"Friendship is born at the moment when one person says to another, 'What! You too? I thought I was the only one'."

Monday, August 30, 2010

Giddy Over School Supplies

OK...I love, love, love (did I say love 3 times?) One more...LOVE school supplies! This line from You've Got Mail spoke to me on a level that most wouldn't understand:
"Don't you just love fall? It makes me want to shop for back-to-school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address."
Odd? Perhaps, but I can't help it!

Maybe it has something to do with Fall being my absolute favorite season. Don't get me started on pumpkin spice anything, crisp but still sunshiny mornings, crackling leaves under my feet, jeans and layered, warm, fuzzy tops, the colors...OH THE COLORS!, and knowing the next three months are filled with family, holidays, and good food. I think my brain will forever run on the school-year calendar rather than the actual January through December because I always feel like Fall is the beginning...a fresh start.

Anyway...back to the fabulously brightly colored packages bearing organizational supplies and creative goodies at the back of my Target store. I love the smell of scotch tape (just like Meg Ryan's character in You've Got Mail) and the thought of a package of new pens in various colors...[smile]. Maybe it has something to do with my near-OCD need for order. I dunno. There's just something about the back-to-school aisle that makes me giddy!

A couple things I recently picked up at Target:

The file folders and leaf spiral notebook are from greenroom (a new Lindsay favorite).

The Owl notebook is ADORABLE and kind of a mystery. It is by Go Green Eco Design, but I couldn't find them on the web.

Gotta love Crayola. Probably would have picked up more if we didn't already have a bunch at home.

And purchased some lined paper for Logan to practice his letters. Little man starts preschool in two weeks!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Joyeux Kitchen: Oooo Chocolate Gooey Butter Cookies

One of Paula Deen's best...  (You'll see her name come up a lot in my cooking posts.  What can I say?  I love me some butter.)

You'll need:
  • 1 (8-ounce) brick cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 stick butter, room temperature
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 (18-ounce) box moist chocolate cake mix
  • Powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350.  Cream butter and cream cheese until smooth.  Beat in the egg, then the vanilla extract.  Add the cake mix and beat until smooth.  The batter is THICK.  Try not to eat it all before you can get the cookies into the oven, it'll be worth the wait.  Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours to firm up so you can roll it into balls.  Roll it into tablespoon-sized balls and then roll them in powdered sugar.  Place on an ungreased cookie sheet, 2 inches apart.  Bake 12 minutes.  The cookies will remain soft and "gooey."  Cool completely and sprinkle with more powdered sugar, if desired.  (You will desire.)

Joyeux Kitchen: [Meatless Monday] Broccoli and Three Cheese Lasagna

I love the idea of Meatless Mondays!  Last year I heard about cities around the country encouraging citizens to go meatless one day a week as a health initiative, and also as an environmental action statement of sorts.  Get a little more information about the movement here.  Among the many benefits of including more fruits and veggies in your diet are a reduced risk of cancer, lower body weight, and a longer life span. 
"By cutting out meat once a week, we can improve our health, reduce our carbon footprint and lead the world in the race to reduce climate change." (The Monday Campaigns)
I love it.  Like many things around our house, Meatless Monday recipes may not happen every week.  (It's so easy to lose track of the days!  Not realizing it's Monday happens more often than I'd like to admit.)  But feeding a family of five organic/grassfed/free-range/sustainable meats is hardly affordable on a regular basis, so this seems like a natural first step.

Here's a great recipe from Real Simple (12/2009) to get you started.

Broccoli and Three-Cheese Lasagna

1 15-ounce container ricotta
1 pound chopped broccoli florets (frozen are fine, just thaw, dry and chop!)
2 1/4 cups grated mozzarella
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
Kosher salt and black pepper
16-ounces marinara sauce (homemade or jar)
1/2 cup heavy cream
8 no-boil lasagna noodles
2 tbsp. olive oil, plus more for foil

Heat oven to 400.  In a large bowl, combine ricotta, broccoli, 2 cups of mozzarella, 1/4 cup of the Parmesan, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper.  In a small bowl, combine the marinara sauce and cream. 

Spoon a thin layer of sauce into the bottom of an 8 in. square baking dish.  Top with 2 noodles, a quarter of the remaining sauce, and a third of the broccoli mixture; repeat twice.  Top with the remaining 2 noodles and sauce.  Sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup of mozzarella and 1/4 cup of Parmesan. 

Cover tightly with an oiled piece of foil and bake until the noodles are tender, 35 to 40 minutes.  Uncover and bake until the top is golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes.  I wasn't sure about no-boil lasagna noodles until I tried this recipe; they came out perfect, you'd never know the difference.  Also, some of the reviews online mentioned leaving out the heavy cream, but I included it and it was good, nice and rich. 

Serve with a big salad and your favorite red wine... we like Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Villages.  Yummy and not expensive at all.  Unfortunately there's no picture of this recipe, it was so good we gobbled it up before we remembered to get the camera out.  Enjoy!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Green Bunny: 6x12 Layouts

This is something I discovered while pregnant with Carter. DRUMROLL PLEASE...various page protector sizes! I adore the 6x12 page protectors by American Crafts. You can check out all the sizes they offer here. It just gives a totally new perspective and such a great contrast to the other pages in a 12x12 album. I have been experimenting with using all different sized page protectors in one D-ring, 12x12 album (album of choice also by American Crafts) and am loving the result. Promise to show more examples in a future post. (We R Memory Keepers also offers a wide variety of page protector sizes.)

Here are two 6x12's from Carter's baby book:

Layout 1: Baby Carter, you are loved!

(Funny side note about the belly photo...I took that with a 10-second timer and the tripod. I can't even imagine how funny I must have looked waddling over to the bed to get in place within 10 seconds! This was quite the afternoon workout at 8 months along.)

Layout 2: Carter's Playlist - Songs I loved when you were in my belly!

I got the idea for this layout from Ali Edwards, my scrapbooking inspiration. She is an amazing artist. Her work consistently sparks my creative mind into action. In the scrapbooking world, we call it 'scraplifting'. If you are interested in scrapbooking, I definitely recommend checking out her blog!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Summer Reading Wind-Up

“The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.” ~Dr. Seuss
I've been reading in a fast and furious way this summer, attempting to make up for lost time.  In May, Lindsay and I realized the only books we'd read since the babies came along have been the Twilight Saga and the What To Expect series.  Great reads, no doubt, but there comes a point where it's time to move on.  So we made lists of all the books we'd like to read in our lifetime and dove in head first. 

We had lofty aspirations about becoming well-versed in great works of literature.  And the first thing I read was... The Short Second Life Of Bree Tanner by Stephenie Meyer :).  Hey!--so it's not Steinbeck or Tolstoy or Bronte, but I'd been waiting all year for that book to come out and it was very enjoyable.  My next attempt was Beloved by Toni Morrison.  I gave up.  I'm not even sorry.  When reading ceases to be fun, I cease to read, and Beloved was not fun.  (I think perhaps Lindsay gave up on some Virginia Woolf, but I'll let her elaborate on that another time.)  I wallowed in guilt for a couple days because I hate not finishing something I started, and then I moved on to more upbeat territory.  I loved Eat, Pray, Love.  I dog-eared half a dozen pages that I thought were brilliant.  Gilbert's search for divinity isn't for everyone and I know a lot of people have real strong feelings about it, but I connected with her writing style and related to a lot of her thoughts about food and relationships and religion.  So read it, don't read it; if you hated it don't leave me a note because we're probably on two totally different wavelengths.

Where did I leave off?  Bree Tanner, Liz Gilbert... ah yes.  Then came vacation.  I gobbled up Charlaine Harris's Dead Until Dark (first in the Sookie Stackhouse series) in three days and it was delicious--I have more words about this but none feel appropriate for a general audience.  Moved on to The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.  Started reading, fell asleep on a deck chair.  Started again, snoring on Deck 5 before dinner.  It's still sitting, unfinished, on a shelf in my living room.  People are crazy for these books right?  The back cover says it combines "murder mystery, family saga, love story, and financial intrigue."  The financial intrigue part must be where Dragon Tattoo is losing me; I do not happen to find finances intriguing at all.

Somehow I made it all these years without reading a single Harry Potter book, and Doug and I love the movies.  So before vacation I read the first four, and after the trip I read the last three.  Awesome reads!  Totally engrossing!  But of course, I'm probably the only person in the world who didn't already know that, so I'll spare you the glowing review.  (This is a picture Doug took of me trying to finish book #7... he called it "The Master of MultiTasking.")

I finished Harris's Living Dead In Dallas (Sookie #2) in a day and a half when we got home from Bermuda.  I haven't bought the third yet because I need to focus on some fall cleaning and won't be able to get anything done if it's in the house.  I started My Life In France by Julia Child last week, although it's a bit late to call it 'summer reading'.  It's quite interesting so far and even more enjoyable because I can hear Meryl Streep in my head narrating the whole thing for me.  I also have a couple on hold at the library (Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain and The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake: A Novel by Aimee Bender), and I borrowed The Glass Castle: A Memoir from my mother-in-law because so many people I know have been raving about it.

We hope to do some co-reviews eventually, book club style.  What did you read this summer that you loved?  Thanks for your input and ideas!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Five Favorites [Boy Shoes]

So, I am currently checking out my shoe shopping/BUYING! options for both boys. With Logan starting preschool and Carter starting to walk, they are both in need of a little foot love. Here are some of my favs:

Disclaimer: Some may think spending upwards of $20 on shoes (boys' shoes nonetheless) is crazy. Here's what I think. Most of my boys' shoes come from Target for under $20 (usually under $15). But, I do feel it is worth it to purchase one, better-quality pair every once in a while. And, what better time than with a new walker and a new preschooler?

Seriously. How cute are these? I have purchased See Kai Run a couple times and have never been disappointed.
Price: $40.00
May be a good transitional shoe for Carter...
Price: 29.95

Oh the WHITE! White makes me soooo happy, but I can never buy white with three men in the house. Still worth admiring for those of you who may be braver than moi. I bet they clean pretty easily.
Price: $34.65

I love these. Logan loves green. A shoe in? (HA!)
Price: $27.00

May be a tad sturdier for Logan man?

I'll keep you posted on the final decision :)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Joyeux Kitchen: "Call Me Senorita, Chicken"

Doug's working two jobs now, Project Engineering during the day and serving at Red Robin at night--can you imagine?  He's beat.  And he's more than willing to paw through the fridge after work at 11pm, but leftovers aren't always satisfying, so one night last week when he'd worked an 18 hour day, I wanted to cook him up something super-filling and special. 

I never make up recipes, I'm not that brave, but occasionally I do gussy up a recipe that bores me.  Knowing I had some chicken breasts ready for cookin', I flipped through my three-ring full (FULL) of recipes.  I landed on a quick Campbell's ad/recipe for chicken enchiladas I'd pulled out of a magazine at the doctor's office months ago (oh please, who hasn't done that?).  It looked awfully plain, but I was inspired.  I took the tortillas out of the equation entirely and added fresh chopped up jalapenos and some homemade green salsa, and served the whole thing with Paula Deen's Mexican Rice.

 For the chicken, you'll need:
  • Four boneless, skinless chicken breasts, rinsed and patted dry
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • Can of cream of chicken soup
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (I used light)
  • 2 diced fresh tomatoes, or 1/2 can organic diced/peeled
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1/2 cup tomatillo salsa, recipe below (you could easily substitute jarred salsa)
  • Two whole, sliced jalapenos, seeds left in for spicy-lovers or removed for a milder dish
  • 1 cup Monterey Jack cheese
Melt the butter in a large oven safe saucepan (I used my Dutch oven) and brown the chicken over medium high heat on both sides.  In a separate bowl mix the remaining ingredients, except the cheese, and pour over the chicken.  Cover and bake at 350 for an hour, until chicken is nice and tender and the sauce is bubbling.  Right before serving, uncover and top with the Monterey Jack.  Turn on the broiler to melt and lightly brown the cheese. 

While your chicken is cooking, whip up this delicious rice dish.

You'll need:
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 1/2 cups long-grain rice
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped green pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 (14 1/2-oz.) can diced tomatoes with green chiles
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup shredded Cheddar
In a large saucepan (I used my electric skillet), melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the rice, onion, peppers and garlic.  Cook until the rice is browned and vegetables are tender.  Watch the rice really closely!  It's easy to burn it and then you'd have to start all over again.  Stir in the water, tomatoes, chili powder, and salt and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the rice is tender, about 15-17 minutes.  Stir in the cheese and transfer to a serving bowl.  Thanks for another winner, Paula :).

Easy Roasted Tomatillo Salsa Recipe

You'll need:
  • 1 pound tomatillos, quartered if large or halved if smaller
  • 1 small red onion, quartered
  • 1 jalapeno, halved
  • 2 garlic cloves (or, I use 2 tsp. minced garlic)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
This is SO easy!  I saw Sunny Anderson making it one day (on Food Network, obviously) and my mouth watered... had to have it.  It's not too spicy and delicious with blue corn tortilla chips; salsa's a great alternative to less healthy snack foods.  Throw all the veggies in an 8 by 8 glass baking dish, toss with oil and season with salt and pepper.  Roast until tomatillos turn golden around the edges and are soft, about 45 minutes. Remove from oven and blend ingredients together until smooth.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Inspired by Fall Colours...

I've been feeling a little bored since we got home from vacation.  It's not exclusively a post-vacation feeling; I always get a little restless towards the end of summer.  All it takes is one or two chilly days.  I start craving gingersnaps and pumpkin bread and [heavy sigh] pumpkin spice lattes from Starbucks.  I may have gotten my food cravings mixed up with wild-hair urges.  So I bought some Natural Instincts (Spiced Tea - Light Auburn... doesn't that sound warm?) at Target, and when the girls went down for nap, I got busy.  I was immediately alarmed that the red hair dye I was expecting looked eggplant purple on my head, but I reassured myself that the good people at Clairol must know what they're doing.  I left it in for about 12 minutes, took a quick shower, anxiously started blow drying and had a rapid succession of thoughts that went something like this:
"Ooo Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman!"
"Or Satine from Moulin Rouge!"
"Hmm.  Yep.  Both ... er, escorts."
(For the record, Lindsay's first thought was Pepper Potts.)  I finished blow drying, curled it under, and slapped on some makeup for no good reason other than I planned on taking a picture to email to Doug.

The picture I sent the hubby.  I think he was pleasantly surprised, fortunately.

Doesn't the gal on this box look thrilled to bits with her hair color?
I've been bouncing around the idea of going red for years; I'm super pale with bright green eyes, and my dirty blonde hair looks brassy in the summer.  Anyway, the dye job isn't perfect.  I had highlights that have been seriously neglected, and the blonde pieces really clung to the bright red color.  I'm sure my fantastic hair dresser is going to be annoyed with me, but it's not the first time I've made an impulsive hair color decision, and it won't be the last.  She's patient and understanding every time I come to her needing a little color tweaking. 

Overall I'm happy with the change.  I feel sassy and awake and vibrant, which is something I've been searching for since returning from uber-vibrant Bermuda.  Carpe diem!  It's a semi-permanent dye and should wash out in about 28 washes if I decide I wasn't born to be a redhead after all.

Green Bunny: This Summer You...

Logan last summer...
I had a huge pile of single pics of Logan from various situations. I was inspired to create something that captured his personality at that very moment (the summer my only child became a big brother) so I decided to use them all in one layout:

In an effort to fit more photos than usual on one page, I cropped them down to 2.5x5 (love the look of this size on the layout!). These were already printed so I had to chose ones that would work without losing the subject of the photo. I was really happy with the outcome because I felt like it ended up being a well-rounded look at the little man in that moment. Each photo corresponds with one line of journaling.


This summer you:
Sprained your ankle
Hung at the lake
Became addicted to PB&Js
Started using tools
Asked me to take your picture...ALOT
Fell in love with T Rex
Became a big brother.

I used my Cricut for the title. One more note: I LOVE the background patterned paper (Basic Grey Euphoria: Felicity). Having all boys, I very rarely get to use anything 'girly'. I have been trying to incorporate some of the papers I love without layouts looking too feminine. It's just a little way I try to challenge myself.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Joyeux Kitchen: Fruit Crisp

This recipe is a Betty Crocker classic, perfect for a potluck.  Great with apples, cranberries and pears at Christmas or peaches and wild blackberries in the summer.

You'll need:
  • 4 cups fruit (I like apples, peaches, blueberries, or strawberry/rhubarb)
  • 3/4 cup lt. brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1/3 cup butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp. nutmeg
Recipe calls for a 9 by 13 baking dish but I prefer a square 8 by 8.  The topping covers better!  If I double it I use the larger dish.
Place fruit in the bottom of baking dish, fresh or frozen.  Combine remaining ingredients--dig in there!  Fingers work best for a nice crumbly topping.  Spread out evenly on top of the dessert. 

Bake for 30 minutes @ 375 and enjoy!  (It's really good for breakfast.)  Don't cover this dessert while it's still warm, or you'll have to rename it "Fruit Mush". 

Burn Notice: Five Favorites [Oven Mits]

I just burned myself while cooking for the fourth time in two weeks, the inconvenient result of always being in a hurry.  My arms look like a culinary war zone.  Here are two of the more impressive marks (the top one is actually a burn on top of a burn).

I have a couple of crusty, scratchy, burned-up old oven mits that really need chucked, sounds like a great excuse to go [online] shopping.  (Who needs an excuse??)  Anyway, I thought it was a great opportunity to check out the latest advances in burn preventing kitchen-wear.  I perused several different retailers websites and here's my five favorite:

Gotta love Crate and Barrel.  They'd go great with the cobalt blue wall in my kitchen.
Price: $10.95

Heat-resistant to 600 degrees!  Machine washable and stain- and steam-resistant, too.
Price: $19.95
Extra long to protect the forearm and heat-resistant to 425 degrees.
Price: $19.95

Non-slip grip and flame-resistant.  Also, great reviews from people who have purchased it.
Price: $15.99

Machine washable and oh-so-darling.  Not the most heat-proof of the bunch, but man they'd look great in my kitchen...
Price: $12.00 each piece

In the end, fabulous will probably win over functional.  I can't resist pretty baubles from Anthropologie.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Little Farm With Our Herd

Last week, Lindsay and I loaded up the kids and set out in search of greener pastures. The short drive to the Little Farm at Windwater is beautiful, located near the entrance to Flaming Geyser State Park, surrounded by lush farmland and the wide open spaces of the Green River Valley. The Little Farm occasionally hosts "Open To The Public" days, and although it was a gray morning in Western Washington, the fresh air was just what the doctor ordered. Lynn Vick and her family own, work, and live at the farm and they couldn't be any more sweet or accommodating to families. 

Enjoying a picnic lunch by the playhouse.

Their animals are sweet, too.  The farm boasts goats (with babies, even twins!, out there now if you hurry), horses, chickens, sheep, a big pig, peacocks, beautiful rabbits, and a couple of rambunctious St. Bernards.  All the animals are available for gentle petting and feeding on public days. One of the horses, Dolly, has a funny habit of knocking over the stepstool in front of her stall if she doesn't think she's getting enough attention or carrots. 

Haley, with Dolly the horse.
The farm hosts parties, preschools, weddings and picnics rain or shine and they love sharing the joy of farm life with kids. They have a wide open field with picnic tables (and hand-washing stations!) so families can sit and enjoy lunch after a morning with the animals. There's also a great old, wooden, two-story playhouse next to the seesaw by the house. We left with full tummies from our picnic and a dozen farm fresh eggs. Thanks for a terrific morning, Little Farm! 

Carter's First Year - Paint Chip Album

Each grandma received a paint chip album at Carter's first birthday party. (I am only including a few of the 14 total pages.) I picked up large paint chips in coordinating colors at the hardware store. Then, I punched holes in the top and began to distress the paint chips with both an edge distresser (here's the one I like, but apparently it has been discontinued...I'll be on the lookout for a new one and get back to ya.) and sandpaper. I tried to choose photos that represented what stage Carter was in during each month. I also took a picture of him with a large teddy bear every month in his first year to show his growth.

TIP: I ordered my wallet-size photos through Snapfish. I do have photo editing and printing capabilities at home, but found that if I turned them black & white within the Snapfish website, the color was much more consistent than if I edited & printed them all myself. It is just a simple click of a button within the "Edit" menu. You'll find the color and tinting options in the "Fun" tab. Also, ordering the wallet-size photos cut down on my photo trimming time tremendously. (Which helped since there are so many tiny photos in these albums!) You have to order a set of four wallets for each picture, but I use the extras on other projects/pages or put them in my wallet.

Next, I embellished the pages (the fun part!) and started piecing it all together. I really enjoyed creating this album. My only regret is that I didn't make one for myself!

I used my Cricut to cut the Mickey shapes and the number 1 to create the invites for our Mickey Mouse Clubhouse BBQ. A picture of Carter blowing out his candle will go on this last page!

Joyeux Kitchen: Bacon Wrapped Sweet Barbecue Chicken

Pre-grilling!  Chicken?  Good!  Bacon?  Good!  Brown sugar?  GOOD!
I modified a Paula Deen appetizer recipe for use as a main course. Sigh. Big food love. To make the chicken as shown, you'll need:

  • 4 chicken breasts, rinsed and patted dry
  • 8 slices of good smoky bacon
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
Wrap the chicken breasts in two slices of bacon each (Don't look at me like that!  The side dishes are super-healthy!) and secure with kebob skewers or toothpicks.  Combine brown sugar and chili powder and dredge each wrapped breast in the mixture (I did this in a 9 by 13 baking dish). Grill 6-8 minutes on each side; watch carefully to prevent scorching. If the chicken starts to burn and it's not up to temperature yet (chicken is fully cooked at 160) move it to the sides of the grill to finish. The original appetizer recipe is here: Sweet Chicken Bacon Wraps

"Doug-Friendly"  Lemony Potato Salad (recipe courtesy Real Simple magazine)
Mmmm.  Simple--drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with kosher salt and black pepper. Grill 6-8 minutes.