Archive | Personal RSS feed for this section

New York City at Christmastime

3 Jan

The day after Christmas this year, I boarded a plane with my mom and my brother and spent “Christmas” with my sister and brother-in-law for the first year since they moved to New York.  Call us crazy, but we left on New Year’s Eve and I was back in Austin in time to give my husband a New Year’s kiss.

This trip, I didn’t do much in the way of exploration, but instead enjoyed being along for the ride, spending time with my mom and siblings. I snapped only a few photos.

Shake Shack New York CityAustin is set to get a Shake Shack later this year!

Empire State Building

Bergdorf Goodman Holiday Windows 2013 Holidays On Ice NYC www.gustoandgraceblog.comThis year, the theme for the Bergdorf Goodman Holiday Windows was Holidays On Ice. Each window was thematic to a specific holiday. The holidays featured included Valentine’s Day, Halloween, 4th of July (pictured above), April Fools Day. and Arbor Day. Smaller windows featured Groundhog’s Day, Mardi Gras, Thanksgiving, and New Year’s Eve.

If you are wanting to spend a part of the holiday season in New York City, let me suggest Thanksgiving to you. Last year, Anthony and I went at Thanksgiving and watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The parade-watching crowd was far less dense than 5th Avenue after Christmas. The holiday windows were already decorated. Lines for ice skating rinks were not 3 hours long. We even made it to the Radio City Christmas Spectacular.

Heading to New York City? Check out a few of my favorite places.

How was your Christmas? What are your New Year’s resolutions?

Advertisements

How to Celebrate Christmas Like an Austinite

20 Dec

Austin Christmas GrafittiTraditions make a city feel more like home. When I first moved to Austin, I started thinking about why Fort Worth felt so much like home. After the obvious family and friend connections, and the sheer amount of time I lived there, I think it felt like home because of the traditions I had.

Each September or October I would go to the State Fair, I’d eat a mustard-covered Fletcher’s Corn Dog, and ride the Texas Star Ferris Wheel. Every November I would eat a gyro and chocolate baklava at the Greek Food Festival. Each December I would look forward to my friends’ Christmas In Black and White decade-themed costume Christmas party.

In an effort to make my new home feel more like home, I insisted on finding a few Austin events or activities I could look forward to year after year. If you’re looking to celebrate Christmas as an Austinite, here is what I suggest:

Trail of Lights 2013

1. Walk through the Festival of Lights in Zilker Park

Take a stroll through the light tunnels. Grab a cuppa hot chocolate. Get dizzy spinning under the tree. This year, there was a flip-book video booth and Anthony and I got an awesome memento our evening.

Zilker Park Tree

2. Buy your gifts from a local artist or store. 

Austin is filled with small businesses and local artists, buying gifts from these places is just the Austin way.

3. Go to a quote-along at the Alamo Drafthouse

I’m a believer. The Alamo Drafthouse is the best movie theater in the nation world. They have fun events year round, but during the holidays they host Elf Quote-Alongs and Home Alone All-you-can-eat-cheese-pizza parties. My husband and I learned of them too late to get tickets this year, so I scoured six stores before finding Home Alone on DVD, ordered plain cheese pizza, and had a party at home this year.

4. Decorate a tree on 360, or at least go and look at them

Before I moved here, Anthony told me how people would decorate trees on 360. I didn’t understand until we drove down highway and saw miles of trees decked out in tinsel and garland. My favorite tree was decorated like a reindeer. Next year, you’ll find me on the top of one of the hills, trimming a tree for all to see.

Hawaiin Tree Austin Texas

5. Go ice skating on the Plaza at Whole Foods downtown

The skating rink at the Austin-based grocery chain might be the closest thing to a white Christmas you will see in the capital city.

If you’ve moved to a new town and are missing home, I encourage to get out and try a few new things you can repeat at least annually.

A Recipe for My All Time Favorite Dessert

22 Nov

There was a time in my life, shortly after I graduated college, that I went over to my mom’s every Sunday to cook dinner. We had a “deal.” I’d put together a menu and send her a grocery list, she’d go to the store. I’d do the cooking, she’d do the cleanup. I think I got the better end of the deal.

Sometimes I spent all day in the kitchen. I’d look for the most interesting and elaborate recipes I could find. And I’d make dessert every time. In those few months, I tried so many recipes and cooking techniques. We savored some of the tastiest food I have ever tried.

In these pre-Pinterest days I would spend time scouring for great recipes on blogs and sites like Epicurious, Martha Stewart, and AllRecipes.

Those meals are some of my favorite memories.

A few months ago, Anthony and I started attending a dinner club with a few couples from church. The host is a very talented trained chef. Every week, collectively, we pick a theme for the following week’s dinner and each couple brings a dish. It is even a little competitive! We have had fresh pasta, sliders, an Asian flop, comfort food, breakfast for dinner and homemade pizza, among others.

Dinner club is something I consistently look forward to. We started as strangers and our weekly dinners have nurtured both our bodies and our relationships. I have so enjoyed getting back in the kitchen and getting creative. I have also enjoyed getting back to the table and enjoying really good food. I love gathering around the table sharing food, recipes, and stories.

For our last dinner club, I made my (hands-down, no competition) favorite dessert, tiramisu. I wanted to share the recipe that I used (adapted from Gourmet).Translated from Italian, tiramisu means “pick-me-up.”I might be a bit of a tiramisu snob… I have tried more varieties than I can count. I prefer my tiramisu to be more light and fluffy than custardy.

Tiramisu Recipe www.gustoandgraceblog.com

  • 4 egg whites
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 8 oz mascarpone cheese
  • 1/2 cup chilled heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup very strong brewed coffee or brewed espresso, cooled to room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons sweet Marsala wine, brandy or Kaluha
  • 1 pkg. (7 oz) savoiardi (crisp Italian ladyfingers)
  • 2 tablespoons dutch process cocoa powder

Tiramisu Recipe www.gustoandgraceblog.com

Using an electric mixer, beat together yolks and 1/2 cup sugar in a large bowl until thick and pale. Next, beat in mascarpone until just combined.

Beat whites with a pinch of salt in another bowl with cleaned beaters until they just hold soft peaks. Add remaining 1/4 cup sugar a little at a time white beating and continue to beat whites until they hold stiff peaks.

Beat cream in another bowl with cleaned beaters until it just holds soft peaks. Fold cream into mascarpone mixture, gently but thoroughly, then fold in whites.

Stir together coffee and Marsala, brandy, or Kaluha in a shallow bowl. Dip 1 ladyfinger in coffee mixture, soaking it about 1 seconds on each side, and transfer to an 2-quart baking dish (often 8×8 square). It is important to do this step quickly so you do not oversoak your ladyfingers and cause your tiramisu to be soupy. Repeat with half of ladyfingers and arrange in bottom of dish, trimming as needed to fit snugly. Spread half of mascarpone mixture evenly over ladyfingers. Make another layer with remaining ladyfingers and mascarpone mixture. Chill tiramisu, covered, for at least 6 hours.

Just before serving, sprinkle with cocoa powder.

Note: The eggs in tiramisu are not cooked.

Tiramisu Recipe www.gustoandgraceblog.com

What’s your favorite dessert?

Video

Our Wedding Video

3 Sep

The long-awaited wedding video has finally arrived! I have watched it multiple times already today. It’s such a feel-good short film.

The first 1:37 is our rehearsal dinner. If you’re wondering what everyone is watching at 0:50, see it here.

Watching the video gives me the urge to make s’mores and release balloons into the sky all over again. These memories are such priceless moments and I will always consider this video a true treasure.

Follow  Jordan Productions on Facebook to see more of his work. He is such a talented young creative with a great eye.

 

Video

Rehearsal Dinner Slideshow

30 Jul

Three months after the wedding, Anthony and I are still waiting on our wedding video. I hope that means it is going to be really good! We also had our videographer shoot some footage of our rehearsal dinner.  We wanted to be sure we had some professionally captured snapshots of the that night too.

I’ll share more about our rehearsal dinner once we get our short film, but I thought it might be fun to share the slideshow Anthony’s parents had made for us and the guests of our rehearsal dinner. Just imagine you’re sitting with a bunch of people you love, roasting tabletop s’mores, with the anticipation of being married in the morning as you watch this. You might begin to imagine how I felt that magical night.

Rehearsal Dinner from Dominique Paolini on Vimeo.

The slideshow was created by Turquoise Video Productions.

6 Tips for DIYing Your Wedding Invitation Suite

18 Jun

You’re Invited! Please join me weekly as I time travel back to our wedding day. Our photos are in, and we will be sharing them soon!

6 Tips for DIYing Your Wedding Invitation Suite

There are some parts of our wedding that worked out strangely and perfectly in our favor. Our invitation suite was one of those parts (if you remember, our venue was another).

When I first got engaged, I was over at my mom’s talking wedding planning, when she asked me if I was going to send save -the-dates. I told her I probably was not because the only ones I liked enough were these, and I didn’t have, or know anyone who had, a diecut machine.  What does my mom do? She goes to her closet and comes back with this. She says bought it for me for Christmas (this is August, y’all), but supposes it would make a better engagement present.

I DIYed our entire gold and silver suite (with plenty of help). Rather than spending $1500 on invitations, I spent $150. Here are my tips if you are making your own wedding invitations:

1. Don’t settle for fonts already on your computer

There are so many amazing fonts you can download for free or for a small donation to the creator. I scoured dafont.com.

2. “Brand” your wedding- Matchy- matchy is good

I ordered a custom wax seal and a custom address stamp from sellers on Etsy with one of the fonts I used on our paper goods. I omitted our last names and used Anthony’s address on the address stamp so Anthony and I can still use it. It was handy (and again, consistent) on our save-the-dates, wedding invitations, and thank you cards. I also ordered a stamp to match the wax seal to make the design on our favor bags consistent.

3. Paper Source is your best friend

I got most of my cardstock and envelopes from Paper Source. The mini envelopes on the “For Tears of Joy” Programs came from Paper Presentation. I cannot imagine that one of those two places does not have the color you are looking for.

4. There is etiquette 

Martha Stewart can help you with your wording. She can also tell you the proper way to address your envelopes. Lean on her genius.

5. Know thine printer

In my case, this meant knowing that inkjet printers won’t print on metallic paper. In your case, it could be that your printer won’t print on 4-bar (RSVP sized) cards. My dad has a laser printer, so I spent many nights in his home office printing programs, invitations, and RSVP enclosures. You can always take your layout to a copy shop (i.e. Kinkos) and have them print your suite for you if your personal printer won’t suffice.

6. If you plan on having guests RSVP electronically, include an e-mail address

Anthony and I forewent traditional RSVP cards. Instead we included cards that told guests how to RSVP on our wedding website. As an alternative, I included an e-mail address I created for responses. Wedding website can be unfamiliar and tricky to navigate, but most everyone knows how to send an e-mail. I personally didn’t care how people RSVPed, I just needed a yes or a no and a number. 

If you want to how-tos on the ruffled invitations or the number garland save the dates, I’d be happy to share.

Craft Night and Crepe Lasagna

21 Feb

I am deep into the project phase of my DIY heavy wedding planning. Last week, I hosted a wedding craft night.  With the help of my mom, Anthony’s mom, my bridesmaids, and a couple of other close friends, my wedding t0-do list has several new check marks! Having more than a dozen hands made the monotonousness tasks enjoyable and short-lived.

Gusto and Grace: Monogram Stamped Favor Bags

On craft night, cupcakes from the wedding cake baker were a must. So was this crepe lasagna my fiancé told me would be a great recipe to try “with my friends.” As the original recipe is in Italian, I translated it to English, converted it to US measurements and adapted a few things and here’s the recipe I ended up with:

Crepe Lasagna

Serves 8

For the crepes:

1 1/4 cup milk

7/8 cup of flour

2 eggs

1 Tablespoon Parmesan

Salt

Parsley or pesto

For the filling:

10 oz. frozen spinach

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 egg

1 cup Parmesan cheese

Approx. 15 oz. Ricotta

salt, pepper, nutmeg

For the sauce:

14 oz. tomato sauce

oregano, pepper

+ a handful of extra Parmesan

Mix all of the crepe ingredients together, then let the batter sit in the fridge for at least two hours but up to a day. To make the crepes, pour slightly less than 1/4 cup of batter onto a hot skillet or griddle. When the batter starts to bubble, flip it, like you would an ordinary pancake. You should get 6 or 7  8-9 inch crepes.

Saute the spinach with the garlic over medium heat. Mix in the ricotta. Stir in the egg. Add the Parmesan, nutmeg, salt and pepper. This will serve as your filling. Mix the tomato sauce with the oregano and pepper (or other Italian spices of your choice).

Pour a few tablespoons of sauce into the bottom of a 9 inch round pan. I used a glass pie pan. Lay down your first crepe, add filling, and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Repeat until you have used about half of your crepes. Halfway, add only tomato sauce between two crepes, and then continue with the ricotta an Parmesan layers. Your top layer should be a crepe. Pour the tomato sauce on top and bake at 350F for 20 minutes. This is even better a day old!

Gusto and Grace: Gold Shutters

Between craft night, my stepdad’s work, and the weekend with my fiancé, in the past week mini envelopes have been stuffed, stands welded, shutters painted, favor bags stamped, envelopes embossed, yards and yards of ribbon cut, fabric strips torn, signs glittered and tissue paper ruffled.

Gusto & Grace: Collected Mercury Glass

Groomsmen suits have been chosen. Groom’s cake toppers have been ordered. I finally began to collect mercury glass pieces. Wine has been tasted and voted on. The officiant has been met with.  A timeline has been drafted. Ceremony music has been selected. It’s all coming together…

Sixty-four days and counting!

Making (Wedding) Plans

25 Jan

Gusto & GraceBride ButtonI’ve got my groove back. I fell behind on many wedding to-dos during the holidays, and the turn of the new year made marrying Anthony seem so near. So how did I re-group after failing to meet the deadlines for the check marks I strongly desired?

First, I found a checklist that worked for me. I have looked at many lists that are supposed to remind you of what you should not forget, or the details that might never cross you mind. I bought a planner. One of my bridesmaids gave me a planner. I found checklists on sites like Real Simple and The Knot. I compared. I scribbled. I crumpled. I tossed. They all seemed to leave out different key elements. Until….THIS! Have you made contact sheets for your wedding? Thought about your floor plan? Created a timeline? Compared bridesmaids gowns? Tracked deposits and payments? Russell and Hazel thought of everything.

Second, I set a date for a project night. It is important to me to involve my friends and family in my wedding, so I planned a night to get together with a group of ladies: the moms and the bridesmaids, to help with projects such as embossing envelopes and making signs and centerpieces. Make sure you try the projects out before having everyone get together and realizing that it would work so much better if you had “X”. I am grateful that I have friends and family (and soon-to-be family) that are enriching my engagement and investing in our wedding.

Lastly, I had a “share the vision” session with my mom. Sitting down and showing her my thoughts, plans and wishes put me at ease. After a few hours, I felt like all was right in the wedding world again. It might be your wedding coordinator, your mother, or a friend, but if you are planning a wedding, I highly encourage you to find someone you can hash out all the gritty details with. Find someone else who is there for your musing and rambling. Find someone who delights in the joyous “small things.” Brainstorm. With someone.

He Got On One Knee

14 Aug

Anthony picked me up from work on Friday, August 3rd. My stepdad was working on my car, and Anthony was in town because he had the day off. Earlier in the day Anthony had asked me if I wanted to try any new restaurants for dinner (he knows how much I love doing that). I named two places, but we ended up settling on another. I suggested we go straight from work but Anthony said he wanted to go to my house where he had forgotten his new camera.

As soon as I walked into the house I thought, “It smells strangely like flowers in here.” Then I opened my bedroom door and understood why. I was up to my knees in balloons and there were dozens (and dozens) of white flowers everywhere. I turned around and he was on one knee. The moment was such a blissful blur. I don’t remember much of what he said, but I knew he was asking me to marry him. I said yes!

Once I agreed to become is wife, he handed me a little black lock-box: a little something for me to open on our wedding day. I’m sure he did it because he knows it will drive me crazy until April 27th (also because he is sweet and thoughtful, creative and romantic). He proceeded to tell me that he had made previously made reservations for Ellerbe’s, one of the two restaurants I suggested earlier. We dined and celebrated for two hours!  The evening felt so surreal.

I don’t think I could have picked a ring for myself that I love more! He worked with Bario-Neal to customize it. The rose gold, the champagne diamonds, the etching: his doing. My (other) best friend later told me she thought that I had picked the ring. After telling her I hadn’t she said, “He knows you so well.” What a symbol of his love!

Anthony went to such great lengths to make the proposal a surprise. He met me for lunch in the middle of the day after talking to my parents in the morning with plans to prepare the proposal after lunch. I couldn’t have kept such a secret, or such a straight face!

I’m so thrilled to be marrying him. I feel as if, before he proposed, he “married” himself to me. He asked himself the tough questions. He made the commitment. He took the risk. He said yes, all before asking me to. I am loving and enjoying this fiancée phase. What a sweet 9 months we will have of planning and preparation for a lifelong marriage.

 

%d bloggers like this: