{Recipe} Oven-Baked Sliders

This Sunday is one of my most favorite days of the year.  The delicious party food, my friends all gathered around, cheering on two teams as they battle for the ultimate trophy, the commercials, the half-time show...I just love the Puppy Bowl.  No seriously, in our house we usually set up two TV's; one showing the Super Bowl & one showing the Puppy Bowl.  In the past few years, other networks have piggybacked on this idea with the Kitten Bowl, the Fish Bowl & now they're doing a Dog Bowl featuring SENIOR DOGS! How incredible is that?!?! Needless to say, we are excited in our house for Sunday!
So let's talk about these sliders & how YOU HAVE TO MAKE THEM for whatever party you're attending. Seriously, they are SO easy (if you follow my tips) to throw together, SO tasty & the absolute perfect addition to any spread. If you're having a big group over, I definitely recommend doubling the recipe because these suckers will go FAST.

A few notes...

-The original recipe calls for adding sliced cheese on top.  This recipe already has shredded cheese mixed in to the meat. Personally, I didn't think it needed any more, but that's just me.
-The original recipe also said once you place the additional cheese on top, to throw them back in the oven for 10-15 mins.  The first time I made these, I did this & BURNED THE CRAP out of the buns. So I don't recommend putting them BACK in the oven unless you top with cheese. In that case, 5 mins MAX.
-I also preferred to keep my toppings to a minimum, but you could easily set up a whole little spread with lots of toppings for people to customize them!

Makes: 12 Sliders
Prep & Cook Time: 35 mins max
How difficult was this for me? EASY.

1 lb ground beef (I used 70% lean, 30% fat...this recipe is not a time to be healthy)
1 packet Lipton onion soup mix
8 ounces shredded cheddar cheese
1 tbsp mayo (I did use light here because that's what we had in the house)
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 package (12 count) Hawaiian rolls
Addition cheese & toppings of your choice!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
In a big mixing bowl, combine ground beef, onion soup mix, cheese, mayo & garlic powder.
In a greased 9x13 glass (not metal) pan, press meat mix flat. 
You'll think the meat will never spread out enough...it will. Just keep pressing.
Bake in oven for 20-25 mins
Remove from heat
(Don't be surprised how much grease is floating around. It's gross, but I pretend not to see it...& better that it cooked out of the meat than eating it. Also your meat will have shrunken up)
Slice meat into 12 even squares (good luck) & place on buns!
At this point, we ate our sliders as is.  The original recipe called for placing the bottom of the buns w/ the meat on top into another 9x13 pan, topping with cheese, covering with tinfoil & cooking for an additional 10-15 mins.  This is when I burned mine the first time around. So IF you want to place more cheese on/heat up the buns, I recommend only cooking for about 5 additional mins.



{Lately Loving} African Juju Hats

TGIF.  Seriously. I'm starting to recover from the trauma of deleting my photos (catch up here) & just looking forward to the weekend.  It's been a while since I've done a Lately Loving & I'm excited to bring it back, even though these African Juju hats are nothing new in the design world.  They've been around for years & I've seen them in countless homes. But something about them lately has me really intrigued.  Perhaps it's because they could solve a big design dilemma I have in my own home.   Since J & I moved in together 6 years ago, he's been on my case about hanging artwork over the bed. To be fair, we live in a state where there are earthquakes, so having giant framed pieces of art is probably not the smartest thing to sleep under.  I thought I found the perfect solution & was so excited,  until I showed them to J & he hated them 😂.
Hopefully I'll bring them into our home once we move because I love how they bring texture & depth to any space. A grouping of hats in my future office perhaps? In the meantime, I want to share some inspiration photos as well as some that are currently for sale that I am seriously crushing on.  They can get pretty expensive, but I've managed to find a few that won't completely break your wallets.  I've also stumbled upon a few DIY's. Might have to give them a try! J can't refuse to hang art I create, right??

If you're looking to shop...these beauties are all for sale!

World Market currently has 2 sizes, a large for $349 & a small for $249 in ivory. They also have one in black!
This color!!! Juju Hat Tika $114.01

Also this color! Imagine this one & the one above together. Dead. $316.70

One Affirmation $230

Modern Moonage Studio  $148.75

African House 30 inch Natural Mix $250

SomAfrica $209.02


Make-Ahead Garlic Mashed Potatoes

To say I had a little blogging set back this week would be a gross understatement.  If you follow me on Instagram (rachelalyse120) you know what I'm talking about.  I've been having difficulty getting my camera to connect to my computer for the last few days, (don't you hate when something is working perfectly fine & then one day, POOF! & it just stops?) so I bought a new card reader, went to test it out & it wouldn't work.  I did some googling, did some tinkering & guess what I did??? I DELETED MY ENTIRE SD CARD THAT HAD ABOUT 10 RECIPES WORTH OF PHOTOS ON IT.  I'm still digesting the ramifications of exactly what I did, especially because I was SUPER excited about some of the pics I took & recipes I tried. So, while I figure out how to stop crying & uncurl myself from a ball in the corner, I'm going to share with you a recipe for some legit comfort food. If only I had a vat of these right now.

THESE POTATOES THOUGH. HOLY CRAP.  I've never actually made mashed potatoes before which is so odd because I freaking love mashed potatoes. I've cooked many a potato before, just never mashed them. I don't know why because this recipe was SO easy & the potatoes were SO SO good & came out perfectly, despite being made hours prior to actually eating them.  They can actually be made a good 24 hours ahead of time as explained below. I purposely left these a little lumpy because I prefer my mashed potatoes that way. But with a bit more whipping (as I've noted below), they would easily have smoothed out.  This is the type of recipe that will easily be made again before Thanksgiving next year!

Serves: 10-12
Cook time: 1 hour 15 mins
How difficult was this recipe? Easy!

3.5 lbs russet potatoes (you can use other kinds, just adjust the boiling time accordingly, I've heard yukon are REAL good so I might try those next time)
2 tbsp butter
6oz cream cheese, softened (I almost just threw the entire 8oz in there...seriously)
2/3 cup sour cream
1/4 cup whole milk or heavy cream
1-2 tbsp minced garlic (amount based on how much garlic you like)
3/4 tsp salt
Paprika & fresh parsley to sprinkle on top


Place potatoes (peeled or not, I peeled mine first) in a large stock pot & fill with enough water to cover the potatoes. Bring to a boil & let cook for 30-40 mins pending potato size.
Once quite soft, remove from water.
(If you aren't making these ahead of time, preheat your oven to 350 F)
In a large mixing bowl, mash the potatoes as much as you can. 
It's easiest to use a potato masher but a fork or large spoon would also suffice.
Using a hand mixer, mix in butter, cream cheese, sour cream, garlic & salt until completely combined.
 For a creamier potato, continue whipping until all the chunks are smooth.
Grease a 9x13 baking dish.
Spread potatoes out evenly in dish. 
Sprinkle top with paprika & parsley.
If you're making these potatoes ahead of time, cover with tin foil & refrigerate until ready to bake. They will last up to 24 hours. When you're ready, remove from fridge & let potatoes sit in room temperature for 30 mins.
When you're ready, place potatoes in oven uncovered for 25-30 mins.
Serve & enjoy!


52 Spaces in 52 Weeks

On Monday I shared my mantra for 2018, "Be better at being healthy." At the end I mentioned one more goal for the year that has more to do with my mental health.  Over the last few years we have drastically outgrown our condo.  The few closets we have are brimming with wedding gifts & clutter, our kitchen cabinets have dishes & party supplies that never get used & well, our storage unit in the garage...you can't even get to it because so many wedding boxes & cast off furniture are stacked in front of it.  So while we hope to move into a house that has actual storage in it, it probably won't be for at least another year.   Plus, we just have a lot of crap that we don't need & it will be so nice to move into a new space feeling lighter. 

I've researched & tried a few different cleaning/organizing methods in the past & while some of them worked in the moment, they just weren't sustainable for me.   The plans I tried were drastic & you were supposed to clean out your entire house in just a few days.  Well, I don't know about you, but A. I don't have time for that & B. I have better things to do with my time.  I was definitely not born with the tidy gene & cleaning is just not something I prioritize in my life.  Don't get me wrong, I LOVE a clean space & when I want to, I can be incredibly ruthless when it comes to disposing of clutter.  But over the last year, I've really let my ruthlessness slide & if I want to prevent J from having a complete meltdown, I need to get my shit together.

"Your home should be a living space, not a storage space"
-Francine Jay

So I devised a challenge that I think will work better for me.  If a task feels too daunting, I'm less likely to attempt it.  But if it feels like something I can accomplish in a short amount of time, I'm in.  Similar to the popular cleaning challenge, "40 Bags in 40 Days," I'm going to find 52 spaces in our home that need to either be cleaned out or organized & tackle one space each week for the next year.  Some spaces will be larger, like my kitchen cabinets, while others will be on the smaller side, like my nightstand drawers.  If I assign myself just one task a week, organizing the whole house becomes much more manageable & much less daunting. A recipe for success.

Given that we're already a week into the new year, I need to catch up...however, I might cheat a bit because I did do a giant closet clean out 12/29-12/30 & well, that might be close enough.  As of now, I've come up with 31 spaces that need help, which you can read about below.  I'm going to keep a journal of my progress & inevitable missteps to hold myself accountable. I also plan on checking back here monthly to provide updates,  before & after pictures & review any organization products I buy.  If this sounds like something you'd be interested in, I'd love to have some friends along for the journey. I'm going to need all the support I can get!

"Out of clutter, find simplicity. From discord, find harmony. 
In the middle of difficulty, lies opportunity." 
-Albert Einstein

Container Store, be ready to take all my money! Here's to a cleaner & more organized 2018!

Spaces that need attention:

1. Bras/under garments - when was the last time you cleaned our your bras?
2. Purses - I easily have 5-7 that I never use & could be sold or donated
3. Jewelry - Seriously, I have jewelry EVERYWHERE
4. Master bath vanity - drawers & under the sink (my side only, J's side is ridiculously clean)
5. Guest bath vanity - aka my 2nd vanity
6. Nightstand drawers (again, just mine)
7. Bathing suit drawer - I have an entire drawer dedicated to bathing suits & cover ups!
8. Throw pillows - yeahhh, we probably need to downsize on these. We have a lot.
9. Kitchen cabinets - so much crap is stored in our dinky little kitchen that we never use
10. & 11. Garage & storage unit - I'm breaking this up into 2 (even though they're in the same space) because they are both big projects that are going to take time. 
12. Under master bed - we have a bunch of Tupperware's shoved under there that need to go
13. Under guest bed - same thing
14. Bar - Our bar has a ton of alcohol that nobody drinks & the drawers are filled with leftover shit from various parties. 
15. Under the kitchen table - our table (see it here, though the room looks nothing like this now) has 2 shelves under it & the shelf directly under has become a collecting spot for crap & the basket below, well lets just say there's stuff in there from my apartment from 6 years ago.
16. Storage closet & shelving unit - we basically have one storage closet in this house that isn't meant for clothes & well, that's kind of laughable.  Right now we have wedding gifts stacked in there unopened because I want to wait until we move to open our nice things.  However, we can't get to anything in there.  So while the gifts have to stay, the shelving unit in the closet needs to be completely re-organized.
17. Linen closet - we do have a little linen closet upstairs with lots of bedding/blankets & towels that we don't need.
18. Dog toys - yes this is a space! If I have to downsize, the boys have to downsize.
19. Storage bins next to our desk - so at the moment, we have just a temporary desk in our guest bedroom for J to use. I don't have a desk & therefore no space to put desk related items.  So in turn, a huge stack of crap has piled up next to the desk that has got to go.
20. File folder - I have one major Tupperware filled with important papers, tax returns etc. It desperately needs to be cleaned out & reorganized. I don't think I need a copy of my renters insurance from when I lived in Chicago...8 years ago.
21. Sell clothing online - I have a small stack of clothes that I am going to attempt to sell on the internets. I've had some success before, so hoping to make a few dollars here.
22. Work out gear - I have 2 drawers dedicated to yoga pants, work out clothes & pajamas. Pretty sure I can consolidate into 1 drawer.
23. Freezer - no idea when I went thru the freezer last.  The fridge, however, gets cleaned out pretty regularly.
24.  J's closet - no I'm not cleaning his stuff, I'm cleaning out the things I have stored in there...*insert major eye roll at myself*
25. Misc. basket in closet - I have a basket that collects crap in my closet. Time to clean it out.
26. Socks - when's the last time you cleaned out your socks?
27. T shirts / tanks drawers - I have 3 drawers dedicated to these items. Aiming to consolidate into 2.
28. J's nightstand - I have a few decorative items on his nightstand & they just feel like clutter now so those need to go. I won't be touching a single thing that belongs to J.
29. Behind/Under my dresser - yes those places have become a collection zone 
30.  Shelving unit in dining room - we have one of J's old bookshelves that needs a makeover. It's become a collecting zone for decor items but it just looks like a mess.
31. Mini fridge in dining room - so we had a beer fridge. It died months ago. It is still sitting there.
32. Top of my dresser & the mini drawers - the top of my dresser has become a dumping ground since I don't have a desk.  There are also some mini drawers on top of my dresser that are filled with accessories I never use. 

OK those are all my spaces thus far.  I realize they are a bit scattered but I don't plan on organizing in that order.  Each week I'm going to decide what to tackle the following week. It just feels easier to manage that way!


Being Better in 2018

It's a week into the new year & I'm refusing to accept that the holidays are over.  We had such an amazing time staying home - we slept in, watched a ton of movies, cooked,  ate A LOT & actually did a little work around the house. It was a dream.  But sadly, it's back to reality.  The month of January is here & it's time to start fresh. 

Every year I struggle with the concept of New Years resolutions.  In general, they always just sound like a giant set up for failure.  Don't get me wrong,  I love the idea of examining my life & seeing how I've changed over the last year - good & bad. I do think it's crucial for me to see what I accomplished in the past year as well as the different ways I can improve in the coming year.  But, like so many others, I have these grand ideas of how I'm going to change as a person & in my head, they sound great...but basically, I'm setting myself up to fail. Resolutions are made to be broken.  

So last year, I took a different approach.  I made a list of all the things I was unhappy or unsatisfied with & discovered a common thread.  I live in a crazy amazing place & I was NOT taking advantage of everything this town & state has to offer. So I decided in 2017, I was going to "Do More Shit." Looking back, I am pretty satisfied with everything I did.  I got a tattoo, took a long-awaited trip to San Francisco/Napa/Sonoma, went to a wine festival in Santa Barbara with my girlfriends, celebrated my mom's 60th in Vegas, made a trip back home for my nephew's 4th birthday, ran my first 5K, explored multiple art exhibits, pop up museums & markets, tried a ton of new restaurants, saw two iconic musicians perform, discovered my inner activist, became president of my HOA,  took on an incredibly challenging position on a new (for me) show, watched my Spartans win their bowl game in San Diego etc. Overall, it was a busy, but incredible year!

2017 was A LOT of fun, but while I was so busy doing shit, I let my overall general health slide.  I became very complacent with working out after my favorite spin studio closed. I drank more soda & destroyed my nail beds (a bad habit I've had since I was a kid) while stressed at work.  I skipped doctor appointments because I just didn't want to make the effort. I watched too much TV late into the night & didn't get nearly enough sleep as I should have.  I spent more time staring at screens (damn you Insta stories!) & less time reading. I let our condo become a cluttered mess. I ordered in more & cooked less.  I could keep going, but I'm starting to get depressed. Last year's approach of coming up with a more general goal instead of specific resolutions worked really well for me.  So I decided to spend the first week of the new year coming up with my 2018 mantra: Be better at being healthier.  

It would be an unrealistic expectation to look at ALL those things listed above & say I'm now going to work out 5x a week, drink 100 ounces (or whatever you're supposed to drink) of water every day, get 8 hours of sleep every night, go see all the doctors, read for an hour every night, cook all my meals etc.  If I tried to change ALL of these things at once, I would 100% fail. So instead of trying to unrealistically succeed at every single one of these things, I really just want to be better. 

 If it means working out at least 2x some weeks, or drinking at least half the water I should be...that's progress.  I'm looking to be better...not to drastically change who I am.  I'm still going to order mac & cheese if it's on the menu at a restaurant & I will still have the occasional Coke because, well, I don't want to live in a world where I can't have SOME fun.  But I will make more of a conscious effort to not ALWAYS splurge or not ALWAYS stay up until midnight watching a Friends episode I've seen at least 12 times.  If I can just try to be better sometimes, that's growth.  

So finding a general thread & working towards "being better" is what works for me. I know it's not for everyone,  but I encourage you to find a way to grow in some aspect this year.  With all that said, I do have one very specific challenge I am going to partake in this year that falls into this spectrum...but I'm still working out the kinks with that.  More to come later this week!

 Happy New Year everyone! Can't wait to see what 2018 has in store!