Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas Cookie Hangover

I've been BEYOND busy with Christmas activities and moving.  I feel like a loon for choosing to move in December, but c'est la vie right?  :)  Anyhoo, I would like to apologize for my 10-part series on Christmas Traditions only being a 6-part series.  I was having some technical and scheduling difficulties.  Also, today marks the first anniversary of my tiny little blog, so I thought it fitting to re-post my very first post.  What's different between now and then is that I would make this delicious recipe using whole wheat flour.  Thank you so much for coming over to read my blog and thank you for extending some grace my way until some of the crazy makes it's way out of my schedule. 

Originally Posted 12/26/2011

It is the day after Christmas.  All of the presents are opened, the house is messy from entertaining, everyone stayed up too late playing with their new treasures, and I'm standing in my kitchen trying to figure out a breakfast that doesn't have sugar in it.  Normally, I'm very quick to whip up a batch of fluffy waffles or pancakes, but this morning, I can barely see straight because of all the sugar I've consumed the past four days. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Favorite Christmas Traditions Series: English Toffee

photo credit
My oldest daughters favorite Christmas treat is this amazingly simple English Toffee.  I’ve always been intimidated by making candy.  But this is so easy, it’s next to impossible to mess up.  This recipe comes from my Grandma’s recipe book and only takes 5 ingredients and about 20 minutes.  I also give this out for quick, cheap, and easy Christmas and Hostess gifts.  It just wouldn’t be Christmas at our house without some of this in the candy dish. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Favorite Christmas Traditions Series: Soft Ginger Cookies

photo credit

If you could capture the essence of Christmas in a cookie, this is it.  I make these delicious gems every Christmas and they don’t last long in my house;  I will abstain from admitting who eats most of them.  *ahem*  But once your kitchen is filled with the wonderful aroma of these cookies, you’ll have a hard time waiting for them to cool before eating one. 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Favorite Christmas Traditions Series: Christmas Lights

Christmas gives many of us the excuse to decorate our houses in pure Griswold-style both inside and out.  Our streets begin to twinkle and many neighborhoods become winter wonderlands.  It doesn’t take much effort or money to enjoy these glittering displays and start a fun Christmas tradition.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Favorite Christmas Traditions Series: Must-Watch Christmas Movies

Photo Credit
We are big movie fans in my family.  We enjoy snuggling up and immersing ourselves in a good movie.  So naturally, Christmas movies are always included in our activities and many have become tradition.  We usually watch the shorter ones on a weeknight and the longer ones on a weekend evening, and always with hot cocoa. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Amazing Chocolate Cake With Peanut Butter Frosting

I made this amazing recipe for Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow.  I like to try at least one new recipe each year.  I'm so glad I stumbled upon this incredible, perfect chocolate cake.  Paired with peanut butter frosting, this cake can't be beat.  There is absolutely nothing healthy about this cake, but that's OK, I'll make an exception, it's that good!!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Two P’s of Keeping It Simple During the Holidays

Have I told you that the time from Thanksgiving to Christmas is my FAVORITE time of year?  There is something so magical about the traditions, extra focus on family, and all the sparkle.  But there’s a dark side to the holidays for me: fitting it all in and making everyone happy.  Oh, and don’t forget not eating too many of the amazing treats, finding the perfect gifts while not breaking the bank, and displaying the patience and generosity of a saint while being stretched in a million different directions.  As magical as the season is, it can be downright maddening.  It has been out of necessity to simplify that I’ve developed my “P” strategy.  It’s not rocket science and it’s certainly not original, but it works for me.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Favorite Christmas Traditions Series: Santa Exploded

Every year, Santa explodes in my house.  Ok, Santa Clause didn't actually explode in my house, but it sure looks like he did!  I do Christmas decor in a major way.  If it can be decorated, draped, hung from, or otherwise decorate-able, it is.  Every square inch of my home is decorated for Christmas, which has led to my family (and friends) describing it as looking like "Santa walked in and exploded all over everything...twice."  It may sound obnoxious, but I feel that there's only once a year when I can get outrageous with my decor, so I may as well go big!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

My Favorite Christmas Traditions Series: Hot Cocoa Movie Nights

I. LOVE. CHRISTMAS.  It is by far my favorite holiday of the year, and thus, my favorite celebration.  I just realized that we are only 47 days away from Christmas!  So what better time to begin a Christmas Traditions Series?  In my family, Christmas traditions are sacred to me.  They create lasting memories and a wonderful feeling of excitement in our home from the day after Thanksgiving to Christmas Day.  I look at it as a legacy of mine, hoping that my children will pass on the traditions, or at least the spirit of them, to my future grand-babies; you're welcome, future grand-babies.  So I'm happy to share some of my family's favorite traditions and recipes with you over the course of this 10-part series (yeah, I have a lot of traditions...). 

Monday, October 29, 2012

A Little Break

Things have been really hectic lately.  I'd love to be able to post all the great projects I've been working on, but they're Christmas presents and their recipients follow my blog. *thanks* :)  I've been experimenting a lot in the kitchen but haven't brought the camera out.  So, realizing that I don't have a post for this week and don't know what to post, I thought I'd take a quick break (about a week or two) to catch my breath and work on some content for LAA.  So be sure to check back in a week or two and I promise I'll have something cool.  Until then, enjoy the many adventures this life has for you in even the smallest of things.  :)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A Weekend in Flagstaff, Arizona

For my birthday, my Handsome Hubby organized a trip to Flagstaff, near the Grand Canyon in Northern Arizona.  We go there sometimes in the summer to escape the heat of the desert and sometimes we visit in the winter to play in the snow.  Yes, it snows in Arizona.  Northern Arizona actually has four seasons and is at a higher elevation than the rest of the state.  So, we rented a tiny cabin for the weekend and went to enjoy the changing colors of the leaves and some great fall weather.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Seared Pork Chops with Wilted Spinach

We recently picked up a half pig from Date Creek Ranch, a local ranch here near Phoenix.  They are a local, family-run ranch that takes a holistic grazing approach; and they're just super-nice people.  We've ordered grass-fed beef from them in the past and LOVED not only the beef, but the prices as well.  Their prices are very comparable to conventional meats in the store.  So when we re-ordered our beef for this year, we ordered a half-pig as well.  It is delicious!  I've not been a big fan of pork because I've always thought it smelled and tasted funny, but I am now a fan of the pastured pork from the ranch.  No funny smell and the taste is nothing short of wonderful.  If you have access to pastured meats, I HIGHLY recommend you give it a try and taste the difference. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Dino Hoodie Rex

I’ve seen a bunch of cute tutorials on making these adorable dino-hoodies.  I wasn’t able to find one that didn’t use felt or that didn’t cover the raw edges of the fabric.  So I sort of made this up as I went along.  Luckily, it turned out great.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Roasted Okra

It's okra time in the desert and boy am I ready!  I must admit that okra used to be on my list of veggies I tolerated but never really enjoyed.  I just couldn't get over the "slime" factor.  Fried okra is good, but I really try not to eat deep-fried vegetables.  Last year about this time, I was getting tons and tons of okra in my CSA basket and didn't know what to do with it.  Then I found this method.  Hallelujah! **light rays from the sky, angels singing, doves flying**

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

It's a Journey, Not a Sprint... Right?

I feel that this post is long overdue.  I guess I've been putting it off in hopes of the potential content changing, but alas, my procrastination has not yielded the results I had hoped.  Since my last Weight Loss Journey Post, I've fallen off the Harcombe Diet Wagon, rode the No-Diet Diet Wagon, and took a detour in Too-Much-Dessertville and Pastrytown. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Athena Creation: Groovy Sausage Veggie Rice Casserole

My most recent Athena Creation was a success!  From time to time, I throw together the ingredients I have and cross my fingers.  I lovingly present these to my family as "Athena Creations" with either a silly name or a random number like 3,296.  Anyhow, sometimes they are great, sometimes they aren't so great.  This dish was great and made fantastic leftovers for lunch the next day.  Boy do I love dinners that turn into an enjoyable lunch the next day!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Adventures in Sewing: Picnic Placemats

Some time sewing recently produced this gem of a project.  Picnic placemats with a cutlery and napkin-holding pouch. They are placemats that you can roll up and put in your picnic basket, sure to add a touch of awesome to your picnic.  I know picnic season is winding down in most of the country, but here in the desert, it's about to start next month and last until next summer.  I made this set for my daughter in Michigan, but I think I'm going to have to make another just for me. 

I can't express how easy this is!  It's a few straight stitches and some top-stitching.  It was also a super-cheap project because I got the fabric on clearance.  You could also recycle old sheets, napkins or tablecloths and skip the fabric store all together.   These took so little time that I forgot to take how-to pictures... sorry.  But here's the gist of it.  Cut 4 rectangles (the size of placemat you want + seam allowance, I did 22"x 16") out of a double-thickness of fabric (making 8 total). Cut 4 smaller rectangles (about 7"x 4") and 4 (about 2"x 4") strips.

 Pin two rectangles (right sides together) and stitch all sides, leaving a 6" gap. Trim corners, turn right-side-out and top-stitch all the way around the edge. Repeat for remaing placemats.

On top edge of 7x4 pieces, make a 1/4" double-fold hem, topstitch.  Press 2x4 strips in half (wrong sides together) lengthwise, open and press edges to the center, fold in half and stitch open edge closed.  Place strip 2"-3" from top hem of pocket, baste.  Press the sides and bottom (and attached strip) 1/2" to the wrong side.  Position onto placemat about an inch from the side and bottom.  Topstitch around bottom and side edges of pocket, leaving the top hemmed edge open.  Repeat for remaining placemats.

And VOILA!  Picnic placemats!  :)    

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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Adventures in Crochet: Angry Birds Hat

I don't know about your kids, but my Not-So-Little-Man LOVES the game Angry Birds.  I've been spending a lot of time in my craft room lately (see This Fabulous Project ), but haven't really made him a whole lot.  But what does a mom sew or crochet for her 12-year-old boy?... 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Quick Smoothies for Busy Mornings

I really like green smoothies and I think they are a FANTASTIC way to start the day and a nutritious addition to my diet.  Unfortunately, I have to be at work at 6am and have a 45-minute, one-way, commute.  This means that if I don't want to wake up at 3am, or spend $6 for a smoothie at a store, I have to be very efficient with my time in the mornings. 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Whole Wheat Banana Bread

I love banana bread.  This recipe is my grandma's but with my take on it by using whole wheat flour.  I use freshly-ground whole (hard white) wheat flour, but the recipe works with all-purpose flour or King Arthurs White Whole Wheat Four.  Now, whole wheat flour requires a bit more liquid, so feel free to be very generous with your liquid measurements and maybe add a bit more for good measure.  :) 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Adventures in My Craft Room: Reversible Placemat with Napkins and Rings

On rare occasion, I get the opportunity to spend some quality time in my craft room.  It's really a spare bedroom that doubles as a craft room, but I am completely grateful to have the space.  I'm doubly grateful for the opportunities to use it.  Since my time is so limited, I've found that it's better for me to tackle easy projects that don't take a lot of time.  I'm often interrupted by Baby Boy, so I can only get some time in during naptime (if the house is clean already).  This weekend, the stars aligned and so it was, I spent some quality time with my sewing machine. 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Adventures in Breakfast: One-Eyed Toast

Breakfast is hands down my favorite meal.  I love how versatile it is.  It can be sweet or savory, heavy or light.  And the genius behind brunch?  Props to whoever that was.  One of my favorite things to make for breakfast is a big batch of Grandma Carol's Waffles.  But this morning, I was in a savory mood.  I had some artisan 3-cheese bread leftover from dinner and wanted to do something special with it.  Thanks be to my dad for introducing me to this one-eyed toast recipe when I was 10 years old. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Grandma's Fruit Cobbler

In case you haven't noticed, or are a new reader (thanks to all of you BTW) of my little blog, I feature many of my Grandma's recipes.  Grandma's recipes represent love and comfort to my soul.  This recipe delivers nothing less than delicious, buttery comfort that feels like grandma's hug. 

Friday, August 17, 2012

Simple Chinese Beef and Broccoli with Garlic Sauce

One evening, I had leftover roast beef and some beautiful broccoli.  So what to make for dinner seemed obvious.  However, I've never seen or heard of anyone making Chinese Beef and Broccoli with cooked roast beef.  I've only seen it done with thinly-sliced steak.  But the baby was fussy and I had to get dinner on the table quickly, so I decided to view it as having one step in the recipe done (cooking the meat).

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Book Review: Beyond Bathtime

If there were ever a book that I want to go out and purchase a million copies of and pass out to every mother I know or run into, THIS IS THAT BOOK!!  Author Erin Davis is a mom juggling all the things that us moms juggle and struggles with all the things we struggle with as moms.  This book shows us a whole new perspective on the seemingly insignificant and endless tasks we have as mothers.  It reinvigorated me and gave me a whole new passion and mission in my role as a mom. 

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Healthy School Lunches: They Can Be Easy

I can't believe that summer vacation is already over and school is already here.  School starts tomorrow (Monday) for my son.  Here in the desert, the summer vacations are short and we don't seem to mind so much because summers are spent indoors here because of the heat.  However, it still seems to surprise me each year when school starts in the beginning of August.  And for a lot of us, this marks the beginning of the school lunch dilemma.  I'd like to share what I've done and some inspiration.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Preserving Kale

I've been getting a lot of kale in my farm baskets lately, and I'm running out of ways to use it before it goes bad.  I hate to see any food go to waste, let alone local organic produce.  I've tried to make kale chips, but I have to confess, I haven't been successful.  I've only succeeded in over-baking them and ending up with charred kale dust.  I love using kale in smoothies, but can't possibly use it all up in time and make smoothies my family will drink.  Kale has a strong taste in smoothies, so I can't use as much as I'd like.  And with kale being a fairly new ingredient in my kitchen, I haven't established my go-to recipes for it just yet. 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Homemade Dishwasher Soap

I know, there are a million posts and recipes for dishwasher detergent out there.  I'm certainly not the first to try it and write about it.  This is the common recipe.  Then what is different about this post? I made a small amount as opposed to a large amount.  Why? Because when I made larger batches, they would inevitably get moisture in them and turn to giant soap bricks inside the jar. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Cajun Sausage Frittata

The other night was one of those nights where dinnertime came and I realized that I didn't have the chicken I planned to serve defrosted, so I had to figure out something quick.  When this happens, I usually fall back on breakfast for dinner.  Luckily I had plenty of pastured eggs and veggies from my CSA.  Then my eyes found the package of nitrate-free cajun andouille sausage I picked up on sale.  Boy did I hit a home run with this nice little dish.  We all went back for seconds and didn't have a scrap leftover. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Book Review and Giveaway : Your Grocery Budget Toolbox

I have to say that I was super-excited when fellow blogger, Anne, asked me to review her new book, Your Grocery Budget Toolbox.  I have followed her blog, Authentic Simplicity for a while now and I always learn something valuable.  I really admire her balance between providing healthy meals to her family, food allergies, and a tight budget.  This same balance is reflected in Your Grocery Budget Toolbox. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Simple Salmon (My Favorite Preparation)

It's hard to believe that I only started liking salmon about 4 years ago.  I'm a Cod and Halibut kind of girl.  Salmon had too strong a flavor for my tastes.  But one summer, after reading all the health benefits of salmon, I was determined to make myself like this pink fish. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

I'm Baaack... From Vacation That is Part 2: Missouri

After visiting my family in Oregon, we got on another plane to Missouri to visit my husband's family.  We spent some time at a family reunion and then off to the house he grew up in, in Mack's Creek, MO.; population 235.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

I'm Baaaack!! From vacation that is...

If you've noticed that I haven't posted much in the past two weeks, first off, thank you so much for visiting my blog. I've been on our family's yearly vacation to visit family. We I thought for sure I would have plenty of opportunity to post pictures and little tidbits from my vacation as I went along, but alas, a lack of time and internet connections allowed me to only post once.  So to make up for it, I'm sharing my trip with you in two posts.  The first post will highlight our trip to Oregon to visit my family and the second will highlight our trip to Missouri to visit my husband's family. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Roasted Garlic Mesquite Sweet Potatoes

I didn't think you could eat sweet potatoes with the peel until a friend of mine made a recipe similar to this one for me to try.  Now, sweet potatoes don't seem like as much a pain to cook when I'm in a hurry.  This recipe was so simple, and versatile, I almost couldn't believe it was sweet potatoes I was preparing. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Delicious Salsa Verde

I love Salsa Verde.  It is my salsa of choice at any restaraunt with a salsa bar.  I have to admit, before I came to live in Arizona, I didn't know that salsa was anything other than red.  Boy, was I ever a poor, salsa -deprived girl.  Salsa comes in so many flavors and colors from corn salsas to fruit-based salsas, I love finding and trying new ones.  I'll never forget the first time I tried salsa verde.  My life was changed forever. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

No-Effort Toddler Toy Shelving

My Handsome Hubby decided that his home office was too hot to work in.  It is a small room with western-facing windows, which in the desert, equates to a homemade sauna.  We recently sold the table in chairs in our game room, so, being empty, he moved his home office there.  And as with anytime he moves the contents of his computer room, he re-arranges stuff.  When the dust settled, a lonely computer desk hutch was left.  Rather than let it toil away in the garage collecting dust and not adding to our lives, I decided to use it to solve a rather growing problem in my living room.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Roasted Butternut Squash Fries

Yep, I'm roasting vegetables again.  It's just my favorite way with veggies.  I found this great idea on Pinterest (go figure) and decided to give it a try.  It's a recipe by This Southern Mom Cooks and it came just in time since I had two butternut squash left from my previous two CSA baskets.  I adapted the recipe just a tad to use all natural ingredients (the original calls for cooking spray) and voila, roasted butternutty goodness in the form of fries. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Cheap and Easy Fruit Wash

I love grapes.  But since grapes are on the "Dirty Dozen" list of fruits and vegetables with the most pesticide residue, I try to only buy organic grapes.  This is a struggle for me sometimes.  The frugal side of me has a really hard time paying $3 a pound at the store when I can get the conventional ones for $1-$2 a pound and my inner-hippie cringes at the thought of poisoning my family with pesticides.  This week, they were on sale for $0.85 a pound.  I just couldn't resist! 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Roasted Nopales

Have I mentioned that I love my CSA?  I find it to be more necessary in the summer months where most farmer's markets are closed for the season because of the intense desert heat.  Things still grow out here in the summer, it's just not reasonable to hold an outdoor market when temperatures at 5am are in the 90's and get over 110 after 12pm.  Anyhow, I would like to highlight one of the new ingredients our farmers included this week in my CSA basket.  Nopales. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Homemade Foamy Soap

I can't believe that some things are so simple and easy.  My latest example is homemade foamy soap.  I'm a fan of the foamy soap because the kid in me really likes playing with bubbles and I kinda giggle inside when I pump bubbles into my hand from the soap dispenser instead of the typical liquid stuff.  It's the same part of me that just HAS to play with tape any time I see a tape dispenser.  I know, I'm a bit looney, but I like it that way.  Anyhow, here's how I discovered how amazingly simple homemade foamy soap is.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Adventures at Fenway Park...Orchard That Is...

No, I didn't visit Fenway Park the baseball stadium, I visited Fenway Park Orchards in Morristown, Arizona.  Allen and Carol Way, avid Red Sox fans, have owned the property for over 39 years and started an orchard here in the desert.  They greeted us when we arrived to pick fruit and showed us the best places to pick.  We missed the blackberries, but today the White Peaches and Anna Apples were ripe and ready for picking.  So, let the orchard adventures begin!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Simple Rosemary Chicken

When I made dinner the other night I realized that I tend to always fall back on the same recipe when I make chicken.  One, because its simple and quick; and two, because it's DELICIOUS!  For these two reasons, this is my absolute favorite way to prepare and enjoy chicken.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Sometimes, You Just Have to Let Someone Else Drive

Don't I look exhilarated in this photo?  Wind in my hair, water splashing my face, speeding through the water on a boat piloted by a family member.  In control of nothing, and loving it.  I have a confession to make: I'm a control-freak.  Here's another confession: I often lose control.  What a predicament huh?  If you've been following my posts regarding my weight-loss journey and my "Wagon" posts, you know that I've decided to create my own "wagon" so-to-speak.  What I've learned in doing this is that I'm not a wagon designer and I don't know how to drive one yet.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Elegant Pink and Crystal Baby Shower

Have I ever mentioned that I have the best friends?  I really do.  At any given time in my life, I can look back and see one or more friends that are amazing and whom I feel so blessed to have in my life.  I'm so grateful for social media and how easy it makes it to stay in touch and involved in the lives of all my friends, past and present.  I mention them now because over the weekend I hosted a beautiful baby shower for one of my dearest friends and I couldn't have done it without a very special group of ladies. 

Friday, June 1, 2012

Fermented Ginger Carrots

I finally did it.  I finally attempted and succeeded at fermenting vegetables (on purpose anyways).  In reading Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon and in my other research, I've decided that it would be in my family's best interest to include fermented vegetables into our diet.  I'm all about gradual change, so I'm taking the "it's a condiment/relish" approach for now.  My decision to make carrots was based on the remnants from last weeks CSA basket.  These were delicious! It has a sweet and tangy flavor and as an added bonus, it is chock-full of beneficial bacteria to aid in digestion. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day and Delicious Non-Traditional BBQ

This Memorial Day was pretty low-key, and that's the way I like things most of the time.  It was just me, my Handsome Hubby and our Nephew who is staying with us for a bit until he finds an apartment while going to school.  Our house is kind of like a boarding house sometimes.  It seems like more often than not, we have a guest.  I really enjoy this aspect of our home.  Anyways, back to our BBQ.  I picked up some wild-caught Alaskan halibut (my favorite fish) for an excellent price at Safeway and was dying to incorporate it into our BBQ.  Biggest obstacle: my Handsome Hubby hates halibut...

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Peppered Beef Shank in Red Wine : Slow Cooker-Style

Having bought a quarter of a cow from a local ranch, I've had to cook parts of a cow that I've never cooked before.  This has really been a lot of fun and it's brought some really interesting recipes to my table.  This week, I defrosted beef shanks and looked to the web to provide me a recipe for this new (to me) cut of beef. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Adventures in Paint: Cheap and Simple Home Decorating Part 2

Welcome to the second installment of my two-part series showing how I decorated my house on the cheap with paint.  If you missed Part 1 of this series, check it out HERE.  So many people I know, are afraid of paint.  I even used to be one of them.  But then it finally dawned on me: if I don't like the paint, I can always paint over it.  This was such a freeing revalation.  Here is how I decorated my first son's room.

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