Saturday, December 29, 2012

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

It's strange to celebrate your first Christmas without your parents.  Though mom passed just before Christmas last year, I think we were all still in a great deal of shock and trying to keep things normal for dad, that it didn't really sink in.  This year, however, we all definitely felt the loss.

That's not to say we didn't have a nice Christmas - we definitely did.  It's just that it was different.

After talking about where to have which holiday, we decided that Thanksgiving would be at the LaChapelle's and Christmas would be at our house.  After all, this IS the Christmas house - the one in which we've celebrated every Christmas year for decades.

Traditions are wonderful - especially long celebrated holiday traditions, but sometimes it's nice to change things up just a bit.  We set up two Christmas trees this year - one in the livingroom, and one in the den.  Two totally different trees with different personalities and I loved them both!  In years past, we've always celebrated Christmas morning and gift opening in the livingroom; this year, we changed it to the den.  We lit the fireplace in there which hadn't been lit in at least 20 years.  It was very warm and cozy, and though we all dearly missed mom and dad, we had a wonderful time being together.

Gifts were fun and thoughtful.  Dinner, served buffet style, was both relaxed and delicious.  Chatting, looking through pictures of Christmases past, sharing memories of mom and dad.   It was a wonderful celebration.

All in all, I think we all made it through pretty well.  A touch of melancholy, yes, but overall, more joy than sadness.  Subsequent years will get easier I'm sure.  And it's such a comfort to know that we'll always feel the presence of mom and dad celebrating with us, even if it's only in spirit.

I hope you enjoyed every moment of the holidays with your family!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Christmas Tree Lane

Funny how there are just some things that escape your notice.  I grew up in this house and lived in this area for years before I moved out on my own.  Every single year I've driven down Christmas Tree Lane as one of the many Christmas traditions I enjoy.  I've even donated to the Christmas Tree Lane Association - the organization responsible for decorating the many deodara trees that line the street.  And I had no clue until just a few weeks ago that they have a huge ceremony before lighting the lane the first night.

Really?  How could that be?  Where on earth have I been?

Anyway.  I know now, and I'll not let it pass me by again.  It's just a small community celebration, but it's oh, so worth it!  We walked the short distance to the library - ground zero for the festivities.  It was the perfect temperature to be out enjoying a brisk December night; cool enough for scarves, but not so cool that we needed to bundle up.  After some Christmas carols and a few words from local dignitaries, we began the countdown to light the trees. Ten. Nine.....Three,Two,One: LIGHT UP THE TREES!!  

So cool!  We had a great time and we're already making plans for next year's tree lighting ceremony!   Starters and grog at the Weirs, dinner and aperitifs at the Finnermans.  See you all there!

It's the Cookie Bake, Jake!

It's that time again - time to get down and dirty and bake those cookies!

...which is exactly what we did on Saturday.  Bake.  Cookies.  Lots.  Allllll day.  Well okay, I confess -  we did take a break to go to a Christmas crafts boutique.  And get a bite of lunch, but that's it - I swear!  Other than that we baked cookies all day.

Twenty-nine dozen.  No, there's no significance to the number, that's just what we ended up with.  Now we have a few less than that (hey, who doesn't need cookies and milk before bedtime?!), but still a goodly amount.

Oatmeal macaroons.  Chocolate chip.  Molasses crinkles.  Cranberry biscotti.  Caribbean lime coolers.  Mmmmm.  YUMMY!  I still want to make a few sugar cookies, and maybe some maple pecan icebox cookies ... but we'll see how ambitious I am this weekend ;o)

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Birthdays with 0hs

Last week I celebrated a birthday.  One with an ohhhhhhhhhmanIcan'tbelieveI'mhavingabirthdaywithanO!

As a part of my gift, Kevin prepared a fabulous dinner for our family celebration:  roasted prime rib, homemade horseradish and steak sauces, twice baked potatoes chock-ful of sour cream and cheddar, and creamed spinach - all from scratch.  It was amazing!   The aromas mingled all afternoon until you could smell the delicious scent of garlic and spices all the way up the street.  He set and decorated the dining room table with gingko leaves and shimmery gold stars.  He even folded the napkins to look like birthday candles - how sweet is that?!

Debbie, Bill and the boys, and Vicky joined us for a wonderful dinner and birthday celebration.  It was so nice to have everyone here to help me celebrate my special day.  I missed mom and dad, but I know they were with us - I could feel their presence.  Deb made me a very special gift: a scrapbook filled with photos of when I was a child, and cards I'd given to mom and dad over the years.  She even found an essay/gift I'd written and given to dad on his 50th birthday.  Isn't it amazing that in all of the pictures and memorabilia we have to sort through she found that particular item?  It was wonderful.  I read it aloud and we all teared up.  Thank you, sis, for this special gift.  I will treasure it always.  Kevin's gift to me was amazing as well.  A beautiful gold heart studded with shimmery diamonds.  WOW.  It's just beautiful.

On Thursday, someone at work asked me how it felt to be old.  I told her I haven't the faintest idea.  'Good answer!' she said.

Good answer indeed.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Giving Thanks

What a year it's been.

Our lives have changed in ways we never could have imagined. And while there have been some very difficult times, we have so much for which to be grateful. A wonderful family, true love, good health, delicious food, a warm home, and good jobs are at the top of a very long list of things I'm very thankful for.

We also want to thank Deb and Bill for loaning us the boys for an overnight visit, and wish you both a very happy 25th wedding anniversary!  And thank you for hosting our wonderful Thanksgiving Feast.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Happy Birthday to my (Insert adjective here. Choices: wonderful, amazing, awesome, babalicious, thoughtful, warm, kind, loving, sweet, charming, smart, funny, talented, handsome, generous) husband.  Do you realize that we've been together for 30.23255% of your entire life?!  

Kevin, I love you with all my heart and I am the luckiest woman alive because I'm married to YOU!

Here's to the next 30.32355%

Monday, November 19, 2012

of Frugal Living and Clean Freezers

I mentioned in an earlier post that Debbie and I recently had a cooking/stock the freezer day. As we were putting our recipes together, Deb asked me where I was planning on putting our take for the day. Seems like a silly question, right? I mean, of course the answer is 'the FREEZER!'.


Knowing me as she does, and knowing what my poor freezer looked like, it was actually a really good question!

You see I tend to be a freezer hoarder. Well sort of. I don't hoard freezers, but I do have a tendency to hoard items that go in the freezer, which typically results in freezer overload. Last year, this was made even worse because each time I'd buy groceries fully intending to cook at home every night, things would come up and we'd end up stashing things in the freezer and either eating PB&J instead, or grabbing a bite when we were on our way to wherever we were headed - usually the hospital or the rehab facility. When we moved over the summer, I thought I'd get it cleaned out once all of the boxes were emptied and we were settled in. Then, we had a major heatwave and it was just too darn hot to be out working out in the garage.

Alas, I ran out of excuses, so on the Veteran's day holiday this past Monday, I FINALLY got to the freezer and gave it a good, thorough going over. I tossed things that were either freezer burned or past their prime; I washed down shelves and bins; I re-organized where everything is housed. It took me over two hours to get it all done, but in the end, I had such an overwhelming feeling of satisfaction! I just have to share it with you. When Kevin saw it, he claimed that - besides the day we first bought it and got it home - this is the cleanest it's ever been. The sad thing is, he's probably right! Okay, without further ado, here it is: (Deb, don't faint when you see it...)
Isn't it wonderful! I am SO glad to have this task done. It's been on my mind and bugging me for a while; it's nice to be able to cross it off my to-do list - finally! And okay, I have to admit, I went to the store this morning to pick up a few deals and added them to the freezer. But they are all things that we need/will use shortly.

...which leads me to the frugality portion of this post.

I love stocking up on seasonal deals. Especially with grocery prices sky-rocketing, it's nice to feel like I can save at least a little bit here and there by using smart shopping strategies.

My birthday is right around the corner and Kevin wants to cook a special dinner to celebrate (how sweet is that?!). We were talking about it yesterday and he mentioned prime rib (ALWAYS my fave!). As it happened, our local Fresh & Easy stores have prime rib advertised as a seasonal special for just $4.94 per pound. The regular price is $8.99 per pound, so this is definitely a deal. F&E also has a really good spiral sliced ham (think: Honeybaked, but at half the price). It is also seasonally priced at $1.47 per pound. I have one in the freezer right now, but I always like to have a couple of these on hand. They are such a quick, festive, delicious meal - and so easy to cook. Plus, they always yield great leftovers - the ham hock for soup, bits and pieces of ham for soup and scrambled eggs, a slice or two for sandwiches. Mmmmm - all good in my book! A few more deals: celery for just .49 cents; a 10 pound bag of russet potatoes for just .98 cents; fresh green beans, buy 1 bag and get another free. A trip to Fresh & Easy was definitely in order. I stopped by there this morning (since we're off this week - YAHOO!) and did a bit of shopping. I bought all of the aforementioned items and a large stock *filled* with Brussels sprouts all for just ...$42.11! I bought a prime rib that is just under 8 pounds and a ham that's nearly 8 pounds. I was also able to use a $10.00 off coupon - YAY! So, the additions to the freezer from today's take are the prime rib, ham and 2 pounds of fresh green beans. Gotta love those seasonal deals!

My next stop was Ralph's. A few weeks ago I received a coupon for a free pound of bacon. Out of the blue - no particular reason. Sure, I'll take that! I also signed up for a Bzz campaign that includes some new products from the Ralph's Private Selection line. They were out of one of the products, so I'll save that coupon for later. BUT - I did walk away with a 1 pound package of smoked gouda cheese, a jar of tomato and sweet basil pasta sauce and a pound of bacon - all FREE. My Ralph's receipt has a verified total savings of $13.17! Over and above these items, I'd already received a one pound package of Private Selection coffee and a box of Private Selection water crackers as pack of the Bzz kit - also FREE.

I've definitely been scoring lately and finding some GREAT deals! All of this makes me one happy camper. Having a full freezer and full cupboards makes me - and our bank account! - breathe a little easier.

WOFA Memory Book Event

(This is kinda strange. In looking over my blog, I saw that there were a few items in the 'draft' stage. Hmmm...I didn't even know they were there! I decided to publish this post even though it's about two years old. The subject is actually pretty close to right on time and hey, better late than never, right?! I think I didn't publish it when I first wrote it because I made one of the Memory Books for Deb. If I'd published it, she would have seen it before I gave it to her as a gift. Not good. At any rate, here it is!)

We have a women's group at work - WOFA - and we get together over the summer to have some fun. Well, actually, we get together during the school year, too, but the group was originally designed to maintain contact over the summer. We've done all kinds of fun things! Manicure/pedicure evenings, Bingo nights, movies, and craft days.

In July we got together to make Memory Books. One of our teachers made them with her family and brought them in to show everyone ... and we all fell in love with them! So she decided to host a craft day so that we could all make one of our own. They are so much fun to make! They take much longer than you would think they would ... but then again ... I'm pretty particular about what goes with what, so maybe it just took me longer =)

Anyway - here's a peak at the final results. I'm really happy with it! I guess I shouldn't really say 'final' result - we still need to add our pictures and our comments to the book. So, it's mostly finished ...I need to add a picture to that open spot on the front page.On the pullout card, it asks questions like "What is was your favorite Christmas gift when you were growing up?" or "Where is your favorite place to celebrate Christmas?" We each have a card in the front pocket to add our responses. Because it's such a family tradition, I added a page with our family peanut brittle recipe. YUM! The last page is for more Christmas memories ... favorite Christmas song, favorite Christmas movie, etc.

I loved this WOFA!! I had so much fun! Poor Linda probably thought I'd never leave her house because it was taking me forever! In fact, I ended up bringing everything home and just finishing it up here. She's going to have another Memory Book event in a month or so. I can hardly wait!

Hostess with the Mostest

I admit it. I didn't want to let Hostess slip away without a fight, so I scoured a few local stores and bought a couple of things.

At the first store, the only items left were the donettes; everything else had been swept off the shelves. Not bad though. I love those little powdered sugar donettes! And of course for Kevin, my choco-holic, I had to get the chocolate covered donettes =)

The next store was a bit better. I found the cupcakes, crumb cakes and chocolate filled twinkies. I was disappointed to not find the vanilla creme filled twinkies, but at that point, it was buy it before it's gone, so I did. When I was a child, they didn't even have chocolate filled twinkies, but what the heck. Other than the donettes, I didn't really plan to eat them myself. A box of the cupcakes and the twinkies are a fun 'gifty' for Pat and Drew (which they are very excited about!); the crumb cakes are for Deb; Kevin and I will keep the second box of cupcakes and may or may not eat them. But I'm definitely saving the box.

They're talking about another bakery - Bimbo - buying some brands of the Hostess Bakery. I'm glad to hear that and I hope they do. It's just that ... well, I wanted tangible evidence of the Hostess that I remember.

...and I'm glad I have it; it goes well with the wonderful memories already emblazoned on my heart.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Pieces of Childhood Falling Away

While I was driving to work yesterday around 7:00 a.m., I heard a story on the radio about workers at Hostess Bakery plants across the country being on strike. The story said that the company was giving the workers until 5:00 p.m. to call off the strike and go back to work; if that didn't happen, the company would file bankruptcy and close.

On the way home from work, the same radio station said that the deadline had come and gone, but many of the workers were still on strike. The hold-up, apparently, was between two different unions. The workers from one union settled and agreed to go back to work, but the workers from the second union couldn't come to an agreement, so they maintained their strike. The company stated that, while some workers had returned to work, it wasn't enough to continue with business as usual. What was to happen to Hostess? A final decision hadn't been announced, but it definitely looked bleak.

Wow! I was pretty shocked to hear this news. How could it be so? Driving a delivery truck for Hostess was my Uncle Randy's livelihood for years. I never had any clue how much he made, but it was enough to support he and his family of 6 until he retired. Hostess has been around forEVER; surely they would never really file for bankruptcy! How could they? I mean really, who doesn't have fond memories of opening their lunchbox to find a crinkly cellophane package containing a light, golden cake filled with cream filling?! Ahhh - a Twinkie! Maybe the next day you'd be delighted with a foil-covered, chocolate enrobed Ding-Dong. Mmmm. How could Hostess just cease to exist? I know that people are more health conscious now then they were when I was growing up, and hey, I love a good quality whole wheat bread myself. But still, there's something to be said for freshly made egg-salad sandwiched between two soft, squishy pieces of Wonder bread. Delish!

This morning, the final decision was splashed all over the news: curtains for Hostess. They confirmed that they were filing for bankruptcy and closing their business.

I know it sounds silly, but hearing the news broke my heart. Granted, I've not had a Hostess Twinkie in over 30 years but still, knowing that I could have one if I wanted to, well ... it made it seem like all was right with the world. Know what I mean? Now that it won't be there - well, it makes me feel like a piece of my innocence has fallen away. A lovely piece of my childhood is gone. POOF! Just like that, vanished into thin air.

Call me sentimental, but when things that have brought me wonderful memories of pure joy disappear, it makes my heart ache. It makes me long for a time that was sweeter and more gentle. makes me miss my mom and dad.

As if losing the iconic Hostess Bakery weren't enough, I read another article today that indicated Sears was all but bankrupt and the rumor is they will be liquidating soon as well. Great. Another beacon of my childhood years on it's way out. When I was a child, Sears is 'where America shopped'. And we were the all-Americans who shopped there. I can't tell you how many school dresses (um, no pants as, by mandate of dad, they were not allowed for years to come!), and winter coats and summer play clothes were purchased at Sears Pasadena. And how many of you remember walking into Sears and being hit with the powerful aroma of fresh popcorn? In our store, that section was on the upper level. If we were very lucky, we'd head up there at the end of a shopping trip and mom and dad would treat us to something yummy. I wanted popcorn, Deb wanted non-periels (you don't need anymore clothes!), and dad would get a quarter pound of cashews. At that time, mom wasn't much of a sweets-eater, but now and then she'd indulge in chocolate covered peanut clusters. I swear, sitting here thinking about it, I can almost smell that popcorn right now.

The moral of the story? If there is one, I suppose it would be to enjoy what you have in your life while you have it. Having treasured memories - of people or things that meant a lot to you - will make it less painful when they're gone. least that's what I'm hoping.

Cooking for the Freezer

Last Saturday we had girls day at Deb's. During the week when we talked about it, we kind of hemmed and hawed about what we should do for the day. Shopping? Always a possibility. But no, that costs money. A fall festival? Nope, not much going on that day. The boys baseball game? Yes, but something else first.

We decided that it would be really productive, not to mention beneficial, if we each chose a couple of simple recipes, made biiiiiiig batches of said recipes, and stocked our freezers. YEP! We have a winner!

Deb chose meatloaf and quiche. I chose soup and pasta. We each shopped for groceries ahead of time, met at her house, and began the cook-a-thon.

We mixed and measured and chopped and poured. Stirred and ladled and cooked and cored. Packaged and labeled - no time to be bored! (Sorry for that ... I just got started and couldn't make myself stop ;o) When all was said and done, we each came away with 3 bags of meatloaf, mixed and ready to bake; 2 leek, ham and cheese quiche; two pans of chicken and sundried tomato penne; and a big stock pot full of beef barley soup.

Spending time together, filling the house with a warm, homey aroma, and filling our freezers with 8-10 time saving, delicious dinners. All in all, not too bad a take for about 4 hours worth of work!

Love you, Deb!

Sunday, November 04, 2012


...that's what a hamburger's alllll about.
Last year on Halloween, Kevin and I stopped by In'n'Out for dinner before our trick-or-treaters arrived. While we were in line to get our food, the most adorable lil' guy went up to the window with his parents and he was dressed like an I'n'O employee for Halloween. Spectacular! It's the perfect costume: Iconic, easy, and something that all of our kids at school can identify with. Brilliant! When we approached the window, I asked Kevin to ask the guy for two of their paper hats - which he willingly obliged, and our costumes for this year's Halloween celebration were born.

While going through things at the house this past summer, I ran across two large safety pins - a distinctive part of the In'n'Out uniform. A couple of weeks ago, I hit my favorite thrift store and found a red, square table cloth and cut it in half so we could each fashion an apron. Kevin found the I'n'O badge template online and printed them out for us to add that realistic flair. A white shirt and white pants completed our look.

From the moment we got to work, all of our kids at both of our schools loved the costumes! They kept telling us all day that they wanted a double-double, or a 4X4, or they wanted their burger animal style...and don't forget the fries. Lemonade, rootbeer or a shake...quite the dilemma. Our costumes were a major hit.

Sometimes it really IS the simplest things in life that are the best.

...and yes, I do want fries with that - thanks! ;o)

Happy Halloween!

I don't recall Kevin and I ever carving pumpkins together, which means, of course, we haven't carved pumpkins in over 12 years! We've bought pumpkins with the intention of carving them, but never actually made it to the carving stage.

Well this year, we finally made the effort and got a little 'pumpkin gut' on our hands (charming terminology, don't you think?)

Thankfully we didn't carve them too early. In fact, our timing was just right; we carved them Tuesday night, lit them for our trick-or-treaters on Wednesday, and by Saturday morning they'd grown hairy and my little punkin' had sunk-in'.

No matter, we had a really fun time carving them, then seasoning and roasting the seeds. After the jack-o-lanterns were complete, we sat down to a snack of warm, freshly roasted pumpkin seeds and some nice, cold apple cider. Mmmmmm.

I just love fall, don't you?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


Were you surprised?

The other day I had the most hilarious conversation with one of our kids at school. He's a wonderful child who has some challenges, but is a true delight. He checks in with me a couple of times a week - usually in the mornings before school starts, but sometimes during break time, or when school is out. Sometimes he's not in much of a talking mood and will just sit down and read, but sometimes he's quite the talker.

What follows is the conversation we had just a few days ago:

Him "What are you going to be for Halloween?"

Me "I can't tell you now or it won't be a surprise!"

Him "I HATE surprises."

Me "Well then, don't think of it as a 'surprise'. Just think of it as 'not knowing', then when you come in the office on Halloween, you can see for yourself. It's not like I'll jump out and say 'BOO!' or anything."

No reply. A few minutes pass and I asked him...

Me "So what are you going to be for Halloween?"

He waited for a few moments and then replied...

Him "Do you like surprises?"

Me "Of course!"

Him "Well then I'm not going to tell you."

I absolutely cracked up! The funniest thing about the conversation is that he was just so deadpan. He wasn't trying to be a smart aleck, or funny --- it's just his thought process and how his mind works.

I can't wait to see what he's going to wear next week for Halloween!

Monday, October 22, 2012

For Peet's Sake

Deb and I are trying to get back into the swing of having our monthly girls' day again. We've done pretty well over the last few months, and I'm so glad - I've missed having them!

Last Saturday we had girls' day here. We started off by attending the Central Library's Second Saturday book sale. Just as it sounds, the second Saturday of every month, there is a book sale on the library patio. I've known about it for several years, but so far, hadn't made it to one of the sales ... until last week.

What a great event! They had thousands of books, many of them were just like new --- I honestly don't even think some of them had ever been read. We scored big time. We both took away a heavy Trader Joe's bag filled with great books for the paltry sum of just $13.00 ($13.50 for Deb, that spendthrift!).

After the library we headed downtown to a "Taste of..." event. You know the kind - the type of thing where a particular area showcases the variety of restaurants it has. You can go to the various booths and get a taste of this for a buck, then another booth for a taste of that, and so on. They also had several other vendors where we collected some fun freebies. We were looking for something to hold all of our goodies when I spied a woman walking around with a reusable grocery bag that was clearly from the event. I asked her where she'd gotten it and she pointed in the general direction, so off we went looking for a free bag to hold all of our other freebies. When we got to the booth, they asked us to complete a brief survey about the area of town we were in; how often do you frequent the area; What method of transportation do you use to get here; etc. We happily completed the survey and were awarded our grocery bag.

A bit later after we'd gathered a few tastes, we found a place to sit and eat our goodies. They had different groups on stage playing various kinds of music throughout the day and we found ourselves not far from the main stage. Shortly after we sat down, the band took a break and a woman took over the microphone stating that they were going to being drawing names for prizes. Deb and I commented to each other that we hadn't been to enough booths to enter any of the drawings, so we figured listening for our names was rather silly. NOT! You had to be present to win, so when they called a name and no one came up, they assumed the person had already left the event and went on to draw another name. After a couple of minutes we were both only half listening to the announcer and were SHOCKED to hear her call my name! Apparently they were pulling winners from the survey we'd completed to get our free grocery bag! I jumped up waving my hand and made my way to the stage where I was awarded a certificate entitling me to a YEARS WORTH OF PEET'S COFFEE!! Now I ask you, how cool is that? I LOVE Peet's coffee, but rarely ever buy it because it's so expensive! The certificate is good for one pound of coffee per month, or half a pound of tea per month, for 12 months. YAY-HOOOO! What a very special treat!

Deb was teasing me saying "Of course you would win, when we heard HER name being announced. She won a gift certificate to a wonderful (can you say Dianne salad?!) local restaurant! We couldn't believe our luck. How funny that both of our names should be chosen in that prize drawing! We enjoyed a couple more 'tastes' before leaving the venue. We figured our luck wouldn't get much better than it had already been ;o)

All in all, a pretty successful girls' day I'd say.

Lancers WIN!

A few weeks ago Deb happened to mention a conversation she'd had with Drew. He asked her if she thought Aunt Ran and Uncle Kevin would be able to make it to his last home game of the season. And I can't remember exactly how it went, but somewhere along the line there was a mention of $20.00 exchanging hands if we came to the game. (How funny is that?!)

As it happened, the day of the last home game I was off work due to a Staff Development day for our teachers, and Kevin could easily take the day off as well. Soooo...we decided to head out to TO to take in the last home game of the season.

The TO JV football team has suffered through something of a lackluster season - which is to say they hadn't won a game yet. Though we were hoping for the best, we weren't sure exactly what to expect.

It was a chilly fall afternoon as we headed out to the stands. Blankets, jackets and snacks in tow, we settled in to watch the game.

WOW! What a GREAT game! The boys were fantastic, scoring time and time again. Drew played a lot that afternoon, which made the game that much more exciting for us. By the end of the game, the score was an amazing 37 to 12!!

When we saw Drew after the game, he thanked us time and again for coming. We said that we were proud of him and ... we should have come to more games - maybe they would have had a winning record!
Way to go, two-oh, way to go!

We've been cooking up a storm!

One thing about fall is that it certainly inspires me to want to cook. There's just something so wonderful about a warm, cozy kitchen that emanates delicious aromas - it's very difficult to resist!

We seem to spend more time cooking on Sundays because, well, we have more time. Makes sense. Of course, it doesn't hurt that I've discovered a new cooking magazine. Country Cook by the same folks that bring you America's Test Kitchen. If you've not seen the magazine yet, I urge you to check it out. It's a wonderful magazine chock-ful of fabulous recipes that have already been tested to the nth degree to bring you the best tasting (or) quickest method (or) lowest fat version of whatever it is you're going to make.

Last Sunday we made their version of manicotti. Delicioso! It was both super easy and super delicious ... and pretty darn fast to make, to boot!
Mmmmm - yummy! The recipe also makes a LOT. We managed to eat the whole large sized pan throughout the week, taking it for lunches, and the small pan we wrapped and put in the freezer for a night we're short on time or I don't feel like cooking. (I love to have a few easy go-to dinners waiting for us in the freezer! Currently we have this pan of manicotti, two pans of chicken enchiladas, and a small pan of butternut squash lasagna.)

We've also been on a baked oatmeal kick lately. Why? Well, first of all because it's delicious! Secondly, it's super easy to make. You can have all of the ingredients mixed in about 10 minutes, and the add-ins can vary depending on what you have on hand. It seems that lately we always have a few over ripe bananas by week's end, so these are a staple. We've also added blueberries and more recently, toasted walnuts. We've determined that we like the banana/walnut version the best. When heated, it's like eating warm banana bread. YUM!!

Wednesday, October 03, 2012


This past Saturday was Smithsonian Free Museum Day (did you participate and go somewhere fun?!). We always look forward to this day and plan a fun adventure for the day. This year we decided to visit the Seabees Museum on the Naval base in Port Hueneme.

The boys had a baseball tournament there year before last and, since we were there, we thought we might visit the museum that day, but it wasn't open. In fact, they were in the middle of moving the contents of the museum from it's current location to another location on the base. So when this museum was on the list, we thought we'd make a day trip of it! Our favorite BBQ joint (and I do mean joint - it's not exactly a 'restaurant') is in Ventura just a few miles from Port Hueneme. We hadn't been there for a little over a year and could hardly *wait* to bite into one of their famous tri-tip or pulled pork sandwiches. YUM! We typically take a cooler so that we can buy and bring home extra goodies. There's also a phenomenal ice cream shop in Ventura (McConnell's),so of course we had to make a pit stop there, too!

Welllll, as often happens, things don't always work out as you plan. When we got to Ventura, our noses were alllll ready to be hit with the smoky BBQ aroma we've come to know and love. Literally, our mouths were watering! We pull around the corner where the we've been coming for years now only to find ... that it's now Top Hat Burgers and Hotdogs. SAY WHAT?! We were SO disappointed. I decided to run over and ask about our BBQ and they said that he's doing mostly catering, but sometimes has a truck parked close to the pier where he sells sandwiches. Oh man. We decided to drive around down by the pier to see if we could find him, but no luck. Dang it! Now we need to find a new BBQ joint! Not all was lost, however; we were still able to enjoy the sweet, creamy taste of McConnell's coconut/macadamia nut (me), and chocolate raspberry/peppermint (Kevin).

Now on to the museum. It's awesome. Neither Kevin nor I were all that familiar with the Seabees, and we learned a lot just hanging out at the museum for a while. Dang, those men and women work really hard! Here are a few shots of the museum:
After we left the museum we gave the Lala's a call. Since we were going to be driving right past them, we decided it would be fun to go out for a bite to eat! Deb suggested Bandit's BBQ. Not quite the Ventura place, but it was delicious and we all had fun.

All in all, a fabulous day. I just love weekends like this, don't you?!

Kitchen Partners

Kevin and I have been remarking lately about what a good team we make in the kitchen.

Now that we've moved, it takes us a bit longer to get home, which means it's a bit later when we have dinner. We're kinda the 'early bird special' folks - we prefer to eat dinner on the early-ish side so that it doesn't just sit in our tummies. Not that we go work out after dinner or anything (Heaven forbid!), it's just that eating earlier in the evening means we can go to bed and not feel completely stuffed.

That said, we've been getting home right about the same time, catching up on our day a bit and then heading to the kitchen to make dinner together. Tonight it's maple chicken with sweet potatoes, carrots and red onions. YUM!!

On Sunday while I was busy making the lasagna, Kevin tried on a new hat: that of pastry chef. He made a sour cream apple pie for our dessert. MAN, is it ever delish!! I found the recipe at Posie Gets Cozy, and while it took a bit more than the 15 minutes she notes (after all, we'd never made it before!), it didn't take much more than that and the results were fabulous. Kevin was pretty proud of himself, and I'm very proud of him, too!!

We've been enjoying a small slice of pie each evening.'s nearly gone. Guess we'll need to come up with something else to make this weekend!

Alright, alright...

so it's good. It's delicious in fact. Go. Make it.

...just make sure you clear your calendar for the day!

Michael Chiarello's Lasagna of Butternut Squash

Sunday, September 30, 2012

The dirty little secret that nooooooone ever tells you about butternut squash...

So, it's fall (or as Kevin likes to say 'nothing says fall like 105 degree temperatures. ...smarty pants!). And being the fall-loving girl that I am, I've been thinking about all sorts of scrumptious, can't-hardly-wait-for-fall dishes I want to make and enjoy.'s time for SQUASH! ROASTS!! PUMPKINS!! SOUPS!!

The other day I ran across a yummy sounding recipe for butternut squash lasagna. (insert Scooby Doo 'HUH?' here). I think I'm going to have to make us some of that!

I read the recipe and, to be honest, while it didn't *sound* difficult, there are lot of steps involved to make the lasagna. (thank you, Michael Chiarello!) Oh well, I thought, we're making it for Sunday dinner and what are Sundays for but making special recipes that you don't have time to create during the week? Right?

We were so excited about making the squash this weekend that we went during the week and did all of our grocery shopping so that we could make sure we had all of the ingredients on hand for the Sunday cookfest. (Okay, okay ... I did forget mozzarella, but Kevin was running an errand anyway and picked some up on his way home this morning).

Because the process is so involved, I thought I'd knock out the first step - roasting the squash - earlier this morning before it got too hot. I re-read the recipe: Cut the tops and bottoms off of two 3-5 pound butternut squash. Use vegetable peeler to remove the tough skin on the outside of the squash. Cut squash in half; scoop out seeds. Lay squash flat side down on cutting board and cut into 1" chunks. Season squash with specified ingredients; place on roasting pan and roast for 50 minutes until tender. See what I mean? That doesn't sound so difficult, does it?


Have you ever tried to cut a butternut squash? Let me tell you, it is woefully misnamed as there is nothing 'squashy' about it (until it's roasted, of course). I placed the squash on a cutting board, took out the largest serrated knife we own (barring a saw from the garage, which, by the way, I was sorely tempted to use!) and *tried* to cut the top from one of the two squash. Uh, yeah...RIGHT. I made it about a quarter of the way through and the knife got stuck. Plan B: use the electric knife!! Once I was able to (very carefully) remove the first knife, I assembled the electric knife and assumed it would now be a piece of cake to cut that darn squash. WRONG I changed the knife blades in the electric knife to blades that, no kidding, resembled a small saw, and tried again. Well, it F-I-N-A-L-L-Y worked! But make no mistake, it still wasn't easy!

Then came the peeling portion of the preparation. REALLY? I'm not sure which is worse, attempting to *cut* the squash, or attempting to *peel* the squash. It may be a toss up. Several times I stopped to count and make sure all of my fingers were still attached. They were, but only by the grace of God!

Now that we have two peeled butternut squash, it's time to cut them in half and scoop out the seeds. Let me say this about that, the next time the damn seeds can stay INside for all I care. At one point, I literally held up a squash half and threatened 'You'd better be worth it!' Once again, I employed the use of the electric saw ... er ... knife with less than stellar results. Well, eventually the results were stellar, but not until I wrangled with those darn squash for a while. WHEW!

Next step: lay squash flat side down and cut into 1" chunks. Uh, yeah, I think NOT! I decided to ROAST the squash first, and then I'll cut it into chunks - when it actually lives up to the name 'squash'. I couldn't fathom putting the poor little electric knife through anymore; the motor was already hot and I swear I thought I saw a little trickle of smoke escape from the handle. I *know* I heard it whimper.

Here it is, looking all yummy and innocent getting ready to have the dickens roasted out of it:
Even Slippers seemed to be disgusted by the whole affair. Her look says it all ("What do you mean it's a 'vegetarian' lasagna? Where's the meat?)

I can only hope it's all worth it in the end. I'll letcha know how it all turns out. Either way, now I know why people buy those small bags of peeled, cored, and chunked butternut squash. *IF* we make it again, that's what I'll be using! Next Sunday we'll stick with an easy recipe - I've experimented enough for a week or two anyway.

Bon Appetit!