Thursday, May 30, 2013

Things I Love Thursday // 5.30.13

  • The commencement address that John Green gave to the graduating class of Butler University a couple weeks ago. John Green wrote one of the best books I've read in the last year (another "Thing I Love"), The Fault in Our Stars. If you haven't treated yourself to that amazing work of fiction yet--please do so at your earliest convenience.
  • Pigs. Cannot get enough, lately. I found these treasures at my one of my favorite stores just yesterday. This is pretty oinktastic too--but I didn't see it when I was there... this time...
  • Convos With My 2-Year-Old This is so worth the few minutes it will take to watch. Funny, funny stuff.
  • For the mornings when I don't have the time, the motivation, or the ingredients to make Buttermilk Blueberry Breakfast Cake, a reliable box of muffin mix from the pantry is a pretty decent stand-in. 
  • The delightfully mild spring we are enjoying.
  • Accompanying Piper's class on their field trip to The Lazy 5 Ranch. Hoards of five and six year olds are crazy and funny (especially enjoyable in small doses). 
  • The fact that the girls will be out of school soon and we get started on the business of enjoying our summer: sleeping in, swimming, Oregon trip, camps, lemonade stands, day trips, etcetera! 
  • Impromptu picnics in the front yard. 
  • The smell of gardenias.
  • Maxi dresses. I know; I'm super behind the trend. I just didn't think this style was very flattering on me--until I gave them another shot this week. Now, I'd rather not put anything else on (especially as things warm up around these parts). I'm sorry fellas that you will never be able to rock the comfort and ease of these lovely garments. It's like wearing your nightgown out into the world without all of the sniggering and sideways glances (Honestly, People. I'm just grabbing the newspaper. Hold onto your hats.)
  • Finding artful surprises in (the last of?) the spring showers. How do you weigh-in, fox or dog?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Summer Sandals? Yes, Please!

'Tis the season for new foot candy! There are great deals to be had all over the place. What do you have your eye on for summer? Gladiator, metallics, wedges,  or colorblock sandals? I think I'll take one of each. Kidding (kind of). 

Get Some! .01 // .02 // .03 // .04 // .05 // .06

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Recipe Review | Buttermilk Blueberry Breakfast Cake

This one is definitely a crowd-pleaser. I've made it at least 3 times since Easter. Once, when I didn't have enough blueberries, I substituted some blackberries and it was equally delicious. The recipe comes from Alexandra's Kitchen blog and the creator insists that "the magic" comes from the buttermilk; however, I believe the real magic is in the lemon zest (I have named this blog Sour Jones in part for my love of lemons, ya know). 

Buttermilk Blueberry Breakfast Cake
What you need:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
zest from one large lemon (about 2 teaspoons)
7/8 cup* + 1 tablespoon** sugar
1 egg, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour (set aside 1/4 cup of this to toss with the blueberries)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups fresh blueberries
1/2 cup buttermilk

* 7/8 cup = 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons
** This 1 tablespoon is for sprinkling on top
What to do:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cream the butter and lemon zest with 7/8 cup of sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until combined. 

Meanwhile toss the blueberries with 1/4 cup of flour (set aside). Whisk together remaining flour, baking soda, and salt. 

Add the flour mixture to the batter, a little at a time, alternating with the buttermilk. Fold in the blueberries.

Grease a 9"x 9" square baking pan (or something similar) with butter or non-stick spray. Spread batter into pan. Sprinkle with remaining tablespoon of sugar. Bake for 35-45 minutes. Check with a toothpick for doneness. (Note: Baking for as long as 10 minutes more might be necessary.) Let cool at least 15 minutes before serving.
Yay! CAKE for breakfast!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Things I Love Thursday // 5.23.13

  • Our new tree swing--fun for the whole family! 
  • Kirkland's Pacific Roast coffee pods. Just as delicious as the Starbuck's French Roast (but less than half the price!).
  • Thanks to my friend Jillian, I'm wasting so much time enjoying Thug Kitchen. - Do not open the link if you have little readers looking over your shoulder. I really look forward to trying some of these recipes too--they are all legitimate. 
  • Spending time with family. 
  • This article written in response to another blog post shaming mothers at parks who have their cell phones out.
  • Block & Grinder. I have had the pleasure of dining at this butcher counter/retail wine shop/ restaurant on two occasions already and I can't wait to go back (already). Pictured below are just a few highlights (Deviled Eggs, Pork Belly on corn bread pancakes, Sharon Amity & Providence burger) 
  • The peel and stick chalkboard sheets I just got for our kitchen to help me organize our schedules. I had a great system in Oregon--that just couldn't find a "home" here in the new house. These chalkboards have been a great tool. 
  • The chocolate-dipped soft serve at Mr. K's
  • And finally, Zach Sobiech's grace. Invest 22 minutes of your life to be reminded to live it well.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Recipe Review | Strawberry "Salsa"

This tasty little dish was originally shared by Rae of the Armommy blog. On the occasion that I whipped it up for my family, we actually chowed so hard on it that we skipped dinner and opted for another small appetizer in lieu of a bigger meal. It's. So. Good. AND strawberries are great right now and only going to get better as the summer months come. So, here you have it! Enjoy.

Strawberry Salsa
What you need:
2 cups strawberries, chopped
1 1/2 cups avocado, peeled, pitted and diced
1/2 cup cucumber, diced small
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1-2 tablespoons jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped (optional--but highly recommended) 
salt and pepper (to taste)
What to do:
Mix everything in a medium bowl and chill until ready to serve.
Serve with your favorite tortilla chips (and a nice glass of Chardonnay?)

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Sweet Stuff | Fiesta Details

Some of the ideas and details for the Fiesta came from things I found on Pinterest (Surprise! Not. -- Are people still using that phrase?) The cupcakes were amazing. Like off-the-charts amazing. I can say that because I didn't make them. Shannon Turrell of Cupcake Delirium made them for me. I sent her the recipe for the Margarita cupcakes and the Churro cupcakes and she did the rest. While those churro cupcakes have gooey caramel (dulce de leche) inside, the margarita cupcakes (made with tequila) were definitely my favorite. I displayed them simply in tiny plastic margarita glasses. A favorite appetizer/side dish for both adults and children were the fruit skewers: juicy, jumbo strawberries and large chunks of fresh pineapple loaded onto a wooden skewer. Simple and refreshing (and pretty to look at too). The menu cards were made with bright yellow and pink frames I found in the $1 bins at Target. You can't have a fiesta without a piñata. I found our sweet little toro (Obviously, I named him, Ferdinand.) at Party City. I even found an authentic bag of delicious Mexican candies at our local supermercado. Cheerful daisies in Mexican food tins topped the tables. I really get completely obsessed excited about the little things. 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Recipe Review | Margaritas + Sangria

Oh yes, the best way to spend a hot afternoon in the yard with friends: sipping sweet sangria or ice-cold, frothy margaritas. Yum. Sangria is best served by the pitcher and margaritas are best when they are freshly shaken (vigorously) with ice. So next time you're hosting a gathering, you can accomplish both quite painlessly. To avoid watering-down your adult beverages, always serve your ice on the side.

Sassy Sangria
(makes about 6-8 servings)
1 bottle of red wine (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Rioja, Zinfandel)
Juice from 2 oranges
Juice from 2 lemons
Juice from 2 limes
1/2 cup Peach Schnapps
1/4 cup grenadine syrup
3 cups raspberry flavored seltzer water 
Mix it all together and chill it in the refrigerator overnight.
Before serving you can add halved and wedged citrus, frozen raspberries, and sliced peaches to the pitcher. However, if you're using a beverage dispenser with a spigot (like mine) you might want to avoid this, as the fruit may clog your spout.
To serve, provide plenty of ice and garnishes (sliced citrus, raspberries and/or peaches) on the side. 

~ || ~ || ~ || ~

Classic Margarita (Known is some circles as a, "Tamarita.") 
(makes one cocktail)
2 ounces quality, Reposado Tequila
1/2 ounces triple sec 
3 ounces margarita mix (Honestly, my favorite is the Kirkland brand. It's not too sweet or syrupy.)
Juice from 1/2 lime (about 1 tablespoon)
Juice from 1/2 lemon (about 1 tablespoon)
Juice from 1/2 orange (about 2 tablespoons)
Shake ingredients vigorously with a FULL glass of ice. (One of the most common ways people "ruin" cocktails is by not serving them with enough ice.) 
Serve with or without a salted rim.
Garnish with a lime wedge (Don't forget to squeeze it before dropping it in the glass!)

***Make it even better by adding a "floater" of any of these***
Grand Marnier - Cadillac Margarita
Amaretto - Italian Margarita (So yummy!)
Chambord - Raspberry Margarita
Midori - Melon Margarita
To serve in mason jars, place all the ingredients in the jar with NO ice (with the lid on). Keep the jars chilled until you serve them (we brought ours out 12 at a time for the party). 
Place an ice bucket with scoop on the side.
Instruct guests to remove the lid, fill the jar with ice, replace the lid, and then shake-shake-shake. 
Provide a container to collect discarded lids.


Saturday, May 18, 2013

Recipe Review | 9-Layer Dip

A necessity for your next fiesta or a great appetizer for any outdoor gathering this summer... You can make these individually (as shown) or you can layer the ingredients in a baking dish or shallow bowl--whatever is handy (your guests will be more impressed if the containers are clear). This dish can be made up to 24 hours in advance--but don't add the shredded cheese and other "garnishes" until serving day.

9-Layer Dip
(makes 8 generous individual servings OR about one 9x9 sized "community" dish)
What you need:
1 pound ground beef
1 package McCormick's Beef Taco Seasoning
1 (16 oz) can refried beans (I like Trader Joe's Salsa Style Refried Beans best!)
2 cups guacamole*
2 cups sour cream
1-2 cups salsa (just use your favorite--but be sure it's not too thin or watery)
2 cups of shredded cheese (cheddar, mexican blend, colby)
1/2 cup diced tomatoes
1 (3-4 oz) can sliced black olives
4-6 green onions, diced
Large bag of "sturdy" tortilla chips.
*The best guacamole is homemade. Smash all this together in a bowl:
3 avocados
juice from 1 large lemon
about 1/4 cup of chopped cilantro
2-3 green onions, diced
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
(additional kosher salt may be needed after tasting)
What to do:
Brown the ground beef with the seasoning packet according to the directions on the package; set aside. (Make your guacamole?) 

Layer your ingredients into your serving container(s)**: refried beans, ground beef, guacamole, sour cream, salsa, cheese, tomatoes, black olives, green onions.

**If you're making individual servings, plan to use about 2 ounces each of refried beans, ground beef, guacamole, sour cream, and cheese.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Entertaining | Fiesta Fun

I'll forever be a West Coast Girl at heart. With that comes an inherent love for Mexican food, margaritas, and casual backyard gatherings. Last weekend, I had the best excuse to indulge in all three!
Amazingly enough, the weather actually cooperated and we had a great time hosting Mr. Jones' management team + their families in our backyard for an afternoon Fiesta.
Fake mustaches, sidewalk chalk, lawn games, and the pinata kept the kids entertained between cupcakes.
To help guarantee our guests left with the impression that they had a fabulous time {wink}, I made sure to provide plenty of Mexican beer, "shake your own" margaritas, and sangria. 
I owe a big thanks to both G + P for helping me prepare for the party in the days preceding. I think the three of us had fun making everything "just right." When they were younger, I liked using my grandmother's famous line, "Having the kids 'help' with things always cuts my time to double!" However, I can't really use that one anymore. They are both so capable. I could not have gotten it all done without them. 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Things I Love Thursday // 5.16.13

  • Everything I've heard so far from Modern Vampires of the City, Vampire Weekend's new album. Particularly Diane Young and Step. Addicted. Thankfully, so is my hubby. If you're so inclined, you can listen to  some of it HERE without having to endure an advertisement first. And for even more Vampire fun, be sure to check out this post from 2009!
  • Downton Abbey. We just finished Season 1 and are just a couple episodes into Season 2. It's delightful. I especially love the style of the period. My goodness! Here's just a taste. 
  • Meeting Greg's co-workers and their families at the Fiesta we hosted on Saturday. We intended to have a Cinco de Mayo party the week before. However, May 5th was a soggy day in Charlotte. We postponed for the following weekend and the forecast for our new date looked suspect all week. I still don't know how we managed to stay dry. The downpour started literally 20 minutes after our last guests left. It was really fun to visit with everyone in the sunshine over margaritas. 
  • LEON, the new cookbook I received for Mother's Day (Thanks to a lovely suggestion from Mrs. Wells!) The layout, food styling, and conversational "Tips" section for each recipe make the book completely "readable." I love that! Randomly opening to the Stuffed Picnic Cob Loaf recipe brought me right back to memories of my bachelorette weekend in St. Helena. I can still taste the incredible "sandwiches" that Mrs. Armstrong prepared for one of our afternoons, poolside. Very similar! 
  • Dating my husband. We have finally had success in finding a great babysitter and the girls LOVE her. Greg and I had a tasty and enjoyable dinner out with another couple at Basil in Uptown (that's what they call "Downtown" in Charlotte). Yippy!
  • Carolina Blue Skies - At long last, we have had some really amazing weather over the past few days and it's begun to actually feel like spring. The humidity has not kicked in yet and with temperatures in the 80s, it has been fantastic to be outside. Of course, the forecast for this weekend is scattered thunder storms and showers, but I'm determined to relish in the "tolerable" sunshine while I can.
  • Brown Sugar Body Polish by Fresh - This little jar of goodness was a gift I received some time ago from my brother and his girlfriend. Now I'm addicted. It's particularly nice for elbows, knees and ankles. A little goes a long way and you'd be amazing at how silky-soft your skin feels afterward. 

(Image 1 via PBSVogue, The Guardian // Image 2 via Mangiare //

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Home Transformation | Entryway

My husband is such a good sport! When I suggested a fun and dramatic GREEN ombre staircase for the front entryway/foyer he hesitated for only a moment before jumping onboard and declaring that he trusted my instincts and thought it would look great. {swoon} I am so pleased with the way it turned out! The addition of the picture-frame moulding below the chair-rail in white and the lighter gray on the walls above, provides a clean, neutral backdrop to the vibrant greens. 

To get the staircase "just right," we had a lot of help from Charlotte's (very patient and knowledgeable) paint guru, Frank. From the front door (and looking at a wider scope of this view) you can see a bit of the girls' study off to the right behind the living room. That room is also green. I knew I wanted to  ground the ombre staircase within that family of greens. It took three separate "stabs" at tinting 5 different quarts of paint to varying degrees until I was satisfied with the final result. (Ultimately, I used 4 different colors on the staircase.) I think my Green Cat print (visible at the end of the front hallway) is the icing on the cake! MEOW!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

My perfect day...

  • Sleeping in
  • Jones "snoogling"
  • Coffee + homemade presents & cards
  • Mommy/Daughter presents from Husband/Daddy (+ silliness)
  • Pajamas until 11am
  • Family bike ride to lunch + shopping (Earrings, dresses, necklaces--Oh my!)
  • Mommy-only walk around the "Booty Loop" with my girlfriend, Beth (While my family shopped at Reid's for the filet dinner I requested--woot woot!)
  • Chardonnay + Gatsby on the patio, listening to my family playing in the backyard
A very special thank you to my husband for giving me such an amazing day. Without my own mother in my life, this day can be really challenging. Obviously, I think about her today and hope that she is finding happiness and peace in her life. Cheers to all the mothers who have raised me! For more on that: Check this out.
(Image 3 via)

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Things I Love Thursday // 5.9.13

  • Jimmy Fallon (and John Krasinski) 
  • Re-reading The Great Gatsby in anticipation of the movie coming out 5.10.13!
  • Having a few special things grace my home that once belonged to my grandparents. 
  • The classic Presto PopLight popcorn popper that Jessica gave us for a house-warming gift. It makes the BEST popcorn! Of course, the melted butter and truffle salt make it particularly tasty.
  • The "Poet-Tree" book that P made at school. Here's just one of the treasures that she wrote (I did not correct any of her sweet Kindergarten spelling--not even her name! *giggling*)
Loving, frendly, pritty, nice.
Sibling of Geneva.
Lover of books.
Fear of wosps.
Needs to see Disnee Wurld.
Gives love.
Who wold like to see Mexaco.
Resident of Charlotte.
  • "Sistering"
  • The cozy rug (It's shag, people.) that we finally rolled out in our master bedroom. I forgot how much more delightful it is to step out of bed in the morning and onto a soft surface rather than a cold hardwood floor. Don't get me wrong--I LOVE my hardwood floors; however, my toes really prefer the shag at 6:30am.
  • "It's a 10" leave-in treatment + keratin. I've been using this on my hair since my KeraStraight processing and I love it. Admittedly, it's hard to know if the results I've been enjoying should be credited to the product or the process--but anyhoo, I love this stuff! 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Home Transformation | Southern Porch

While the "big Southern porch" I've always imagined had a large, lazy swing adorning it, I am delighted by the way our "actual" Southern porch has turned out. It took a couple cans of spray paint and some bargain shopping to pull it together.

I knew I wanted some big urns with a topiary-like plant to flank the front steps. I shopped around and fell in love with these blue ones from Frontgate. Unfortunately, at $339 each, it wasn't going to happen. So I kept looking and just couldn't find what I wanted. In the meantime, we painted the interior of the house and I had moved on from blue in search of a bright springlike green to accent the front of the house. Finally, I found the shape and size planter I wanted at an incredible price ($19/each!) at Lowe's. The planters are made of concrete (so as not to blow over in a storm) and with a couple cans of spray paint, I had exactly what I wanted. My ingenious husband was able to move them with the help of one of the girls' scooters. The girls and I found beautiful (and affordable) gardenia "trees" (Lowe's, again!) that mimicked the topiary vibe I was going after.

The rocking chairs (and folding tables) were another bargain from Lowe's at about half the price of others we had shopped. They are sturdy and large. I found the cushions and lanterns (for citronella candles) at one of my favorite stores. And the icing on the cake: my Southern door monogram. After a few coats of the same spray paint we used on the planters and some thick white ribbon, it was ready to cap-off my front porch makeover.

I think all I need now, is to learn how to make Sweet Tea.