Tuesday, May 31, 2011

My Moment

Things have been very hectic around here. With Luis in the home stretch, writing papers and preparing for finals, I have been pretty much going it alone. Therefore, my camera has been sitting on shelf collecting dust and no words have been begging to be written. Since we have been spending our time doing instead of documenting, I didn’t have a photo to share last Friday for This Moment. I was bummed, but did enjoy seeing everyone else’s photos.

Then on Friday afternoon my home was suddenly bursting with life! My son had asked if he could invite friends over for burgers. He was cooking for everyone so how could I refuse. I did the shopping in the morning, as it was my day off, and come 3:30pm we had full house…my son and his three friends, my daughter, my husband, my mom (who wasn’t about to miss out on the fun), and, of course, me. As the afternoon wore on my senses were assaulted by the sounds of food prep in the kitchen, my daughter’s giggles as she danced along with the Wii, the chatter and laughter of four teenagers, and the smells of burgers grilling, I realized this was my moment. In the middle of the chaos that accompanies feeding hungry teenagers and keeping the conversation appropriate for a seven year old and ensuring that there is enough peace for my husband to write, I was filled with an overwhelming feeling of happiness and an absolute certainty that all is as it should be…that there is no other place on earth I would rather be than right here, right now.

Linking (a little late) with SouleMama.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

What's Cookin': Easy Breezy Mac and Cheesy

Being a full-time working mom, I’m always looking for fast, easy, and healthy recipes for weekday cooking.  A few months ago I hit the jackpot when I found a fantastic mac and cheese recipe in my issue of Food and Wine.  I have made it several times and it’s always a hit…so thought I would share it here for any out there needing a good mac and cheese recipe. 

A disclaimer…this recipe is healthy in that uses all real food ingredients, but don’t expect low-fat or light.  I recommend getting all ingredients measured out and getting the pasta boiling before starting because it goes very quickly once you start the sauce.  I love this recipe because it’s basically fool proof.  I’m usually generous with the cheese and I often use medium cheddar instead of sharp for a milder flavor.  I also adjust the amount of smoked paprika…it is a very strong spice and Julian prefers less smoky and more cheesy.  So tweak to your heart’s content and happy eating!!

Stovetop Mac and Cheese (aka Easy Breezy Mac and Cheesy)
1 cup extra-sharp cheddar coarsely shredded
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 cups milk
1 cup fontina cheese coarsely shredded
½ cup marscapone
8 oz elbow macaroni

1. In a very large saucepan, melt the butter.
2. Whisk in the flour and paprika and cook over moderate heat until bubbling, about 2 minutes.
3. Add the milk and whisk until smooth. Cook over moderate heat, whisking constantly, until thick and creamy, about 5 minutes.
4. Stir in the remaining cheddar and the Fontina and cook over low heat until melted.
5. Off the heat, stir in the mascarpone and season with salt.
6. Meanwhile, cook the macaroni in a large pot of salted boiling water until al dente.
7. Drain and add to the cheese sauce. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until hot and bubbling, about 2 minutes.
8. Spoon the mac and cheese into bowls, top with the cheese crisps and serve.

Click here for the original recipe.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Sunday Blessings

Sunday was one of those days.
You know the days...
You don't want to clean another surface, launder another article of clothing, or cook another meal.
You just want to curl up with a good book and tune out the world.
However, given that Luis is in the home stretch with school and feeling very overwhelmed, I knew I couldn't have an entire "Me" day.

This Sunday, Bella and I did a little painting

and a little cutting

and hung some curtains

and created a sanctuary.

She had a great time playing with her doll

and dressing up

and having a tea party.

This smile was better than any book or any "Me" time I could have had!!

How was your weekend?

Linking with Amanda for Weekending.

Friday, May 20, 2011

This Moment

Joining SouleMama...
"{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember."

Cheating again this week.  A little piece of my soul...

Listen here.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

(Not Quite) Wordless Wednesday

It’s been quiet here lately.  I’ve been swamped by work.  See all the red.  Those are urgent emails and assignments.  Hoping things slow down soon.  Hoping…

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Food Troubles: Part Two

Remember my food obsession?  It has officially become a food dilemma.  Since March I have completely revamped (or tried to, anyway) the way our family eats.  I have been shopping regularly at the Farmer’s Market, I have practically eliminated all packaged foods, and I make from scratch home cooked meals an average of 5 days per week.  I have made my own almond milk and my own strawberry jelly.  A typical snack around here is apples with cheddar cheese cubes as opposed to packaged snacks.  I am buying free range eggs, free range chicken, and fair trade coffee.  I have done all this and yet I’m in a food PANIC!!

Why?  Because I don’t know what to eat!!  I have become hypersensitive about food!  I don’t trust labels that claim food is organic, natural, glutten free, whole grain, or farm fresh.  I mean…can Skippy peanut butter really be natural?  Can Fruit Loops really be whole grain?  I am not even reassured when I go to my local Farmer’s Market grocery.  Is all that packaged stuff really good for you just because they sell it at Trader Joes or Whole Foods?   The other day I was listening to NPR and they were talking about healthier potato chips.  HOW CAN THERE BE A HEALTHY POTATO CHIP?! 

I think back over the past couple of months and I am glad I made all these changes, but can this be sustained?  How much longer until I give in and buy frozen mashed potatoes so I can cut my kitchen time down during the work week?  It just seems to me that eating healthy shouldn’t have to be this hard.  Just eat real food right?  But what if it’s not organic or free range?  What if the cantaloupe comes from Guatemala?  I wish I could just walk into my local Sprouts and buy my groceries and KNOW that I’m being good to my body and the environment.

I am currently reading a book by James E. McWilliams called Just Food:  Where Locavores Get it Wrong and How We Can Truly Eat Responsible.  I just started it, but what I’ve read so far makes sense.  He talks about the branding of food…how industries have hijacked terms like organic to cash in on the food craze currently sweeping the nation…and to some degree it’s hard not to agree.  I wish I had a big back yard where I could grow my own fruits and vegetables or live by a farm where I could buy sustainable meat.  However, my choices are limited and I often feel like I’m fighting a losing battle.

So I am appealing to all you out there.  How do you make food choices for your family?  Do you sacrifice some things to attain others?  Is there a happy medium?

Friday, May 13, 2011

This Moment

Joining SouleMama...
"{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember."

I'm gonna cheat a little and offer up a few words this week.  Last Saturday Julian and I participated in the Revlon Run/Walk for Women in memory of my cousin, Lisette who passed away in February (see this post).  It was bittersweet...missing my cousin who was taken away far too young and humbled by all of the women who have braved and conquered this horrible disease.  The feeling of love...for my son who got up at 5:30am to do this with me, for my husband who donated the remainder of the money needed for me to reach my goal of $1000, for all of the people, the tens of thousands, who gathered this day to show their love and support for the surviving and the lost, and for my cousin who I think about everyday...was overwhelming.  A moment to savor and always remember...

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Yarn Along

So last week I came clean about my love for knitting and lack of skills…and I promised I would participate in Yarn Along today. So without further ado…

“Two of my favorite things are knitting and reading, and the evidence of this often shows up in my photographs. I love seeing what other people are knitting and reading as well. So, what are you knitting or crocheting right now? What are you reading?” Linking with Ginny

I have been knitting this scarf for my daughter for far too long. I don’t seem to have as much knitting time these days…or maybe I just don’t make the time…but I’m hoping to get this done before Fall. I made a similar scarf for myself and Bella loves it. It’s soft and fuzzy and fun. She is anxious for it to be finished…and so am I.

As for reading…I feel like I need to give a little background on this one. I LOVE to read!! Mostly I love to read romance. It defies all explanation, but it is my reality. I have been reading romance for 20 years. I own over 200 hundred books and have read twice as many. I started reading historicals exclusively, but these days enjoy contemporaries much more. I am picky about what I read, but in the end I’m looking for a good story with a happy ending. It is my guilty pleasure. I will also read “real” books from time-to-time, and I have only recently started reading more than one book at a time. I find I need a little romance fix in between the “real” stuff :)

So that being said…

I am currently reading E.B. White's Charlotte’s Web with Bella at bedtime. She is enjoying it and I’m enjoying watching her enjoy it,

I am perusing my new Food and Wine and Yoga Journal,

I am gaining knowledge from Just Food: Where Locavores Get it Wrong and How We Can Truly Eat Responsibly by James E. McWilliams,

I am feeding my soul with The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch, which I am reading on my Kindle,

And I am indulging in Susan Wigg’s Marrying Daisy Bellamy.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Sunday Blessings

On this special day just for mothers

I got two homemade cards from my children (the best kind, if you ask me)
I enjoyed some early morning reading time
I ate a delicious breakfast made by hubby
I started a 750 piece puzzle with Bella
I received lots of Mother’s Day wishes via text and Facebook
I sent lots of Mother’s Day wishes via text and Facebook
I called the most important mother’s in my life (Mom, Grandma, and my stepmom)
I didn’t wash dishes, cook, clean, or perform any of the plethora of tasks that usually suck up my time
I went on a shopping excursion with the family
I feasted on one of my favorite Mexican dishes cooked by hubby
I played Cranium with Luis and the kids
I laughed so hard I cried
I was peppered with lots of hugs, kisses, and I Love Yous
I savored every minute of every hour of my time with my family
I wondered why everyday can’t be Mother’s Day
I realized that maybe it could…all depends on how we choose to live it.

How was your Mother’s Day?

Linking with Amanda for weekending and Rachel for reality check.

Friday, May 6, 2011

This Moment...

Joining SouleMama...
"{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember."

Early morning time to myself...

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Almost a Knitter

About two years ago I was rummaging through the dollar bins at Target and found a pocket sized Knitting for Dummies book.  I had always been fascinated by people who could manipulate yarn and needles and create fabulous works of art.  I thought, well it can’t get any easier than Knitting for Dummies…so I bought the book, some yarn, and a pair of needles and got to work.
Casting on was no big deal, but knitting the first row was one of the most frustrating things I have ever done in my life.  I felt like…a dummy…and not even a very good one apparently, since this little book was telling me that even a dummy like me could knit!  After several hours of starting over many times, I abandoned the project, convinced I was way more than just a dummy.  However, the next morning, refreshed from a good night’s sleep, I picked up the needles and yarn again and viola!  It was like magic!  I knitted one row, then another and another.  Several days and many dropped stitches later I had knitted my first scarf!!  I felt so much satisfaction at having created something with my own two hands that I decided to knit a scarf for every important lady in my life. 

Thirteen scarves later I am still going strong.  I have not been able to move past scarves or a straight knit.  I try to make up for this by getting creative with my yarn.  I usually use yarn and ribbon together to give my scarves a look of complexity that my stitches lack.  I have to say, I have made some very pretty scarves, but I often wish I could move beyond a straight knit and/or a scarf.  I have a couple of books on knitting which teach other stitches, but they are complicated and intimidating.  I am a visual learner, so I gravitate towards books with lots of illustrations, but they just look like a big jumble of needles and yarn to me.  And the lingo!  It’s like I’m trying to read a foreign language!  I have considered classes, but they are either too far from where I live or offered during the weekday when I am at work.  I sometimes feel like I picked a hobby better suited for a stay at home mom, but I love the feeling of calmness that comes from knitting and the pride I feel when I finish a scarf.

Over the past weeks I have been watching what others in blogland have knitted and crocheted and I am amazed by the beautiful things that can be created with a bit of yarn.  I have contemplated a few times linking to Yarn Along and In My Basket (since I'm also a reader...more on this is a future post), but I feel like my straight knit scarves are just not worthy.  However, I’ve decided to go ahead and put myself out there next week.  Perhaps this will motivate me to make more of an effort to seek ways to improve my knitting.  If nothing else, I hope it will at least motivate me to knit faster.  So be warned….you will be seeing a lot of scarves here on Wednesdays.  Pretty scarves (I hope), but scarves nonetheless.  And I look forward to any suggestions or advice!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

A Walk Around the Neighborhood

The weather here has been kind of finicky lately…cold and rainy one day, then in the eighties the next.  Last Thursday we took advantage of a perfect evening to take a walk around the neighborhood.   We love taking family walks when the opportunity presents itself, and this was the first after several months of cold and rain. 

Bella took her scooter.  She loves to zip ahead, practicing her balance. 

The city put up this mural about a year or two ago.  It’s a beautiful way to spruce up the huge stone wall that wraps around this residential community and reminds us of our city’s rich history.

We saw lots of flowers on our trek…a sure sign that spring is in full swing.

Bella especially liked this one…a lone bloom amongst a plethora of flowering bushes.

Our walk would not have been complete without visiting Papa New Guinea, the community guinea pig. 

He belongs to a resident, but apparently he doesn’t like his cage and so they let him out on the grass to nibble.  The first time we saw him, a couple of weeks ago, we thought he was lost or abandoned.  We were prepared to rescue him on Easter, but we found out he does have a home, so now we just enjoy watching him roam about.

But the best part of our walk...

Spending time with my two most favorite people!