Sunday, December 25, 2011

Happy Christmas!

Wishing you all Love, Laughter and Happiness this Christmas and Always.






Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Stomach Flu Blows {chunks}

Twas the day before my birthday and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, except for the dog and the cat who were wrestling in the hallway.

I had just gotten home from work to the tantalizing smell of pot roast and roasted mixed veggies wafting from the kitchen. I was expecting one of my best friends and her husband to join us for a pre-birthday dinner. As usual, my mom handed Lily off to me and headed home. Lily and I played, and then went outside to wait for Daddy to get home from visiting his parents. After Jim got home, Lily and I resumed playing, and as we sat on the couch, with her facing me on my lap, all of a sudden a weird look came across her face… and a waterfall of macaroni, cheese and green beans cascaded into my lap. Holy projectile vomit Batman!

Let me pause here for a moment… I had heard the term “projectile vomit” before, but until this moment, when I was literally COVERED in a clearly discernable variety of lunchtime foods did I truly appreciate the horror of the term.

Three more times the waterfall hit me in the chest, arms and lap, as I yelled for Jim to get towels. We headed straight to the bathtub and got cleaned up. I prayed that this was a fluke, but because I had heard that there was a nasty 24 hour stomach flu going around, and we had just had a play date on Sunday. Keep in mind, 30 minutes from this time I was expecting company to help us eat the pot roast that was not sounding nearly as appetizing as it had when I walked in the door after work.

Melissa and Peppe arrived, gift and cake in hand, just as Lily had her second wave of sick - all over the clean shirt that I had idiotically put on.  Awesome.  This time, Lily and I went straight into the shower, clothes and all, while Jim helped us strip and rinse our clothes, then handed me my pajama pants and one of his old t-shirts.  I knew we were in for a long night.

Best friend that she is, Melissa decided that she and Peppe would tough it out, and we all ate dinner in the living room, while I cuddled Lily on the couch, swaddled in towels.  After a couple more rounds of baby-sick (caught in towels this time), Melissa put candles on my birthday cake, and I blew them out with a naked, towel-wrapped baby on my hip.  After they left, I ditched my clothes, Jim covered the couch in sheets and towels, and I got ready for a long night.

And then Jim started feeling ill and had to head to bed.

Fantastic.

To make a long story short, Lily was sick from 5:30pm to 1:00am, a time filled with feeding her water from a medicine dropper (only after learning that letting her chug water or pedialyte from her bottle only amounted to another round of vomiting) and napping. After each sick, she would rest her tired head on my chest, and I rubbed her back and whispered sweet words to her. All in all, she was quite a trooper given the circumstances.  After 1am, I could tell that she was completely empty, and since I had been so diligent about keeping her hydrated using the medicine dropper, I knew she was ok to sleep in her crib.

As I headed into my bedroom to check on Jim and get some sleep, I heard him in the bathroom losing his stomach... his night was just beginning.  So I slept in the guest bedroom with the baby monitor and left my poor hubby to battle his tummy.

Thankfully, Lily was able to keep liquids down when she woke at 7am, and after an hour of no sickness, I knew my birthday wasn't a total loss.  I stayed home from work so I could keep her on a liquid diet of breastmilk and water all day.  Poor Jim slept most of the day.

The plus sides to this whole situation are that I got to spend my birthday with my family instead of in the office, I was able to keep a sick baby hydrated through a nasty stomach flu, got a few hours of decent sleep, didn't get sick myself, and stayed completely calm and collected through the whole experience.

I think this experience only brought Lily and I closer together.  She needed her momma, and momma was able to stay calm and successfully comforted her through the night.  That makes me feel pretty good.

I'll call this a win.



>^..^<

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

I like to play with my balls...


Get your mind out of the gutter!  I'm talking about my Big Crazy Balls from Lucky Hanks on Etsy!  Geez, what were YOU thinking?


I originally wanted to contact Theresa at Lucky Hanks because I wanted to review her wool dryer balls, but then I saw her Big Crazy Balls... the resulting review {and giveaway, ending 12/15 at midnight!} can be found on SIMPLE.

I wanted to share some excerpts from the conversations behind the scenes of this project.  Bear in mind, I don't know Theresa except from this review... but I've come out of it with a friend for sure!  We have a lotta balls between us.

Jessica:
Hi Theresa!  I never thought I would say something like this, but I LOVE YOUR BIG CRAZY BALLS! HA, that was fun!  Ok, down to business....

Theresa:
...Last Christmas I had a really good conversation going with family about my wool dryer balls. 
"people love my balls" 
"people can't wait to get their hands on my balls" 
"I ship my balls all over the world, even Australia" then after that there was some joke about my balls "going down under" 
LOL it really never gets old.... 

Jessica:
I want to get MY hands on your big crazy balls. I was originally drawn to your shop because of your wool dryer balls, but then I saw the big crazy balls and fell balls-deep in love.  

Theresa:
Anyone can have fun with my balls. Just wait till you have your next party with friends, everyone will be asking 
"where did you get your new balls?" 
"your balls in the living room really spruce up your sofa!" 
"you get to write about whose balls?" 
"you let your daughter play with what again?" 
this one is really good... "Honey go lie down on the sofa and rest your head on my balls while I make dinner" then you can tell your friends that your husband fell asleep on your balls. 
LMBO. Laugh my balls off - of course. giggle giggle

Jessica:
Gotta hit the {ball} sack for tonight. HA!

Theresa:
You are an amazing writer. Just the person I would want working on this piece about my balls.

Jessica:
I'm on the couch cuddling your balls right now, they are keeping me warm. For real though, they are! 

After reading this and my review, you know you want to get your hands on Theresa's balls too.  Enter the giveaway, and go shopping at Lucky Hanks today!

Cheers!

>^..^<

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Recipe of the Day {Cranberry Oatmeal Tuxedo Chip Cookies & Cranberry Vanilla Latte Cookies}


Oh yes.  These are THE BEST COOKIES EVER.  Seriously.  I've been making these for 4 or 5 years, and they are still a huge hit with my family and friends.  They scream comfort.  They ooze happiness.  They make yummy in your tummy.

The only catch?  You have to go to my review site, SIMPLE Reviews, to get your hands on the goods.  Google doesn't play nice when posts are copied word for word (why can't I plagiarize my own works if I want to, hmm?), so it just has to be this way.

Click here for Cranberry Oatmeal Tuxedo Chip Cookies!

And to go along with this recipe, here's a link to my Cookies in a Jar post too!  There, you will find a recipe for Cranberry Vanilla Latte Cookies.  I'll admit, I haven't actually BAKED any yet, I just made the recipe into a pretty jar gift.  But they sure sound scrumptious.

Cheers!

>^..^<

Friday, November 18, 2011

Community Tap and Table :: Bacon and Beer Class {November 16, 2011}

Community Tap and Table :: For Beer Bellies with a Cooking Problem
Community Tap and Table is a hub for gourmet food and beer food pairing education in Sacramento, Lodi, Stockton and the greater California Central Valley.
Come on in, grab a Session, sit by the fire and get comfortable... it's going to be a long night!

On Wednesday night, Jim and I had the most amazing food and beer experience.  And we owe it all to Community Tap and Table, a gourmet cooking and craft beer club based in Sacramento, California, serving Sacramento, Stockton and Lodi (and the spaces between).  This is the most awesome club to ever come into existence!

We attended the Bacon and Craft Brews class, a hands on, full contact bacon-frying, beer-drinking extravaganza.  This 8-student class teaches how to properly cure and smoke pork belly into savory bacon.  The pork belly they use is local, antibiotic free and humanely raised.  Community Tap & Table sources as many local ingredients as possible.

The cooking class portion of the evening was completely hands on.  Each guest volunteered for a cooking station, and off we went with recipes and amazing ingredients in hand.  I have to say, this was a blast!  Jim and I didn't know any of the other students, but we had a great time with all of them just the same.  Banter flew, bacon fried, beer flowed.  Bliss.

When the cooking was complete, the students came together at the dining room table, and our hosts did a guided beer pairing......


The Delicious Menu
Fried Green Tomatoes with Clove and Lemon Aioli :: Paired with Trumer Pils
Bacon, Cheddar and Chive Biscuits with Butternut Squash Gravy :: Paired with Sam Adams Cherry Wheat
Macaroni and Cheese with Bacon and Sauteed Onion Brussels Sprouts :: Paired with Full Sail IPA
Quince Cobbler topped with Candied Bacon :: Paired with Dogfish Head Pangaea

Is your mouth watering yet?  Mine is.  This was one of the best meals I have ever had in my life.  And I like to eat.  A lot.  I have the belly to prove it.

The key to proper food and beer pairing is having both food and beer in your mouth at the same time.  I know, that sounds weird.  But trust me, after this experience I am fully a believer.

The clove and lemon aioli tasted like the holidays, adding a lovely refreshing-spicy tang to the fried green tomatoes.  The lemony flavors of the Trumer Pils were very complementary to the aioli, and the carbonation made the clove feel even more spicy and prickly on my tongue (in a very pleasant way).  Very nice.

The thought of the sweet butternut squash gravy on those savory biscuits is seriously almost too much for my empty stomach to handle.  I am tempted to quit writing, head straight to the market for ingredients, and whip up a batch right now.  Adding a swig of the Cherry Wheat into the mix was damn near orgasmic.  I have to seriously applaud Darin for this pairing.

The macaroni and cheese was very tasty, especially with the addition of the sweet and spicy red pepper sauce.  But the Brussels sprouts were the ones to shine in this course. Never before have Brussels sprouts tasted so friendly and pleasant.  There was no hint of the typical bitter flavor that turns most people away.  Bacon makes everything better, even Brussels sprouts.  The citrus-hoppy Full Sail IPA was a lovely complement.

Candied bacon is probably my new favorite thing, especially on top of cobbler.  I hadn't had quince before, but it is very similar to pear, just a little more spongy and firm.  The word delicious doesn't even begin to describe this beautiful symphony of flavors.  Tempting toothsome treat.  There, that works.  Pangaea's sweet and spicy ginger flavors added a nice dimension, but I preferred subsequent bites without it; however, it was a nice palate cleanser between sweet, savory bites of cobbler and bacon.

Aren't you jealous that you weren't there?  Well, check out the Community Tap & Table event calendar and get your awesome gourmet food and craft beer experience scheduled!  Their offerings are not limited to bacon and beer (you mean there's more to life than that?).  They offer seasonal classes, brewery tours, private parties, personal chef services, and more.

Emily and Darin host most events at their home in Sacramento, a spacious, inviting and beautiful home perfect for entertaining and educating. Emily is a food maven with impeccable taste. Darin is a Cicerone Certified Beer Server. Together they are a perfect storm of food and beer deliciousness.

All proceeds from Bacon and Craft Brews classes benefit the UC Davis College of Brewing.

And now... the photos!  I do have to apologize for the photo quality - I brought my compact camera instead of my SLR... oh well, I'll just have to take another class so I can get better photos!

We learned how to season, cure and smoke pork belly to make our own bacon. 

Choose your own apron!

Jim was in charge of frying bacon for my biscuits, making the butternut squash gravy, and making fried green tomatoes!

I was in charge of making the bacon, cheddar and chive biscuits.
Don't mind the missing one... it, um, fell in my belly.

Fried green tomatoes, with clove & lemon aioli.  Paired with Trumer Pils.
(sorry for the weird camera quality... overexposed and washed out, bah!)

Bacon, cheddar and chive biscuits with butternut squash gravy.
Paired with Sam Adams Cherry Wheat.

Bacon macaroni and cheese with red pepper sauce.
Paired with Full Sail IPA.

Brussels sprouts with onion and bacon.
See, bacon really DOES make everything better!

And the coup de grace... Quince cobbler with candied bacon!  Pure heaven.

Cobbler was paired with Dogfish Head Pangaea.

The Bacon and Craft Brew class of 11/16/11!

And our lovely hosts, Darin and Em.

The beers.



>^..^<

A Christmas Card Idea {Religious Humor}

CLICK TO ENLARGE IMAGE!

Before you get mad at this hilarious image... yes, I'm Catholic, and yes, I have an awesomely liberal sense of humor, and no, I don't mean this to be offensive.  Just laugh, cause you know it's funny!

Cheers!


>^..^<

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Game Night Guest Post at Thrasher Home {Adoption Awareness Blog Project}

Square 1

Head over to Thrasher Home, a blog by one of my fellow SIMPLE Moms, to read a guest post that I wrote in support of her Adoption Awareness Blog Project!  It's about Game Nights, which I love!  In it I disclose my 5 favorite games... go find out what they are!

Cheers!


>^..^<

Thursday, November 10, 2011

My Awkwardness is Mortifying! {a confession inspired by The Truthful Mom}

My good friend Sarah, aka The Truthful Mom, wrote a blog post about her awkwardness today.  I love her blog because it truly is Truthful, but also insightful and unbelievably candid.  She inspires me with all of her posts.  Go read her stuff.

Her post today made me think of my #1 most awkward moment... which I have never confessed to anyone.  Ever.  Until now.  Feel special that you're reading this.

Before we were married, Jim and I lived in a really cool rental house in midtown.  We were young, childless, and partied... a lot.  We stayed up late, slept in late, had sweet parties and barbecues, walked to the nearby (and plentiful) bars and restaurants, and had a ball.  On weekdays, the morning was a rush to get ready, feed the cat, and get to work (well, at least for me - he worked from home), with a quick pit stop at the Starbucks around the corner if I had time.  On weekends, we slept through breakfast, usually skipped lunch and went out or barbecued for dinner.  Looking back, I'm so glad that we took advantage of that time of limited responsibility!

Anyway, back on point...  We lived next to this really awesome family - mom, dad, young daughter - who were totally cool and weren't bothered by our late nights whatsoever (we were, however, very respectful and quiet when outside late at night).  Our porches faced each other, so we did a lot of chatting across the driveway.

One day, just a couple of weeks after we had moved in, the mom asked me if she could borrow some eggs.  That's something neighbors do, nothing awkward there.

However... my response: "oh, sorry, I don't have kids."

Um, WHAT?!

Read that again, and tell me that I didn't just stick my entire foot squarely in my mouth.

Yeah, AWK-WARD...

She looked so confused.  She half smiled at the idiocy of my response, said thanks, and went back inside... while I stood on my porch dumbly, wondering why the hell I had said that.

That incident of extreme awkwardness still haunts me to this day.  I am not even joking.  I think about it way more than I'd like to admit.  I have tried to justify to myself why those words came out of my mouth... kids eat eggs, I don't have a kid, so that's why I don't have eggs... but come on, REALLY?  Like adults don't eat eggs?  What I meant was, we live a frivolous lifestyle that doesn't include making breakfast or baking or anything requiring eggs, so no, I'm sorry, I don't have any eggs for you to feed to your child.  Sigh.

What a moron.

What was your most awkward moment?  I challenge you to beat mine :)

_________________________________

Did you know?
In logic and rhetoric, a fallacy is usually incorrect argumentation in reasoning resulting in a misconception or presumption.  Such as the hasty presumption that one does not have eggs because they don't have children.
(source: Wikipedia... except the part about the eggs)



>^..^<

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Turkey Veggie Chili

Now that the Fall weather is finally here, here's a perfect comfort food that's also healthy and low in fat!  Well, that's as long as you can stop yourself from adding sour cream or cheese to it... mmm...


Turkey Veggie Chili
Ingredients
EVOO {extra virgin olive oil - for those who have never watched a moment of Rachael Ray}
ground turkey
1 tsp cumin
3-4 tbsp chili powder
dash of cayenne {more if you're braver than I am}
1 bay leaf
1 tsp garlic salt
1 red and 1 green bell pepper, diced
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 cans diced tomatoes
1 can dark red kidney beans
2 cans pinto beans {or black beans if you wish}

Directions
Heat the EVOO in a dutch oven or a large pot over medium heat. Stir in the onion, bell peppers and ground turkey, and season with bay leaves, cumin, and garlic salt. Saute until the onion and peppers are tender and the turkey is slightly brown.  Mix the tomatoes into the pot and season with chili powder. Reduce heat to low, cover pot, and simmer 5 minutes.  Stir in the kidney beans and pinto beans.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer 45 minutes or longer.

Serve.  Top with sour cream or cheddar cheese if desired.  Serve with cornbread and honey butter.  

This makes AMAZING leftovers.  The flavors really meld by the following day.  Yum.




>^..^<

Beer Tasting Notes {Westmalle Tripel}

Oh gracious gift from the beer gods!  

If someone asked me (which they frequently do) what is my favorite style of beer, I would reply without hesitation :: Belgian Tripel or Belgian Golden Ale.  And if that person asked for a suggestion for the quintessential Tripel, Westmalle would most definitely be at the top of my list.

Westmalle Tripel
This is a 9.5% ABV Belgian golden ale that pours a beautiful cloudy golden-orange with a puffy white foam collar.  It has an intoxicating floral and yeasty scent with hints of lightly spiced bananas and pears.  The flavor comes through with what the nose promises, with a lightly sour yeast character and a light boozy warmth.  Medium bodied and easy drinking, but be forewarned - at 9.5% this beer plays at being light and sessionable, but the alcohol sneaks up on you.  In a very friendly, old-buddy-old-pal kind of way.  Almost as effective as a nice shoulder rub when it comes to relaxing you after a long day.  Excellent!

>^..^<

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Beer Tasting Notes {gross single hop IPAs from Hermitage Brewing}

I have to apologize for not posting this sooner.  I just came across my tasting notes while cleaning up my desk at home, and I realized that I hadn't blogged about it because we hated these beers... but then I realized that I NEEDED TO WARN YOU ABOUT THESE MONSTROSITIES, so here I am.  I even took the time to search my computer for this photo so that you could burn the image to memory and not accidentally purchase one of these on a whim.

I hesitate to give you individual tasting notes on these, because they were horrible failures in brewing.  But I can tell you what I thought going into this experience, and what little I got out of it.


CITRA
7% ABV.  I expected a pleasant, floral, citrusy hop profile from a beer spiced exclusively with a hop called Citra.  But it was full of bitter, stale, dank orange peel.  Yuck.

AMARILLO
7% ABV.  This one had an astringent, metallic flavor that was just nasty.  It tasted like dirty-gym-sock tea.  I'd rather drink cough syrup.

COLUMBUS
7% ABV.  Sour, raw bitterness, not pleasantly so.  Chewing on pine needles soaked in brine would be less disgusting.

This was my first and last experience with Hermitage.  I won't be wasting my hard earned money on this brewery again.  That is hard for me to say because I adore and fully support craft breweries... but these beers were way too far from the bulls-eye for my taste... or anyone's taste, who has good taste.  So don't taste these.  

>^..^<

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!!


The Witches’ Spell :: Act IV, Scene 1 from Macbeth (1606) by William Shakespeare

A dark Cave. In the middle, a Caldron boiling. Thunder.
Enter the three Witches.

1 WITCH. Thrice the brinded cat hath mew’d.

2 WITCH. Thrice and once, the hedge-pig whin’d.

3 WITCH. Harpier cries:—’tis time! ’tis time!

1 WITCH. Round about the caldron go;
In the poison’d entrails throw.—
Toad, that under cold stone,
Days and nights has thirty-one;
Swelter’d venom sleeping got,
Boil thou first i’ the charmed pot!

ALL. Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.

2 WITCH. Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the caldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork, and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg, and owlet’s wing,—
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

ALL. Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.

3 WITCH. Scale of dragon; tooth of wolf;
Witches’ mummy; maw and gulf
Of the ravin’d salt-sea shark;
Root of hemlock digg’d i the dark;
Liver of blaspheming Jew;
Gall of goat, and slips of yew
Sliver’d in the moon’s eclipse;
Nose of Turk, and Tartar’s lips;
Finger of birth-strangled babe
Ditch-deliver’d by a drab,—
Make the gruel thick and slab:
Add thereto a tiger’s chaudron,
For the ingrediants of our caldron.

ALL. Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.

2 WITCH. Cool it with a baboon’s blood,
Then the charm is firm and good.



>^..^<

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Beer Tasting Notes {Laughing Dog Brewing :: Dogzilla Black IPA}

I like the name of this beer because I made a little stuffed doggy-monster toy for my friend's little boy, and his name is Dogzilla.  I think I like the stuffed Dogzilla better than the liquid Dogzilla...

Laughing Dog Brewing Dogzilla Black IPA
This 6.9% American Black IPA pours a dark mahogany color that shows hints of ruby red when held to the light, and a tight head of foam. It smells of sweet burnt caramel and maybe some piney hop hiding in the wings.  It has a boozy roasted malt flavor up front, with a hint of bitter herbal hops at the finish.  Not as much hop flavor as I would expect from a Black IPA; this one is overrun by the roasted malts.  This was an interesting brew, but I don't think I'd buy it again.  There are better Black IPAs out there.  
Cheers!
>^..^<

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Preparing for the Zombie Apocalypse :: A Conversation {Zombies are the new Black}

Zombies are the new black.  


One of my best friends sent me the following bulletin that was posted on her company's intranet this morning:

The Company* is warning staff about a zombie apocalypse on their intranet.

Ready for a Zombie Apocalypse? Then you're ready for any emergency. If not, do you know what should you do before zombies arrive  or natural disasters or pandemics actually happen? 


First, have an emergency kit in your house. This includes things like water, food, and other supplies to get you through the first couple of days before you can locate a zombie-free refugee camp. (Or in the event of a natural disaster, it will buy you some time until you are able to make your way to an evacuation shelter or utility lines are restored.) 


Next, sit down with your family and come up with an emergency plan:. This includes where you would go and who you would call if zombies started appearing outside your door, or an earthquake, flood or other any other emergency struck. 


Look for the zombies roaming around The Company* today and ask them for a tip card on emergency preparedness to help you build your own to-go kit. 

*company name changed for confidentiality reasons




The following conversation ensued.


She :: They are coming after you.

Me :: Oh crap, I better make up my emergency zombie plan pronto!

She :: Since my parents live by the cemetary they have a kit ready.

Me :: Does it contain a machete?

She :: Apples. Zombies hate apples.

Me :: Oh good, I just bought apples.  I should be covered.

She :: What kind of apples?

Me :: Honeycrisp.  They're hard and sweet, best to combat zombies.  Breaks their teeth and fights off zombie funk stench.

She :: Those don't work. You'll need golden delicious.

Me :: Your information is questionable.  What does golden delicious offer that honeycrisp does not?

She :: Who knows.

Me :: I think I'll plant a barrier of golden delicious trees around my property, hopefully they are quick to grow.  What else do you suggest that I have in my kit?

She :: Lava.

Me :: That's hard to come by this time of year.

She :: And it has to be from Indonesia.

Me :: Do you know a good Indonesian lava importer?  Maybe they will also sell machetes…

Then we got bored and moved on to the topic of outrageous birthday cakes for 1 year olds.  But that's a conversation for another post.




Cheers!

>^..^<



~~~~~~~~~

If you like beer, laughing, good food, and occasional crafty stuff - follow me on Google Friend Connect and sign up for updates via email!  You won't be sorry!  Cheers!

Recipe of the Day {Low Fat Zucchini & Summer Squash Lasagne}


It's the tail end of an Indian Summer, and just in case you had better luck in the garden than I did this year and still have squashes on the vine, I have a gorgeously delicious (and low fat) recipe to share.

Usually during the summer, I have a plethora of squash coming out of my garden.  However this year, my squash plants got hammered by white flies {the bastards} and my harvest was meager.

But, I was able to make this awesome low fat lasagne with a couple of zucchinis and a peter pan summer squash.

Why it's called peter pan {according to the nursery} and not patty pan {like at the farmer's market} is beyond me.

It looks just like patty pan that I normally buy at the market, so I just call it Summer Squash, so there. Pffft!

Low Fat Zucchini & Summer Squash Lasagne
Ingredients
Whole wheat lasagne noodles, cooked according to package instructions
1-2 Zucchini, sliced into long planks
1 Summer Squash, cubed
Your favorite tomato sauce
Appx 1 lb. ground meat {I used turkey in this particular batch}
1 tub low fat ricotta
1 brick low fat mozzarella, shredded
Fresh parmesan
garlic salt and pepper, to taste
Directions
Boil water and cook lasagne noodles until al dente.  Make sure not to overcook them, or they will fall apart when you try to handle them.  They will finish cooking in the oven.
Brown your meat, and season with garlic salt and pepper.  Don't be stingy with the garlic salt - that flavor needs to be strong enough to penetrate the sauce and cheese, while not overpowering the dish.  I would guess that I use about a tablespoon for a pound of meat.  When the meat is browned, add the sauce, stir, bring up to heat, then put at a nice low simmer.
Mix about 1/3-1/2 of the shredded mozzarella with the ricotta, and throw in some fresh parmesan {I use just a little, it's pretty strong when it's fresh}.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a glass baking dish, layer the ingredients as follows.
Layers:
Thin layer of sauce {to keep noodles from sticking to the dish}
1/2 of the noodles
1/2 of the cheese mixture
1/2 of the sauce
Squashes!
remaining cheese mixture
remaining noodles
remaining sauce
top with mozzarella

Bake at 350 degrees until the sauce is bubbly and the mozzarella is just beginning to brown, approximately 30-45 minutes.

Serve with green salad and a nice crisp Pale Ale or wheat beer.

Cheers!



>^..^<

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Daddy Day

Jim decided that he wanted a day just for him and Lily.  So he sent me off to work, gave Nana the day off, and proclaimed it Daddy Day.  He was successful in getting her down for one of her two regular naps, and took her on an adventure to the park, where they enjoyed the geese and ducks.  This is the photo that he texted to me:


Mommy is jealous of Daddy Day.  *smile*

I think that Daddy Day is going to become a more regular occurrence.  Lucky baby!

>^..^<

Beer Tasting Notes {La Trappe Tripel}

I have to admit, I have a penchant for Belgian Tripels {right, cause you didn't notice??}  

La Trappe Tripel is an Abbey Tripel brewed by De Koningshoeven in Bavaria.  It is brewed with coriander seeds, which gives it a spicy flavor.

La Trappe Tripel 
This 8% ABV Abbey Tripel is golden orange in color, and pours with a nice cream colored frothy head.  It has a lovely aroma of malt, sweet yeast, and spicy banana.  The alcohol warmth is apparent as it hits my tongue, and that boozy flavor mixes well with a light caramel sweetness hiding behind the spicy malts and fruity yeast.  A very pleasant brew, but I wouldn't recommend it as a first jaunt into the world of Tripels.  It isn't my favorite Tripel, but it was worth drinking.  Cheers!

DID YOU KNOW?
Coriander = Cilantro!  Here in the US, and in Spanish speaking countries, we call the leaves of the coriander plant "cilantro" while we name the seeds "coriander."  The rest of the English speaking world calls the whole plant "coriander."  

>^..^<

Monday, October 24, 2011

Party Planning :: On Pinatas {and how not to get sued}

My best friend and I like to banter via email or text messages throughout the day.  It makes our repetitive and tedious office work more tolerable.  Today we started discussing the first birthday parties for our daughters.  It started out as a real conversation about how we want the parties to be simple and easy… and then this conversation happened.

She :: You know what I don't care for? Pinatas. Its not a good idea to give a kid who can't see a stick and ask them to swing.

Me :: I love pinatas, but I see your point!

She :: I don't care for them. They are always filled with those butterscotch and strawberry candies that I don't like anyways.

Me :: I'd fill them with unicorns and dreams

She :: That's not going to work. You're going to need tangible items like whistles and paperclips.

Me :: Really?  I kinda had my heart set on unicorns and dreams... but I guess I could bend paperclips into the shape of unicorn horns and into little Z’s to represent dreams, and fill it with those.

She :: Not dangerous at all. Let's blindfold a child, give them a weapon, ask them to hit an object they can't see with tons of children next to him, and finally the object is going to explode with little sharp metal z's.

Me :: That's the new theme for Lily's birthday party, Sharp Metal Z’s.

She :: Yeah, a lawsuit party!  What kind of float will Lily make her entrance on?

Me :: One made of butterscotch and strawberry candies.


>^..^<

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

SIMPLE Cloth Diaper Week :: October 23-29 {Video Bloopers!}

I am really excited about the upcoming Cloth Diaper week that I am co-hosting on SIMPLE next week! I have had the opportunity to review some awesome cloth diapers and accessories. I decided to make a video for each of the diapers reviewed. My hubby helped me out... and I was able to record some successful videos once he figured out that the difference between the little flashing recording light (that blinks when the video is recording) and the low battery icon, which blinks when the video is NOT recording... he actually recorded the spaces BETWEEN my diaper speeches... But it made for a couple of funny bloopers!

"Uh Oh"
Here's where we realized that Jim had accidentally been recording the spaces between...


"The Boob/Bra Strap Discussion Blooper"
Jim was helping to prep me for what I'd say in my videos...


"The Phineas Blooper"
This one occurred near the end, after the "recording issue" was resolved... Phineas wanted to get in on the blooper action.


Cheers!

>^..^<

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Tis {Almost} the Season :: Christmas Cards from Tiny Prints to the Rescue!

It's the end of September, and Fall is barely in the air here in the Northern California valley... Halloween is just around the corner, and Thanksgiving too... but I am already seeing Christmas items in the stores, and it's making me antsy about Christmas cards!  I love customized cards, they are so much more personal, so I like to get photo cards.  I'm so excited to get awesome photo cards this year, and I already know I'll be getting them from Tiny Prints.

I used Tiny Prints at Mother's Day and Father's Day, and they saved me a trip to the store to pore over possible cards with a wee babe in tow - I was able to sit at the computer during one of Lily's naps to choose and customize the perfect card.  My parents, Jim's parents, and Lily's great grandpa all loved their custom cards.  I was impressed with the vibrance of the colors and the crispness of the photo.  And when you consider that Tiny Prints cards are comparable in price to greeting cards at the store, why not make custom cards for the special people in your lives?


I've been looking at all of the Tiny Prints Christmas card options, and it is so hard to choose just one as my favorite!  However, you all know I am obsessed with color, so this is currently the top contender:


...or maybe for a more classical look:
Christmas Cards Banner of Dreams - Front : White

...or maybe this one, it's very whimsical!
Christmas Cards Swirly Plates - Front : Winterberry
...and it also comes in tri-fold!

So I guess the hardest part of this process is going to be choosing the card itself!  

Tiny Prints' card customization software is so easy to use. Uploading photos and dropping them into your chosen card is simple.  Then you can quickly customize the text as you wish (they provide sample text in case you're not feeling creative), and presto! your beautiful, customized, personal greeting card is complete!

Tiny Prints also ships cards directly to your friends and family!  
Now you can have Tiny Prints mail your cards, invitations or announcements directly to recipients! Just choose the "Mail for Me" option, tell us who to send them to and we'll do all the work from there. Not only will you save time, you'll also save on shipping costs — all you have to do is pay for stamps and envelope printing.  You'll save even more time if you set up your Tiny Prints Address Book in advance. You can import contacts from almost any other digital address book, or enter your friends and family members into the system one at a time. Then, when you place an order, you can select the people you want to add to your mailing list from your Tiny Prints Address Book with just one click!
There is an excel template that you can download from Tiny Prints in which you can enter your entire address book (if you're anything like me, you already have all of your contacts in an excel spreadsheet... I'm a spreadsheet geek... so sue me!).  Once your spreadsheet is complete, you simply upload the file!  Super simple!

I'm so excited to get family portraits done so I can choose the Tiny Prints Christmas card that best fits our photos!  And I'm really looking forward to not having to hand-address all of my cards this year! {I'm busy with a baby, not lazy... ok, maybe just a *little* lazy}

Cheers!



>^..^<

Friday, October 7, 2011

HAPPY FRIDAY!! :: Count von Count {totally looks like} Steven Colbert

While bantering via email with my happy hour buddies on this lovely Friday afternoon about who to count in for happy hour, this random and uncanny resemblance came to me and I just had to share it with the internets...

Cheers!  Happy Friday!

>^..^<

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Countdown to the Holidays :: {Sanity and Money Saving Tips}

The first rule of holiday planning is, you don't talk about holiday planning... the second rule of holiday planning is, you don't talk about holiday planning...

Thanksgiving and Christmas are just around the corner.  Since I have an almost-one-year-old stuck to my hip most of the time (I’m chasing her around the house the rest of the time), I need to start my holiday planning a little earlier this year to maintain what little sanity I have left.

Let’s face it: between shopping for gifts and planning family get togethers, we expend a ton of brain power and funds between October and December.  Add in the fact my younger twin brothers’ birthday and Lily’s birthday are around Thanksgiving; and Jim’s birthday, his mom’s birthday, his brother’s birthday, my birthday, my mom’s birthday, and my best friend’s birthday are all in December… I have a TON of gifts and parties during these months, so I HAVE to stay organized and be frugal as much as possible.

Here is my holiday countdown, which includes both sanity-saving and money-saving tips and ideas.

TEN
Make a checklist.  
Keep it in a notebook in your purse, as a running email that you send and reply to yourself, or as a list in your smart phone.  I am way beyond the point in my life when I could manage a full college class schedule and 3 job schedules in my head, all while doing homework, writing essays, reading novels, and having a rockin' social life.  These days, if I remember to brush my teeth before rushing off to work, I feel successful.  So I make lists.  About everything.  Especially party and holiday planning.  

NINE
Don't spend big money on centerpieces - make your own!  
If you need to buy some supplies to get your crafting juices flowing, buy them from thrift stores or from the dollar store!  On Thanksgiving, collect some colorful fall leaves from your yard and put them under a sheer table runner (which can be made from an inexpensive piece of fabric gleaned from the thrift store).  For Christmas, pick some bare branches (you need to prune your trees anyway) and spray paint them gold, then stick them in a vase and hang small shiny and glittery ornaments from them.

EIGHT
Clip coupons in the Sunday paper and in the grocery store ads.  
Coupons for holiday food stuffs abound this time of year.  I know that every year we make green bean casserole, so I know I'll need to find a coupon for french fried onions and cream of mushroom soup.  There are always coupons for stuffing mixes (for those of us who don't make it from scratch - who do you think I am, Martha Stewart? *wink*), cranberry sauce, etc.  Just remember to take them to the store with you when you go shopping.  Maybe you can paperclip them to your checklist. *smile*

SEVEN
I do my Christmas and birthday gift shopping all year round.  
I have a special drawer for gifts, and before I do any shopping around the holidays, I delve in and see what I've squirreled away throughout the year.  It saves me a lot of headache fighting the holiday shopping crowds!

SIX
Shop online!  
Hit up Etsy for some awesomely unique gifts!  Amazon has awesome prices on just about everything, and free shipping on most items to boot!

FIVE
Shop for wine ahead of time to save some money!  
Beverages and More (a beverage chain in California and Arizona) has a 5 cent wine sale several times a year - for selected wines, you buy one bottle and get the second (of the same wine) for 5 cents.  I purchase my Thanksiving and Christmas wines (both for meals and for gifts) at the 5 cent wine sale, and I save a ton of money!  Check out their website because apparently they can ship wine to other states, and the sale is happening NOW!  Awesome!  Oh how I wish BevMo did a 5 cent beer sale...

FOUR
Make sure to take family group photos at every get together.  
Almost every camera these days has a timer, so make use of it and capture some memories. 

THREE
Order your Christmas cards online!  
I LOVE personalized photo cards (both giving and receiving), and I am super excited to find the perfect Christmas card for Lily’s 2nd Christmas.  This year, I fell in love with Tiny Prints.  I used them for both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day cards, and they were such a hit with Lily's grandparents!  I’ve already got my eye on a couple card designs, which I will share with you soon!

TWO
Find excellent holiday recipes ahead of time.  
Email friends for their faves or look on the internet.  Print them out and keep them in a folder or inside your favorite cookbook.  When it comes time to do your grocery shopping, pull those puppies out and use them to make your list.  I’ll be posting two of my favorite holiday recipes on SIMPLE in November, and I’ll link to them here.

ONE
Don't stress!  
When I start to get overwhelmed, I always remind myself how calm I was when my wedding flowers were delivered, and they were half dead... (true story!)  I didn't let that pathetic excuse for a florist ruin my day.  I just sent my maid of honor to Trader Joe's to get whatever flowers she thought were pretty, and we made due.  I remained calm and had a memorable and beautiful wedding day.  If I can get through the biggest event I've ever planned (by myself, no wedding planner!) without freaking out, I can get through any holiday.  The key is to remind yourself to relax and have fun.  You only live once, and stress isn't worth spending too much time on.  So just breathe, grab a glass of wine, and smile!

Cheers!

>^..^<