Food & Drink

Mommy Mojo w/ Table8


Dining at some of the best restaurants in the country is now just a click away. Sure, online reservation-making has been around for years. But the folks at Table8 have changed it up in a big way. With their unique online service, you can get VIP access to some of the hottest dining spots in cities like New York, Atlanta, Chicago, LA, Miami, San Francisco and Washington, DC.


Are you a big fan of the hit Food Network show Chopped like I am? Would you love to land a table at judge Scott Conant’s restaurant, Scarpetta, in New York City? Now you can! Here’s how it works:

  • Table8 has partnered with some of the top restaurants in major cities to offer tables during peak, sold-out times just days in advance. No more waiting a month or two for a table at the hippest spot in town!
  • For a reservation fee that Table8 shares with the restaurant, you can get last-minute access to select reservations that are ONLY available to Table8 diners. It’s like being part of a VIP foodie club! 
  • Make your reservation using their web site or mobile app. It’s that easy to get seated NOW!

I love that Table8 brings the spontaneity back to dining out. As a busy mom of three, I have to plan every part of my day in order to keep my home running smoothly. And that includes lining up a babysitter when my husband and I are in need of an adults-only dining experience! As parents, we are often a lot less spontaneous than we were before kids; it’s just the nature of how things change when you have a young family. With Table8, I like knowing that I can bring back some of that spontaneity and enjoy a delicious dinner with my husband — at a place that doesn’t serve chicken fingers! With a little help from Table8, I can bring back some of my mommy mojo and get my dining groove back!

Pick your city and sign up for email notifications; you’ll get periodic emails from Table8 with a listing of select restaurants and their corresponding reservation dates/time slots that are up for grabs. See something you like? Book it right then and there! Traveling for business and want to try the best new steakhouse in town? No problem. Check the Table8 web site or mobile app to secure your spot.

DIY/Crafts - Home & Garden

A Sunny Bathroom Renovation


Buying a home is a big step for many of us. After all, your home is likely your biggest investment. When we purchased our home seven years ago, we knew it would probably be our ‘forever’ home, or at least that we’d be here for a very long time. We bought something that was big enough for a growing family, in a neighborhood that we loved and in an area with excellent schools. Beyond just the house itself, there are so many things to consider when plunking down hundreds of thousands of dollars — scary stuff! Having a reliable financial planner or online resource center like the one offered by SunTrust, can help take a load off your shoulders. SunTrust offers a comprehensive trove of tools to help with every stage of the home buying, selling or renovating process. For example, did you know that revamping the bathroom is one of the top five ways to boost your home’s value? This type of information and so much more can be found by visiting the SunTrust resource center.

Renovating the bathroom on the main floor of our home was high up on our priority list. After all, it’s the primary bathroom used by guests and since it’s off the kitchen, it’s the preferred bathroom for our family because of its convenient location. Knowing that we’ll be in our home for the long term, each renovation project that we’ve undertaken, including this particular bathroom project, was thought out very carefully. Ultimately, we asked ourselves what would yield the most value for our money? And most importantly, would this renovation increase our home’s value over the long term? Gutting the original bathroom and replacing it with a shiny, sunny new space was a resounding YES! I posted about my bathroom renovation earlier this year, and, it’s been one of my top pins on Pinterest. I’ve even received personal emails from readers asking me questions about the project!

Our reno project was a complete gut job down to the studs. We wanted to start from scratch, including new foam insulation to conserve energy during the cold winters. Starting with a blank, fresh canvas was the way to go for us. It was a bit overwhelming to stare at a shell of a space, but very exciting at the same time. Admittedly, it took us a while to figure out exactly what we wanted design-wise. We went back and forth multiple times, playing with various colors, design elements, tile patterns, accents and the like. Finally, we got it right and started putting the wheels in motion.

When tackling a major project like this, it’s important to set expectations before starting. Ask yourself questions like:

1. What is my budget? Do I need help setting a budget? Are we locked into a budget or is there wiggle room for splurge items?

2. How long can my family be inconvenienced by the work that will be going on in our home? Is the space that’s being renovated critical to the function of the home or can you work around it?

3. Will we hire a contractor or do it ourselves?

4. Are we making structural changes that will require an architect?

5. Who will we turn to for design direction/inspiration? Will we hire a professional designer or gather inspiration on our own from sites like (one of my favorites!)?

6. Do we need to have professionals lined up for plumbing and electrical?

When embarking on a reno project, it’s important to select finishes and elements that reflect your personal taste, but that are also practical/appealing to potential homebuyers for resale value down the road. For example, in this space we chose to use travertine tile in neutral shades of ivory and beige. Plumbing fixtures were chosen in oil-rubbed bronze. The copper and glass mosaic vessel sink was definitely more taste-specific, but we absolutely love it!

When it came to budget-setting, we didn’t have a hard and fast number in mind. However, we certainly wanted to be smart and cost-efficient where we could. My hubby is extremely handy and did the majority of the work himself, which saved us a ton of money and allowed us to splurge on other things in the space. For example, we purchased a beautiful wood vanity from Lowe’s, then installed a custom quartz sink-top and the copper vessel sink. Definitely a splurge, but it’s a show-stopper! We also installed a niche in the shower (shown above) using very high-end ivory travertine pencils and trim pieces (another splurge). And lastly, the custom frame-less shower doors were made-to-order to fit the exact dimensions of the space.

Since we tackled this project without a contractor, it took a lot longer than we had expected. But, we took our time and thought about every decision we had to make. We knew that this reno would be for the long term, meaning that we wouldn’t be gutting this bathroom again — EVER! One of the most important lessons I’ve learned as a homeowner is that almost every project will take longer than you had hoped, so build extra padding into your timeline. For us, it’s more important to take our time and do it right than to rush the process. Unless it’s an emergency situation, take your time and think about what will add the most value to your home long term. It’s also important to read online reviews when purchasing items for your projects, Hearing what other consumers have to say about things helps in the decision-making process. For example, I knew that opting for a copper sink would require a little extra care when it comes to care and cleaning. Copper forms a natural patina over time, so this was good to know prior to pulling the trigger. You can never read too much or do too much research when it comes to spending your hard-earned money!

It was a long road to finish the reno project, but we couldn’t be happier with the results. When we finally hung the window treatment and I was able to add my decorative touches, it was such a great feeling. It was a sunny moment, for sure!

Sunny Days start here.  At SunTrust, they have the tools and resources to help you achieve your sunny day. Start here to find out how they can help you enjoy the things that matter to you.

At SunTrust Bank their purpose is lighting the way to financial well-being. When you feel confident about your money, you can save for your goals and spend knowingly on what matters most to you.  They know we all live for the sunny days and want to you help you live yours.

For even more sunny day inspiration visit

Subscribe to the Shine newsletter and receive inspiration and advice twice a month to help you live for a sunny day.

Visit the SunTrust resource center anytime for help achieving your financial goals.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of SunTrust Bank. The opinions and text are all mine.

Food & Drink - Kids - Recipes

Lunchbox Love: Tuna-Broccoli Mac & Cheese Cups


Back-to-school is here (yay!)! My kids don’t return to school until next week, but many children across the country have been back for at least a week or two. Packing lunch for your kids can get a little mundane, especially by mid-winter when you’ve tried just about everything in your bag of tricks. Two of my three kids will be in school for a full-day come next week, so over the past several days, I’ve been trying to come up with lunchbox ideas that will satisfy their hunger pangs and get them excited about bringing lunch from home. I created this recipe because it’s filling, satisfying and nutritious. Plus, it can be made early in the week, stored in the fridge, and reheated before they head off for the bus. Baking the flavorful mac and cheese into muffin cups and adding a crunchy panko topping makes it fun for them to eat (I used a Texas-size muffin pan so the portions are big and hearty)! Could this be a good way to get your kids to eat broccoli? Send a little lunchbox love their way this school year!

tuna mac

Lunchbox Love: Tuna-Broccoli Mac & Cheese Cups
  • 1 large bag of microwaveable broccoli florets, cooked and cooled
  • 2 dry cups of elbow pasta
  • 2 cans of tuna packed in water, drained and flaked with a fork
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 2 Tbsp. flour
  • ¾ tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 cups milk
  • About 4 ounces of shredded cheddar cheese (about half of an 8-ounce bag)
  • Plain panko bread crumbs for sprinkling on top
  1. Steam the broccoli, remove from bag and set aside.
  2. Drain tuna, flake with a fork and set aside.
  3. Cook and drain pasta; set aside.
  4. Begin making cheese mixture by melting the butter in a large pot or sautee pan. Once melted, add the flour and salt; whisk until combined until smooth and bubbly. Remove from heat.
  5. Gradually stir in the milk, whisking constantly. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Boil for one minute. Remove from heat. Immediately stir in cheese until melted.
  6. Add the pasta, tuna and broccoli to the cheese mixture. Stir well so everything is coated with the cheese sauce.
  7. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  8. Spray each muffin cavity with non-stick spray.
  9. Spoon some of the tuna-mac mixture into each cavity.
  10. Bake for 25 minutes or bubbly. About 5 minutes before it's done, sprinkle the top of each muffin cup with the panko. Broil just until golden,
  11. Bake at


DIY/Crafts - Home & Garden

Mini Bathroom Refresh: ‘Switching’ to a Beach-Chic Style


‘It’s time for a beautiful switch’ certainly resonated with me when the tech and design-savvy industry leader, Legrand, reached out about using their gorgeous adorne collection of switches, outlets and wall plates in my home. I had been thinking about refreshing the second floor hall bathroom for quite some time, but other priorities kept pushing it off to the bottom of the to-do list. I knew this would be the perfect opportunity to breathe some new life into a somewhat humdrum space. Here is a BEFORE pic; drab paint color and mismatched switches, outlets and wall plates.

legrand_before 2

I wanted to impart a style that would be sophisticated enough for guests, yet fun and playful for my three children who use this space on a daily basis. I wanted to create a space that felt light, airy and restful, so I began the process of planning my beach-chic bathroom refresh. The tile and fixtures would remain the same, hence the mini refresh. Here’s what I set out to accomplish:

  • Repaint walls / change paint color
  • Replace mismatched, outdated switches, outlets and wall plates with the gorgeous, sleek, streamlined Legrand products
  • Change out accessories
  • Hang new window treatment

As a former marketing executive for Benjamin Moore, a North American paint leader, I knew that changing the paint color would give the space an entirely new look and feel. To achieve a beachy, restful ambiance, I chose Benjamin Moore Palladian Blue. This serene, calming hue reminds me of the ocean and also complements the beige/sand tones of the tile on the floor and walls. By using the pale blue on the walls, it evokes a sense of the ocean meeting the sand.


A sandblasted manzanita branch hung on the wall conveys a beachy, natural feeling. Its simplicity doesn’t take away from the beauty of the Legrand products.

Once the walls and trim were painted, my husband installed the beautiful adorne by Legrand products. Not only are they sleek, polished and beautiful to look at, they were easy to install. I just love the seamless look of the wall plates; no screws are visible, so all that’s seen is the beauty of the finish. Once the product is connected within the existing electrical box, the wall plate simply snaps onto the front. For this project, we used the adorne Paddle Switch (I needed two for the double switch), Paddle Fan Control and Tamper-Resistant Outlet. I chose the elegant Mirror White on White wall plates. I am thrilled to finally have matching electrical products that are simply stunning to look at!


A philodendron plant livens up the space by adding something alive and green. I used a candle vessel with a natural wood base as a planter.

A single starfish that my daughter found on a recent family vacation adds a fun, beachy flair propped against the sink backsplash.


A pale blue, wooden storage box embellished with natural jute rope, sits atop the toilet tank and holds sea-inspired bath salts and lotions.

legrand_storage box

On the wall adjacent to the window, I had some fun with a distressed, blue and natural wood picture box. I brought in the personality of my three children by pinning photos of each of them from various trips to the beach!

legrand_picture box

A mirrored, lucite box topped with shells collected at the beach sits on the sink-top. A fresh-scented, luxury bath soap wrapped in a starfish-studded paper sits on the soap holder as a decorative touch and adds a lovely fragrance to the space.



Peach-Amaretto Freezer Jam


Canning, or preserving, has become extremely popular over the last few years with home cooks. Our family has been doing it for years; every summer we make our own fresh tomato sauce and jar it for the year ahead. I just love the art of preserving foods to have on hand for family meals, holidays or to give as a gift to a friend or neighbor. I’ve been noticing a lot of recipes lately for freezer jams, so I decided to give it a whirl using fresh, summer peaches that our family picked from a local orchard. Freezer jams are relatively easy to make; there’s no cooking involved and the filled jars are “processed” in the freezer instead of boiling them on the stove. Once the jar is thawed, it must be kept in the refrigerator and consumed within a week or two to be on the safe side. Be sure to sterilize your jars in the dishwasher before filling them. This jam is delicious served with pancakes, muffins, biscuits, toast… just about anything that deserves a little burst of summer peach freshness and flavor!

peach jam

peach freezer jam

Peach-Amaretto Freezer Jam
  • 8-10 medium peaches, skin removed
  • 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2-3 Tbsp. Disaronno Amaretto
  • 7 Tbsp. Sure Jell instant fruit pectin (Ball makes an instant pectin; it says instant on the bottle and also calls out freezer jams)
  1. Chop the peaches into chunks; discard pits.
  2. Pulse in food processor until it reaches the consistency of a chunky puree.
  3. Pour the puree into a bowl and add the lemon juice; stir well.
  4. Add sugar. Stir well until dissolved. Gradually add the pectin, one tablespoon at a time, using a whisk.
  5. Spoon or ladle the jam into the sterilized jars. Allow about ½ inch of headspace at the top. Tighten the lids well. Let the jars sit at room temperature for 45 minutes to set.
  6. If using right away, refrigerate immediately. If not, store in freezer.


Bake - Food & Drink - Recipes

Fresh Summer Peach Crisp


A couple of weeks ago, our family took a trip to a nearby farm. It was a blistering hot day, but the kids sure did enjoy the hayride to the peach orchard. Mostly, they had a ball plucking sweet, fuzzy peaches right from the trees. My little guy, who’s three, had peach juice dripping from his chin and elbows!

Peaches are one of the most popular stone fruits of the summer season and typically ripen pretty quickly. It’s best to eat them right away to prevent spoilage. This crisp is a super-tasty way to use up your bounty of summer peaches. The topping is lovely; I like to describe it as a cross between a soft cookie and pie crust. Serve it warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for the ultimate summer dessert!

peach crisp



Fresh Summer Peach Crisp
  • 8 medium peaches, peeled, cored and sliced
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • Pinch of kosher or sea salt
  • 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup rolled oats (not quick cooking)
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1¼ stick cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • Pinch of kosher or sea salt
  • 2 Tbsp. cold water
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. For the filling:
  3. Toss the peaches in a large bowl with the zest and lemon juice. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir to combine. Pour the filling into the bottom of a square, glass baking dish (8 x 8 or slightly larger will work fine). Set aside.
  4. For the topping:
  5. Combine all of the ingredients in a food processor except the water. Pulse until combined, about 30 seconds. Add water, 1 tablespoon at a time until mixture is clumpy but crumbly.
  6. Top the peaches with the flour mixture. Be sure to loosely sprinkle the topping and not pack it down.
  7. Place the dish on a baking sheet and bake for about one hour or until the topping is set and golden brown. The filling should be hot and bubbly.


Food & Drink - Make - Recipes

Spiked Watermelon Lemonade


Nothing is more refreshing on a hot summer day than a tall glass of ice cold lemonade or a big bowl of cut watermelon. Why not combine the two for the ultimate thirst-quencher? It’s a wonderful seasonal party cocktail, too! This cooler is such a cinch to make and serves a crowd. Plus, you can make the watermelon lemonade ahead of time, then add the booze before serving. Crafty Tip: keep the lemonade in the fridge in the glass blender jar. You’ll notice that it may separate. This is normal. Before making your cocktails, give it a good whirl on the blender base to reincorporate everything. For this recipe, I used store-bought lemonade, which makes it even easier. But, if you’re feeling adventurous, by all means, make your own!

Mint goes perfectly with lemonade and watermelon, so I added a small handful of fresh mint leaves from my garden to brighten it up and add another layer of flavor. Just omit the mint if you don’t care for it or if you’re making a non-alcoholic version of this and the kiddos won’t like the addition of mint (mine don’t care for it).

I chose to spike this cooler with tequila, but vodka or a light rum would work well, too. Use whatever you like or whatever you have on hand. Cheers to easy, breezy summer cocktails!

watermelon cooler

watermelon cooler_top

Spiked Watermelon Lemonade
  • 3 liquid cups of lemonade
  • About 2 cups worth of seedless watermelon, cut into chunks (go by the lines on your blender)
  • Small handful of fresh mint leaves
  • Tequila (about 4 shots worth, or more if you prefer it stronger); plus extra for floating on top
  • Fresh squeezed lemon juice
  1. Place the chunks of watermelon in your blender. Puree until smooth.
  2. Add the lemonade and blend.
  3. Finally, add the mint leaves to the blender and blend until small green flecks appear.
  4. To the bottom of a cocktail shaker, add a handful of ice cubes.
  5. Next, pour in the watermelon lemonade and tequila (add enough depending on how many cocktails you're making). I figure one shot of tequila for each serving.
  6. Next, squeeze in some of the fresh lemon juice for a little zing.
  7. Shake it all up; strain out the ice as you pour into glasses.
  8. Garnish with a watermelon cube and a mint leaf.
  9. If desired, float a little extra tequila on top.



Bake - Food & Drink - Recipes

Summer Berry Bread Pudding


Berries, like most fruits, are at their peak during the hot summer months. Our family always has a big bowl of berries in the fridge to snack on. As a matter of fact, my new favorite breakfast bowl is plain Greek yogurt topped with ripe blueberries, chopped walnuts and honey… what a yummy way to kick start the day (and healthy, too). This bread pudding is bursting with a trio of sweet, plump berries; raspberries, blueberries and blackberries; and it’s all baked into a decadent, but light, bread pudding that’s perfect for breakfast or brunch. Make it ahead and just reheat before serving. It can also be served warm for dessert with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Cheers to summer!

berry bread pudding

Summer Berry Bread Pudding
  • Butter at room temp for greasing baking dish
  • 7 eggs
  • 1¼ cups milk
  • 1¼ cups heavy cream
  • 1½ Tbsp. vanilla extract
  • Zest of one lemon
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ½ of a large loaf of challah bread, cut into cubes
  • About 2 cups of berries (a little more won't hurt, though!)
  1. Grease the bottom and sides of an oval or rectangular baking dish, slightly smaller than a 9 x 13.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, cream, vanilla extract, lemon zest, and sugar. Combine well with a whisk, then let it settle so there are no air bubbles on the surface.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  4. Add the challah bread cubes to the egg mixture and toss gently to combine. Scatter the berries into the bottom of the greased baking dish.
  5. Pour the bread/custard mixture on top of the berries. Gently press down so they are packed evenly. Sprinkle with more sugar. Let sit in the fridge for 15 minutes so the bread soaks up the custard.
  6. Place the baking dish on a sheet pan in case anything bubbles over the edge. Bake for about 45-60 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the berries are bubbling underneath the bread.
  7. Serve warm.


Food & Drink - Make - Recipes

Trader Joe’s Sandwich


Trader Joe’s is one of my guilty pleasures. You, too? I love to go there and scour the aisles looking for hidden gems. It’s like a foodie paradise (the fresh flowers are great, too). The quality of the products is excellent and the prices are often unbeatable. If you haven’t been to one yet and there’s one nearby, I highly recommend stopping in for a visit. I made this little sandwich last night; most of the ingredients were purchased at Trader Joe’s. No worries if you don’t have a Trader Joe’s close to you; it can be re-created using ingredients bought elsewhere.  It was a delightful combination of salty, nutty, sweet, herby and garlicky all at the same time — yum! Serve it for lunch, snack or even as a light dinner with soup or salad on the side.

trader joes sandwich

Trader Joe’s ingredients:

  • Sliced Rosemary Ham
  • Rosemary Asiago Cheese
  • Cherry Preserves made with Fresh Cherries

Other ingredients:  

  • Baguette or other crusty bread
  • Garlic-Herb Olive Oil — get my recipe here!
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced finely
  • Dried rosemary, optional

How to:

  1. Slice the loaf of bread in half lengthwise
  2. Set oven to broil
  3. Place bread, cut side up, on a cookie sheet
  4. Drizzle each half of bread with olive oil, evenly coating
  5. Sprinkle the minced garlic on top
  6. Layer the slices of ham
  7. Using a vegetable peeler, shave long strips of Asiago cheese on top of the ham
  8. Broil until the cheese is melted and the bread turns lightly golden
  9. Put the sandwich back together (top and bottom) and slice
  10. Serve with the cherry preserves on the side (sprinkle jam with dried rosemary if desired)




Food & Drink - Make - Recipes

Peanut Butter-Banana Parfait


Some things just go together… hand and glove, Bonnie & Clyde, salt and pepper, to name just a few. Creamy, salty peanut butter and sweet bananas is another classic duo, made famous by the ‘King’ himself, Elvis Presley. I skipped the bacon (which was included in the original Elvis sandwich) and replaced it with a crunchy layer of cereal (granola would work really well, too). The peanut butter cream is made with velvety-smooth Italian mascarpone cheese, lightened up with confectioners sugar and whipped to perfection! This recipe makes a decent amount of peanut butter cream, so if there’s any leftovers, use it as a spread on toast or muffins or make a chocolate cookie sandwich with the cream in the middle. You can even use it as a dip for fruit. I have to admit, I was eating it by the spoonful! You’ll love this no-cook parfait for breakfast, brunch or dessert all summer long. I promise it’ll have you “all shook up”!

GG Parfait_1 GG Parfait_top view

Peanut Butter-Banana Parfait
  • ½ cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 cup mascarpone cheese, room temperature
  • 3 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 Tbsp. confectioners' sugar
  • Great Grains Banana Nut Crunch Cereal
  • Sliced bananas
  1. To make the peanut butter cream:
  2. Combine peanut butter, mascarpone and granulated sugar in a bowl. Beat with a handheld mixer until well combined. Start on low speed, then gradually increase the speed.
  3. Slowly add the heavy cream, mixing on low-medium speed.
  4. Once all combined, add the confectioners' sugar and whip on high speed until super light and fluffy. If storing any for another use, keep in an airtight container in the fridge,
  5. To assemble the parfaits:
  6. Place a layer of sliced bananas on the bottom of the parfait cup or bowl.
  7. Spoon a good amount of peanut butter cream on top of the bananas.
  8. Top the cream with a handful of Great Grains cereal.
  9. Repeat until you reach the top of the parfait cup.
  10. Finish with a final layer of crushed cereal; add whipped cream and garnish with a slice of banana, if desired.