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Friday Favorites

Favorite Feline

Who doesn’t love Grumpy Cat?! I’m obsessed. Get on Pinterest and have a good laugh.

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Favorite Travel Fantasy

Viva Espana! Bring on the Cava and Manchego.

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Barcelona

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The Pyrenees

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Old Barcelona

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Burgundy Street, Madrid

Favorite Fashion

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Modcloth is awesome. Sadly this was sold out, but I put myself on the “email when available” list.

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Lovely and romantic.

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Normally not a fan of this style, and I’d fall over in a heel that high. But I love these! I need to borrow them from someone’s closet and walk very slowly.

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Hello gorgeous bag.

Favorite Photo

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I’m so sad I didn’t see this before my Grandma passed, such a beautiful way to capture the generations.

Favorite Natural Phenomenon

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Individual images taken of Venus in one year to create a full curve. The summer solstice being at the top, winter solstice at the bottom, and equinox where they lines cross.

Favorite Weekend Family Event

December Nights at Balboa Park. I’m so excited for all the festivity! Warm drinks and beautiful lights, I hope Leia loves it as much as I do. We’re leaving early tonight, I’m determined it won’t be a repeat of last year.

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Caroling at the Organ Pavillion

Favorite Body Art

Usually I think couples/friends tattoos are cheesy, but this is really sweet.

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Favorite Dream Home

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Must have a big kitchen that opens into the living room.

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Stonework, lots of windows, big grassy yard and a little stream? Magical!

Online Dating

I made a profile on Plenty of Fish. A few weeks ago I had a single mom heart-to-heart with Kat while she was cutting my hair. My social life revolves around a close knit group of girlfriends and an amazing mom group. I don’t have a lot of opportunities to meet new people. So even if I’m not ready to jump into a serious relationship yet, it can’t hurt to see what’s out there. I suppose it’s possible I could meet someone while chasing Leia around the zoo or the grocery store. But that sounds like a predictable romantic comedy, not my life.

It turns out there’s tons of fish in the sea. Even when I set a bunch of parameters on the advanced search page it returns hundreds of results. I think I’m a great catch (whoa, pun!), and I’m happy being single. My free time is precious, so I’m picky about who I spend it on.

I spent more time than I’ll admit flipping through pictures and profiles indulging my shallow side – “too short” “weird hair” “ridiculous outfit.” Kate reminded me that looks fade and personality is forever. It’s true. I’m sure a bunch of the profiles I rejected within 10 seconds are nice guys with potential for entertaining and meaningful conversation. But if I’m being honest there needs to be some initial physical attraction.

Here’s my observations so far:

  • Cell phone self portraits in a bathroom mirror don’t highlight anyone’s assets. Same goes for pictures laying on a bed or a couch.
  • A good smile goes a long way. Besides making you approachable, guys with nice teeth are sexy.
  • If you send a message that just says “Hey” or “Sup girl” I’ll assume you’re sending the same thing to 158 other girls and have no conversation skills. I’m not asking for a novel introduction, but at least ask a relevant question or two.
  • If I don’t respond to your initial message, I’m not interested. It would be polite to send a nice short response like “thanks for your time, but I’m not interested” – which I’ve done for a few people – but most just get deleted. Don’t worry, I get the same treatment. The first few times I sent someone a message and got crickets in return it bruised my ego.
  • If you have kids, that’s great! Don’t put pictures of them on a dating site. Crop them out of the pictures you use on your profile.
  • So many people list favorite activities like this… “running, hiking, kayaking, going to the gym, surfing, snowboarding, playing pool, golfing, bowling, hockey, etc.” Kudos to you super active people, where do you get the free time?! I’m not lazy by any means, but that is really intense. Although one of the perks with meeting new people is having someone to be active with, and try things out of my comfort zone. I want to learn how to surf. I’d like to take shooting lessons. I’m terrified of breaking my neck on a snowboard, but I would try it.

I feel pretty proud of myself for just putting my foot in the water and testing out the online dating thing. I guess we’ll see what happens.

Friday Favorites

Favorite Music

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! For the next month I will enjoy a crackling fireplace and dreamy holiday music as I cuddle up on the couch with my book/tea/wine/cats because…Yule Log is on!

Favorite Glam

Since we’re talking about the holidays, I’d totally wear one of these outfits to a work party. Alas, my employer is two years old and prefers to party in pajamas or nothing at all – “Mama I’m naked! Wheeee!” – so I’ll need a different reason to wear something sparkly and fabulous.

ModCloth

Polyvore

Victoria’s Secret

Matches

Favorite Sexy

We’re celebrating Carrie’s 35th birthday with a boudoir photo shoot in a suite at the Hard Rock. Champagne, cupcakes, and pretty ladies in lingerie. It’s definitely out of my comfort zone….but I’m excited to try something new that reminds me to embrace and appreciate my body.

Time for a trip to VS

Time for a trip to VS

Favorite Trip For Next Spring

Camping in Big Sur. Not all of my future travel plans include the little bunny, but this one definitely does. I know Leia would love setting up a tent, exploring the coast and trees, sitting by the fire and looking at the stars just as much as her mama does.

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Favorite Recipe to Try This Week

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese. Creamy, cheesy, sweet and savory goodness. You can’t go wrong with smoked cheddar, bacon and pasta. I’m excited to see how the squash cooked in milk creates a base for the sauce.

Favorite Place to Shop for Leia

Baby Go Round. It’s clean, well organized, with a huge selection. I’m cheap and don’t see a reason to spend money on brand new clothes/shoes for Leia when the quality of resale items at BGR is so good.

Favorite Gem in the Industry

Mark at Precision Automotive is the best! I want to bake him cookies, that’s how grateful I am for all he’s done to keep my Murano running this last year. Finding a mechanic who is honest, knowledgeable, and always goes above and beyond is priceless.

Favorite Cookie Exchange

Speaking of cookies, is it insane that I’m considering buying ingredients at Costco to prepare for the huge list of  recipes I want to try? No, I didn’t think so either. Santa, if you’re listening, I made room on my counter for a candy apple red Kitchen Aid stand mixer. I’ve been good all year, promise.

Turtle Cookies from The Kitchen Is My Playground. Chocolate cookies baked with pecans, a creamy caramel center and a drizzle of chocolate.

Russian Tea Cakes, a tradition in our family.

Andes Mint Cookies from Inspired Taste

Favorite Phrase

“So Much Fun!”

Be still my heart. One of Leia’s favorite things this week is to chase me around the house pretending to be a shark or a vampire or a ghost. I run in faux fear, leaping over toys and hiding behind walls until she captures me. And the whole time she is squealing with laughter “so much fun!” It’s worth every second of winded-and-haven’t-finished-my-coffee-yet exhaustion.

Favorite Technology

DVR. Not for the obvious reason of recording shows and watching them at ones convenience. No, it’s all about fast forward. No thank you Nick Jr., we don’t need 87 commercials for crap my daughter looks at and says “Mama, I have that!” While we’re at it, let’s fast forward through anything by the Fresh Beat Band so my ears don’t bleed.

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Favorite Inspiration

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Favorite Gratitude

I live in a warm home. I’m healthy. I enjoy good food. The people I love are nearby. I have enough and can help others.

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What I’m Thankful For

I know, Thanksgiving was last week. Sometimes the days just slip by too fast.
This year we celebrated Thanksgiving with my family in San Diego on Tuesday. I cooked the entire meal in my Grandma’s kitchen, it was bliss. I had a few moments where I felt her watching – like when I cut my finger and walked around for 30 minutes with a paper towel wrapped around it because I was too distracted to get a bandaid.

I made most of the meal from scratch – cranberry sauce, green bean and artichoke casserole, cornbread stuffing, mashed potatoes with parsnips. Some of it was from a can – plain ol’ corn and crescent rolls. The turkey cooked to juicy perfection in the new electric roaster. I also made a pumpkin cake for dessert, that was both loved and hated. I stuffed myself silly and basked in the love that is family, it was a wonderful day.

Then were got to celebrate again in Orange County on Thursday. Leia helped in the kitchen. I made rum balls. Leilani made not one but two fantastic turkeys. A bunch of friends and family came with a ton of side dishes and desserts. So I stuffed myself again, and felt thankful for all the wonderful people Leia gets to call family.

I am thankful…

For my beautiful, silly, smart, creative, entertaining two year old. You love painting your nails, playing hide and seek, giving big hugs, putting bandaids on stuffed animals and kissing them better, pretending we are characters from your favorite cartoons, singing with your eyes closed, and dancing with your whole heart. Leia Olivia you are my biggest joy this year and every year.

I am healthy and strong. I don’t get sick often, and neither does Leia. I have money to buy good food that nourishes our bodies. I have the opportunity (thanks Mom) to spend time at the gym for my physical and mental well-being. I plan on using this body for a very long time so I need to take care of it.

My family is close, literally and figuratively. My brother can call me regularly, and I got to visit him this year.

For the two cats that take up a ton of room on the bed, on my lap, cry for treats and at the door to get out. My fuzzy little kids, life would not be the same without you.

The friendships I rely on to navigate my parenting journey. The friendships that grow closer over the years from shared experiences. The friendships I know will always be there regardless of distance or time spent apart.

For our military, past and present. For their families that share the burden of their service so we can enjoy our everyday lives.

There are so many people to share memories of my Dad and Grandparents with. It keeps their spirit alive when I miss them terribly.

Happy Thanksgiving

Friday Favorites

Favorite Inspiration

Image from the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty

I love this post by Melissa King on loving our bodies. I’ve come a long way in appreciating my body. It’s strong, healthy, it created and sustained life. It’s beautiful. That last is a little harder to say with 100% sincerity. Somewhere along the way, little girls who are told they are beautiful grow into insecure women. One of my highest priorities as a parent is raising a little girl who loves her body, feels beautiful and strong, doesn’t perceive her uniqueness as strangeness. I’m not foolish, I know insecurities can’t be avoided. I want to make sure the coping skills to deal with them are there, for both of us.

Favorite Boozy Snack

Pumpkin Bourbon Balls from Dessert For Two. Oh lordy, I need to make these now. I think I might try gingersnaps instead of vanilla wafers.

Favorite Photos

Amazing! I love this kid, and his parents. I wish I would have traveled more during and after college. I’d be thrilled if Leia said “Hey Mom, what do you think about this study abroad program? I think I want to go.” I say this now fully anticipating the heart stopping fear of my baby being continents away.

Favorite Hair

Long, red, wavy, fabulous. If I ever get the desire to color my hair, this is what it’s going to look like.

Favorite Dream Home

Are you kidding me?! I am moving to Montana right now. Okay, maybe not right now, but right after I win the lotto. These pictures aren’t all the same home, but they are all the same architect.

Favorite Use For My Microwave

Popcorn! Just put some kernels in a brown paper bag and pop them. About 1/3 cup for 2-2.5 minutes. So simple, it’s genius. I like to toss the a little melted butter and salt on the kernels before popping them. I tried to make caramel corn to smuggle into the movies last night and it was a total failure. There’s a ton of recipes floating around for easy caramel popcorn in the microwave, I can’t remember which one I used.  It involved melted the caramel mixture then tossing it with the popcorn in the bag and heating again. The smell of burnt sugar is finally gone a day later.

Favorite Music

Try not to laugh. Ready? I’ve been listening to a lot of Celtic music this week. Yep, that includes the Riverdance soundtrack. I think I’m still on an Irish kick after finishing the Fever series (Fantastic books! If you like urban fantasy, pick these up right now.). Maybe that’s why I’m crushing on the red hair too, hmm.

Favorite Snack Idea for Leia

Edible necklace.

Favorite Guilty Pleasure

Twilight! Yes, I know, the movies are a little over the top. But even if I roll my eyes every time Kristen Stewart appears, I really enjoyed the books and embrace the films as an interpretation. There’s a twist! Obviously I won’t elaborate, but I thought it was a good choice and gave the final movie and enjoyable farewell. Ashley got tickets for a 7pm premiere through her work AND we didn’t have to wait in line, score.

Favorite Eye Candy

Oh, hello Jesse Spencer. Looks like I need to put Chicago Fire on my DVR list.

Favorite DIY Gift Idea

Solid perfume by Crunchy Betty

I love lockets. I love things that smell pretty. I love natural ingredients in my health and beauty routine. Win, win, win.

Friday Favorites

This might get posted on Saturday, ooops. I’ve been busy, slowly consuming the final book in the Fever series.

Favorite Place To Go Again

I went to Yosemite with my Dad. We camped, hiked, took pictures next to waterfalls. I treasure my memories of the frigid water we swam in, the natural beauty that surrounded us, the mix of summer crowds and empty space. Mostly, it’s special because we went together and I can’t recreate that. What I can do is bring my daughter to Yosemite someday and make new memories.

How amazing would it be to catch a glimpse of this in real life? Supposedly there’s a precise angle and time of day when the sun hits Horsetail Fall and makes it look like it’s on fire. Amazing.

Photo by Phil Hawkins

Photo by Michael Hardin

Favorite Music

I was not a Portishead fan the first 271 times I listened to their songs. Too angsty, too dramatic. I lumped them in with Bjork, ugh (still ugh). Then a year or so ago, when I started using Pandora regularly, Portishead kept popping up on a few of my favorite stations. Darn those persistent Brits, 10+ years later I find myself enjoying their music, especially “Only You” and “Glory Box”

Favorite Dream Job

If I won the lottery tomorrow I would buy a gold airplane with spinning rims on the landing gear go on vacation. I’d take a nice long trip, somewhere far away, with my whole family. When I made it back to reality I would buy a house, directing my real estate agent to my Pinterest boards, obviously. Then I’d find a nice little mom and pop bakery and ask for a job. I don’t have the ambition to put in the hours and personal sacrifice needed to run a business. I just want to make desserts, maybe some sandwiches. I want to feed people. I don’t want to spend 40+ hours a week in slacks trying to work up a corporate ladder. I just want the simple pleasure of creating something and knowing it made someone else happy.

Sweet Cheats in Atlanta, GA

Favorite Change

The weather! It rained today, so refreshing. I know I’m not the only one excited about pants and sweaters (muffin top is covered and I only have to shave once a week). I also don’t take for granted living in San Diego “cold rainy weather” means 60 degrees during the day and 1/2″ of drizzle. It finally feels like fall, a week into November. We even used the fireplace after dinner at my Mom and Uncle’s house today.

Photo by Ashley Hauck

Favorite Libations

I’m loving all things hot and spicy and holiday scented. These recipes for Glogg and Cranberry Cider are on my “must try” list.

Glogg, traditional Scandanavian mulled wine. This brings back memories of drinks with friends in the beer garden at December Nights Balboa Park.

Hot Cranberry Cider. I love all things cranberry. I love all things Paula Dean. I’m definitely adding the “optional” bourbon.

Favorite Organization Aspirations

My kitchen is a mess. Creating order from the chaos that is my utensil drawers and small appliances is overwhelming. I don’t know where to start so I don’t. Instead I sit on Pinterest and pin ideas for organizing my big fantasy kitchen. I’m sure this will come in handy after I win the lotto and buy that dream house.

No lifting six cookie sheets while trying to slide the muffin pan out from under them. Image from Houzz.

Slice that tomato and sweep all the mushy seeds straight into the trash, love it. Image from Apartment Therapy.

Baskets for dry vegetables (potatoes, onions). Bin for fresh bread. Home Design Pins.

Image from Dwelling Gawker.

Dream Pantry. Image from Houzz.

Favorite Humor

The rare occasion I’ll answer my phone. These are also my options when Jake and Alex call.

I’m currently enjoying 200 calories of Spanish Quarter tempranillo.

Pinterest finally made private boards! So now I can plan my wedding without the whispered she’s-not-even-dating-anyone commentary.

 

Honey Beer Bread and Butternut Squash Lasagna

Honey Beer Bread

I bought a 6 pack of Buffalo Bill’s Pumpkin Ale (at BB&B with a coupon) specifically for this recipe. The beer was good, the bread was great. Seriously friends, if you’re reading this right now, check your fridge for a beer and make this bread. The ingredients are simple, there’s no kneading, waiting for dough to rise, warming water for yeast. Easy and delicious.

Recipe from Gimme Some Oven

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (I use wheat bread flour)
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbsp. honey
  • 12 ounces beer
  • 4 Tbsp. (half stick) butter, melted

Line a 9″ x 5″ loaf pan with parchment paper (or spray with nonstick). Whisk together the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl warm the honey in the microwave for about 5 seconds, then stir in the beer. Add the beer and honey (use a spatula to make sure you get everything) to the dry ingredients until everything is combined.

Pour half the melted butter into the loaf pan. Add the dough, use that spatula to spread it out in the pant. Then use a pastry brush to cover the dough with the rest of the butter.

Bake at 350 degrees until top is golden brown and a toothpick/knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. This was about 70 minutes for me. The recipe says 50-60 minutes, so start checking at the 50 minute mark. The bread is crunchy on the outside, sweet and soft on the inside, so good!

Butternut Squash Lasagna

I don’t make lasagna very often. It ends up being too much food and I get sick of leftovers. A huge squash and a bunch of fresh sage were hanging out in my kitchen all week. I jumped on Pinterest (of course) and decided to try the Roasted Butternut Squash Lasagna from Closet Cooking. I modified it include ground turkey and pasta sauce I needed to use up and crossed my fingers.

  • 11 lasagna noodles
  • 1 butternut squash
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • 3 Tbs. fresh sage, finely chopped (about a handful)
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup flour (I used white whole wheat, all-purpose is fine)
  • 3 cups milk/cream combination (I used 2 1/2 cups almond milk, 1/2 cup half and half)
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • a small white onion, diced
  • a few dashes of ground nutmeg
  • 3 Tbs. fresh sage, finely chopped
  • 1/2 package 93% lean ground turkey
  • seasoning to taste (I threw in a generous shake of poultry seasoning, onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper)
  • pasta sauce (I used a 3/4 full jar that was in the fridge)
  • 3+ cups of cheese (I used what was left of a bag of shredded mozzarella and grated a bunch of parmesan, probably a 50/50 mix)

Unlike the honey beer bread, this lasagna is labor intensive. Leia and I spent a good hour getting everything prepped and assembled. Like always, my little chef sat on the counter and helped every step of the way. I can’t say enough how much I love being in the kitchen with her.

First I tackled the squash. The best way to take the skin off is with a wide horizontal vegetable peeler. Then get a really sharp knife and flex those muscles to cut it into 1″ size pieces. Toss the pieces with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, sage, salt and pepper. Spread the pieces in a single layer on a foil lined baking sheet and roast at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes, stirring halfway through cooking. I had a huge squash so I roasted the full 40 minutes and let them sit in the oven with the temperature off until I was ready to assemble.

Boil a big pot of water for the noodles, add salt and let them cook about 8-10 minutes. Set partially cooked noodles on a baking sheet covered with a clean towel.

While the noodles were cooking I put the turkey and spices in my cast iron pan until browned. Add the pasta sauce to warm through, turn off the heat and move on to the next step.

Make the bechamel! I love when food sounds fancy but isn’t. Melt butter in a pan on medium heat. Add onions and cook until soft, about 5-7 minutes. Add the sage and garlic and cook for another minute. Add the flour and whisk until it gets clumpy and slightly brown. Add milk and stir occasionally on medium heat until thick and creamy, about 12-15 minutes.

Assembly time!

  • Spray a 9″ x 13″ pan with a little oil. I love my olive oil mister.
  • Line the bottom with noodles, I used 3 vertical and cut a noodle to fit horizontally.
  • Add the roasted butternut squash, top with 1/2 of the bechamel then 1/3 cheese.
  • Add another layer of noodles, top with turkey and sauce mixture then 1/3 cheese.
  • Last layer of noodles, last 1/2 bechamel, last 1/3 cheese.
  • Cover with foil and bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes. Remove the foil after 25 minutes so the top gets nice and golden. You can keep it in the fridge for a day, it will just need longer to cook after being refrigerated.

A picture of leftovers since I forgot to take a picture last night.

Sweetness from the roasted squash was a perfect balance to the savory turkey. Sage and the creamy bechamel tied it all together. It was a bunch of my favorite fall flavors all wrapped up in a single comfort food! I even enjoyed having leftovers for lunch.