Down The Rabbit Hole

Hello!  I’m back to share with more Wonderland fun, food, and goodies from my daughter’s Mad Hatter Tea Party.  Did you see the post last week featuring the outdoor party decor?

Today let’s talk about the table scape.  The design goal?  Emulate that crazy table setting you see in Alice In Wonderland. And that requires A LOT of stuff.  I started with an embroidered white table cloth that was my grandmothers and used a smaller pink satin quilted blanket on top of that. Yes, you read that right, I said blanket. Who says you can’t use blankets on a table? If I hadn’t told you, you wouldn’t have known! Down the center of the table is a green moss table runner from the floral department of Michaels.

I added a couple of bright colored flower arrangements in oversized mason jars and tied with a heart themed ribbon.  Inside the mason jar (to hide the flower stems) is green Easter grass from Pier 1 Imports It looks like real grass!

S02A1919

And then came the plethora of tea pots, tea cups, saucers and plates.  How do you get all this stuff without breaking the bank?  Garage sales, antique shops and second hand stores are great places to start.  There’s also no shame in borrowing from friends and family.  That’s how I came up with a variety of teapots.  The cute white bunny votive candleholders, flower napkin rings and cloth napkins were all great finds at Pier 1 Imports. The chargers are from Michael’s and came in pink, turquoise, white lace and platinum. I bought them all! The variety of shapes and sizes were perfect for stacking on top of each other. I added the saucers and teacups and the table was really starting to come together.

IMG_5931 2

Michael’s had these great glass vials, that I filled with Mike n Ikes and “Eat Me” tags.  As part of the table decor and parting gifts, I made framed place cards for all the guests.  The girls really loved that part.  They felt special having their own special place to sit and pretty frame to take home.
S02A1927

On the light fixture above the table I hung a variety of pink tissue pom-poms, glittered heart ornaments and a playing card garland that I had made with ribbon and a deck of cards.

S02A1892

Ok, so now for the food. Lunch was provided, which included turkey sandwiches, butterfly and heart shaped watermelon pieces (psst…use cookie cutters!), heart shaped strawberries and grape caterpillars.  Thank you Pinterest for that fabulous idea!  See the grape caterpillars here: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/124060164711248365/  I forgot to get a photo of mine before they were all gobbled up.  They were very popular.  When I made mine, I used small candy eyes which can be found in the cake decorating aisle and stuck them on the grape with white frosting.

S02A1918

Then there was the rice crispie treat playing card soldiers, Cheshire cats tails compliments of  @treatsbytaryn, Alice Wonderland theme cookies from @thetalentedcookieco and colorful sour candy kabobs form @sweetsindeed.  They were all so beautiful and tasted really yummy!

IMG_5926

I made red velvet cupcakes, topped with cream cheese frosting and giant felt roses displayed around a mason jar of heart ornaments and an amazing top hat from Mini Top Hat Boutique.

S02A1941

I had a blast planning and decorating for this party.  We truly fell down the rabbit hole into Wonderland that day, ate yummy treats, had some great laughs, and fun times celebrating with my daughter.  Wonderful memories were made that day, and that makes it all worth it.

 

Apryl

@adh_j

 

 

A Night in New Orleans

I was pretty lucky this past weekend…I got to spend 2 whole nights in New Orleans! I was going for a concert, but I’ll take any opportunity there to eat, drink, and eat some more. (Thanks mom for the early birthday present!!) Unfortunately 2 days isn’t enough to go to all of my favorite places. I settled for a couple and the rest were more out of convenience, but it was still a great trip!

Our first mission was day drinking but avoiding Bourbon Street. So we went to Poydras and settled on Happy’s Irish Pub then Walk-Ons once we needed some food. Both have a decent beer selection and the cheese fries from Walk-Ons are pretty yummy. So I had a couple of Angry Orchards and a Blue Moon.

Next up was dinner. I’m a fan of any John Besh restaurant, so we headed to Lüke. The best time to go there is during the winter months when oysters are in season, but the food was still amazing as always. I wasn’t too hungry so I went with corn and crab bisque (delicious!) and the Salad Lüke. Both were great choices. Cocktail wise I started with a French 75 then ended with Prosecco.
After dinner we headed back to the hotel and stopped at the Sazerac Bar inside the beautiful Roosevelt Hotel. And of course we ordered Sazeracs!

Thanks to my alcohol consumption the previous day I wasn’t in the best shape Sunday morning. But I put my big girl pants on and kept going. I skipped breakfast and by lunch I was starving!! After walking around for a bit and not being able to decide where to go (go figure) we stumbled upon a small restaurant called Saint Lawrence on North Peters. I’ve probably passed this place tons of times while in NOLA and just never noticed it. But it’s worth the stop. I ordered the Smothered and Covered; house cut fries smothered in Tasso-chicken gravy with melted sharp cheddar! It was amazing and just what my stomach needed at that point. They also have a great craft beer selection and make a frozen Pimm’s Cup daiquiri. Not to mention their staff was really friendly which is always a plus.

Next was rest time! I needed the nap, but the concert was later on and we knew we’d need to eat an early dinner. The rain was starting so we decided to eat in the hotel. We were at the Hyatt Regency and they have quite a few restaurant options. We went with Vitascope Hall. It is basically a nicer version of a sports bar with a good variety of food. They have seafood, burgers, po-boys, and even a full sushi menu. I wanted something lighter and went with a spicy tuna roll and cucumber salad. I decided to lay off the alcohol so I could last through the concert.

The concert was AMAZING! Deftones and Incubus and neither disappointed. It was super hot and it rained and I had to stand in a giant crowd for 6 hours…but worth it!!

I had planned to drive straight home the next morning, but when you’re in NOLA you HAVE to stop at Sucré. Trust me! You will not be disappointed. Their chocolates are to die for. Any of their desserts are amazing. But you must get their macarons. They have their original flavors like chocolate, pistachio, strawberry, hazelnut, and few more; but they also have seasonal flavors! My favorite are the king cake ones, but since it’s not Mardi Gras I settled for their summer ones. This summer it’s apple pie, watermelon, blackberry lemon, and peaches & cream. Apple pie was definitely my favorite. And after spending more money on macarons than I did for any one meal in two days, I needed to get out of there!!

Overall it was a great trip. Next time I go I’ll be sure to plan my meals a bit better and try some new places…but I’ll survive! I have my big box of macarons to hold me over.

First beer of the trip at Happy’s

image1

Lüke- corn and crab bisque, French 75, Prosecco

image2

Sazerac Bar

image3

Smothered and Covered from Saint Lawrence

image4

Vitascope Hall’s spicy tuna roll and cucumber salad

image5

Way too many macarons from Sucre

image7

Smothered Pork Chops

So we’re still on vacation! And it’s been nice; no cooking, lots of food, relaxing! But I started to miss my Cajun comfort food! I’m a sucker for rice and gravy. Seriously…I think I could eat some form of rice and gravy everyday and be a happy happy person!!! 
Now most of you know that rice and gravy can take some time to prepare. When I use beef it can take around 4 hours of constant stirring and “deglazing”. It’s something I’m willing to do to enjoy one of my favorite meals. But sometimes there’s no time for all that. Or I’m lazy. Or pork was on sale! So here is my recipe for smothered pork chops with rice and gravy. 
Ingredients:

-pork chops (I usually buy what’s on sale, nothing too thick or they take longer to cook, you can get bone in or out its up to you. But I usually buy a pack with 6)

-vegetable oil (enough to cover the bottom of the pan; I used olive oil here because it’s what I had)

-salt, pepper, and Cajun seasoning to taste

-one large onion chopped 

-one stalk celery chopped

-half green bell pepper chopped (equally to amount of celery)

TIP: if you live in south Louisiana and you’re lazy you can pick up a tub of Guidry’s; it saves time!!!!

-clove of garlic minced

-one pack of Lipton Onion Soup mix

-one box of chicken stock (or broth) 

-2 cups of rice (yields 4 cups of cooked rice)
Directions:

1. Start by using a cast iron type of pot. I have a coated one that I like to used; just make sure it has a lid. But make sure whatever you use isn’t that non-stick stuff…you want some stuff to stick! Add in your oil and heat on medium high.  
2. While the oil is heating, season your pork with salt, pepper, and Cajun seasoning. 
  

3. Once the oil is hot, add the chops to the pot and brown both sides. Don’t worry about cooking them all the way…just give them a good crust. 
  
4. Once you’re done browning, transfer the pork to a plate and save for later. Your pot should have everything stuck to the bottom. Bows the time to deglaze your pot by adding a little bit of chicken stock and scraping the bottom. Use a wooden spoon for this! 
  
(Before deglaze)
  

(During deglaze)
5. Next it’s time to add in the veggies. Once I chop mine I put them all in a bowl and mix them up. 
  

(Veggies!)
6. Here’s when the gravy starts to take shape. The veggies will cook down and when they start to stick to the pot add in a little bit of stock. Keep doing this until everything looks mushy. 
  

( veggie progression) 
7. Once everything looks like mush you add in the Lipton Onion Soup Mix then the rest of the stock. Make sure you stir everything really good!! Then let it come to a boil. 
  

(Soup mix added) 

  
  

(Everything mixed) 
8. Once the pot is at a boil, lower the temp to low, then add the chops back in. Make sure you pour in the extra juice that’s on the plate!! Some times the liquid doesn’t cover the pork all the way. Just make sure to rotate the meat every 15 min or so. 
  
9. Cover and cook on low for about 45-60 min. You’ll know it’s ready when the pork is almost falling apart. If the gravy isn’t as thick as you’d like when the pork is done cooking, take the meat out and turn the heat up to reduce the liquid with the lid off. Cook your rice 30 min before serving and ENJOY!!!
  

  xHAPPY CAMPERSx

Me and my hubs love to camp! Even if its just in the yard.
Towards the end of summer and ALL through fall, we are constantly pulling out our tent to camp.
Now, things have changed. Slightly. Now, we have a 7 month old little boy. How do you camp with a 7 month old?!?!?! Well, its actually not as hard or crazy as you think.
Since this was Izzy’s first time camping, we just camped in the yard. {Lame, I know, but it was a test run!} We still had everything ready just like we normally would, and we had a BLAST!
Izzy loves being outside, so while daddy set up the tent he just hung out and played with his toys, and watched the trees move in the breeze. Once daddy had the tent set up it was just us, our sweet little family of three, having good old-fashioned family time. We enjoyed each others company, took a walk, and had a nice time outdoors enjoying nature!
We definitely plan on taking this happy camper up to the mountains with us next month, and can’t wait to share that trip with everyone too! But until then, check out some photos of Izzy’s first “camping trip” {in the yard}, and a simple checklist of our favorite must-haves for camping with an infant!
   
    
    
    
   
–> INFANT CAMPING MUST-HAVES <– 

*Babyganics is our go to for bug-spray & sunscreen {I even used it when I was preggo with the Iz-meister last summer!}

*Battery operated fan for inside the tent {We live in South Carolina & man- IT’S HOT!}

*Izzy’s Food Pack: Water bottles for formula, baby food squeezable pouches, and {of course} Puffs

*A couple of easy to clean toys

*Wipes, disposable diapers, plastic bag for dirty diapers

*Lightweight baby clothes & onesies
Kelsey + Izzy

@my.little.wanderer

radlittleizzy.squarespace.com

Phone Photo Tips 

I’m all about being creative. Not just with paper, scissors and glue but I have also found this be true when it comes to taking photos. I’m not one for lugging around a fancy camera and a bunch of lenses (my hubby does that). I’m a big fan of using my phone. We just recently took a road trip to the Muir Woods, Yosemite, Mammoth and Zion National Park and the photos opportunities were endless….It was such a blast! I’m going to share a few of the photos I took on the trip an how I did it.The first thing I must say when taking creative photos, is think outside of the box. You’d be surprised the shots you can get when you stray away from the traditional thought process. Look for interesting items and angles, especially in a place like Muir Woods where your photos will all be of a bunch of trees. Take the time to do something different, the result is well worth it.  

Take a photo on an angle. It adds some visual interest to an otherwise typical photo shot of two people walking the path.  

  
Muir Woods

  

Set the phone on the ground (inside a log) and tap the screen so that the focus is at the other end of the log.
Yosemite National Park
Use the railing along the trail to steady your phone; In this case, the phone is on the lower rail, almost to the ground. I didn’t worry about the blades of grass in the way, because I was looking for a different viewpoint than what you would usually see. Take the time to stop along the way, crouch down, get low and don’t worry if you can’t even see the screen of your phone. Take several shots and tap the screen in various places to attempt to get the “money shot”.  

                                                

                                                            Yosemite National Park
Place the phone on the object itself. In this picture, I set the phone down on the log itself, tapped the screen at the bottom so that the focus would be on the leaves instead of the trees. I’ll have plenty of tree shots, but this pile of decaying leaves is a fascinating detail in this environment not to be overlooked.

  

Muir Woods
  

As we were leaving Yosemite National park, on the way to Mammoth) it was getting overcast and rainy. Some may think this is a horrible time to take photos, when in reality it can create some great lighting opportunities. This photo I took out the car window. I steadied the phone on the edge of my window, tapped the tree to adjust the focus and snapped a couple of shots. I only had a few seconds to do this while we were waiting in line to exit the park.  
So be adventurous with your photo taking and take a lot of photos. As easy as it is to take a bunch of photos, it’s just as easy to delete the bad ones. While we were on the road to the next destination I would review the photos I took, edit and delete. Keep up on this process of deleting so you don’t find yourself so overwhelmed with photos that you don’t do anything with them. In a future post, I’ll share with you how to easily get your fantastic photos from your phone and into photo albums in a snap

If It’s FREE …. It’s for ME!

(or almost)! Recently I attended the National TLSM Single Moms Conference at Healing Place Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. One of the Break Off sessions was “Effective Money Management” with Mr. Steve Repak, author of “Dollars & Uncommon Sense.”  Through his book, Mr. Repak shows you how to develop the same self discipline he used to get himself out of $32,000 of debt. He teaches you how to start thinking differently about money management- simply put to start using common sense.

Screen Shot 2015-06-24 at 6.47.17 PM

I took with me lots of useful “textbook” information, but one idea stuck with me— If It’s FREE-It’s For Me! Yep, that’s my new life motto! It’s It’s Free… I’m all over it! The concept is a simple way of saying that you can manage to get out of debt and still enjoy life. Who wants to spend the next 7 years (or longer) tracking every cent spent with no vacations or fun times? Definitely not I !

You may be wondering how is this possible? Sparing the details, you must become creative! Yep! That’s the secret! Creativity by necessity!

For example, attend a “pee wee” game instead of  Major League game with your little- he/she will never know the difference and all it will cost you is a bottle of water and a nacho! Check out DVDs from the local library. Not only is it a free service but it also introduces your child to the old-school tangible book! Go on a hike at a local park. This is a great way to be active yet not spend any moolah (money)!

So, I’ve come up with a list of free (or close to) activities to do with your littles:

1.) Build COOL forts using pillows, blankets, chairs, entertainment centers-whatever!

2) Scavenger Hunt:

Screen Shot 2015-06-24 at 7.33.06 PM

3)Make Paper Airplanes and have a race- of course, your PPL gal had to include paper planes somewhere in this blog! Here’s one I made for my son to fly around the house to distract him while getting work done 🙂

photo (47)

4) Water fight—with water bottles!

5)Outdoor obstacle course

6) Fly kites

7) Attend Farmer’s Market

8) Movies in the Park

9)  Make pizza from scratch-dough and all

10) Daycation-drive to a near lake, pond, water area and enjoy!

11) Pick blackberries!

12) Local festivals- such as Street Games at Thomas Jefferson Park , the OutLoud Kid’s Carnival at Tompskin Square Park both in NYC or Wicker Park Fest in Chicago, or FESTIVAL INTERNATIONAL DE LOUISIANE in downtown Lafayette, LA !

13) Build and Grow Clinic hosted by Lowes!

14) Put together a puzzle-over 100 pieces

15) Make roads from tape and race Hot Wheels with each other!

16) Balloon ping pong-balloon, paperplate and popcicle stick— that’s all you need!

17) Board games

18) Play dates with other families

The possibilities are endless! Just use your imagination. You would be surprised what you can come up with when it’s not an option to be frugal, but a necessity.

I hope some of these ideas entertains your littles even if for a short while! And don’t forget… If It’s Free… it’s for ME! (and you TOO!)

Frugally yours,

Brandi

Summer Safety with Your Littles

As a first time mama, I’m always on the hunt for advice/tips/do’s/don’ts for caring for my little guy. This is our first summer and Izzy just turned 6 months at the beginning of June. We live in the south, so the heat and the sun can be a big problem. {Just the other day, the heat index was 100!} So I’ve searched high and low for the best advice and tips on keeping littles safe and comfortable in killer summer heat and sun!

First up; When NOT to go outside.

Basically I’ve found that anytime between 10 AM and 5 PM is too hot and the sun is too harsh for littles. Going out before 10 Am and after 5PM is better for babes due to cooler temperatures and a less harsh sun. The worst time to be outside is between 2-4 PM when temperatures P E A K. So you can best bet, between 10 AM and 5 PM you’ll most likely find me and Izzy inside playing with toys…or food!

Find SHADE.

Shade is going to keep littles out of direct sunlight {which protects their sweet soft skin}. Plus, you and your little will enjoy your outside time better in the shade…and so will your camera! 😉 If you don’t have a big tree to sit under, bring an outdoor umbrella or make a DIY blanket shade canopy!

FullSizeRender (3) (1)

{Izzy loves being outdoors, so when we do go out in the middle of the day- if it’s not too hot- we find a nice shady tree and hang out for a little while!}

FullSizeRender (2)

Next up: Sunscreen<<

This is kinda obvious. If you have a babe 6 months or older, lather them up with sunscreen that’s SPF 30 or more! There’s no way any parent wants their sweet little to have sunburn, so if you plan to be outside, rub on the sunscreen frequently! And if your babe starts turning red, pack it up and head inside!

This goes along with sunscreen…protective clothing!

They say cotton is best because its lightweight and breathable. But if you plan on being on the beach, lake or just playing in the sprinkler in the yard, hit up a neat shop SwimZip. They have UPF 50+ swim clothing with rash guards! No better brand to trust than SwimZip! Seriously. And as far as keeping little heads safe from summer rays, me and Izzy love Noxx beanies. I wear them and Izzy wears them! They are soft, breathable, and protect noggins from the sun! The mama behind the shop comes from Arizona, so she knows all there is to protecting tiny noggins that belong to our tiny humans! Check her out too!

FullSizeRender (4)

{Rad SwimZip outfit}

IMG_1764

{Izzy in his rad Rasta beanie from Noxx}

 When it’s HOT, drink  M O R E.

In the summer months it is recommended that littles drink 50% more than during cooler months. So if you breastfeed, nurse more often. If you bottle feed, offer more bottles. And if you have an older little, offer water or frozen fruit juice! Izzy’s favorite cold summer time go to has become mini ice pops. He just loves them!

And the last tip I have for you is: pools.

Pools are a great way to let littles cool off. {Obviously NEVER leave a babe alone near or in a pool} They make tiny baby pools with shades attached, or you can snag a beach umbrella to cast shade over your pool, or even buy a large tent canopy. But as fun and fantastic as a nice dip in a pool is with your little, keep your nose up when visiting public pools. If you smell chlorine, chances are the chemicals can and/or will effect your babes sensitive skin. Sometimes its just best to visit families/friends personal pools, or purchase a pool suitable for your own yard! Izzy will hang out in anything that he can splash in! 😉

FullSizeRender (1)

FullSizeRender

Well that’s all we have for you right now friends! We hope you enjoyed our tips, and me and my little guy hope you and your families have an awesome summer and keep cool in this crazy summer heat! Happy summer!!!

Kelsey + Izzy