Thursday, December 26, 2013

Merry (day after) Christmas!

Two days after my last post, something BIG happened!  I'm still working on putting together that post, so in the meantime, a glimpse into the happenings of the past couple weeks.

Josh and I celebrated our Christmas early on Sunday evening.  Out of sight is a crazy house turned upside down from packing.  This is our little corner of peace!

Josh spoiled me with the tablet I've been pining over for some time.  I love it!

One of my favorite holiday recipes: mint brownies.  I made these for my company's potluck and again to bring to my family for our goodie exchange.  I could eat the whole pan by myself!  I'll post the recipe soon, I promise!

An easy devil's food cake box mix recipe improvised with some holiday mint M&Ms.

Another easy box cake mix recipe using French vanilla cake mix and some Christmas sprinkles.

Christmas Eve at my parents' home.  Ricky looks so festive and majestic!

Now instead of running to open presents at the wee hours of the morning as we did as children, we gather around the table for breakfast first.  A new family favorite is this delicious cranberry orange buttermilk cake.

Christmas morning.  The Santa tree topper is probably as old as I am and has taken a couple falls.  Even with a few bumps and bruises, us "kids" refuse to let my mom replace it.  It's just one of those traditions we can't let go!

Ricky Ricardo stands guard over my gifts.  My family truly spoiled me again this year!

This Christmas was yet another reminder of how blessed I am to have such an amazing family.  It's nice to be able to surround yourself with the people you love most and recharge your mental batteries.  And while my siblings and I are all grown, having my 3 year old niece around really makes Christmas come alive again with excitement.

The next few days will be busy as we move into our new home and try to get settled in before the new year gets in full swing.  I normally spend New Year's Eve/Day with my family, barely making it to midnight to watch the ball drop!  This year, however, Josh and I are going to spend this time together enjoying a low key dinner at our favorite Italian spot downtown, Cibo.  I'm looking forward to the new year and can't wait to see some big goals come to fruition.  Now to make that resolution list!

Merry (belated) Christmas and a Happy New Year to you!  May the new year bring all the health, wealth, and happiness you deserve!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Good News!

You may remember from last week's post, I mentioned my stress over not having found a rental home with just over 3 weeks left til our move-out date.  Well the stars and moon aligned just right and we found and were approved for the perfect property!  It was the last house I had found and was my last hope.  After just stepping in the front door, both Josh and I knew it was the one and thank goodness!  Now to just transfer all the utilities/bills and to pack!

Last weekend I spent some time with my family to celebrate my mom and younger sister's birthdays.  While there, my sister and I put one of my holiday pins to practice and made some festive headbands for my niece and ourselves.  It was a quick, easy, and cheap project coming in at only $4 for 8 headbands thanks to the Dollar Tree and the dollar section at Target.  Everyone got in on the festivities!  We also picked out the family Christmas tree, a tradition we hold onto whether it be chopping down our own as we did in earlier years or picking one from the Home Depot parking lot.  While I thought this little guy was adorable, it didn't make the cut!

This weekend I have plans to begin my holiday baking, starting with my favorite mint chocolate brownies for my company's holiday potluck.  I live for these brownies and I know you will, too, once you try it for yourself.  Recipe to come soon!

As Christmas approaches and I've crossed house hunting off my list of to-dos, I've also managed to cross off a few more people on my shopping list.  What a relief!  I feel like I'm able to enjoy the holiday more now.  Even Ricky is feeling the holiday cheer!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Christmas Countdown

Christmas is less than 3 weeks away.  Three weeks, folks!  As much of a planner as I am, I am not prepared for this Christmas at all.  Josh and I picked out our tree on Sunday and plan to decorate it today, and I got most of our decorations up Sunday while watching a marathon of Who The *&$% Did I Marry? on Netflix (so festive, right?!), but that is about as far as I've gotten with our holiday preparations.  Normally I would have most, if not all, of my shopping done by this time but I don't even think I've completed half of it. Enter holiday stress eating!

 Like Santa, I like making lists.  In fact, I live by my lists and rely on them to keep me straight.  Even if I go out of town to my parents' for a weekend, I make a list of items to pack or sure as sh*t I will forget something.  And so every year I make a list of what to get each member of my family (and Josh's family as well).  Over the years we've also started a group email thread for everyone to include a few items from their wishlist.  This is probably the first time I've been stumped about what to ask for--is that a sign that I'm a legit grown up now?!  I've got my shopping list ready but I haven't had much time to cross everyone off yet so I'm feeling the pressure and hoping to be done in the next week.  Oh the pressure!

On top of preparing for the holidays, Josh and I are moving into a new place the weekend after Christmas since our current home goes on the market in January.  Where are we moving, you ask?  No freakin clue!  Enter more holiday stress eating.  We were initially hoping to buy a house this year but decided we should save up more over the next year in order to have a better down payment and competitive edge if need be.  We're hoping to have our new residence locked down in the next week because not knowing where you're going to live is kind of a big deal in my book!  Plus, there's all the logistics of forwarding your mail, utilities, packing, and the actual move just over three weeks.  Again with the three weeks, folks!

In the lead up to Christmas, I'm trying to stay in the moment and in the spirit as much as possible.  The older I get, the more it seems like time just flies by so I'm trying to soak it all in and enjoy every moment possible.  In the meantime, I've rounded up a few recipes to try and a few quick DIY projects I'm hoping to complete so all my pinning doesn't go to waste!  Now that November has passed (where the heck did that time go?), I'm shifting from all recipes pumpkin to all things mint and chocolatey.  Nothing puts me more in the mood than dark chocolate and candy canes, even more so if they are part of a cookie/cupcake/whoopie pie!  Check back in throughout the month to see some of my holiday festivities!

If you have any great holiday recipes, traditions, or projects, I'd love to hear about them!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

This is what it's all about!

In my family, we're big on tradition.  Sure, we are open to trying new things, but we like our traditions.  In a world of constant change, it's nice to know there are some things you can count on.  Thanksgiving is no different.  My dad has to have his lima beans, cranberry sauce from a can (although he likes the homemade whole berry type also), and pecan pie--he is a Southern man after all!  My little sister has to make the crescent rolls from scratch and I have to make Senator Russell's sweet potato souffle, a recipe handed down from my dad's grandmother.  And while we tend to kitchen duties, we also watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and yes, we still wait to see Santa!

As an adult now, I love returning to my parents' home to continue with these traditions.  I love that no matter how old I get or how far away I may be from my family at times, I can always come back and find comfort in these traditions and comfort in the people who make these memories so special.

Since neither Josh nor I are willing to part with our families for the holidays, we decided to start our own tradition together this year and celebrate Thanksgiving at our home this past Sunday.  We (ok maybe just I) dubbed it Tashua's (Tashy + Joshua) First Annual Thanksgiving Celebration!  As it turns out, he's not so keen on many of the dishes I grew up on.  Seriously, though, who doesn't like cranberry sauce?!  Anyway, thanks to Josh's free turkey from work, we enjoyed a delicious meal together.  Even Ricky Ricardo got in on the turkey action!  We never feed him table food since he has a sensitive tummy, so this was really a treat.

I hope you enjoy a wonderful Thanksgiving with your loved ones!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

From The Kitchen || Mini Pumpkin Spiced Cheesecakes

Truth be told, I was not a fan of cheesecake until just a few years ago.  I think it had a lot to do with the fact that I loathe cream cheese unless it is thoroughly disguised, as in my mom's delicious cream cheese pound cake.  There is just something about seeing someone's teeth imprints in inch-thick cream cheese caked on a bagel that makes me gag.  Or even worse when people squirt the packets of cream cheese directly into their mouth and follow it with a bite of bagel (walk around a college campus if you don't believe me!).  Grosses me out to the core!  It must have been my mom's cheesecake that got me over this fear and thankfully allows me to enjoy sweet treats like these mini pumpkin spiced cheesecakes.

You may remember from this post that this recipe was on my list of must-tries for the Fall baking season.  I've never baked cheesecake before so this was going to be an adventure.  I'm happy to report that all went well and these little guys were a hit with my boyfriend and his family as we sat around the table carving pumpkins a couple weeks ago.

Having never baked a cheesecake before, I obviously wasn't prepared in the pan department.  And since I love all things mini (who doesn't!?), I had my eyes on this pan from Sur La Table which I am happy to report was perfect for the job.  Clean up is super easy, too.  I'm also a big fan of this little gadget that, while not absolutely necessary, does make it easier and cleaner to distribute batter among pans or for pancakes/waffles.  Sure it adds another item to wash, but it's easier than using a measuring cup and your fingers/spatula.

As for the recipe itself, the only adjustment I made was to substitute the cream cheese to 1/3 reduced fat in an attempt to make myself feel less guilty should I have decided to eat 5 in one sitting!  I ended up with more whipped topping than was needed, but I can always find another use for it, like on top of a pumpkin spiced latte!

If you have any great fall cheesecake recipes, share in the comments below!  And if you aren't sick of pumpkin baking recipes yet, check back next week for DELICIOUS mini pumpkin spice latte bundt cakes with coffee glaze!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Behind The Lens || Baby Fever

It seems that this year is the year of pregnant friends everywhere I turn.  I swear each time I check Facebook, someone new is expecting and that's not an exaggeration!  While I don't plan on jumping on this boat anytime soon (despite persistent, non-subtle nudging from my future mother-in-law!), I have a serious case of baby fever.  Lucky for me, I can just borrow a friend's little nugget and give him/her back once I've had my fix!  Is it me or do you wish you could bottle up that new baby smell?!

A couple of friends recently gave birth within a few weeks of each other and I was beyond excited to offer my services to provide newborn photos for them to cherish as their little girls are growing quickly.

Shannon and I go back a few years from when she worked for me back in my camera retail days.  She is one of the kindest, most thoughtful and funny people I have ever met; you can't help but gravitate toward her.  A couple years after the close of our store, I went on to shoot her engagement photos and later her wedding so naturally, it was a no brainer to see it all come full circle to her firstborn!  The great thing about working with a friend is the level of comfort you experience that you probably wouldn't get from allowing a stranger into your home to capture such a precious time.  Not the case here!  Baby Abby was a perfectly behaved model and absolutely adorable.  
One of my favorites!

Sleeping Beauty

Megan and I go back almost a couple decades!  We know each other from way back when my dad was stationed in Tucson and she and her family had just relocated from New York.  She comes from a family of four kids (all girls!) who happen to all match up pretty closely in age to me and my siblings.  Coincidentally, a few years ago I also shot her wedding!  Megan's husband is in the Air Force and was deployed just a couple weeks before she gave birth to itty bitty Mallory.  She came back to Tucson to be with family while her husband is deployed and we figured he may want some special keepsakes from these early weeks he is missing so we incorporated a special tribute to her daddy.   
Little lady knows how to accessorize!

Proud to be an Air Force brat!

You want a baby now, right?!  If you're looking for someone to capture your special memories, leave me a comment; I'd love to work with you!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

In Case You Were Wondering || A Fun Q&A

In the spirit of fun and to share more about myself, I thought I'd participate in a little Q&A quiz inspired by a recent blog post from Kaelah of Little Chief Honeybee.  Enjoy!

1. What is the first thing you do when you wake up?
After hitting snooze 5 times, I check my instagram feed.  It forces me to have to wake up so I can actually register what I'm looking at.  Plus, it's normally some good visuals to start my day.

2. What is the third picture on your phone?  Share it!
Me and my sweet Ricky Ricardo from his first trip to Seattle in 2012.  He was only six months old here and just so stinkin cute.

3. What TV show are you most excited about returning this Fall?
Since I only have Hulu and Netflix, I honestly don't even know what the Fall lineup is!  I'm eagerly awaiting the return of Orange Is The New Black whenever it's supposed to come back, though.  And I'm waiting for the last season of Sons of Anarchy to come out so I can catch up.  Love me some Jax Teller!

4. What is something really popular that you secretly (or not so secretly) loathe?
Crop tops.  I just don't get it and will not be participating in that trend.

5. Do you have any pets?  Tell us about them!  Bonus points for pictures.
Mr. Ricky Ricardo is my 1 1/2 year old Frenchie who I adore in an unhealthy way!  In fact, last night I took a minute long video of him snoring because he was just too precious.  I can't help myself, he's my sweet little lovebug. 

He "helps" with DIY projects.

After our first week together, we were both in love.

Even Ricky is a tourist, visiting the first Starbucks in Seattle in 2012. He wasn't much impressed.

His first Christmas; he was more interested in the lights and tree water.

Even with dirt hanging from his mouth, he's so handsome!

Celebrating his first birthday at the park.

He's the best cuddler, especially when his mama's sick.

6. If you could put together one outfit that represents you perfectly, what would it be?
Colored skinny jeans, Toms, and a comfy tee/blouse/sweater.  If it's cold enough, throw in a scarf and I'm golden.  I'm in love with my newest pair of Toms!

7. What is your favorite adult beverage?
I'm all in for a good mojito, classic or passion fruit flavored.  Lately I'm on a Bloody Mary kick, too.

8. What is your favorite guilty pleasure?
I hate to admit that I love flipping through US mag weekly to look at all the pictures and I check in frequently to see the gossip on TMZ and EOnline.

9. What are 3 positive words to describe you?
Honest, optimistic, loving.

10. What is your favorite Friday afternoon/evening activity?
At the end of a long week, I like to eat out with my main man and just relax.  And after an especially rough week, a nice margarita or mojito doesn't hurt.

11. A day in the life: What does your typical day look like?
A typical work day starts at 6:30, waking Josh up since he sleeps like a rock through his alarms, feeding Ricky, and getting myself ready for the day.  I get to work by 8:00 in time for the daily executive meeting and spend the next 9 hours waiting for 5:00 to come around, if I'm being totally honest!  After work is normally filled with playing/cuddling with Ricky, making dinner for Josh and I, and either going to the gym or working on a project/my blog in the office.  We normally finish the night with an episode of Burn Notice or Dirty Jobs before bed which is normally around 10:30.  Nothing exciting, but so goes the work week.

A typical weekend usually starts around 7:00/8:00 with Josh sleeping in longer if he doesn't have to work.  On Saturdays I go to Power Yoga at 9:30 usually followed by a coffee run at The Coffee Shop and taking Ricky to the dog park.  If I'm baking something or have a project lined up, I do my supply shopping and almost always can find myself at Target buying things I probably don't need!  On Sundays I like to lay in bed catching up on Pinterest and blogs I follow before getting out of bed, then I either make us brunch or we grab a quick bite before starting house projects/chores and running errands.  We normally do our grocery shopping for the week on Sunday evening so I gather up recipes and plan our week's meals out for the week.

12. If you cold live anywhere else in the world, where would it be?
Outside of the US I would love to live in Spain or Australia.  I've been to Spain and loved but Australia would be a new fun adventure surrounded by water.  I could get used to that!

13. You've got a whole day to yourself...what will you do?
I'm a bit spoiled in that I normally have a dream day to myself on most Saturdays.  In any case, I'd start my day with Power Yoga, pick up Ricky and head to The Coffee Shop to enjoy an iced vanilla soy latte and San Diegan plate on the patio, then head to the dog park for a while to let Ricky make some friends.  To be really spoiled, I'd probably opt for a massage, mani, pedi, and facial afterward!  A spa day sounds so relaxing and luxurious!  For dinner I'd pick up some caprese bruschetta and salad from Sauce and spend the rest of the day enjoying an Ugly Betty marathon while perusing Pinterest and making to do lists.  I love the little simple things.

14. Dream job?
Owning my own studio where I paint, photograph, and print to my heart's content.  I'd also like to teach art to small kids to help nurture their creativity.

15. Least favorite chore?
Putting laundry away!  I can wash, dry, and fold laundry just fine, but I loathe putting it away!  Instead, I like to pile my clean clothes on top of a chair in our bedroom until Josh nags me enough about it.  This past weekend I got it all done and even took the chair out of the room so I'm not tempted to start a new pile!

16. When do you most feel like a rock star?
After yoga, hands down.  There is something so empowering about yoga that puts me on top of the world.  I will skip cardio day any day of the week (even though those cupcakes say I shouldn't) but I will NOT miss power yoga for anything.

17. What is something you are currently trying to improve within yourself?
Follow through.  I can plan to my heart's content, but following through is sometimes a slow process.  I'm working on it!

If you made it through that whole quiz, good for you for sticking it out!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

From The Kitchen || Pumpkin Snickerdoodle Cupcakes

When it comes to desserts, Josh is very simple in his likes.  And since it's just us in the house, baking normally requires that I keep him in mind unless I plan on eating the goods all by myself.  Confession: I've dusted off more than I care to admit on my own and my thighs are thanking me now.

Back to Josh...  For his birthday, he originally requested chocolate whoopie pies with mint frosting.  Sure, it's his call since he is the birthday boy but I wanted to try something new and take advantage of my pumpkin fever. Seeing as how he loves snickerdoodles and cream cheese, I figured I couldn't go wrong.  Lucky for me I got to knock out two birds with one stone (no actual birds were harmed in the making of these cupcakes) and easily convinced him that I should make these instead.

The verdict?  Yum!!!  The cake is extremely moist and isn't overpowering with either the pumpkin puree or pumpkin pie spice flavors.  To me, subtly is key when you're using such powerful spices.  And while I'm normally not a fan of cream cheese unless it's thoroughly disguised, this frosting won me over.  Josh requested I leave a few without the frosting so I just dunked the tops in the sugar/spice mix and served them at breakfast.

A few notes/variations I made on the recipe. 1) I used yellow cake mix instead of the alternative, white; 2) I opted to use oil instead of applesauce since that's what I had on hand; 3) I only used 3T of butter to coat the tops and it was more than enough; 4) Trying to keep my expanding waistline in mind, I went for reduced fat cream cheese; and 5) I found the right amount of powdered sugar for the frosting is 4 cups.  Another change to the recipe is the oven temp; I've found that 325 for 20 minutes with each cup filled 3/4 full is the magic equation to perfect cupcakes.  I'm also a big fan of baking with these party cups since they can be pulled apart easily, making eating a bit less messy.  I still use a cupcake pan so that each cupcake bakes evenly.

Pardon the day after iPhone photo.

These cupcakes were a hit with Josh and his family and super easy to make.  I'm always looking for new pumpkin recipes to try, any suggestions?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Tradition || Apple Annie's Pumpkins and Apple Orchard

Every October since my parents moved back to Arizona, we have traveled to Willcox to visit Apple Annie's Produce & Pumpkins and Apple Orchard.  Since we don't experience Fall like the rest of the country, this trip marks the official change of season for me.  Now I can officially go pumpkin wild!

Not to break with tradition, we made the annual trip this past weekend to pick out pumpkins, produce, and eat the necessary staples: kettle corn, pumpkin ice cream, and apple cider doughnuts.  Sharing this tradition with my niece now makes these trips even more special. 

The real reason Josh takes the trip: kettle corn!

We tried the maze one year, that was more than enough for our lifetime.


This ham LOVES the pumpkin patch...

...almost as much as she loves her momma!


Another tradition: portraits at the patch.


My favorite flower.

Really, he loves his kettle corn!

GIANT pumpkins!       

She's quite pleased with her picks.       

Fresh, organic produce for the picking.       

I love baby pumpkins!       

Farm stand under the big tent.       


It took a couple takes...       

...but we finally got it! Our best one yet.       

The REAL reason we go down the road to the apple orchard: pumpkin ice cream...       

...and apple cider doughnuts!       

Looks like Fall at the orchard.