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A Look Back: 2017 Travels with Starbucks

I've spent the last few days thinking about my resolutions for next year. I'm a sucker for resolutions and make them every year the same way that I always get excited in the fall for back to school and for the first sign of changing seasons. I guess I just like new beginnings and the chance for a fresh start. But before I start to sound pious, I hate Monday mornings - every single week.

Part of my process is to review the resolutions I made last year and think about what went well and why and what didn't go well. If I want to make some of the same resolutions, I want to have better results this year after all.

One of my resolutions last year was to travel more. I wanted to stop thinking about going places and actually go. Little did I know how well I was going to achieve this goal. Oh, the irony.
For some background, it's not as though I didn't do any traveling in 2016. We actually took an extended family vacation in France. The joy of that trip led me to wish to continue traveling through 2017. And I did. Just not the way I expected.

I decided to document my travels using Starbucks You Are Here mugs at the beginning of the year. Coffee is a constant in my life, and I thought this would be a fun way to look back after the year was over. Little did I know I would end up with 19 mugs.

Some of them seemed apparent. We still have family in California, we even had our Disneyland passes, so of course, we would end up in with California mugs as we made several trips back throughout the year. That takes care of 7 out of 19, and I only had to go to California once on business - even better. 

#8 is a bit of a cheat. We live in Las Vegas, so that's not really traveling now, is it? Well, when you look at 9 - 19, I felt like my time in Vegas was a vacation at times.

I traveled a lot on business this year, at least for me, often multiple cities per trip and often trips back to back with only two or three days in between. And I saw some crazy weather along the way as well. I was in Texas most often (I think 8 times total) and when in Houston found out how terrifying waiting for tornados can be. Tornado weather is just plain scary, and I don't know if I would ever get used to it. I also experienced flooding in Houston but wasn't there for the worst of it. It's a beautiful city, and I would love to have a chance to go back and explore as a tourist soon.

I also really enjoyed my time in Atlanta and Charlotte. I think. That trip was very rushed and multi-city. I guess I need to go back to figure out which restaurants were where.

I wasn't in Chicago very long, and I didn't really enjoy my time there. If you have any recommendations to convince me to give it another chance, I'm open.

Colorado was very cold but very brown when I was there with no snow yet. Luckily, I've been there before in the winter and know how beautiful the mountains are. I need to go back now in the summer.

And that's it for 2017. No foreign travel but enough domestic to keep me really busy and to have a very full mug cabinet. Where did your travels take you this year?


My 2018 Planning/Goal-Setting Set Up

Over the last few weeks, I've been experimenting with some big changes in how I'm planning and how I want to plan in 2018. This year I moved into separate planners, like this MAMBI Happy Planner with Gold Expander Rings, focused on individual projects or areas of my life. I love this from the perspective of keeping my supporting documents, goal setting, milestones and plans together in one place, but this does cause confusion and potential for forgetting things if I don't check every planner on a daily basis. To prevent that from happening, I started using a bullet journal  like this one 

to transfer my tasks into one spot to stay on top of them, but I much prefer using my Day Designer  

to plan out my tasks for the day because I like to time-bound tasks, so at this point, I've basically eliminated the use of a bullet journal except for keeping my habit tracker.

This system has been working well, but I felt limited because I no longer had somewhere consolidated where I could look at all my weekly appointments and workload at a glance. This was really where I was struggling and some days just feeling complete overwhelm from overbooking myself or forgetting commitments.

I had purchased a Van Der Spek and hadn't yet used it, so I decided to pair it with weekly inserts from Printable Pineapple to consolidate my week, making sure I have a level workload. Then on a daily basis, I pull out my daily tasks, transfer them to my Day Designer and keep that with me as I work throughout the day.

Since I gave up on the bullet journal, I did feel the need to add one more item to my planning arsenal. I needed someplace to jot down tasks and thoughts as they pop into my head as well as the habit tracker.

 I ordered this simple graph notebook,  and I use it as a somewhat modified bullet journal almost in the reverse of my weekly/daily planning process. In the evening, I sit down and transfer notes and tasks into the appropriate project planners.

I'm still working out my system for advance or annual planning, so I'll share that as soon as I get it figured out. What are you planning on using next year?


Entertaining / Thanksgiving Tablescape

Last year’s Thanksgiving was the first holiday in our new home, but coming on the heels of an out-of-state move, a long vacation in France, and a few road trips back to Los Angeles, we decided to stay home just the three of us and have a simple and relaxing holiday. I admit I was pretty worn out. I had managed to decorate for Halloween as I showed here, but other than keeping some of my pumpkins out, I didn’t get very into Thanksgiving.

This year, even though we are staying home and having just the three of us again for Thanksgiving, I wanted to put a little more effort into it. I pulled out my pumpkins and scattered them around the house, put up a festive leaf garland on my balcony as well as a few pillows and plaques, but I really decided to put most of my effort into the tablescape. 

A is cooking her first Thanksgiving this year since this will be her last year living at home full time, and we thought this would be good practice for her when she’s doing the meal on her own in the future. There’s nothing like practicing when Mom is here to talk you through it. Since she’s doing all the work, I wanted to set a beautiful table as a backdrop for her efforts.

I went back and forth on getting flowers this year. I love an acorn and twig wreath that I bought at Hobby Lobby last year and was going to have that be the centerpiece with a large pillar candle in the center but really felt drawn to having some type of flowers this year instead. I used a large red vase and several bunches of flower stalks in autumnal colors that I arranged together and ended up putting the wreath in the nook next to my front door.

I decided not to use a tablecloth this year instead going for the rustic look of my tabletop, but I still used a mixture of my different china patterns as well as a small plate from an everyday set that has a harvest theme paired with my formal silver. I then used some antique glassware and a sprig of dried lavender across the top of each setting. 

I had no need for placecards this year since there will only be the three of use, but I did scatter some of my small seasonal candleholders on the table as well.

Overall, I think the look is simple, rustic yet classic. I’ve partnered with several other bloggers for the Tablescape Blog Tour. Please take the virtual tour by clicking the little blue frog below and see what everyone else has planned for the holiday tables this year. 


Downtown Las Vegas / 7th And Carson

 A few weekends ago 7th and Carson hosted the Vegas Lifestyle Influencers group for a little pre-Halloween brunch. I had had this little Downtown  gem on my list for a while, but just hadn't made it in. From the minute we walked through the door and were greeted by these spicy watermelon beauties, I knew I had put it off far too long.

First out of the kitchen was this parfait of Greek yogurt, housemade granola and berries

quickly followed by this amazing salad with grilled peaches and burrata. With every dish that was brought out of the kitchen and presented to us, I kept thinking that the food was more and more beautiful and each taster absolutely amazing. 

And it just kept coming. Just as beautiful as the food is the ambiance. 7th and Carson is not a huge venue, but it's well laid out with a chef's bar, a bar and a grouping of tables including a large communal table. With lots of warm wood, the focal point has got to be the tile tops of the table. The restaurant has gone so far as to use the patterns of the table as part of their branding, including the patterns on their business cards. 

 Additional courses included chicken and waffles

and French toast with lavender infused syrup. The syrup had a delicate floral flavor that cut the normal sweetness of maple syrup. 

 Dare I say that I'm not a huge avocado toast fan and be allowed to keep my blog? Well, I haven't been, then I was served this enormous slab of delicious toasty bread, smeared with soft, perfectly ripe avocado and a beautifully poached sous vide egg with a soft but not runny yolk. I personally prefer a yolk that is a firmer, gooey bite instead of runny, so this was perfectly cooked for me.

A crowd favorite of the group was the breakfast pizza. There was a vegetarian in our group, so Chef very kindly placed bacon on only half of the pizza, but can you tell? Those are scrambled eggs that were so perfectly prepared they melted into the cheese and crust. 

Chef hard at work in his kitchen.

If you are planning a visit to Vegas and are looking for a restaurant Downtown, you can do no better than dropping by 7th and Carson. If you are a local, you should run and not walk as soon as possible to pay a visit. I know that I will be putting this spot into regular rotation. 


Favorites / Sugarpova, Pinches Tacos, Pur-lisse Sheet Masks

I love sour gummies. I’m not that big of a fan of gummy bears, but if they are sour, I love them and usually the more sour the better. I was given these Sugarpova gummies recently to review, and even though they aren’t overly sour, I really enjoyed them. They didn’t have that weird bitter taste that sour candy can often have, and these instead of being all one flavor such as lime or just sweetly sour were all a different mixture of fruit flavors, so one could be lime and cherry and another blueberry and lemon. An added bonus is that a portion of the proceeds from each bag sold goes to support the Maria Sharapova Foundation.

One of the first restaurants we found after moving to Las Vegas was Pinches Tacos. The irony is that Pinches is all over L.A., yet we never went there when we lived in Pasadena. Pinches recently hosted a blogger’s lunch, and I had the opportunity to try some menu favorites that I hadn’t ordered yet. Since Pinches has a full bar, the day started off with the most amazing blood orange margaritas quickly followed by housemade chips with salsa and guacamole, tacos, flautas, and my favorite the Mexican corn on the cob. I could eat it all day every day.

I am the ultimate Rifle Paper Co. fan girl. I found Anna Rifle Bond’s work a few years ago, and every time I see something in a store or online, I’m instantly drawn to it. This year I’ve had a small monthly calendar sitting in a small easel-holder on my desk, and I’ve really come to really on it far more than my monthly calendar hanging next to my desk. I saw this navy and gold-embossed constellation calendar and knew it was the one. Using the positions of the stars then adding the connecting lines as the basis, each drawings overlays an amazing depiction the mythological story for each one.

There’s a reason these are called favorite posts - obviously they are full of things that are my favorites, but this month I feel like I’m just gussing, but all these things are just so good. I mean velvet. I love velvet, and these pillows in Anthropologie are what I dream about. So soft in both pastels and jewel tones, I couldn’t decide which way to go. I love the rose and the burgundy and feel justified in getting both and switching them out seasonally since both go with my living room decor.

Finally I was given this Pur-lisse Blue Lotus and Seaweed sheet mask to review. I had never been a big fan of sheet masks thinking they were all hype until recently. This mask is another that I enjoy. It’s extremely hydrating and left my skin so soft and smooth with all the roughness gone after I removed it and rubbed in the remaining product. And sheet masks are the ultimate excuse to just sit and relax for 15 minutes as we get to the crazy busy holiday season. 

This week I've linked up to Creative Mondays with Claire Justine. Please hop on over and see what the other creative bloggers have been up to this week. 


Pixar Film Fest

Over the summer when our daily schedules weren’t jam packed with meetings, rehearsals, early assemblies, and school runs, we had more time for leisurely family evenings. We tried playing some games but couldn’t quite find one that all of us could agree upon. We scrolled through Netflix and Amazon Prime but couldn't agree on a series to marathon. Then one night while having another discussion of what to watch and not reaching an agreement, we noticed The Incredibles in our Netflix suggestions. Why not do a Pixar marathon? So we did.

We decided to watch in chronological order because I’m kind of OCD about reading and watching series in order. If you're like me, the order is:

If you decide to do your own film fest, not all of the movies are on Netflix. We used a combination of that, Amazon Video and Red Box. 

We went at a pretty good clip getting through all 18 films. As I started preparing to write this post, I asked D and A to rate their top three. In so specific order they are:

Toy Story
Toy Story 2
The Incredibles
Monsters, Inc.
A Bug’s Life

I found it amusing that except for Up ending up on both D and my lists, we had no duplicates for favorites. And we do seem to have a preference for the older films on the list.

If you have younger kids, you may not think that watching Cars A-G-A-I-N is a fun Saturday night, but if you are like us, it had been years since we had watched some of these movies. It had been so long since we watched some of them that we felt like we were seeing them for the first time, and I caught so many jokes this time around that I had missed before. In a few months we plan to watch a few of our favorites again to look for hidden Easter eggs.

Have you been through the entire Pixar catalog? Which is your favorite?


Plan with Me - August 2017

Sorry for the abrupt ending to the video as my camera battery died. Products used: Bespoke Lifestyle Sticky Notes - Available here: Cloth & Paper Sticky Notes Planner Pages from Printable Pineapple on Easy Studio Calico Stickers The Planner Society Ephemera Willowfilds Paper clip Webster's Pages Planner All products were purchased by me.


The Bespoke Lifestyle Store Update

As some of you may know, we launched an online subscription box for our page flags last year around this time. We had done a significant amount of work on everything from choosing paper weight and adhesive strength to designs and logos.

Everything was coming together to plan, so we chose a launch date, and then our technical plan fell apart. Instead of quickly changing our launch date, we pushed forward, jumping through hoops, changing our web provider and our e-commerce platform, moving content that had taken months to develop over in one long, long night, but in the process, losing some of the site aesthetics and usability we had worked long and hard on creating.

But we launched on time with relief and plans for site refinement along the way. We were a little surprised when the Account Manager left our manufacturer suddenly just after the launch in the middle of planning for the next month’s release, and we should have been more concerned. Soon after, our emails with the 3rd month’s designs were ignored. We did receive our order for month 2, but we received no responses from the factory as we got closer to the month 3 production deadline. Now it appears that they’ve gone out of business.

We were left with a choice, quickly find a manufacturer to fill orders without thoroughly vetting the product quality, which had taken months before, or stop the subscription box after only two months. We decided on the latter.

That was November of last year. Since then, we’ve moved all the products we created into an Etsy store, we’ve worked on the website, and we’ve begun the hunt for a new supplier who can support the high quality we want for our product. We’ve also taken what we’ve learned and thought long and hard about our business model.

And we decided to make some changes. When we reopen, we may still have our in-house page flags, but we aren’t going to do a subscription box any longer.

Stay tuned, and we’ll drop some hints along the way. As for now, we'll keep some things in the Etsy store and show you our plans as we develop them. And we have no launch date. This time we feel like we’ll know when we are ready, and we’ll plan for a launch then.

We hope you enjoy the process with us. 


Grilled Cheese at The Counter

Grilled Cheese with Ham and Onion Rings

Put this one in the category of things I miss about Southern California that I never thought I would.

In Pasadena, we had a branch of the restaurant chain The Counter. There are several locations spread throughout the states, but if you’ve never heard of it before, The Counter is a hamburger place I’ve mentioned here before. You have several options such as choosing the type of protein you’d like, the type of bun, cheese, toppings etc., to truly make a customized burger. They also have the best Parmesan fries. I think they add rosemary. Truly insane.

Before we moved to Nevada, we went through and checked on the location of all of our favorite chains to see if they had one in Las Vegas. In most cases, we were pretty lucky including our favorite sushi place, Kabuki, and quick bites like Chipotle, Blaze and Pizza Rev. We also felt we were gaining so many great restaurants on the Strip, we really wouldn’t miss anything. 

So imagine my disappointed when only a few months in, we started realizing the things we missed. Chick-fil-a? There wasn’t one, but luckily within a few weeks of realizing this was missing, two were opened. 

We knew one of our breakfast favorites, Urth Caffe, didn’t have a location, but then we heard the news that one will be opening early next year. 

Then one day I got an email from The Counter, and at the time, I really didn’t think anything of it. A few days later, I looked to see if there was one close by. No. Now I love burgers; I think they should be their own food group, but I had found so many other great burger places, whenever we went to The Counter, I actually began ordering other things off the menu, and that was when I found their grilled cheese. As much as I love burgers, I think I love grilled cheese even more. And this grilled cheese with ham and an onion ring inside with a side of bbq sauce was just life changing. I mean I immortalized it on my phone. 

Last week when I was cleaning pictures out of my phone, I found this one, and suddenly all I can think about is The Counter. Unfortunately I would have to drive to Arizona, California or Idaho to visit one, but I kept thinking about this grilled cheese. Obsessed, I went to look at the menu online and found that this particular grilled cheese that has haunted my dreams is no longer on their menu. I probably don’t need a recipe to recreate it, but I have found the cookbook Grilled Cheese Kitchen, and now there could be be much experimentation while I look for my new favorite. 


Gift Guide // For the Ice Cream Lover

Probably one of my favorite gift ideas, I’ve used this ice cream gift for several different occasions over the years including weddings, housewarmings, anniversaries, and birthdays. I mean, who doesn’t love ice cream, and these days, buying an ice cream maker is probably not high on most people’s list of needs, but they are always good to have on hand for family events with kids. I love seeing the looks on their faces when you pour in the base and within a few minutes serve them a bowl of delicious creaminess and let them lick the beaters.

Another great aspect of this gift is that it can be customized for your budget very easily. You could start with the Cuisinart Stainless Steel Ice Cream Maker which by itself is a lovely gift. This is the maker I had for years which is based around a canister that you freeze prior to placing it into the machine. The hardest thing about using this model is making space in the freezer for the canister and remembering to freeze it ahead of time.

A nice add on to the maker is the Ben & Jerry’s book. I’ve had my copy of this book for over 20 years, and I think I’ve made everything in it by this point. Basically, this book teaches you how to make your favorite Ben & Jerry’s flavor at home. Ever felt like there wasn't enough chocolate in your chunky monkey? Now you have the power to add more by customizing the recipe. 

If you are looking for a maker that doesn’t require pre-freezing the canister, the Cuisinart Ice 100 brings the ultimate in convenience. Because it has a self-contained compressor, it will even keep your ice cream frozen while you are serving it to avoid that immediate melt you get with most makers. The Ice 100 has a lift up panel on the lid for ease of adding those mix ins that the Ben & Jerry’s are famous for. 

If you want to add even more to your gift basket, these MacKenzie-Childs ice cream bowls are both practical and decorative. The glaze over steel construction means your treats will melt more slowly especially if you place the bowls in the freezer before serving. They are hand painted with an adorable and whimsical check and stripe black and white print. 

Finally the ultimate luxurious part of the gift is the Mary Jurek Helyx ice cream scoop. Not your traditional ice cream scoop design, this one is more of a mini ice scoop, creating great slabs of ice cream for your bowls. 

Whichever configuration you choose for your gift, the recipient will be thrilled with the potential of sweet treats. 


Dessert - Baked Chocolate Pudding

Over the last few years, A has taken over the baking duties in our house. I am still responsible for cooking dinner every night, but she is always on the hunt for the next big dessert. She has been so busy this summer that she really hasn't had time to bake, which is probably a good thing, but last night I felt like having a little sweet after our meal. Of course, I hadn't planned ahead, so it had to be with only things I had in the pantry, and I wanted it to be fast. I found this recipe for Baked Chocolate Pudding in one of D's old cookbooks that I had actually never even opened before. It's from 1000 Classic Recipes from Around the World by Jo-Anne Cox and Elizabeth Towers, and it fit the bill with only seven ingredients. I did leave out the walnuts as who wants crunchy bits in your pudding?

The other great part of this recipe is that it doesn't require a mixer. I softened the butter

and easily creamed it together with the brown sugar by hand.

Then I added two eggs that I had beaten with a fork

then mixed in flour

and unsweetened cocoa powder and baked in a buttered casserole for 35 minutes while we ate dinner.

When I pulled it out of the oven, I let it cool for five minutes then dusted the top with confectioner's sugar. The result is a creamy texture with some crispy, chewy bits around the edges.

Make sure you eat it warm!