Thursday, December 30, 2010

Peppermint Whoopie Pies

I remember last December as just being extremely busy. We moved into our townhouse and then a few weeks later the holidays hit and in January we had our housewarming party. That party was easy in terms of hosting – chips, store-bought dip, veggies, and some appetizers from Trader Joe’s.

Comparing last year’s party to the holiday one we had a few weeks ago in terms of the food we served is pretty different. This year I went all out and probably shouldn’t have bought half the stuff I did and then attempt to make it all. Most of it did get eaten, don’t get me wrong, it’s just that I can’t use parties as an excuse to try a bunch of new recipes at once. I need to make an appetizer for dinner one night for the two of us to share or maybe bring something to a friend’s on the weekend if we hang out. This will be way more cost-effective in the long-run :)

Anyways, back to the party and the recipes I tried out. My favorite was the Peppermint Whoopie Pies, though Hubby is not a fan of minty flavored stuff. I LOVE anything mint so I was pretty excited to try these out. Chocolate + peppermint + some fun sprinkles = a good time

Randoms 166

I got this recipe from one of my favorite food blog – The Girl Who Ate Everything. I love love love her recipes – they’re not too difficult, don’t use a lot of weird ingredients, and each one I’ve tried has come out pretty close to perfect. I followed her recipe almost exactly, but added another teaspoon of peppermint extract to make the frosting extra minty.

I call them whoopie pies because they are quite large…they’re definitely not oreo-sized. You will be full after having just one of these things, trust me! I guess for next time I will make the cookies a little smaller and try flattening them a little more so they’re thinner. Technically they are not soft like whoopie pies typically are but you get the idea.

Also – I will definitely put the frosting in the fridge for 20-30 minutes to let it thicken a little before frosting the cookies. It was slightly soupy (but that could be because I ran out of confectioner’s sugar and was about 3/4 of a cup short), and I think it would be easier to assemble them if the frosting is slightly thicker. All in all, a great holiday dessert – received lots of compliments on them so I will definitely be making them again next year!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

DIY Christmas Decorations - JOY Letters

A popular DIY project that a lot of the wedding blogs I follow(ed) was decorating wooden letters to display on the cake table or another spot where the guestbook would be. I didn't do this project mostly because I just had so much other stuff to do, but I do wish I had done something to decorate the tables a little more.

Like this is cute and simple:


Or for the cake table...


Do you think Hubby would let me hang these in our room?


I'm running out of wall space in our living and dining rooms or else I would try to think of a word to spell out in letters. For Christmas decorations, I do move a few things around, so I figured I would have enough room to hang a holiday type of word on the wall above our fireplace.

I decided on "Joy" since it's only 3 letters :) This was another really easy project - cost was about $5 for the three wooden letters and paint. I bought everything at Michael's and luckily their paints were on sale. I went with a champagne off-white and then a gold metallic.

Basically you just need to paint each letter whatever color you prefer and wait about 30-45 minutes between coats. I did 3 coats on each letter. To hang them on the wall, I used those 3M strips since they haven't ruined one of my walls yet (knock on wood)!

I like these so much I may just have to move some wall decorations around to make room for a year-round word...

DIY Christmas Decorations - Ribbon Tree

I have a love/hate relationship with in some weeks I love it and some weeks I hate it. I'm watching it now and typing during commercials and I don't think I'm digging this repeat episode. Anyways...

This is another DIY holiday decoration I made for this year. This one was SUPER easy and was perfect for my craft-OCD-ness because you can re-arrange the ribbons by pinning them onto the cone instead of gluing them permanently.

Here's where I found the inspiration and the instructions on how to make it.

I think it cost about $5 to make this one because I didn't add a circular base bottom. Also, the cone I found at the Dollar Tree is a little smaller so I didn't need as many layers of ribbon to cover it. The ribbon I found at JoAnne's goes perfectly with our gold/red/silver theme that coordinates with the rest of our decorations.

Ugh how is it only Tuesday?!

Monday, December 27, 2010

DIY Christmas Decorations - Peppermint Candy Tree

I suppose I should have posted these DIY crafts before Christmas, but things got a little busy in mid-December. Better late than never!

I honestly can't remember Remove Formatting from selectionwhere I found the inspiration picture for the peppermint candy tree - it was probably from I Heart Naptime - I hate not giving credit but I really can't find the source!

This tree is pretty easy to make, as long as you are not as OCD with crafting as I am ;) I am a bit of a perfectionist so I made the tree, decided I wasn't happy with it and then re-did it...but you can probably make a very nice tree on the first try!

Here are the materials you will need:
- A styrofoam cone from the Dollar Tree - $1
- A styrofoam circular base from the Dollar Tree - $1
- Lots of peppermint swirls! About 2 bags worth from the Dollar Tree - $2
- Ribbon that's about an inch wide (to cover the edge of the circular base) - I bought my ribbon from JoAnn's - $2
- A star sprig from the craft store (bought mine at JoAnn's for about $0.60)
- Red spraypaint - I bought some cheap stuff at Walmart - $2
- Hot glue guns and sticks

Total for materials...about $9 assuming you already have a hot glue gun and glue sticks

And here's what you need to do to make the tree:
1) First spraypaint the cone and circular base completely. Let dry and do a second coat if needed.
2) After the circular base is dry, cut a piece of ribbon so that it goes around the edge of the circular base. Glue the ribbon to the edge of the base and cut off any unnecessary ribbon.
3) Glue the bottom of the cone to one side of the circular base and place in the middle of the base so it's centered.
3) Start gluing peppermint swirls at the bottom of the cone layer by layer. Try to place them as close to one another as possible.
4) As you continue to glue the swirls and move up the cone, you may not have enough space to do a complete row of swirls and then have leftover space. I would try to smash a swirl in half to stick in the open space. The other option is to just leave the space blank and try to line up the open spaces in the back.
5) Towards the top you will only have enough room for a layer of 3 or 4 swirls. I tried to stagger them so they covered the point of the cone.
6) Glue a layer of swirls on top of the circular base surrounding the cone.
7) Finish the tree by sticking the star swag into the top of cone (carefully poke it in so the cone doesn't break).
8) You're done! Now it's time to figure out where to put your tree :)

What I had changed from my first try to my second try:
- I wasn't completely happy with my first tree because of some of the open spaces when there wasn't enough room to put another swirl. I learned the second time to line up the open spaces in the back because no one can see them when you position the tree correctly. If you are planning to put the tree in a spot where you can see it from all angles, this may not work for you.
- I did not spraypaint my first attempt - so when I finished, I wasn't happy with all the white space between some of the swirls. Spraypainting the cone and base red helped to make the spaces less noticable.

Pretty easy project - took about 90 minutes total including drying time. And it also smells good if you get close enough to it!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Merry Christmas!

courtesy of Shutterfly

Hopefully Santa was good to you this year! I already spent half my gift cards at the mall this morning before Blizzard 2010 hit :)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Our "Warm" Little Getaway

We have close friends that moved to Orlando earlier this year, so of course we were excited to visit them.  I mean, seriously, who doesn't love Florida?  We started looking for flights a few months ago and decided to focus on traveling during the winter months.  We went to Tampa in August a few years ago and it was hot...and humid...very, very humid (duh).  We figured traveling to the south during the winter would be a good change. 

We toyed with the idea of doing New Year's in Florida but that would have meant no Christmas presents this year for the two of us since the flights were really expensive.  The past couple years we've bought things for the house (last year was our king bed), so this year I was looking forward to actually buying things for each other.  We looked at flights in early November and early to mid December, and eventually the pricing went down for December.  We found Jet Blue rates that were pretty decent and best part = non-stop flights.  I have turned into such a travel snob and I would rather pay the extra money to not have to deal with a layover.  Flying is such a hassle to begin with; why spend a few extra hours and frustration in a random airport when you're trying to either get to your destination you're excited to explore or when you're on your way back and you just want to be home.

I checked the weather a couple times right before we left and it was 60's and 70's in Orlando.  I figured that was close to spring weather for us New Englanders so I packed sundresses, flip-flops, skirts, t-shirts, and a few cardigans and light sweaters. 


It was freaking cold in Florida.  Monday was miserable because of the wind chill.  We went to City Walk at Universal Studios and we just looked like complete touristy idiots compared to everyone else, who were dressed in jackets, mittens, and hats.  One employee even asked where we were from, probably just to mock us.  We warmed up in Margaritaville but I wasn't in the mood to go anywhere else afterwards since I only had my cardigan with me at that point.

Other than that, we had a really good time.  It was awesome to just get away for a few days and then come back to a short week of work.  I only wished our friends lived closer to us, as I think we would hang out with them all the time! 

Some highlights of the trip...
- visited the Orlando Brewery.  It was a little sketchy at first but ended up okay :)  Beer was's organic, which is cool, but I didn't think they had much flavor.
- visited Downtown Disney
- spent one full day at Epcot.  I have been there a few times now and I think it's my favorite Disney park.  I love all the countries, the ride Soaring, and how it's not so focused on the kids. 
- played Pirate's Cove mini golf...we were in and out in like 20 minutes because we were the only ones playing...wonder why?  Oh yes, the wind chill!
- went to the outlets and OH MY GOD they had a New York & Company outlet!!!  It's just like the regular stores, but everything is at least 30% off.

Here are some pics from our trip...

Some chocolate covered/caramel apples at Downtown Disney

A very sparkly crystal castle that was on sale at Epcot...look closely, the price tag is $37,000!!!!

Us in front of the big Christmas tree at Epcot

This made me sad as to how chubby my cheeks have's definitely time to lose the post-wedding 15

PJ was our substitute kitty for the weekend

"Off to See the Lizard" margarita at Margaritaville

Tomorrow's "Friday" - hooray!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Hint, hint...

For the hubs...just so you know the right style this time ;-)  I know you try!

And oh my god I should not have gone to Vera's site.  I just found out some of my favorite patterns are retiring = ON SALE!  I'm really considering getting this now...

Yeah, that's a baby's not like we don't have any room to store it, we have more than enough closets in this place.  But it would probably end up jinxing me and we are not ready for little ones any time soon, although I'm sure Aunty Hil would be just overjoyed if it happened sooner than later :-)  Moving on...

I also loveeeeee this one...I could use a nice clutch.  I was always afraid to get this pattern in a larger print because it's base is white and I figured it would get dirty very quickly.  But if I get the clutch, then I won't be using it nearly as often so hopefully it would stay cleaner longer.

Okay, that's enough Vera for now.  Hopefully I get some moolah for Christmas this year or maybe I'll just be buying myself some presents after I get paid this week!

Friday, December 17, 2010

It's Friday...let's have a drink!

Hopefully this weekend I can catch up with some posts on our trip to Florida, but for now it's let's have a drink!

On a side note, we went to Ruby Tuesday's tonight and I asked for a pomegranate margarita and somehow ended up with a pomegranate saki martini...don't ask.  It was okay but definitely not my favorite.  I'm just not a martini girl. 

Before Ruby's we went to the local packy to find a "wintery" beer so I have something to drink for our holiday party tomorrow night.  I ended up getting Harpoon Winter Warmer and I'll probably do a post on that eventually, but today I am focusing on one of our favorite beers of all time...

Sea Dog Blue Paw Wheat Ale

We kept passing this in the cooler section and then saw 12 packs, as well, and this made me think of our wedding, weekend trips in Maine, and warmer weather :-)  

I can't remember how I fell in love with Sea Dog Blue could have been when we went up to Maine for a weekend once.  Almost every time we go to Portland, we hit up the Shipyard Brewing Company tour so I'm guessing I tried the Blue Paw then, since they bottle Sea Dog in the same warehouse as Shipyard beers.

Blue Paw is best on draft and is perfect with a handful of fresh blueberries.  It's a light ale and something I recommend to friends and co-workers who don't drink a lot of beer.  Fruity beers are usually the way to go if you're not a big beer drinker and you just can't go wrong with Blue Paw. 

This was of course one of the beers we asked our wedding site to have in the bar for us.  Here's a picture of me chugging one down inbetween posing for formal pictures.  Yup, I'm pretty classy.

personal picture from one of our guests

The last weekend we spend in Maine was this past Labor Day and we visited the Sea Dog Microbrewery Restaurant in South Portland.  I highly recommend going there for a casual meal - they have a lot of their Sea Dog beers on tap (also try Raspberry - amazing!) and the food was great and inexpensive.  I remember having an open-faced turkey sandwich and it was like a mini Thanksgiving dinner.  I wish they had a restaurant closer to us, as I have a feeling we would be there every weekend. 

Happy Friday! 

Friday, December 10, 2010

It's Friday...let's have a drink!

For some reason I usually enjoy going out Friday nights instead of Saturday's just a good way to end the work week, which is usually crazy and non-stop.  Instead of going out tonight, we are staying in to pack as we are leaving for Florida way early tomorrow AM  for a few days (yay warm weather!).  I figured I would take a break from packing toiletries to think of something I can post each Friday to celebrate the end of the work week.

So at the end of each week, I'll be posting a drink recipe or review that we have either tried at home or a favorite drink we have had at a restaurant or bar.  This week's drink...

The Spider Cider Margarita

(I tried to find a picture of a real Spider Cider Margarita from the restaurant but Google gave me nothing...this is a random picture from the restaurant's website, but I can't be sure it;s an actual Spider Cider one as it wasn't labeled).  

We lovvveeee Margaritas.  They are a regional chain in New England and serve Mexican cuisine (duh).  We first started going whenever we were in Maine for a weekend trip.  Actually we had dinner at the Margaritas in Portland right before he proposed later that night.  They recently opened a restaurant close to us so we went last week for an early dinner after some Christmas shopping.

So they're a chain and probably not that authentic.  But Margaritas is one of the few Mexican restaurants that does not make me sick, which is why I enjoy going.  Their food is overall pretty decent.  They offer free chips and salsa.  And their margaritas are amazing...always delicious and made perfectly.

Their menu says they mix Tarantula Azul Tequila with Sour Apple schnapps to create the Spider Cider.  I feel like something else is in there, (probably some sour mix) but I guess that's all there is to it.  It's a little sour but not overwhelming.  I'm not a huge fan of apple-flavored drinks, but this does not bother me one bit.  It's most tasty served straight up on the rocks and the best is strong.  You can have one of these and get buzzed, so it's definitely worth the money. 

We did try making a cider type of margarita at home when I had a Lia Sophia party a few months ago, but it's definitely not the same recipe - Margarita's is simpler and has less ingredients.  I'm assuming you would do equal parts of the schnapps and tequila and then double the amount of the sour mix, but I'm no bartender ;-)

Happy Friday!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Meaning of Casita

You may be wondering about the title of my blog and thinking...okay, so what is a Casita? First let's take a look at the Dictionary's explaination

[kuh-see-tuh; Sp. kah-see-tah]
- noun, plural
1. a small crude dwelling forming part of a shantytown inhabited by Mexican laborers in the southwestern U.S.
2. a luxurious bungalow serving as private guest accommodations at a resort hotel, esp. in the southwestern U.S. or Mexico.

I'm not going to lie...#1 made me smirk. It's such a vast difference compared to #2, which is much more in line of what I was thinking the definition would be.
The room category we stayed in at our honeymoon resort, the El Dorado Casitas Royale, was officially called a Swim-Up Casita Suite. My straighforward explanation of a Casita is to compare it to an individual cottage. At the resort, it's much more than a basic hotel room - it's the size of a very large studio apartment. Here's a picture from the hotel's site, though it just doesn't do the Casita justice.

It's open and airy and you notice that as soon as you walk in. It's a ridiculous amount of room for 2 people sharing for a week. The slightly off-white walls and simple dark-wood furnishings give a very clean and crisp feeling. I suppose it's a little authentic with the wooden beams that are placed at the top of the ceiling and along the outside wall of the bathroom, though they are definitely for decoration and not for structure purposes.

One of my favorite parts of the room is the bed...(close second is the open-air outdoor shower). Of course it's an oversized king and it's the kind you have to literally climb into because it's set up slightly higher than what we're used to at home. I took many afternoon naps there after mammoth-sized lunches at the pizza bar or the Japanese restaurant :) The netting surrounding the bed is understated and romantic.

Personal Picture

We were so completely relaxed the entire time of our honeymoon...the biggest worry we had that week was what restaurant we wanted to make reservations at for dinner. Or if we were going to get one of the real coconut drinks before they ran out of the bar. Thinking of our casita suite and our amazing re-coup week after the wedding is a memory I will cherish for a very long time, and I like to think that we are still living in our version of a Casita suite now.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Here's to New Beginnings


So 2010 is almost over (where did October and November go???) and the end of the year always leads to pondering New Year's resolutions. I haven't been serious about making/keeping resolutions in the past, as I didn't get why you couldn't just start a resolution at any time in the year. Well now I'm jumping on the bandwagon a few weeks early and figure it's better late than never to start a new hobby.

I regret not blogging about planning the wedding as I think it would have been a lot of fun to look back on the posts now that it's been over 6 months since the wedding (!) I'm still obsessed with visiting wedding blogs each night I get home from work but I am starting to progress a little into the food blogging community now. All of this blog stalking has inspired me to finally start my own.

The purpose of this will be a way to keep track of all my DIY stuff, the new recipes I am trying out and other random stuff relating to the house and marriage. And it doesn't hurt finally using my English degree for something as I do miss writing papers a little...but only a little :)

Enjoy the ride with me at Our Little Casita!