“HER”

While having my folks and sister in town for the holidays, my reading was put aside, and I happily spent all my extra time soaking up as much quality family time as possible.  Now that everyone has started their journeys back to Seattle I’m settling back into my normal routine, but before getting back in too deep, last night I decided to give myself a bit of “me” time.  In my mind there was no better way to do this than to dive back into my latest book.

“Her” by Harriet Lane is a Thriller (my fav genre) with two main characters, Emma and Nina.  Each chapter is marked with one of their names, and is then told through the namesakes perspective.  Emma and Nina start an unlikely friendship and although Emma sees Nina as a NEW person in her life, Nina somehow knows Emma from earlier in life, but doesn’t share this information with Emma.  As the chapters go back and forth between the characters it seems that Nina is out for revenge, but for what exactly is unclear.  So far “HER” has been very different than any other thriller that I’ve read, and I’m digging it!  There’s so much mystery and deceit I’m so intrigued to see how everything comes together in the end!  Will Emma all of a sudden remember Nina?  Or is Nina going to reveal herself?  Ahhh I NEED to finish this book and find out!

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If you haven’t read this one yet, put it on your list!  And when you get to Emma’s Chapter starting on page 187, do yourself a favor and read it like I did… I ran myself a bath, poured a glass of wine, and lit a scented candle.  I chose Santa Julia Innovacion Torrontes Pinot Grigio for my wine and Homesick Washington edition for my candle, but choose whatever tickles your fancy!  This chapter combined with my bath and wine completely swept me away.  I felt like I was on vacation in France, and IT WAS FABULOUS.  Just trust me on this one, you won’t be disappointed!

Cheers!

Traci

 

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DIY Infused Vodka

Many of us give and receive homemade goodies around the holidays, right?  Typically lots of baked goods, candy, or maybe a tin of oven baked “Chex Mix.”  Well this year I’ve decided to shake things up a bit and go in a totally different direction… Homemade Infused VODKA!  A jalapeño infused vodka for those on the naughty list, and vanilla bean vodka for those on the nice list!  Do I have your attention??  Here’s what you’ll need:

8 oz mason jars
Vodka of choice
Jalapeño
Vanilla bean

And that’s it! Super simple!

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~For the jalapeño vodka, cut one large jalapeño in half lengthwise and place one of the halves into the mason jar.  Next, pour the plain vodka over the jalapeño until the jar is full, leaving a little empty space at the top. Seal jar tightly with the lid.

**NOTE this vodka is SPICY, if you prefer less spice you can use 1/4 or 1/8 of a jalapeño.  After infusing, if it turns out too spicy for you, add more vodka to weaken the flavor.  Also the longer this one sits, the spicier it will become.

~For the vanilla bean vodka, cut one vanilla bean pod in half lengthwise so that the seeds are exposed and place the entire bean into the mason jar.  Fill the jar with plain vodka, leaving a little empty space a the top.  Seal jar tightly with the lid.

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Let the jars-o-vodka infuse for five days, shaking once or twice.  After that, the vodkas are ready to drink!  The vanilla bean vodka will take on a brownish tint and may have flecks of vanilla beans floating about but, it’s a good thing, don’t worry!  My favorite way to use these infused vodkas are in Lemon Drops!  Just replace plain vodka with the infused vodka.  The jalapeño version would also be great in a Bloody Mary!  All that’s left to do now is wrap the jar up with some twine or pop a bow right on top!  Now if you’re REALLY short on time and you’re giving this as a gift BEFORE the five “infusing” days is up, you can simply put a tag on the jar that says, “I’ll be ready to drink on (whatever date).”  For example, “I’ll be ready to drink on 12/25/2016!”  Once the jalapeño or vanilla bean pod has been removed, the vodka can be stored in the fridge or freezer for up to 1 month.  Let’s be honest though, it probably won’t last longer than a day.  😉  Happy gifting (and drinking)!

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Cheers!

Traci

 

 

 

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Outfit Inspiration

I try to be fashionable, but have to admit I don’t always know what I’m doing.  Because of this I used to go to Nordstrom in Seattle and get one of their shopping stylist to help me out.  What the shopping stylist does is basically walk you around the store and help you find what you’re looking for.  If you’re like me, sometimes don’t know what you’re looking for, but you know you NEED something fresh.  If you’re in this situation, the stylist will either just pick out the newest items on the floor or maybe pick out a few of her own personal favorites from her section.  Sometimes that would work out for me and I’d leave feeling grateful and accomplished, but other times the outfits she chose just weren’t “me” or the end price was MUCH higher than I had planned on spending.

I still LOVE shopping, but I’ve started a little ritual that has saved me some frustration (and $$$) for when I need a fresh outfit.  To avoid leaving the store empty handed, or with a completely empty wallet, what I do BEFORE heading to the store is hit up Pinterest!  I look up women’s fashion and browse around to see if I can find outfits that include items that I already own.  There are times I find pieces that are so spot on I feel like I’ve hit the jackpot!  It also leaves me thinking , “How have I NEVER put that shirt with these pants or those shoes with that dress and scarf?!  Before I know it I have a brand new outfit without leaving the house OR spending a dime!  YAY!!!!  I like calling these my “PINspired” outfits ❤️ (Pinterest + Inspired = PINspired, I know I’m cheesy, but I love it!!)

Today’s outfit was a hole in one!  When I saw it couldn’t contain my excitement!  I had this entire outfit IN MY CLOSET!  I yelled for my boyfriend to come look at what I found…let’s just say he wasn’t as excited as me (men!) but he did say that I would look pretty cute in it… LOL, thanks Babe!  So here it is!

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Pretty darn good, right?  I’m digging my new outfit, it’s perfect for these chilly days!  And at a bargain too!

My outfit:

Leather Jacket: Michael Kors, found for a steal at Nordstrom Rack! Similar here.

Scarf: GROUPON, yes really! Similar here.

Striped Top: Target. Similar here.

Jeans: Nordstrom, J brand. Similar here.

Leather Boots: Marshalls. Similar here.

 

Next time you need an outfit update, before hitting up the mall I hope you hop on Pinterest like I did and find a “PINspired” outfit hiding in your wardrobe too!

Cheers!

Traci

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Tree Trimming

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There’s just something about a glowing tree just makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside.  Like many of you, I’m sure, I have several fond memories of decorating the Christmas tree as a child.  My family always had an artificial tree, so all  my mom had to do was go into the closet underneath our stairs, pull out the boxes marked “CHRISTMAS” and we were ready to rock and roll!  Since moving to California 5 years ago, we’ve only had a Christmas tree once.  Since my boyfriend and I are both from the Seattle area, we typically travel home for the holidays, and to avoid coming back to a dried up tree, or having an artificial tree take up precious closet space during the rest of the year, we just forego the tree and decorate our living space with twinkle lights, stockings, and a few festive odds and ends.  This year my parents, sister, and her boyfriend are visiting US for the holidays.  I’m beyond excited to have my family sharing my home this Christmas!  It’s such a special treat, and it also means after 4 long years we finally get to have a tree again!  And only a real one will do.  You just can’t beat that fresh pine scent!

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Growing up, our tree was always adorn with multi colored lights, an eclectic collection of ornaments ranging from colorful glass balls, hand made projects from school, cartoon characters, and our favorite little gingerbread man shaped ones that smelled like sweet cinnamon cookies.   As an adult, I enjoy having a themed tree.  Smooth and textured glass balls in shades silver and turquoise along with a few icicles and snowflakes.  The colors remind of Seattle and the water, and one special ornament ties it all together.  LOVE, LOVE, LOVE!

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What kind of tree is in your home?  Do you go with the “little bit a everything” route or a themed tree like me?  Real or artificial?  I would love to hear about YOUR tree!  Leave me a comment with your tree details below!  It will be like driving through your neighborhood and seeing glimpses of you neighbors trees in the window!

Cheers!

Traci

 

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Citrus & Sunshine

My parents just arrived from Washington and will be staying with us through the holidays.  So far they are LOVING the weather.  While they’re visiting we have a lot of fun sunny California outings planned, one being citrus picking!  My Dad has been talking about this one for months, so we put it at the top of the list!  This citrus grove is tucked away out of view, behind our house within walking distance.  It’s decently hidden so we had NO CLUE it was there until one of my clients that lives nearby filled me in on it.  What an amazing little secret!  It’s home to several varieties of oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruits, mandarins, and even avocados!  The clemintine/mandarin oranges are a winter crop, so this season is the first time we’ve actually seen them growing, and we are obsessed!  I recently learned that they are nicknamed “Christmas Oranges” because of their winter timeline, how cute is that!  As you can see the trees are abundantly full, so we got to pickin’!20161204_105317

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How well do you know you’re neighborhood?  We lived in our current location for a year before finding out about this precious gem!  So chat with your neighbors and go exploring while on a evening walk, you never know what might be hidden around the corner!  Now you must excuse me, I turned about 90% of our harvest into the most amazing fresh OJ, so you know what that calls for right? MIMOSAS!

Cheers!

Traci

 

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Not Mom’s Meatloaf

Growing up I dreaded the nights when my mom made meatloaf for dinner.  My mother will be the first to tell you that she does NOT enjoy cooking…and with the meatloaf recipe she made me as child, IT SHOWED.  Her version included ground beef, onion, egg, and dry oatmeal smashed into a loaf pan and then covered in a condensed tomato soup.  I couldn’t get it passed my lips, meatloaf night was a night that I was A-OK going to bed without supper.  And since this was my only experience with meatloaf, for YEARS I wouldn’t go near the stuff.  In my mind ALL meatloaf was like my mom’s, and therefore, disgusting.  Unlike my mom, I’ve always loved cooking, and as I got older I learned how to pair flavors together and create my own recipes and eventually decided I was going to give meatloaf another try.  But MY way.  I’ve played around with a lot of ingredients and methods of cooking, but THIS one is my favorite. Here are a few of the key differences that turned a deeply hated dish into a delicious, comforting, healthier dish I look forward to in the colder months of the year.

  1. First off I don’t use ground beef, I’m truly not a big fan of it in general, so instead I use ground chicken.  You could totally use ground turkey as well.  My local Whole Foods Market just always has a great deal on organic dark meat ground chicken, so it’s my go-to.
  2. I fill it with lots of veggies!  I’m much more of a veggie eater than I am a meat eater, so when I DO eat meat I try to fill it with as many veggies as I can!
  3. I don’t stuff in into a loaf pan, I prefer to make it free form, and in this instance make smaller individual portions so everyone gets their own “loaf.”
  4. Tasty flavors inside! Thyme, rosemary, Dijon, Worcestershire, and balsamic all make an appearance!
  5. A savory, smokey,  slightly sweet topping.  In this recipe I used this amazing “bacon pepper jam” (you should really try it, its good on EVERYTHING) but before finding this I would use my favorite BBQ sauce.

 

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Not Mom’s Meatloaf

  • 1lb ground dark meat chicken
  • About 1 tablespoon of oil (I use avocado oil)
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 1/3 cup grated carrot
  • 2 ribs of celery, diced
  • 1/3 cup roasted red peppers, chopped
  • 2 sprigs rosemary (about 1 tablespoon minced)
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (plus a pinch)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper (plus a pinch)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs (I use a gluten free version)
  • 4 tablespoons bacon pepper jam, 1 tablespoon per mini loaf (find it here) or your favorite BBQ sauce.

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Add oil to a large saute pan and heat over a medium-high heat.  Add onions, carrots, celery,  roasted red peppers, salt and pepper and cook for 5 to 7 mins stirring occasionally until veggies have softened.  Next add rosemary, thyme, Dijon, Worcestershire, balsamic vinegar.  Stir to combined and cook for about 30  seconds.  Remove pan from the heat and let mixture cool slightly.  Place ground chicken, bread crumbs, egg, cooked veggie mixture, and a pinch of salt and pepper to a large bowl.  Use clean hands to mix everything together until well combined.  Divide meatloaf mixture into 4 equal portions.  Place each portion onto a lined or non-stick baking sheet and form into mini “loaves” about 1 inch thick.  Spread 1 tablespoon of the bacon pepper jam (or BBQ sauce)  over each loaf, spreading into a thin layer.  Place the baking sheet into the preheated oven and bake for 25 minutes.  Once finished, place each loaf onto it’s own plate and enjoy with sides of choice!

 

If you’ve ever hated meatloaf like me, but wanna give it another chance, I hope you try this one!  And if you do please let me know!  Do you have a loathed childhood dish that you now enjoy as an adult?  I love to hear about that too!  Happy Cooking Everyone!! XO

Cheers!

Traci

 

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Cozy in the Canyons

With the holidays approaching and family coming to visit, my boyfriend Joel and I knew that life was going to be getting extra busy really soon.  And although we are SO looking forward to it all, we wanted to make sure to do something special for just the two of us before we had a full house.  As you may have seen in my last post, “Laguna Stay-cation” we recently celebrated 6 years together, and after 6 years we have A LOT of fun photos together, but nothing professional.  This time of year calls for colorful plaid, cozy, sweaters, and snuggling up close.  So we thought what better time of year than now to do our first couples photo shoot together!  I ran across our photographer, Jessica Kaylene, on Instagram who’s local in our area, and after we chatted about the style of shoot we wanted (outdoors-y, rustic, warm) she suggested Peltzer Pines Tree Farm in Santiago Canyon. So it was set!  Joel absolutely loves the canyons, so he made sure to scope out an area away from the trees where we could also get a shot of the beautiful foothills in all their glory…and I have to say, he did good!! Jessica was so easy and fun to work with, and HER PHOTOS!  She did such an amazing job capturing us as a couple along with all the beautiful surroundings.  I can definitely say our first couples photography was a positive one!

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Have you and your honey been together for a while, or have you recently welcomed a new baby into the family, or even a puppy?!  I encourage you to find a photographer near you, and capture some memories!  Many photographers offer “mini shoots” so even on a small budget you can take home some treasured frozen moments in time.  Joel and I are super happy we did, you will too!

Cheers!

Traci

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