About Me

I grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia where I also attended college and met the love of my life. I lived in NYC for five years with my husband and Westie, Mack Brown before recently moving all the way across the country to Los Angeles. I'm an amateur chef, total foodie, lover of Westies, sports fanatic and self-proclaimed book worm. You'll find a little bit of all these things I love on this blog. And...most importantly, I'm a new mom to the most precious baby boy, Austn Robert, born this past October.





Austin Robert

Austin Robert

Mack Brown

Mack Brown

Friday, December 30, 2011

Books I Read in 2011...

The Nester is doing a link-up over the next couple of days for everyone to share the books they read in 2011.  I LOVED looking back through my bookshelf at all the books I read this past year as I made this list.  I'm also loving reading others' lists to help me plan what I want to read in 2012.

What I Read: My Favorites

The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins
I couldn't put these books down.  I recommended them to my mom and she had the same problem.  If you haven't read them yet, you definitely, definitely should! 
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Burrows
This story takes place mostly on the island of Guernsey during the German Occupation and the time immediately following and is told in the form of letters sent back and forth between the characters.  A unique and fascinating read.
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
The King's Speech: How One Man Saved the British Monarchy by Mark Logue and Peter Conradi
The movie was based on this book, which was written by Lionel Logue's grandson.

What I Read: The Others 

Still Alice by Lisa Genova
Left Neglected by Lisa Genova
Incendiary by Chris Cleave
The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag by Alan Bradley
Traveling with Pomegranates by Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor
Sex on the Moon by Ben Mezrich
Room by Emma Donoghue
Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah
A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore
The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud by Ben Sherwood
Something Borrowed by Emily Griffin
Something Blue by Emily Griffin
Fly Away Home by Jennifer Weiner

What I'm Reading:

A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley
With a Measure of Grace: The Story and Recipes of a Small Town Restaurant by Blake Spalding and Jennifer Castle

What I Want to Read in 2012:

The Help by Kathryn Stockett
The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels by Ree Drummond
War Horse by Michael Morpurgo
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
11/22/63 by Stephen King

Books I Want to Read Again in 2012:

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
The Girl Who Played with Fire
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

What books have you read the past year? What do you plan to read in the new year?  Head over to The Nester and link up!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Texas Chili

We're going to San Diego today to watch the Longhorns play the Cal Bears in the Holiday Bowl, so I thought today would be the perfect day to share my Texas chili recipe with you all.

I've been making this chili for a couple of years now.  After making many other chili recipes, this is by far my favorite.  The chipotle chiles in adobo sauce are what makes this chili so unique and so delicious.  I made this recipe for Christmas dinner this year, and hope to continue this tradition in the years to come, but you can make this chili at anytime.  It's the perfect fall/ cold winter night meal.  This recipe makes a HUGE pot though, so make some and invite some friends over to share it with!

Texas Chili

2-3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
4 slices turkey bacon, sliced in half length-wise, and chopped in  1/4 in. sized pieces
2 medium yellow onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
3 tbsp. chili powder
2 tbsp. smoked paprika
1 tbsp. cumin
2 tsp. dried oregano
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 lb. Italian sausage links, removed from casings and crumbled
salt and pepper to taste
2 (28 oz) cans crushed tomatoes with puree
1 (15 oz) can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15 oz) can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 can chipotle chiles in adobo sauce (I use one jalapeno and 1 tbsp. of the sauce from the can)

Heat the olive oil and turkey bacon in a heavy-bottomed, 8-quart stock pot over medium-high heat.  Once the bacon is browned, remove the bacon from the pan, leaving behind the bacon infused olive oil.

Add the onions and garlic to the pan and saute for 7-10 minutes, or until tender.  Add the chili powder, smoked paprika, cumin, oregano, salt and pepper.  Stir until all the spices are well combined.

Add the ground beef and crumbled sausage.  Increase the heat to medium-high and cook the meat.  Break up the meat with a wooden spoon while it is cooking.

Once the meat is browned, add the remaining ingredients, toss in the bacon that you cooked earlier, reduce the heat to a low simmer, and cover.  Allow the chili to simmer for about an hour and then serve with your favorite fixinings: sharp cheddar cheese, sour cream, chopped green onion, corn chips, or chopped jalepeno chiles.

Hook 'em Horns!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Creating New Traditions

Since we spent Christmas as just our little family in California this year, we had the chance to start new Christmas traditions of our own, while still holding on to some of our favorite traditions from growing up.

Here's our Christmas in pictures...

We started Christmas Eve off right with a Big Blue win!
Went to see this movie.  SO GOOD.  Go see it.
Grilled filet for Christmas Eve dinner.
Attended a candlelight Christmas Eve church service.
Woke up to a room full of too many presents on Christmas morning.
Santa came for Mack!
Mack's loot.
One grateful dog.
Fixed the traditional Robinette Christmas breakfast: Moravian sugar cake and  sausage-egg casserole.
Watched the sunset over Santa Monica Beach.
And ended the day with a big bowl of chili (in my new bowls!)

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011

Hello Dollie Bars

One of my favorite Christmas memories with my mom is baking holiday cookies.  For as long as I can remember, she has been making the same cookies, and none of us would have it any other way.  We all have our favorite that it just wouldn't be the holidays without.  After my mom's baking adventures this year, I jokingly mentioned how I wouldn't be upset if some of those sweets made it all the way to California.  Well, guess what arrived at my door this past Monday.  Yep, you guessed it.  I have the best parents.

My favorite?

Hello Dollie Bars

So sweet.  So delicious. SO easy to make.

If you still need something sweet to take with you to family get-togethers over the next few days, look no further.  This is it.  I made some just for you, to show you how truly easy they are to make.  Now, if you would just come help me eat them!!

Hello Dollie Bars

1 stick butter, melted
1 1/2 c. graham cracker crumbs
6 oz. chocolate chips
6 oz. butterscotch chips (this is my favorite part)
1 c. chopped walnuts
1 can sweetened, condensed milk (my mom suggests using Eagle Brand)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Melt the butter in a 7 x 10 baking dish.  The size is important, don't use a bigger pan!

Pour the graham crackers crumbs in the dish and mix with the butter.  Press the graham cracker mixture down and up around the sides of the dish.

Now we just add layers, so evenly pour on the chocolate chips.

Then, the butterscotch chips.

Then, the walnuts.

Last, drizzle the sweetened, condensed milk evenly over top.  Stay away from the edges so that yours bars are easier to remove.  (This is a lesson learned from my own baking adventure!)

Bake in the oven for 25 minutes.  Cool slightly and then cut, but do not remove from the pan until completely cooled.

Hope these help make your holidays a little bit sweeter!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Spinach & Artichoke Stuffed Portabello Mushrooms

When you're cooking for two, the best recipes are the ones that allow enough for leftovers the next day, right?  Since the recipe makes 4 portabellos, it falls perfectly into that category--delicious dinner two nights in a row for only one night of cooking.  Unless, of course, you are scatter-brained like me, and forget to put the container in the fridge before going to bed for the night, only to discover that night's dinner out on your kitchen counter when you wake up the next morning.  Yep, that would be me.  Oh well, best laid plans...

I  oringially found this recipe over at Annie's Eats a while back and knew immediately I wanted to try it.  Luckily, I was able to adapt it slightly so that it fits within Phase One of the South Beach diet for B.  I used low-fat cream cheese, substituted 0% Greek yogurt for the mayonnaise, and left out the breadcrumbs.  The result was a delicious, meat-free, easy-to-prepare dinner!

Spinach & Artichoke Stuffed Portabello Mushrooms

4 portabello mushrooms, wiped clean with a dry towel and stems removed
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
salt and pepper to taste
4 oz. reduced-fat cream cheese, at room temperature
3 tbsp. 0% Greek yogurt
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
10 oz. frozen, chopped spinach, thaw and squeeze out the extra juice
9 oz. frozen artichokes, thawed, patted dry and coarsely chopped
1/3 c. grated Parmesan cheese

Combine the olive oil and garlic.  Prepare the mushrooms by using a spoon to gently scrap out the gills.  Brush the mushrooms with the garlic-infused oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and bake for 10 minutes at 450 degrees.

While the mushrooms are cooking, combine the cream cheese, yogurt, spinach, artichokes, and dried thyme.

When the mushrooms are cooked, pour off any excess juices, and then pile the stuffing up high on each mushrooms.  Sprinkle evenly with Parmesan cheese and drizzle with the remaining oil.

Bake in the oven for another 10 minutes at 450 degrees.

*And don't forget: If you want leftovers the next day, don't be scatter-brained like me.  Put the leftovers in the fridge :)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Oh How Pintresting, Wednesdays: Christmas Wreaths

I can't wait until we have our own place one day so that I can decorate with wreaths.  In the meantime, I just settle for looking at others' beautiful wreaths on Pinterest...

Christmas wreath

Evergreen Boxwood Wreath

Christmas wreath

Christmas wreath

Christmas wreath

Christmas wreath

And, just because, a few more Christmas inspired pins (that aren't wreaths!)...

Candles in jars with gingham and greenery....simple!

burlap and ribbon ornament

Cutest party mix ever!

Burlap wrapped Christmas presents!

I can't believe Christmas is only 4 days away!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Parmesan-Lemon Roasted Broccoli

One of B's favorite vegetables is broccoli.  He seriously eats it 2-3 times a week.  I like broccoli, but it's not my favorite vegetable ever, so I'm always looking for different ways to cook it.  I found this recipe a few years back in one of the Barefoot Contessa's cookbooks, and I've since adapted it slightly to fit our taste.  Parmesan-lemon roasted broccoli is such a simple and tasty side dish to add to any meal.  Plus, it's good for you!

Parmesan-Lemon Roasted Broccoli

2-3 cups broccoli florets
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 1/2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
the zest of 1 lemon

1 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice (about half a lemon)
Parmesan cheese, grated

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

On a cookie sheet, spread the broccoli florets in a single layer.  Sprinkle the garlic and olive oil over top.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Toss everything together and bake for 20-25 minutes.

Once the broccoli is cooked, add the lemon zest and lemon juice over top the broccoli.  Finally, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.  Add as much or as little as you like.  Toss everything together one more time and you're ready to serve.

This recipe serves 2-3 people.

Adapted from Barefoot Contessa's Back to the Basics

Monday, December 19, 2011

What I've Learned About Mailing Presents...

Since we won't be spending Christmas with our families this year, I had to complete my shopping, wrapping and sending of gifts a little bit earlier this year.  And, I learned some things along the way about mailing gifts...

1.  It's significantly more expensive to mail gifts from California to our families than it was from New York.  I guess I should have figured this would be the case, but man, what a difference.

2.  Do not use the prepaid USPS priority mail boxes.  Unless you're mailing something incredibly heavy, you'll end up paying more.

3.  Order gifts online on Black Friday/ Cyber Monday to take advantage of free shipping and internet deals, and then save the boxes and packaging.  I saved untold amounts of money reusing boxes and packaging materials.

4.  This one is obvious, but don't buy heavy presents.  And, if you do need send something that is heavy have it sent directly from the source to save a little money.

5.  By all means, wrap the present and dress it up with a bow.  I've had so much fun opening big boxes from both of our parents and pulling out beautifully wrapped gifts.  My mom (who is ever the planner) used ribbon with wire, so all I had to do was re-fluff the bows before placing them under the tree.

6.  If possible, get everything done early.  I'm all about eliminating stress whenever and wherever I can.  I shipped my presents pretty early, BUT I avoided crazy crowds at the post office.

7.  Last, but certainly not least, invest in good packing tape with the dispenser that cuts the tape for you.  This will save you endless headaches.

Here are some shots of the packaging process... (Notice Mack in the middle picture?  He couldn't stop sniffing (and licking!) cousin Daisy's gift.  He REALLY wanted what was inside!)

All packed and ready to go!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christmas Home Tour

I'm linking with Kelly over at Kelly's Korner today to welcome you into our home this Christmas.  So come on in and take a look around...

This is the Christmas tree we used when we were living in NYC (hence the size), but even though we have enough space for a bigger (and real!) tree this year, we decided to stick with this one for one more year.  So much easier to decorate!  I got the idea to put it on a small table from Pinterest.  We have a set of nesting side tables in our living room, so I just used the smaller table for the tree.  I think it turned out really nice (and it gives off the illusion that the tree is bigger than it really is.  Score.)

These are some of my favorite ornaments.  The one in the middle is our Christmas ornament from this year.  If you know B, you know why this is perfect for him.  Plus, it goes along with his Christmas gift.  The last ornament is an imprint of Mackie's paw that my sister and I made with him a couple of Christmases ago.

My mom gave me these snowmen a couple of years ago, and this year they have been working hard protecting my mint M&Ms.  Wish they'd stop me from eating them.

I got these festive pillows at Target.  Mack loves the pillows.  And the pillows love Mack's hair.  I swear they are dog hair magnets.

Isn't this dish towel great?  I got it this year at Crate and Barrel.

A few years back, my mom started the tradition of giving me a new Snow Babies figurine each Christmas.  I love getting these out every year.  They're not only beautiful, but they remind me of my sweet mama. 

Love these red, white and green salt shakers on our kitchen table.

Christmas cards!  Receiving (and giving) Christmas cards is one of my favorite things about the season.   I got the idea from Pinterest to tape all the Christmas cards you receive on the wall in the shape of a Christmas tree.  Ours is a work in progress...

Our holiday decorating style is definitely minimalist at best, but we think its just right for us.  Plus, there's less to put up after the holidays are over!  Hope you enjoyed your look around!  

How are you decorating this year?

Kelly's Korner