School Milestone and Chocolate Soy Nut Butter Shake

Soy Butter and Chocolate Shake Recipe #StreamTeamMmmmm.  How yummy does that look? This is a chocolate soy nut butter shake. It may sound a little odd to you if you’ve never had soy nut butter (one of our fave pb alternatives). But for those of you who have tried it, you know that it is a great substitute when you are trying to get a peanut butter like taste or texture without it having any devil nuts. And I’m about to tell you why I made it.

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So I am happy to announce that I just became a member of the Netflix #StreamTeam! What that means is that, monthly,  I will be posting about my favorite movies and shows that can be found on Netflix. Let me give you a quick background on myself. I’m pretty obsessed with television. I graduated with a degree in Communications with an emphasis in TV and Film. It is my happy place. When I’m watching my favorite shows, it is my absolute escape and all is right with the world. I prefer sitcoms but also love reality, well written one hour shows (like Nashville and Revenge) and made for TV movies.

Netflix will be sending me prompts to help me round-up the shows and movies on their site that I want share with you. This month, they wanted us to talk about “firsts”. And there is one first that instantly jumped out at me and is totally relevant in my world right now. You guys, I joined the PTA. First time ever. Now, I don’t mean I joined by paying my $10 and getting a membership card. No. I mean, I joined and I’m involved. I’m making sh*t happen. I am the Recording Secretary and chairperson to two events as well as serving on several other committees. So far, it has been a bit crazy. A lot of us are new and learning as we go. But I am realizing just how important PTA can be to the students. That is not to say there hasn’t been any drama. Because there has. From what I am hearing though, that is par for the course. I’m excited to be part of this great group of parents, trying to give the kids the best school year ever.

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That is not to say that there aren’t times when I feel like I am in an episode of Parks and Recreation. With the red tape Leslie faces to get anything done and the running of a city department full of big personalities, there are some parallels to what one may find in a PTA experience. But that kind of stuff makes me happy. I love people watching and schools are kind of one of the best places to do that. Not in an I’m totally making fun of these people and judging them kind of way. But schools are their own little communities with mini mayors like my youngest son who like to know and say hi to each and every kid we pass to the “graders” as my oldest calls the upper graders, who are trying to figure out their sense of style and where they fit in. And, of course, the parents are pretty fun to watch too. From an observation stand point, schools are ripe with story lines.

As close as you can get to a peanut butter chocolate shake without nuts. #StreamTeamAnd since I’m focused on school, I decided to make a treat that my nut allergic son could eat. You guys, some of the best gossip I hear from my oldest son comes straight from the nut free lunch table. And while he won’t be eating this shake at school, I thought it would be the perfect treat for eating while watching some movies about school. All you need is some vanilla ice cream, chocolate syrup and soy nut butter (or Sunbutter which is made with sunflower seeds and is super yummy) and some milk. I need to pause her for a moment and tell you that this Midnight Moo syrup from Trader Joe’s is crazy good. It is much thicker than normal chocolate syrup and more rich. It was perfect for this shake. And also perfect for squeezing straight in to your mouth hole.

Soy Nut Butter and Chocolate Shake Recipe. #StreamTeamI just made a single serving so to my small blender cup I added two scoops of vanilla ice cream and soy nut butter.

Nut free soy butter and chocolate shake. #StreamTeamThen I added the chocolate syrup and milk and blended away.

Soy nut butter and chocolate shake. #StreamTeamSo yum! I added some mini chocolate chips to the top to give it a little more visual interest and a little bit of crunch when you sip. The straw is really just for show. Straws are just a way to make you drink your shake slower and make your head feel like it is going to explode from all the work you are putting in just to get to the shake. My son loved it. And so did I. I’m hoping next month’s prompt is something about losing weight though…

Netflix picks for school themed movies. #StreamTeamThese first four movies are for the adults and older kids, if you think they are ready for them. I am probably going to hold off with Ferris Bueller’s Day off for a while because my kids would get too many ideas. But School of Rock would be awesome for them. While these don’t focus on the parliamentary process they are school focused and awesome. And you can totally celebrate some “firsts” with these movies as your guide.

School of Rock : First time on stage, first band, first time you really find what you are passionate about

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off : First time calling in sick to school while not really being sick (but having to deal with consequences, of course…)

The Breakfast Club : First detention, first time realizing that people sometimes aren’t what they appear

Rock ‘n’ Roll High School : Lots of firsts in this one, should only be shown to age 14 and older and probably with a parent to explain and talk about most of it…but it has the Ramones.  So thumbs up.

School picks for kids on Netflix. #StreamTeamFor the kids, there are awesome school movies for them too.

High School Musical : First love, first major life decision about where to go to college, lots of talking points in this one.

Spy School : First lesson in trust and telling tall tales and the consequences that come with it.

Casper’s Scare School : And since Halloween is next week, it just makes sense to go to scare school.

Which of these have you seen?

*I was provided compensation for being a member of the Netflix #StreamTeam. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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OC Bloggers Networking Event

Pink, orange, black and white decor for our blogger party. #bloggersunpluggedI had been talking about doing it for a while and finally got a chance to throw an Orange County Blogger Networking event.  I teamed up with the fantastic, Naadine of Great Over Good, to host it in her great space. We called it Bloggers Unplugged because we wanted everyone to just come and meet up, mingle and really get to know each other. So often at events, you are tied to your phones and your obligations and it is hard to connect with your local blogging friends. So this was a way to do that. We didn’t get any sponsors so that we could focus only on each other. It was super fun!

We hosted a networking event for Orange County bloggers. #bloggersunpluggedWe invited all kinds of bloggers and had a really great turn out. It was a really great mix of fashion, mom, travel and lifestyle bloggers and I met tons of people I had never met before. There were bloggers in all stages of their careers and it was cool to be able to chat with them about what they were going through at the moment. If you are interested in being put on the info list for any future events, you can add your info here.

Love this chalkboard wall at @greatovergood  #bloggersunpluggedThe Great Over Good space is awesome and didn’t need hardly any decor. The lobby area has tons of great artwork and this great chalkboard wall. If you don’t know Great Over Good, you need to keep it in mind if you need a space to hold a meeting, set up a photo shoot or hold a workshop. This is the place for you!  It’s my favorite. There is a kitchen, a nice large room for larger gatherings and a great meeting space, with a long table in the back.

Andy Warhol soup cans were balloon weights. #bloggersunpluggedI had forgotten to get weights for the balloons but Naadine had these great Andy Warhol soup cans on hand that worked perfect. She has great little vignettes of cool items all throughout the space. This girl’s style is SO good!

DIY pink, orange, black and white yarn pom poms added color to our blogger event. #bloggersunpluggedSince the space is big and white, I wanted to find a simple way to add lots of color. I made a bunch of colorful pom poms for it and just hung them around the room. Some of the fashion bloggers decided they made better accessories. I don’t disagree.

Simple, graphic blogging quotes were the only decor added to the white walls. #bloggersunpluggedI searched online and found a bunch of quotes on blogging that I made in to simple, graphic posters. It added a nice touch to the all white room and didn’t take a ton of time to do.

Easy DIY yarn pom poms for decor added lots of color to the all white space. #bloggersunpluggedNaadine and I split food duty and served simple things like fruit, veggies, cookies, cheese and crackers.  And plopped some yarn poms on the buffet to add some color. You guys, yarn poms will never get old for me. I love them!

Rad balloons from The Flair Exchange. #bloggersunpluggedThe color scheme was inspired by these balloons from The Flair Exchange. These balloons were a total hit at the party. Everyone loved them and I highly recommend you get some for your next party.

The Flair Exchange balloons were a great favor for the local bloggers who attended our networking event. #bloggersupluggedWe set out some goodies for the bloggers to take home with them, including little packs of the balloons.

Adorable pencils from @melissacreates for our attending bloggers. #bloggersunpluggedAnd my friend Melissa of Melissa Creates, sent pencils with fun sayings on them. You can check them out in her shop! I met so many new people and was grateful for the support of some other gals that I already knew. And in keeping with the name, I didn’t do any social media-ing during the event. Luckily, some people did so you can see more images of the attendees:

Feast Fashion Faves

Living In Style OC – She calls me Shannon but whatevs, there were a lot of people there that night. :)

And the stinking cutest couple ever was there, who I incidentally, didn’t get a chance to chat with. Turns out they are competing on The Amazing Race and they have, what might be my favorite fashion blog ever, My Boyfriend’s Clothes.

Great Over Good is holding another fun event in a few weeks! Blogger Brunch! You should go!

HUGE thank you to Naadine for helping me to throw a great event. I hope you all get to meet her at some point. She’s awesome and I can’t wait to plan something with her again!

 

Quick and Easy Dinners

I haven't had much time to cook lately so I rounded up some of the quick meals I've been making for dinner. I’m pretty much ridiculously stressed out right now. And this totally affects how I feed myself and my family. So I’ve decided to share the recipes for the quick and easy dinners that I have been making that are still tasty but really easy to make. On the nights where we have extra activities like Cub Scouts, I stick to something super simple like pasta, which incidentally, is my kid’s favorite meal that I make. It’s store-bought sauce and meatballs, but they love it so why reinvent the wheel. But on the other days, I try to mix it up between crock and things that don’t take a ton of effort or prep work. There are go-to meals that we make but I try to add in some new things too. My kids are very picky so I try all different flavors to see if I can find something they are in to. And if they don’t like something, I take a break from it, but try it again a few months later.

Our regular favorites:

Salami and Peperoncini Pizza – This pizza was based on my favorite sandwiches and is super easy to make and SO tasty

Quick Teriyaki Stir fry – We are actually having this tonight. It is super simple to make and the boys LOVE it! Which is crazy because there are vegetables in it and it is pretty healthy. It is also great cold for lunch the next day!

Super Easy Chicken and Pasta – My husband requests this one and I am happy to oblige considering it uses store-bought chicken and has a ton of flavor. Did I mention it’s easy?

Tacos or Taco salad: Homemade tortilla chips with seasoned ground beef, lettuce, cheese and hot sauce.

New things I’m trying:

Bacon Cheeseburger Sandwiches – Made these two nights ago and they were INSANE! I skipped her seasoning, but added about 3/4 of a packet of onion soup mix (you know, the powder with dried onions? That.) to the meat. Super yummy. The cheese is a must to sort of bind the meet together, but even if it turns in to a big old mess, it is still super tasty. LOVED it!

Slow Cooker Creamy Bacon Ranch Chicken  –  This is on the agenda for tomorrow. My fingers are crossed that the boys will like it. My oldest has been in to ranch dressing lately and they love spaghetti so fingers crossed! I thought it would be a good way to much up our standard pasta.

Sweet Slow Cooker Sesame Chicken – I am pretty sure my kids will like this one. They seem to like teriyaki (although their tastes literally change by the minute). This will be on our menu next week.

Crockpot Rustic Italian Beef Ragu – I love a good ragu. So much flavor! And this one is done in the crock pot so that means I can busy myself with life and not be stuck over a stove except for cooking noodles. Yeah!

Bacon and Brie Grilled Cheese – By Friday night I’m over cooking from the week, but we are trying to save money and not go out much. I’ve decided Friday nights are sandwich night. Not cold cuts (probably not cold cuts) but sandwiches that are a bit fancier then we send to school in lunches. My kids love bacon so I am going to do a bacon grilled cheese this week. Except I am going to sub the brie out for some extra aged gouda which is closer to parmesan in flavor which I know my boys really like, but will melt a little better. I’m REALLY looking forward to this…

Need more recipe ideas? Follow my “recipes” board on Pinterest. And remember that fluke when I was eating all clean? I still have that board too…

Now, would you be so kind as to share with me what you are eating?  What are your go-to meals?

Upcycled Milk Jug Planters

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DIY milk jug planters. Every time my kids finish a container of milk my head spins. Those containers have got to be good for other things. I know they can be recycled but they can be so much more useful than that. So I decided to make some of the plastic milk jugs in to planters. And I decided to take my older son with me when I went to the master, his grandfather, to learn the best way to replant plants, since I have the blackest thumb possible. I figured we could keep at least a few of these containers out of a landfill and teach myself and my son something that could come in handy later. Both of my kids have expressed an interest in planting our own food, so this lesson will surely come in to play again. got milk? asked me if I could come up with a craft that would share how milk and healthy habits can be worked in to your everyday living. And I really think these planters do that.

Milk is full of things that growing bodies need to help them in the future. But first we needed a few empty milk jugs. Luckily, this kid LOVES his milk. If he could, he would drink milk for all of his meals instead of eat. I don’t hate that. Milk is full of good stuff that his body needs so he gets it for each meal and one snack a day. And before we knew it, we had 3 empty jugs for us to upcycle in to planters.

Making planters out of empty plastic milk jugs. Grandpa Al runs a nursery out of his back yard and sells cottage garden plants to mom and pop nurseries in and around Orange County (read this great article the Register wrote about him). So when it comes to anything with plants, he is the man. We brought over our plastic milk jugs and he and my son got to work turning what would have been trash in to something useful.  I had wanted to plant some herbs, as I really enjoy using them in cooking, but Grandpa Al doesn’t grow herbs. And while he used to grow heirloom vegetables, he has since changed his focus to cottage flowers. I decided that since I’m such a gardening novice, I would let him show us with his regular plants and then my son and I will be able to purchase some herbs and create an herb garden together. [Read more...]

Brio Tuscan Grille at Irvine Spectrum

Brio Tuscan Grille at Irvine Spectrum. If you’ve noticed, I’ve begun sharing my favorite local (Orange County, CA) spots every other Friday here on the blog. You may want to check out all my posts tagged Orange County, to see where else I have been!

Today I’m sharing about my first time at Brio, one of the new restaurants at The Irvine Spectrum. The Spectrum is like my second home. It is close by, has great shops and restaurants and fun stuff to keep the kids entertained. When I saw that some new restaurants were opening up I couldn’t wait to try them out. So when I won an Instagram contest run by the Spectrum which included dinner at Brio, I was pretty dang excited.

We got our hair done by My Blow LA at the Irvine Spectrum for Style Week OCThe contest was in conjunction with Style Week OC and included myself and my best friend getting our hair blown out at My Blow LA. It was so awesome to get a little pampering done. And I only had one minor heart attach when I realized they probably weren’t using a sulphate free shampoo which can cause a Keratin treatment to wear off sooner. And it was kind of funny to watch the gal try to curl my hair. Since the treatment pretty much straightens your hair, albeit pretty temporarily, it would not take the curl when she tried to use a curling iron. My hair basically laughed at it. We finally got some curl with the straightening iron technique though.

Styleweek OC at the Irvine Spectrum Center.Next we got to sit front row at the fashion show featuring clothes from some of the stores from the Spectrum. It was fun and I saw plenty of things I wanted to run off and buy.

Brio Tuscan Grilled at The Irvine Spectrum. And then it was time for Brio!! The restaurant seems HUGE. And it was quite loud. It seems like a great place to go when you have a large group of people who want to get together for dinner. I would have preferred it to be a little bit less noisy, but our visit was during peak hours on a Friday night so I can’t really complain.  They were running a wait, but since we had reservations, we were seated fairly quickly. You guys this, as well as the other new restaurant Del Frisco’s Grille, seem to be a hit. Both are always busy and they are great new additions to the mall (I’ll share about Del Frisco’s soon! Spoiler alert, I love it too!) The restaurant design is inspired by a Tuscan Villa and is warm and inviting. I can’t wait to dine out on their patio too. I love the fabric they chose for their outdoor chairs.

Brio Tuscan Grille at Irvine Spectrum.The Brio menu is not huge but has something for everyone. The menu is based on northern Italian cuisine and has tons of lighter options for those not looking to consume thousands of calories in one meal. But if you are looking for a super satisfying, hearty comfort food style dish, they have those too.  And their bread basket came with this crazy yummy flatbread that made my heart and my mouth happy.

Delicious bruschetta appetizer at Brio Tuscan Grille, Irvine Spectrum. We started off with the Bruschetta Quattro, featuring four different combinations, that was super tasty. We pretty much inhaled this and I would totally order this again.

Yummy dinner at Brio Tuscan Grille at the Irvine Spectrum.And for our main course, we decided to share two entrees. The kitchen split them up for us which was super nice of them and made it really easy to try two things that both sounded amazing. On the left is the Gorgonzola Crusted Beef Medallions served with mashed potatoes and roasted vegetables. And on the right was the Sweet Potato and Chicken Risotto. Both dishes were fantastic! I would recommend both of them. But now I need to go back and try out some more things that stood out to me on the menu.

Dessert at Brio Tuscan Grille, Irvine Spectrum.To end our night, we tried out the Torta di Cioccolata, which is a warm chocolate cake served with vanilla bean gelato and the Peanut Butter and Chocolate Mousse. Both were crazy good.  I could have eaten about 2 gallons of the peanut butter mousse. The presentation of all the dishes was great and we enjoyed every part of our Brio experience.

Aside from the wonderful food, the staff and service were super friendly and accommodating. I’m absolutely looking forward to another visit.

I was not required to share my visit as part of the contest but I enjoyed everything so much that I wanted to. All opinions are my own and in my opinion, this place is great! Have you been yet?

Brio Tuscan Grille at The Irvine Spectrum 618 Spectrum Center Dr., Irvine, CA  92618 .  phone (949) 341-0380