Sunday, April 7, 2013

Pictures from Mexico

For my spring break from UCLA we spent a week in Mexico at this resort called the Excellence in Playa Mujeres, a quiet stretch of beach with a few resorts about 40 minutes from Cancun.  We went to Mexico with my parents, my brother Stephen and his wife, Delia, and Delia's parents, Jim and Kimberly.  We had such a fantastic time - it was the perfect family vacation.  The resort was amazing.  The rooms, beach and pools were beautiful.   The staff was so great and the resort was all inclusive so we spent most of the trip stuffing our faces with the delicious food and drinking (maybe) and little too much!  Overall it was truly a wonderful vacation and a much need break before I go into my last 4 weeks of my LL.M. program.

Here are some of the pictures from the trip.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Happy St. Pattys Day


We had a great weekend celebrating our Irish-ness on the West Coast.  Which mostly included stuffing our faces and drinking too much Guinness,  Bailey's and Jameson.   Sadly no green beer this year but oh well.  LA definitely isn't Boston when it comes to St. Patrick's Day shenanigans but we still had a fun night out with some of our new west-coast friends.  

Elvis also got to do some celebrating this weekend too.  The little man was born on March 16 (thanks Frenchies of Mystic for bringing the sweetest Frenchie into our lives).  In honor of his 2nd birthday Dave got him this cute glittery Irish hat from the party store.  Elvis wasn't really into wearing that hat but he got spoiled with a special can of cowboy stew and some extra treats yesterday.

I decided to let my sweet tooth overindulge this year and put some of that Irish liquor we had to good use.  This morning I made IRISH FRENCH TOAST...using Irish soda bread and Bailey's.  It was delicious!  
The recipe is below if you want to use some of that leftover soda bread you bought in other ways.


1 loaf Irish soda bread (cut into 1/2 inch slices)
4 eggs
3/4 cup milk or light cream
1/4 Bailey's Irish Cream
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg


I also made some cupcakes for the party we went to on Saturday night with of course, Guinness and Bailey's.  Definitely not part of my spring break diet but these were also delicious.  
Here is the recipe from

Hope you all had a great St. Patty's Day.  More to come soon from the West Coast and a McNeil family spring break in Mexico!!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Merry Christmas - a few months late

I know I've been MIA for a few months now but life has been very busy with the holidays, schoolwork, a few trips back to the east coast and a case of pneumonia.  Just wanted to share this ridiculous photo of Elvis taken with Santa Claus at the Grove before Christmas.  More posts to come soon.  I have lots to share!!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Thanksgiving Frenchie Style

Hope everyone had a very Happy Thanksgiving!! Dave, Elvis and I have so much to be thankful for - a great year of travel and adventure together, meeting so many amazing new friends on the west coast, our wonderful families who support us from across the miles and the hope and excitement of all the great things yet to come.  We spent our Thanksgiving day just the three of us at home after Dave and I gave a few hours of our time volunteering at the Westside Thanksgiving Dinner - a truly amazing event that feeds over 3500 people in west LA who would otherwise not get to eat a hot Thanksgiving meal.  It was both humbling and inspiring and something we hope to make a Thanksgiving tradition in our family.

For Elvis, the highlight of the day was a long walk in the perfect LA weather and his special thanksgiving dinner. We normally only feed Elvis dry dog food but on Thanksgiving he gets to over indulge just like everyone else. We give him this Thanksgiving in a can and he goes totally crazy for it. He may have also snuck a few pieces of turkey and other scraps that fell while I was cooking too and he was sound asleep before we were finished with our dinner. Definitely a food coma!

As for our Thanksgiving meal, personally I think the best part, not surprisingly, is the sweets. Pumpkin bread is one of my favorite things to bake at this time of year. The stores are stocked with canned pumpkin and it doesn't come around much the rest if the year.  Plus the smell of pumpkin bread in the oven fills the whole apartment with spicy fall goodness which I just love!

I like this recipe from that makes two loaves so I can keep one for myself and bring another to share with friends. But because I know I'll be tempted by lots of other goodies at this time of year, I try to make a healthy(er) version. I replace the vegetable oil with unsweetened apple sauce to cut the fat and calories a bit. You can actually do this in a lot of baking.  Just replace in a 1 to 1 ratio, so 1 cup of oil to 1 cup of apple sauce.  Below is my modified recipe

  • 3 cups sugar (or sugar substitute)
  • 1 cup unsweetened apple sauce
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 16-ounce can pumpkin
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

 Butter and flour two 9x5x3-inch loaf pans, or you can use Pam for baking to cut out the butter.  Beat sugar and oil in large bowl  with mixer to blend.  Mix in eggs and pumpkin.  Mix flour, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, salt and baking powder in another large bowl.   Stir into pumpkin mixture in 2 additions.  Divide batter equally between pans. Bake at 350°F until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour. 

Another dish that's a Thanksgiving tradition in my family is this cranberry apple sauce.  My mom's friend gave her the recipe over 20 years ago and we have it at every Thanksgiving and Christmas meal. The combination of apples and cranberries make the sauce both sweet and tart and it goes really well with Turkey and other meats too.  Not to mention that it comes out a nice pink color and totally brightens up the table.  We've all made a few modifications over the years to the recipe.   I've gotten to the point where I don't even measure the ingredients but here's the recipe I generally follow - you don't have to be exact with the measurements and it will still come out great.

4-5 apples peeled, cored and cut into sections.  (granny smith or a less tart apple to make the sauce sweeter)
1/4 -1/2 cup of sugar, depending on how sweet you want the sauce
1 bag of fresh cranberries
1 tablespoon of cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon of cloves
1/2 tablespoon of allspice
1 cup of water

Combine all ingredients in large saucepan, pour the water over the top and stir.  Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, then reduce to a simmer and cook until the apples are completely softened, stirring occasionally.  

We had a perfect Thanksgiving dinner for two.  

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


We've had a busy couple of weeks celebrating Halloween and my 30th birthday! But sadly while we were having fun here on the west coast, our beloved New York City, my hometown in Connecticut and the beautiful Rhode Island beaches we grew up playing on were being ravaged by Hurricane Sandy.  I am still at a loss for words when I see videos and photos of the places that Dave, Elvis and I used to call home.  I wish there was more we could to help do but from so far away doesn't feel like enough.  We've donated to the Red Cross and Elvis wants to help all of the lost and homeless pets of Sandy so we've given to the ASPCA as well.  And for now I will continue to pray for everyone who lost their homes and businesses in the storm. 

But on a lighter note the reason for this post is to share some ridiculous photos of dogs wearing Halloween costumes. The French Bulldog meetup club we belong to had a Halloween costume meetup last weekend, cleverly named Frenchiween and of course, since I love Halloween so much, Elvis had to attend.  

Elvis dressed up as Justin Bieber in this purple dog hoodie we found at American Apparel.  He didn't seem to mind wearing the hoodie as its pretty soft inside...the wrist bands not so much.  

Here are a few photos of some of the other Frenchies.  There was a costume contest and the pumpkin patch won.  Maybe next year for Elvis!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

A new desk chair

We needed a chair for the desk in our bedroom and searched all over the internet and at the usual furniture stores where we like to shop at but weren't finding anything that we liked or that fit our budget.  After several trips to thrift stores and visits to Craigslist and Hiipswap (which is a very cool site for those of you who haven't check it out) we still hadn't found the perfect chair.  One day while we were out for a drive in our new 'hood we found this store Wertz Brothers near our apartment on Santa Monica Boulevard that sells used and antique furniture.  The store had some really amazing pieces from full dining sets and huge wardrobes to an entire floor of single chairs!  I was in DIY heaven! 

After looking through rows and rows of different chairs we found on for a great price.  I did not like the wood or cushion colors as they were, I knew it would be perfect for the refinishing project I had in mind.  The chair itself had a good style and intricate pattern on the back.  The teal pleather seat-cover was awful but that's a very easy fix with some new fabric.  Even Elvis seemed a little freaked out by the color (or when I took the picture he was just nervous that he was up on a chair - something he's usually not allowed to do).

 Here is the chair before its makeover. 

I wanted the chair to match the colors in our bedroom, white and gray with yellow accents.  I refinished the chair, following these steps. 

1. Dave removed the screws holding the teal cushion on the chair.  Then with fine gauge sandpaper I sanded the entire chair before painting it. 

2. I used a soft foam brush to paint the entire chair with a white primer and let it dry overnight.  

3.  Then I look a can of white latex paint and painted over the primer.

4.  Using a cute white and yellow damask print fabric I bought on and a staple gun, I covered the teal pleather up, hopefully never to be seen again.

Here is the finished project.  Having a fresh chair is definitely going to make all those late nights of studying much more enjoyable!

Definitely a huge improvement from the after.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Rosie's Dog Beach

I've definitely been neglecting my blog but have so much to update you all on.  I was busy studying for the California bar exam (which I might add was a terrible experience) and then I went to the East coast for a two fantastic weddings and a weekend with my family and on top of all that I have started my LL.M. (Master of Laws) program at UCLA.  Its been a busy few months so I have lots to share about my travels and adventures on both coasts!  

But first after the bar exam, and weeks of feeling guilty for neglecting Elvis, we decided to take him to Rosie's Dog Beach in Long Beach. It's just a short drive from LA to Long Beach but totally worth it because Elvis loved it!!!  Rosie's Dog Beach is a 3-acre off-leash dog beach named after the bulldog Rosie that inspired its creation.  Dogs are free to go in the ocean and run freely on the beach.  Elvis tried to go into the water.  It was his first time at the ocean so he seemed really curious but once he got wet and saw a huge wave coming he ran straight for the sand. I don't think Frenchies are known to be good swimmers!

After a long day at the beach Elvis needed a rest in the shade before we went home.