5 Things I'm Loving Right Now

Hey Hi Hello! I returned last weekend from Miami Beach, packed my shorts and sandals back under my bed, put on my boots and drug myself into work every day this week in the 40 degree temperatures. I don't usually travel during the winter months and it was down right HARD to get back into the swing of things. But I did unpack my suitcase last night and it only took me 5 days (I'm writing this on a Friday) so that feels like a tiny win. Anyone else just dread unpacking a suitcase??

But Miami was a wonderful vacation. The weather was lovely, we ate some great food, went to the beach, I drank some pina coladas, and the whole trip was one of the most affordable trips I've ever been on! I'm torn on if I want to share some photos and information on the places we went, things we did, restaurants we enjoyed. I'm in no way an expert, but I also couldn't find a ton of guides online that were up my alley. Let me know if you'd like to see my recommendations in a upcoming post! But I'm back to real life now and thought I'd share some of my favorite things. 

Here are some things I've been loving recently:

1. I'm now on my third month of Studio DIY's Can't Clutch This clutch subscription box and I'm still totally and utterly in love with them. I'm sure at some point I'll have too many clutch bags, but as of now it's still such a fun surprise to look forward to every week. Added bonus, I get more compliments on these bags than any other bag I've ever used. And the quality has been wonderful as well.

2. I've recently found and am loving several new beauty products. I know you are probably here to hear about butter and sugar and cocktails, so I'll just list the products that I'm loving. If you want to hear about anything in particular, feel free to ask me in the comments and I'm tell you more about this things! Herbivore Botanicals DETOX Bath Salts, Real Techniques Setting Brush, Sonia Kashuk Blending Brush, Anastasia Beverly Hills Caramel Eye Shadow, Kevyn Aucoin Contour Duo On The Go, Pixi + Caroline Hirons Double Cleanser, Tarte Tarteist Lip Paint in Birthday Suit (I have mini), NYX Soft Matte Lip Cream in Prague, Not Your Mothers Dry Shampoo Mini, Essie Gel Couture Nail Polishes, Tarte Amazonian Clay 12-Hour Blush in Paaarty, and Glossier Boy Brow in Brown.

3. New routines! I've been attempting to read more and make my way through a handful of books that have been lying around the house unread for a while now. Because G gets up for work early and I need like 10 hours of sleep at night to function, we tend to be in bed by 10PM during the week. So I've been trying a new routine of going to bed around 10 and then reading until about 10:30. Not a ton of time, but it gets me off Instagram and clears my head a bit more. I'm currently reading Mary Roach's Stiff

4. I was given an oil diffuser for my birthday, which turns out to be a gift I didn't know I wanted and needed! I have a handful of friends who swear by essential oils but they've never really worked for me personally. But I love having the relaxing scents going in my house at night. I have one of these and I love it!

5. We booked our hotel in Miami with the Hotel Tonight app. With this app, you can book last-minute hotel rooms (up to a week before check-in) and get some really great deals. This was my second time using it and I definitely plan on using it for some smaller trips we have planned this year. After looking at all kinds of discount travel sites, this still gave us the best price.

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Recipe: Citrus Upside Down Cake

Happy Valentine's Day my loves! I hope you are celebrating a little bit of love today, whether that's with a fancy dinner date, a pizza night at home on the sofa, or just a glass of nice wine and the bathtub. Valentine's Day is a day to treat yourself and the ones around you that you love. So do it up!

In other exciting news, today I'm sharing the recipe for the Citrus Upside Down Cake I made for our Galentine's Day Brunch! It's a stunning cake with a bright citrus flavor and I think you'll be impressed how easy it is! 

Citrus Upside Down Cake

Serves 8

1 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoon orange juice
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup greek yogurt or sour cream
1 blood orange
1 small grapefruit
1 navel orange
1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prep a 9 inch cake pan** with butter and line the bottom with parchment paper.

With the skin still on, slice the grapefruit, orange, and blood orange 1/2 inch thick. Using a paring knife, remove the skin from each citrus slice. You don't have to remove all the pith, but instead cut through the center of the pith and remove half of it. Microwave the 1/3 cup sugar and 3 tablespoons water together until the sugar dissolves, about a minute. Pour half of this mixture into the bottom of the prepared cake pan, arrange citrus fruits in a tight layer, and top with rest of sugar water. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, press orange zest into sugar with a spoon until it's clumpy and fragrant. Add butter and beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Scrape down the bowl and add in eggs, one at a time. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt until combined. Add half of the dry ingredients into the mixer and combine. Add greek yogurt, vanilla extract, and orange juice and mix. Add the rest of the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.

Pour batter over the prepared citrus slices and spread evenly to the edges of the pan. Bake for 35-45 minutes, until golden and a toothpick inserted comes out clean or with a few crumbs. Allow to cool completely before turning out onto a serving platter.

**I baked this cake in an 8 inch cake pan because I couldn't find my 9 inch one. If you only have an 8 inch pan, you'll have a little extra batter. Do not fill cake pan above 3/4 full or cake will not bake properly.

All photography in this post created by Kate McCann Photography.

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How to Throw A Galentine's Day Brunch

Galentine's Day: Bar Area. Unusually Lovely Blog

As much as I love celebrating Valentine's Day with my boyfriend, VDay serves another purpose for me. I like to use this time every year to let the important ladies in my life know how much they mean to me. Usually I do this in the form of a handwritten Valentine's Day card, but this year I partnered with Kate from Kate McCann Photography to throw a Galentine's Day brunch for a handful of our friends! Unfamiliar with the term Galentine's Day? Let Leslie Knope tell you all about it.

Check out my tips and tricks for throwing a simple, stress-free Galentine's Day brunch!

Don't Bake Everything Yourself

Hosting a party, no matter the size, can quickly become overwhelming and stressful if you decide to make everything yourself. I'm here to tell you it isn't worth it. Whether you ask your guests to bring something—potluck style—or not, your brunch should be a mix of homemade dishes and purchased items. Bagels, pastries, and even desserts are sometimes best made by professionals. And your anxiety will thank you when all you have to do is open a box and arrange them on a plate. 

Of the 6 or 7 brunch dishes we served, we picked up beautiful pastries from Philadelphia bakery Cake Life, used local cheeses for a quick cheeseboard, and poured one of my favorite bloody mary mixes into a carafe instead of making our own. Even having those few things ready to go helped.

Prep What You Can

Along with a mix of homemade and purchased dishes, you'll want to include many dishes that can be made ahead of time. You'll go crazy if you attempt to bake 5 dishes before your guests arrive at 10am. Create a menu that includes things like salads and casseroles that can be baked the night before and just need to be heated prior to serving. Prep batters for waffles or pancakes, mix large batch cocktails and store in the fridge, cut up fruit, and even get your dessert options squared away. Anything you do ahead of time will help your morning go more smoothly.

The day/night before our brunch, we cut up all the fruit for fruit salads and toppings, baked a Citrus Upside Down Cake, mixed a pitcher of cocktails, and cooked some breakfast sausage that just needed to be reheated the morning of. Before our guests arrived that morning, Kate made a mushroom and leek frittata and we made waffles and coffee for everyone.

Booze Booze Booze

I know not everyone agrees, but cocktails/mocktails are kind of a brunch staple for me. They just make brunch feel a little more special. But I also didn't want to spend the entire morning making complicated drinks for everyone. The keys for a successful cocktail area are simple drinks with easy to remember ratios that guests to make themselves. Large batch cocktails are perfect for this, as well as something that can be made in advance.

I wanted something traditional (bloody marys) and something a little different (blood orange spritz). I arranged a cocktail area that had everything our guests would need to make their drinks. For the blood orange spritz, I had a pitcher filled with blood orange juice, gin and elderflower liquor that guests poured into glasses and then added champagne. For the bloody marys, guests added vodka or tequila to a glass and topped it with bloody mary mix and whatever fixins they wanted. Recipes from both the Blood Orange Spritz and the Bloody Mary Bar will be posted in the coming weeks!

Toppings and Fixins

A great way to create the appearance of tons of options at a brunch is with one dish and a handful of different toppings. We made a large batch of waffles while our guests were hanging out eating pastries and cheese, and then offered whipped cream, different berries, pomegranate seeds, chocolate chips and syrup. Create your own adventure waffle!

I knew I wanted to do a cocktail bar the minute we decided to host a brunch. Similar to a mimosa bar, we decided to set up all the things a guest might want in their bloody mary. Different types of booze, pickles, pickled veggies, celery, tiny peppers, limes, paprika salt for the rim, and worcestershire and sriracha to add in. Everyone can make whatever drink they want and not make the same drink twice. For a similar idea, you could do a mimosa bar (champagne, citrus juices, and fresh fruit) or even a bellini bar (champagne, fruit purees, and fresh fruit).

Set a Simple Table 

Especially with Valentine's Day, it's easy to go overboard with heart-shaped decorations and tons of pink and red all over the place. But in my opinion, it takes a lot of creativity and $$$ to make that type of table setting look good. I'm all about the simple, practical, and pretty table setting.

If you don't have anything that fits your brunch theme but want to decorate your table inexpensively, pick one item that will be the focal piece, splurge on that, and then use what you have or shop basic. Having one focal piece can also help tie together other mix and matched pieces. We used matching white dinner plates ($2/each from Target!), pink salad/dessert plates (our slurge item), and gold flatware with miss and matched cloth napkins and whatever platters we already had. Our glasses were a mix of cocktail glasses I already owned as well. Besides the table setting, our table had a low floral arrangement (from From Blossoms) and we added platters of food to the table and shared everything family-style.

Quick Gifts Go a Long Way

What better way to celebrate your friends than with a little gift. As a last minute idea, I decided to throw together these little gift boxes to place on everyone's plate. I found the boxes on sale at Homegoods, bought a bag of chocolate, a package of cute temporary tattoos, and Vaseline rose lip therapy. I wanted them to be something easy that didn't cost very much and everything inside could be used or eaten. And everyone likes a gift, no matter how small it is.

And that's it! I hope these tips and tricks help when you're planning your next brunch (or even a dinner party). Planning and prep is key to making sure your guests leave happy and full, and you get to sit down and enjoy yourself as well. And stay tuned for several follow up posts with recipes for both cocktails and that Citrus Upside Down Cake!

Anyone else throwing a Galentine's Day Brunch?? Happy brunching! <3

All photos in this blog post were taken by Kate McCann Photography and more photos can be found over on her blog. Thank you so much for partnering with me!

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Cocktail: Boozy Blueberry Lemonade with QC Malt

I know a boozy lemonade seems a little premature, being that it's only February. But I'm tired of 40 degree weather and not knowing what coat to wear. My plan is to encourage warmer days and spring weather the only way I know how: with a cocktail. And I've partnered with QC Malt to make something light, refreshing, and a perfect winter pickmeup.

This recipe is simple, but does require making some blueberry syrup. This syrup recipe, once strained, make enough for 4 or 5 cocktails. And if you've never tried QC Malt Lemon Shrub or Old Dutch, they're worth getting your hands on it. These malted hard sodas are refreshing and easy to drink by themselves, but also serve as great mixers in cocktails.

Boozy Blueberry Lemonade with QC Malt

Makes one drink

Blueberry Syrup:
3 cups blueberries
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Cocktail:
1 1/2 oz vodka
1 1/2 oz blueberry syrup
3 oz QC Malt Lemon Shrub
1/2 oz lemon juice

Make the blueberry syrup: Add blueberries, water, lemon juice, and sugar into a small saucepan over low heat. Whisk frequently until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Increase to medium heat and bring to a gentle boil, stirring often, and cook for 15 minutes. Pour mixture through a strainer, pressing lightly through with the back of a spoon, and refrigerate until chilled.

Make the cocktail: Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and add vodka, lemon juice, and blueberry syrup. Shake vigorously. Pour into a glass over ice and top with QC Malt Lemon Shrub. Stir and garnish with a lemon slice. 

This post was sponsored by QCMalt. All opinions and recipes are 100% my own.

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January in Review

I've been struggling with how to talk a bit more about myself on this blog. I love sharing my "5 Things" posts, but besides that, there hasn't been a whole lot of me in this blog lately. I used to share "Around Here" posts often, but since I haven't moved in over a year and not much has changed in my house, things are getting a bit repetitive in department. So I thought a new year was a great time to try out a new format: month in review. I'm thinking I'll share a few highlights from the previous month and maybe some photos.

Women's March on Washington. Definitely the thing this month that caused me the most amount of feelings, whether it be pride, anxiety, stress, joy, or fear. The planning and getting there aside, this felt like something amazing. Plenty of things have been said about the marches and, honestly, the entire month of January has been filled with processing the changes happening in this country. I think I'm frankly still having trouble processing the changes. But looking back, I have never been so inspired and prideful of a group of individuals in my life. We made history, and I'm sure will continue to make history, and I'm thankful to be a tiny little part of it.

Birthday. On a lighter note, it was my 27th birthday this month! I celebrated with all of my favorite people by eating pizza, drinking cheap drinks and singing karaoke. On my actual birthday, I treated myself to a proper pamper. LUSH bath in the morning, followed by brunch in one of my fav spots in South Philly, The Dutch, and then just a bunch of relaxation time at home. G came home and we grabbed a great dinner at High Street on Market. A lovely day. 

Planning. January was the month of planning for me. G and I planned a vacation for next week. I made travel arrangements for a work conference and immediately started making a list of restaurants and places to visit in my downtime. I have some sponsored content coming up that I've been planning and working on. AND I'm partnering on two photoshoots in the coming month, one for a client and one for the blog! Yay for new exciting things!

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