Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Photos from Our Garden + Happy Earth Day

In honor of Earth Day today, I thought  I'd share some photos from our garden.

Since we're in the process of moving, we haven't quite yet started the whole Spring/ Summer planting this season.
BUT we're working on it. 
I've managed to add some "enhancements" to the landscape at the new place, so I'm slowly getting some gardening time in. 

B is excited to install some new garden boxes on our new property as well.
 However, that won't be for a couple of months. 

So in the meantime, let's all enjoy the beauty of this Earth 
(and some photos from our gardening seasons past)

'Dallas' Red Lantana

Colorful Zinnias

I love that Zinnias come in a variety of colors and shapes

 Mini Pumpkin

Freshly picked basket of garden goodies

Colorful and Fresh-from-the-Garden Bouquet

Some of the new landscaping "enhancements" + the first plant I ever planted at our new home

"Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair"
- Kahlil Gibran

Happy Earth Day my Friends!


Friday, April 18, 2014

Five Faves Friday

Image via // Made by Cay
1. Favorite Go-To Wine: Cupcake Chardonnay

In my post last week  I spoke about a delicious Chardonnay  that I recently tried (here). However, for everyday occasions and sipping Cupcake Chardonnay is my go-to wine. Everyone from my husband to my parents know to keep a bottle handy when I am around. It is by far my FAVORITE Chard. It's reasonably priced and has the perfect blend of flavor for my palate. By the way, are you noticing a trend here? Yes, I am what some would consider a Wino - nothin' wrong with that. 

2. Some back (porch) deck sittin'

Since we've purchased our new home we have spent many of weekends on our marvelous back deck. It over looks our canal leading into the lake and it's the perfect spot to watch the sunset. The other weekend, we were "deck-sitting" and I was reflecting about how amazing life can be. Although we don't have our dishes moved, a bed to sleep on, or any furniture delivered (both inside and outside) it was just one of those peaceful and magical moments. I cannot wait to make so many new memories at this new home, as well as enjoy our deck - morning, noon and night. I took this picture right after B's incredible orange margarita (with an extra kicker) that he made for us after working in the yard all afternoon. Hence, our little burn bonfire which we took full advantage of later that evening. I just love the small, yet uniquely special times in life - I hope this weekend you can find a nice porch, deck, patio, whatever it may be that you can enjoy with your loved ones.  

3. Dr. Pepper Cake

Ummmm, hello Yummy! Here's the deal with this cake (background story): Currently (while in between residences) we rent a house where I work, which is right outside of a small Texas town called Dublin. Known for none other than the most incredible: Dublin Dr. Pepper (now Dublin Bottling Works - they have some amazing products, check them out). Well, you may know, the big shots over in corporate world decided to pull the plug on decades of tradition and pure amazing and happiness in a bottle -  and pulled the dubbed Dublin Dr. Pepper from shelves. It's the most ridiculous story so I won't get into to too much detail, but if you lived anywhere west of the Metroplex (WestoPlex) you heard all about the battle of Dublin Dr. Pepper for months and it was a very sad day when the judgement came through. If you were never able to experience a true Dublin Dr. Pepper I am hugely sorry and I wish I could slowly pour you a nice ice cold Dublin Dr. Pepper (preferably over ice cream - we call that a Dr. Pepper float). So good. Anyway, nowadays you can't even mention Dublin Dr. Pepper throughout the county without someone looking at your sideways. Anywho, our local grocer, carries these cake mixes by Debbie - I don't personally know Debbie, but I know we would definitely get along! Her cake mix is combined with a bottle of Dublin Dr. Pepper (if you were smart enough to save some preserves of the drink, like yours truly) - and it is pure bliss in your mouth. By far my favorite chocolate cake mix. When we leave, I am purchasing cases of this stuff. Maybe even truckloads. The mixes make wonderful gifts that you can pair with some bottles of Dublin Dr. Pepper, and is an amazing deserts. I've also tried Debbies' Peach Cobler mixes, with Dublin Bottling Works Texas Sweet Peach (which BTW, are both equally fabulous - alone or together)! Purchase a mix and I promise you will be so happy you did.

4. Cat Shaped Cutting board

A cat-shapped cutting board.... need I say more? Obviously one of my faves by the plethora of knife marks. It just makes me HAPPY! The End.

5. Big Ass Rice Crispy Treats

One more thing I will miss when we make the "official move" to our new house this summer - Big Ass Rice Crispy Treats. We frequent a little deli in town for lunch and they have some of the best sandwiches and soups. They by far have some of the freshest ingredients and provide the perfect combinations for lunch. But, my ultimate favorite is when they make huge cube-shaped homemade rice crispy treats. Just like the ones you had as a kid, except adult sized.  Or, Texas Sized, if you will. Guess, I am going to have to start learning how to perfect the big ass rice krispy treat. 

So there it is - this week's Five Faves. Is there anything making your faves list this week? Comment below to share your latest faves and craves.

 I hope you're able to take time this weekend to enjoy the little things, embrace magical moments, and have some fun along the way. I wish each and everyone of you, and your families, a very happy and blessed Easter.



Venus Trapped in Mars
PS. This week I'm linking up with Sarah over at Venus Trapped in Mars for Fan Friday

Friday, April 11, 2014

Five Friday Faves

Image via// Eat & Relish

Disclaimer: The opinions and products reviewed and expressed below are chosen solely by me. I do not receive compensation to review these products and the products and services are simply ones in which I favor. My opinions are solely my own. If you’d like to be featured on FITO Blog please send me an email to arhicks0427@gmail.com

Happy Friday, Party People!!
I hope everyone enjoyed their week, and you are all looking forward to a fabulous weekend. 

I know we are!

Like I previously mentioned in my post last week here, I am was  going to share with you FIVE of my favorite things from each week to week.

Weellllllllllllll, {as I'm sure you're aware} I've been a little out of the blog world for a minute. To say that the hustle and bustle, and the overall craziness of life has gotten the best of my free time, would be a HUGE understatement.
But I'll spare you all the deets. 
(Like how my beloved doggie lost an eyeball over spring break, or that we BOUGHT A HOUSE, or that I am in wayyy over my head with Grad School and a million other things - I am sure you can relate)

So I am picking up where I left off, and decided to pick back up with my weekly top-picks, and I'm not looking back. 

Feel free to join in on the fun and comment with some of your week's faves.

Are you ready?
Let's Go!

1. Checkout51 app. - If you’re anything like me, you understand the feeling of running to the grocery store countless times on the fly during the week. Even if you can't relate, this App is for YOU! This App. is for everyone! Bye, bye to the days of coupon clipping. Or remembering to bring those pesky little sheets of paper with you to the grocery store. Oh, and, hello, clutter town. Ugh, I just hate, yet love coupons. I always wonder if it is really saving me any money to actually clip the darn things and then try to remember A: that you have a coupon for an item, or B: to bring your coupons with you to the store. Now, with Checkout51 you can literally EARN money as your grocery shop. Here’s how it works:
1. Browse through the weekly offers on the app
2. Purchase the products at ANY grocery store
3. Upload your receipt in the app, and claim your offers!

Easy, peasy. Once you earn $20.00 in your account Checkout51 will send you a check for the amount. Yeah, it's pretty awesome! Available on Apple and Android devices, and can be found in your app store.

2. 14 Hands Chardonnay - wow, I think it took me to write this blog post to realize that Chardonnay is spelled with 2 “N”s (World’s worst speller right here, ask my best friend). Anyway, I LOVE this Chardonnay wine from 14 Hands! It’s amazing how quickly one bottle of 14 Hands can disappear. Especially while you’re doing things like: chatting it up with your hubby on your blow-up mattress, in the middle of the living room, because you have yet to go pick out any furniture. OR during a Blogger Happy Hour (see below). OR while you’re chatting it up on the phone with your Momma for hours one evening. Then Poof it’s gone! Just like that! It really is that good!. So, do yourself a favor and go pick up a bottle (or 2, or 3) at your nearest Walmart… Yes, I DO buy my wine at Walmart. And, YES, you can buy your wine at Walmart too. And, pretty dang good wine at that! Plus, I wouldn't want to get too fancy on ya, and it’s reasonably priced.

3. The Crockpot - What a glorious device! With moving, being in between two residences (yes- we just bought our first home!! Whoo Hooo!), and the crazy schedule that is the end of the semester for teaching and Grad School, I have never needed, or loved, my crock-pot more than right now. And, let's face it, there are only so many times during the week that you can eat Subway or Taco Bell for lunch and dinner. A home cooked meal always hits the spot, especially if you've been having to grab meals on the go. So here’s the deal, I love to put stews, roasts, and other hearty meals in the Crockpot. You can prepare the dish in the Crockpot in the morning, then set the temp and let the Crockpot do all the work for you. Then, when you come home from a long and exhausting day you already have a delicious meal waiting, and typically your house smells pretty amazing too.

Easy, Hearty & Delicious

4. Blogger Happy Hours - So, I know lately it seems like I am obsessed with Erin, over at Living In Yellow (well, I guess I'm kinda am a little obsessed). Anyway, she is fabulous and you should definitely go check her blog out. Now back to the Happy Hour part. Erin (being the genius blogger that she is) put together this completely awesome idea called a “Blogger Happy Hour” (BHH). Once or twice a month she and another blogger host a Google+ Hangout with other like minded bloggers, including newbies (like myself) to chat all things Blog related. When you attend BBH you bring your questions, your favorite drink (for example, a bottle of 14 Hands Chardonnay, like yours truly), and pull up a chair. To your computer screen, that is. This month, Erin teamed up with the Hilarious, Taylor from The Daily Tay. BTW, Taylor has the most adorable dog, named Harlow. Which he joined in on our BHH, and all the girls swooned over him. Plus, those of us that join in were able to have Taylor and Erin's undivided attention for an hour or so. This past Tuesday I joined in on my first BHH with Erin and Taylor, along side some other awesome bloggers! It was so FUN, COOL, AWESOME, & totes AMAZING! Erin is hosting another BBH this month, you can check out all the deets here.

Cats & Dogs are welcome at this Happy Hour

5. Soft Cheese Tacos - WARNING: the following picture may not look appetizing. AT. ALL. But I don't care. These smothered, cheesy, Soft Cheese Tacos are the BOMB.com. I swear I think I could eat these every. single. day. Breakfast, lunch, AND dinner. When we began our move, the first night we stayed at our new house we decided to go out to eat to grab some dinner. We stopped in at a little Mexican food restaurant right off of the lake. One of many in the area, I might add. It looked very promising due to the fact the entire parking lot was full. So, we decided what the heck !? Gave it a shot. And, thank goodness! That evening I was introduced to my newest food love. This is the food you dream about and crave every single day. Seriously, I crave these on a daily basis. Thank goodness I don't eat them on a daily basis, but heck, I probably could! For reals. Every time we come up to the new house, our first stop is to get a whole platter full of soft cheese tacos. The rice and beans are a nice touch too. The restaurant also has this amazing dip they call “Crema”. Which is basically a mix of guacamole and sour cream - perfect to pair with their amazing tortilla chips and salsa. Next time you visit us at the new casa, I will be sure to take you to get a platter of soft cheese tacos. I don't know what more can I say - they’re simply AMAZE!

Ooey Gooey Cheesy Deliciousness

There ya have it folks, my top faves from the past week.

Feel free to join in on the fun and comment with some of your week's faves. I'd love to hear what you've been enjoying this week!


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Quick Tip - Use a Mason Jar

Is it just me, or is peeling a clove of garlic (or a shallot) one of the most frustrating  and  difficult tasks?

If you answered: 
Why YES! Yes, it is a difficult and frustrating task!!! 
Then keep reading.This blog post is just for you! 
And, hey, I just might even blow your mind a little bit.

Here's the deal.

To quickly and easily remove, or peel away, the skin from garlic cloves, a shallot, or even a small onion:

Not only does the skin just easily fall right off and separate from the garlic, it is also quite fun to shake the crap outta a little garlic clove, or two. 
It's kind of like revenge for all those times you've spent countless minutes trying to peel away the layers, and somewhat therapeutic.

By the way, speaking of Mason jars. I just have to say, I seriously love having a case of Mason jars around. I use them for all sorts of things like sipping some Sweet Iced Tea, to storing left over chopped lettuce in the fridge (perfect for your lunch salad), as well as containing things like: make-up brushes, loose buttons, sauces, dips. Whatever, you name it. Lids on or off, Mason jars are simply great to have around. Originally used for canning vegetables and jams -  (which is on my to-do list this Summer, #justsayin') they're great for that too.

So here's how you do it:
+ Place your garlic in the mason jar.
+ Screw on the lid tight with the outer ring.
 + Then, shake what your Momma gave ya! 
(shake those suckers hard!)
+ Shake the jar vigorously for a few seconds, 
ensuring that the cloves are hitting the sides and lid of the jar. 
+ Once the skin starts to separate from the clove, remove the cloves from jar
Be sure to remove any remaining pieces of skin on the cloves.

I like to break the garlic up into individual cloves, or peals (if ya wanna get fancy). That way the cloves all kind of bounce off of one another to speed up the skin removal process (that sounded just lovely).

Check out the proof

See all that skin sticking up and off the garlic cloves? 
Now you can just EASILY peel that remaining skin right off of the clove. 
There will also be some skin from the cloves remaining in your Mason jar.
Ahh, isn't it just wonderful?

Below are couple more different ways I frequently use Mason Jars

Storing freshly prepared Italian Dressing 
Recipe for the dressing can be found here

Mason Jars are also really great for storing fresh herbs

So I have to ask you.
Do you use Mason jars in your home or kitchen?
If so, what are some ways you use your Mason jars? 
I'd love to know, so be sure to comment below with some of your Mason jar tips, tricks, or uses.
I know I keep saying it, but aren't they just great?!