My Favorite Thanksgiving Dish

Thanksgiving has been a holiday that I’ve looked forward to since I can remember. Not only was it exciting because we got to see our cousins from Santa Barbara, but it was also full of delicious food. When I was younger, my mom’s side of the family enjoyed Thanksgiving at a restaurant in Los Gatos. My favorite dishes then were the mashed potatoes and the raviolis. My cousins and I would walk around the room after the ravioli course and try to persuade other family members to give us their raviolis instead of eating them! Now we celebrate with a smaller group of family at my aunt and uncle’s house in Santa Barbara, and we enjoy a home cooked Thanksgiving meal. My aunt works for weeks on the menu and setting it up (she is my party planning idol!). The traditional Thanksgiving raviolis didn’t live past celebrating at the restaurant (I am waiting for them to make a comeback though!) but there are still delicious dishes to enjoy. One in particular is my grandma’s best friend’s grits. They are full of flavor and deliciously cheesy!

Edie’s Grits

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1 qt. Whole Milk 1 C. Regular Grits ⅔ C. Butter (Julia Child would be proud!) 1 Tsp. Salt 2 Beaten Eggs 8 Oz. Swiss or Gruyere shredded cheese ½ C. Parmesan or Cheddar, shredded and combined with an additional ½ C. butter.

-Bring milk to a boil and add butter and salt -Lower heat so that mixture is simmering -Gradually stir in the grits -Stir in the two beaten eggs -Cook until mixture thickens, then add swiss or gruyere cheese   -After cheese melts, remove from heat.   -Beat mixture until creamy    -Pour into buttered casserole (the butter causes a crispy outside).   -Allow to set.   -Pour the parmesan or cheddar and butter mixture over the top. -Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.   

You can make this dish ahead of time and cook right before serving or cook it ahead of time and reheat it.

I can’t wait to indulge in multiple heaping spoonfuls of these delicious grits on Thursday! What is your favorite Thanksgiving dish?

A Pumpkin Carving Party

IMG_9300To truly celebrate my favorite season and one of my favorite holidays, we hosted a pumpkin carving party. Carving elaborate designs into pumpkins has been a tradition that Rob and I have had since we started dating, and we loved sharing it with a few close friends. It was a low key night of eating food, watching scary movies, carving pumpkins and enjoying some drinks. Everyone brought their own pumpkins and we used a website to pick out the stencils we wanted to use to carve. Photo by Kim

Photo by Kim

As people worked they munched on crostini, fig jam, brie and prosciutto, ruffles with onion dip, pita chips with spicy hummus, and vegan spinach and artichoke stuffed mushrooms. Once carving was complete we enjoyed vegan chili that had been simmering all day, and vegan cornbread from Babycakes. For dessert we indulged in apple pie that I finally got around to making and vegan pumpkin spice donuts that a friend made. Since making a punch was such a huge hit at our spring soiree, we decided to make one again. This time we picked a fall appropriate punch.IMG_9284IMG_6575 IMG_9285 IMG_9287 IMG_9289 IMG_9304

I made an owl sitting in a gnarled tree, and Rob carved Clark Griswold wearing a Santa Hat. One of our friends got really creative and carved a face into the back of his pumpkin. The end result was a spooky shadow behind all the pumpkins. 

The spooky shadow behind the pumpkins.

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This party also marked the first of many going away parties since we are less than a week away from hopping on a train and heading back west. It was nice to spend some quality time with the friends that have made these last 13 months so special.

A Pirate Themed Baby Shower

A little over a month ago the first of my friends to have a baby, had a little boy. I have been over the moon excited for her since she told me she was pregnant almost a year ago. I knew I wanted to help plan a fabulous baby shower for her, but with me being in NY and her being in NC, I couldn’t quite host it myself. Luckily her sister in law was on board to team up and co-host an awesome baby shower at her home. Theme  Pirates! My friend, Laura, and her husband are both huge fans of the East Carolina University Pirates. So when she saw an adorable stuffed pirate octopus at Target the nursery room theme (and consequently the baby shower theme) were locked in.IMG_8163

Food  Catered BBQ! Laura’s sister-in-law has two children under the age of two and since Rob and I don’t live in NC we decided it would be easier on everyone to have the party catered. The food was delicious and it was a huge weight off both our shoulders.

Decorations  I had to be strategic in my planning of the decorations. I knew Rob would not go for the same level of arts and crafts we did for my 30th birthday, but I wanted there to be some decorations for the party. I decided to go with a few pieces that were simple enough that they could be put together the day of.

  • A sail with ‘Captain Bryson’ written on it. I got three thin dowels, one thick dowel and string from Michaels, stencils and fabric markers from Target, and off-white pillow cases from a 99¢ store. I ripped the pillowcases to the sizes I needed and stenciled the words on the top sail. The thin dowels were attached to the thicker dowel with the string (leave more space between the middle and bottom dowel than the middle and top dowel). And then the pillowcases were attached by poking a hole through the corners and tying them to the dowels.
  • A helm (or pirate ship steering wheel), a parrot, and flags that spelled out ‘Ahoy It’s a Boy’. I had it all shipped to Laura’s house with strict instructions for her not to open the boxes.
  • I decorated the food table with a blue tablecloth and fishing net to resemble a ship at sea.

We paired these decorations with the center piece decorations Laura’s sister-in-law had and the photo booth props and the pirate theme came to life.

Activities  We framed a picture of the first ultrasound for people to sign as the guest book, laid out onesies and fabric markers for people to decorate, and Rob made a poster-sized calendar of the days surrounding Laura’s due date so we could all guess when we thought Bryson would be born.

Books  Instead of people bringing a card with their presents, we had everyone bring a children’s book so that we could jumpstart Bryson’s library and so Laura could read the inscriptions from friends and family every time she reads the book to Bryson.

Two things surprised me about planning this shower: I was incredibly calm the the day of the shower, and we were done setting up before the party started. I almost didn’t know what to do with myself in the 15 minutes we had leftover before guests started arriving. Those two things have never happened before and I hope that that means I have turned over a new leaf in party planning. Hopefully all the parties I plan from now on will run that smoothly.

It was a low key, but fun shower and I am pretty sure Laura loved it. Mostly because she told me she did.

How to: DIY Piñata Gift Bags

IMG_0021_2I truly love all things Mexican. The food, the decor, the music, everything. Because of this love, celebrating my 30th birthday in Cabo was even more special. The theme of my birthday matched the area we were celebrating in and I planned the decorations for months in advance. There were Mexican party banners, serape beer koozies and piñatas as gift bags. The piñatas are the DIY project I am most proud of. I was inspired by this pin, and used it to guide me while I made 12 large piñatas to be filled with party bag goodies. They were a huge hit! If you want to try it yourself, first stock up on cardboard, then follow the steps below.

The Skeleton

  1. Draw the donkey on a piece of cardboard, whatever size you want the finished product to be.
  2. Cut out Donkey Side 1 (DS1)
  3. Trace DS1 onto another piece of cardboard
  4. Cut out Donkey Side 2 (DS2)--If you would like to use this as a real piñata, cut out a square in roughly the same place on each side of the donkey. This will help the donkey break more easily.IMG_7493
  5. Measure the distance between the front “toe” of DS1 and the back “heel” of DS1. Add ½ that length to the original number and that is how long the piece that will make the bottoms of the feet needs to be. The extra length will allow you to follow the curve between the legs to make the crotch.
  6. Measure the distance from the bottom of the back “heel” to the top of the behind, just where it begins to curve. This is the length the piece of the behind will need to be.
  7. Measure from the top of the front “toe” to where the head starts. This is the length the chest piece will need to be.
  8. Measure from the top of the chest piece, around the snout, past the ears to the base of the neck. This is the length the head piece will need to be -- if you are filling it with candy, this measurement should go all the way to the top of the behind.
  9. Decide how wide you want your donkey to be.
  10. Cut out the pieces that will make the bottom of the feet, chest, head and behind.
  11. Attach the bottom of the feet to DS1. Don’t worry about where you put the tape, it will be covered by the tissue paper eventually. I pre-folded the area between the legs to make it easier to work with.
  12. Attach DS2 to the bottom of the feet piece -- it should begin to resemble a piñata at this point.
  13. Attach the chest, head and behind pieces to the donkey.
  14. The skeleton of your piñata is now done!

The Colors

  1. Cut long strips of tissue paper about 2-2.5” wide
  2. Fold each piece lengthwise almost in half. Leave about ¼” space from the bottom.
  3. Cut fringe into the strips at a perpendicular angle. Don’t cut it completely in two, just enough to make small notches.IMG_7421 (1)
  4. Attach the tissue paper in alternating colors (or all one color whatever you prefer) starting at the bottom of the feet and working up. Cover each piece slightly with the next to cover the cardboard, but don’t place them right on top of each other.
  5. Once all the cardboard is covered you are done!

Don't forget to add candy if you are going to use it as a piñata or other goodies if it is going to be a goodie bag!

It is a time consuming project, but if you aren’t making 12 like I was, it will go much faster. And there are so many uses for Piñatas besides a party game, or goodie bag. My piñatas are being repurposed and will be used as bouquet holders at this year’s family celebration of Old Spanish Days in Santa Barbara!IMG_7514