29 November 2012

The Dude Gift Guide: Christmas

I have no plans to bore you with yet another gift guide for the women in your lives, but true to form, almost all of the Christmas gift guides for men I've seen this year are not for any of the men I know.  That's not to say those gift guides are bad; it's just that I don't find them particularly useful.  Since the last two Dude Guides I've done have been quite popular, I thought I'd take a swing at a Christmas edition.  Let me know if you end up using any of these ideas!

Dude Gift Guide Christmas

1. I could talk about stocking stuffers for days. Stockings are my favorite part of picking out Christmas gifts. So much potential! M is a condiment fanatic.  Aren't most guys? Add a bottle of his favorite hot sauce or one he's never tried before.

2.  One of my besties is a firm believer that every gift-giving occasion is a chance to, ahem, improve a man's wardrobe.  With that in mind, how's about a lovely cotton-cashmere sweater and dapper button-up?

3. Or a field coat that looks oh-so rugged and sexy?

4. Are there men out there who DON'T like Under Armour?  I've never met any.  The ColdGear compression leggings are great for the runner in your life.

5.  Going off of my friend's theory, I'm a firm believer that Christmas is a time to purchase little luxuries for people that they would never purchase for themselves.  Case in point: this lovely T. Anthony leather business card holder. Very bespoke and a fabulous stocking stuffer.

6.  The cold-weather version of his favorite boat shoes.

7.  Bacon Salt. Is any description necessary?

8.  Another one of those little luxuries: a leather Dopp kit. {True story: M puts his travel toiletries into sandwich baggies.  Eesh.}

9.  For the golfer in your life {doesn't everyone have one?}: Graphic Image's Memorable Golf Rounds book. A scrapbook for those who don't scrapbook.

10., 11., 12. M is REALLY into making breakfast. It's his favorite meal, and truth be told, he's a lot better at making it than I am. If you know anyone who fits that bill, what about a breakfast kit? A quart of theeee best maple syrup, a pound of theee best bacon, and a top-of-the-line waffle maker.

13. Classic suede chukka boots.  They'll never go out of style and they're built to last.  Plus they do a nice job of dressing up any outfit without looking too formal.

14.  Flannel PJ pants.  If you take nothing else away from this list, this is the gift to buy.  My mom got M a pair of these for Christmas last year and, well, he's kind of obsessed.  It is extremely important that you purchase these WITH pockets.

15.  SmartWool socks.  Perhaps a little boring, but everyone loves them and they're always a favorite. And bulky enough to take up some serious space in the stocking!

28 November 2012

Menu and Things

Hi all!  Sorry for the unintended hiatus.  I gave myself a nice little break for Thanksgiving week, but I brought home a killer cough/cold/sore throat thing and have been curled up on the couch with a bag of Halls since Sunday.

How was your Thanksgiving?  Ours was fabulous, so nice and relaxing.  If you follow me on Instagram {@belleonheels}, you've already seen these, but here are some pictures from our week:
M, my sister, and I were all up bright and early on Thanksgiving morning to participate in the Drumstick Dash

My husband, champion turkey fryer.

The Thanksgiving table centerpieces I made were so easy and so beautiful! Each vase was filled with fresh cranberries and water and held one hydrangea stem.  I think the total cost was maybe $16 and that was for 3 tables. Can't beat that!

My mom treated my sister and I to mani/pedis.  I picked O.P.I.'s Danke-Shiny red and it may be my new go-to.  You can't really tell from the picture, but it has an oh-so-subtle hint of shimmer that I just love.

Green bean casserole leftovers.  People either love it or hate it.  I fall into the "love it" category.  What about you?

Our pups were exhausted after almost a week with my parents' dog, Lewis.  I love that they hold paws in the car!

And because we weren't feeling fat enough after Thanksgiving gluttony, we grabbed breakfast at Mrs. Rowe's Restaurant on the way home.  So bad, but so good.

We collapsed on the couch Sunday night to have an epic Twitter-fest {follow me @SarahGKs} during the trainwreck that was Liz & Dick.  I had every intention of playing along with my girl BHB's drinking game, but the sickness had arrived by that time, so the only thing I was pounding was cough syrup.

I didn't cook too many meals last week, but I did have some yummies I wanted to share with you.
In preparation for our week o' gluttony, I made roasted salmon with broccoli and baked sweet potatoes for dinner last Monday night.  I used my favorite DALS salmon + sauce recipe.

My contribution to the Thanksgiving dessert table: pecan pie! Recipe is as follows:

1 cup maple syrup
1 cup packed light brown sugar {do NOT use dark brown sugar}
1/2 cup heavy cream
1tablespoon molasses
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 teaspoon Salt
6 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups toasted and chopped pecans
1(9-inch) unbaked pie shell {I use Deb's recipe}, chilled in pie plate for 30 minutes

1. Make Filling: Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Heat sugar, syrup, cream, and molasses in saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool 5 minutes. Whisk butter and salt into syrup mixture until combined. Whisk in egg yolks until incorporated.

2. Bake Pie: Scatter pecans in pie shell. Carefully pour filling over. Place pie in hot oven and immediately reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Bake until filling is set and center jiggles slightly when pie is gently shaken, 45 to 60 minutes. Cool pie on rack for 1 hour, then refrigerate until set, about 3 hours and up to 1 day. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Mom sent me home with lots of leftover turkey and turkey stock, so I made Texas White Lightening Chili with turkey instead of chicken. SO delicious and a slightly more creative way to use up Thanksgiving leftovers.

And to use up a leftover loaf of cheap grocery-store Italian white bread, I made Ina's French Toast Bread Pudding for breakfast on Saturday.  So unbelievably delicious, especially with bacon.


16 November 2012

Friday Favorites

Can you believe Thanksgiving is less than a week away?! In honor of my favorite holiday, here are my Thanksgiving favorites:
I would loooooove to sink my teeth into Ina's Roast Turkey with Truffle Butter. This is DEFINITELY what I will be making the first time I host Thanksgiving!
Did you know that my favorite wine, rosĂ©, is the perfect pairing with Thanksgiving dinner?  It's true.  Why not elevate it with a bottle of bubbly?

I'm hoping this is the year Santa starts my collection of Spode 'Woodland'.  So beautiful and so perfect for Thanksgiving.

Loving this simple, festive table centerpiece.  I'm betting it smells pretty amazing too.

The Thanksgiving leftovers sandwich is pretty much the greatest thing in the world.  This is a fancy-schmancy version of it, with brie and chutney. YUM.

15 November 2012

Laptop vs. Desktop

We are about to purchase a new computer and I could really use some advice.  I'm trying to decide between a desktop and a laptop.

Arguing for the desktop: We have an iPad, two iPhones, a Kindle Fire, and M has a MacBook Pro through work.  So we're pretty much set on mobile computer devices.  It would be nice to have a stationary computer in our office with a large screen.  Also, it just feels more grown-up to me.  And it's about $500-1000 cheaper than the laptop, depending on the configuration we go with.

Arguing for the laptop:  Do desktops seem kind of archaic?  I already have a lovely, large screen iMac at work.  And what if I want to blog whilst sitting on the couch or lounging in bed?  I can't do that on a desktop and I can't do that on any of my other mobile devices.  I technically could do it from M's laptop, but I don't like mixing personal shizz with business shizz.

I'm torn.  What do you have?  Do you like it?  What do you recommend?  Do you feel strongly one way or the other?  Computers are $$$ so I really don't want to buy one and then a month later be like, "Whoopsie! Wrong decision!"

Help me!

14 November 2012

L'Auberge Provencale

A few weeks ago, M and I had a quick getaway to L'Auberge Provencale to celebrate our one-year anniversary.  We had the most wonderful time and we're already making plans to go back this summer. I thought I'd share a little bit of our mini-vacay with you:
These photos are all from our suite.  We stayed in suite #14, named La Chambre EnsoleillĂ©e, the Sunsplashed Bedroom.  We chose to stay at the Villa La Campagnette, which is actually 3 miles from the main inn.  The main inn faces a very busy road, and from reading reviews, we gathered that those rooms could be pretty noisy.  Our favorite part was the aromatherapy steam shower {pictured above}.  It was like a little trip to the spa. Heaven!

We were the only ones staying at the Villa and the other suites were unlocked, so I poked my head in to  sneak a peek.  How great is that clawfoot?!?

This is the cozy downstairs sitting area of the Villa.  The marble sign above the fireplace came from the actual Villa la Campagnette, which was owned by the chef and proprietor's grandfather.

The lovely patio and stables behind the Villa.  That pool is the reason we want to go back this summer! There was also a huge grill and a cooler filled with Mexican Coke in glass bottles {the very best}.  Perfect for a lazy day relaxing in the sun.

Our insane breakfast spread.  The chef and proprietor came to the Villa and made breakfast for just the two of us.  It was so nice and private and a little surreal to have Alain Borel making breakfast for us personally.

We have a strict no-cell phone policy when we go out to dinner, so I didn't get any pictures of our outrageously decadent meal.  I'll leave it at this:  we both consider ourselves foodies and have had some pretty amazing meals.  This, for us, was in the top 3.  It was even better than Volt.  And we loved Volt.  

L'Auberege Provencale is only about an hour from DC and two hours from Baltimore, so all you DC/NoVA/MD readers, add this to your weekend getaway list!

13 November 2012

Movie Season

There are SO MANY incredible-looking movies coming out between now and the end of the year! I'm not sure how I'll get around to seeing them all.  I think I'm most looking forward to Les Miz, Lincoln, and Hitchcock.  I can't make it through the Les Miz trailer without boohooing!

Did I leave any movies out that you're dying to see?  Are you big on seeing a movie in theatres or do you wait to rent it?  We always say we're going to go see it in theatres but inevitably wait until it makes its way to Redbox.  Don't think I'll be able to wait that long on these flicks!

12 November 2012

Menu Monday

I've been really bad at taking pictures of our dinners over the past few weeks, but I thought I'd share some of the recipes we've tried in the past month that I haven't posted about yet.

Lemon Chicken and Orzo Soup {Good Life Eats}

Good, not great.  Easy enough, tasty enough, but not particularly memorable.  

Spicy Turkey and Hatch Quiche {Elefantitas Alegres}
Yum! The turkey flavor was a bit too pronounced for my liking, so next time I would probably make using ground Italian chicken sausage.  Otherwise, a winner!  We loved the leftovers for breakfast.

Crock Pot Beef and Butternut Squash Stew {Eat, Live, Run}
Meh.  I really wanted to love this dish because I loved the idea of it so much.  But I found it kind of bland.  Mine was kind of slimy and would've benefited from skimming some fat from the soup.  Also, I grew up eating beef stew that had a tomato-based sauce, so I think I just prefer that taste.  

Crockpot Chicken Tacos {Chocolate Therapy}
These were awesome.  I used 1 lb. of boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  Next time I think I would use between 1.5 - 2 lbs because I thought the sauce-to-chicken ratio was a little high.  Otherwise, these were a hit!

Stuffed Peppers {Start Cooking}
Good, not great.  I think I would've enjoyed them more had I actually tasted the filling for salt before stuffing the peppers.  Mine were WAY under-seasoned.  I would make these again, but they don't hold a candle to my favorite Greek stuffed peppers recipe.  

Have you made anything tasty recently?  I feel like I'm in a recipe rut and I could really use some inspiration from you fine folks!