Things I Love : November, 2014

Take time to stop and bake mini donuts with your kids. Random things that I loved this month…

I usually work on blog stuff in the mornings. Even the weekend. So it was a really nice change of pace when my son found our mini donut baker in the garage and all but demanded we make them immediately. So we did.  And they loved them. And it was really fun to make something for breakfast and take a little more time with them instead of being on the computer. I guess sometimes you have to stop and smell the mini donuts.

The styling in Bon Appetit Magazine is the best. They get me. I die for food magazines. I rarely make anything from them, but I have to read them each month. Over the last year or so I’ve been falling in love with Bon Appetit and their styling. They just get me. It’s all I can do to wait patiently for the new issue to arrive each month. The creative direction is SO GOOD. Like, I want to rip out these pages and decoupage them on my dresser like I did with bands in high school.

Celebrating a friend who is following her dream. This didn’t happen in October but I didn’t download the photo until now so it missed last month’s ‘Things I Love.” My dear friend, Erika, was an extra on Brooklyn 99, one of my fave shows. So of course we had to have a viewing party at her house and experience it together. It was the Halloween episode. She nailed it. I love watching her explore this new path in her life and think she is awesome. See her on Cougar Town here.

My favorite Erin Wasson for RVCA shirt and vintage necklace. You guys. I’ve only been wine tasting twice now but both times I really felt like I needed to wear this vintage grape necklace that my grandma gave me. Do you really need to have a good luck charm for wine tasting? Because I think this is mine. My grandma wasn’t in to wine per se although she always ordered a Chablis when we ate at the pizzeria. One of the funniest conversations I ever had with my grandparents was them making fun of pretentious wine tasters and the adjectives they use to describe the wine. I will never forget it. I love this necklace. And this shirt. I will die if anything happens to it. It’s Erin Wasson for RVCA and it is my all time fave. If we’ve hung out in person you have certainly seen me in it. And I love my new necklace from Shop Serene Sky. I won it at a blogger event and it’s totally my style! So glad I didn’t win the free month of exercise.

Fried Green Beans from The Habit. Dearest fried green bean, how did I not know about you until now? I saw someone post about these on their instagram account and later that day went to try them. I adore green beans. It’s the world’s best vegetable. And fried?! Yum. This was my first time at The Habit, although it is in the same parking lot as my Joann’s so you know I’ve passed it and smelled it like a gazillion times. The burger was also amazing! Can’t wait to go back and try out more things! I also love that they put a gummy hamburger in the kids meals! Nice touch.

Nerds against bullying! You know I love Nerds, right? They are my fave. But if Nerds and green beans got in to a fight, I’m not sure whose earrings I would hold. That’s not true. I would mean mug the green beans and back my Nerds. And then eat the green beans and then the Nerds.  So when Geeky Hostess posted this it made my heart sing. Candy against bullying. Now that is a cause I can get behind. Well done Wonka.

High waisted jeans changed my life. YOU GUYS! I’m sorry to shout at you but these pants changed my life. So I’m pretty cheap about my denim. I used to buy pricey pants, and they really did fit and wear well. But it just isn’t the right time for me to spend a lot on good denim. So I’ve been hitting the cheapy stores for my pants. These stores usually go for a younger audience so the pants are all low-rise and terrible whiskering. Well, I finally came across that was high-waisted (but not in a Jessica Simpson high-waisted pants debacle, high waist) jeans and they are awesome! The whiskering and details are still not something I would typically go for, but the fact that my muffin top is fully ensconced in these pants is amazing! I instantly felt pounds lighter. Shirts lay nicer. And I don’t constantly have to hitch them up. Because they sit above my hip bones, they don’t slip down much to create saggy butt. Life changing. So now I wear them every day. I apologize in advance.

Kids on the red carpet. This one is also from last month. My husband has a friend who is an artist and he created some custom pieces for a show at the Long Beach Museum of Art. One of the pieces is a sort of team photo from a made up sport and my husband is one of the players. So of course we had to go see my husband hanging on a museum wall.  We took the kids and they were so much fun to have there. My oldest dressed like he was going for an art heist (here he is missing the beanie and hood up). And my youngest was super in to the receptions happening outside including dancing like a spaz to the band and sucking down Sprite from the bar. And, of course, we had to get them on the red carpet. The docents only had to talk to the boys a dozen times to remind them not to touch anything.

My favorite wines from @lorimarwinery/.I have new favorite wines! I fell in love with Trio from Lorimar Winery on my first visit (a red with notes of coconut, yum). But this last visit I was lucky enough to get to taste even more of their wines. Their sparkling wine is my fave sparkling! SO delicious!  And the Grenache Blanc is where it’s at. I can’t wait to crack that baby open! Looks like I’ve got my holiday drinking game plan set.

Tillamook Chef event with Haven Gastro Pub at Provisions Market in Orange. I was invited to attend a Tillamook cheese event a few weeks ago and it was amazing. Tillamook partners with chefs from all over the country and has them create sensational dishes using Tillamook product. This event was in conjunction with the Chef’s of Haven Gastro Pub and Provisions Market in Orange. The servers strolled around with platters of beer and cheese beignets and other delightful cheesey dishes. There was a fantastic cheese tasting spread set out complete with beer pairings and then there was this Mac and Cheese. Best. Ever. For this recipe they used the Extra Sharp White Cheddar and added bacon and other yummy goodness.  The event was awesome but my favorite part is that they are sharing all the recipes! I want to make everything!  Here is the White Cheddar Bacon Mac and Cheese.  I fell in love with the Black Pepper White Cheddar and can’t wait to find that again in a grocery store. Mmmmmm.

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Best Pencil Sharpener Ever

White desk with bright office supplies.Ok. You guys might think this post is crazy. Like, Sharon, you can’t possibly love a pencil sharpener this much. But it’s legit. My love is real. So much so that I want to share my love of an inanimate object with you. So much so that I sought Classroom Friendly Supplies out to do a review for them, at my request. They sent me a sleek, chic black pencil sharpener so my photos would be cuter but I have had a blue one for about 6 months. It’s kind of like part of the family now. And it’s the best pencil sharpener ever.

White and bright office space.With school starting and homework routines being set, my mom decided that my boys needed a really good pencil sharpener. I give her all the credit. She researched online, read reviews and spent time on this. It seems a good, manual pencil sharpener is hard to find. But then she came across this one by Classroom Friendly Supplies. It showed up at our house and the boys immediately started sharpening all of their pencils. I had no idea they would take to the sharpener the way I did.

Best manual pencil sharpener ever. I use only pencil for my editorial calendar and blog planning. The first time I used the pencil sharpener my world changed. I usually grab whatever dull pencil is lying around, left out by the boys. But a nice sharp pencil really does something for my productivity. We don’t have an office area set up at the house (thank you to Lauren for letting me borrow her workspace for these photos!) so the pencil sharpener sits on one of the counters in our kitchen where we keep the homework supplies. I couldn’t take a picture of it here because it is literally sitting next to a jar of mayo (unopened but still, ew gross – a result of pantry cabinet overflow) and a big jug of cranberry juice. No one wants to see that. This pencil sharpener needs to shine!

Best pencil sharpener. Ever. The pencil sharpener comes with a clamp so that it stays put when you are using it but we just hold it steady with our hands since we move it all around the house to where ever we need it. It comes in other colors as well, and they also have a discount if you buy 3 of them. And you should totally buy these for your kids teachers. They will totally want one.

Best pencil sharpener. Ever. Isn’t she pretty?

Best pencil sharpener. Ever. Recently I thought we killed ours. My kids sharpen far more pencils with it than they really need to. I was devastated. The price is not outrageous (they are $25 each) but I really didn’t want to spend another chunk of money on a pencil sharpener around the holidays). But as I was looking at the site, I came across their videos to troubleshoot problems. You guys!  It turns out that there was just lead stuck in the sharpener! I was able to take it apart, following their instructions on the video, and fix it!  World saved! This is a hearty little machine. It’s going to last you a nice, long time.

Best pencil sharpener. Ever. You see how the front part of the pencil sharpener, the metal part, is away from the body? Well, that holds the pencil and feeds it in to the blade for you as you crank. It’s so smooth and makes the nicest point. Yes, I’m a nerd and love this pencil sharpener.

The best pencil sharpener ever. For real. It's manual and it's perfect. And yes, I think it's odd that I love a pencil sharpener this much also...The shavings go right in to this little drawer that you can empty right in to the trashcan. It. is. the. best. ever. I am sure that the people on your holiday gift list don’t realize that they want this pencil sharpener. But they totally do! Or surprise them with it as a back to school present. This is THE only pencil sharpener you should ever have.

*I asked Classroom Friendly Supplies to send me a black pencil sharpener for my photos because I need you to know about this amazing product. And they did. Because they are awesome. And they are available for all your pencil sharpener needs.

Bacchus Bar and Bistro in Irvine

Bacchus Bar and Bistro in Irvine. Last Friday my husband and I were invited to Bacchus Bar and Bistro to taste some wines and delicious food from their Bistro menu. All opinions are mine and it is my opinion that you need to go and try this restaurant out for yourself.

Located in a quiet shopping center in Irvine (Sand Canyon and the 405 Fwy), Bacchus is a hidden gem that I am pleased to share with you. I’ve shopped in this center for years and thought this was a just a wine shop. And while that may be how it started out, it has evolved in to a full fledged bistro with great beers and wines and a fantastic menu that I can’t wait to eat my way through.

Wine everywhere at Bacchus Bar and Bistro in Irvine. The interior was larger than I expected but still felt intimate. It was the perfect date night spot but also seems perfect for a girl’s night out situation. There is a tiny little patio out front which I am now dreaming about for sipping rose on a summer evening. From the moment my husband and I walked inside we asked ourselves how we had never been there before. And of course, started planning our return visits. I love how they have the wines displayed. It feels like you are in a wine cellar and it made it feel very warm and cozy.

The food is exceptional at Bacchus Bar and Bistro in Irvine. I thought it was just a wine bar, but it is not. It's delicious! Along with a great list of beer and wines, Bacchus also has an awesome menu. There are plenty of plates to share and dishes that will appeal to all kinds of palettes. This is not a steakhouse kind of a place so if the men in your group are looking for a hearty steak, they aren’t going to find it here. But they will find a delicious looking burger (on my list of things to try on my next visit) and other hearty sandwiches (I’ve got my eye on you too, Lobster Grilled Cheese!) as well as some foodie favorites like a lamb quesadilla and veal and fontina meatballs. So instead of stopping here for a drink before or after dinner, this is where you should spend your night. And on the weekends, they feature live music. Such a great spot!

Great atmosphere and rad staff at Bacchus Bar and Bistro in Irvine. The space is comfortable and the staff is crazy knowledgeable. The decor is simple and there are two televisions for viewing sports, which of course, my husband loved. The TVs didn’t make it feel masculine or like a sports bar at all, which I liked.  When we arrived for our 6 pm reservation there were only a few tables filled. But by the time we left, the place was full. Be sure to make a reservation to ensure your spot!

Build your own cheese board at Bacchus Bar and Bistro, Irvine.Who doesn’t love a good cheese plate? They make it super easy to order what you like by filling out their order form. I loved that there were some straight forward choices but then a few that sounded totally unusual like the Barely Buzzed Espresso and Lavender! I knew my husband wouldn’t be in to that so I saved that one for next time I go. But we did try the Chevre with Rose Preserves. The rose preserves were way more subtle than I was expecting and was absolutely delicious. We kept it simple by ordering the French Bread, but it came out warm and crusty and was ridiculously good as only warm bread can be.

A delicious Pinot Noir from a great date night spot in Irvine: Bacchus Bar and Bistro.Just as I was about to order my standard Sauvignon Blanc, our server, Julia, came by and offered us a glass of Pinto Noir. One of their best customers was in, who loves to share his wine. Since I am really enjoying trying new wines, I decided to go for it. It was delicious! I’m finding that people who love wine really love to share their passion with others and I think that is so cool. And I was totally right in my feeling that I would probably enjoy reds and just wasn’t tasting the right ones yet.

Micro brews on tap and beer samplers at Bacchus Bar and Bistro in Irvine.My husband decided to go with a beer sampler. He listed off his preferences to Julia and she helped him pick 4 beers that he would enjoy. The staff here is well trained and are so helpful with navigating the beer and wines on the menu. One of his selections was a seasonal pumpkin ale, which at first he was unsure about, but ended up really liking it. This is absolutely one of those places that you and your husband or boyfriend would both be happy with. They have done an amazing job of being a well rounded bistro.

Fresh, warm French bread to eat with our amazing cheese plate. The chevre with rose preserves was amazing!  At Bacchus Bar and Bistro in Irvine.Our cheese plate arrived and we enjoyed every single second of it. Because, cheese.  The presentation was pretty and it was the perfect way to start off our food adventure.  Something to know before you go, though, is that the kitchen is closed on Sundays. But cheese plates are always available.

Lobster and Chorizo Fondue! Delicious Brussels Sprouts! LOVED the food at Bacchus Bar and Bistro in Irvine. And then the other dishes started coming out. When you see a Lobster and Chorizo Fondue on the menu, you just have to try it. And it was so good. Real good. Look at how the cheese is all crusty around the edges! And I’ve never met a Brussels Sprout I didn’t like. The ones on the Bistro menu were mixed with Chinese sausage, shishito peppers and fried garlic in a light sesame ponzu dressing. I think my husband got to taste these but I pretty much ate that whole plate by myself. And I’d do it again without hesitation.

Pork Belly Tacos at Bacchus Bar and Bistro in Irvine.And if I could hold hands with these Pork Belly Tacos, I totally would. The flavor was bold and smoky with a little tang from the kimchi salsa. This is one of those dishes that you immediately start thinking about how often you can get there to eat them. Like, I was trying to figure out if my kids could play out front while I ate them on the patio so I wouldn’t have to find a babysitter. That’s how amazing the flavor was. As if I hadn’t wanted to return before, these made me want to come back and try absolutely everything on the menu. The menu items are total comfort food but with a twist. They are not your run of the mill dishes but tweaked to make them interesting and memorable. And they nailed each and every one of them.

Then, when you find out the kitchen is about the size of your own tiny kitchen at home, you shake your head and marvel at how the chef puts out this amazing food.  The more we spoke with the staff, the more we fell in love with Bacchus. They are serious about running a great restaurant and are doing a fantastic job.

Butterscotch Pots de Creme! Yum! At Bacchus Bar and Bistro in Irvine. I barely had room for dessert but you don’t say no when there is a Butterscotch Pots de Creme on the menu. The menu has pairing suggestions but since I am pretty unfamiliar with port, I decided to stay closer to what I know I love. Julia suggested an albarino as something new to try (which I ended up taking a bottle of that home with me as well, it was the Marques de Caceres 2012 Albarino). The size of the dessert was perfect and it was just as creamy and dreamy as I hoped it would be.

The dessert pairing was SO good at Bacchus Bar and Bistro in Irvine.And because Julia is super awesome, she brought out a little of the port for me to try alongside the pots de creme. It was magical. To smell the port on its own was like smelling gasoline. It was harsh on my nose and burned from the alcohol. But when sipped following a bite of the dessert, it brought out these amazing caramel tones and almost a burnt sugar flavor. Magnificent! I loved that she went out of her way to teach me something and it really showed just how great the bistro is at putting together a well thought out food and beverage program. We all have our preferences and the things we love. But sometimes we really just need to put our trust in the hands of the professionals to truly be wowed.

Come to Bacchus Bar and Bistro in Irvine for a yummy meal and sample some wines, then take a bottle home with you. Bacchus was delightful in every way. I highly recommend you go and check it out for yourself. I was blown away by what they are able to do in that small space. Now, who wants to meet me there?  Head to their site to see the full menu and hours!

Bacchus Bar and Bistro

6735 Quail Hill Parkway

Irvine, CA 92603

www.bacchusbarandbistro.com

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.

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!