Friday, December 9, 2011

Happy/Sad November

So this was the first year that I did not get to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family. Mom & Dad were in Arizona with my grandparents and Kelly & David were also in Arizona but celebrating with David's family. Josh & I were unable to travel because Josh was scheduled to work the day before and the days after Thanksgiving. I thought I'd be fine...I'm 32 years old...we decided to have a pajama day and stay in and eat yummy roast chicken for dinner. But I am a sap...I love my family...and combined with dropping a can of cranberry sauce on the top of my left foot (huge bruise!) and jamming the toes of my right foot into the bathroom doorway (really hard!) I became a sobbing mess who missed my family and felt very alone.

We always celebrated big on Thanksgiving. It wasn't unusual to have over 20 to 30 guests at our holiday table. We used to have to use the large meeting room at our apartment complex to hold all the people who came to our Thankgiving dinner. But it's hard to get everyone together nowadays...we're all grown up and have multiple schedules and families to coordinate...and this year was just a lot more sad than I ever expected.

Through continued visits to the chiropractor, my back has been doing so much better this month and I celebrated with a desire to do more cooking. :) My niece Katelyn came over one evening and we had fun watching Dumbo, eating pizza and baking cookies. One night I tried to re-create a potato soup that my CBU roommate Angie once made...hers still has epic proportions in my mind, but the one I made turned out very yummy with shallots, onion, garlic and green onions mixed with the potato, beef broth and heavy cream. Katelyn & Jonathan came over another night for a sleepover and we made a delicious monkey bread the next morning which was sugary and delightful. And a few days later, I decided to try making a savory version of monkey bread with garlic, parmesan, basil and crushed red pepper flakes with a tasty dipping sauce of melted butter and chopped garlic.

Katelyn finished a many months long social studies session on world cultures and to celebrate Kelly planned a World Festival. We ate foods from the many countries including cheese from France, feta from Greece, sushi from Japan, orange chicken from China, Tabbouleh from the Middle East, etc. After our meal, we had a craft time and we made aboriginal drawings from Australia and Russian nesting doll paper dolls. It was a fun event and I'm glad we got to be a part of it.

This month I achieved my goal and read my 100th book this year - The Lady in the Palazzo: At Home in Umbria by Marlena de Blasi. I've read several other memoirs from her and really love her very descriptive writing style that perfectly captures the beauty of Italy and her love for its people, culture and food. If you love food or travel memoirs, I highly recommend reading her books. I also got a chance to watch the documentary called Babies which chronicles the lives of four babies over the course of their first year or so of life - from Namibia, Mongolia, Japan and San Francisco. It was fascinating and by far my favorites were the little boys from Namibia and Mongolia as the lifestyle of those countires varied the most from the United States. I highly recommend watching this if you get a chance.

My favorite part of November was the opportunity to go to Disneyland with Kelly & David and the kids. They are both now tall enough to ride all the rides at Disneyland and so for the first time they got to ride Star Tours (a little scary to them, but also fun) and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (they liked it, except for the dark parts). Katelyn also decided to try going on Matterhorn with her daddy and she ended saying that was her favorite ride of the day. We were only able to spend about 5 hours there, but it was a perfect Disney day - cool weather, short lines, yummy food and happy children.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Catching Up


~ Made semi-homemade ravioli with our friends Danielle & Andy: the ravioli was tasty, but they all got stuck together so it did not look very appealing. However, the mushroom cream sauce I made to top them was divine! (Recipe: )

~ Watched the film RENT (finally). While I did enjoy it for the most part, I really like La Boheme much better.

~ I finally got around to putting new photos in frames to hang around the house to replace out-dated ones and to show new family & friends.

~ I finished two new Robin Jones Gunn novels - Canary Island Song and Love Finds You in Sunset Beach. Both were wonderful and I was reminded once again of the way the author is able to weave beautiful spiritual truths into interesting stories in ways that hit you unexpectedly and definitely made me cry.


~ Prepared Nigella Lawson's easy Chocolate Croissants four different times - delicious!!! :) (Recipe: )

~ I read some varied books this month: two books about life in France, two modern adaptations of Sense & Sensibility and the book Working for the Windsors which inspired a recent rush of interest in the story of Edward and Wallis Simpson, the king who abdicated the throne for love.

~ I unfortunately injured myself while leaning down to pick up a napkin and caused sacroiliac joint inflammation (it's the joint that connects the pelvis to the spine). It has continued to cause pain, but with weekly visits to the chiropractor I've steadily gotten better.

~ Josh was able to visit his mom, brother & brother's family for one week and he had a wonderful time playing with our nieces and nephews, trying lots of new & unique restaurants and just spending time with his family.

Monday, September 19, 2011

September so far...

Josh got a job!!! :) That is the best news we received this month and I didn't want to wait to share it. He was hired last week to be a server at Olive Garden. He is in training now and is really enjoying it so far. This has truly been a blessing because not only does Josh love being a server - this job pays minimum wage, plus tips...and includes benefits! Which means that he can continue getting his prescription for the medicine he needs for his Restless Leg Syndrome. Praise the Lord!!!!

God truly provided for us in the past two months while Josh was out of work. We were able to meet all our financial needs and had enough for my birthday celebrations as well as some fun too. He had opportunity to do some projects around the house, to sleep in when he felt like it, and to spend more time with friends and family. While we had our dark days, we continued to feel God working in our life and we never lost sight that God was in control and taking care of us.

July/August Updates

Well, I didn't succeed in writing a blog post every month, but I'm not going to beat myself up about it. July & August were tough for a few reasons and I just didn't feel like blogging about them at the time. But here's a short recap so I can at least keep track.


  1. We made three kinds of ice cream - fresh peach (from our tree), fresh strawberry and creme brulee (from coffee creamer) - all were delicious.

  2. We had some friends over for brunch and tried a few new recipes - chocolate peanut butter coffeecake, Pioneer Woman bacon cheese biscuits, and an absolutely amazing fruit salad with mint sugar!

  3. I watched three films - The Godfather (finally!!), The Turning Point (lovely ballet) and Vanity Fair (a much more sympathetic treatment of Becky Sharp I thought).

  4. I read 8 books and the best one was The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams.

  5. Josh lost his job near the end of the month. It was a difficult situation, but God truly has been taking care of us.


  1. I tried some recipes that recreate North Woods Inn cabbage salad, blue cheese dressing and cheese bread. The cabbage was fabulous (!!!!!) but we loved all three recipes.

  2. Cooking Club began - our first session was at Sarah's and we had a great (and quick) time preparing chicken tacos and pico de gallo, enjoying fellowship and enjoying ice cream with delicious homemade chocolate sauce.

  3. I watched the French film I've Loved You So Long - it was sad, quiet and slow-paced, but I liked it and Kristin Scott Thomas was wonderful as always.

  4. I finally read the Hunger Games trilogy and loved them (can't wait for the film!); and I also read a few Walt Disney World memoirs that were interesting.

  5. My best friend ended our 17 year friendship which left me hurt, disappointed, angry and really sad. My heart breaks for her though and I hope that her future is blessed and at peace.

  6. I celebrated my birthday with a fabulous French dinner party hosted by my amazing and talented sister & brother-in-law - it was 5 courses of deliciousness with friends who I love dearly. I also got to celebrate with tickets to see Taylor Swift in concert (thanks Mom & Dad!) - she was awesome and it was a great evening.

We had our ups and downs these past few months, but God is still in control and He knows the plans He has for us. We are putting our trust in Him and that is the safest place to be.

Monday, July 11, 2011

June Favorites

Top Book I Read

1. Moral Disorder by Margaret Atwood

Top 2 Purchases

1. Purple Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker
2. Disneyland Annual Passes

Top 3 Ice Cream Recipes

1. Easy Chocolate
2. Georgia Peach (made with peaches from our backyard tree)
3. Vanilla

Top 4 Laughs

1. Playing Scattergories with Rob & Kaylean
2. Playing the Game of LIFE with Melissa, Alicia & Jessie
3. Decorating patriotic cookies with Becky & her boys
4. Coffee with Amanda & Anna - AFD, Chewbacca and more

Top 5 Foods I Didn't Cook

1. Salted Caramel frozen yogurt @ Pinkberry
2. Tomato Mozzarella Salad @ BJ's (two nights in a row)
3. Ground Beef Tacos @ Taco Bender
4. Enchilada & Carne Asada lunch @ Rancho del Zocalo
5. Filet Mignon & Braised Short Ribs @ Blue Bayou

Top 6 Moments

1. Shopping at Sur la Table with my sister
2. Danielle & Andy's wedding
3. Katelyn's kindergarten graduation
4. Disneyland vacation with Mitchell's and Pofahl's
5. Winning a guacamole-making contest in Downtown Disney
6. Riding the new Star Tours 3 times

Top 7 Foods I Made

1. Tomato Mozzarella Salad
2. Banana Nut Bread with Streusel Topping
3. Molten Chocolate Peanut Butter Cakes w/homemade vanilla ice cream
4. Italian Fondue anniversary dinner
5. Salsa Pasta Salad for Jason & Anna's housewarming
6. Creamy Cucumber Salad
7. Award-winning Guacamole w/Feta Cheese & Lemon

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Pictures of May

For the month of May I've decided to use more pictures and less words...let me know what you think. :)

Near the end of May, we were able to join Josh's sister-in-law, our niece and one of our nephews at Casey's Cupcakes for a snack and visit while they were in town. I enjoyed a Coconut Cupcake and Josh had his usual Carrot Cake Cupcake. They were delicious as always, as was the time spent with faraway family.

Artistically, this month I was able to help paint the backdrop for our church's VBS program this coming June. I had so much fun painting a forest scene with my friend Mandy. We have complimentary paint styles and I look forward to seeing how our beautiful backdrop comes together and blesses the kids, parents and helpers of this year's VBS program. We're praying that lives will be touched by the power and love of God.

There are lots of films coming out this summer that I want to see, and we got to see three of them in the month of May. We just saw Pirates a few days ago on a date night with my parents. We all enjoyed it a lot and look forward to the possibility of another one in the future. Thor was a fun date night with our friends Danielle and Andy. The movie was okay, probably better if you are familiar with Norse mythology or comic books, but the actor who played Thor was pretty handsome. :) Josh & I saw Fast Five for a second time and it was an even better audience than in Vegas on opening day - lots of cheering and clapping and huge gasps of surprise at the end of the credits. It was awesome...and on a geeky note, I am one of the 25 million fans of Vin Diesel on Facebook and I posted a comment about the great audience at the movie and Vin Diesel "liked" it!!!! I know he really reads all the comments and moderates his own page...and out of over 12, 000 comments on that photo he chose to "like" mine! I willingly admit I was THRILLED to say the least... :)

I finished reading Vanity Fair - it only took about 5 months through It was pretty interesting, not a lot of boring bits and I'm really interested to see how the film version reflects the story. The rest of May's reading time has been gobbled up by re-reading the Christy Miller, Sierra Jensen, Christy & Todd: College Years, and Katie Weldon series' by Robin Jones Gunn. These are wonderful Christian books that I have read many times and just absolutely adore them. It's neat to read them again as an adult and see the different insights that come, but most important are the constant reminders to build a deep relationship with God. I needed the comfort of these books this month - they're like comfort food for my brain.

Three delicious recipes this month:

  • Orzo salad - For my sister's birthday we had tea at the Huntington and they had a delicious orzo salad as one of the options in the buffet. I decided to make a similar one for a library potluck using orzo, diced tomato, basil, shallots, feta cheese and red wine vinaigrette - it was a big hit and definitely something I'd make again.

  • Mini carrot cake muffins - These were for a Pampered Chef party I hosted and I didn't read the directions very carefully so they turned out to be a little bit Pampered Chef and a little bit me. They were a bit dry, but delicious and the cream cheese frosting was yummy.

  • Knock-You-Naked-Brownies - this is a Pioneer Woman recipe and it was AMAZING! A bit time-consuming, definitely messy with caramel, rich brownie and powdered sugar on top, but definitely a repeat for sure!

I finally attended a Faculty/Staff Dinner at CBU. I figured since it has been 10 years since I started working in the library full time and I would be getting a pin that I should go. I asked Kelly & David to go as well and we enjoyed dressing up and the yummy meal prepared. My favorite parts of the meal were the Caprese Salad starter, the breadsticks and the Tiramisu dessert.

Our Palmer cousins moved to Virginia - we are sad and will miss them, but it is a good job and decision for their family. We had a goodbye BBQ and enjoyed the family time to play, talk, laugh and take lots of photos. They may be far away in distance, but they are always close in our hearts.

We had two weddings to attend in May, and in the first Katelyn was a flower girl. She looked sooooo pretty and loved being a flower girl. Her favorite part seemed to be dancing all night with all the bridesmaids and groomsmen. In fact, it now appears that she thinks all bridal parties will dance with her at weddings and no one else will do - thankfully there was a kind bridesmaid at the next wedding we attended who was willing to dance with her. This wedding was also my sister's first attempt at catering. She worked very hard with a great crew and provided a delicious and well-timed meal that everyone raved about. Kim & Mac's wedding was held at our church and it was a wonderful event. The weather was perfect, the bride looked lovely, the food was delicious, the dancing was fun and our tablemates - Alex & Morganne and the Sanchez family - were so much fun.

The second wedding was for Alex & Morganne and it was lovely. Held at the Burrage Mansion in Redlands and officiated by our old pastor it was a wonderful God-filled ceremony that was a joy to attend. We had some bad luck at arrival when our keys accidentally got locked inside our running car at the valet - thankfully AAA was called and within 1/2 hour the keys were out and the car safely parked. The reception featured delicious food, a lovely outdoor setting, lots of fun singing and dancing, and a table full of wonderful friends from church. There was even s'more fixings and an open firepit!

My sister Kelly celebrated her 30th birthday this month and decided to have her party at the Huntington ( which offers a tea room in their Rose Garden. She invited several of her close friends and we gathered together to celebrate her birthday with tea, scones, assorted salads and sandwiches, delicious desserts, and walks through the beautiful gardens. She had a wonderful day and felt loved - just as she should!

My niece Katelyn has been taking ballet lessons and had her first recital this month. Her class performed an excerpt from Swan Lake and they did so well. She was wonderful - remembered all her steps, didn't get nervous or stage fright, and was thrilled to receive flowers from her parents, grandparents and TeeTee & Uncle! Due to limited tickets only Kelly, Mom, Carla (David's mom) and I were able to attend, but we took photos and video and met the rest of the family at Jose's after to celebrate. Katelyn was greeted with applause from Dad, Uncle & Jonathan and a large group sitting nearby joined in and even asked her to perfom her piece for them. She happily obliged and they clapped again as did all of us. What a cutie!

April update

April was a good month with lots of family time and the celebration of Easter. This year I was hosting Easter dinner and decided to go with a Greek theme since Easter is a very big holiday for their culture. I did some research about the Greek traditions and meanings and found it very interesting. What I found most fascinating was the description of their midnight service on Saturday night - beginning in darkness and silence and then as midnight arrives the bringing of light and passing it from candle to candle in celebration of Christ being risen. It made me want to experience it and so I found information about a local Greek Orthodox church in Riverside and their midnight service.

Josh, Kelly & I attended and found it to a very popular service and quite crowded. All the lights inside and outside the church were turned off and there was a man chanting in Greek from the Bible (we assumed). Beginning around 11:30pm, there was singing/chanting from both men and women from opposite sides of the sanctuary. It was pretty, but mostly in Greek so impossible to understand. At midnight, the priest came from behind a curtain with the "eternal flame" representing the risen Christ and he slowly lit the candles of those in the front of the church. One by one, the light was passed from candle to candle throughout the church and then the priest led everyone down the center aisle and out the front door of the church. We walked around the building slowly while people sang softly and then back to stand outside the front door. There was more talking in Greek and pounding on the front door before it was finally opened and the lights were all turned on and everyone went back inside. Although the service would continue, we chose to leave at this point since we were already outside and it would not be disruptive (others left at this time as well).

Ultimately, I am glad that we attended and the lighting of the candles and walk around the building were just as lovely as I imagined. It is amazing how much light comes simply from candles in a dark room and it was a poignant reminder of how we are to be a light to a dark world. We often think that our little light can't make much difference, but it truly can even when we never know how. How amazing God is. However, due to our inability to understand Greek and the very formal nature of the service we found it somewhat dry. It was a neat experience and I'm glad we attended part of it.

Easter dinner the next day was a feast of grilled lemon chicken, beef and vegetable kabobs, greek salad, roasted lemon potatoes, assorted hummus, tzadziki, pita, olives and lemonade to drink. Katelyn and I had made some Greek Easter cookies earlier in the week which were slightly sweet with a hint of orange flavor. They were a nice end to our delicious dinner which was shared by our family as well as a coworker of Josh's and her siblings. We also had a small Easter egg hunt for Katelyn & Jonathan and they had fun finding the eggs and then opening them for their treasures - bouncy balls, stickers, socks, and some candy as well. :)

Josh & I made plans to have a date with Katelyn & Jonathan this month. The Thursday before Easter, Katelyn & I had our date which included lunch at Weinerschnitzel, baking Easter cookies, dying Easter eggs (a first for both of us and lots of fun), and playing UNO. The following day, Josh had a date with Jonathan involving lunch at McDonalds and a visit to the lake where they played on the playground, tried to feed the ducks and walked around. We all had a lot of fun and hopefully in a few weeks we will do it again, this time Katelyn will go out with Josh and Jonathan will be with me.

I watched a lot of films this month: Age of Innocence (similar to the book and well cast), Hamlet - the Ethan Hawke modern version (dark, but things made a lot more sense in the modern setting), Scotland, PA - a modern version of MacBeth set in the 70's (a little dark but funny and also well cast), Mildred Pierce (Joan Crawford was GORGEOUS and the story was really interesting. I wanted to see it because a new miniseries version with Kate Winslet just came out and I recorded it and hope to watch it soon), Temple Grandin (a wonderful true story about triumphing over challenges) and The Apostle (poignant picture of our sinful humanity but how God still loves us and can show such grace in spite of our weakness).

This month I had a cold and felt miserable for a week or so. Got over that and then had a weird dizzy/light-headed/weird day when I needed Josh to take off work to come pick me up from work. Thankfully it went away by the evening, but it was weird (and no I'm not pregnant). We had a super fun day with cousins playing at a playground near our house where we all had lots of fun and Kelly & I even joined the kids on the slides. We all attempted going down on our stomachs and I ended up with a huge plastic burn on my elbow - but it was fun! :) We went to the Farmer's Market three times this month and twice followed it with lunch at the Bella Trattoria at the Mission Inn - beautiful outdoor patio seating, delicious food and the second best vanilla bean creme brulee I've ever tasted! We had dinner with friends from church, our friend Robin (who we hadn't seen in way too long) and a lovely spontaneous dinner & conversation at IHOP with Josh's brother-in-law Jim who was in town from Louisiana (he's a truck driver).

The month ended with a trip to Las Vegas for the wedding of Josh's cousin Cassie. We had gotten a great deal on the room through Josh's work and ended up loving the MGM Signature which is a non-smoking, casino-free timeshare-like resort. The room was spacious and new with a huge bathtub and shower, kitchenette with stove-top, microwave, fridge and sink, comfy king-size bed and a great view of the pools part of the Strip. Friday night we went to see the new film Fast Five since it was opening day and we love these movies. It was a great film with an interesting plot and amazing surprise after the credits. We followed that with dinner at Outback (one of our all-time favorites) and a trip to the giant M&M store. We had fun making customized M&M's for our friends Danielle & Andy who are getting married in June and taking pictures. Saturday we relaxed in the room for most of the day before getting dressed up for the wedding. Transportation was provided to and from the event, so we ended up not driving our car all weekend which was nice. The wedding was lovely with lots of fun things we'd never seen at weddings before. Josh really enjoyed spending time with his cousins Scott, Kelly & Cassie and was inspired to keep in closer contact with them and make an effort to get together more often. Cassie was a beautiful bride and it was obvious that she & her husband Eric are very happy...we were glad to have the opportunity to be there to celebrate with them. Sunday we slept in before checking out and heading to the Ethel M chocolate factory for some delicious toffee and chocolates followed by lunch at Fatburger. On the way home, we stopped in Baker at the Alien Fresh Jerky store to look around, try some tasty jerky, and buy a variety of flavors as well as some cool root beers as a birthday gift for my brother-in-law David. It was a great weekend.

To end this long post, I read 7 books this month but my favorite was Love, Otto by Cara Wilson. It was a true story detailing the friendship through letters between a young girl (the author) and Anne Frank's father Otto. Their written friendship lasted decades and they were able to meet in person as well. It was a lovely book.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Time MARCHes on...

So my title might be a little silly, but I just didn't feel like making it March Update. :) This was a good month with lots of time spent with good friends, many new recipes and other than twinges of pain now and then from extended standing no sciatic pain. Praise the Lord! We did our taxes this month and while I still trust and believe that God is in control, we were a bit tested when we realized that not only would we not be getting any money back, we actually owe a quite significant sum. There was some crying and reorganizing of finances and rescheduling of plans. The biggest issue was that we just won't be able to have the finances or the time (due to all my time off for sciatica) to take our planned trip to see Josh's family. We were quite sad about this as it had been something we looked forward to, but it won't be able to happen at this point. However, Josh's brother was able to visit while in CA for a conference and we truly enjoyed the opportunity to spend an evening with him - eating at Claim Jumper and Cherry on Top and driving around town looking at houses. The conversation was really great and I know Josh especially loved seeing his brother even for the short amount of time. Hopefully, Josh will be able to take a trip out to visit his mom later this year, though it may not be possible for me to join him. We'll have to see what our finances and vacation time looks like this summer or later. We celebrated Josh's birthday with a few fun things. The family went to lunch at his favorite taco place Taco Bender and we all enjoyed the delicious tacos, spicy hot sauce and crushed ice! He was able to take his actual birthday off from work and chose to make his own birthday dinner which was full of family favorites - tacos, chili relleno casserole, ortega rice and banana split cake. He was happily surprised to find that our close friends had finished paying off a 20-volume series of history books he had been making payments on for several months. He also received an electric screwdriver which he's been wanting, several Disney films and an updated DC Comics encyclopedia and a Star Wars encyclopedia. This month also included my best friends's birthday and I was thrilled to finally be able to give her the present I had made in February - a photo book from Snapfish which included photos of us from the beginnings of our friendship to now, scanned pictures of old notes from high school, letters and cards through the years and many quotes and stories of our friendship. She loved the book and we had a wonderful evening celebrating that included a fun art project. I had read about the idea of making a vision board, like a collage, that has words and images that are meaningful to you torn out of magazines and pasted onto 16 x 20 stretched canvases. We spent several hours on this project and ended up with very personal artwork that was a lot of fun and inspirational for both of us. We had the opportunity to see what it would be like to add a dog to our home when my parents went out of town for a week and we decided to keep their dog Belle at our house instead of just checking on her twice a day at their house. Belle is about 11 years old, a Jack Russel terrier mix and very sweet. She's already used to cats since my parents also have 2 cats, so she wasn't very disturbed by our three cats. However, our cats HATED her! None of them ever really adjusted to her - Cyrano and Talia basically hid upstairs most of the week and would hiss and puff up anytime they ran into Belle. Marilyn mostly ignored Belle and even sat on my lap to sleep in the evenings even though Belle was usually sleeping next to me on the couch - I think her lack of hearing helped her to be less intimidated. Belle did great all week and though it was obvious she missed home, she seemed comfortable with us and never had any accidents or problems. I'm not sure we'd add a dog of our own anytime soon since the cats are still adjusting to her being gone but at least we know it would work out fairly well. :) I did a LOT of cooking this month and tried many new recipes. My cousin had posted a recipe for Jacques Torres' chocolate chip cookies that uses dark chocolate and adds a hit of sea salt on the top and I'd been wanting to try it for quite awhile, but you have to let the batter chill overnight and I wanted to get this special 5 salt set from Cost Plus that I've been eyeing for months. I mixed up the batch one Friday evening and made myself wait until the next afternoon before baking up 2 dozen - 1 tray with French Fleur de Sel and 1 tray with Australian Murray River pink sea salt. The cookies were amazing and surprisingly I loved the Ausstralian salt topped cookies better which I think was due to the light flaky nature of the salt. The remaining batter was baked up on Sunday using all pink salt and they were a big hit with Josh and some of my coworkers. For St. Patrick's Day I wanted to make something Irish-like and found a recipe for Guinness Onion Soup with Cheddar toasts by Michael Chiarello. While I followed the basic recipe for the soup, I decided to adjust the toasts by adding a smear of Irish herb butter and thinly sliced Corned beef along with the Irish cheddar before broiling them open-faced. It was a quite tasty dinner and something I'd probably make again. Melissa d'Arabian has quickly become one of my all-time favorite chefs on Food Network since her food is fairly simple, French-inspired and always delicious. I tried several of her recipes and almost all were a big hit. An super easy recipe was for Garlic Spaghetti and Josh and I both really loved this vegetarian and delicious dinner. When a former student worker came to visit for dinner, I made her Mustard Chicken with Noodles and it was so delicious and made plenty for our meal as well as leftovers for three. I also served her Roast Carrots and Radishes and while I found the carrots perfectly delicious, none of us were fans of the taste of roasted radish. But it was something to try, and now we know we just like them raw and salted on buttered bread! :) I've been trying to read more this month and read seven books including Pioneer Woman's new love story Black Heels to Tractor Wheels which was great, a Wuthering Heights inspired novel called Here on Earth which I liked a lot though I disagreed with the interpretation of Heathcliff's character, and I started reading Francine River's series called Lineage of Grace which tells the story of the five women listed in the the geneaology of Christ and it has been wonderful so far. I also was able to watch the film version of Phantom of the Opera and it was really great and the music is still in my head weeks after watching.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

February update

Thankfully, February brought slow improvement and eventual healing from the awful sciatic pain in my left leg. Due to a great massage and continued physical therapy, by mid-month I had no more pain beyond occasional twinges when standing too long. Praise the Lord! My joy in feeling better was sadly overshadowed by getting sick for over a week with an upper respiratory infection, but with antibiotics and rest I was back to normal within a week.

I had the opportunity to cook quite a lot this month, including a cooking lesson with a dear friend and a baking day with my best friend. The cooking lesson included making a lunch of poached chicken and vegetables for lunch with molten chocolate cake for dessert, going over a few additional recipes and time to chat about spices, basic cooking skills and the proper peeling of a pommelo. She also brought me a huge bag of delicious oranges (made AMAZING fresh OJ!), pink lemons and pommelos from their backyard citrus trees. Baking day is a fun tradition with my best friend that usually occurs around Christmas time, but due to work issues and travel, happened this month. We made an absolutely yummy Pumpkin Walnut Cake with homemade whipped cream. For lunch I made quick crocque monsieur sandwiches based on a recipe from Melissa d'Arabian and they were sooooo good! It was a great opportunity for best friend time and I'm glad we could carry on our tradition of baking together at least once a year.

There were several other delicious new recipes this month as well - a delicious buffalo chicken dip for Super Bowl Sunday, a vegan chocolate cake with chocolate tangerine frosting that I made for some dear friends as a Valentine's day surprise, and an amazing recipe for Barefoot Contessa's Lemon Chicken with Croutons. It was a simple roast chicken with lemons over a bed of onions which carmelized deliciously - so deliciously that friends who came over loved them even though they HATE onions! :) The croutons are freshly made and served with the chicken with pan drippings over them to soften....yummy! That night I also made an Aarti Sequeira recipe - Moroccan Carrot Salad with Carmelized Lemon. Ultimately, I really did not like it at all (cinnamon/ginger flavor of the dressing is not my taste), but thankfully my friends LOVED it and had seconds and happily took home all the leftovers. :)

Artistically, I didn't do much myself, but I was finally able to give my painting of Cayucos to my good friend Jeff and he really liked it. I also had the opportunity to do school with my niece Katelyn and one of the things we did that day was her Art & the Bible lesson which involved drawing. With some direction from me, she was able to draw a camel, donkey, and goat surprisingly well. We also learned about the color wheel, warm and cool colors, and what happens when you mix colors together. It was a wonderful opportunity to learn with her and remind me how much I love art.

I'm currently in the middle of about 4 or 5 books, but am most obsessed with Pioneer Woman's Black heels to tractor wheels which details her falling in love with her husband Marlboro Man. I love her writing style and this book is great so far. So far this year, I've read 12 books and considering my goal of 100 books by the end of the year I need to start reading more! :) In February, I read 5 books and of those my favorite was a book called Split: a memoir of divorce by Suzanne Finnamore. It was sad, but very honest. In January, I read 6 books and my favorite was The Help by Kathryn Stockett which was amazing and I can't wait to see the film version.

I watched a lot of movies this month, both at home through rentals and at the theater. I was able to rent and watch the film version of the book The Virgin Suicides - it was a sad book and the film was a decent interpretation. It's not a film I would want to see again, or really recommend, but I'm glad to have seen it. We also rented the new version of Robin Hood which I was initially against seeing since I truly dislike Russell Crowe. But I had heard it was really good, and it was something we could agree on renting. I have to say that it was a wonderful film - a very different interpretation of the Robin Hood story, but it was very good and the relationship between Russell Crowe's Hood and Cate Blanchett's Marian is just lovely. I won't say that this changed my opinion of him, but he was great in this film. Josh & I celebrated our nine year anniversary of the day we met with a movie day. Using 3 gift cards, discounted movie tickets and one free ticket we were able to see 4 movies (Unknown, Hall Pass, Gnomeo & Juliet and No Strings Attached) for no money out of pocket. This month we also saw The King's Speech which was incredible and even though Josh initially thought it sounded boring and didn't want to see it, he ended up loving it and we both agreed that it definitely deserved all the Oscars it won.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

January update

January was full of lots of time off due to increasingly worse sciatica pain. It started the first week with pain the the back of my left thigh, went away for a week or so, and then came back with a full fledged lower back all the way down the left leg vengeance. :( Thankfully rest, alternating heat & ice, physical therapy and prayer has done wonders. While I am not pain free yet, I seem to be on my way with less pain each day and more mobility as well.

For my books goals, I additionally decided to set a goal of reading 100 books this year. This was inspired by and I figured since I had read 73 books last year that 100 was a reasonable goal. So far, I have finished reading Brave New World (very disturbing, but also amazingly modern considering it was written so long ago), I am beginning book 4 of the Anne of Green Gables series, and have started slowly reading Vanity Fair through

Due to cooking much less because of pain when standing, I haven't been able to try as many new recipes as I would have liked. I had intended to try my hand at Indian food last weekend, but made due with pizza. I will try again once better though. :) I did try a new recipe called Green Chile Roll-ups at my Princess House party - it's quite simple, but was a big hit.

4 oz. (1/2 of 8-oz. pkg.) PHILADELPHIA Neufchatel Cheese, softened
2 Tbsp. chopped green chiles
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
4 whole wheat tortillas (6 inch)
1/2 cup finely chopped red peppers
1/2 cup KRAFT Mexican Style 2% Milk Finely Shredded Four Cheese

MIX Neufchatel, chiles and cumin; spread onto tortillas. Top with remaining ingredients.
ROLL up tortillas tightly. Cut each crosswise into 5 slices.

I also created a new recipe based on something Josh's grandma had made for us once that I loved. Simply chicken, potato and carrot poached in chicken broth in the oven - but in my mind it was the most delicious thing ever! I've wanted to recreate it for a long time and finally decided to a few weeks ago. Both Josh & I loved it so much we had it twice in one week! I added a few ingredients and it is yummy!

Poached Chicken & Veggies in Garlic Lemon Broth

2 frozen chicken breasts
4 medium potatoes, peeled & quartered
4 carrots, peeled & quartered
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1/3 sticks salted butter, sliced
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 can chicken broth
Dash of pepper

Preheat oven to 375

Pour lemon juice and chicken broth into a 13x9 baking dish. Add chopped garlic and stir around. Add chicken, flipping over once so that liquid gets on both sides. Add veggies. Place slices of butter all over veggies and chicken and then add fresh ground pepper. Place in oven and cook for 25 minutes. Flip chicken breasts and cook another 25 minutes. Flip chicken breasts again and check veggies to see if tender. If not done, cook another 20 minutes. Serve in pasta bowls with liquid over chicken and veggies – DELICIOUS!

This month I also continued a tradition of watching the film version of classic literature I've finished reading. I read Anna Karenina last year and finally watched the Russian version this weekend. It covered the main drama and conveniently cut out all the boring (to me) descriptions of farming, Russian politics, etc. I did this last year after reading Wuthering Heights and rewatching my favorite interpretation of that film starring Ralph Fiennes and Juliette Binoche. Upon completing Vanity Fair I will likely watch the Reese Witherspoon version. This reminds me that I need to watch the Michelle Pfeiffer version of The Age of Innocence since I read that book last year as well.

I also decided to embark of a film studies class of sorts by watching some of the films that caught my eye from the Film Studies Reserve items in the library. In January I watched Lost in Translation (slow, but touching) and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (weird and quirky but lovely - though it gave me super disturbing dreams).

Monday, January 3, 2011

2011 Goals

These are a few of the things that I would like to accomplish this year. I may not get to all of them, but I'm hopeful that it is not too daunting of a list.

  1. Find time to paint and/or do art projects
  2. Finish reading the Bible
  3. Read the following books - Chronicles of Narnia series, The Catcher in the Rye, War & Peace, Brave New World, Vanity Fair and the Anne of Green Gables series
  4. Unpack at least half the boxes in our garage
  5. Organize & file all important papers and clean up desk
  6. Try at least 3 new recipes each month
  7. Visit Josh's family, and some of mine, on vacation in May/June
  8. Hang curtains in our house to replace ratty metal blinds
  9. Mail Christmas cards with letter & picture by beginning of December
  10. Take a trip with my best friend
  11. Write on my blog at least once a month