A Sea Glass-Inspired Wedding

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Today marks a wedding planning milestone — we’ve finally settled upon both our wedding colors and theme! To complement our planned seaside nuptials and incorporate our undying love of everything Carolina blue (Go Heels!), the colors and theme will be sea glass.

Now, major credit is due here once again to the team at Martha Stewart Weddings for making the lives of brides like me so much easier thanks to their craftiness and creative expertise. Their photo gallery gave me the needed inspiration to dream up a mental image of what my own wedding will look like.
Blues, greens and frosted glass characterize this Sea Glass Palette from Martha Stewart Weddings.
Photo Source: Wedding Belles Online

I’m imaging blues and greens among a backdrop of sand with white accents like starfish and calla lilies. I see the men in khaki linen suits with white shirts — with or without shoes. After a recent trip to the J Crew Bridal Boutique on Madison Avenue in New York, I think I’ve found the perfect dress for the girls. A cotton knee-length dress that’s a perfect balance between beachy and formal, the Cotton Cady Serena Dress in Light Blade may just be the one for the maids. The A-line cut will be flattering and the material will be light and airy to help prevent them from getting too hot during the ceremony and at the reception.

This bridesmaid dress from J Crew is versatile and can be dressed up or down. It will make a great dress for the beach and is heavy enough to withstand wind during a seaside ceremony.
Photo Source: J Crew Weddings

I can also picture frosty sea glass accents at the ceremony and reception. Maybe instead of petals the flower girl can toss small pieces of green and blue sea glass on the shore? The button on the ring bearer’s pillow could be made of sea glass. At the reception, the seating cards with table assignments for guests could rest atop a bed of sea glass like in this wedding featured on Martha Stewart Weddings.

A tray layered with sea glass is a great way to incorporate the theme without investing too much time or money to create an elaborate table assignment system.
Photo Source: Martha Stewart Weddings

To incorporate the Carolina blue color, ribbon could be tied around the stems of the bridesmaids’ bouquets and on the men’s boutonnieres. I’m also considering dying my shoes Carolina blue for the reception with a nod to Green Wedding Shoes for the gumption to opt of the traditional white-hued shoe.

Light blue Cinderella-style shoes add a pop of color and playfulness that goes well with white.
Photo Source: Luster Studios

Aside from the initial major decision of where to get married, I feel like this really has been the hardest step in planning to date. To me, picking a theme is an expression of the personalities of the couple. It’s what makes a wedding unique and truly yours. It’s part of what makes your day different and special.

Now that we have a clear guiding theme and specific shades selected, I think it’s going to make finding decorations and making other decisions much easier! Now, onto the next major task — selecting our wedding vendors!

The Turkey Tango: What Wine Is Best to Serve on Thanksgiving?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

With Thanksgiving only a day away, you’re probably finalizing your menu and are picking up the last few items for your meal. Among the items on your list may be picking up beverages for your guests. So the question is what wines pair with a meal with so many different complex tastes?

This can get particularly tricky if you’re entertaining a large group that may have a variety of preferences and tastes. While the answers to this debate range far and wide, but there are a couple points that most winos seem to be in agreement on – keep it simple and offer a variety of options if you’re expecting a crowd.

From spicy pumpkin pie to rich, creamy mashed potatoes and tart cranberries, leave the meal’s bold flavors to the food that you’re serving. By sticking to a non-oaky wine that’s light-bodied and well-balanced, you’ll avoid picking a wine that could clash or compete. Keeping it on the lighter side is also helpful since guests will likely be enjoying large portions and won’t want a heavy wine contributing to their after-meal fullness.

Some wine experts say that Thanksgiving may be the most complex
meal to make wine selections for.
Photo Source: Background-Wallpaper.com

If you’re expecting a group, plan to offer some red and white choices. For the white, steer clear of oaky, rich Chardonnays and opt for a smooth Sauvignon Blanc or a Riesling if you’d like something a bit sweeter. Cava or champagne can also be a great option I’d highly recommend because it will almost always complement the food you’re serving and it’s a nice light alternative that people often overlook. If red if your preference, a fruity Pinot Noir, a light Zinfadel or a Beaujolais come highly recommended along with Chianti and some blends of Cabernet Sauvignon, although be of varieties that are oaky or have too high of an alcohol content.

Or, if your guests prefer beer with their Thanksgiving feast, try amber ale, a lager like Oktoberfest or brown or golden ale with traditional turkey. Spiced ale or a winter lager are also great pairs with pumpkin pie!

Above all, let the number of guests, budget and preferences guide your picks and enjoy the holiday with friends and family!

Tastes of Turkey Day

Sunday, November 22, 2009

If your family is anything like mine, Thanksgiving is a holiday that we look forward to 364 days of the year. It’s a time for feasting on family favorites and carrying out yearly traditions while also making new ones. For my family, we enjoy sipping on mimosas and watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade together while the savory smells of roasting turkey, sage and stuffing cause our stomachs to rumble in anticipation. I am the appointed turkey stuffer of the household and am looking forward to trying a new stuffing this year.

Adapted by The Charlotte Observer based on a recipe from The Silver Palate Cookbook, an almost legendary mantra of gourmet cooking for my family, this year’s stuffing is called Cornbread-Sausage Dressing With Apples. A mix of three types of bread, tart apple, onion, sausage, pecans and spices, this recipe yields 10 to 12 servings or enough to stuff a 20-pound turkey.

Egg and chicken broth will give this stuffing a moist, rich flavor.
Photo Source: Charlotte Observer

As for the turkey, the meal’s main attraction, the possibilities for infusing flavor are endless from basting to brining and grilling or deep-frying for those seeking a twist on a traditional bird.

Think of brining as a style of marinating -- soak your turkey for 12 to 24 hours before roasting to lock in flavor. Try out Spice Hunter’s Turkey Brine, a mix of sea salt, brown sugar, dried cranberries and apples, orange zest, black peppercorns, thyme, rosemary and age. Order online or find at your local specialty grocer.

Make your meal all-American by grilling your turkey this Thanksgiving. Pre-soak it in a brine or prepare a rub to add some extra taste to your turkey. Check out these grilling tips and recipes by Saveur for more information.

Tired of the same type of Thanksgiving turkey? Give in to the grill.
Photo Source: Saveur

For a fast-track turkey taking only 45 minutes to cook a 12-pound bird, try deep-frying. Add some Cajun seasoning for some extra spice if your Turkey Day guests won’t mind the extra oomph.

Check out some more fun Thanksgiving Day recipes that will make your guests’ mouths water:

This pieced apart pie is the combination of crumbly pecan and coconut oatmeal, spiced pumpkin custard and tastes of caramel and cinnamon.

Try this new taken on pumpkin pie for a pretty, portion perfect dessert.
Photo Source: Bonbini

Sweet Potato Souffle
Can’t pick between marshmallows or pecans? Why not use both in this tasty Sweet Potato Souffle.

Baked Mashed Potato Cake
Make your mashed potatoes more of a gratin with this Italian recipe for Baked Mashed Potato Cake.

Bread crumbs, provolone and bits of salami gives this
potato dish great gratin-like flavor.
Photo Source: Cheese and Pears

Cranberry Upside-Down Cake
Try this moist and tart cranberry cake as a sweet beginning or ending to Thanksgiving celebrations.

This sweet dish is festive in flavor and in color.
Photo Source: My Recipes

Best Holiday Baking Tools

Saturday, November 7, 2009

With holiday and family gatherings just around the corner, baking for big groups may be on the horizon for you. Check out these four fun and festive kitchen tools that will help you wow your guests.

These cute individual-sized pie molds come in pretty fall shapes of apples and pumpkins. Just arrange refrigerated pie crust in the mold, add the filling of your choice and voila – you’ve got a festive and fancy looking sweet treat. Each set comes with two for less than 10 dollars. Tip: try freezing the molds for 20 to 30 minutes before using for best results.

These beautiful apple and pumpkin-shaped "pocket pies" are
sweet and easy-to-make treats.
Photo Source: Williams-Sonoma

Cooking breakfast for a large group? This Williams-Sonoma waffled pancake pan makes it easy for you to cook up to seven pancakes at once so that you can get a hungry group fed quickly. For mess-free measuring, invest in a “pancake pen” batter bottle.

Make breakfast for a big group with these
waffled pancake pan.
Photo Source: Williams-Sonoma

These colorful fall pie cutters are cute accessories to dress up any pumpkin pie with fun shapes like leaves and acorns. Add a few cut pieces of pie dough for a special touch or go all out for a fun leaf-topped creation.

These little leaf and acorn-shaped pie crust cutters
can add a personalized touch to a tasty pumpkin pie.
Photo Source: Williams-Sonoma

This acorn cakelet pan is perfect for baking fun festive fall bite-sized acorn-shaped breads or cakes. If you’re partial to pumpkins instead, check out the pumpkin patch pan, which also offers perfect presentation of fall baked goodies.

Create acorn cakelets made of cornbread, muffin mix
or any other bread or cake mix you desire.
Photo Source: Williams-Sonoma

Falling in Love with Fall Food Part II

Sunday, September 20, 2009

This second chapter in a celebration of fall food includes recipes for several seasonal fruits that make a sweet addition to any dish. Apples, figs, pears and pomegranates are just a few favorites that offered inspiration for the following collection of favorite fall recipes.


Nothing tastes more like fall than Apple Brown Betty, a variation of apple crisp that is a blend of tart apples, bread crumbs and a sugary sweet brown sugar sauce. Top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for a really decadent dessert.

Instead of using rolled oats like traditional apple crisp dishes, this Apple Brown Betty
incorporates fresh bread crumbs in the mix.
Photo Source: Saveur

Another recipe that offers a taste of fall is this Epicurious version of Apple Butter, a delicious spread that's great when paired with a crusty piece of bread or as a flavorful sandwich filler that will break the monotony of other brown bag lunch options.

If you're looking for a cocktail with a fall twist, try Honeycrisp Apple Sangria or Spiked Apple Cider.


Figs are a fall delicacy with their sweet honeyed taste and soft texture. They're a great ingredient to dress up a dish and give it a more gourmet feel. Like many fall fruits, figs are a favorite for baked goods, desserts, and pastries. If you're looking to get your fig fix from baking, then try out Autumn Muffins, which also include apples, cranberries and hazelnuts along with cinnamon and nutmeg.

Or, if you're looking for a fun appetizer for a wine and cheese party, then your guests will be impressed by Figs and Toasted Almonds Brie, an appetizer that's quick and easy to make, but is an elegant alternative to a typical cheese tray.

If you'd like to make dinner and include figs, then try out this recipe for Homemade Focaccia Bread with Figs and Goat Cheese, an Italian-inspired dish that includes fresh figs, pine nuts and goat cheese atop a doughy pillow of fresh focaccia bread. To save time on this recipe, simply use a boxed version of focaccia bread as the base instead of a homemade rendition.

Fig pizza, anyone?
Photo Source: Local Lemons

Another fruit of fall harvest, pears are tasty when paired with a salty ingredient like cheese. This Fall Pear Galette is a pretty dessert that plays on these flavor pairings, with sharp cheddar cheese and Bartlett or D'Anjou pears surrounded by a ring of pie crust, a fun alternative to the traditional latticed pie.

This Fall Pear Galette is a rustic fall dish with that combines the
sweet flavor of pears with sharp cheddar atop a pie crust.
Photo Source: MyRecipes

Roquefort Pear Salad is another recipe that gets it's flavor from the unlikely ying and yang pairing of pear and cheese, but this time Roquefort, a pungent, creamy, crumbly bleu cheese is used. With other flavorful ingredients like pecans, avocado and green onion, this salad offers a healthy choice for a fall lunch or dinner.


With a powerful punch of sweet and tart flavor, pomegranates are a fun fall fruit to incorporate in your cooking. While pomegranates have become popular in recent years in the US, they're an ingredient that's been used in Indian, Middle Eastern and Greek cuisine for centuries. High in antioxidants and Vitamin C, pomegranates are offer a variety of health benefits.

Feeling adventurous in the kitchen? Try out POM Tiramisu for a sweet,
tart addition to traditional tiramisu.
Photo Source: POM Wonderful

If you've never cooked with pomegranates before, check out this About guide "All About Pomegranates." With a step-by-step guide to seeding pomegranates, as well as a video and information on how to select and store the fruit, you'll be a pomegranate connoisseur before you know it!

While Mexican Salad with Pomegranate-Lime Dressing derives pomegranate flavor from pomegranate juice, POM Tiramisu and Pomegranate and Lemon Herb Tilapia both incorporate the arils, or the fleshy seeds, as key ingredients. For more pomegranate recipes, visit the site of the maker of POM juice, which includes a variety of pomegranate-inspired dishes.

Falling in Love with Fall Food Part I

Monday, September 14, 2009

While the leaves haven't started changing colors yet, and the temperature is still 86 degrees in Charlotte, fall still seems to be in the air. School is in session, football season has kicked off and weekend camping trips are replacing days spent by the poolside. Along with the new smells and sights of fall comes a slew of new seasonal ingredients. Among favorite fall veggies now in season are pumpkin, squash, eggplant and sweet potatoes.


Possibly my most favorite pumpkin recipe of all times is this Pumpkin Cake recipe that I've been making for years. The moist and delicious cake is a blend of yellow cake mix, canned pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice which includes one secret ingredient - butterscotch pudding. Serve warm with Cool Whip for an indulgent fall-inspired treat.

One oven-baked breakfast dish that I sampled for the first time last weekend is the Pumpkin-Cinnamon Streusel Buns, a delicious, time-consuming concoction that's well worth the effort to make.

This twist on traditional cinnamon buns is festive and flavorful.
Photo Source: My Recipes

Finally, if you're looking to break out of the realm of pumpkin baked goods, then sample this highly-recommended recipe for Pumpkin and Shrimp Bisque. A creamy blend of salty, rich flavors with notes of lemon, pepper and sage. A whopping 91 percent of those who tried this recipe said that it's a keeper and that they'd make it again.


In addition to pumpkin, many other squash varieties are in season during the fall and winter months including butternut squash, acorn squash and spaghetti squash, which are several of my favorites. If you're looking to serve a yummy squash dish, then I'd recommend Butternut Squash Soup with Sage and Parmesan Croutons. The rich, creamy soup is well-paired with the parmesan croutons. A dish that's sure to warm you up on a cool fall day, butternut squash soup keeps well and makes for a nice alternative to a brown bag lunch. Check out this Cooking Light article for tips on how to peel and cut butternut squash if you've never done so before. It can be a bit tricky, and if you think it may be too much of a hassle, your local Harris Teeter or another upscale grocery chain may have fresh and frozen pre-cut butternut squash.

When I stumbled on this Winter Panzanella recipe reviewed by Smitten Kitchen, I couldn't contain my excitement. Having recently made a summer version with fresh tastes of basil, tomato and chunks of yummy sourdough bread, I was thrilled to find a version with seasonal roasted vegetables, including squash.

Winter Panzanella incorporates tasty fall and winter veggies
for a fresh and colorful dish.
Photo Source: Smitten Kitchen


An avid eggplant lover, I can't get enough of this funky fall veggie. The key to this somewhat high-maintenance ingredient is in preparation. In some cases you may need to sweat the eggplant by placing peeled and cut slices on a plate and coating them in a generous layer of salt, which will bring out the bitter flavors. The process takes about 30 minutes, and you'll know when it's done because the slices will feel more flexible, bending easily to the touch. Check the eggplant recipe you're using to see if you need to go through this preparation step or if you can skip it.

My all-time favorite eggplant recipe is eggplant parmesan. While I've made it by sweating it and then baking it in a layered casserole dish, I've found that dipping the slices of eggplant first really makes for a much tastier (and much more unhealthy) final product. Try out this version for a hearty, meat-free layered dish. This is another one of those recipes where time equals taste, but if you need a quick eggplant parmesan fix (which I admittedly do at times), pick up some frozen, pre-breaded eggplant slices at your local Trader Joe's.

Other awesome tried-and-true eggplant recipes include Penne with Sausage, Eggplant, and Feta and Stuffed Eggplant, both of which are Cooking Light recipes and healthier options for flavorful fall dishes that will leave you feeling full. And, if you're an eggplant addict like me, then be sure to check out aubergines.org, a fun purple-themed site filled with hundreds of eggplant recipes.

This Cooking Light Stuffed Eggplant recipe received 5-stars from
reviewers and is a tried-and-true dish that plates pretty.
Photo Source: My Recipes

Sweet Potato

The final fall veggie that I'm spotlighting is the sweet potato - another rich, colorful ingredient that offers opportunity that extends beyond traditional Thanksgiving sweet potato casseroles and baked sweet potatoes.

To add some flavor and spice to sweet potato, try out Chipolte Sweet Potatoes or Roasted Spiced Sweet Potato Wedges, each of which draws flavor from a blend of spicy herbs. Finally, if you're looking for something on the sweeter side or for a dish that makes for great finger food, try the Harvest Sweet Potato Pecan Tarts. This dish was a big hit at the engagement party last fall. Party goers couldn't resist these sweet miniature sweet potato and pecan pie treats!

Opt for some spice instead of sugar with your sweet potatoes this fall.
Photo Source: Smitten Kitchen

Check back soon for more fall recipes! Part II will pull inspiration from recipes with fall fruits including apples, figs, pomegranates and pears.

The Hype about Skype

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

With a recent Oprah endorsement, Skype has seen user ship jump sky-high in just a few short months. Despite being in operation since 2002, the service, which is now owned by eBay, has gained a lot of popularity in recent years. So with all of this hype about Skype, you may begin to wonder – what’s the big deal?

Skype, which rhymes with type, is an Internet-based communication service that allows users to call each other from any place in the world through their computers for free. You can even make calls through your computers to cell phones and landlines for a small fee.

So what’s the catch? Well, there isn’t one really. You have to have Internet service in order to use Skype, and both users must have downloaded the program for your call to go through. Sometimes call quality is not crystal clear and there can be an echo or fading in and out, but with international phone rates being as much as $5 per minute, you can hardly complain about a service that offers the same for free.

This Skype screenshot shows a live video feed via web cam.
The computer-to-computer service is free worldwide.
Photo Source: Skype

In addition to being able to call users via Skype, you can also send instant messages, pictures and videos to users on your Skype buddy list, which allows you to see when they’re online and available. Call forwarding and voicemail are other features that are useful for travelers, students studying abroad and anyone who has a computer and doesn’t want to pay long-distance calling fees.

If you plan to Skype friends and family at home while you’re traveling, download the software to test it out before you leave. Test call each of your contacts to work out any bugs. For example, your computer has to have a microphone in order to use Skype, so while you can talk into the speaker on newer laptops, this may not be the case for PCs and older laptops. Working out these details in advance is the best way to prevent communication barriers once you’re on the road.

You'll never know when Skype will come in handy during your travels! Kris and I announced our engagement to our families and friends through Skype, which was a nice alternative to email to actually be able to share the night's events and excitement in realtime. Happy Skyping!

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