Feb 092013


Today I am sharing with you the dates I chose for my “dates for a year” gift. If you missed that post,  you can find it HERE.

  1. Train ride to San Juan Capistrano for Brunch at Ramos House Cafe’.
  2. Tickets to the Kings game.
  3. Walking tour in San Diego’s Little Italy with a gift certificate to Extraordinary desserts.
  4. Lunch at Lucha Libre. It’s this dive Mexican restaurant where you can reserve the “booth”. Funky and fun!
  5. Puzzle night at home. (this is something they like to do together)
  6. Art Splash Carlsbad where locals come together and paint the streets and showcase their art. (sent them to breakfast first)
  7. Cineopolis, the fancy movie theater where you can recline in your comfy chair and have a waitress bring you a martini, while you watch the latest James Bond flick!
  8. Go Cars in San Diego. Basically I sent them to be tourists in their own city. Cafe Chloe’ followed for lunch. (a San Diego must)
  9. Pottery painting at a local shop where they made each other a gift.
  10. Ice skating in La Jolla so they could bring back the teen romance in their life! haha
  11. Their last date was a gift card to Michaels Craft shop so they can assemble their scrapbook together with their “year of dates” photographs and memories…


photo 4



These were the dates I chose for my sister and brother in-law. My ideas were truly endless, especially the longer I thought about it. Here is a little added bonus for you…

More date night ideas:
  • Picnic with all the trimmings. (candles, blankets, wine and even a laptop to watch a romantic movie)
  • Dinner at a restaurant, but at the “chefs table”. (this is the room or counter you eat at while watching your food being prepared)
  • Spa day for fabulous massages and facials. A mini date at your local pedicure place would be great too!
  • Be a tourist in your own city. I especially like using Groupons/Living Social coupons for this.
  • Whale watching or sunset dinner cruise.
  • Cooking class at a local restaurant or store, such as Sur La Table.
  • Amusement park such as Disneyland. Act like a kid again…even if for one day!
  • An unusual dinner out such as “eating in the dark” or try a new food. (Indian, sushi, vegan, etc…)
  • Museum or local art showing.
  • Music concert for an old favorite band.
  • Your local juice bar, followed by hitting the rock climbing gym. (fun even for beginners)
  • Plant an herb garden together.
  • Create a signature cocktail. Have fun experimenting with ingredients such as lavender, rosemary and mint. (look around on the internet for inspiration)

Date nights that are cheap or free:
  • Embrace the great outdoors by going on a hike or stroll along the beach, river, or local nature spot.
  • Wash each others cars together while blasting your favorite tunes. (if it’s warm enough, add a little water fight too!)
  • There is nothing more romantic than cooking a meal together. Do everything as a team,  from choosing the dinner, grocery shopping, prepping and cooking.
  • Pamper your significant other. Example: Let them watch their favorite t.v. , play video games, eat their favorite bad foods, GUILT FREE, while you make them food, always have a cold drink for them, do a few of their chores, give a little foot rub…you get the idea.
  • Garage sale or flea market date. Designate $10 and have fun searching for a gift for one another.
  • Follow a local food truck to have some gourmet grub on a budget.
  • Pay it forward together. This might be the most bonding date. (tidy your elderly neighbors yard, babysit for a single parent, deliver a surprise dinner to someone sick or depressed, have a fund raiser such as a garage sale for someone in need, volunteer locally such as a beach clean up, help friends have their emergency kits together, I could go on and on…)
  • Attend a free concert in the park or movie in your local community. (usually a summer activity)
  • DIY spa day. Create a spa atmosphere with soothing music, water with cucumbers and lemon, low lighting, favorite candle scent…and give each other scalp, hand, foot or neck massages. If you have a tub, draw a nice bubble bath for the other with a tray of a few of their favorite things. (book, bubbly, soaps) Throw a towel in the drier so it’s nice and warm for them when they get out.
  • Game night,  such as chess or scrabble.
  • Get some household chore done, such working in the yard. It might not be the most romantic date, but you will get something accomplished TOGETHER. Make it enjoyable by taking a break and having some cold beer and chips/salsa together.


I think these suggestions should keep you busy for a while. Please feel free to share your ideas in my comment section to share with everyone!! I’d really appreciate your creative input.

Dec 022012

Winter is here and what better time to start cozying up to your favorite red! Today I’m sharing my beloved wine glass with you. Friends are always asking me where they can get one. What makes it so special? It fits an entire bottle of vino!  I must confess I do not drink an entire bottle of wine at once, however I’m a sucker for a great novelty.  It’s now my “go to” hostess gift or “budget gift” that is very “rich in style”. Stock up and have them on hand for that perfect gift.



The ideas are endless:
  • Get them etched with Mr. and Mrs., a special date or a wine quote at your local engraver for a one of a kind gift. (or etch them yourself if you’re the crafty type)
  • For dual usage fill the large wine glass with candies, nuts or a dip at your next cocktail / wine party.
  • Use them as candle holders or a flower vase.
  • They make a great vessel for wrapping gift certificates to your local wine tasting bar, restaurants or home decore stores.
  • They make the perfect storage for used wine corks too!
Jun 272012

I’ve fallen in love with the quirky cooking show, Extra Virgin, starring Debi Mazar and her Italian native husband. I recently tried one of their mouth watering recipes, bolognese lasagne with a besciamella sauce. It is divine! I’m going to be upfront with you, it’s a simple yet time consuming recipe. However, one bite and you’ll know it was worth all the effort.  The main thing you’ll notice that sets this recipe apart from most, is the lack of cheese. Instead you use a besciamella sauce that is made from butter, flour and milk. It turns what would be an ordinary dish into an extraordinary one!

I followed the recipe as directed, except I omitted the nutmeg simply because I don’t like it. If you need a meal to impress, look no further… Serve it with a simple salad and rustic Italian bread. Of course, don’t forget the vino!

Recipe Here

(courtesy of Gabriele Corcos and Debi Mazar)

Dec 222011

hourglass wine glass










As an avid entertainer and shopper of unique gifts, I am really excited about my latest find that fits both categories perfectly.  These novel, but classy hourglass wine goblets would be appreciated by anyone who loves wine, game night, enjoys cooking or spending time with friends. That must be why I own them and love them so much!









Things to know:
  • The sand timer lasts ten minutes.
  • You must hand wash them.
  • They arrive in four colors of sand which is brilliant because this basically marks whose glass belongs to whom.
  • They are a very nice size and I was pleasantly surprised by the quality.
  • As a small side note, I adored the box they arrived in. It would be great for a man or woman while still being stylish. Small touches like that are important to me if I’m gifting them.
Other unique and different gifts I found for:
  • I use to belong to a diy wine club, which consisted of a few girlfriends getting together to whine, while drinking wine.  These would have been fabulous for us. Give the gift of starting your own girlfriends wine club and giftwrap each glass individually with your wine club invitation. (think: whine time)
  • No re-fills until the sand timer is over! (jk)
  • Let the wine breathe until sands are gone. According to Napanow.com, letting your wine breathe for five to ten minutes before drinking it will improve the wine in many cases.


Nov 042011











Do you want your senses to do a little dance this weekend? Then get boogying in the kitchen and make this soup originally created by Marcus from the Top Chef. It’s not like a typical extra thick bean soup. I would classify this more as a brothy (is that a word?) bean soup but with bold flavors. This is definitely company worthy!


By the way, I must credit my mother in-law Connie for this new keeper…thanks!

Oct 262011

Whether we’re forced to cut back on our spending, or we are choosing too, we probably would still like to have a little bling now and then. I’m the type of girl who will wear $$$ jeans with a $5 Target t-shirt, while sporting my Jacki O sunglasses and holding my garage sale find handbag. I’m happy with what I love, not with who made it or where it comes from. (who it comes from is important though) That’s my fashion philosophy and I’m sticking to it!

Today I’m sharing one of my little jewelry secrets with you. For trendy, seasonal bling, one of my favorite places to shop is Forever 21. This is a clothing store, but they have some fabulous (& cheap) jewelry and accessories waiting to be found. Here are a few examples of what I’m loving right now…

From fashion forward feathers, to sparkles that will be-dazzle your LBD. (little black dress)

only $10.80                                                                   only $7.80

Bold and beautiful bracelets.

only $4.80                    only $4.80

Instant glam with rings.

only $5.80                          only $6.80 


  • Shop around at the high end stores to see what the latest trends and prices are. This will educate you so you can spot a true bargain.
  • Shop estate sales for great vintage finds. You can repurpose clip-on earrings into necklaces. Just get a chain and string one of the earrings on it.
  • Use inexpensive jewelry in place of a bow or ribbon when wrapping a gift.

Update your real jewelry:

  • I have a great suggestion for updating some of your “real” jewelry. If you have a ring you that is gold, you can freshen it up by getting it covered in white gold. It changes the look completely and you’ll feel like it’s a new piece without spending a ton. (Nordstrom’s fine jewelry dept. at certain locations offers this service, along with most jewelers.)
  • Re-think your pieces. Could you wear a ring on a chain to make it a necklace? Could your grandma’s old brooch be attached to a great headband? Maybe you have a necklace that could be doubled up and used as a bracelet. Get creative with what you already have, to give it new life.
  • Maybe the best idea yet, share what you have with someone else. I had a ring that a friend of mine loved. Who says you can’t pay it forward with bling? Btw it looks fabulous on her!
Oct 132011

I’m sharing some of my recession friendly beauty product secrets. A growing number of people are needing to tighten their budget belts during these hard economic times. That doesn’t mean we have to give up looking and feeling amazing! With this is mind, I am sharing five of my favorite beauty bargains. First, I have listed the high end item  I was using, then I have shown what product I think is of comparable quality, but at a fraction of the cost. This has definitely been a trial and error process. In some cases, the saying, “you get what you pay for” has been true. Happily though, that has not been my conclusion for everything.

-Please note I am only sharing my personal opinions and have no financial gain in this review.

Diorshow Blackout $24.50                           $6.oo (at Target)      

Diorshow has always given my short lashes that thick, luscious, long lash look. I am excited to share that the Loreal Voluminous mascara is just as good!







Clinique sheer tint $27.00       Aveeno tint $11.99 (Drugstore.com, includes shipping)

Cliniques sheer tint has SPF in it without any of those weird sunblock odors. The Aveeno is similar in that regard. I admit, I prefer the Clinique a tiny bit more, but the Aveeno is a great choice for the value.







Artec Kiwi  $13.00 (8 ounces)       Loreal Vive Pro $4 (13 ounces)

This might be my favorite bargain. I have used a large variety of professional shampoos since I color my hair. (I guess the secrets out now!) The Artec Color was my bargain shampoo until I stumbled across the Loreal Color Vive Pro. I am so shocked how well this $4 shampoo works!







Mac eye Kohl eyeliner $15.00          Wet and Wild  Kohl eyeliner $1.00

This is another fantastic bargain where you don’t sacrifice much quality while saving a bundle. I love Wet and Wild for my black eyeliner. I can’t see enough of a difference to justify spending the extra $14.00. However, if I want a brown eyeliner, I have to confess, Wet and Wild doesn’t compare to Mac’s Costa Riche color. It’s perfection in a pencil!

                  opi nail polish

Butter London nail polish $18.00           O P I nail polish $8

Oh, how I love butter…the nail polish that is! There was no way I could recommend some $2 cheap nail polish that would compare in quality and color selection. OPI is the only one that I have found to come close. It’s still not what some would consider a huge bargain, but it’s comparable to Butter London and half the price.


  • Ask your friends for recommendations on different products.
  • If you’re not happy with an item, save your receipt and return it right away. (shop at stores that allow this if possible) This will help you avoid wasting money on trial and error shopping.
  • Stock up when there is a great sale on an item you regularly use.
  • If you have an Ulta Beauty supply near you, join their club. It’s free and I have saved a lot of extra money using their points system. (remember the points expire, so use them before they go to waste)




Oct 102011















You heard me correctly, dinner in a bag. Did I mention it was a paper bag? This isn’t your typical meal, this is a show stopper! The good news is, your palate will forever love you and it’s simple to prepare. This can be made in under an hour total. Although not necessary,  I recommend making the sauce at least a few hours ahead so the flavors have more time to develop. This meal definitely has the fun factor too. You sit down in front of a paper bag on your plate. Then you just rip it open as a cloud of steam full of amazing aromas suddenly hits your senses. It’s pure happiness!

This recipe comes from the kitchen of Michael Chiarello. RECIPE HERE. As usual, I did a few little Nellene tweaks to the original recipe. I use cod or halibut in place of the swordfish. I also double the red pepper flakes (if you like spicy) and lemon juice. If I have basil growing, I throw that into the sauce as well. (2 tbsp )










Perfect for:

  • Impressing your significant other.
  • Cooking a meal for your foodie friend.
  • A large sit down dinner.
  • When you don’t really like fish but need or want to eat more of it.
  • Hanging with your in-laws.
  • When your dishwasher is on the blink. (easy clean up, see photo below)
  • Anytime…

















Buon Appetito!

Sep 232011












Have you ever been tempted to join a wine club? I am the very happy recipient of a wine club gift. (Thank you! You know who you are…) The last few years I’ve been able to see the benefits of being a member. The information I’m going to talk about applies to the wine club I belong to, Hess. (each club will vary in benefits and policies)

  • Of course, there is the obvious, getting spectacular, sometimes exclusive wines delivered to your front door.
  • You’ll receive discounts and special buying privileges. When you go to the winery, you receive free tastings and tours for yourself and friends.
  • You also get invited to member only parties that can be very interesting and fun.
  • One thing I didn’t realize would be such an added bonus was the food and wine pairing education.With each shipment of my wine, Hess Winery includes a recipe that would compliment the wine. I love this perk! It has really expanded my culinary horizons. One of my favorite meals to make now is a Hess Wine Club creation. It’s definitely gourmet, but easy enough to make.

As the saying goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Notice the plates are empty? Need I say more? Continue here to find my recipe and more photos.



Aug 022011









…but who has time to write a thousand words? I think it’s safe to say most of us are short on time. I have an idea how we can keep journals that won’t require any writing at all and will take very little time.

My “thousand words” journal:

Gratitude journals are nothing new. I am a true believer in keeping a journal. My dad always kept one when we were growing up. It was cool because it wasn’t a private journal, we could all read it. I do think sometimes you need to change things up a little though. So starting today, I am switching from writing my “three things I’m grateful for this day” journal to my new journal I’ve named, “a thousand words”. The main difference being I will use photographs instead of words to express my different feelings of gratitude.

How to start your own:

  1. Have a camera readily available if possible. Most people have smartphones these days which would be ideal to use due to it’s ease and convenience.
  2. Take pictures of things you love or appreciate, a beautiful blue sky, your adorable dog, Starbucks latte, and your home. It can be something tangible or a scene that perhaps evokes a certain mood.
  3. Choose only one photo daily and organize it in a photo folder on your phone or computer. (Be sure the setting on album/folder will automatically record the date for you.)
  4. At the end of 6 months, a year, or however long you choose, you can make a slide show, an album, a calender for the next year, a photo collage to hang on your wall to remind you of the good things in your life, etc…


First entry to my “thousand words” journal.

I know you were expecting a photo of my son with a cheesy smile or my wonderful hubby doing dishes (believe me, you’ll eventually see those, haha) but the reality is I’m trying to keep this real. Although I am grateful for so much, I just felt like my one glass of red wine was what I wanted to photograph today.