VALENTINES | THE DAY OF LOVE

"Any day spent with you is my favorite day." - Winnie the Pooh

Anyone else believe LOVE should be celebrated throughout the year? I'm a firm believer in showering those you love (including random acts of kindness) at any given moment and for no particular reason. But that may just be me :) 

On Valentine's, I like to make it fun & cheesy! Filling it with DIY crafty hearts, festive streamers in the colors of red and pink, and wearing my appropriate valentines headband. But, I know many aren't fans of the mushy, festive day. The list can go on of why people would rather the day be filled with gloom, which makes me think of Carrie and Miranda's not so great Valentines Day dinner - when both were newly single and crushed. My fave is when Carrie try's to leave but the darn balloons! The feels and mood that mimics how many, I'm sure, fee on Valentines.

As always, my take in life is to make the most of a situation and look for the positive - even if you have to dig hard for the positive! 

Trust me. I've been single, pre and post becoming a mom. And now I'm married, but we both have a tight schedule with work and life schedules, the calendar doesn't miraculously clear-up on occasions we would like to just be together over some coffee or dinner. My point is: regardless of your current Facebook relationship status (single. married. complicated. etc). If you're on the down and don't want to celebrate, change that mindset and enjoy the day! If you're a parent and have no time, MAKE TIME! Get that sitter. Celebrate on the weekend. OR better yet, celebrate it with the kids. If you're single, get those friends together and do something together. And know, Valentines doesn't need to be mushy and with endless amounts of flowers. There are so many ways to celebrate the day: hiking, a stroll down the beach or park, catch a movie, bake or buy your fave dessert and champs (or hot cocoa), go vintage retail-therapy-shopping, treat yourself to a little something from your fave store. The list can go on. 

I love Valentines day not because of anything romantic but simply because of the memories my mother created when my brothers and I were young. Every year she would order us all our own mini heart-shaped cake, which was decorated in festive Valentines Day frosting. On Valentines Day, soon as we came home from school I would rush to the fridge and see the pink cake boxes! And then devour in half of my cake, saving the rest for later (anyone heard of: cake for breakfast?). Traditions are fun and traditions aren't reserved only for Thanksgiving and Christmas. And Valentines Day isn't only for the hopeless romantics. Valentines is for everyone!

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In the spirit of L-O-V-E, here is a list of gifts, DIY crafts and things to do

-kid + budget friendly-

If you have kids and no sitter, have fun as a family because it won't be this way forever and you'll create so many memories - just as my mom did.

BAKING + DIY CRAFTS

 Skinny Heart Shaped Sugar Cookies?  //  Healthy Strawberry Snacks  //  FOOD In Heart Shapes  //  Rose Garland  //   Cupid Crispies  //  Fruit Roll-Up Fortune Cookies  //  Heart Shaped Pizza!  //   V-Day Kids Lunches  //  Chocolate Spoons  //  PRIS' FAVE Popcorn!!!  //  Sweetheart Cinnamon Rolls  //  Pancake Hearts  // Bugs + Kisses  //  Donuts!  //  JENGA  //  Animal Jars  //  Cookie Hearts  // BEST (vegan) Sugar Cookies  // DIY Painted Heart Book Bag  //  EASY V-Day Decor  //  Strawberries + Cream Puppy Chow  //  DIY Craft Games  //  

GIFTS

Sprinkle's Cupcakes - Care Bears!  //  Disney's UP Necklace  //  Embroidered Monogram Necklace  //  Heart Pizza Tee  // Heart Espresso Cups  // Cookie Stamps  //  Cookie Cutters  //  Chocolate Deco Pens  //  Trinket Trays  //   Love To Give Tee  //   Pizza Tee  //  Heart Tights  //  Your Stuck With Me  // Valentines Day CARDS //  Elephant Succulent Planter //  Tea  //  Tea  Again // Coffee  //  Coffee Again 

THINGS TO DO

Gandola Ride //  SD Heart 5k Walk + Run  //  Coronado Valentine's Day 10k, 5k, 1 Mile Fun Run  //  Shopping In The Heart Of I.B.  //  Movie Night + Order Take Out //  Game Night + Pizza At Home //  Dessert Night Out  //  Drive-In Movies  //  Go On A Date As A Family: Ice Cream, Dessert, Pizza, Donuts + Hot Cocoa  // Visit: Sprinkles, Eclipse Chocolate, Extraordinary Desserts, Claytons Coffee Shop, Donut Bar, Tartine,  //  Pamper Yourself With Your Fave Homemade Facial Mask  //  Get Those Nails Done  //  Get That Hair Did  // Visit Your Fave Vintage Shop  //  Treat Yourself With A Little Something From Your Fave Store  //  Bake That Fave Sweet Of Yours  //  Layout A Blanket In The Family Room For Game and/or Movie Night, Filled With Snacks + Treats  //  Hike Your Fave Trail  //  Take A Stroll At Your Fave Park Or Beach  //  Buy A New Journal + Write Your Thoughts, Over Your Fave Coffee/Tea & At The Park, Coffee Shop Or Somewhere New  //  Make Plans With Friends  (Just no Carrie & Miranda angry Valentines dinner scene's LOL).

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We hope we've encouraged another perspective for this festive day and we hope you share with us how you spent the day!

Tag us on Instagram with your photo! @espelife.shop

Hashtag #LifeLikesLoves

CHRISTMAS TIME IS HERE

Christmas time is here. . . Happiness and cheer. . . Fun for all that children call. . . Their favorite time of the year. 
-Written by Lee Mendelson, for A Charlie Brown Christmas movie

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Something about Christmas that makes the season feel so magical. Maybe its because we're all kids at heart, loving the goodness all around and then there's Santa, who comes by on Christmas Eve. Not going to lie, I LOVE Christmas and love watching my daughter enjoy such a beautiful and magical season. Parenting is the best during these moments, when lots of memories are made and captured on camera.

In the spirit of Christmas and how we gather (or try to) with family and friends during this time, I thought it would be fun sharing local festivities that are happening all around town this month. Know, Christmas is what you make it. I've been single with no kid, to single with a kid, and then married (created a family). During all seasons of my life, I made sure to enjoy it all the way through. I hope you do the same :)

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If you attend any of these festivities, we would LOVE to hear about it!

XOXO

#LifeLikesLoves

Hotel Del, ice skating | 2015

Hotel Del, ice skating | 2015

Balboa Park December Nights | 2005

Balboa Park December Nights | 2005

TIS THE SEASON FOR BAKING

Now, I'm not the best baker but I do LOVE to bake and put my heart in all that I create.  Thanksgiving and Christmas seem the be the fitting season to bake, right? Its what everyone does, aside from cooking the main dishes for the family feast. My daughter and I started a tradition, years ago, to bake an apple and pumpkin pies from scratch. Originally, our pumpkin pie was completely from scratch, straight from the pumpkin itself, but after the first or two of baking it that way, we decided to use organic pumpkin from the can :( It just helps speed up the process a bit... especially, if you're going to have an early start of cooking on Thanksgiving day. If you're a mom, ANY extra time or little cutting-the-corners helps. With that, here are the recipes to both pies - if you're still wondering what to bake OR if you're wanting to bake after the holidays are over.

P I E    C R U S T

ingredients

• 1 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour

• 1 tbs of granulated sugar

• 1/2 tsp of salt

• 6 tbs cold unsalted butter (cut into quarter slices)

• 1/4 cup of chilled vegetable shortening (cut into 2 pieces) / I did not have shortening on hand, so I used 1/4 of butter that was softened (yes, butter again)

• 2 tbs iced water

combine dry ingredients, work in the butter, add water and kneed.

If baking pumpkin pie, make the dough into one ball, wrap in plastic and place in frig for 20 minutes.

If baking apple pie, cut the dough into two balls (one for the bottom crust, the other for top crust), wrap both individually in plastic and place in frig for 20 minutes.

 

P U M P K I N    P I E

ingredients (Trader Joe's version)

• 1 can Trader Joe's Organic Pumpkin

• 1 cup heavy cream

• 1/2 cup whole [organic] milk

• 2 large eggs

• 3/4 cup packed [organic] brown sugar

• 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice blend

• 1/4 tsp salt

Pre-heat oven at 375 degrees. Roll-out pie crust and place in pie dish (don't have one? TJMAXX and Marshall's always have cute ones and at great prices). Place pumpkin pie ingredients in a large bowl and mix. Pour mixture into pie dish. Cover the edges of the crust with aluminum foil,  remove foil after 20 minutes (depends on your liking with how you want the edge of the crust to be), and continue baking. The approximate total baking time is 45-50 minutes. The center of the pie will still tremble a bit (like jello) but know that the pie filling will set as it cools down. Normally, I bake pies in the late evenings and let them cool during the night. By morning, they're perfect!

A P P L E   P I E

• 6 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced

• 1/2 cup unsalted butter

• 1/4 cup water

• 1/2 cup white sugar

• 1/2 cup brown sugar

• 1 tsp cinnamon

• few dashes of nutmeg

• 1 tbs pure vanilla extract

Pre-heat oven at 425 degrees. Roll-out one of the balls of dough and place/line the pie dish. Fill the dish with apple slices and then roll-out the second ball of dough and place however, creatively, you desire as the top crust - Pinterest has TONS of pretty ideas. Once done, set dish aside.

To make mixture, place all ingredients into a pot and stir - I'm very careless at times, I literally dump everything in the pot. Key: Keep mixing and stirring. The mixture will eventually start to boil and bubble, once it does please remove from stove and pour mixture (carefully, because it will be very hot) in the pie. I will look for little openings throughout the pie and pour into those spots. Its okay of the mixture gets on the top crust, it will give the crust color. Cover the edge of the crust with foil and remove midway during baking. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, the reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake 35-45 minutes more. Let pie set for an hour or so, OR bake in the late evening and let it set through the night, it will be perfect come morning. Serve with whip-cream and a cup of coffee or tea :)

CINNAMON STICKS

The other week my husband and I stopped by a local Mexican market for some freshly made pico de gallo and tortilla chips, and on the way to the check-out lane there was a huge barrel filled with cinnamon sticks. Instantly, my senses pick-up that aroma of my dad boiling cinnamon sticks, during Thanksgiving and Christmas time, and how the scent slowly spread throughout the home and each room. That subtle but earthy, with a bit of spice, scent is not only completely fitting for the season, but it also gets my tastebuds rolling and my mouth watering for turkey, glazed ham thats topped with pineapple, mashed potatoes, candy yams, and then the start of Christmas joy once Thanksgiving feast has filled our tummies. 

It is not new that certain scents, sounds, or the taste of food and spices, can trigger our senses and recall parts of our childhood, travels, home, and places we love, giving us all those nostalgic feelings.

I share this very simple recipe with you in hopes that this nostalgic scent, which fills the homes of many families during this time of the year, will also fill your home with its lovely scent.

INSTRUCTIONS

In a small saucepan, boil water and add 2-4 cinnamon sticks. The amount varies on how subtle or strong you want the scent in your home. Once you place the sticks in boiling water, turn down the heat to the lowest temperature for about 15 minutes and then turn-off.  The scent will keep filling your home for hours. 

-- additional --

If you would like to add to the scent, here are some great additions + combos:

• orange slices + mint leaves

• orange slices + ground cloves

• lemon slices + rosemary

• apple slices, whole cloves + teaspoon of vanilla extract