Globe Trotting – Orlando Announced as one of the Top Destinations for 2012!

I never thought this day would come! Growing up in Orlando, Florida, Disney, Universal and other assorted attractions were a part of my youth. However, spending a decade there, I can assure you that Orlando is much more than Mickey Mouse and Harry Potter. The city has come a long way in the past few years and offers so much more than tourist attractions to visitors, which is why I am so excited that it has made CNN’s recent list of the World’s Top Destinations for 2012! Go Team Orlando!

I’m just leaving the Sunshine State after spending Christmas vacation with my family, which was a constant, balmy 80 degrees. In my short five days, my family and I were able to enjoy so much! My husband golfed with my father and brother while my mother, aunt and I went to see Shrek! On Ice at the Gaylord Palms. My uncle is a seasoned outdoorsman and went hiking every single day he was in town. I was able to do some excellent shopping, enjoy unique, small town cuisine and even take in a local live band. The possibilities are endless – and you don’t even have to set foot in an amusement park!

I love strolling down the streets of Winter Park!

One of my favorite areas to stroll around is Winter Park, FL. While it is a small suburb of Orlando, Winter Park’s ambiance is comparable to that of Georgetown. Brick and cobblestone streets are lined with unique restaurants, shops and coffeehouses on one side and a large open square marked on each end with fountains on the other side.

Visit 310 Park South for dinner and stroll down to The Briar Patch for homemade ice cream or a slice of cake. If you’re in the mood for shopping you’ll have to stop by Tuni’s. For cocktail hour (or hours) head over to The Wine Room to taste one of their more than 150 wines by the ounce! Each wine has its own automatic pour function allowing you to taste just an ounce, a half a glass or a full glass. Whatever size you choose is logged on a card which you prepay with money and can continue adding funds as you go, which trust me, can be dangerous!

Winter Park is just one of the small treats Orlando has to offer – visit and you can explore even more unique neighborhoods!

 
 

New Years Eve Glamour

New Year’s Eve provides the perfect opportunity to take some daring fashion risks. I have been dying for an occasion to wear a gold sequined dress – maybe this is the year!

This Milly number is my favorite! Pair it with some cute black tights and sassy booties and I’ll be in business!

 
 

Structured Blazers

It is all about the blazers this year. Influence and inspiration ranging from the 80s to equestrian make the options endless. A blazer can make your basic jeans and heels dateworthy and your favorite dress and tights work appropriate. The key is to find something tailored and to stay away from anything boxy. Feminine details and bright colors will keep your look from being too stuffy and will add some pizazz to even the most simple LBD you have in your closet. Here are some of my favorites!Structured Blazers

 
 

Donning the Apron: Christmas Edition!

Christmas dinner at the McFadden house is a feast of epic proportions. My brother fancies himself a food connoisseur and my dad watches the Top Chef food challenges to get “inspiration” for new recipes. My mom is more of a traditional cook, relying on family recipes passed down through the years and making some small tweaks. I usually stay out of the kitchen around holidays because my mom gets a bit sensitive about anyone messing with her ovens. However, this year I suggested making some appetizers so I could be WELL out of her way before dinnertime. I decided on a flatbread recipe I had made at our festivus party a week ago and my mom decided I should make spinach artichoke dip. The only problem was, I hadn’t made spinach artichoke dip in a few years and I didn’t fully remember the recipe! I had to do the best I could to make it up as I went! I didn’t get a chance to get any pictures, but both dishes turned out really well! Here is the recipe for the flatbread – I’ve got to try to make the spinach dip again to get the recipe straight!

Ingredients
1 Granny Smith Apple
10 slices of prosciutto
1 block (8 ounces) of a sharp white cheddar cheese – Vermont white cheddar if you can find it!
Olive oil

1 package of Pillsbury thin crust pizza dough



Prep Work
Preheat the oven to 400
Grate the cheese and put it aside
Cut the proscuitto into strips that are about an inch thick; proscuitto is hard to cut, so use a sharp knife and don’t worry about it being perfect
Slice the apple very thin, use a mandolin if possible. Do this last as apple browns quickly.

Get down to the cookin!
Unroll the pizza crust on a greased baking sheet (I used tin foil to line the pan)
Brush the crust with a light layer of olive oil
Sprinkle a thin layer of cheese on the crust
Line the apple slices in rows on the crust. It is ok to let the slices touch, but try not to overlap them.
Sprinkle another thin layer of cheese on top of the apple slices
Arrange the proscuitto on top of the layer of cheese. You don’t need to be exact with the placement, but make sure you’ll get a taste with each bite.
Sprinkle another layer of cheese; this can be thicker than the others, but shouldn’t be too thick.
Put the flatbread in the oven and bake for 10 minutes or until the cheese is bubbling and the crust is a light golden brown.
Slice and serve!

 
 

Merry Married Christmas!

There is nothing quite like the Christmas season. Each year, I look forward to breaking out the holiday decorations, searching for the perfect tree, 24 hours straight of “A Christmas Story,” family and friends and the general feeling of holiday cheer in the air.
This being my first Christmas as a married woman, it has a whole new meaning for me. Now I have two families to celebrate the holidays with and, since my husband is also Jewish, a whole slew of new traditions! I am looking forward to learning more about my hubby’s traditions and making him a part of my family’s crazy Christmas celebrations. I also can’t wait to start some of our own family traditions! 
 
 

Registry Rewards

Figuring out where to register can be as daunting as deciding what to register for. There are so many stores out there and factors to consider – can my guests access the stores easily or order online easily? What kind of rewards are available? What is the range of price points? What style suits you and your hubby?

I decided on Crate and Barrel, Macy’s and Pottery Barn. For me, the most important factors were merchandise, convenience for us and guests, return policies and rewards. Here are my ratings:

Merchandise: Macy’s, Crate and Barrel, Pottery Barn

Convenience: Macy’s, Crate and Barrel, Pottery Barn

Return policy: Crate and Barrel, Macy’s, Pottery Barn

Rewards: Macy’s, Crate and Barrel, Pottery Barn

I liked Crate and Barrel the most because it was so easy to handle returns, the range of merchandise was excellent and they were so easy to work with! Macy’s was good and by far the easiestfor our guests. The rewards program is great but their service is just below satisfactory. There were a lot of mixups with the gifts (wrong china pattern, wrong coffee pot, etc) and not a great attitude from te employees. Pottery Barn was not easy to work with. Half of the gifts I registered for were backordered or discontinued! I only registered for a handful of gifts there too because they were so expensive.

My advice, go with a department store, Crate and Barrel and something outside of the box like Amazon or Target! You can register for more than servingware or kitchen gear that way!

 
 

Packing for the Holidays!

Ahhh, the joys of holiday traveling! I am always intrigued by the negative relationship of holiday traveling to holiday cheer. In theory, we should all be bouncing around filled with Christmas joy. Set foot in an airport from December 22 – December 27 and the falseness of this statement will hit you in the face along with the woman in seat 16 F’s suitcase.

With the stress of overcrowded airports, impending family dynamics and gifting, traveling for the holidays is no easy task. I have often found myself staring at my two suitcases – the carry on size and my grossly larger roller which I faithfully refer to as Big Blue – and struggle with my choice of dealing with a serious lack of clothing for my trip or paying the fee for checked baggage. This year, I didn’t even question the decision, Big Blue and I are on our way to Florida for Christmas, but what is the most efficient way to pack my clothes, gifts and have room for my own Christmas loot?

Here are my essentials for a 5 day trip:

  • Two pairs of jeans – wear one, pack one. Try to choose a skinny/straight leg and a flare for some variety. 
  • Leggings and/or black pants. I have a great pair of black pants from Lucky Brand that are much nicer than leggings but just as comfortable, These are my go-to for my travels, they work with anything. J Crew’s Minnie pant is another great options. 
  • 1 “going-out top” – make it fun and flirty, but not anything skimpy so you can get double wear out of it for a nice dinner. Think fun prints, ruffles or embellishments. 
  • 1 classic button up in a fun color (if you go with a basic white, which is also a great option, make sure you pack some accessories that pop)
  • 1 great cardigan – I packed a basic black, mid-thigh length lightweight cardigan. It goes with anything and can dress a basic tank top up for a nice dinner. 
  • 1 wrap dress – any type/color/print wrap dress is your best friend. 99% of the time they are made of a fabric that won’t wrinkle, look great on every shape and can be dressed up or dressed down. 
  • 2 of your favorite tops – I packed a chambray button up from J Crew and a great basic lightweight sweater with lace detailing at the shoulders. 
  • In the winter, a pair of boots. Wear these on the plane. Sure, going through security and showing everyone how stylish your jeans look in your penguin socks can be a smidge daring, but I promise, you’ll get through it and be VERY happy you have the extra space in your suitcase!
  • 1 pair of great flats. I went with leopard print because the outfits I brought were mostly solid colors and the patterns I do have, I can wear with my brown boots. 
  • Toiletries – Hit up CVS or Target’s travel size section and get yourself shampoo, conditioner, hairspray, toothbrush and toothpaste. All other items are nonessential. I keep my toiletry bag stocked at all times so I never forget anything and don’t have to repack it every time I travel. Buy extras when you think of it and keep them under your bathroom sink. 
  • Jewelry – My love for jewelry rivals Elizabeth Taylor’s, but even I have to travel lightly with respect to baubles. Pick 2-3 statement necklaces; 1 pair of statement earrings; a great watch; 1 basic necklace, think gold chain with your initials or a simple silver necklace with a small gemstone; 2 pairs of basic stud earrings, cubic zirconia studs and fun, oversized pearl studs lend themselves to many outfits. 
  • Makeup – Keep it simple! Don’t switch up your routine too much, but don’t pack the 7 eyeshadows you keep in your makeup bag because you saw how to do a smokey eye in a magazine and wanted to try it but know you NEVER will – at least not on THIS vacation. Moisturizer, foundation, bronzer, blush, 2 eyeshadows, mascara and eyeliner. Done and done! Throw your favorite lip gloss or balm in your purse. 
Pack your gifts for others in your suitcase and then you’ll have room for the gifts you (hopefully) get in return!    
 
 

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Donning the Apron – Veggie Chili

Now that I am on my way to becoming a real adult (marriage apparently does that to you), I am attempting to work on my culinary skills. An on average ten hour work day combined with two hours of commuting doesn’t leave me with a great deal of time to learn the ways of Emeril, Ina and Paula. However, I think it is fair to challenge myself to try three new recipes a week. During the winter months, I crave any type of soup or chili, so I found this veggie chili recipe on myrecipes.com from Southern Living. The hubby is a true carnivore, so I’ll have to try this with some lean ground turkey next time, but for my first chili ever, this turned out quite appetizing! The most time consuming part was the veggie chopping, but that is what husbands are for, right? 
Check out the recipe below and take my advice, if you don’t have a crockpot yet, get one! They are a busy cook’s best friend!

YIELD: Makes 15 servings (serving size: 1 1/2 cups) | COOKTIME:8 Hours, 18 Minutes | PREPTIME:25 Minutes | COURSE: Main Dishes, Soups/Stews
Ingredients
2 large carrots, diced (1 cup)
2 celery ribs, diced (1/2 cup)
1 medium-size sweet onion, diced
Vegetable cooking spray
2 (8-oz.) packages sliced fresh mushrooms
1 large zucchini, chopped (1 1/2 cups)
1 yellow squash, chopped (1 cup)
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon seasoned pepper
1 (8-oz.) can tomato sauce
3 cups tomato juice
2 (14 1/2-oz.) cans diced tomatoes, undrained
4 (15-oz.) cans pinto, black, great Northern, orkidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup frozen whole kernel corn

YIELD: Makes 15 servings (serving size: 1 1/2 cups) | COOKTIME:8 Hours, 18 Minutes | PREPTIME:25 Minutes | COURSE: Main Dishes, Soups/Stews
Ingredients
2 large carrots, diced (1 cup)
2 celery ribs, diced (1/2 cup)
1 medium-size sweet onion, diced
Vegetable cooking spray
2 (8-oz.) packages sliced fresh mushrooms
1 large zucchini, chopped (1 1/2 cups)
1 yellow squash, chopped (1 cup)
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon seasoned pepper
1 (8-oz.) can tomato sauce
3 cups tomato juice
2 (14 1/2-oz.) cans diced tomatoes, undrained
4 (15-oz.) cans pinto, black, great Northern, orkidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup frozen whole kernel corn
Preparation
  1. Sauté first 3ingredients in a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray overmedium-high heat 10 minutes or until onions are translucent. Add mushrooms,zucchini, and squash; sauté 3 more minutes. Add chili powder and next 2ingredients, and sauté 5 more minutes.
  2. Stir together tomatosauce and tomato juice in a 6-qt. slow cooker until smooth. Stir in dicedtomatoes, next 2 ingredients, and carrot mixture. Cover and cook on LOW 8hours.

Note: Cool leftovers, and freeze in plasticfreezer containers or zip-top plastic freezer bags for up to 2 months.

 
 

Creative Gifting

Along with holiday cheer comes what feels like Santa’s choke-hold on my bank account. Don’t get me wrong, I love nothing more than to find the PERFECT gift for someone I love. However, my finances are still recovering from a wedding a few months ago and with the economy the way it is, money just isn’t what it used to be! This gift-giving season, I’ve had to be a bit more creative than in past years. I don’t want to be selfish, so here are some creative cost-cutting ideas:
  • Those of you who shop months in advance; it’s great if you know exactly what you want to give someone and that the price won’t fluctuate (for instance, any apple product). But, the sales get better the closer you get to Christmas. This year, Christmas falls on a Saturday, giving many retail stores a full week to lure you in with promises of 30%, 40% and yes, I’ve even seen 50% off all purchases. 
  • Do you have a credit card with a points rewards benefit? It isn’t cheap if you use them to buy a FANTASTIC gift! For instance, someone on my Christmas list had a very expensive item that nobody in the family could swing because they’d already done their shopping. Lo and behold, it was on American Express’s shopping site for a discounted point value. Wouldn’t your loved one rather get the gift of their dreams, even if it isn’t purchased with your cold, hard cash?
  • Nordstrom Rack and Marshalls are LIVESAVERS. I got a good portion of my shopping done here and for a fraction of the price. Michael Kors wallet at half price? Yes, please! Kenneth Cole winter jacket for under $100? WINNING. Again, nobody has to know what you paid for it – all that matters is that you can afford to give it to them!
  • Do you have any stray gift cards from returns or purchases earlier in the year that you aren’t using? Now’s the time to break ’em out and put them to use. It is still your money – you just aren’t spending it on yourself! Sharing is caring, folks! 
Now, I don’t want what I’ve said here to be misconstrued. Don’t be cheap! Just be thoughtful and use EVERYTHING you have at your disposal for those who you care about! Happy Shopping!
 
 

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