Top 5 Projects of 2010

It's hard to believe we are wrapping up another year! It's funny...I keep telling myself I need to blog more. Do more projects. Cook more. But, looking back on this year, I nearly doubled my posts from 2009 and we have quite an impressive line-up of completed projects. Here are my top 5:

5. I'm starting with this project, because in my mind it still isn't done. In fact, you will see it in next week's post, titled "Top 5 Projects on the 2011 To-Do List."  Here is what it looks like today:

4. Sadly, we hardly ever use our dining room. Does that matter? Heck no! A fresh coat of paint and a chair rail gave it a whole new look.

3. I had two home office reveals this year, but this one remains my favorite room to stretch out and blog, surf the web, and pay bills.

2. Getting rid of the playground in our backyard and adding this was one of the best ideas we had in 2010. I can't wait for the snow to melt and weather to warm up...it's now one of my favorite places to read!

1. By far, my favorite project of the year was our bathroom makeover. It's blue. It's coastal. It's just plain cute.

Top 5 Recipes from 2010

I can't neglect the Vanilla Bean kitchen in my year-end round-ups. So, here is my top five recipes from 2010. I did alot more projects around the house than time in the kitchen...I'll work on that for 2011!

5. I started the summer with big dreams. "I'll write a Burger of the Week series," I said. Well, that lasted about three weeks...four at best. This was one of my faves from the series (can it even be called that?). Mostly because I was contemplating renaming the blog Vanilla Beef. I crack myself up sometimes.

4. I know it is the end of December, but, this little guy is so cute...it makes me puke. I could just gobble him up. If only I didn't have 4 pounds of chocolate sitting in the kitchen.

3. I must have a gazillion recipes for fish tacos -- all sitting unused. I finally took the plunge and made this recipe. It's quick and easy. And tasty.

2. Paella is a favorite in the VB kitchen. It makes a great "date night" dinner. This recipe from Rachael Ray subs pasta in for the rice and it is still to-die-for. You can quote me on that.

1. I know I just mentioned this recipe to you yesterday, but I can't say it enough. If you like scallops, you will love this. If you hate scallops and like candy, you'll still love it. We made this last year for NYE and we'll be having it again this year.


Got Bubbly?

With just a few days left before we count down to 2011, I'm sure most of you already have a bottle of bubbly on ice. If you don't, here are a few of my faves:

Sophia Blanc de Blancs by Niebaum-Coppola Winery, owned by film director Francis Ford Coppola
Approx. $15-20 for four cans.

It comes in a pink can. With a straw. Need I say more?

Segura Viudas Cava Reserva Heredad

We had a bottle (or two) of this champagne the night we got engaged at Bailey's Chocolate Bar.

Schloss Biebrich
$4-5 at Trader Joe's

There is no reason one can't drink champagne every day of the week. Not that I recommend that. But, should it be, say, a Wednesday evening and you feel like some sparkling, this is your guy.

Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Blancs
Approx. $30

The Gloria Ferrer Winery was our last stop when we took a trip to Napa/Sonoma in 2008. I remember it for the fantastic view, delicious bubbly and spicy nuts. Not necessarily in that order.

Now, you have all this bubbly -- what else are you going to do with it? Might I suggest this recipe?


A Coastal Christmas

Since we are stuck live in St. Louis, the chances of us having a coastal Christmas are slim. So, I decided to bring the sea to us this year!
First, I headed to Hobby Lobby and bought this bag of shells. And, using my 40% off coupon, I got the bag for $6 instead of $10. Making this a Thrifty Coastal Christmas.

Next, I put Mr. VB to work and had him drill small holes in each shell. He took it upon himself to tie some hemp string to each shell. He's turning into a little crafter before my very eyes.

Extra shells are mixed with pine cones (left over from last year) and garland (I got 30 ft. for $10 at Home Depot) in with the decor throughout the house. On the mantle...


In the dining room...

And, in the breakfast room.


I think the tree is missing something...so, in my eyes it isn't done yet. Yes, I understand that The Big Guy comes next week. Knowing me, I'll probably be adding the finishing touch on Christmas Eve.

But, by the looks of it, others in the VB household think it is just fine the way it is.

See the larger shells placed on the tree skirt? Well, that was Jeff's idea. "It looks like they are laying in sand...like a beach," he said. I've got to keep my eye on him...I fear there may be a Vanilla Bean takeover any day.


Vanilla Bean Takes on Williams Sonoma

I just got home a few minutes ago to see the latest Williams Sonoma catalog in the mailbox...and what's on the front cover? Peppermint bark!

Then I began to worry. I blogged about this recipe a couple of years ago and gave you a spot-on identical recipe. But, what if my loyal readers didn't know that and went out and spent nearly $30 on the store variety?

I would be devastated.


I immediately ran up here to tell you all about it. So, here I am. Telling you to read this post and make this bark yourself.


Because it's better than the stuff in the store.

Why is it better?

Because it's made with love.

That's right. I said it. LOVE.

Now, go and tell your friends.