How do you properly thank someone for coordinating a trip of a lifetime? How do you memorialize a unique getaway or vacation without buying an overpriced mass produced generic souvenir in gift shop or airport terminal? We recently asked ourselves these questions while wine tasting in the gorgeous cities of Napa and Sonoma, CA with a group of friends. One very generous and extraordinary host was responsible for our incredible experience and we wanted to find a unique way to thank him.
It didn’t take long for creative juices to start flowing (we were drinking wine after all!) and we decided a picture frame adorned wine corks and other mementos from the places we visited would do the trick. We weren’t quite sure exactly how we were going to use the corks, but that didn’t matter, we knew inspiration would come. Besides, collecting corks was fun! It was like an adult version of a scavenger hunt to see who got the first cork or who could seize the most.
Our trip was kicked off with an amazing dining experience at The French Laundry where every detail, no matter how minute, was executed to perfection. Enough cannot be said about this restaurant; in fact we are still raving about it! We were not only able to collect the wine corks from the international wines we enjoyed at dinner, but also a couple of The French Laundry signature clothes pins as well. Shh, we’re not sure this was legal, but at the cost per person, what’s a clothes pin or two?
Our first official wine tasting day began at an unexpected, but warm and welcoming, Tulocay Wines, where you literally wine taste in the owner, Bill’s, front yard. He is hilarious by the way! He was gracious enough to let us snag a number of corks from him to add to our now growing collection.
Our long weekend took us to a wide variety of wineries, including the small boutique winery Pallidian, as well as the larger more well known wineries like Michael Mondavi, and everything in between. Every winery we stopped at generously gave us a cork or two or ten (thanks Merryvale!) and by the end of the trip our purses were overflowing with stinky, inky corks – it was not the best smell after 3 days of wine tasting, but that is neither here nor there. Several days after our return, Christine had found herself giving those corks the evil eye! If you’ve spent days touring the wine country, you’d understand why!!!
Once home, we jumped on the Internet in search of ideas for the wine cork picture frame. We were inspired by a beautiful chevron patterned frame and we knew with a few twists it would be the perfect way to say thank you and create a unique souvenir! We hope our gracious host loves it as much we do!
If you would like to purchase a customized wine cork picture frame, please visit our shop!
The Fall is one of my favorite times of the year for many reasons! To name a few, I love the feel of the crisp cool air, I adore the colors and the turning of the leaves (and yes, even in Southern California we do see the leaves turn), and last, but not least, PUMPKIN!!! Everywhere you go your bound to find something pumpkin – lattes, desserts, candles, etc…
As sad as I was to see the departure of Summer, even though it was a blistering 90 degrees here in San Diego, on Saturday, September 22nd, my heart fell right back into Fall. To celebrate this time of year, I had to make these amazingly simple and delicious pumpkin cupcakes. When it comes to desserts, I love the moistness of cake and the smoothness of frosting! My waistline can certainly do without both, but my heart cannot!
I can’t take the credit for the recipe, because it came through a friend of mine – Jen. And I’m not sure how she acquired it to begin with, but it’s so simple and quite possibly one of the most scrumptious pumpkin recipes I have ever encountered, that I had to shout it from the rooftops. Thank you, Jen!
I will never forget when I had one of these for the first time. Jen told me a cute story that while making these for an event, her 2-year old twins had almost devoured the whole batch and she had to make more! Two more pumpkin lovers in the world! You gotta love ’em!
Recipe for 12-14 cupcakes:
1 box Spiced Cake Mix (if you have a gluten intolerance – you can purchase a spiced or pumpkin cake mix and use that)
1 16oz. can of Pumpkin Puree (not pie filling)
Cream Cheese Frosting:
2 packages softened 1/3 fat Philadelphia Cream Cheese blocks (You can use regular, but remember, I’m watching my waistline)
16 oz. powdered sugar (add more if needed, but again, waistline, people!)
1 stick of softened butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
Directions for cupcakes:
It’s too easy. Are you ready? Open box, pour cake mix in a bowl. Open can of puree and pour in the bowl with the cake mix.
Mix by hand first. Then take a mixer to it until lumps are gone.
Remember the days when you were little and your mom made a cake? You’d lick the spoons! And you’d lick every last bit of the mix in the bowl too! Because this recipe doesn’t contain raw egg – your kids can partake in one of your favorite past times too!
Fill cupcake tin. I use a good ice cream scooper to do this. You should fill the cupcake wrapper. These won’t rise much because they don’t have eggs which will help make them dense and devine! Pop them in the oven and cook at the temperature as directed on the cake box and for the same amount of time.
Directions for frosting:
The cream cheese recipe is just as easy. Some mix the butter, cream cheese and vanilla in a bowl and then slowly add the powdered sugar. But honestly, how can you mess up mixing these delicious ingredients? To ice, I put a ziplock bag with the corner in first, inside of a glass. Then I fill the bag with icing and then pull out, twist the bag at the top and then cut the corner. The size of the cut depends on how large you would like your icing swirl to be.
Frost and decorate those little suckers!
The worst thing about this recipe is that when they’re all gone, they’re all gone and you either have to make them again very soon, or hope that one of your friends reads this and is making them for the event that you’re going to! I don’t know about you, but I like to be in control of my own destiny!!!
Have any delicious pumpkin recipes you’d like to share? If so, please let us in your favorites in the comments section!
As a breastfeeding mom to a beautiful daughter who is intolerant to milk and soy, I have eliminated all forms of both proteins from my diet. Repeatedly reading labels of the foods we buy (because what may not have had milk or soy in it one week, can suddenly contain one of these ingredients the next), being extra cautious when eating out or eating food that hasn’t been prepared by me or my husband, and trying to find milk and soy free recipes, can be challenging at the best of times.
Things have improved with experience, but in the past you could find me with a rumbling tummy staring at the pantry or refrigerator asking myself, “What CAN I eat?!?!”. (If you have ever breastfed, you know that one minute you are fine, but the next, you are STARVING!) However, despite these minor inconveniences, this is a choice I gladly make. Not only is our daughter happier because she isn’t in pain, which means we don’t have a baby that cries all day like our first born (YAY!), but research has shown the many benefits of breast milk. It can seem like a sacrifice at times (Mommy loves cheese) and there are many great formula options, but I consider myself blessed to be able to breastfeed. I personally know too many women who would love to breastfeed their children, but are unable to for a number of very legitimate reasons. Now, if wine had either of these proteins, it might be a different story. (JOKING!…sort of.)
Experience has taught me that milk and soy are commonly found in processed foods, so we try to eat foods that are closest to their natural state as much as possible. This has unintentionally benefited everyone in our family. With fewer processed foods in our pantry, we are all eating healthier.
Before I discovered egg muffins, (thank you, Pinterest), breakfast for me typically consisted of scrambled eggs with vegetables, a slice of sourdough toast, and some fresh fruit. Then I discovered Egg Muffins! They are almost exactly what I was eating for breakfast before, but now I can make a week’s worth of my typical breakfast in the same time I used to spend every single day! And who doesn’t like to save time? The beauty is you can add different ingredients to each muffin if you want some variety. The way I make them means they are milk, soy, and gluten free. I am not a nutritionist so please make at your own risk and check your ingredients carefully if you have food allergies. We don’t want anyone to break out in hives or need to bust out their epi pen!
Egg muffins are perfect for anyone looking for a quick and healthy breakfast (or even dinner), not just those with dietary restrictions. They are easy enough that you can include your kids in the process, are a great way to use left over produce you have before it goes bad, and are pretty enough to serve for bunch!
Here is how we make them – do all toddlers love to help in the kitchen this much???
For 12 muffins you will need:
Baking Cups – I have tried many different baking cups, but find If You Care Baking Cups to be the best
Vegetables of your choice (optional) – some choices include: spinach, tomatoes, zucchini, mushrooms, sweet peppers, onions, broccoli, artichoke hearts, garlic, and basil. (Yes, some of the ingredients listed are technically fruits, but adding fruit to eggs just doesn’t sound very appealing.)
Meats of your choice (optional) – some choices include: bacon, sausage, chicken, carne asada or Canadian bacon
Cheese of your choice (optional) – we used Daiya Cheese which is dairy, soy, and gluten free, but you could use cheddar, jack, mozzarella, brie, or whatever your favorite cheese is.
Salt and pepper
Ok, let the fun begin!
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Chop any variety of meats of your choice
Shred cheese, if necessary.
Chop any variety of vegetables of your choice into small pieces – remember your tins aren’t very big so you want to make sure you chop your pieces small enough to fit. (If you are involving your kids, this is a great opportunity to teach them the names of the vegetables you are using, their colors, and even phonics. Z is for zuchinni…za za zuchinni! Please please please keep those precious fingers far away from the knife though!)
Place liners in muffin pan (a great counting opportunity if your kids are helping)
Crack 8 eggs into a large measuring cup or other container with a spout for easy pouring (another great counting opportunity)
Add ¼ cup of water
Season with salt and pepper (optional)
Whisk well and fill cups ¾ of the way with your choice of toppings – meats, cheese, vegetables
Slowly pour whisked eggs over toppings until the cups are almost full – the egg mixture will fill in the spaces between your toppings, but takes a little time, so it is important you pour slowly. If any egg spills onto the tray it can be very difficult to clean up once it is baked on so try to wipe up any spills before you place your muffins in the oven.
Place egg muffins in oven and bake until cooked through. Depending on your oven, this is typically between 15-20 minutes.
Serve and enjoy!!!
***Store any uneaten egg muffins in an airtight container in the refrigerator and then heat in the microwave for 30-40 seconds