Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Sugar Plum Fairies

Can we all just stop for a quick second here? How did we get from this this...

Somewhere in the middle we took a weekend trip out to Nevada to visit the grandparents for the Girl's birthday, watched lots of Sopranos, partied it up in San Diego, drove to TJ, hopped on a plane from there and spent a beachy, relaxing, family filled Thanksgiving week in Mexico! I'm tired again just thinking about it. 

Now we're home, unpacked, and I love coming home and seeing our sparkling tree all lit up inside!  I am enjoying getting lost in December, and waiting for 2011 to whisk me away. 

2011 has the fixings to be the best year yet!

wait, what? Whats on my wishlist this holiday, you ask? Well, if you insist...

Here are some things that are catching my eye this season:
  • iPhone 4 (its sad to realize my iPhone 3G is becoming a dinosaur!!)
  • Kitchen stuffs (anything! cute apron? funky spice rub? yes!)
  • Mini dark Reeses
  • a Bicycle
  • A jigsaw puzzle
I want to decide what to make for holiday treat gifts this year, and i'm looking for a mix of new baking challenges and some classic & quick favorites. I have a few things in mind but hopefully I can take some time out this weekend to make a shopping list and get going already! Hello December 8th already. Geez!

The weather here has been a little cold but beautiful sunny days. Can you believe these colors? We had some excellent sunset spreads last week, the sky was just starting to catch on fire at this point!

Merry Hugs and Laughs! 

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Summer Days and Stuffed Shells

So it has been a whirlwind of a week so far, but we have been kicking ass and taking names! The BF and I took some action and everything seems to be working out exactly how we hoped. Custody issues are hard, but it felt so good to know in our hearts that we were taking the right path, and now we will get to have the Boy and Girl half of the time! School starts up soon and I can't wait to see what life has in store for our little family!

Meanwhile at the house...

This beautiful thing actually bloomed! The color is so radiant in the sun, its captivating.  Sadly, this picture is not the same today. Do you see that leaf in the bottom right of the photo? See that chunk that's missing? It seems there is something chomping around in our little garden while we aren't looking. Even though this flower had a quarter of its petals chomped off, it still radiates and fills the patio with color. 

Weekly meal planning has been working great, I put up a schedule on the fridge and start to fill in the meals for the beginning of the week, and keep filling in as we go. I generally have an idea of what dinner could be each night based on what we bought groceries for, and we love leftovers for lunch so it seems our system is working so far. Next week will be the biggest challenge yet: 4 mouths to feed 3 meals 7 days straight! I'm up to it, and have already started filling in the days for next week too. Its so fun to try new meals with the kids, their tastes are expanding and both of them are more adventurous these days! Not the same ol' chicken nuggets and french fries here! 

This week I tried out a new idea for Chicken and Broccoli Stuffed Shells. I saw it first here.

It turned out really great, they have a rich and creamy flavor with the Alfredo sauce and it came together great with the chicken, broccoli and cheese. We had a salad on the side and it more than filled me up!

I cooked up the whole box of shells, and it was more than I needed. It worked out perfectly though, because some of the shells come apart while cooking, and I had the perfect amount of intact shells for all the stuffing. For dinner that night I cooked 12 shells in this great dish the BF's sister sent to us, plus had 3 containers (17 shells) for the freezer. I did stuff the shells pretty full, and I would do it the same again because the shells themselves are pretty thick to begin with, so lots of stuffing is good!

The dish is very cute, can I use it everyday? Thank you, please!

Shells almost ready for the freezer. I poured some of the Alfredo sauce over them and then into the freezer they went! 

For the meal we ate that night I topped the shells sauce, some panko breadcrumbs, some chopped fresh basil from our garden, and a little Parmesan cheese. It made a toasty crust which added a nice texture to the pasta.

Can you tell we liked it? Lunch the next day... drool...

Overall life is really great, the days have been filled with swimming (and hot tub), BBQ tri-tip a la BF, awesome new music, and (just last night) a big Pot Roast dinner with friends. When our house is filled to the ceiling with love and laughter its just the best feeling in the world! 

Smile bigger, laugh harder, and soak up some sunshine today!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Whipped-up Gourmet

The BF and I have been eating basically every single meal at home. It's something I like to do, we enjoy cooking together and trying out new recipes and ideas, but its also a must when money is tight. At the start of each week I like to get some input from the BF and the kiddos if they're around and make a tentative list/schedule of meals. I am so proud of how great we've been doing! Its easy to feel like I'm always making a grocery list and heading to the store, but the more we eat at home the better we are at grocery shopping for the week and  only stopping for misc items during the week if necessary.

So last night we were faced with a dilemma: Go to the grocer and then cook or whip up something at home and save the shopping for another day.

We bought a tri-tip roast at Fresh & Easy last week to grill up this weekend, and it was pretty big - especially after getting it out of the vacuum sealed packaging! The BF suggested cutting a chunk off to cook for dinner tonight, saving the majority of it for sometime this weekend. He's so smart! He sliced up some strips and I seasoned the meat with salt, pepper, and a little curry powder and sauteed the pieces up in a skillet.

Originally the plan was peanut chicken over spinach and rice (mmm...Thai food...), but we used the chicken for Teriyaki chicken and rice when the kids were over for dinner on Wednesday. I knew the BF and I had been thinking about that deliciously spicy peanut sauce all week, and I had found a great new recipe to try for the sauce. Tri-tip + Peanut Sauce + Spinach + leftover rice = a meal that rivals our favorite Thai place!

The rice, meat, and peanut sauce are all hot to start with and cause the spinach to wilt slightly and its heavenly. Believe you me! Here's the recipe:
  • 1/4 cup Peanut Butter
  • 2 tbsp Soy Sauce
  • 1 clove minced garlic (I grated in 2 cloves)
  • 1/4 cup lime juice 
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • garlic chili paste (or some sort of hot sauce, its not right until your mouth tingles!)
  • 2 tbsp honey
I put it all in a glass Pyrex bowl and microwave 30 seconds to a minute at a time. Once it starts to warm up you will be able to smell the peanut-y spice. Its divine! 

I will definitely be making this sauce again, it was a hit - smooth and creamy with the addition of coconut milk, it really adds a nice flavor. 

This is me. I am only showing you this so you can drool over the wilted spinach. YUM! 

And now I will leave you with this:

That is some serious brownie mix ribbon. Two of our friends biked over to hang out, and it was perfect with a little vanilla ice cream after a dip in the hot tub. 

Got the BF's parents and niece coming through town tonight and tomorrow, we are VERY excited to show off our apartment, its a happy home (especially after our whirlwind after-dinner clean up) ! 

Don't forget to soak up some rays - its beautiful out today!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Meet The Garden

Hello garden, you are more beautiful than I ever imagined! You are quaint but very loved, thank you for not dying.

There's quite the little garden growing on our patio! The big monster in the back is cucumber, from the $1 aisle at target. It started as a seed in that little yellow pot in the bottom right. I cant wait to see if we get some cucumbers, there are quite a few flowers that have bloomed already - keep growing little man!

Some cute orange flowers there in the metal one, and in the front in the pink pot are little sprouts of zinias that the Girl and I planted Sunday. They've been soaking up the sun it seems!

Happy zinia sprouts! These want to be beautiful flowers when they grow up.

The basil is in the upper left of the picture, and it was actually an herb set that I planted but I don't even remember what else was supposed to be in there. The basil took over! It smells yummy and I've used it twice in pasta, yum!

Then there's the star of the patio, the plant that gets the most attention and's the tallest member of the family now....

The Girl's sunflower! She planted it at the Oak Park Ecofair and it's grown so tall! There are 3 in the pot, I need a picture of the whole thing so you can see how much this one hogged all the nutrients. It's hard to get a pic of the top because it's so tall, she looks ready to open! I was hoping to see it open at lunch...maybe there will be a flower when I get home.

Next year I'd love to do more gardening, tomatoes for sure!

Don't forget to get your hands dirty once in a while!


So, the BF and I have started watching Mad Men, season 1, from Netflix. After hearing about it everywhere and seeing beautiful images all over the internet, I just had to get a taste of it for myself. So a few days later the first 2 disks come and I have to admit the first few episodes were pretty slow. Now we are farther into the season (finished episode 9: "Shoot"). I think the slow intro brings you into the show as an outsider and its genius because as the characters develop they start to surprise you a little bit.

In the beginning you see all these people and they are almost picture-perfect; beautiful and confident and they seem to have the whole world wrapped around their finger. Then you start to see more into the character's lives, their homes, and their dirty little secrets. But they still think the world sees them the way they were introduced. Its so awesome to watch.

At first I respected Pete Campbell, he was just newly married - everyone was awaiting his return from the honeymoon, he seemed sweet and in love with his lady (more on her later!). Then he gets a little taste of competition (or maybe he was this way all along - hard to know) and turns into the biggest d-bag in the office! He gets out of being fired because of his mother's family name, and has several near misses even after that. He's a big risk-taking, sneaky little man who truly believes he's entitled to everything. Its a man's club, and he wants in.

Trudy Campbell. Yes, she's that girl from Community, and I totally had to look that up on IMDB this morning because I just couldn't for the life of me remember WHO THE HECK SHE IS. 

I like how she thinks shes standing up for herself with Pete, when in reality she has no clue what he does...and it was also fun to watch her get an earful when she showed up at his office. HIS OFFICE. Enough to make her flee with her tail between her legs. She did get her beloved apartment though, and made a rapid transformation into miss fancy-dress housewife, how fun!

One of my favorite things about watching this show is the clothing, its like people-watching in a different era! Love it! The adorable dresses are one thing, but the suits are a whole other.

Roger Sterling is fabulous. Hes a jerk. Hes a little guy, I thought it was hilarious when him and Don took their shoes off and he sunk more than a few inches! He is by far the best dressed, at least in that gorgeous navy blue suit. I want to see the BF in that suit, I bet his blue eyes would just pop! (all ladies love their man in a suit, am I wrong?)

And lastly, I consider taking up smoking each time I watch. These characters, they smoke. They smoke ALL THE TIME! Its pretty sexy, just sayin.

There are few things better than relaxing at home with the BF, watching Mad Men, and slipping out to the hot tub for the last few minutes before it closes. Phew... the start of this week was difficult, but now we're smooth sailing toward the weekend. TGI(almost)F!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Water Weapons

100 beautiful balloons... 20 minutes outside...

...was SOO much fun! I can't wait to fill up the other 100! What a great activity for a warm summer day.

What's your favorite memory that involves water balloons?

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Master Masher

Saturdays used to be all about sleeping in for me. But theres something so satisfying about getting up and enjoying a long summer weekend day (the whole day!). We successfully made some potato pancakes this morning, they were a hit! Home-made as in we grated the potatoes! It was awesome when I heard from somewhere in the apartment, "hey... what smells like hashbrowns?". Breakfast sandwich + potato pancakes = clean plates all around the table.

Showdown Yatzee was a hit and the Girl and Boy did great, everyone was ahead at some point.

The Boy was the only person to get a Yatzee - it was extra fun because he got all sixes. He got to take any card he wanted!

I am looking forward to a lazy sunday, hopefully some board games, a swim, and trying out a new dinner - bacon cheeseburger meatloaf, yum! The Girl helped with dinner, she mashed some beautiful potatoes while I chatted with my mama on phone. Little helpers in the kitchen are fun!

Have a glass of wine, and give your mama a call this weekend!

-- Post From My iPhone