wide, and cut two pieces 2 yards long.

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I secured the ribbon on the wall behind the curtains with a staple gun.

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And tied back my curtains.

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Remember when tying bows and square knots, left over right and right over left.