City Chic 

 Ever have one of those insane weeks where all you can think come Friday all you can think is, “I need a drink”? I don’t even really drink except for on occasion in social settings and even I felt that way after this week. So yesterday my husband called me from work, told me he was getting off early, and instructed me to use that fancy app thing I have (it’s just open table, he’s not so tech savvy) to make reservations at our favorite restaurant in Winter Park, The Ravenous Pig, because he was taking me on a date.

So I picked out one of my Gwynnie Bee items that’s a little on the sexier side, I’d been saving it for a night like this.  

Before I hopped in the shower, I even made some fast pass reservations at Magic Kingdom for after dinner. I figured since we’d already be in Orlando and it’d been a while since we went, it would be a nice surprise for the butcher, who loves going to Disney World more than anyone I know. 

That’s something I really like about our relationship, we give and take. Last week my husband won first place in the weight loss competition they had going at his store. The competition came right around the time he decided to make some healthier life choices anyway, but being the fiercely competitive person that he is (still a good sport though, and always ready to cheer on the losing team) it gave him the extra boost he needed. After eight weeks of healthy eating, 20 mile bike rides, and lots of willpower, (working every day within smelling distance of the Publix bakery cannot be easy) he was down 34.4 lbs and won the contest by a mere .01% body mass index decrease!!! Everyone who entered the contest threw in 20 bucks so the prize was a nice little chunk of change. I know what I would have done with my prize money! But what did he do? He went to Sam’s Club and used his winnings to buy me two of the jumbo deck boxes I’d been wanting for storing our patio cushions, they had previously been stacked in our dining room and it was driving me nuts. Some guy huh? So the next day I got him a Fitbit (or magic exercise bracelet thingy as I call it…guess I’m not always that tech savvy either…) that he’d been wanting for a long time and was what he should have bought with his hard earned weight loss money to further him on his fitness journey. See, give and take. 

Just to give you a little more background info on my loving but somewhat impatient “photographer” husband…he basically just stands there taking a million pictures and I move around hoping at least one turns out good and then I sit poring over them to find that one suitable shot. Here’s what’s really happening in these three pictures… 

 

1. “I’m not ready why are you taking pictures already?”

2. Trying to look cute but really looking more like Bill Cosby in a Jello commercial…

3. “Ok take it already, I think this might be the money shot. Did you take it? It’s starting to rain!”

But sometimes the outtakes are actually good takes because they remind me of my favorite picture of my beautiful mama… 

 But this post was supposed to be about a dress, so let’s get back to it. I loved the way I looked and felt in this City Chic (hence the title of this entry) Frill Wrap Tunic Dress from Gwynnie Bee. It came with this great belt, (which looks silver but was actually gold) was comfy, and great for a romantic date night, even if that date got crashed by two of our besties, which actually made it even better! Plus, it transitioned perfectly when I threw on a polka dot headband and my Croc flip flops, I was Disney ready! Time for fireworks!  

Headband Forever 21 Lipstick Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick in Bella Dress City Chic Frill Wrap Tunic from Gwynnie Bee Gold hoop earrings from my own collection 

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A little love for the F to the L 

 Did you know that Florida was the 27th state? It’s ok, I didn’t either. It was admitted to the United States as a State on March 3, 1845. It’s now 170 years old, 58 years younger than the very first state, Deleware. The capital is Tallahassee and its nickname, as I’m sure you know, is the Sunshine State! Florida’s state flower is the orange blossom which also produces delicious orange blossom honey! 

There’s a ton of water in Florida, with 7,700 lakes greater than 10 acres, 33 natural springs (which is greater than any other state btw), and approximately 4,500 islands greater than 10 acres, with 663 miles of beach! 

There are a ton of other facts I could give you, like how many senate districts there are, or the number of counties, bla bla bla. But this is my blog so instead I’m going to give you some facts/reasons that I love Florida….

Whether you are enjoying the crystal clear water and relaxing atmosphere of the Florida Keys, catching a ball game or off sailing in St. Petersburg, taking an airboat ride through the marshy Everglades (home of the American Crocodile), taking a romantic getaway at a B&B in the charming Shrimping Village of Amelia Island, floating down the “Venice of America” as they call Fort Lauderdale, due to its expansive and intricate canal system, visiting Kennedy Space Center and Mickey Mouse at Cinderella’s Castle in Orlando, laying on the world renowned white sand beaches of Siesta Key, watching cars speed around the track at the Daytona International Speedway, visiting the first ever Naval Air Station in Pensicola, touring historical landmarks in brick street lined St. Augustine, enjoying amazing restaurants and culture at the Walter Tiffany museum in Winter Park, going “shelling” on the beautiful crustacean laden beaches of Sanibel Island, eating delicious Greek food and buying natural sponges galore in Tarpon Springs, admiring the Art Deco architecture and mini Havana that is Miami Beach, taking a boat to the beautiful reef islands that make up Dry Tortugas National Park, home of Fort Jefferson, taking in the wonderfully weird world-famous underwater mermaid show in the city of Weeki Wachee, or playing a round of golf at one of the best courses in the country right here in the Villages, there is so much to do (and much more I didn’t mention) in this lovely state that you never have to leave! 

I love that there is still so much for us to explore here, I love wearing flip flops in February and that most people here don’t even know what an “ice scraper” is. I love that the sun is literally ALWAYS shining and everybody has central air. I love that there are cows and palm trees on the same block and that I don’t have to get my car inspected. I love not having to look for deer on the road at night. I love having a place for my friends and family to escape to when it’s cold, I love being so close to Disney, and the beach, and most of all, I love that in my tenth year of living here, I finally feel I can call Florida my home. 

pho sho…

Last night we enjoyed some delicious pho with some of our best friends. It was delightful. But you might be asking yourself, what IS pho?  


Pho is a Vietnamese noodle soup consisting of broth, linguine-shaped rice noodles, herbs, and traditionally beef or chicken although vegetarian options are just as delicious. The hearty soup originated in Northern Vietnam during the 20th century. Pho was originally sold at dawn and dusk by roaming street vendors, who amazingly shouldered mobile kitchens on poles across their backs. From the pole hung two wooden cabinets, one housing a cauldron over a wood fire, the other storing noodles, spices, cookware, and space to prepare a bowl of pho. Boy does that sound heavy! Thankfully now it’s much more widely available and no poles are necessary, you can go to your local pho eatery and order a bowl. (Our favorite spot is Pho 88 on Mills Avenue in Orlando for you local folks)


 
       

But what if you don’t have a pho eatery near you, or you want to try making it at home? Now you can! You can judge how good a Pho soup is by how much concentrated flavor is packed in the broth while still retaining a clean, clear broth. I like my Pho without Sriracha or Hoisin sauce (or “the brown stuff” as the butcher calls it)…I really enjoy the purity of the chicken broth without anything to hide its flavor and aroma.

There are 2 very important steps to a clear but intense broth – 1) parboiling the chicken to get rid of the impurities 2) charring the ginger and onion for a naturally sweet, robust flavor.

INGREDIENTS:

1 whole (preferably organic) chicken (4-5lbs)

1 whole onion, unpeeled and cut in half

3-inch chunk of ginger, unpeeled

{Broth spices}

2 tbl whole coriander seeds

4 whole cloves

2 whole star anise

2 tbl raw sugar 

2 tbl fish sauce…be sure to choose a fish sauce light in color, it should look like brewed tea….anything darker than that (looking like Coca Cola) is inferior quality.

small bunch of cilantro stems only, tied in bunch with twine

1 lb dried rice noodles 

{Table Accompaniements}

2 cups bean sprouts 

cilantro tops – leaves and tender stems

1/2 lime, cut into 4 wedges

Sriracha hot sauce

Hoisin sauce

sliced chili or jalapeño (for the brave people out there)

DIRECTIONS:

Place ginger and onion on a small baking sheet. The top of the onion should be about 4″ from the oven’s heating element. Set to broil on high for 15 minutes. Turn the onion and ginger occasionally, to get an even char. The skin should get dark and the onion/ginger should get soft. After cooling, rub to get the charred skin off the onion and use a butter knife to scrape the skin off the ginger. Slice ginger into thick slices. I know this may seem tedious but trust me it’s worth it for the rich flavor it produces!

Fill a large pot or Dutch oven with water and boil. With a sharp knife, carve the chicken breast meat off and reserve. Or just marry a butcher. With the rest of chicken whacking hard through the bones to get sections about 3″ big. The more bone that is exposed, the more marrow that gets in the broth (translation: rich, flavorful). You can even whack several places along the bone just to expose more marrow. When the water boils, add chicken sections (not breast) and boil on high for 5 minutes. You’ll see lots of foam and “stuff’ come up to the surface. Drain and wash your pot thoroughly. Refill with about 4 quarts of clean, cold water. (If making vegetarian pho, this step can be skipped and just use vegetable broth or make your own veggie stock) 

Add chicken, chicken breast meat, onion, ginger and all of the broth spices in the pot and cover. Turn heat to high – let it come to boil, then immediately turn heat to low. Prop lid up so that steam can escape. After 15 minutes, remove the chicken breasts, shred with your fingers when cooled and set aside (you’ll serve shredded chicken breast with the finished soup). With a large spoon, skim the surface of any impurities in the broth. Skimming every 20 minutes ensures a clear broth. Simmer a total of 1-1/2 hours. Taste and adjust seasoning with more fish sauce and or sugar.
Strain the broth, discarding solids. Prepare noodles as per directions on package. Ladle broth, add shredded chicken breast and soft noodles in each bowl. Have all the table accompaniements at table for each person to add to their bowl based on individual taste. Even though your broth may not be as clear, you can also make this recipe in your crock pot and come home to the delicious aromas of Vietnam!  
 It was PHO yummy! Photastic! Can I have pho mo?! I could do this all day…

We also had some DELICIOUS spring rolls with a to die for peanut sauce but that’s another recipe for another day! 

meet & make 

  So there’s this adorable local blogger from Orlando named Sarah Khandjian, or as she goes by in the Instagram/blogosphere world, Sarah Hearts. She came up with the genius idea of getting women together to make a craft, have some cocktails, and meet some new friends. Then she got even smarter and decided to sell tickets for said get-together! Man I wish I’d thought of that! 

I’d been insta-stalking her for months and every time she hosted one of her “meet & make” events, I was either unable to go or the tickets sold out before I could get my hands on one! But that all changed last night! I finally got to go along with some friends and it was so.much.fun. I even got to meet Sarah herself! 

When we walked in to the large warehouse space, we were greeted by a few friendly ladies who checked our names off of the guest list and gave us a pink pizza box emblazoned with the words “meet & make” and a pair of, what seemed to be the theme of the evening, scissors. Also handed to us and adorned with scissors was a sweet little canvas tote bag filled with all sorts of goodies from local artists & business owners.  

       

We walked past festive confetti filled balloons towards the tables and secured a spot as the space was quickly filling up with excited women ready to craft! The workstations were covered in brown butcher paper stamped with a mini scissor design and covered in confetti. There were Popsicle sticks scattered on the paper as well as little cups filled with water for cleaning our brushes with “meet & make” on the side. This girl knows how to brand herself!  

    

Before getting started there was some mingling and chit chat as well as a cocktail station provided by Smirnoff and some treats from local bakeries. The citrus cookie sandwhiches from The Sweet Shop were my favorite…tangy, bite size, and delicious!   

      

    

After enjoying our refreshments, Sarah quieted everybody down, welcomed us, made a few announcements and instructions and then it was time to open our pink pizza boxes! 

 We were going to be painting geometric wall art panels. When I purchased my ticket I was even given the option of the type of wood stain I wanted for my panel. The idea was to use the provided washi tape to create different geometric shapes like this… 

and these… 

  

 But I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t decide what shape I wanted and the perfectionist in me was afraid that the paint would bleed under the tape and ruin my design. I was in a creative mood anyway, so I decided to freehand it. Did you notice the tiny little stamp that was in our gift bag? I think it subconsciously inspired me,  because this is what I ended up with.  

An ice cream cone!

 (Side note for my fellow Gwynnie Girls, I am wearing the BB Dakota Jaeger Crepon Full Skirt Dress and I loved it. It was super light, comfy, and silky soft. It was a little big so I belted it and added a cardigan but I still got lots of compliments and can’t wait to get the smaller size that I closeted.) 

Back to the meet & make! After we finished our projects we headed, art in hand, to the gif photo booth where we created this little gem… http://www.mvbth.com/meet-make/4273 and these… 

Sarah even jumped in on the fun and then I got to chat with her a bit (she also said she had seen my blog before which was pretty cool!) and we took this… 

All in all, it was a fabulous event. I had so much fun and can’t wait to do it again!