Saturday, July 3, 2010

Out With the Old... In With the New

Many of us will be celebrating tomorrow's awesome holiday around a campfire, at a beach bonfire, or sitting around fire pits in our backyards.
An important part of those celebrations will be a very special dessert.
All that chocolaty, gooey marshmallow, crispy graham cracker goodness.
There is a drastic change you NEED to take this year.
It will involve moving away from the traditional, but trust me.
It will be worth it.
An American favorite.
Absolutely delicious.
However, it is so last bonfire.
The new guy is risky.
People hate change.
They tend to stick with what they know.
I urge you to expand your horizons.
You will be pleasantly surprised.
I love Nutella.
We eat it all the time.
With everything.
I would eat a sneaker if it was slathered with some Nutella goodness.
Chocolate sometimes doesn't melt all the way.
Nutella is a chocolate-hazelnut spread that melts right into the marshmallow.
It is heaven.
Try it out.
Enjoy it.
Have a fabulous 4th of July!!
Happy Birthday, America!!
Thank you to all the men and women, who sacrifice so much to serve and protect our country. We remember you, we pray for your safety, and we pray for your families everyday {and not just today}.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Water Baby (I mean Big Boy.)

Our summer classes are officially in full swing.
My little guy loves swimming.
So, I enrolled him in swim classes all summer.
He has always loved the water.
He was the only little boy I know, who looked forward to baths.
{Maybe it's because of all the bubbles, toys, bath crayons, and paint.}
He ran into the ocean, not away, the first time we took him to the beach.
Mind you, he was only ten months old.
This is his third summer taking swim classes.
He was so proud of himself when he was tested into Squids.
It goes Turtles, Whales, Squids, and Fish.
He is so excited to almost be a Fish.
"A fish, mom, is a big deal," he tells me.
I am proud of him too.
I am proud that he is doing what he loves.
That's all I really want for him.
Torpedoes, Watermelon Float, and Back Float are his faves.
Bubbles and Breathing, not so much.
I had to explain to him that Bubbles and Breathing are kind of essential parts to swimming.
He is my Water Big Boy.
He told me I can't call him a water baby anymore.
Because he is not a baby.
Secretly, he'll always be my baby.
And I will always remember him with his goggles wrapped tightly around his head {looking like a mad scientist}, wearing his favorite swim trunks, carrying his Star Wars towel, and walking proudly into swim class.
And I will smile.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Stir-fry, Steamed Rice, and Strawberry Jam

Last week, our little fam took a little trip to the farm.
For a strawberry tour.
This was our second year.
I learned from last year.
I brought a bag to bring home some of the veggies we tasted.
There are so many leftovers, and they were very generous.
Yellow Wax Beans.
Sugar Snap Peas.
Golden Tomatoes.
{The tomatoes didn't make it to the stir-fry. My kiddos totally walloped them.}
Golden Sweet Corn.
{We purchased the broccoli.}
You can not have a stir-fry without broccoli.
In my opinion, of course.
I used New York Steaks, which were on sale.
{Lucky us.}
I sliced them thin, tossed them in a bit of corn starch, seasoned it with salt and pepper, and fired up my trusty wok.

One the meat was cooked well {about 10 minutes}, I removed it from the pan, and added my veggies.
I added a little sesame oil.
I let the veggies fry until there was a good crisp to them.
{About 3-4 minutes.}
I threw in a bit of salt and pepper.
Then, I added the meat back in and let it cook for about another five minutes.
I threw in a pinch of garlic powder, soy sauce, sriracha, ginger, and a teeny tiny bit more of salt and pepper.
The finished product.
My kids devoured it.
The husband ate two helpings and was raving about it.

Shrimp was on sale, and I am a huge seafood fan.

I made myself my own little shrimp version.

No one else particularly cares for shrimp.

Although, my son did try it.

My only rule is that my kids have to try a little bit of everything.
You can't forget the accompanying condiments.

I can not live without sriracha.
And nothing is better than some steaming hot rice with soy sauce.
I also decided to do something with some of the strawberries we had leftover.
Okay, some is kind of an understatement.
We ate some in a fruit salad.
We had sliced strawberries with our pancakes.
We enjoyed strawberry shortcakes.
And we still still had two cartons left.
I found this awesome recipe for Strawberry Freezer Jam.
My little sous chef was on hand to work the food processor.
She loved it.
She wanted to find other things to food process.
She tried to put a rice crispy treat in it.

You want to make sure you don't puree the berries.
There needs to be a more chunky texture to it.
Then you add the sugar.
I added one less cup than the recipe said to.
I replaced that cup of sugar with an extra cup of berries.
And it was still super sweet!!!

You mix the sugar, berries, and the pectin mixture.

Then, transfer the mixture into these cute little mason jars.

I am going to dress up these jars a bit.
Each of my friends at our monthly GNO is going to get one of these on Friday.
A little gift for being such great friends!!!

This jam is amazingly easy, and super delish.
It lasts about a month in the refrigerator and up to a year in the freezer.
Hence, the name.
We have gone through a third of a jar already.

We have had it on toast.
We have had it drizzled on vanilla ice-cream.
Even yummier!!

A little something fresh, healthy, and spicy.
And a little something sweet and delicious.
All from a little trip to the farm with the fam.

Happy Wednesday!!!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

These are a few of my favorite {Summer} things...

I LOVE summer.

I am a teacher, so you can imagine why I especially love summer.

No bed times for my kids.

Playing board games and eating popcorn every night.

Staying out and playing tag or baseball until it is really dark.

Lazy mornings with big breakfasts.

Swim classes and park play dates.

And lots and lots of fun little trips.

There is a huge conflict, however, between doing a ton of fun things and a teacher's summer salary.

Yup, you guessed it.

There is no summer salary.

I never realized that having an exciting summer could be so expensive, but I refuse to stay at home and do nothing because I can't do everything, so I started researching.

There are so many awesome activities ad amazing places to go that are virtually free.

Yes, I did say {almost} FREE.

It took me a while to compile our summer list, and it would take me even longer to post it.

So, I will post a few things here and there.

Venice Beach Bike Ride - Venice Beach is such an interesting place. You can rent a bike for as little as $5 an hour. They have baby trailers and tandem bikes specifically designed for your littles. It takes just about an hour to ride all the way to the Santa Monica Pier and back. You may even have time to stop off at the pier for a couple of games, a ride on their new spiffy ferris wheel, or some funnel cake. Along the way, you will get a glimpse of some insanely interesting street performers, shops, and people just strolling along like you. I am a serious people watcher, and Venice is one of my favorite places to go to take in all of the scenery.

Grunion Run- I have been doing this since high school. {It all started as a extra credit assignment for Biology.} It is just a fascinating experience, and my kids love it. Plus, you get to spend the evening at the beach. If you go early, maybe you could have a little bonfire, make some s'mores, and catch the sunset. If not, stop off at Starbucks, get a couple of hot chocolates, and head over to one of the beaches nearby to catch the grunion action. - My awesome friend Cathy passed along this amazing information, and I have already signed my kiddos up. You get 2 free games of bowling every single day of the summer for each of your children. All you have to worry about is shoe rentals, but those aren't very expensive. It can be as little as $3 for each child. It is available in every state for those of you who were getting tired of my ramblings of summer fun in only California that did not include you.

Powell's Sweet Shoppe- This is the cutest, most amazingly stocked sweet shop I have ever been too. They have gourmet chocolates, gelato, cupcakes, and a huge array of our old school candy favorites. We love to spend the evening on 2nd Street in Belmont Shores, and a stop at Powell's is the sweet ending to a fun-filled evening. While you are in Belmont Shores, stop off at Frosted Cupcakery.Their Royal White and Vanilla Buttercream is simply out of this world. Also, ask for their Strawberry Lemonade cupcake. I can't even think about it without my mouth beginning to water. Their cupcakes are $2.95, and I would recommend ordering a couple cupcakes and sharing. Their cupcakes are quite decadent.

Seal Beach Pier Playground- It is just steps away from the beach, it is enclosed by a wall covered in beautifully hand painted tiles, and it is a great little playground appropriate for both my six year old and my two year old. You can definitely make a day of it. Pack a lunch or snack, hang out on the beach, let the kiddos play at the playground, and take a walk down Main Street. There are some fabulous little shops and some delish food. Make sure to stop off for two slices of thin crust pizza {huge slices} and a soda for $6 at Slice of New York Pizza. They don't have a web page, so I will provide you with a bit of info. Their address is 142 Main Street Seal Beach, California 90740. My hubby is Italian, so I have been thoroughly groomed in my pizza critiquing and this pizza definitely makes the cut. Don't forget a little bit of sweet at Sweet Jill's. Try their cinnamon roll. It is sharable, gooey, and delicious. One of my favorite stops on Main Street is Raspberry & Sage. It is filled with gorgeous goodies for the littles from clothing to hair accessories to gifts for mom.

I hope this helps.

I hope this gives you a few more ideas on what to do with your littles for the next couple of months.

I will be posting a few more fun-filled activities later this week.

I'm off to go play Sorry, bake cookies, and snuggle with my summer lovies.

I hope you all are having lots of fun in the sun.

{Hopefully, this June gloom will go away and we'll have a little more sun to have fun in.}

Sunday, June 27, 2010

12 Loads of Laundry Later...

This is why I do not mind doing laundry one bit.
I hope everyone is having a fun and relaxing Sunday.
Also, please stop over at my friend Amanda's blog and take a looksie at her 'Fantastic Giveaway for a Worthy Cause.'
You will read about Sirri.
You will see her happy, healthy, and smiling face.
You will be touched by the miracle that is her life.
And hopefully you will help support her family and this most worthy cause.
One step closer to a cure.
One step closer to one day completely eliminating cancer.

The Sweetest Day

Yesterday, we took a Strawberry Tour.
Not only did we get a chance to stuff our faces with some of the sweetest, most delicious strawberries, but we also got the chance to tour the farm in a tractor pulled wagon and taste all sorts of seasonal veggies.
I had never had sweet corn raw before, but it was amazing.
{I'm so used to slathering my corn with butter and cheese.}
It was so nice to enjoy vegetables in their purest forms.
My kids were popping small, golden tomatoes into their mouths like grapes.
We also tried sugar snap peas, yellow wax beans, carrots, and Maui onions.
The best part was we were the last tour of the day, so we got to take a ton of veggies home.
I learned from the ladies last year, and I even brought a bag with me.
Tomorrow, I will be incorporating all those fresh veggies into a yummy beef stir-fry.
The kids had a great time filling their baskets, eating the yummy berries, and riding in the wagon.
I had a great time knowing that I am teaching my kids a little bit about the importance of fruits and vegetables.
It is nice to see them learning about how the fruits and vegetables that make it onto our table each and everyday are grown.
We ate, picked, and shopped.
At the farm, they sell a salsa verde made in Encinitas.
It is spicy, fresh, and fantastic.
I even saved half for some of my famous chili verde.
It is one of the oldest farms, and it is so charming and quaint.
The general store reminded me of one of those fruit/veggie stands we would stop at on our way up to San Fran on our little family vacations.
On the way back from our strawberry picking, our tour guide rattled off some very weird vegetable facts.
{She was so funny and told the best stories.}
Here are a couple:
  • An apple, potato, and onion all taste the same if you eat them with your nose plugged.
  • Avocados are poisonous to birds.
  • If you put onions and potatoes in the same place, they will rot faster.
  • Grapes explode when you put them in the microwave.
  • Cranberries are sorted for ripeness by bouncing them. A fully ripened cranberry can be dribbled like a basketball.
  • Cranberry is the only flavor of jello that has real fruit juice in it.

We left the farm with four heaping baskets of ripe, delectable strawberries.

We have eaten our share of them with breakfast this morning.

We have eaten our share of strawberry shortcakes this evening.

We still have a ton left over.

I may try my hand at making some strawberry freezer jam this week.

{I would love any tips you all have to make that a success.}

*fingers crossed*

It was such a beautiful summer day, and it was the sweetest day because we spent it as a family eating, talking, and laughing.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Ung Drill or Bust

Ikea is one of the coolest places on Earth.

Where else can you shop for some pretty freakin' stylish home furnishings{at freakin' awesome prices} while your kiddos enjoy themselves in a supervised play area right after the whole family has just indulged in quite a delicious 99 cent breakfast {per person, of course}?
I know some people who actually consider a trip to Ikea a 'date day.'

I hadn't been to Ikea is such a long time.

The last time we were there, we found a twin bed in the "As-Is" section and proceeded to purchase it, strap it to the hood of our SUV, and drive 5 mph the whole way home.
We live like 20 miles from Ikea.

It was $20 in the "As-Is" section with the mattress included.
It was slightly scratched, and it was the floor model.
It worked for us.
We drove the whole way home with a bed on our roof, getting honked at from every direction, and with our four year old holding onto a tiny piece of the rope and yelling {every five minutes}, "Mom, don't worry. I got it."
You had to be there.
That is one example of what my hubby calls 'my shenanigans.'

That was quite an adventure, to say the least.

Even after all that, I decided to take another family trip to Ikea after seeing this awesome lady's post.

It made me fall in love with the Ung Drill.

You will fall in love with the Ung Drill after you read about Julie's little surprise too.
You will love everything that Julie does.
I even fell in love with Dollar Tree trays and candle sticks after she was done with them.
She is definitely one of the most creative people in Blog Land.
Her blog is so bright and cheery.
Her ideas are awesome.
She has the cutest little family, who seem to always be doing the funnest things .
{Is funnest even a word?}
Now, on to my funnest little adventure at Ikea with my crazy little family...
Once I got to Ikea, things got a bit nutty.
We scarfed down our hot dogs and shared a cinnamon roll.
{Unfortunately, it was too late for breakfast and way too early for Swedish meatballs.}
Their Swedish meatballs are even more yummy than their breakfast.
We started to make our way through the store.
My hubby decided he wanted to make some changes in our kitchen.
{I wasn't complaining.}
In the midst of choosing utensil racks, magnetic knife holders, spice racks, storage cabinets, and new pots and pans, I forgot all about my precious Ung Drill.
Luckily, I did find one amazing thing for our bedroom makeover.
The Kristaller.
I have been looking for a chandelier for so long.
I actually had the perfect little chandelier picked out at Target.
I was in the process of saving up for it.
Then, I came across this fancy little light fixture at Ikea.
It was one-third the price of the chandelier I already had in mind, and it was way better looking.
That was the one piece I was holding out for.
The one piece I was ready to splurge on.
And I finally found it.
I wanted to thank Julie @ Joy's Hope for leading me to my lovely chandelier.
And even though I left without my Ung Drill {for which I will be going back}, I am so excited to have found this other amazing treasure.

Now, we can finally get our master bedroom re-model started.
I am actually going to go pick up the paint tomorrow.
We are in desperate need of our own romantic and relaxing space.
You all know how that goes, right?
Pictures to come soon.