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!

 

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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

Halloween Treats for a Great Cause


Wendy's Halloween coupon book for Jr. Frostys benefitting the foster care system.Halloween is usually all about the treats and tricks. But this year I’ve picked up some sweets that actually benefit a great cause. From now until October 31, 2014 Wendy’s is selling these awesome coupon books for free Jr. Frosty’s. Each book costs only a $1.00 and .90 cents from each book goes straight to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption®. There are over 100,000 kids in the foster care system awaiting adoption in the United States. The goal for the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption® is to help every child in foster care find a loving and permanent family and they have, so far, helped over 4,000 kids find adoptive families. So in buying one of these books, you are directly helping to change lives.  You might think Wendy’s is all square burgers and french fries but it is so much more. (P.S. their new pulled pork fries with sweet bbq sauce…DO IT).

Treats to give your friends and family that also help kids throughout the United States.I picked up two booklets as gifts for my niece and nephew. My sister-in-law and brother-in-law have started the process to becoming foster parents. But it isn’t just the parents who foster. It’s the whole family. I want my niece and nephew to know how important they are to the process and how great it is that they will, one day, be a special part of another child or children’s lives. They, along with their parents, will be positive role models and a loving family unit to a child that is lacking both. They are just kids and may not understand the magnitude of that but one day they will. I’m super proud of my in-laws for taking these next steps. It is something they have talked about for years and finally everything has fallen in to place. While the process is long and they have many more classes, home inspections and interviews to go, in the next six months, they will be a foster care family ready to love any children who come in to their home.

Books for foster familiesI plan on giving my niece and nephew these books, that deal with foster care, along with their Wendy’s Halloween coupon books. I was surprised that there aren’t more books written for the kids of the adoptive families to help them understand their role, the challenges and the rewards of fostering and finally adopting. My nephew is 7 so I got him an easy reading book written for a child going in to a foster family. I figured it would help him to put himself in the shoes of a child entering his family and give him an idea of how that child might feel. For my older niece, I got a fiction book about a girl entering a foster family who learns to let her walls down and trust her new siblings and parental units.

Halloween treats that give back. Wendy's Jr. Frosty coupon books donate money to foster care adoption in the US.To me, these books are so much better than candy. Next time you pass by a Wendy’s, grab yourself a frosty and pick up a few of these coupon books.

Visit your local Wendy’s® to purchase a Jr. Frosty™ Halloween Coupon Book* for $1, which benefits the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption®!

*Coupon book may contain coupons for 5 or 10 free Jr. Frosty™ treats. Prices and participation may vary. Ninety cents to every $1 coupon booklet sold between 9/15/14 and 10/31/14 will benefit the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption®. Coupons valid from 11/1/14 through 2/1/15. ©2014 Oldemark LLC

This year Wendy’s aims to give $10 million to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption® and YOU can help!

Thank you for supporting the companies that let me keep my blog running and also share important messages with you.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.