Monthly Archives: November 2012

Crazy Easy Monkey Bread

For those who don’t know what monkey bread is, you don’t know what you’ve been missing! This is a Christmas morning tradition in my family because you do all the work the night before, it’s simple, and it’s DELICIOUS.

I know there are lots of different ways to make monkey bread, but this is how my family does it, and I have to say, it’s pretty darn good. Since I am taking over the Christmas hosting duties this year, I’m going to put my own little spin on this recipe by substituting the raisins and pecans for dried cranberries and pistachios for a little festive color!

Monkey Bread

18 frozen Parkerhouse rolls
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 cup raisins
1 pkg vanilla cook & serve pudding mix
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg

1. Soak the raisins in water for about 10 minutes to plump them up.

2. Butter a bundt pan (angel food cake pan works well also).

3. Sprinkle the raisins and pecans along the bottom of the pan, and place the frozen rolls on top in a single layer.

4. In a separate bowl, combine the vanilla pudding mix, nutmeg, and cinnamon, and then sprinkle it evenly over the rolls.

5. In a small saucepan, melt the butter and then add the brown sugar. Heat until boiling, stirring constantly so the sugar doesn’t burn, and then pour the glaze over the rolls.

6. Cover the pan with plastic wrap or wax paper and allow it to sit out overnight.

7. In the morning, preheat oven to 350°. Bake the monkey bread for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool for a few minutes.

8. Place a serving platter upside down on top of the pan and then turn everything upside down. The monkey bread will turn out of the pan and be right side up on the plate, ready for you to serve. Just pull apart the sweet rolls and enjoy!

Custom Photo Transfer Giveaway!

I have mentioned my friend Stephanie a few times on this blog. She’s the creative genius who made this adorable sign for Olivia’s Sesame Street party, this fun Valentine’s Day garland, and this DIY decoupage ornament. I don’t think there’s an artsy thing she can’t do!

She also happens to be a talented photographer. While looking for new ways to display her art, she started experimenting with photo transfers. Her work won such rave reviews from family and friends that she decided to open an Etsy store—For the Birds.

Stephanie specializes in taking photographs and transferring them by hand to various materials, including wood, canvas, glass, tile, and acrylic. The transfer process gives the photos a vintage, Instagram-ish feel. Check out this collage of photos she took while in Charleston, South Carolina this summer:

Charleston on Canvas, $50

Amazing right?! The best part is that she takes custom orders. Have a collection of pictures from a recent vacation that you can’t figure out how to show off? Still trying to figure out what to get your parents for the holidays? Here’s your answer!

I love the finished product so much that I’ve collaborated with the artist herself to bring you an awesome giveaway. One lucky winner will receive a free custom photo transfer! The winner will be able to choose between one 12×12 wood or canvas transfer OR two to three smaller sized (think 5×7) transfers. Stephanie will work directly with the winner to recommend the best medium, size, etc. for the photograph(s). Enter below for your chance to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanksgiving Treats

This is an oldie, but a goodie—everyone have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

I’m kind of into the holidays. And when I say “kind of,” I really mean ridiculously, enthusiastically into them. But I just can’t help myself. I have such great memories of my family’s holiday traditions, and I can’t wait to pass some of them on to and start our own with my little one. And since I love food, I figured what better way to kick off the first of what will surely be many holiday-themed posts, than with some fun Thanksgiving treats! Try making some of these with or for your little ones to get everyone in the holiday spirit!

Turkey Sandwich via

Fun Pilgrim hats via










Sweet Potato Cupcakes with Toasted Marshmallow Topping via

Rice Krispie Treat Turkey Pops via

Pilgrim Cookies via

Crock Pot Carnitas Tacos

This is a really simple and delicious crock pot recipe for pulled pork (aka carnitas) tacos. I found the original recipe on Skinny Mom and adapted it for my family—basically just toning down the heat a little bit.

Throw all of the ingredients in your slow cooker in the morning, turn it on low, and you’ll have dinner waiting when you get home. Doesn’t get much easier than that! I used a pork tenderloin because that’s what I had on hand, but I think this recipe would be even tastier with a pork shoulder or rump roast. Still, it was a hit with my family—even my two year old loved it!

Carnitas Tacos
Adapted from Skinny Mom 

1 lb pork tenderloin, rump roast, or shoulder
1 (12 oz) jar of salsa
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp brown sugar
½ tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp minced garlic
Diced tomato
Shredded cheese
Corn tortillas


1. Place pork in the crock pot.

2. Mix together all other ingredients in a bowl and pour over the pork.

3. Cook on low for 8 hours (or on high for 5 hours).

4. Remove the pork from the crock pot and use a fork to shred the meat. Place the pulled pork in a bowl and laddle the sauce from the crock pot over the pork.

5. Serve on tortillas with your favorite taco toppings.

Seven Inspired Ways to Paint a Nursery {or Big Kid’s Room}

It’s amazing what you can do with a little paint and some elbow grease! Check out these unique ideas for how to transform your baby’s nursery with just some paint (and in some cases, a LOT of painter’s tape).

Argyle Wall via Decorating Obsessed

Striped Accent Wall Via Project Nursery

Chalkboard Paint Via Nite Nite Mommy

Painted Chevron Ceiling Via Project Nursery

Single Stripe Via Apartment Therapy

Colorful Painted Squares Via Project Nursery

Chevron Wall Via Lowes

And Your Top Potty Training Tips Are …

We’re getting ready to dive into the potty training pool (which sounds gross, but you know what I mean). So I recently asked my Facebook followers to share their #1 potty training success tips to help psyche me up. The advice was so good that I couldn’t just keep it to myself!

Marlayna said:
Rewards. My daughter gets a mini M&M so she really likes going potty now. 

Lisa said:
We tried every bribe in the book. The only thing that worked was taking her to what would be her preschool and telling her she can’t go to school if she wears diapers. That was it. . .!

Jessica said:
Evan was motivated by Thomas the Train underwear. He really, really wanted to wear them, but we only let him if he was using the potty. The one thing I learned that seemed counter-intuitive was not making a huge deal out of it when they go potty. Let them know they did a good job, but if you get too excited it can cause them to be anxious next time.

Charity said:
Keep a pack of post it notes in your purse to cover the automatic flushing sensor in public bathrooms! Nothing more scary than a toilet flushing while you are holding on for your little life trying to potty!

Penny said:
My sisters and I all did the same thing – during the day, we simply put them in underwear. We didn’t make a big production of it. We didn’t reward or scold. All 6 were potty trained quickly and most never had an accident. We started when they were between 27 and 30 months.

Danielle said:
… don’t start too early (because then it’ll just take longer and frustrate everyone involved!), and be consistent. They really do just wake up one day and “get it.” 

Margo said:
Just remember it is unlikely he will still be in a diaper at 16. Which means, he will get tired of it in due time …

Nancie said:
A step stool so a big boy can urinate standing up, and paper targets to sink! Oh, and M&Ms are a very good thing.

Elaine said:
… I just started offering underwear or pull-ups, and eventually they chose underwear. Plus I would do a lot of asking during the day if they want to go to the potty. No rewards other than a lot of jumping up and down and clapping!

Thanks to everyone for such great, tried-and-true advice!

A Day in the Life. . .

I always find it interesting to peek behind the curtain at how other moms manage their busy schedules to see what tips and tricks I can pick up to help me improve my balancing act.  So I figured I would pay it forward and share my day with you. I don’t pretend that my life is half as exciting as Gwyneth Paltrow’s. . . just a normal working mom here, trying to get from day to day. If you’re interested in sharing a day in your life, shoot me an e-mail!

5:30 a.m.    Alarm goes off. . . immediately hit snooze (at least three times). Finally roll out of bed cursing the fact that I stayed up too late the night before (again).

6:45 a.m.    Showered, dressed, and ready to go, I hear Olivia yelling “Mommy!” at the top of her lungs and drop kicking her toys out of her crib. When I go into her room, she announces that she has pretty pigtails, which are really two gigantic knots on either side of her head. Great.

6:50 a.m.    Spend at least 5 minutes arguing with a 2-year-old about why she does, in fact, have to wear pants to daycare because, among other things, it’s 40° outside. I switch gears and tackle the knots, thinking this will distract her from the pants issue. Wrong. So wrong. She might win the award for the earliest tantrum of the day.

7:35 a.m.   Olivia decides pants are acceptable and we’re out the door, but only after pulling out every winter hat before we found one that wasn’t itchy, too small, or “scary.” I realize halfway to daycare that, while I made sure to grab all of Olivia’s stuff, I walked out of the house with no coffee, no breakfast, and no lunch. Awesome. Guess it’s a McDonald’s morning, because our Starbucks doesn’t have a drive thru and I have no patience left to get out of the car.

8:40 a.m.    Make it to work and jump right in. I don’t have a single meeting all day, which is a minor miracle. I may actually get some stuff crossed off my list today, woo hoo! Blah blah blah work. For lunch, I run down to the cafe to get a Reuben and scarf it down at my desk while editing some copy. Blah blah more work.

5:05 p.m.    I’m out! Have to stop at the dry cleaners on the way home to pick up our clothes, which puts me a bit behind.

6:15 p.m.    Walk in the door and immediately get tackled by a blur of pink and pigtails. I throw my stuff down, kiss my hellos, then it’s time to throw dinner together. Luckily, my husband is awesome and he’s already started prepping. I write out the menu for the week every Sunday on a chalkboard in our kitchen so there’s never a question as to what is for dinner- this also helps me shop smart and only buy what I need. Tonight it’s pork tacos – YUM! We’re able to sit down to eat at 6:45 p.m., just 15 minutes behind our normal schedule. I’m so thankful tonight isn’t my Pilates class, so I get a few minutes to play with Olivia, color, and snuggle instead of rushing out the door.

7:30 p.m.    Bedtime for bonzo! We troop upstairs to brush teeth, take vitamins, and wrestle our little fish into a clean diaper and jammies. If possible, my husband and I always tag team bedtime to make it go faster. We do bath time every other night to help Olivia’s eczema, so we get lucky tonight (no bath!). Time for a quick bedtime story. Thank you, Sandra Boynton, for your super short books, but you will have to explain to me why the animals take a bath, put on pajamas. . . and then go work out. Makes no sense.

8:50 p.m.    Dishes are done, lunches are packed, laundry is in. Ahhhhhhh . . . I get to sit down! With wine!! I spend the next hour and a half checking e-mail, catching up on Facebook/Twitter, doing blog research, writing, watching the last episode of New Girl, etc.

10:30 p.m.  I climb into bed fully intending to be asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow.

11:25 p.m.    Damn you Daily Show. Better turn off the TV so I have half a prayer of getting up on time tomorrow.

Butternut Squash and Mushroom Tart with Gruyère

The November 2012 issue of Cooking Light was all about the best recipes of the past 25 years. So when I saw this Butternut Squash and Mushroom Tart, I knew it was worth a try. I ended up making a lot of changes to the recipe (see notes below), either because I was being cheap or I thought I had ingredients I didn’t or I just plain didn’t read the directions closely enough. On that note, I highly recommend reading through ALL of the directions before you get started. My attempt played out like a comedy of errors, but the end result was still amazing!

Butternut Squash and Mushroom Tart with Gruyère
Cooking Light, November 2012


5.6 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons)
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons ice water
Cooking spray

3 cups precubed peeled butternut squash
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
¾ cup prechopped onion
2.5 ounces aged Gruyère cheese, shredded and divided (about 2/3 cup)
2 large eggs
½ teaspoon kosher salt, divided
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 ½ ounces prechopped pancetta
5 ounces presliced shiitake mushroom caps
¼ cup dry white wine

**My changes: I used gouda instead of gruyère cheese because it’s easier to find and cheaper. I also used a blend of shiitake and portabella mushrooms (about 3 oz shiitake and 2 oz portabella). Instead of pancetta, which I couldn’t find at our grocery store, I used bacon. I didn’t have an onion, but I did (randomly) have a shallot, so I used that instead. My grocery store also didn’t have prepeeled and chopped squash, so I just bought a whole, medium-sized one.

I also clearly did not read the directions first, because I roasted my squash for 45 minutes in the oven and then scooped out the flesh and ran it through the food processor until it was smooth. So when I got to step three below, I basically just put the squash in the pan long enough to mix it with the shallot since it was already cooked. While it wasn’t according to the recipe, the filling did have a velvety smooth texture that I am not sure would have been achieved by following the directions.


  1. Preheat oven to 425°.
  2. To prepare crust, weigh or lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup and spoons; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 3 ingredients (through baking powder) in a food processor; pulse 2 times or until combined. Combine ¼ cup oil and 3 tablespoons ice water in a small bowl. With processor on, slowly add oil mixture through food chute, and process until dough is crumbly. Sprinkle dough into a 9-inch pie plate coated with cooking spray. Quickly press dough into an even layer in bottom and up sides of pie plate. Place crust into preheating oven, and bake for 10 minutes.
  3. To prepare filling, place squash in food processor (do not clean from dough), and process for 1 minute or until squash is finely chopped. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add squash and onion to pan; sauté for 9 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. While squash cooks, combine half of cheese (about ⅓ cup), eggs, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper in a large bowl; stir in squash mixture. Remove crust from oven; spoon squash mixture over crust, and spread evenly. Return tart to 425° oven; bake 9 minutes.
  5. Return pan to medium-high heat. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add pancetta; cook 1 minute or until beginning to brown. Add mushrooms; cook for 7 minutes or until browned. Stir in remaining ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Add wine; cook 1 minute or until liquid almost evaporates. Remove tart from oven. Arrange the mushroom mixture evenly over top of tart; sprinkle with the remaining ⅓ cup cheese. Return tart to 425° oven. Bake 3 to 5 minutes or until cheese melts.

Unique and Funky Prints for your Nursery

I am loving these prints by giclee artist Juri Romanov. His Etsy shop, Orange Optimist, is chock full of little gems like the ones below. The prints are sophisticated and whimsical at the same time and would look awesome in a nursery, child’s room. . . heck, I’d put them in my dining room!

London print, $45

Hippo print, $60

Owl print, $45

Hot Air Balloon print, $45

Elephant print, $60

Whale Print, $45