Sunday, September 25, 2011

Low Budget Halloween Make-up

Learn from us:
Eating an entire bag of dried blueberries makes your mouth look a little scary. With this face, who needs a Halloween costume?!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Santa is Real. So is Elmo.

Watch this video.
I bet you'll forget in five seconds flat that Elmo is just a puppet manipulated by a man. I did. I watched this and cried. Yes, cried. I think every expectant mother would do just about anything to have a picture of her pregnant belly being hugged by Elmo. Wouldn't that look amazing in a nursery??

I can't wait to see the the documentary "Being Elmo" that opens next month.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


4pm at the Cook House
Nikki hunts for Halloween decorations in the garage.
Nate plays in his backyard pool.
Pumpkins become pool toys.
We're seasonally-challenged.

Monday, September 12, 2011

To New York, With Love

Yesterday was a day of mourning and remembering. But today, I honor New Yorkers for their plunky spirit. There's nothing quite like The Big Apple (do only tourists call it that??).

PS - after watching this video, click on the red box in the right corner to see a previous improv video that's equally as awesome!

Friday, September 2, 2011

A Milestone

Dear Nate,
I wish you could stay small forever. I want to wrap you up in a blanket and cuddle with you  -- yes, I know, I know --you didn't even like doing that when you were a baby. Still, I can't help it. You'll always be my little peanut. I know it's inevitable but try not to grow up SO fast, okay?
Hugs and Kisses,

Friday, August 19, 2011

Honest Abe

Earlier in the summer I read the book With Malice Toward None which is a biography of Abraham Lincoln. It was written by Stephen B. Oates in the 1970s and is often cited as the best one-volume biography of our 16th president. I found it to be very interested and haven't stopped thinking about the book and poor Mr. Lincoln since I finished it. I say "poor" because, to be blunt, his life stunk. Hardship after hardship. He endured it all for the love of his country. Very, very admirable but, seriously, he must have felt miserable most of the time. I wonder what he would think about this book? Or (more importantly - ha!) what he'd think about this (note: not suitable for children):

Good grief. Okay, ignoring that - I'm excited about the upcoming Steven Spielberg movie that stars Daniel Day Lewis as Mr. Lincoln. That should be good. Just call me a history nerd.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Thursday Threes.

There's a theme to today's installment of Thursday Threes.

We have become addicted to the Food Network show "Chopped" this summer. If you haven't watched it, let me explain the premise: 4 chefs compete to create a dish using mystery ingredients 3 times (appetizer, entree, dessert) in 20-30 minutes. At the end of the dessert round, there's only 1 chef remaining and she/he wins 10 grand. The show moves at a fast pace (typical game/reality show) but our favorite aspect is the mystery ingredients because most of the time Lee and I say out loud "what the heck is that?!" And then they throw in weird stuff, like the time cherry-flavored cough drops were in the "mystery basket" (you know, the candy-like ones that aren't really medicinal).

Aaron Sanchez - my favorite Chopped judge
Gee, I wonder why my pants have become tight? Could it be because I watch one episode of "Chopped" every night? Watching cooking shows around 9pm makes me hungry and I inevitably end up grabbing a snack during the commercial break. Soooo, in summary : our summer of "Chopped" + slower metabolism of a 40-year old = weight gain.

These are sunchokes. I'd never heard of them before Chopped. See, tv is educational!
It's also a tiny bit gratifying to see trained chefs make simple mistakes that I make all the time such as overcooking pasta and not thoroughly cleaning artichokes. Apparently, even CIA graduates can still have sloppy cooking techniques....that makes me feel better. I'm mean, I know.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Sun Sets on My Sunflowers. Sniff, Sniff.

Well, my sunflower garden has been a lovely addition to our backyard the last 3-4 months but things are starting to wind down. Most of the flowers have withered and the leaves are starting to brown due to the current heatwave. I've really enjoyed my sunflowers and am sad to see them go. Here are photos I've taken of them over the can enjoy them while I shed a tear and play sad music in my head:

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Our {Summer} World

What we're up to these days:

Sheet rides on the grass.
Cleaning the house exterior.

Drinking root beer floats.
More swimming.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Is There a Support Group for California Residents?

We have a love-hate relationship, California and I. 
On the day it took me 45 minutes to drive to and from my local post office (2.9 miles each way), I was ready to call the moving van company.
But then I see a video like the one below and I remember how beautiful, how enchanting this state is. Ugh! Oh California -- why do you treat me so poorly one day and then act all sweet and innocent the next? You're like a bad teenage boyfriend.

Friday, July 29, 2011

I Thought We Got Lucky. Nope.

Somebody promptly turned three:

and the next day, 
began the Terrible Twos phase (late bloomer??).

Friday, July 22, 2011

Herb Quinoa

I'm a sucker for any recipe containing feta cheese and herbs. Combined, they deliver a punch of flavor. Add in any type of grain or pasta (quinoa, couscous, barley, etc) and I'm sold. That's why I saved this recipe. Oh and it was a big plus that I didn't have to turn on the oven :)

Quinoa Toss with Chickpeas and Herbs
(courtesy of Good Housekeeping Magazine)

1 C. quinoa
2 C. chicken or vegetable broth
2 ears fresh corn or 1 C. frozen corn, thawed
1 15-oz. can chickpeas
1/2 C. crumbled feta cheese
1/4 C. finely chopped sweet onion
3 Tbsp. snipped fresh basil
2 Tbsp. snipped fresh Italian parsley
1/4 C. olive oil
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 C. diced, cooked beets
Romaine leaves

Rinse quinoa in fine mesh sieve under cold running water, drain. In saucepan bring broth to boiling. Add quinoa. Return to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, 15 mins. or until broth is absorbed. Remove from heat; set aside to cool.

Cut corn from cobs. Rinse and drain chickpeas. In bowl combine quinoa, corn, chickpeas, cheese, onion, and herbs. For dressing, in bowl whisk together oil, lemon juice, 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper. Add to quinoa mixture; toss to coat.

Cover and let stand at least 1 hour, or cover and refrigerate up to 24 hours. Bring to room temperature before serving. Stir in beets just before serving. Serve in bowls lined with romaine leaves. Makes 8 (1-cup) servings.

My notes: This was a little more time consuming that other recipes I've put on my blog. First of all, who has a fine sieve for quinoa?  Quinoa is too tiny for my normal sieve so I had to use a teeny one I use mostly for straining tea leaves and lemon juice so I had to rinse the quinoa in portions (it looked ridiculous). That was a little annoying; I hadn't read that part before starting the recipe. Also, I ended up having to use frozen corn (it was fine) and a regular purple onion (the sweet one would have been better). The other time consuming part was the chopping/snipping -- have I stated before that I stink at chopping? I'm slow and I don't cut up everything evenly. I'm trying to get better but I'm still slow. It takes a while to snip 5 tablespoons of herbs. Maybe I was being too particular. Anyway, Lee looked alarmed when he saw me add the beets at the end (he doesn't like beets -- I did not know this. It's funny how you continually learn things about your spouse). But the beets were really more for color than flavor, in my opinion. Lee didn't have a problem with them.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Who Needs a Dog When You've Got a Bear?

Nate and Ruby are still best friends (go here for more on their relationship). Doesn't the baseball cap make Nate look like a little BOY and not a toddler??

Nate and Ruby: The Early Years

Friday, July 15, 2011

Park Talk

Boy at the park:  "We're playing Harry Potter tag. Don't let Malfoy touch you -- he's it and he's evil."

Me: "Are you going to see the movie this weekend?"

Boy at the park: "Yes! Is he seeing it (nudges toward Nathan)?"

Me: "No, he's too little."

Nate, wanting to join the conversation: "Hi Harry Potter!"
Boy at the park: "Even the PG one?"

Me: "Uh, yeah, he's still too little."

Boy at the park: "He could see Winnie the Pooh... "(then he runs away)

Nate: "That was interesting!"

Whatever you say, little man.

Mmmmm Meatloaf

I've tried several meatloaf recipes over the years and I believe the one below is the best. It's incredibly basic but flavorful. The key ingredient: horseradish. I know, it's a little odd but trust me when I say it's really good. Give it a try - you won't regret it (and if you wrinkle your nose as you measure out the horseradish, that's okay because that's what I do too.) Here's the recipe and my alterations are below:
Full disclosure: mint sprig added to make this photo look somewhat professional

Mom's Meatloaf
(courtesy of / Diners Drive-In and Dives)

1 tsp. prepared horseradish
1 tsp. dry mustard
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 lb. ground beef, moistened
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 egg
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 C. bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, mix together the horseradish, mustard, salt and pepper. Set aside. 

In a large bowl, mix ground beef, onion, egg, and Worcestershire sauce. Add contents of small bowl and mix thoroughly. Add the bread crumbs and combine well. 

Place mixture into a 1-lb. loaf pan. Pour ketchup over top and place in oven. Bake uncovered for 45-60 mins. Makes 4 servings.

My alterations: I've made this with 1 tsp. horseradish (as directed) and with two. I think doubling the horseradish is the way to go. I also have made this with beef and with ground turkey. We prefer the turkey version. I've only used regular bread crumbs but I'm thinking the Italian crumbs might be interesting. I also use whatever onion I have on hand -- yellow, purple, etc. And if you're in sweltering weather somewhere else in the US (it was a lovely 76 degrees here today - not to rub your nose in it or anything) and you don't want to eat hot meatloaf, use the leftovers for cold meatloaf sandwiches; they're yummy!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Swag Bag

I went to the Hallmark store a few weeks ago to buy a bunch of birthday cards. This is the paper bag my purchase came in:

Isn't it sweet? I just loved that little bird and that yellow-purple -white combo. I couldn't toss the bag in the recycle bin. But what to do with it? I thought about it for a few days and came up with this little hostess gift:

I cut out the bird portion of the bag, typed out that little "for you!" balloon, and glued the whole thing on a glass jar (that used to contain peaches). Inside the jar are herbs from our garden -- mint, basil, and rosemary. Simple...and somebody else now gets to enjoy little Chester (couldn't help it - I named the bird).
I'm linking up this post to:

Somewhat Simple
Transformation ThursdayThe Shabby NestThe DIY Show Off

Thursday Threes.

Yippee for a new season of "So You Think You Can Dance." It's hard to believe this is Season #8. There have been so many fabulous dancers on this show over the years and I've sat in front of my tv and cried a few times over the emotional routines (anyone remember this dance about surviving breast cancer? I balled my eyes out at that one). And, of course, part of the fun is tuning in to see what Cat Deeley, the show's hostess, is going to wear. I like Cat. I think we could be friends. We could go out to eat and she'd take me shopping at Fred Segal and I'd take her shopping at, um, Sears and JC Penneys. Hmm, maybe this friendship isn't destined to be....

For those of you outside of the Los Angeles area, let me fill you in on a little bit of local news. This upcoming weekend will be a challenging one for Angelenos. In fact, it's being nicknamed Carmageddon and Carpocalypse (we like drama or sound bites or nicknames....or anything else that gets us attention). Basically, a 10-mile stretch of one of our busiest freeways will be closed down for 53 hours (Fri thru Sun) for a construction project and people are talking about it as if the entire city will crumble before our very eyes. Over 50,000 cars normally drive on this freeway on a typical weekend. So will the shutdown bring LA to a standstill? In my opinion, probably not. But it will cause a lot of driving headaches as people seek out alternative routes. OR maybe it'll turn out to be the Y2K of 2011 (remember that bag of hot air???)

This is what 95 looks like. Not bad, huh? Nate and I attended a surprise party on Wednesday for our dear Auntie Ruth (our next-door-neighbor, relative, and friend). Lighting 95 candles on a cake isn't an easy task. Blowing them out is even harder. (poor Ruth). I think Nate said "Happy Birthday" and "Surprise, Auntie Ruth!" about 50 times. That boy loves a party.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

We've watched this video maybe 50 times. That's a lot. Lee and I  were waaayy over it back around the teens or 20s. Nate, on the other hand, still requests to see it. Every day. "Nate to watch baby laughing," he says excitedly. And now Nate has to rip paper along with the baby in this video. He rips it, looks at me and does a fake hysterical laugh while the video plays. This must be the 21st century version of what I used to do as a kid -- insist on eating a carrot while watching Bugs Bunny cartoons.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Favorite Summer Visual

When I see this, I feel happy:

I love seeing bathing suits hanging in the bathroom to dry. It means summer is here and kids everyone is having fun in the sun!

Monday, July 4, 2011

No Crusts

One morning I was about to tell Nate "hey buddy, the crusts are the best part of cinnamon toast!" when I noticed Lee's plate. Like father, like son??

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Flourless PB Cookies

I happened upon the Food Network show "5 Ingredient Fix" by accident and was intrigued by the idea of using only 5 ingredients for every dish of a meal. As long as you're not sacrificing flavor or nutrients, who doesn't like shortcuts?? Of course, the first recipe I wanted to try from the show had to be a sweet treat. Actually, I thought these cookies sounded slightly healthier than store-bought cookies.

Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

1 C. natural peanut butter (no added sugar - yea!)
1 C. sugar
1 lg. egg, lightly beaten
1 Tsp. vanilla extract
coarse sea salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients except sea salt. Place rounded scoops on ungreased cookie sheets. Flatten each scoop a little and make hatch marks on the top using a fork. Sprinkle with a little sea salt. Bake for approx. 10 minutes. Transfer to racks to cool.

*My adjustments: I used almond butter instead of peanut butter because of the added nutritional benefits of almonds. Note that almond butter is more expensive than regular PB. I also used 1/2 Tsp. almond extract and 1/2 Tsp. vanilla extract in place of the whole Tsp. of vanilla. I used Trader Joe's organic sugar because we had it in the pantry and it worked out fine, although it may have produced a "grainier" cookie than if I had used regular sugar. Some reviewers on the Food Network website had success with Splenda for a sugar-fee version but that would be grainy too. For decoration I placed 1 chocolate chip in the center of my cookies before baking. The recipe says it only makes 18 cookies but I believe I made mine with smaller scoops of dough -- I think I got 24-30 cookies (hard to tell since we've eat a lot of them).

**Review:  All 3 of us liked these cookies a lot! Nate is satisfied with just one after dinner and Lee & I will eat 1 or 2 with a cup of coffee. The flavor is intense because of the lack of flour and we liked that. The salt was a nice touch but didn't make or break the cookie so you could skip that part if you wanted. Overall, I think we've found a new PB cookie recipe.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

We Interrupt Your Midlife for a Crisis

It's official. A few weeks ago, this happened:

That photo above is not actually my cake. Remember, I was going to over indulge in this monstrosity deliciousness? It took 5 adults and 1 child to eat 2 pieces of that cake. We survived. Just barely. I have the tight pants to prove it.

Anyhoo, my birthday was lovely. There was music, family, gifts, food, and a little bit of alcohol (to numb the pain). So now I've moved on from this monumental achievement (ha!) and, no, I'm not having a midlife crisis. That title was just to get your attention.

I'll be back soon with a couple recipes, a craft or two, and more family stories to the meantime, remember: Life is Beautiful.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Where a Kid Can be a Kid

Yesterday, Nate ran up to Lee and stated very clearly:

"Chuck E. Cheese is a proud supporter of PBS kids, Daddy."

That's what he hears every day when he watches Sesame Street. Just another example of the power of marketing, even from public television. And, no, Nate has no idea who or what Chuck E. Cheese is.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

City Slicker at the Farm

Nate here. I love the farm. 
There's so much stuff to do!

I climbed to the very top of the hay pile.

I don't know who John Deere is but his "truck" is cool.

My friend Avery and I ran and ran. 
She runs a lot faster than me.

Daddy and I picked strawberries. 
I love strawberries.
Bye Bye.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Thursday Threes.

1. Smoothing Souffle from Origins is rockin' my world right now. I am experiencing the worst case of dry skin ever in my life (hormonal changes as I reach you-know-what?!) and I've bought every available brand of cream to ease my itchy skin. This is the only stuff that works. A couple applications after a shower each morning and I feel back to normal. Here's the only downside: you smell like a giant stick of Wrigley's Spearmint Gum. Yes, it's mint-scented (that's one of the ingredients that makes you *tingly* too.) If you prefer your lotion to smell like a giant bouquet of flowers, this isn't the cream for you. I personally like the smell of mint. Plus, I'm so itchy, I'd use this even if it smelled like that rotting flesh plant (see here). Translation: I'm desperate.

2. What is going on with all of these tornadoes?? I pray that I never, ever experience a tornado firsthand. Earthquakes are bad enough, thank you.

3. I know, I know. I need to give the wedding stuff a rest. I promise this will be the last wedding-related bit I share. But I couldn't help it. This video is sooo pretty. Recognize the song? Can you name the film it's from? Hint: it's animated.