Las Vegas Highland Games

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

This past weekend marked the 10th annual Highland Games here in Las Vegas. Despite this fact, this was my first year in attendance. Sprawled out over Floyd Lamb park, the Highland Games offered two full days packed with entertainment ranging from the games themselves to live music and dance competitions in addition to stalls for shopping and information on various aspects of Scottish heritage.

Being that this was a work weekend for me I had a whirlwind experience on Saturday afternoon, that thankfully did include catching the Opening Ceremony. The parade was truly a sight to behold with troupe after troupe of experienced pipers and drummers in addition to clan representations. It was moving and something I wish my grandfather had been around to see because he would have loved every second of it.

Not surprisingly, the highlight of my afternoon was the food. While the usuals were on the scene boasting chicken fingers, funnel cake, and hot dogs it was the Scottish varieties that I couldn't pass up. While it was difficult to choose, the fresh scones with strawberries and cream and the grilled bangers topped with a heap of caramelized onions were my front runners. If you've never had a grilled banger, make a run to your local international food store. Just one bite is enough to transport you overseas.

A few tips if you plan to attend next year, which I would recommend... Arrive early! Floyd Lamb parking is not well suited to large events and if you show up later in the day you will be making a trek to get to the entrance. Bring a few cold waters with you. While you aren't allowed to bring coolers in you will want to tuck some in a tote bag. While much of the area is shaded, the sun shifts frequently and March afternoons see the temperatures rising. Finally, if you plan to stick around for the entertainment, bring a folding chair. Your feet will thank you.

On Intentions, Actions, and Some Pretty Great Sausage

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Spring is here! And with that new season comes new intentions. I've been thinking more about that this past month, about setting intentions. That phrase has been everywhere lately, but it doesn't sit well with me. This weekend, it was my pastor that actually pinpointed why, "Good intention doesn't last two minutes. Intention must turn into action." How many times have I "intended" to make changes that fell flat weeks, or even days later? Blog more often. Eat better. Wake up earlier. I have a cycle of setting intentions, eventually failing, getting upset with myself, and then starting all over again. Why? Because without a plan, a realistic action plan, good intentions don't do a whole lot on their own.

Having a plan means having somewhere to pick up after failing. It means having something measurable to look back on and evaluate. It requires action, not daydreaming. It's also a little scary, but in the best and most exciting way.

So, I'm starting simple. Something that routinely makes my intention lists is making the most of where I live. In fact, it's even in my manifesto for this blog in the form of celebrating all things local. That's so vague though. The real question is how am I going to celebrate all things local? To start, I can start putting more local favorites onto my weekly grocery list. Las Vegas has a burgeoning local food scene that lends itself to not only fantastic restaurants, but some pretty fantastic tools for the home cook as well.

First up? If you haven't tried the sausages from Sprouts market you are missing out. With at least 8 flavors on a daily basis from the basic Italian to the interesting chicken additions (apple and parmesan are two of my favorites) there is truly something for everyone. They are made in house and they are a great bang for your buck. In the coming weeks I'll be sharing some of my favorite recipes to pair them alongside. Something simple to kick off the weekend? Pair their chicken parmesan sausage (pictured above) with your favorite risotto be it homemade or from a box.

What are you shaking up for Spring? Let's cheer each other on as we turn our goals into actions.

Crazy Pita

Friday, March 7, 2014

Last week I had the opportunity to check out the new Crazy Pita in Town Square. There are few things that I love more than good Mediterranean food, and I certainly wasn't disappointed. Tucked directly behind Guitar Center, what Crazy Pita lacks in ambiance it more than makes up for with their menu. Boasting a variety of rotisserie favorites, offerings from the grill, and signature pitas it is a must visit for a quick bite.

Lamb being one of my favorite dishes, I couldn't pass up their lamb pita. Pitas come dressed with marinated tomatoes, cucumbers, and romaine lettuce. What I appreciated was the fine chop on the slaw. Instead of overwhelming the lamb it was instead the perfect compliment. Cool and refreshing to lighten up the grilled lamb. And that lamb? Delicious! The generous portion was grilled to perfection. Tender and lightly seasoned, all wrapped up in a warm, soft pita. While the fries didn't pop in the same way that the pita did they weren't a poor choice either. If you opt for a $.99 charge the range of side options does open up to include a small portion from their sides and snacks menu.

Overall, Crazy Pita is a worthy new addition to the Town Square restaurant scene. If you're a fan of Greek cuisine take advantage of this amazing weather we've been having and check it out.

DIY Valentine's Day Straws

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

With the mental fog from the beginning of the year finally lifting I come to you today with a quick and easy DIY that makes a cute touch for your Valentine's Day table. I don't know about you, but I've definitely caught the paper straw bug. They're a simple way to add a colorful touch to your party table and they've become increasingly easy to find in stores.

For this project you'll need a package of paper straws and a package of felt hearts. I used embellished, pre-cut hearts that came with adhesive backing, but you could also cut and decorate your own using hot glue to attach the hearts. I've been hooked on stripes so when I spotted these at Target I couldn't resist. Polka dots would be equally as adorable.

Pair off your hearts by design. By attaching the two back-to-back you don't have to worry about which direction the straw spins in your cup. Peel off the adhesive backing at attach approximately one inch from the top of the straw. If you are cutting your own hearts out of felt, pair them up and attach with hot glue first to the straw and then with a dot of glue at the top of each curve so they sit evenly and stay together.

All total this project took less than ten minutes to complete, but they were the hit of the party. Pair with your favorite sparkling pink lemonade or sorbet float. My personal favorite? Scoop a serving of raspberry sorbet into the bottom of your glass and fill with limonata.

What fun touches are you adding to your Valentine's Day table?

The Empty Shelf Challenge

Friday, December 27, 2013

Earlier this week Jon Acuff issued a challenge to empty a shelf in your house and to fill it with the books you read from now until December 31st, 2014. Now, I love this for several reasons. One, I love the idea of not waiting for the new year. I get so caught up in setting arbitrary regulations on myself that I often forget that any given moment can be the start of a new adventure. Also, as someone with a penchant for purchasing (and checking out) new books faster than I can read them I'm hoping that the visual reminder of the empty shelf will encourage me to catch up.

That said, I didn't realize quite how much my bookshelf needed reorganizing until I knuckled down and went to clear off the top shelf this afternoon. I repainted my room earlier this year and my books never did get put away properly. There is still work to be done, but at least now they're in neat stacks. Being that one of my life list goals is to curate my book collection my fingers are crossed that this challenge is a solid jumping off point.

I've been wanting to start incorporating books into my posts here so you can definitely expect to hear more about this challenge throughout the year. Will you be participating? Link me below, I would love to follow along with your progress!

Easy Hazelnut Bread Pudding

Thursday, December 26, 2013

It's funny how freeing yourself from the pressure to create actually frees up more time to be creative. Writing last night's post was therapeutic. To admit that I barely know where I'm going day-by-day, and that it's okay to still be figuring things out. After resolving to be more gentle with myself today I've already seen a turn around. After months of wrestling with an idea I've had for my soon to be opening web store I finally had the breakthrough I needed. I've had to keep a notepad document open to keep up with the ideas that have been flowing since this morning. What's that saying about needing to empty your cup in order to fill it again? It turns out I was holding on to more stress than I'd realized.

To capitalize on my ambitions I turned to the kitchen. In the aftermath of Christmas I had a leftover loaf of once glorious French bread from my favorite bakery sitting on my counter as hard as a rock. I couldn't bear to part with it, so I took to the internet. My cupboards in need of some serious restocking I was at a loss. I have a recipe for my all time favorite bread pudding, but that calls for some heavy duty amounts of cream and eggs. In a pinch, I stumbled on this recipe from Paula Deen. After some mild adapting I gave it a shot and it was just the thing for a chilly afternoon. While not as decadent as a typical bread pudding, this recipe is significantly faster to pull together and is a lot more flexible for what you may have on hand.

Easy Hazelnut Bread Pudding
(Adapted from this recipe from Paula Deen.)

2 cups granulated sugar
5 large eggs
2 cups milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 loaf leftover crusty bread; cubed
1/2 cup brown sugar; lightly packed
4 tablespoons unsalted butter; softened
1 cup hazelnuts; coarsely chopped

Preheat your oven to 350°F and grease a 9x13" baking dish.

In a large bowl combine granulated sugar, beaten eggs, milk, and vanilla. Whisk until smooth. Add bread cubes and mix until evenly coated. Set aside to soak for 15 minutes. While the bread is soaking combine brown sugar, butter, and hazelnuts in a small bowl. This will be your crumble topping.

With the bread soaked, pour into your prepared baking dish and spread evenly. Sprinkle crumble topping over the bread and place in the oven. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the custard has set and the top is a lovely golden brown. Serve either warm or chilled as desired and store covered leftovers in the fridge.

When gathering ingredients for this recipe substitute what you have on hand! The only milk I had left was 2% and that worked beautifully. Don't have any hazelnuts? Pecans, walnuts, or sliced almonds would also be delicious. I served this with some spiced whipped cream, but you could also add half a teaspoon of cinnamon to the crumble topping.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Despite the relative silence over the past month I wanted to pop in to wish you all a very Merry Christmas before the day has slipped away entirely. It's been a low-key holiday, which suits me perfectly. A languid morning spent opening gifts and making chocolate chip bacon pancakes. Afternoon naps. A whirlwind cleaning marathon that has left me with a much more organized media cabinet. Bliss.

This has been a hard year, hard like nothing I have ever faced before. So much of that has hit home over the past month that I have been left reeling into survival mode. Getting through each day has become the sought victory. I'm trying. And it's by the grace of God that I am still so very blessed despite feeling so very broken. I didn't intend to be vulnerable tonight, but then it hit me that I not alone in my struggle. To put a shiny wrapped bow on things tonight would do a disservice to those of you that need to be reminded that even in hurt there is hope.

As I pray and ponder over what the future holds for 2014 I am struck with a simple word. Gentleness. The past few years I've enjoyed choosing a word to embody the coming year. It helps me to find my focus. What does gentleness mean for 2014? Being kinder to myself. Being more mindful of those dear to me. More letters and spontaneous gifts. More words of affirmation. Taking better care of myself and taking the time I need to recharge. As with each of the years passed, I'm looking forward to seeing how this word comes to evolve and sharing that with you. Because we could all use a little gentleness, I think.

I hope that your holiday has been filled with joy and merriment. I know this has been a tough year for many, and I pray that the light of hope pierces through even the darkest of your circumstances. Merry Christmas and here's to a brighter 2014!

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