Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas! all of my wonderful readers!  

I hope that all of you are having a terrific holiday break, spending it with the ones who mean the most to you! I am so grateful for this break. I plan on spending a lot of time with my family and friends; rejuvenating my mind & spirit before the New Year. 

I'm sure I'll be back soon{ish} to update with pictures & stories of my adventures.

Until then, I wish each and every one of you joy and happiness this holiday season!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Thursday's Thoughts

  • Only 3 days until Christmas!
  • I have a ton of laundry to do so I can pack for my vacation. I'm going to be in two different climates - warm & cold - during my trip and that's caused me to get out some summer clothes from storage. Keep in mind that I'll have ONE carry on for a 17 day vacation!! ONE! I have a feeling I'll be packing and repacking right until I leave for the airport.
  • I hope that everyone enjoyed the edible gift ideas I posted over the last couple of weeks. I really do love giving these types of gifts, especially to co-workers because it's an affordable way to include everyone. Plus, it's fun to be in the kitchen (with the exception of doing the dishes)!
  • I added a few decorations to my mantle. Since we aren't going to be here for Christmas we didn't bother with a tree. I added some of my favorite ornaments to the mantle along with some of the cards I've received (thank you, Janna!). I bought the banner at Michael's last year (Paula Deen's brand) and finally got around to putting it together.
  • My brother & his family recently moved to Dallas. I received the coolest Christmas present from them - an assortment of unique Texas items, like salsa and chewy pralines.

  • This is the Christmas tree that C's parents have at their house. Isn't it pretty?

Now tell me...are you ready for Christmas?!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Treats: Idea #5

Thanks to Laur over at Sweets & Treats, I was inspired to try my hand at truffles. I am not fond of cake balls or truffles because they are too much work! Every time I've tried to make something like this, they turn out so ugly. But I think I've figured out the perfect dipping technique this time and I was really happy with the finished product!

This "recipe" has been all over the internet and it couldn't be easier.

Oreo Truffles
1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
1 package Oreo's, crushed finely (reserve a handful of crushed Oreo's for topping)
Milk chocolate, for melting & dipping
Crushed Oreo's for topping
Red candy melts, melted for topping, optional

Mix cream cheese and crushed Oreo's until well blended.

Shape into 1 inch balls. At this point, I recommend freezing for at least 1 hour before dipping in chocolate.

Melt chocolate and a little bit of vegetable oil using the defrost setting on your microwave.

Dip in melted chocolate and top with reserved Oreo's. I also used red candy melts and drizzled it on top of half of the truffles.

Chill truffles again until chocolate is completely hardened. Place completed truffles in mini foil liners and store in the refrigerator.

My dipping technique: roll truffle around in the melted chocolate until completely covered. Pick up by the flat side of the truffle (the bottom that was resting on the baking sheet) with a fork, and tap the excess chocolate from the truffle. Using another fork, transfer the covered chocolate truffle onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Since the truffles are really cold, the chocolate will harden quickly so if you are using the cookie crumbs, make sure to get them on right away so they'll stick.

By the way, of all of the treats I took into work, these were the most popular! Everyone loved them and couldn't believe that they were homemade. After I figured out my dipping technique, these were also quite easy to do. Give it a try!

This is the last day of edible gift ideas. To see my other ideas, follow these links:

I hope you enjoyed these recipes!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Treats: Idea #4

I wish I had invented this Santa Hat Party Mix! It is too stinkin' cute! Shelly over at Cookies & Cups is the creative mastermind behind this clever holiday treat (see the original recipe here). I knew that I wanted to create an edible gift using cute Chinese take-out style boxes for the packaging, and this mix was perfect for that kind of packaging.

Santa Hat Party Mix (recipe created by Cookies & Cups)
Bugles (Caramel flavor, if you can find them)
Red candy melts
Mini marshmallows
White sprinkles

3 cups mini pretzels
1/2 cup craisins
1 cup salted dry roasted peanuts
2 cups Chex cereal
2 cups holiday colored M&M's
8 oz. white chocolate, for melting

To make Santa Hats: Melt the candy melts, along with a tablespoon of shortening, in 30 second intervals on half power in your microwave. Immediately dip the Bugles in the melted candy melts, and let them set up for 10 minutes on parchment paper or wax paper. When they are set, remelt the candy melts and dip just the bottoms into the white sprinkles. Flip the Bugle over, dip the top in melted candy and press a mini marshmallow on top.

For the mix: Spread all ingredients, except for the M&M's, on a baking sheet lined with parchment or wax paper. Melt your white chocolate according to package directions and drizzle over the pretzel mix. Transfer into a large bowl and coat the entire mix with chocolate. Return to baking sheet and allow to dry. Once the chocolate is set, sprinkle M&M's and Santa Hat's over the mix. 

Note: Bugles are almost impossible to find here in California! I finally got them at Wal-Mart.

To gift these, I put a good amount of mix into a plastic treat bag, tied it with ribbon, and then used a festive take-out style box to present the whole thing! You can forego to the take-out style box for easier packaging, but I think it really makes for a cute gift! 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas Treats: Idea #3

Everyone loves a good "chewy on the inside, crisp on the outside" cookie. These gingersnap cookies were very easy to make and my whole apartment smelled like Christmas! This is a good recipe to have in your arsenal for the holiday season. Enjoy!

Grandma's Gingersnap Cookies (not my Grandma, but someone else's...)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup shortening (I substituted with unsalted butter)
1 cup white sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup dark molasses
1/3 cup cinnamon sugar (white sugar + cinnamon)

Preheat oven to 350°.

Sift the four, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt into a mixing bowl. Stir the mixture to blend evenly, and sift a second time into another bowl.

Place the shortening (or butter) into a mixing bowl and beat until creamy. Gradually beat in the white sugar. Beat in the egg and dark molasses. Sift 1/3 of the flour mixture into the shortening mixture; stir to thoroughly blend. Sift in the remaining flour mixture, and mix together until a soft dough forms. Pinch off small amounts of dough and roll into 1 inch diameter balls between your hands. Roll each ball in cinnamon sugar, and place 2 inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet.

Bake in the oven until tops are rounds and slightly cracked, about 10 minutes. Cool cookies on a wire rack.

Note: This recipe is absolutely delicious and very easy to put together! I had to go to a few different stores to find the dark molasses, but finally found it at Von's near the corn syrup. All of the other ingredients are things you probably already have in your pantry.

To gift these, I found cute round holiday tins at Michael's ($1.00 each) that fit 3 cookies each. I also packaged them by putting 2 cookies in a clear plastic treat bag with a little bit of shredded red & green filler paper.

Friday, December 16, 2011


Thank goodness it's Friday! I don't know about you guys but this week was rough. Next week is the last full week of work before my vacation starts so I'm hoping it goes by fast. I can't wait to get home and get my holidays started. Today was also payday and I'm going to treat myself to a massage at some point this weekend. One of the greatest things I have found in LA is the $20 1-hour massage from the Chinese foot reflexology place - they are amazing!!

Anyway, my mom sent me this funny e-mail earlier this week and I thought I'd share it here on the blog! I hope it makes you laugh today! Happy weekend, folks!

Holiday Eating Tips

1.  Avoid carrot sticks.  Anyone who puts carrots on a holiday buffet table knows nothing of the Holiday spirit.  In fact, if you see carrots, leave immediately.  Go next door, where they're serving rum balls.

2. Drink as much eggnog as you can.  And quickly.  It's rare...You cannot find it any other time of year but now.  So drink up!  Who cares that it has 10,000 calories in every sip?  It's not as if you're going to turn into an eggnog-alcoholic or something.  It's a treat.  Enjoy it.  Have one for me.  Have two.  It's later than you think.  It's Christmas!

3. If something comes with gravy, use it.  That's the whole point of gravy.  Gravy does not stand alone.  Pour it on.  Make a volcano out of your mashed potatoes.  Fill it with gravy.  Eat the volcano.  Repeat.

4. As for mashed potatoes, always ask if they're made with skim milk or whole milk.  If it's skim, pass.
 Why bother?  It's like buying a sports car with an automatic transmission.

5. Do not have a snack before going to a party in an effort to control your eating.  The whole point of going to a Holiday party is to eat other people's food for free.  Lots of it.  Hello?

6. Under no circumstances should you exercise between now and New Year's.  You can do that in January when you have nothing else to do. This is the time for long naps, which you'll need after circling the buffet table while carrying a 10-pound plate of food and that vat of eggnog.

7. If you come across something really good at a buffet table, like frosted Christmas cookies in the shape and size of Santa, position yourself near them and don't budge.  Have as many as you can before becoming the center of attention.  They're like a beautiful pair of shoes.  If you leave them behind, you're never going to see them again.

8. Same for pies. Apple, Pumpkin, Mincemeat.  Have a slice of each.  Or if you don't like mincemeat, have two apples and one pumpkin.  Always have three.  When else do you get to have more than one dessert? Labor Day?

9. Did someone mention fruitcake?  Granted, it's loaded with the mandatory celebratory calories, but avoid it at all cost.  I mean, have some standards.

One final tip: If you don't feel terrible when you leave the party or get up from the table, you haven't been paying attention.  Re-read tips; start over, but hurry, January is just around the corner.  Remember this motto to live by:

"Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate and wine in one hand, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming "WOO HOO what a ride!"

Thursday, December 15, 2011


I'm linking up today with Jenn from Perfectly Imperfect, to share what is on my "Currently...." list. (PS - Two more edible gift ideas to come early next week, I promise! I have not been motivated enough to get in the kitchen this week and finish up so I'll have to do it this weekend.)

Current Book
I am actually not reading anything new at the moment. Come to think of it, I haven't even finished The Help yet. I was really into it, but got sidetracked when I traveled home for Jenny's wedding. I will have to try to finish it on the plane when I go home for Christmas!

Current Color
We'll go with the color boots I'm wearing today, which would be brown. I haven't had a manicure in who knows how long, but it's definitely on my list of things to do before I go home for Christmas. I'm thinking I'll go with a bright red color for the holidays!

Current Drink
Water. I haven't been visiting Starbucks very often lately, and my wallet thanks me.

Current Food
Trader Joe's Yogurt & Granola.

Current Favorite Show
Homeland is amazeballs. So good.

Current Needs
A vacation. Which I have coming up in 8 days!

Current Triumphs
Deciding on Christmas presents for both Mom & Dad. Woo hoo!
(Don't forget to check out Free Shipping Friday!)

Current Bane (s) of my Existence
My car's front tire has a slow leak. I am dreading the day that it dies altogether. A logical person would buy a replacement tire, but until the money fairy visits, I am unable to do so.

Current Celebrity Crush
Steve McGarrett...oh, I mean Alex O'Loughlin, from Hawaii Five-0.

Current #1 Blessing

Current Indulgence
All of the sweets & treats that are being brought into work for the holidays!
Cookies, chocolate, candy...

Current Outfit
My go-to during winter here in California - leggings, long sweater, & boots.

Current Excitement
Watching the Patriots/Broncos game this Sunday.
{Pats better not get "tebowed" or else...just sayin'}

Current Mood

Current Favorite Holiday Decoration
The little pink tree in my office.

Current #1 Item on my Wishlist
iPad...pretty, pretty, pretty please!

Current New Year's Resolution
I haven't gotten that will probably be the same things as last year - lose weight, take more pictures, and pay off my bills.

Feel free to play along & link up with Jenn!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Free Shipping Friday

I still have a couple of edible gift ideas to share with you, but I wanted to make sure that everyone is aware of this week's Free Shipping Friday. If you click the link, you will be taken to a website listing over 2,000 online merchants that will be offering free shipping on Friday, December 16th only, with guaranteed delivery by Christmas Eve (keep in mind that some stores may require a minimum purchase)! If you have any remaining Christmas shopping to do (let's face it, I haven't even started!) this is a great incentive to do your shopping online this year.

Here are just a few of the many merchants participating:

I recently sent Shari's Berries strawberries as a birthday gift, 
and they were very well-received! 

Basically every store you can think of is participating, along with quite a few etsy & ebay sellers! Be sure to check out the current list of participating merchants here (full list will be revealed at 12:00 am EST 12/16). Happy shopping!

(Thank you Mrs. Jansson, for posting about this amazing deal!)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas Treats: Idea #2

Peppermint Bark

12 ounces milk chocolate chips
12 ounces white chocolate chips
1 tablespoon melted shortening (or vegetable oil)
1 cup chopped peppermint candies

Melt milk chocolate in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds. Stir in melted shortening (or vegetable oil) until smooth. Spread melted chocolate on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and place in the freezer to harden, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, melt white chocolate in the microwave, using the same procedure as the milk chocolate. Spread melted white chocolate on top of the hardened milk chocolate and sprinkle with the chopped peppermint candies. Let harden again; break into pieces.

To gift, I used a mason jar ($1.99 for the smooth jars at Michael's) and stacked up broken pieces of the bark inside then just tie festive ribbon on the outside of the jar! You could also use plastic treat bags if you don't want to buy a lot of jars.

These polka dotted treat bags are from the dollar section at Target.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas Treats: Idea #1

Christmas is only 13 days away!

For the next few days, I will be sharing some ideas for edible gifts for your friends and family. Everyone loves to eat, especially during the holiday season, so these ideas are going to be perfect for anyone on your list. This is a great way to stay on budget but still make everyone around you feel special! Also, all of the recipes I'm going to share are perfect for packing up and sending off to a loved one that may be far away.

When it comes to edible gifts, taste & presentation are key! (Note: If you are shipping treats to someone, be sure to package your items securely using bubble wrap, old newspaper, tupperware containers, etc. so that your baked goods won't move around too much in transit.)

Saltine Toffee
16 saltine crackers
1 stick butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white granulated sugar

1 cup milk chocolate chips
Chopped pecans

Lay crackers in a foil-lined 8-inch square pan. Boil butter and sugars, stirring, 3 minutes; pour over the crackers. Bake at 375° for 5 minutes. Top with chocolate chips; bake 1 more minute, then spread the chocolate evenly. Sprinkle with chopped pecans. Chill, then cut into squares.

(Note: I very easily doubled the recipe and all of the measurements worked out fine.)

To gift these, put squares in a clear plastic treat bag. Tie with festive ribbon and attach a gift tag.

I found this plastic jar in the dollar section at Target.

I used plastic treat bags and ribbon to package the remaining treats.

All ready to give out to my friends!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Christmas Wish List

My sweet friend Mags of The Fancy Pants recently featured my Santa List - the top 5 things I want for Christmas if money were not an issue! I had fun putting my list together and I'd love for you guys to check it out here.

Of course this got me thinking about what I would like to get for Christmas. I'm not expecting anything as my parents have gifted me numerous times throughout the year(s), helping pay my bills, flying me home for my best friend's wedding, and the list goes on & on. Truth be told, I am hard-pressed to think of any material things I'd like to have because the most important thing to me is trying to keep up with my current financial responsibilities and become debt-free in 2012.

However, it's tradition to create a list of wants (definitely not needs) so even though I expect none of these, it's still fun to share! I'd love to hear what is on your Christmas list as well!

Yes, the iPad 2 was also on my other wish list, but that just means I really, really, really want it! I wonder if I really even need an iPad 2, but then the commercials always convince me that I do. I already have an iPhone, and Chris has a lovely MacBook Pro that is fully-functional. Why in the world would we need to add a tablet to the mix??! BECAUSE! I have no real reason to back this up other than the simple fact that iPad's are cool. And portable. And it has a bigger screen than an iPhone so I will be able to see those Angry Birds a lot more easily. Sounds perfectly reasonable to me.

I always pick this up when I walk into Anthropologie, but for some reason I haven't bought it yet. I think it's an adorable & functional way to store eggs in the refrigerator. It definitely has more eye appeal than a cardboard carton!

I love taking pictures and I love having a real camera, other than the one on my phone. This one looks awesome! I need it.

I saw this book recently at Target and it looks so cute! I love their show on TLC so I know that I'd like their book as well. It has all sorts of personal stories alongside numerous recipes. It looks like a good read!

What's on your Christmas wish list?

PS - Don't forget to enter my December giveaway!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

December Giveaway

Up for grabs this month is an adorable holiday cupcake kit from Williams-Sonoma! I'm also including a set of TAG napkins, the perfect addition to your own holiday party.

If you would like to be entered for a chance to win, simply leave a comment on this post letting me know one thing you are doing to make someone else's Christmas a little brighter. I'll draw a winner on December 14 so there should be plenty of time to make use of these items before Christmas rolls around. Good luck & as always, thanks for reading Sweet Tea Diaries!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thanksgiving Recap!

Chris & I had a fun time in Las Vegas for Thanksgiving! I only lost about $40 once it was all said and done so that turned out better than I thought it would. I have never been that lucky, except for the one time I hit jackpot on a $1 machine. Since our 5K was on Fremont Street, we stayed at the Golden Nugget for the night. It worked out perfectly because we were just a short walk from the starting line.

Here are some pictures from our first 5K. It went pretty much like I expected. I knew that I hadn't had enough time to train and that it was going to be hard. The first mile went by quickly, getting to the second mile was hard, and the last 1/2 mile was really hard. But I'm glad that I did it and even though my time sucked, I proved to myself that I could get through it. I would like to continue to train and have another opportunity to improve my time.

For the rest of our trip we stayed at our timeshare located behind the Flamingo on the strip (great location!). After checking in, we watched football and I took a little nap. I was shocked at Ndamakong Suh's blatant penalty during the Green Bay/Lions game. I have seen & heard of his "dirty" style of playing, and he certainly showcased that side of him during one of the biggest and most watched games of the season. I don't know how anyone could defend him (even Lions fans) especially after his insane press conference after the fact. Yikes. Chris had bet on the Miami game and since they lost by less than 7 points, he won $60 :)

We decided to have Thankgiving dinner at Wicked Spoon, a buffet located at The Cosmopolitan. Not surprisingly, everyone else had the same idea. We ended up getting in at around the 3 hour mark so we were both really hungry and I might have been getting a teensy bit cranky. Luckily, the buffet was definitely worth the wait and I would highly recommend it to anyone going to Las Vegas. I liked it because all of the food was served in individual dishes plus it was all really tasty. They also have a macaroni & cheese bar where you can add all sorts of ingredients to basic mac & cheese. Delicious!

The best thing about our hotel was that we were right on the strip. We explored all of the casinos, watched the Bellagio fountain show (one of my faves!), and were able to get everywhere we wanted to go on foot. The Flamingo has a wildlife habitat on the grounds. It's a nice break from the smoke-filled casinos.

Here are some other random pictures from our trip.

Burger from Le Burger Brasserie;
Scorpion bowl from our favorite place, the Peppermill;
Holiday decorations at our hotel;
Deep-dish pizza from Chicago Brewing Company

Yummy tacos from Tacos El Gordo;
Bellagio fountain show;
Craft beer from Tenaya Creek Brewery;
I found Donny (love him)!

On Sunday, I decided to bet on the Patriots to beat the Eagles by 4 points or more. Boy, was I nervous during the first quarter of that game. I couldn't believe we were down by 10 in less than 5 minutes. But thankfully, Tom Brady must have heard that I put a lot of money on him so he went to work and won the game for me! I ended up winning $160! I think that was a good way to end the trip!

That was my Thankgiving in a nutshell. Now it's time to get in the holiday spirit! Today is our annual holiday party at work so it's basically a free day. We are in the office until about 11:30 then we are heading over to Fleming's for free lunch and all the wine we can drink in a 3 hour time span. Sounds like fun!

I'm working my way through an overfilled Google Reader so hopefully you'll be seeing some comments from me soon. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Happy day before Thanksgiving! In keeping with tradition, I figured that today I would share a few of the many things I am thankful for. I give thanks everyday for the things in my life, but probably not often enough. It's so easy to get caught up in wanting things we do not have or not being satisfied with the things we do have.

a family that loves me
my friends that support me
Chris & his family
having a full-time job
a roof over my head
a car to drive
a bike to ride
Trader Joe's
my KitchenAid stand mixer
my blog friends
my freedom (& the heroes that protect it)
the world wide web :)
potato chips
gossip magazines
health insurance

(some are silly, some are serious, 
but i'm thankful for it all)

I hope that everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. If you are able to spend it with your own family, give them an extra hug. Chris & I wish that we could be home with our own families, but since we are going home for Christmas there just isn't enough vacation time. Las Vegas will be fun though (with the exception of the 5K, which I am pretty sure will not be fun AT ALL!).

Friday, November 18, 2011

Possible Christmas Gift Ideas

This is a random post, but I've come across some deals today, and I wanted to share! I have holiday shopping on the brain so I hope this helps some of you with your own gift-giving.

Mud Pie is at Zulily! This is another daily deal website geared more towards moms so the majority of deals are for kids items. But there are a good number of women's deals as well. There are some cute items from Mud Pie at discounted prices that would make great gifts (the sale ends 11/21 at 6am).

Click here for an invitation to this daily deal website.

Set of 3 Aluminum Water Bottles - $17.99

Set of 3 Photo Albums - $13.99

Lounge Pants & Boxer Set - $21.99

I'm really excited about this one. This weekend, Old Navy is having two 5 Hour Doorbuster Sales

Saturday, 11/19, from 12pm-5pm, all adult outerwear will be 75% off! 

Sunday, 11/20, from 12pm-5pm, all adult sweaters will be 75% off! 

This is a great deal and perfect time to stock up on some winter clothes or gifts for your family and friends! I love to give my girlfriends a nice sweater and add a cute scarf. This is a great way to keep it budget-friendly. Keep in mind that this sale excludes clearance items and is IN STORE only.

Click here to see more information on this deal. Also, visit Old Navy's Facebook page to print a $5 off $25 purchase.

Updated to Add

Mamapedia is a daily deal website for moms, but even if you are not a mom, there are usually some good deals that you will enjoy. I have purchased a Pro Flowers deal for Mother's Day and a voucher for a monogramming website as well. Currently, there is a $40 voucher to for only $20 (offer expires 11/23). This website sells a bunch of top brands like OPI, Burt's Bees, CoverGirl, and Sally Beauty products that would make good stocking stuffers or additions to gifts for your girlfriends.

Click here for an invitation to purchase this deal from via Mamapedia!

I hope everyone has a great weekend! We are taking it easy and getting in our last minute training sessions before the 5K on Thanksgiving! I'm so ready for a break from work so Las Vegas can't come soon enough.