My Holiday To Do List

It really has been one busy fall for our family and for the first time in a while it  looks like it will calm down this holiday season. For one thing we are not traveling, we are having family and then friends coming over for Christmas and then for New Years. This is a first for us, because normally we do make a trip somewhere during this season. I am so looking forward to my kids Christmas break. I am craving some quality time with my family. In the craziness of this past fall I have really felt that I have been distracted and disconnected from them. I was just going through the motions and really not enjoying the moment, because I was anticipating the next thing in our busy agenda. Fun mommy is coming back  for the holidays and I really hope she over stays  her welcome. With all that being said here is a list of what I want to accomplish with my family and friends this holiday season.

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1) Play with my boys. I really want to keep the electronics at bay this break. I am not crazy we will all be connected, but I want to keep it to a minimum and this includes me as well. I am looking forward to extensive games of Monopoly, Clue, Nerf gun wars and even the possible jog around the neighborhood since both boys have had an increased interest in running. I feel like, it is these activities that make the memories that they will remember when they are older. We are due for some memories like these.

2) Try out some new recipes. Just from a quick search on Pinterest I have found a few new recipes that I do want to try out. Here are some of them:

Lemon Chicken Romano click here for recipe

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Snowman Pizza click here for recipe

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Rudolf Pancakes which are perfect for Christmas Morning!! Click here for recipe.

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Beef Tenderloin, believe it or not I have never roasted a whole beef tenderloin before. I am not sure if I will make it with this port sauce or just make chimichurri sauce. I will be making this along with some shrimp, asparagus and my mom’s special Christmas rice for our Christmas Eve dinner.  Click here for tenderloin recipe.

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3) I want to FLY!!! Our dear friends the Barsotti’s are coming to visit us to ring in the new year. They also have 2 kids around the same age as my boys. On one of the days they are here we are going to go to Defy Gravity. Defy Gravity is a trampoline sports arena, it is advertised as fun for the entire family.  I am pretty sure we are all going to have fun!!

4) Craft and Bake: I really want to make this wreath

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It looks so easy and it’s something my younger son can help me with. Click here for directions. I also want to bake cookies I am by no means a baker, but my youngest enjoys it. So I think this year we will make Santa some sugar cookies. Nothing crazy, but just something that we can do together.

5) Go to see some movies. We haven’t gone to the movies that much this fall, but I for sure would love to go see The Wolf of Wall Street, American Hustle, Anchorman 2 and so many others, but those 3 are ones I am willing to pay theatre prices for. My oldest wants to see The Hobbit and I am sure I will take them to see Frozen sooner than later.

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6) I want to be happy and merry! Most importantly I  just want be and enjoy the moment. School is out next Friday, presents are bought, the bulk of food will be bought next week, so there is no reason to just BE PRESENT and ENJOY!!

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Summer Kabobs

This past Saturday we had friends over for dinner. I decided to do something we hadn’t done in a while…kabobs! There was this great kabob restaurant we used to go to when we lived in College Station, TX. It inspired me to make them with Middle Eastern seasoning. I googled Middle Eastern kabobs and I used these 2 recipes…click here for chicken and here for beef.

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Both recipes said to marinate the chicken and beef on the skewers with veggies. I opted to marinated the beef and chicken in separate dishes. I seasoned the veggies with light salt and pepper and skewered them before grilling. I also added different veggies than the recipe called for. I used zucchini, squash, sweet red onion, sweet pepper, red pepper and tomatoes. All purchased at our local farmers market. I also used chicken breast instead of boneless thighs and grass-fed sirloin roast for the beef.

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The yogurt sauce in the beef kabob recipe is to die for! We used it to dip the meat in but also as a dip with pita chips. I added a little more garlic than the recipe called for. We paired the meal with a pearled cous cous, but you can also do a yellow rice as well.

Wishing you a wonderful week! xoxo

 

My Fav Things July 8-14

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I received a sample of Miss Jessie’s Jelly Soft Curls gel in my Birchbox last month. Over the past few years I have grown to embrace my curls, letting them loose more often (especially during the summer). Everyone’s curls are different and I normally don’t go the gel route; my curls are light and gel usually made them heavy and crunchy. Miss Jessie has changed that for me. This gel will leave your curls so light and shapely. I love it! To learn more about this product click here.

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The other day my husband brought these home from the grocery. I was at first skeptical. I love their other products (hot dogs and cold cuts), but every time I have bought a healthier version of chicken nuggets they don’t taste good, prompting a regrettable return  to the Yummy brand dino-shaped nuggets. I thought the Yummy brand was a healthier choice over Tysons and Perdue, but after reading this report, I am so glad I found the Applegate nuggets. The kids loved them! They are very tasty and have a lot of chicken meat. They really taste homemade. I have made homemade nuggets, but those have always been met with negative review from my boys.  During the summer, I feel like I am always in the kitchen making food. Weekday lunches have to be fast and easy, but somewhat nutritional. I urge you to change your home nuggets if you are buying the other crap (lets face it, its crap). If you aren’t making your own nuggets, give these a try. They are fantastic!

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Thank you to Vanessa for suggesting this show to us. During the summer, my hubby and I like to watch shows we didn’t discover in the regular season. I heard through the grape-vine that this show was great, so I am glad we have finally started to watch it. House of Cards is a political drama based off a BBC miniseries of the same name. Both are based off a novel by Michael Dobbs. House of Cards is set in modern-day Washington D.C. and follows the revenge path of scorned Congressman Frank Underwood, sublimely played by Kevin Spacey.  Along the way we meet his wife, Claire, played by Robin Penn Wright  who runs a non-profit; a young ambitious journalist Zoe, played by Kate Mara; and a down-on- his-luck Congressman Peter Russo, played by Corey Stoll. The acting is phenomenal. I encourage all of you who like political dramas to give this one a shot. You will not be surprised if you over stay your welcome in the House of Cards; you will leave wanting more! It is a Netflix original series, but I believe now you can get it on DVD. If you have Netflix streaming, you can access it with ease.

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I just love when you step out of your car when getting to the beach and getting that first whiff of sea salt air. I wish I could bottle that scent. This past Sunday my family spent a glorious day at Kure Beach in North Carolina. I would like to thank my friends (well, really they are like family) Vanessa and Matt and their families for opening up their beach house to us. There is nothing better than spending a day on the beach with loved ones, good food, drinks, and laughs.

This past week was a little hectic, so I am sorry I wasn’t able to post it on Friday. I hope you all have a great week! What some of your favorite things you have discovered recently?

My Favorite Things This Week 7/1-7/5

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I bought this sun cream in the fabulous Sephora Sun Safety Kit 2013 ( I am sorry, but I believe it has sold out; it quickly cleared the shelf.) I was wondering how I was going to get through all the enclosed products. I am trying one product at a time. I have been using this before I go outside for a prolong sun activity, such as the pool (I do wear a hat there), park, outdoor gatherings. I love love love it. Did I say that I love it! It is very creamy and light. I have found that a lot of facial sunscreen have a chalky texture to them sometimes and instead of moisturizing it immediately dries out my skin.  It is immediately absorbed by the skin. I love the light fragrance as well. It is a little reminder that you have it on. I have a few more facial sunscreens to try from the kit, but they really have big shoes to fill. Also, a lot goes a long way this might last through July. To learn more about this product click here.

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This summer I decided I was going to take a little break from cooking and doing some easier things for lunches and for dinners.  Welcome the art of making sub sandwiches at home! This is great, especially for spending the afternoon at pool. I take out all the fixin’s, and chop up the veggies on my big cutting board. Then everyone lines up and creates their own sandwich art. My favorite creation so far has been a garlic bologna, salami sandwich on a sesame seed Chicago roll with light Munster cheese, light mayo, spicy mustard, pickles, onions, lettuce, hot banana peppers, Aruba peppers, oregano, salt pepper and a dash of light Italian dressing. Not the healthiest choice, but damn it was soooo good.

monsters_university_2013-wideWe went and saw this last weekend with the boys and my bff Vanessa (Thank you to Matt and Vanessa for coming to visit last weekend!). The boys really enjoyed it.  I enjoyed it as well. If you were in a sorority or fraternity in college you will have extra chuckles as you can relate to a lot of the activity in the film.  The Scare Games reminded me of Greek Week or Derby Days.  This is a kid film that adults will throughly enjoy.

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Now that it is summer vacation, I decided to change my workout schedule around. The kids really don’t like going to the child care in the gym and with my oldest camp schedule getting to the gym in the morning would require rushing around. So I decided that at least for the first part of summer vacation I was going to take a break from my normal morning gym routine. So I have been running outside, doing Insanity and going to the gym on the weekends.  I ran a few times last week and an old injury started to flare up again. This week I decided to go to evening hot yoga classes. It has been so wonderful! It is a great way to end your day and you sleep like a baby. I am thankful my hubby has been supportive of this. I went three nights in a row and it was magical. The big plus is that my injury is healing and I can resume running soon.

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Finally, Happy Birthday USA! We might complain and belly ache all the time, but where else in the world can we have the freedoms we all enjoy? I hope you all had a happy 4th filled with love, laughter, fun and new memories!

10 year old Dance Party

Today is my oldest’s 10th birthday so I thought it would be appropriate to write about the awesome birthday party we gave him about a month ago.  A few months ago we decided to have a big class party for our son, especially since it is his 10th birthday. I asked him what he wanted to do. He said he wanted a dance party and that he wanted to invite the girls from his class as well. I totally thought we could have fun with it. Since his birthday falls in the summer, we decided to do it the Friday before school let out. It also worked because it was the week of their state test and we thought this was also a good way they could unwind and just let loose after 3 days of intense testing.

We first looked for an invitation. I wanted to find something unique and cool. I googled the phrase VIP party invitations. I found some cute ones on printvilla.com. Click here to view the one we chose. For a while we weren’t sure where we would have whether in our garage or in our house. After much deliberation we decided to do it in our great room. Since our floor plan in open with our kitchen and formal dining room, it was easy to just isolate that space. It was also plenty of room for 20 some 4th graders. Once we decided on the space, all the ideas for decorating came very easily. We decided to remove all our furniture in our great room except for the TV. We got black plastic tablecloths that we put all over the walls and windows in the great room, so it would look more like a “dance club”. We made a red carpet VIP area where I took pictures of the kids with my son as they arrived to the party. For the rest of the decorations we got everything in neon colors and we got a ton of confetti for the drink table and present table. We bought this really cool strobe light that really gave the dance club effect. It was on for the entire party.  We also got glow sticks for the kids to wear at the party. They could make them into necklaces or bracelets.

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IMG_2440 IMG_2443 IMG_2444 IMG_2445My main concern for a while was, “What are we going to do with this kids for 2 hours?!”. I made a fun playlist (all clean versions of course), but I knew they were not going to dance the entire 2 hours. We decided to purchase a karaoke machine (which our son decided to pay for with his own money, because he wanted to contribute to his party). I wasn’t sure whether the kids would want to sing, but I figure we could ask. That karaoke machine made the party. That is what they did for most of time. I had other games planned (limbo, stomp and pop, name that tune), but the kids were having so much fun playing and signing that we only played musical chairs. Let me tell you that even at 4th grade they had a lot of fun with it. Another thing the kids loved were the loose balloon and beach balls we put on the “dance floor”. I bought one of those mini helium tanks. Let me tell you it was so worth the $30 we could fill up about 36 balloons. So much cheaper than if I bought them at the party store. The kids had so much fun running around playing and kicking the balloons.  Thank you to my friend Meagan that came and helped blow up the balloons!

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All the hard work, time and money we put it was worth it when our son came up and told us it was the best party he could have ever had! His classmates also had a fantastic time. A lot of memories were made. I was really happy we did this for him!

10th birthday party play list

Harlem Shake-Bauer, Jai Ho, I Gotta Feeling-Blackeyed Peas, Runaway Baby-Bruno Mars, Sweet Nothing-Calvin Harris (feat. Florence Welch), Fight For Your Right -Beastie Boys, Call Me Baby-Carly Rae Jepsen, Forget You-Ceelo Green, Titanium-David Guetta&Sia, Good Feeling-Flo Rida, On The Floor (feat. Pitbull)-Jennifer Lopez, Don’t Stop Believin’-Journey, California Gurls-Katy Perry, Cha Cha Slide, Party Rock Anthem-LMFAO, Thrift Shop-Macklemore, Can’t Hold Us-Macklemore, ABC-Jackon 5, Thriller,Wanna Be Startin Something, P.Y.T, Don’t Stop’Till You Get Enough-Michael Jackson, What Makes You Beautiful-One Direction, Give Up The Funk-Parliment, Give Me Everything, Feel This Moment-Pitbull, Gangham Style-Psy, We Found Love-Rihanna, Don’t You Worry Child-Swedish House, I Knew You Were Trouble, We Are Never Getting Back-Taylor Swift, OMG-Usher, Kung Fu Fighting, Glad You Came-The Wanted, Scream and Shout,#thatPOWER-will.i.am, Runs House-Run DMC

Be Prepared

This past Thursday we had a pretty powerful storm that moved through our area.  Its strong winds knocked down trees and power lines, leaving us without power for 18 hours. We made the best of it. Luckily I had bought some Coleman lanterns. They really saved the night, along with the trusty crank weather radio.

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We spent the night reading, playing monopoly and card games. The kids had fun. This event did make me aware on how unprepared we were if something bigger had occurred ( I wouldn’t last long in a zombie apocalypse). I always have emergency water (not enough to last longer than a couple of days), lanterns, flash lights and a weather radio, but that’s it. Luckily all of our electronics were charged, but I did have to go back to the car to recharge my phone. If we had gone more than 18 hours without electricity we would have been in trouble. This made my husband and I to go out and add more to our emergency box.

Here is a list we made: Emergency Kit List

There are also a lot of alerts you can set up on your phone to get you the latest weather alerts in your area. I know most local tv station apps have them. My favorite is the Red Cross Tornado app.  It’s free!  Hope you all don’t experience any bad weather this summer, but if you do it is better to be overly prepared than under.

 

My First Roasted Leg of Lamb

First I hope all of you that celebrate Easter had a wonderful Easter weekend. We had our good friends over yesterday for our Easter meal. I decided to tackle a leg of lamb. I have grilled lamb chops before and a loin, but never a leg of lamb with (gasp) the bone.  I asked my friend Kate who was coming over if she could help me find a recipe she send me the recipe below from Gourmet magazine. I didn’t follow this exactly, but it was the inspiration for my dish. I also consulted other recipes for the cooking time. Click here to see the full size recipe.

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Roasted Leg of Lamb with Roasted Veggies (I apologize I didn’t take pictures. I had all intentions of doing so and I just got so involved with preparation I forgot.)

Ingredients (Serves 6-8 cooking time 1 1/2 hrs-2 hrs or until meat at the thickest part is at 145-150 degrees for medium rare): 5 1/2-6lb leg of lamb with bone, whole garlic head (peeled), a big handful of thyme, a big handful of rosemary, zest of one lemon, juice of 2 lemons, couple glugs of white wine vinegar and three glugs of olive oil (I used a flavored infused olive oil of roasted red onion and cilantro), 6-8 medium to small (quartered) Yukon gold potatoes, 4 medium tomatoes and one medium shallot, salt and pepper

Pre-heat oven to 425

1) Chop up garlic, thyme, and rosemary. (I used my hand-held chopper but I think next time I am going to use my food  processor.) Put in a medium-sized bowl. Add olive oil, white wine vinegar, lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste. Mix with hands. Let sit for little bit.

2) Cut tomatoes in half and peel and quarter potatoes. Peel and slice shallot very thinly.

3) Take out lamb pat it dry. I removed some of the fat on the non fatty side. Place in Pyrex dish and rub marinade all over it. Leave a couple spoonfuls of marinade in the bowl for veggies. (Now I let it sit for only about 10 min. If you would like to marinade it the night before or for a few hours it would make it better. I originally thought of only making a rub with the thyme and rosemary but at the last-minute I decided to make this particular marinade.)

4) Put all veggies in marinade and add salt and pepper and a little more olive oil. Put veggies in fridge.

5) Put lamb in roasting pan FAT SIDE UP. (I checked the lamb every 30 min to see if needed to raise the temperature. I originally had it on 400, but ended up raising it to 450 at one point. I think 425 should be ok from the beginning, but all ovens are different.) When you have 45-30 minutes left place veggies in roasting pan around lamb.

6) Lamb is ready when temperature at thickest part is 145-150 for medium rare (a pink middle). Let it rest for 10 minutes before carving.  If you would like you can also deglaze the pan on low heat on the stove top just add a little chicken stock if you would like to make a gravy to go along with it. I decided not to, but might do that the next time I make it.

I served the lamb and roasted veggies with a nice big green salad and grilled asparagus. For dessert my hubby made a delicious fruit salad and Kate made a carrot cake that was out of this world!

I hope you all have a great first week of April! Remember to tackle things head on and not to let tasks intimidate you!