Monday, November 24, 2014

black, white, + gold birthday party ...

I'm excited to finally share with you the details of Thomas' second birthday party. (um, he turns four in a four months. ?)  I'm not sure what took me so long, building a house and moving has really kept me busy this past year and a half, but I'm happy to be back to blogging more regularly!
I wanted to do a party with black and white with gold accents.  I made a pinterest of my inspiration here.
My little Thomas loves little toy animals, so I incorporated them into the party by taking some I found at the dollar store and painting them gold with gold spray paint. An easy way to add a lot of fun detail to the party.
I also spray painted a cardboard box to give the table some levels, and I put the cake stand on it.
My friend Aubry who owns Hello Maypole felt balls came over and helped whip up a felt ball garland. It added the perfect detail under my Happy Birthday sign.
I gave the spray painted Lion a little party hat that I made with black and white cupcake liners from Bake it Pretty, and a little gold fuzzy ball top.
I made a little dessert table with treats that matched the party.  I added some gold washi tape around the rim of my cake plates to add a little extra detail. And, I also made some macarons with a chocolate ganache filling for the dessert table.
The macarons and gold chocolate coins also served as the party favors for our guests to bring home in a little black and white striped box.
I used some Ikea Sofia black and white striped fabric for the tablecloth, and dressed up the table with some of my milk glass collection, and some simple white flowers.
We also served some bbq pork sliders on a pretzel bun, with chips, and some salads.  
I can hardly believe it's been almost two years since this day.  Makes me so sad that my youngest is growing up so fast!
I mean, look at that little smile!  Priceless!  I just love that kid!

Party Sources:
Felt Balls for felt garland: Hello Maypole
Black and White striped Balloons: Oriental Trading (doesn't look like they sell them anymore.)
Cake Stands: Martha Stewart for Macys
Milk Glass: Vintage, thrifted
Black and White Table Cloth: Ikea Fabric
Happy Birthday Banner: Oriental Trading
Black and White Striped treat boxes:  Zurchers
Gold Animals: Dollar Store and Michaels Dollar spot, spray painted gold
White Rectangle Platter: Tai Pan Trading
Gold and white bowl: Vintage, Thrifted
Black Tissue bunting: Oriental Trading or Zurchers

Friday, November 21, 2014

pink coral sand dunes ...

Last month we were craving a little adventure.  We looked at our options and decided to head to the Pink Coral Sand Dunes State Park in Southern Utah.  It was our first trip to the dunes, and it won't be our last.
We packed up our sleds and headed to the top of the dune. 
The sleds didn't move down the sand as fast as we would have liked (I think the lighter plastic ones would have been better) but, we still enjoyed ourselves.
There's just something about running full speed down a giant mountain of sand.  I dare you not to smile. 
We stuck around, and watched the most glorious desert sunset with the sand in our toes and warmth of the sun on our faces.  It truly was one of the most memorable, magical days I've ever had.

To read and see more photos from our magical afternoon in the dessert, I am guest posting today over on The Salt Project Blog.  A new blog all about things to do with kids in Utah.

Also, speaking of traveling with children, Get Away Today is running a great Disneyland promotion I wanted to share with my readers, from Nov 24- Nov 30th!  They are offering Adults at kids' prices on all their 3 day and longer park hopper tickets for all of 2015.  You can also save an additional $10 off each ticket with promo code, armelle14 
So, if you are looking for discounts and ways to save on your next Disney vacations, be sure to head over to Get Away Today and book quick!

{all photos by me from my Iphone}

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

from the archives: thanksgiving kids table ...

I thought I would start a series on the blog called "from the archives."  Believe it or not, I start this little old blog seven and a half years ago.  Can you believe that? Almost a half a decade?  Many of you may be new to the blog, So I thought I'd pull out a few post from the archives now and again.

With Thanksgiving around the corner, I thought I would share a little set up for a kids table for Thanksgiving.
The little name place boats with corn nuts I thought were a nice touch, and very Thanksgiving with the "corn."
Crayons or colored pencils are a must with a kids table, and an easy covering of butcher paper gives a nice "tablecloth," as well as a blank canvas for your little artists.
To see the full post from the archives, click here.

{all photos by me}

Monday, November 17, 2014

spinach salad with couscous and fresh basil dressing ...

I can't believe I haven't shared this salad before.  It is by far one of my favorite salads, whenever I make it I just can't get enough.  My friend Jade shared this with me a few years back, and I have just loved it ever since!

It has a homemade creamy basil dressing, and it tastes so fresh and flavorful.  The key to this dressing is of course the basil, but also the full fat Best Foods brand mayonnaise.  Just trust me on this, I've tried the lower fat, light, or a different brand, and it is just not the same.  Seriously, don't even waste your time, it always ends up down the sink.  

I also love the couscous in the spinach salad.  It's all amazing together, and sometimes I'll even make it for lunch or dinner and put some grilled or baked chicken on top.  This also would be a good addition to your Thanksgiving table.  

Spinach Salad with Couscous, Asiago Cheese, Pepitas, Dried Cranberries, and a Fresh Basil Dressing

1 cup Best Food Full Fat Mayonnaise
1 cup fresh basil leaves rinsed
1 shallot
1 clove garlic (optional)
1 cup Buttermilk
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
Salt and Freshly ground pepper to taste

Place ingredients in a blender and blend well.   Refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight before serving. Store in Fridge.

Salad- According to the amount you need
Fresh Baby Spinach
Crasins (dried cranberries)-  I prefer the orange flavored dried cranberries from Trader Joe's
Shredded Asiago Cheese
Pepitas (green pumpkin seeds)
White corn (canned- drain)
1 package of olive oil and garlic couscous (near east brand)- cooked according to box directions

Drizzle dressing on and serve.


{photo by me}

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

thanksgiving inspiration and a chocolate mousse pie ...

Can you believe that Thanksgiving is just around the corner?
I'm excited to share with you a lovely spread of amazing recipes that will help you out this Thanksgiving.
It has been a lot of fun collaborating with some of my favorite food bloggers, and partnering with Harmons Grocery to bring you a few ideas for your Thanksgiving table, and a chance to win one of FIVE $100 gift cards to Harmons Grocery. (see details at the end of this post)
Thanksgiving is such a special holiday.  I love nothing more than to gather around a table of amazing food with people that I love and care about.  For me, food is a way I show love and I love to see people enjoying the food I have made.
It was a lot of fun to me to get together with a few of my favorite food bloggers, and set a Thanksgiving table with our readers in mind.  I hope you enjoy the recipes we share with you, and they become a part of your spread year after year.  And, trust me when I say that I tried and tasted many of the recipes, and was more than happy to have seconds.
My friend Becky of Vintage Mixer made these amazing Honey Whole Grain Dinner Rolls.  Not only tasty, but also a beautiful roll to serve to your guests.  
Becky also shared an amazing Fresh Cranberry Orange Relish Recipe.  A great alternative to a traditional cranberry sauce, it tastes so flavorful, fresh, and it only has three ingredients, simple! (photo by Becky of Vintage mixer)
My friend Si of A Bountiful Kitchen was so nice to let us invade her home with our dishes, cameras, props, and even my kids! (things you don't see in the background)  (Photo by Becky of Vintage Mixer)
She made these amazing Savory Yams with Bacon, Thyme, and Cream.  Oh man, they were so good.  I ate my fair share, and she was nice enough to send some home with me, and I enjoyed them again the next day.  I am definitely going to be making this as a side more than just at Thanksgiving.
Si also shared with us some amazing Slow Cooker Mash Potatoes.  I loved them, and they seem so easy to make, in the slow cooker, and keeping the skin on the potatoes also helps save a lot of time.
Si shared with us some of her secrets to cooking Turkey in a bag, and her amazing simple pan gravy.
I always love to eat my Thanksgiving turkey with a little bit of fresh applesauce.  My Papy from France taught me that.  All you have to do is place peeled and diced golden delicious apples in a sauce pan, cover with water, and boil until tender.  Remove from heat, drain water, and blend in a blender or hand blender.  It is also good to keep the apples a little chunky.  Seriously try it with your next turkey, you won't be dissappointed.
Jesseca, another Harmons blogger from One Sweet Appetite has shared a Sausage and Herb Stuffing recipe with fresh cranberries that looks so amazing! (photo by Jesseca, of one sweet appetite)
Another great side dish by Rachael of La Fuji Mama, she is sharing her Sesame Green Beans with Bacon and Chesnut recipe over on her blog. (photo by Rachael of La Fuji Mama)
My contribution to the Thanksgiving table was the pie.  Because it isn't Thanksgiving without pie, am I right?
I made a homemade Chocolate Mousse pie.  It is just about my favorite pie there is.  Homemade chocolate mousse with fresh whip cream topped with some more chocolate shavings.  Talk about chocolate overload!  I love the selection of quality chocolates from Harmons Grocery.  They have gourmet chocolates from many vendors, some are even local companies that source their cocoa beans in South America and are very involved in the process.
Homemade Chocolate Mousse Pie

Pie Shell

Blind bake your favorite pie shell recipe, and allow to cool completely ready for the filling.
My favorite pie shell recipe for this particular pie is this recipe, except that I leave out the vinegar.  A little different with the olive oil, but trust me and give it a try.  It produces the flakiest crust, and it is a perfect compliment to the chocolate filling. It makes enough for two nine inch pies.  It is best to roll out the dough then place it into a pie plate, then freeze it or place it in the freezer before you blind bake it to avoid shrinking.  I usually blind bake mine at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes, just before it turns golden.

Chocolate Mousse Filling
(filling makes enough for two nine-inch pies, or one and some left over chocolate mousse)

8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
8 ounces milk chocolate
4 ounces water (about 8 tablespoons)
4 whole eggs
2 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of salt
1 pint (or 2 cups) HEAVY whipping cream (the heaviest you can find, manufacturing cream is best if you can find it. It is a heavier cream with at least 40% fat)

1) Melt the chocolate with the water in the saucepan over low heat and constantly stirring until the chocolate is melted and smooth.  Turn off the heat and set aside.

2) Separate the eggs with the yolks into a LARGE bowl, and the egg whites into the mixing bowl.

3) In the mixer with the whip attachment, whisk the egg whites with the sugar until medium-stiff peaks.

4) While the egg whites are mixing in the mixer, whisk the egg yolks in with the salt in a medium to large bowl until smooth and temper the melted chocolate in thirds so to not curdle the egg yolks.

5) Once the egg whites are ready, fold into the chocolate/egg yolk mixture one third at a time until light at fluffy.  

6) In a clean mixing bowl, with the whip attachment, whip the cream up to medium to stiff peaks, then fold into chocolate mixture a third at a time until light and fluffy.

Whipped Cream Topping
2 cups heavy whipped cream
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

1) Whip the cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla in a mixer with the wire whisk attachment until medium peaks form. 

Chocolate Shavings
High quality milk chocolate bar (There is a great selection of fine chocolates at your local Harmons Grocery)  

Shave pieces of the chocolate bar with a vegetable peeler.

Fill the pie with the chocolate filling, and top with more whipped cream topping, and chocolate shavings.  Place in the fridge overnight for mousse to set, or at least 2-4 hours.  Store in the fridge.
I hope this becomes a regular part of your Thanksgiving table!

Here's the rundown of all of the recipes in one spot so you can start planning your Thanksgiving dinner.

Thanksgiving Recipes: 

Now, for the fun part!  We are giving a way a chance at FIVE $100 gift cards to Harmons Grocery to help pay for your Thanksgiving feast!  Harmons is a local grocery store here in Utah, the best in the state really!

For many chances to win, be sure to enter below!  Giveaway closes Sunday November 16th at midnight!

{all photos by me unless credited otherwise}

Monday, November 10, 2014

fitness tips + an albion fit giveaway ...

I'm very excited to partner with Albion Fit again for a fun giveaway!
I've been loving and wearing their fitness clothing and swimsuits for a while now, and I feel like they just keep getting better and better!
I've always been a huge fan of their cropped leggings made out of high quality compression fabric, they suck you in right where they need to, and you can tell just by the feel of the clothing that it is high quality fabric.  I'm wearing their go capri in turquoise.
I also loved this go long crew grey and white striped super soft top with thumb holes.
I have always enjoyed having an exercise routine.  It all started back in high school when I got my first gym membership, I enjoyed working out at least 3-5 times per week.  I continued to stay active, better at times than others doing a lot of yoga, and running.  Fast forward to three kids, and lots and lots to do I still try to stay active.  I haven't been a member of a gym in years, but here are a few things I like to do to stay in shape at home. 
  • Sign up for a race.  I ran my first half marathon last year, and boy was it a motivator to get out there and train.  I don't think I'm the type of person to be signing up for races all the time, but I think maybe once a year or every other year will keep me motivated.  Training for a race can be a big commitment for time, and I also started having some knee issues, but it really helped me achieve some running goals, and I loved training and accomplishing a big fitness task.
  • You Tube-  There are so many free workout videos on You Tube!  I love the Jillian Michaels videos, Be fit Yoga, Fitness Blender Tabata, and my favorite is the ten minute arm workout by Tracy Anderson.  So many good choices, for free!  If you have ten minutes to an hour, you can fit one of them in!
  • Playground workouts.  I usually always have to workout with my kids around, so I discovered that I could workout at the park while my kids were playing.  I walk or run to a nearby park, and while the kids are playing I'll do squats, push ups, crunches, bring my fitness bands and wrap them around the park equipment for stability and you could even do pull ups on the monkey bars. (I'm too big of a wimp for that.)  You may look a little funny, but hey, you gotta do what you gotta do.
  • Run, hike, bike, or walk!  I know I mention running above, but there is nothing like being outside!  When the weather is nice, and you can get your exercise while enjoying nature, there isn't much better than that!  I think that I've made some of my biggest decisions in my life lately on a run.  I get a chance to clear my head and really focus and think!  It sounds funny, but we are always distracted with devices in front of our faces, and an open road or trail in front of you can do wanders.  Hey, cheaper than therapy right?

I know I feel better when I stay active and eat healthy.  I have had one too many sweets this fall, and boy and I feeling it, better get back on it. Wink.  We all have our struggles with finding the time, but when we do, I think we know it's worth all the hard work and effort.
So, let's do this giveaway!

Albion Fit was nice enough to provide a $100 gift card for one of my readers!

Feel free to enter below!  Leave a comment after you browse Albion Fit, and tell me what your favorite item is.  There are a lot of opportunities for bonus entries below as well!  You can enter until Friday November 14th at midnight, and I'll announce the winner November 15th!  Good Luck!

Also, feel free to use coupon code: armelle15 for 15% off your next order at Albion Fit!  Expires 11/20/14