Wednesday, June 29, 2011

{June Book Review} My Father's Daughter

In honor of Father's Day this month, we decided to purchase My Father's Daughter, written by one of our greatest icons of style and grace, Gwyneth Paltrow.  I'll endorse anything Gwyneth, as she my ultimate girl crush, but after reading this cookbook and her personal anecdotes, I can truly say I am thrilled with this purchase and recipe collection.  

I was drawn to the book by the sense of family noted throughout.  Like most families, ours revolves around the dining room table and it was so nice to read a cookbook that really emphasized that staple of eating together.  Gwyneth's love for her father, especially, and her children, husband and network of family and friends comes out so strongly in this, and how better to portray those bonds than through favorite recipes?  Another thing I loved was how she incorporated wine into the book.  She tells us about how she and her father together discovered a passion for cooking and as they prepared meals they'd share a bottle of wine and tell stories.  Today, that is one of my favorite things about visiting my family in Dallas - the meals and the wine! 

One particular highlight is the introduction to her pasta section.  She started the chapter looking back on her 30th birthday and her culinary journey through Tuscany with her father.  I recently celebrated my 30th birthday with a wine-tasting and culinary adventure through Tuscany and it was neat to read that we shared the way we decided to celebrate this milestone.
More than a collection of delicious, health-conscious recipes, this is a personal story that warms your heart and makes you crave a big, traditional family meal at your mother's dinner table.  Hail to the chef! 

I'll post some of my favorite recipes from this collection when I'm back from Mexico!  

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Home Office Update

While we're on vacation, I figured I'd write about one of my many ongoing home improvement updates.  Enjoy!

So a long while ago I told you about a room I was converting into my home office and reading/relaxing space.  Well, to give you an update, I've settled on a color scheme (black furniture and mirrors, silver accents, aqua accessories).  I have all but one piece of furniture in the room - I'm still on the hunt for a new, tall book shelf to replace the cheap, faux-wood short one I have for my personal storage needs.  As mentioned yesterday, I just purchased a chrome garden stool to tuck under my second desk (one desk for working from home, another for making jewelry) and my mother is having pillows custom made for me in a fabric I picked out in Dallas.  And as you may have predicted, I shied away from my desired 'bright fabric' I hoped would spruce up the all black and white room and went with something a little more my taste (subtle and quiet but still pretty).  Enjoy a few sneak-peaks before the final reveal:

Swapped desk spaces as seen yesterday, and the rug pictured inspired the wall color
Wall and trim color and fabrics

A poorly lit 'before' picture.  Where I started over a year ago.  Slow, but sure, right?
And much still to do:
  • replace carpets with hardwoods
  • paint walls and window/door trim
  • purchase large bookshelf (hoping to find a Craigslist deal!)
  • paint seating bench bright aqua (if I dare)
  • paint file cabinet (from stark white to distressed black)
  • switch out knobs of desk and file cabinet with the crystal knobs that came with the piece in the entryway


Monday, June 27, 2011

{We're Obsessed} The Garden Stool

We're off enjoying our obsession numero uno - family vacation - but  wanted to let you know that like most fabulous design bloggers out there, we're totally loving the garden stool!

You don't have to search very hard to learn that interior bloggers and designers are swooning over garden stools.  Add me to that list, as I'm LOVING how my new garden stool looks in my home office! And the garden stool is on Jackie's list of things to add to her home's interior!

Inspiration obsessions:

I decided I loved the metallic look best

I spy a pair of stools, brilliant styling and a gorgeous animal hide- on my list!

The picture that inspired my office makeover
Obsession comes home:

Friday, June 24, 2011

{Good Grapes Destination} Cancun, Mexico

Off to meet my fellow grapes in Cancun for a week of fun in the sun, pool aerobics, boat rides, jet skiing, deep sea fishing, snorkeling, nachos and pina coladas!!!  

We'll be back after Independence Day!  In the mean time, stay tuned for our latest obsession, a home-improvement update and our June book review!

Three Good Grapes

Thursday, June 23, 2011

{Thrifty Thursday} What a Bag Surprise!

While in Dallas last month, Jackie, Cristi and I stumbled upon a garage sale.  We were drawn in by the art on display on the yard and while most people were rummaging through rugs and furniture, we went straight for the little table of vintage shoes, bags and accessories.  Can you imagine my delight with my $4 find?  A gorgeous bag of woven leather in a needed color!  It even has a leather strap tucked in so I can wear it as a clutch or a cross-body bag.  Reminds me a lot of the Bottega Veneta look at high end department stores.  Unfortunately, they weren't a perfect match for the un-thrifty shoes I coordinated it with in my head, but considering I've already worn the bag out three times in one month, I got more than a bargain!  Anyway, check out the latest addition to my thrifty collection:


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Perfect Pancakes

I've been on this mission to make the perfect pancake for over a year now.  During this time, I've enjoyed some fantastic recipes with my hubby.  Fluffy buttermilk pancakes, perfect blueberry pancakes, rich chocolate chip pancakes, pumpkin pancakes and most recently, lemon ricotta pancakes.  I've always loved baking with ricotta and I had some extra in the fridge and figured I'd add it to my blueberry pancake recipe.  What an amazing addition!  So of course to the internet I went and I looked up ricotta pancakes and came across my latest pancake variation.  Perfection.  Next time, I will add a cup of blueberries to the recipe (after all, my favorite muffin is lemon blueberry)!  Enjoy!

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes.  Photo, Culinary Lovelies via Pinterest

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I prefer King Arthur unbleached flour for all of my baking)

2 tablespoons sugar (I always use half brown, half white sugar)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups buttermilk(buttermilk is best but if you don't have any on hand, add 1 tsp lemon or lime juice to each cup of milk and let it sit for at least 5 minutes.  It will sour and thicken.  It's a great alternative I love to use when I'm in a pinch)

2 large eggs, separated

1 tablespoon grated lemon peel

1/3 cup part-skim ricotta cheese

Salad oil (I used canola oil)

1. In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk buttermilk, egg yolks, and lemon peel to blend. Stir buttermilk mixture into flour mixture just until evenly moistened. Gently stir in ricotta cheese.
2. In a bowl, with a mixer on high speed, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. With a flexible spatula, gently fold the whites into the batter just until they are incorporated.
3. Place a nonstick griddle or a 12-inch nonstick frying pan over medium heat (350°); when hot, coat lightly with oil and adjust heat to maintain temperature. Drop batter in 1/2-cup portions onto the griddle and cook until pancakes are browned on the bottom and edges begin to look dry, about 2 minutes; turn cakes with a wide spatula and brown other sides, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes longer. Coat pan with more oil as necessary to cook remaining pancakes.
4. Serve pancakes as cooked, or keep warm in a single layer on baking sheets in a 200° oven for up to 15 minutes.

While we are on the subject of delicious pancakes, I mentioned during last month's book review that this month we are reading Gwyneth Paltrow's cookbook, My Father's Daughter.  Apparently, Bruce Paltrow made a mean pancake.  I tried this recipe over the weekend, and OMG.  Another one you have to make and memorize because they were delicious!  Thanks Gwyneth!  More amazing reviews of this cookbook coming next week!


Four Days...

...Until family time in paradise.

Where will you plan your next vacation?


Monday, June 20, 2011

{We're Obsessed!} Gucci Fall Collection

It's cruel to be getting the fall clothing collection emails in my inbox daily when I haven't even stopped to enjoy my summer, so I generally just delete.  But when I saw the email with pictures of Gucci's new fall collection, I was hooked.  Look at my faves!

Shoe obsessions...
Fringe obsessed!  LOVE!

Swooning over this classic t-strap in a fall hue and with ostrich leather!

Have you ever seen a more perfect shade of Cognac? Shoes, $895-$1295

Bag obsessions...
I see Cristi wearing this to a Texas game this fall

All items and images,

Clothing obsessions...
Pleats are my favorite accessory!

I'm dying to try this look- a full-sleeved fur capelet! 


Friday, June 17, 2011

{Good Grapes Destination} Philadelphia

I've managed to make it to the City of Brotherly Love a few times for, ironically, sisterly love!  Philadelphia has become a favorite meeting spot for my sorority sisters to spend a weekend, especially since two of them moved from the DC area to Philadelphia last summer.  We've always stayed in the ultra-urban neighborhood of Rittenhouse Square because it is the perfect combination of just off the freeway, people watching, shopping, eating and glam hotels.  The last time I was there, my friend had us all over for a delicious homemade dinner.  If your friends aren't that generous, there are so many dining options within walking distance.  We always like to book a table at a BYO restaurant, where we can bring our own bottles of wine and drink them at no extra cost to us.  For brunch, Varga Bar and Parc Brasserie can't be missed and my favorite part about staying in the Hotel Palomar was the complimentary daily wine reception and the on-site bar and restaurant (where we bumped into Danny Devito).  Put this destination on your list for a piece of American history and all the perks that come with it!  Enjoy!

Hotel Palomar

Darling little Varga Bar and home of my favorite pancakes ever and amazing homemade ketchup!

LC and me at our  friends' place - check out the views!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

{Thrifty Thursday} Watering Can DIY

Sure, it's not the most important of accessories, so when I went to the hardware store for my gardening basics, I bought the cheapest watering can in the store because at the time I thought, "you won't care what it looks like anyway."   My $6 plastic watering can has served its purpose of watering my herbs and flower bed. 

But then while walking through a non-hardware store, I saw these! The price tag wasn't so friendly at $30.  But now that I had seen such pretty little things, I wanted them!  

So I decided $6 wasn't too much to waste, and went to the internet and found this, a little less than $30 but a lot more than my $6.  However, I really wanted that electric blue color I had seen.  Then the light bulb went off in my head!  Another trip to the hardware store and a $4 can of spray paint later...

The best part about the spray paint is I have more plans for it, so more 'bang for the buck' if you will!  And once again, I am a happy grape!


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Wine Wednesday!

I kept it pretty simple this week and enjoyed an old standby, Blackstone Merlot.  Boasts nothing fancy except a modest price tag (I bought it on sale at World Market for $6.99!).  It's a medium bodied red that is a little earthy with fruit aromas.  

Photo courtesy of

Berry Delicious Bread Pudding

My dear friend M and her husband, who traveled with us to Kentucky in the Spring, hosted a fantastic bourbon-themed Southern BBQ party at their home.  I thought I'd use this party as an excuse to finally learn how to make bread pudding- a dessert I've loved since the first time I tried it, but one I don't enjoy often because, well, I rarely seek out Southern food and haven't ever baked it at home.  That changed Sunday!  

The recipe was from a new favorite cookbook, 1001 Ways to Cook Southern, a publication of Southern Living magazine and a Christmas gift from my MIL.  One needs occasions for these recipes- they are far too delicious not to share!  So one down and 1000 recipes to go!    A quick browse during a January visit convinced Jackie she had to buy one for herself!  Can you imagine the collection in this thing? 

Anyway, back to the recipe.  It was simple to make, but I'd save a good slot of time for this- I was in the kitchen nearly three hours with this recipe (there is some down time during the baking, but you should keep your eye on it).  The result?  So amazing, I didn't get to snap a photo before it was devoured by our friends!  A new favorite, for sure.  

French bread with fruit in the baking dish and pudding mixture ready to whisk

Bread Pudding Ingredients:

1 (16-ounce) French bread loaf, cubed

1 cup frozen raspberries (do not thaw)

1 cup frozen blackberries (do not thaw)

4 large eggs, lightly beaten

2 3/4 cups milk

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup butter, melted

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons melted butter

2 tablespoons sugar

Cooking Instructions:

Arrange half of bread pieces in a lightly greased 11- x 7-inch baking dish. Arrange frozen berries in a single layer over bread. Top with remaining bread pieces.

Whisk eggs and next 6 ingredients until smooth. Slowly pour egg mixture over bread, pressing down with a wooden spoon until bread absorbs mixture. Let stand 20 minutes.

Bake, covered, at 350° for 30 minutes. Uncover, brush evenly with 2 tablespoons melted butter; sprinkle evenly with 2 tablespoons sugar, and bake 30 more minutes or until set. Remove from oven, and let stand 30 minutes. Serve with Vanilla Cream Sauce. Garnish, if desired.

Vanilla Cream Sauce Ingredients:
2 cups whipping cream
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cooking Instructions:
Stir first 3 ingredients together in a saucepan. Add butter, and cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat until butter is melted and mixture begins to boil. Cook, stirring constantly, 3 minutes or until mixture is slightly thickened. Remove from heat, and stir in vanilla. Serve warm.

My modifications: Since fruit is in season, I purchased fresh fruit and froze it for a couple of hours before I started baking.  I also added a tablespoon of bourbon (Maker's Mark) to the vanilla sauce once I removed it from the heat.  The addition of bourbon was perfect and fit with the party's theme!


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

{We're Obsessed!} The Waterfall Braid

Guess what is just days away?  Answer: Our annual  family beach vacation!  We've been visiting the same place for almost 20 years and for that that long we've all had the same problem: beach (aka frizzy) hair!  Not the sexy soft shiny wavy hair that you see in advertisements or on some way-too-blessed women.  Then I discovered the waterfall braid, I was thrilled to have a styling solution for unruly humid-hair!  Easy to create and fun to wear, it's great on the beach or any occasion!  To learn how to style on your own hair, just look up a tutorial on YouTube.  There are hundreds on there!  What do you think of the waterfall braid?

Images captured via Google

Monday, June 13, 2011

Well Done, Home Team!

Did you watch the game last night?  To recap, Dallas, as a team and not just a couple of star players, did what almost nobody expected a team to do and won the NBA finals.  To all the players, the fans and the franchise: congratulations!  In our opinion, the team that deserved the trophy got it. Bravo!

Images captured via Google

Friday, June 10, 2011

{Good Grapes Destination} Austin, TX

TGIF! I am so excited for this weekend! I will be heading southbound 35 to Austin, TX. I spent the past 6 years in Austin before moving back to Dallas and I miss it so much. Besides catching up with some of my best friends I'm looking forward to hitting up my favorite spots. South Congress Cafe's Carrot Cake French Toast and Crab Cake Eggs Benedict are to die for. While there, I will definitely be checking out the boutique shops of South Congress! Abel's on the Lake is the perfect day-drinking spot with its panoramic views of Lake Austin from the deck and their Texas Tea not only tastes great, it'll get you feelin' great! I don't know if I'll make it out to Lake Travis this trip, but that is my ultimate favorite spot in Austin. One place I do hope I make it to--Barton Springs, the natural springs pool is always a great way to cool off in the summer heat. It's also one of my favorite people-watching spots. After leaving Barton Springs in Zilker Park, I'll head to my all-time favorite trailer park eatery (Austin has a plethora of them) Flip Happy to the Nutella & Banana Crepe or I might stop and get a raspa (snow cone) at Sno Beach. The possibilities are endless! Finally, my trip to Austin wouldn't be complete without eating with my favorite uncle at our favorite restaurant--Moonshine. Their Cornbread-stuffed Rainbow Trout is phenomenal as is their Signature Skillet Apple Pie.  YUM! I can't wait! Austin is my Mecca of the perfect eating, drinking and recreational spots. I think Willie Nelson said it best when he said, "there's a freedom you begin to feel the closer you get to Austin, Texas." Amen, Willie.


Thursday, June 9, 2011

{Thrifty Thursday} Anchors Away!

Nautical themed wear is back again this season and it's literally everywhere.  With options abound, finding a Good Grapes approved deal is the least of your challenges.  What you'll have to decide is just how you will wear your nautical.  Navy and white?  Red and blue? Stripes?  Anchors?  Boat shoes?  So many choices! I've narrowed mine down to black and white stripes with a sunny pop of yellow...

Shirt, $42; pants, $45; shoes, $50; bag, $50; aviators, $10.

...Because I am loving this look

Photo, Pinterest (We have many a picture of Three Good Grapes and Mom in matching clothes...)

Photo: Pinterest


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Wine Wednesday!

O.M.G.!!! Finally our favorite online wine vendor,, offers an almost infinite selection of wine!  The site introduced their new product request feature.  Just go to the normal search section, enter the name of your preferred wine, and if it doesn't come up in their inventory they will display a 'request a product' link where you can make your request and enter your email for a response.  I know I will def be taking advantage of this.  Two wines I can think of off the top of my head are the ZD wines we mentioned last week and also a delicious and price-friendly Spanish Granache, Don Ramon.

Photo via

Crab Cakes!

I list not learning to make crab cakes sooner among my top regrets in life.  Seriously.  This food for me was always delectable but usually too pricy for a casual dinner or not filling enough.  And to make at home?  I expected it was far too intimidating.  Then when I met my friend B, she said she'd mastered a special crab cake recipe and assured me it was not the daunting task I imagined.  And would you know it?  She was right!

Crab cakes are simple and satisfying, easy to freeze and reheat, and best of all, you can cook six servings for the same price you'd pay for a single serving at a restaurant.  My hidden gem for restaurant worthy recipes comes from none other than one of my favorite wine vintners, Cakebread Cellars, and it's no surprise they offer a delicious crab cake recipe.  Pair the cakes with their amazing chardonnay and you have a match made in Heaven.  Enjoy!

Photo: Cakebread Cellars


1 lb.
crabmeat, picked over for shells and squeezed to remove excess liquid.
1 1/2 c.
fresh bread crumbs
stalk celery, finely minced (1/2 cup)
green onion, finely minced (1/4 cup)
1/4 c.
1 T.
fresh lemon juice
1 T.
chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tsp.
Dijon mustard
1 tsp.
1 tsp.
Tabasco sauce
eggs, separated

extra virgin olive oil
lemon, cut into wedges

Combine the crabmeat, bread crumbs, celery, green onion, mayonnaise, lemon juice, parsley, mustard, Worcestershire, Tabasco, and egg yolks in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold the egg whites into the crab mixture. Shape 1/3 cup of the crab mixture into a 2-inch-wide patty. Repeat with the rest of the mixture.

Add enough olive oil to fill a large nonstick skillet 1/4-inch deep. Heat over medium-high heat. Add the crab cakes, in a single layer, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes per side, until golden brown. Arrange on a serving platter and serve with the lemon wedges.

*My variations: sometimes I add finely chopped red bell pepper and 1 tsp of Sriracha hot sauce to the bowl in step 1.  The pepper gives it nice color and the sauce adds a subtle but welcome kick to the crab cakes.  Also, I always bake the crab cakes on a cookie sheet at 400 degrees until they are lightly browned. 

Recipe created for Cakebread Cellars by Nancy Oakes, Chef and Owner, Boulevard, San Francisco

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Pure Barre. Pure Bliss.

This past weekend was my first weekend in months to have some time to myself and I decided to visit Pure Barre Dallas for a noon class on Saturday to get me motivated for the day. I [shamefully] hadn’t been in about a year and oh my gosh, I fell in love all over again! I forgot how much I liked it! The energy of the 55-minutes class gets you pumped, they have the best playlist and you have SO MUCH fun.  Besides being fun it is one of the BEST workouts I have ever had.  And I tried boot camp....this is better!  It is geared towards women working the inner and outer thighs, the butt, the abs and the arms.  They even do a whole part focusing on the pocket of fat by your armpit that can ruin a good strapless dress.  I'm telling you...they know and target ALL the problem areas.  It's not your normal workout combines elements of ballet, pilates and weight training.  All you former dancers will LOVE it.  Makes you feel like your back in the dance studio!  It is seriously amazing!  Definitely one of the newest and most fun trends in working out. My body is still sore from Saturday’s workout and I love it! I highly recommend all of you check it out. To find out if there is one near you, click here. Lift. Tone. Burn. 


Monday, June 6, 2011

{We're Obsessed!} Billy Reid for J.Crew

There are few things more attractive, in my book, than the fashionable albeit disheveled style of Southern gentry. I've been traveling to the Deep South a lot recently and love the modern, tailored looks the boys are rockin'. So imagine my excitement when I read in this month's issue of Vanity Fair that Billy Reid, a local designer of Florence, Alabama and recent CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Winner, was partnering with J.Crew to launch a collection for men inspired by the look of those southern gents. I'm oozing with delight. Now hopefully the boys will be inspired to sport these amazing threads--having girls like me swooning! Check out Billy Reid's J.Crew collection here!

Photos: J Crew


Friday, June 3, 2011

{Good Grapes Destination} Fort Worth, TX

 TGIF! This weekend I will be taking a mini staycation to one of my favorite places---Fort Worth, TX! I fell in love with Fort Worth after planning Jackie's bachelorette weekend there last year. It is just a 35-40 minute drive from Dallas and yet has a totally different feel. Some of my favorite things to do are visit the Stockyards, eat a burger at Chef Tim Love's The Love Shack and if it turns into a crazy night go dancing at 8.0s in Sundance Square. Sometimes when you need to get away a staycation is a great and affordable way to do it. Hope y'all enjoy your weekend!!


Thursday, June 2, 2011

{Thrifty Thursday} It's a Cuff World

Cuffs are so bad ass!  Seriously, from Wonder Woman to the red carpet, this arm candy may look tough, but really it just demonstrates a fearless fashion sense.  After all, women have been wearing cuff bracelets for centuries.  Why let it go out of style now?  My favorite cuff bracelet this season came from none other than Target, though no one could tell if they tried.  See how this thrifty pick compares to other top sellers!
Hammered Cuff Bracelet, $19.99, Target

Devon Leigh Double Cutout Cuff, $525, Neiman Marcus

Hammered Rings Cuff Bracelet, $1,995 Blue Nile

Evelyn Knight Gold Infinity Cuff, $170, Max and Chloe