January 28, 2015

Sharing is Caring


Soups tend to be my go-to supper to ward off the arctic chill. My family raves about my Taco Soup (adapted from Penzeys) so here you are:

Brown 1 lb ground beef or turkey then sprinkle in 1-3 tsp taco seasoning to taste (I use half packet and save the other half for next time). Add 1 can black beans, 1 can corn kernels, 1 can diced tomatoes and 1 jar salsa with desired heat level (mild for my peoples' wimpy palettes). I add water and beef bouillon, or prepared beef stock if on hand, to give desired soup consistency. Simmer for 20 minutes. Serve with cheese, sour cream and chips. Delicious and "soup"er easy! You could add chiles or other veggies too. This van also be made vegetarian without meat, double or triple the beans and vegetable stock.

If you're not watching House of Cards, drop everything NOW and watch it! Season 3 starts in less than a month.

I recently returned from a trip to San Diego / Coronado, California and loved every second of the beach, sun, history, beach, fresh seafood, beautiful sunsets and the beach.

Day 1 - arrival, lunch, sunset at The Del and the best shrimp cocktail I've ever had at Miguel's outdoor dining patio
Day 2 - whale / dolphin watching (I saw both!), exciting history lessons (second largest Navy base in U.S.) from former CIA operative (a spy!), saw the USS Midway (retired), the USS Ronald Reagan (active and docked while undergoing refurbish) and Navy Seals going out for sea exercises, chased the sunset down "The Strand" and dinner at Imperial Beach
Day 3 - Historic Balboa Park (I climbed the California Tower which was only open due to 100 year anniversary of Panama Canal opening), a massage and steak dinner
Day 4 - Enlightening presentation by THE Richard Dreyfuss on the importance of American Civics in elementary education (he has an official initiative), lunch in La Jolla, quality beach time, and dinner at the oldest restaurant in Old Town
Day 5 - 2 hour beach walk, tour of Point Loma, fish tacos at the pier and departure

You should totally go!

December 31, 2014

The Best Is Yet To Come

My last post of 2014. To be honest I'm not sad to see 2014 go ... it was a challenging year but not the worst on record. I guess I'm just ready to look ahead.

January brings a new twist on my job (all good) and a mini vacation may be in the cards. I start my second to last grad school course in February and Sassy turns 21. In March I'll celebrate my 28th wedding anniversary and April brings the promise of Spring as well as my birthday. Not much planned after that except finishing school and hopefully graduating in December, as well as Chunky turning 16 and driving (yikes). Looking forward to seeing where life leads.

My three resolutions are: practice more gratitude & compassion for growth, intentionally exercise for health, and see my BFF more frequently for my soul (road trips!).

Did you know Marsala is THE color for 2015? It's a reddish-brown, some call oxblood, and much more sophisticated than last year's Radiant Orchid. This is a good color for my skin tone and my favorite color is red ... looking forward to seeing more goodies available in this trendy yet timeless hue.

Here are a couple of my favorite things as we head into 2015 -

I bit the bullet and bought an Erin Condren life planner. Sort of wondering if I should have gotten a notebook instead but I'm committed now. There's a cult following for EC with hundreds of YouTube videos and blog references. I'm a planner by nature so this is right up my alley and I like the flexibility/customization - intending to use it as a planner/food diary/exercise log. We'll see where I end up. The inspirational quotes throughout are motivating and offer perspective on challenging days.

If you go to Outback restaurant you must order the Huckleberry Hooch. AMAZING! I was able to find the blackberry moonshine at my local liquor store and am drinking it at this very moment ... HAPPY new year to me!!! The recipe is equal parts moonshine, orange juice, cranberry juice and pineapple juice (or skip if two stores you sent kid to are out), plus muddled fruit (or frozen strawberries if that's all you have on hand). It's sweet, delicious and you won't know you're three sheets to the wind until you're too happy to care :) which I may or may not be right now

My new favorite pedi polish is OPI Bastille My Heart, a cranberry red (not quite Marsala). It's almost the same color as Bogota Blackberry which was my very first OPI polish ... I'm really good at branching out. NOT. I'm sure this is lovely on fingers as well.

A happy, healthy, successful and inspiring new year to all!!!

December 16, 2014

Merry Music

I believe I've mentioned my love of Christmas music here, here and here. I am a traditionalist for the most part and so the oldies by original artists tend to be my favorites. Here they all are for posterity:

White Christmas - Bing Crosby
No one does it better than Bing and according to Wikipedia/Guinness it's the best selling single of all time

It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Year - Andy Williams
Top 3 fave ... Andy's the original, but I will also accept Johnny Mathis or Amy Grant

Have a Holly Jolly Christmas - Burl Ives
From the 1964 Christmas special, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, enough said

Rockin Around the Christmas Tree - Brenda Lee
This is a much covered holiday ditty, but Brenda is the orginal and there is no substitute in my humble opinion

The Christmas Song - Nat King Cole
Nat first recorded in 1946, but it is the 1961 version with the iconic string entrance that has my heart

Santa Baby - Eartha Kitt
Another much covered song where the original recording artist has the definitive though LeeAnn Rimes' version is a distant seccond

Christmas Time Is Here - Vince Guaraldi Trio
I love Jazz so this is in my top 5 for sure ... originally from the 1965 TV special A Charlie Brown Christmas, the choir version is my personal favorite

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas - Judy Garland
From the movie "Meet Me In St. Louis"

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas - Perry Como or Johnny Mathis
This song always puts me in the holiday mood

Silver Bells - Anne Murray
I'm not sure why I like it ... I think my mom sung it when I was little, or was that "Till There Was You"? Either way 'bells' are involved.

Home for the Holidays - The Carpenters
No Christmas song playlist would be complete without The Carpenters

Winter Wonderland - Dean Martin or Amy Grant
Happy, cheerful and sweet

Sleigh Ride - Johnny Mathis or Amy Grant
Johnny and Amy give it the perfect light, not too kitschy vibe

Silent Night - Martina McBride or Celine Dion
As traditional as it gets and the more powerful the voice the better

All I Want for Christmas Is You - Mariah Carey
A modern classic ... I have the CD along with most of the free world. Did you know Mariah cowrote the song?!

Wintersong - Sarah McLachlan
I have the CD by the same name and it's awesome

Do You Hear What I Hear - Carrie Underwood
Did you know this was written during the Cuban Missile Crisis?!

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen - Barenaked Ladies with Sarah McLachlan
This is the only Christmas song permanently on my iPod ... one of my dearest friends LOVES it when I sing the round part aloud in the car during our carpools

Baby It's Cold Outside - Idina Menzel & Michael Buble or Dean Martin & Martina McBride
A new old favorite thanks to current version by Idina & Michael 

December 14, 2014

Creative Juices

If idle hands are the devil's work, then I am a saint! We all know that isn't true, but suffice to say I've been busy.

I made more cookies - PB Blossoms, Pecan Teacakes, Pistachio-Cranberry Sugar and Candy Cane Mint Blossoms. The Mint Blossoms were fussy - add the Kiss too soon and they melted A LOT, too late and they didn't stick. I found with both type of Blossoms that a great hack is Betty Crocker cookie mix - super easy and tastes great. I will never make dough from scratch for these again.

 
I also made those blasted Strawberry Christmas Tree Brownie Bites Sassy saw on Pinterest. Note Sassy was not involved ... strep throat last weekend so banned from the kitchen, studying for finals this week with a lovely disposition this week. The concept was simple - bake mini brownie bites, hull strawberries and "glue" upside down to brownies with frosting, then frost with star tip to look like a fir tree. I found a great hack here as well, Betty Crocker Cupcake Frosting in a can with assorted tips!

The first one ended up looking like a landscape bush vs. a Christmas Tree. I found the right technique was to twirl the brownie around while applying even pressure to the frosting, working my way up to the top. Small strawberries were required for this project so there were a lot of left over brownies - these were frosted with twirl technique and look darn cute as well.
 

In non-Betty related news, I also made Paperwhites in Mason Jars for coworker gifts. I'm calling this a huge success - simple, sweet and cheap. Wonder how many odd looks I'll get for carrying flowers in a wine bottle box into the office tomorrow?

December 10, 2014

Favorite Things

I am doing my best to get into the spirit of the season. The tree is up. Evergreen swags are hung outside. Pandora's Traditional Christmas channel is on rotation in the house and the local oldies channel is playing Christmas music for my daily commute. I did some baking last weekend ... peanut butter blossoms, biscotti, mini brownies (prep for overachieving Pinterest creation) and pumpkin cinnamon rolls. More next weekend ... sugar cookies, pb blossoms again to replace the ones we've already eaten and pistachio/cranberry white chocolate cookies. I'm 99% done with gift purchases but nothing wrapped. I have a mini Avon Advent Christmas tree on my work credenza that my mother bought me in 1996.. you take a little ornament out of a numbered drawer each day. Awww, the cuteness. I even thought far enough in advance to make a couple of paperwhites in mason jar gifts for coworkers. Still not feeling it though.

So I will share a few things I'm obsessed with at the moment.

The quest for a face cleanser that does it all. I cannot be bothered to use a cleanser and toner and eye makeup remover. I barely have patience for the cleanser and if it weren't for the fact that I'd have pimples galore I'd skip it altogether. I have been remiss in using my Clarisonic which I'm ashamed of - it really works and my skin thanks me every time I use it. I've been loyal to Philosophy's Purity cleanser for years but my last batch wasn't up to snuff ... not sure if they changed the formula or if I've changed. Ah, maturity you wicked bitch. So I tried Peter Thomas Roth'a anti-aging gel cleanser because I was channel surfing one day and QVC sucked me into its vortex. I liked it okay and was thinking of reordering until Nordstrom happened. My mom and I went shopping and each bought an eyeliner from separate lines. She got a gift with purchase from Lancome and re-gifted it to me. I tried the mini cleanser while on mini vacation at my BFFs (who might as well be mini she's gotten so tiny) and really liked it. It's one of those formulas that foams/mousses when mixed with water. It smells super clean and removes everything with one application. SCORE!

I'm a creature of routine and was in need of a do-it-all makeup kit. This one from Bobbi Brown fit the bill. It's a little pricey and no mascara included (that mini tube from Lancome is about to dry up), but Bobbi's foundation in Sand is my skin's love language and the Black Chocolate eye pencil may be the best I've ever had. The shadow colors probably don't look too exciting but they work well with my skin tone and the shimmers are fun to use for evening looks (at least on the two occasions I have had to go out after dark in the past few months).

I have a dirty little secret. Every once in a blue moon I buy something 'on speculation'. This means I probably do not intend to keep it yet enjoy using it right up to the return deadline. Please note that I don't do this with clothing - it either works or goes back immediately I never look back, darling! It distracts from the now. The vortex channel has an extended return policy during the holidays so ... say hello to my friend the Vitamix professional blender. If I only made Baked Potato Soup with this magical instrument I think it would be worth it. That soup is delish and ready in 15 minutes including the time it takes to bake potatoes in the microwave (whole potatoes go in, skin and all y'all) and fry up some onions!!! I'm going to try smoothies and chopping next.

I'll throw in a non-QVC reference for good measure. I bought this scarf in gray leopard for a little bit of nothing a couple of months ago to go with my short gray coat AND my long black down coat. It has totally saved me this winter - I look cute and stay warm. ARCTIC BONUS!

In closing, I love me some Burl Ives but his "southern" version of Santa Claus is Coming to Town ... "Santa Claus is a-comin to town" ... is making me want to step away from the Pandora.

October 26, 2014

Wino

I'm a white wine fan, Riesling or Moscato in particular, but this article may make me a convert to reds. And I need to up my game as I only drink maybe once every two weeks.

October 12, 2014

Big IS Beautiful

I stumbled upon this article recently. I stop short of saying I've been the subject of discrimination because I'm "big". I have no idea what it feels like to be humiliated and shamed for something I cannot change. I do believe society's judgment for size is harsh - you should be able to control your weight and it's your own fault you are considered less beautiful. I think money spends the same no matter what your size, skin color, ethnicity or orientation.