Mardi Gras celebrations around the country have been cancelled or scaled back this year because of coronavirus, but that doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate safely at home. Since I’m married to a New Orleans boy, we will keep the good times rolling by bringing Mardi Gras and quintessential New Orleans treats to our home. From King Cake to beads and balconies, we will have it all here.
In lieu of Mardi Gras floats this year in New Orleans, many people are decorating their homes instead. My in-laws have been sending us the coolest pictures from the homes in Uptown and it has been great to see the spirit of the city living on even though one of their main events has been cancelled.
For our celebration at home, I’m focusing mostly on the food. I’ll be making red beans and rice and I ordered a King Cake for dessert. One of my husband’s favorite meals is red beans and rice and since he was born and raised in New Orleans, I had to do a ton of research to get the recipe right. The consistency was tricky to achieve, but after a few tries, I finally got it and I am so proud. To add a fun little twist, I served our red beans and rice in miniature bread bowls.
Brit’s Red Beans and Rice
2 ham hocks
10 cups water
2 tsp. garlic salt
1 tsp. Crystal Hot Sauce
1 tsp. Worcestershire
1 lb. red beans (soaked overnight and drained)
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped onions
2 cloves minced garlic
3 tbsp. olive oil
¼ lb. hot sausage, sliced
¼ smoked sausage, sliced
3 bay leaves
1 tbsp. salt
1 tbsp. pepper
Place ham hocks, water, garlic, salt, Crystal hot sauce, Worcestershire and beans in a large Dutch oven and cook uncovered on low heat.
In a separate pan, sauté celery, onion and garlic in olive oil.
In another pan, cook sausage.
Add sautéed vegetables and cooked sausage to the red bean mixture.
Add bay leaves, salt and pepper to the mixture. Cook over a medium-low flame for four hours.
Remove ham hocks and bay leaves.
Serve over white rice.
I don’t think it’s possible to have a Mardi Gras party without a King Cake. Our absolute favorite is from Haydel’s Bakery, but if you’re not in New Orleans and ran out of time to get a cake shipped, Whole Foods actually makes a pretty good King Cake.
While I didn’t bring the house float trend to Austin, I did build a balloon arch inside! This arch was so easy to assemble and I think it turned out really well. Call me crazy, but I’m still throwing beads off of my stairs and pretending I’m on Bourbon.
How will you be celebrating Mardi Gras this year? However you do, I hope you are all safe, happy and healthy and as they say in New Orleans, Laissez les bon temps rouler!
Tom Brady, the Chiefs and The Weeknd…could I ask for a better Super Bowl lineup? I have had a crush on Tom Brady since middle school and the Chiefs are my favorite team in the NFL so I will be cheering for both teams this Sunday and eagerly anticipating The Weeknd’s performance. Since we’ll be celebrating from home, I’m making my favorite chili, guacamole and buffalo chicken wings for me and my husband to snack on for the big game.
To start off our Super Bowl celebrations, I will be whipping up a big bowl of my favorite guacamole. I stumbled upon this creation one day when I was out of red onion and tomato so instead I used white onion and no tomato and it ended up being the best guacamole I’ve ever made.
Because of the cooler weather, I think Chili is perfect to cook for Super Bowl Sunday. For whatever reason, I prefer to use pinto beans for my chili so it’s a little bit different, but I love it. You can warm up some tortillas or biscuits for dipping and top the chili with sour cream, cheese and green onions. We also love buffalo chicken wings in our household. I get the pre-marinated buffalo chicken wings from Central Market and cook them at 450 degrees and 20 minutes on each side. I know this sounds a little aggressive, but they get so crispy and delicious.
I love how all of these foods are great for snacking on throughout the day and they are exactly unhealthy. What are you cooking this weekend for the Super Bowl and who are you cheering for?
2020 has been a tough year for all of us. Record unemployment numbers and a volatile stock market have made finances hard for everyone. With the holidays coming up, you might be wondering how you will be able to show others around you that you care about them without breaking the bank.
Miniature Tate’s Chocolate Chip cookies are the perfect gift for your co-workers and neighbors this year. Not only are they delicious, but when bought in bulk, they come out to be $1 per bag on Amazon. In addition to being budget-friendly, these individually packaged goodies are also COVID-friendly. While baking is a lovely thing to do for your friends, I wouldn’t recommend it this year. Whether it’s a possible exposure to COVID or Salmonella in the eggs you use, you just don’t want to risk spreading illness through baking. So save yourself the hours of work in the kitchen and buy pre-packaged goodies this year.
Whether you’re on a budget or not, these crispy cookies make a wonderful treat that I know your acquaintances will enjoy. I love them because they are already packaged in adorable green bags so all you need to add is a red ribbon and a hand-written note to share your appreciation for the recipient and you’re all set!
Last year I gave mini Tate’s cookies to my co-workers as well as my husband’s and they were a hit so I figured I’d do the same thing this year. It took me about 20 minutes to cut the ribbons and tie the bows on each bag and in total, I spent less than $30 to create 24 gifts.
For a full video on how I assemble these treats, check out my instagram page. I hope you love this budget and COVID-friendly idea and let me know what your friends think about it!
Happy Friday, everyone! Can you believe we made through this week?! Luckily, the gauntlet that is 2020 is ALMOST over and that means Christmas is upon us!! I have started my gift guides for the season and am so excited to share them with y’all! Today, I am sharing my guides for Her, Him and Them.
Let’s start with the ladies! I developed this guide at several different price points and I think these gifts are most applicable for your friends, sisters, sister-in-laws, moms, mother-in-laws, grandmothers, girlfriends, fiancés and wives.
You’ve probably noticed by now, but I love cooking and I love pulling recipes from all over the place! This adorable binder is such an upgrade from the basic Office Max version I was using before and I truly love it! Such a thoughtful gift for the chefs and hostesses in your life! Pair this set with a cute Apron and Spatulas and you’ve got a beautiful gift.
I am obsessed with anything Rose Carmine, but particularly this stunning sweater and would love to get this under the tree this year…*hint,hint, Will!!!* It is a bit of a splurge, but IMO, totally worth it!
This pajama set is to die for!! I bought several sets for myself and family members during the anniversary sale and cannot recommend it enough! First and foremost, it is so cozy, but it is affordable and machine washable and dryable!! Seriously saves me so much time compared to my Eberjey and Bedhead sets, but same quality.
Whether the women in your life enjoy working out or not, we’re all wearing leggings…a majority of the time lately and IMO, these are the best. They fit many different body types perfectly and last forever! Can’t go wrong with these.
This bag is a must for every woman. It is timeless, durable, practical and elegant. I got mine several years ago and it is my most-used bag to this day. It can also transition from an everyday bag to a work bag or diaper bag seamlessly.
I LOVE Jo Malone Perfume and think it makes for a wonderful gift. During the holidays, Neiman Marcus stores have artists who come to hand paint all Jo Malone products and I think giving someone one of these painted bottles is extra special. My favorite scent is Earl Grey and Cucumber…it is very light and smells like you just walked out of the spa. I will say that perfume is a very personal choice so maybe check your girlfriend/partner/mother’s bathroom before buying a fragrance.
Hands down, this is the best at-home facial money can buy. For $30, you are getting fabulous packaging, a fun at-home system and a facial that can tighten and brighten your skin.
Let’s all take a minute and admit that it is really hard to buy gifts for the men in our lives. With that said, I have learned a few tips about giving gifts to men over the years. For my dad, I know that a handwritten note is the absolute best gift I can give him, but outside of that, I’ve started paying attention to what my dad buys for himself. Mostly golf stuff and Peter Milar anything. So whether it is your dad, husband, brother or grandfather, look at what they buy themselves and maybe get them something they already have in another color or pattern.
When I was telling my dad about the gift guides, he told me that when you’re thinking of a gift to get the men in your life, you should follow their hobby. So basically, if they’re a golfer or a car fanatic, look at that and then do some research on a great gift in that area. Also, pay attention to what they say they want. My husband and dad both want very few things in this world so whenever I hear them say, “oh wow! I want that!” I immediately make a note in my phone and save it for their birthday or Christmas.
These hand-dipped cocktail glasses come from the coolest store in Houston and now Austin, Manready Mercantile, and they are a wonderful gift for the guys in your life. You could add a bottle of their favorite drink and you’re all set. They also come in orange and pink if you don’t like the black.
I ordered this for my husband for his birthday this year because he said he wanted it and he enjoys cigars once in a while. It is a beautiful gift from a local shop in Fredericksburg, Texas and relatively affordable. I also got him a few cigars to go in it and he absolutely loved it!
From what I’ve heard from all of the male golfers in my life, Pro V1s are the gold standard in golf balls. For my dad’s birthday, I ordered him a custom set of these golf balls with Lar Bear and a shamrock on them. They were about four months late arriving because of COVID, but when they did finally arrive, he loved them and thought they were funny.
Ok y’all, I’m sure you’ve seen these sneakers everywhere, but my dad bought several colors and he is obsessed with them! Scoop up a pair for your man and I’m sure they will be thrilled!
Now for the couples in your life or your parents or mother and father-in-law. For this category, I’m thinking of your married friends, brother and sister-in-laws, married cousins, etc. When I think of buying gifts for my parents and couples in general, I try to think of things that both a man and woman would like or that would be good for the home or entertaining.
For this gift guide, I’ve shown items individually and have added suggestions of things you can pair them with if you want to elevate your gift.
For the wine lovers in your life! The Coravin is a game changer for wine drinkers. How many times have you been at home alone and wanted a glass of wine, not the whole bottle and didn’t want the rest to go bad? This system can serve wine in small amounts without losing the integrity of the bottle. Pair this with a bottle of wine and a set of glasses and you will have an ideal gift!
I absolutely love these Katie Kime ice buckets to give to couples as a gift! My personal favorite is the oyster and lemon design, but there are so many cute options to choose from. You can also get these monogrammed which is a great personal touch. I would pair this with a nice bottle of champagne and you’re all set!
These cheese knives and marble cheese boards are sure to be a crowd pleaser for your friends and family members! Whether you’re entertaining or just making a cheese board at home, this set is perfect and an affordable gift!
This terracotta pomegranate serves not only as a beautiful display to dress up a powder room, but also as a diffuser. I also recommend Monogram napkins as a wonderful gift for friends and family. To dress them up a bit, you can present them with a tray to hold them in.
Many people have had to put trips on hold this year, but what about surprising friends and family with a beautiful coffee table book and an airline gift card to a destination they’ve been dreaming about.
This one doesn’t need much of an explanation, but I have never met anyone who doesn’t love Nespresso machines! They are the best and so easy to use. Pair the machine with a sleeve of their favorite coffee pods and maybe some cute mugs and you’re good to go!
Gift Card to their favorite restaurant
Restaurants have been struggling during the pandemic and we all love a nice out for dinner so think about your loved ones’ favorite restaurants and get them a gift card to their favorite spot.
I hope y’all loved these gift guides and that I’ve been able to help you kick off your holiday shopping! Come back next week to see my next set of gift guides!
Fourth of July weekend is finally here and after a long and hectic month of June, I am ready to relax with my favorite drink for the holiday…rosé! From sparkling to still and even *canned* I’m sharing my favorite blush wines with you in time for the weekend.
My go to for still Rosé is of course, Miraval. I love the taste, it is widely available and it is a great price…I’d also be lying if I didn’t say I love the fact that it’s owned by Brangelina. But if Miraval isn’t available, my rule of thumb when ordering rosé is to try to get a bottle from Provence. Many other wine regions have started making their own rosé blends, but I haven’t found many I love outside of Provence. I don’t like sweet or heavy wines and the wines from the south of France just seem to be my favorite.
Last month, my friend Erica and I tested out canned rosé. Canned beverages often get a bad rap, but they are so practical in the summer. You can throw them in a bag and take them on a boat or to the beach or wherever you want to go! They are also much cheaper to buy than bottles and come in more manageable sizes. We tested out five canned rosés and ranked our favorites!
I hope you have enjoyed my rosé selections! Leave me a comment and let me know which one is your fave and I hope you have a great weekend celebrating the Fourth of July!
Hello, friends! I know I haven’t posted in a while, but the past couple of weeks have weighed heavy on my heart and I decided to take the last week to listen and learn as much as I can about the Black Lives Matter movement instead of speaking and sharing about the trivial things in my life.
In a bit of happy news, today is my second wedding anniversary. I’d like to share with you a bit about my wedding as it was one of the happiest days of my life.
My husband and I actually met seven years ago today and that is how we chose our wedding date. I’m so glad we met in June because since I was a little girl, I have always dreamed of being a “June Bride.” When I was four-years-old, my dad got a job transfer from Minneapolis, Minnesota to Salt Lake City, Utah, and for a few months, he lived alone in Salt Lake until me, my mom and sister joined him. During this time, he often stayed at this little Bed and Breakfast called the Armstrong Mansion. It was a 12-bedroom mansion in the foothills of Salt Lake and each room was dedicated to a different month, my favorite room was called the June Bride suite and all of the furniture was white and dreamy. Ever since we stayed there, I always wanted to be a June Bride.
We got married in Santa Barbara, California at the Four Seasons Biltmore Santa Barbara. We decided on Santa Barbara because I moved around so much growing up and have family all over and my husband is from New Orleans and has a lot of family in California so there wasn’t really one place that would work well for our family and friends. Because of that, we chose a place that we loved and that our family and friends would love visiting. We also knew we wanted an outdoor wedding and since Santa Barbara has a nearly perfect climate and very low chances of rain, we thought it would be the perfect spot. The hotel is also one of the most beautiful properties I’ve ever been to in my life.
But nothing is ever that easy or perfect. About six months before our wedding, major wildfires caused severe damage throughout Santa Barbara and after the fires, a devastating mudslide wreaked havoc on the area and killed 15 people. Because of the damage caused by the mudslide, our venue closed. We were told they would reopen after Easter, but April came and went and the hotel did not open. As our June wedding date creeped closer and closer, I was a nervous wreck. I had spent a year-and-a-half planning my dream wedding and it started to hit me that it might not happen. But five days before our wedding date, the hotel reopened and looked incredible.
Since we knew most of our guests were traveling a long way to attend our wedding, we wanted to make the weekend as special as possible. To kick off the celebration, my parents hosted the most incredible rehearsal dinner that also doubled as a welcome party for all wedding guests. Traditionally, rehearsal dinners are just for the wedding party and family, but since this was kind of a destination wedding, we invited all of our guests.
The party was held on the rooftop of the Canary Hotel in the heart of downtown Santa Barbara. We chose this location for a few reasons… first of all, the view. This hotel has 360 degree views of Santa Barbara, the ocean and the Santa Ynez mountains and we were there for sunset so it was absolutely incredible. Our goal was to give our guests a taste of the best parts of Santa Barbara so we had events at our favorite spots around town throughout the weekend.
I chose a fiesta theme for this party because I love margaritas and Mexican food. It was also the perfect set-up for guests to meet each other in an elegant-casual setting and just enjoy themselves.
The day of the wedding was amazing. We got our hair and makeup done at the Jose Eber Salon on the Four Seasons Property and it is one of the most beautiful salons I’ve ever been to.
I chose to get ready in this Patricia’s Couture Caftan with photos of my beloved dog Emma on it! Emma was 15 at the time and the flight to California would have been too much for her so this caftan was my way of having her at the wedding with us and it was honestly one of my favorite things from the whole weekend! For my bridesmaids, I chose blue cotton robes from J.crew for them to get ready in. On my wedding day, I also wore my Grandma Bea’s topaz earrings and I cut a swatch of fabric from her bridesmaid’s dress and put in in my dress as my something blue. My grandma Bea passed away in 2016 and I wanted to honor her at my wedding. She and my two grandfathers who passed away in 2014 and 2015 were all Irish so as a nod to them, I had Belles of Ireland in the floral arrangements on the aisle and at our reception.
The wedding itself was truly a dream. Set in the resort’s Jungle Garden, we overlooked the Pacific Ocean as we took our vows. I stuck to very simple, white and green flowers for the ceremony to accentuate the stunning venue and views. We also had a string quartet playing music for the ceremony and our family friend, Marty, officiated the wedding.
Will and I are both foodies so a main focus of the reception was on the food. I’m kind of sad because our photographers didn’t capture any of the food, but it was amazing. We had a four-course meal starting with salad, then lobster bisque, a sorbet-course to cleanse the pallet and then entrees of filet mignon, halibut or a vegan bolognese. My parents, sister, grandma, Will and I hand-picked the menu because it was so important to us. We finished off the evening with a wedding cake for dessert. The cake was three layers, the bottom layer was a white almond chiffon cake and the top two were carrot cake, our favorite!
To cap off the weekend of celebrations, my mother-in-law hosted a party for us at the Santa Barbara Wine Collective in the Funk Zone–a must visit if you are in Santa Barbara. We tried wines from vineyards in the area, had pizza from Lucky Penny and had fun with our guests!
My wedding was an absolute dream and I’m happy to say, married life has been just as amazing! Our second year of marriage was packed with quite a bit–we both turned 30, we moved to Austin, TX and survived a pandemic…Lets see what year three has in store for us!
I hope you enjoyed this trip down memory lane with me.
Happy Memorial Day Weekend, friends! Not only is this weekend special because we get a chance to honor the heroes who have been lost in service to our country, but it is also the first holiday we can celebrate *somewhat* openly as coronavirus social-distancing restrictions begin lifting.
If you’re gathering with friends and family for the first time in a while, a blind champagne tasting just might be the perfect way to break the ice as you ease back into normalcy. Last summer, I hosted a blind tasting with our friends in Watercolor, Florida and it was such a hit! The tasting is easy to put together and the results will shock you.
HOW TO HOST A BLIND CHAMPAGNE TASTING:
Start by selecting your bubbles. For our tasting last summer, we had six guests and three bottles worked perfectly. The game is played best when you choose bottles at different price points and from different regions.
Print or order scorecards for you and your guests to rate the selections. We found these adorable scorecards on Etsy from the SweetUnrest store.
After our tasting, I found that I preferred Prosecco to Champagne which completely shocked me. I hope you all enjoy this blind tasting and let me know which champagne selections you choose for your own tasting! Cheers and Happy Memorial Day!
I’ve picked up a few tips through these trips and movies about buying wine. One thing I was told in Napa is that when you buy wine outside of a vineyard, it’s usually best to go to a reputable liquor store. In Texas, we are so lucky to have Spec’s. They ship the wine responsibly and are so well educated about every bottle of wine they sell that you can never go wrong making a selection there and you will walk away knowing a lot more about wine. Spec’s also does not price gouge. I can go to Spec’s knowing I will pay close-to, if not less than what I would pay for a bottle of wine straight from the vineyard or winery. Unfortunately, if you buy wines from a grocery store or convenience store, the integrity and quality of the wine *can* be compromised.
When I think of my go-to red wines, I think mostly of California wines because they are easy for me to get on any given day in Texas. Overall, the most accessible and most affordable red wine I regularly buy is Decoy Wine’s Cabernet Sauvignon or their Red Wine blend. Decoy is owned by Duckhorn, but unlike their parent company, Decoy is somehow able to offer an incredibly beautiful red wine for under $20 a bottle. In addition to Decoy, I’ve shared a list of my favorite every day red wines that range in price from $17-$72.
Can you believe Cinco de Mayo is just one week away?! Yes, it does fall on a Tuesday this year so even more reasons for celebrations! I have always loved Cinco de Mayo, not only because of my love of margaritas and queso, but also because it is my dad’s birthday!
Cook Something Fun
This year, my Cinco de Mayo celebrations will be a little bit different than usual. I won’t be celebrating with my dad which is the worst part, but I will be celebrating in his honor at home. A couple of weeks ago I was going through The Defined Dish cookbook and found my new favorite recipe. The Enchiladas con Carne that Alex created are SO good, I truly couldn’t believe I cooked something so good. My husband literally said to me, “this is the best thing you’ve ever made, why do we go out to eat anymore?” It was one of my proudest moments.
Needless to say, I cannot wait to make these again!! In addition to serving the enchiladas, I will be making Clayton’s Grapefruit Margaritas and my own little guacamole recipe.
Finally, decorating an area of your home with festive fiesta decorations can instantly create a party mood. I found the cutest mini llama pinatas and this balloon fiesta sign on Amazon. I plan to use leftover llama garland from a previous holiday party to decorate my bar cart along with margarita glasses and all the ingredients necessary to make margaritas all night long!
What are your plans for Cinco de Mayo? Leave me a comment below to let me know how you will be celebrating this year!
Many states will be easing quarantine guidelines in the coming days, but it is still unclear when groups of people will be able to get together again. Although I’m fully supportive of social distancing and thankful for the lives it has saved, admittedly, it has left a little void in my heart because of all of the special events and milestones I have missed with my friends.
After cancelling my 30th birthday party, and having three of my best friends cancel their birthday parties, a glimmer of hope emerged when my friend announced she had decided to do a virtual gender reveal party for her baby. My friend Erica, who is the best party planner, hosted and planned the party for our friend and I have asked her to share her tips with all of you!
“My friend contemplated not having a gender reveal for her second child,” Erica recalls. “However, feeling we all could use something to celebrate living through a pandemic, she asked for my help. Mission accepted! Here are my steps for throwing a memorable and interactive virtual gender reveal.”
Erica’s Six Steps for Hosting an Unforgettable Virtual Gender Reveal Party:
Create the digital invite.
The first thing I recommend is creating an invite in the theme you choose. My pregnant friend wanted it to be a simple pink and blue theme with a confetti cannon reveal. I designed a free invite on canva.com. You can create a free account on their website or app.
My Canva design for the invite:
Set-up a private Facebook group.
Next, have the expectant mother or father create a private Facebook group for the event. I recommend setting it up through the soon-to-be parents account to easily invite people they’d like to include in the private group. It has to be a FB group for live streaming capabilities; just creating a Facebook event won’t allow you to go live. Get creative and give your group a fun name. Yes, we went for a more traditional name because we were newbies at this. Then upload your invite as the cover photo and be sure to post it to the feed.
Make it interactive for your guests.
A fun interactive feature is to add a Facebook poll and pin it to the announcements tab. Remind everyone to vote ahead of time. We were shocked with how many people actually took part in the poll. So fun and the comments were hilarious! This is a must do. We decided to call it Team Lashes or Team Staches. After posting the invite and the poll you’ll want to invite group members.
On the day of the big reveal ask guests to post a picture or video of themselves watching from home. They can post their photo in the comments section.
Decorate your space.
You will be saving $$$ not hosting an actual party so be sure to spend a little decorating your backdrop for the virtual event. Believe me not only will your guests appreciate the aesthetics but you’ll have cute pictures to look back on. We bought a few items on Amazon and used things we already had to decorate the space.
We used this as our backdrop. SO CUTE!
Prepare an agenda.
Your virtual gender reveal won’t last long so prepare an agenda to keep you on track and get the most out of the event. Here’s the agenda I created. Give yourself time to review and practice before going live.
Welcome and assign one parent to respond to live comments throughout.
Complete the “Old Wives Tale” chalkboard sign.
Reveal results of Facebook poll.
Explain poppers and do a countdown before popping.
The big reveal–celebrate and respond to live comments.
Open a “special gift” from a special person that couldn’t be there.
Cut the cake and thank everyone for joining today.
To make your guests feel like they are part of the reveal, assign one expectant parent to be in charge of reading some of the comments and responding throughout the live streaming. My friend’s sister is very close to her and lives out of state. To make it special she sent a gift and message that she opened after the reveal while still streaming live.
Go Facebook Live.
Be on time and go live. Guests simply open to the Facebook group page and the live stream can be viewed on the feed. They can click on the video to open the live stream to a bigger screen and view the live comments. Before ending you can download an HD recording of the stream and Facebook automatically records your live stream to the group feed for others to view later.
These six steps will have you prepared and ready to throw an awesome virtual gender reveal for expecting friends and family… Oh and it’s a boy!
Have you planned a virtual party during quarantine? Share your tips and tricks with us below!