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Category Archives: Gifts

The Smythe-Smith Musicale Care Package

I have confession to make…I hope it doesn’t make all of you think less of me…

I read romance novels.  Regularly.  It’s a serious addiction.

But, as a housewife, I would argue that reading of any kind is far superior to falling into the stereotype of bonbon eating, soap opera watching, and nosy neighboring housewife.

I also fall into that stereotype…but my husband loves me anyways.  And who in their right mind doesn’t love a bonbon?

Let me be clear, however, as to which romance novels I read.  You will not, for example, find me reading Danielle Steele, Nora Roberts, or anything else which is likely to be adapted into a Lifetime Movie.

Not that I don’t occasionally indulge in a little Lifetime Movie Network from time to time.  Or frequently.  Don’t judge me!  Can I help it if they suck me into their tales of love, betrayal, and mystery?

But when it comes to novels, I have standards!

  • Historical romance only (generally Regency, but I also enjoy Edwardian or Georgian)
  • Intelligent heroines
  • Dialogue needs to be amusing and witty
  • Absolutely NO melodramatic bodice rippers
  • Minimal use of outlandish euphemisms (I can handle the occasional “throbbing member” but keep your “glistening swords” and “silky folds” out of my books)

As with all rules, there are exceptions.  I have one: standards may be broken only upon strong recommendation from my friend, Katie, whose judgment on romance novels I trust above all others.

It was her, after all, who found the Bridgertons…

If you are an avid reader of historical romance, then I sincerely hope you know the Bridgertons.  This book series, written by Julia Quinn, are among my absolute favorite!  So if you don’t know the eight Bridgerton siblings (famously names in alphabetical order) I suggest you find out.

Seriously, your life will be better for it.

I recently had the incredible opportunity to meet Julia at a book signing where (even though the rules clearly stated no outside books were allowed) she signed my tattered old copy of The Viscount Who Loved Me (book 2 of the series), which remains my favorite romance novel ever.

Have to admit…I was a little starstruck!

Katie discovered the Bridgertons on a lazy summer afternoon when we were in high school.  A trip to the bookstore led her to randomly pick up a romance novel, whereas I chose an anthology of re-written fairy tales.  Because all young teens spend their summers reading…right?  My book was terrible, whereas Katie would not stop bursting into a fit of giggles at regular intervals.  As she snickered about over-ripe citrus fruits and unfortunate bee stings leading to marriage proposals, I was immediately intrigued.  Luckily for me, Katie is a fast reader and I was able to steal the book soon after.  I re-read it about once a year and it is the very same book I had signed by Julia.

Since Katie had yet to read the two latest novels from Julia Quinn (a quartet about the Smythe-Smiths and their terrible musicales) I got book one, Just Like Heaven, signed by Julia Quinn to send to her.

Since I couldn’t possibly send just a book, I decided to put together a care package.  I recently posted about how I create gift baskets and care packages are much the same.  Using Just Like Heaven as inspiration, I put together my Smythe-Smith Musicale care package.

Package included: signed copy of Just Like Heaven, music note coffee cozies, Lady Grey tea, and decorated tea cookies.

The tea cookies (which is really just what I chose to call them, they are really just frosted sugar cookies) were made using recipes from The Decorated Cookie.  I used the color flow technique to cover each cookie with the grey frosting, and then before they had set I piped on top with the light blue frosting.  In the future, I will likely thin out the piping frosting quite a bit so that it blends into the frosting a bit more, creating an even surface on the cookie.

Here is a short list of some of my favorite romance novels

It should be noted that Kresley Cole falls under my “exceptions” for romance novels.  The Immortals After Dark series is a modern-day paranormal romance series and is absolutely hysterical!   No sparkling vampires here…but you do get a bat-shit crazy soothsayer Valkyrie with an obsessive crush on Mike Rowe from Dirty Jobs and witches as competitive with their Xbox as they are with their spells.

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2nd Anniversary

My relationship with my husband would make a terrible romance novel.

We are in no way an exciting couple.  It would be like watching glue dry.  Worse even…like reading about someone who is watching glue dry.

Our friends have often referred to us as the “old couple”.  So what if we sometimes go to bed at 9pm on a Saturday?  Don’t judge me.

Some call it a rut – we call it routine.  Every Sunday morning we go to the same coffee shop and order the same drinks.  We spend our evenings watching episodes of How I Met Your Mother on Netflix, even though we’ve seen them all.  We go to the same restaurant every Valentine’s Day.  In the seven years we’ve been together, not a year has gone by when we didn’t watch The Brother’s Grimm – the movie he took me to see on our first date.  We really wouldn’t have it any other way.

Recently we celebrated our second wedding anniversary.  Unlike all other holidays and special occasions, this is one where we don’t have an established routine.  Last year we went to an Irish pub and saw Captain America.  I know…super romantic, right?

This year we considered a weekend getaway – but with my sister’s Vegas wedding and an upcoming camping trip the thought of packing, driving, and sleeping in a strange bed was not high on our list.  So we decided to keep it local…but that doesn’t mean we didn’t make it special!

Since our anniversary was on a Sunday, we began the day the same way we begin every Sunday…a trip to our favorite coffee shop in Newport Beach!  He ordered his dark chocolate mocha and I had my Turkish café latte with cardamom!

Our next outing was all for me…a picnic in the park!  We ate lunch in the grass next to the creek, lounged on our blanket reading our books, and fed the ducks in the pond! It was marvelous and I loved every minute of it!  For the lunch I packed goat cheese pizza pockets, fresh pear slices, couscous salad (recipe below), and brownies.

A delicious picnic for two

Beautiful setting!

The duckies!! And you can see the world’s more ginormous coy fish in the center of the picture!

After a relaxing afternoon, we packed up the picnic basket and headed to the movie theater to see The Dark Knight Rises (I know, we are so unromantic, but we can’t help that we love superhero movies).  I suggest it to anyone who hasn’t yet seen it, but I don’t suggest too many liquids before sitting down to this 3 hour movie!

For dinner, we went to the Orange County Mining Co. where we sat at a window overlooking Orange and Anaheim.  This place is the perfect balance of casual and fancy.  The atmosphere is comfortable and informal, but the food is worthy of any fine dining restaurant.  I enjoyed the most delicious filet mignon with béarnaise sauce and garlic mashed potatoes!

The view from the Orange County Mining co.

I know…not exactly a day worthy of romantic prose…but it was exactly perfect for the two of us!

We did get each other gifts…which perfectly illustrate how nerdy we both are!  I got him the special edition Derpy Hooves pony from the 2012 San Diego Comic Con and he got me a pink cupcake necklace from Tiffany’s!

Special Edition Derpy Hooves Pony

There are few things greater than seeing that special blue box!

Israeli Couscous Salad
Adapted from Use Real Butter
Serves 6-8

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Israeli couscous, uncooked
  • 1 cob of corn, cooked, cooled
  • 1 medium cucumber, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped heirloom tomatoes
  • ½ cup canned chickpeas, rinsed
  • ¼ cup feta cheese
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley, diced
  • ¼ tsp curry powder
  • ¼ tsp turmeric
  1. In a medium saucepan, bring about 2 quarts of water to boil.  Pour the couscous into the water and cook until pasta is tender, about 5-10 minutes.  Drain the couscous and rinse with cold water.
  2. Shuck the corn kernels off the cob.
  3. In a large mixing bowl add couscous, corn, cucumber, tomatoes, chickpeas, and feta cheese.
  4. Drizzle olive oil and lemon juice over the salad and sprinkle with salt, pepper, parsley, curry powder, and turmeric.  Mix until coated.  Adjust seasoning to your liking.