A few treats.

So today it all begins.  Day #1 (of 3) of costume madness.  School dress-up today, Halloween-themed birthday party tomorrow, and of course the big night of trick-or-treating.  So, as usual, last night I was at a very-crowded-Party City, until closing, buying last minute supplies (I do not envy those employees.)... Joanne's Fabrics- until closing, where the sales associate yelled out the minute-by-minute countdown of when they were to be closing, literally every minute... and at Target, in the "seasonal department", until closing, digging through piles of costume remnants trying to find the one thing I needed.  And really, I only needed a couple of last minute items, which somehow took 2 hours to attain.  Next year, I will take E.T.'s approach and dress both of my kids as ghosts do better.
Ahhh, a little venting does a body good.  But, this is a message in which I promised treats after all, not tricks, so in the spirit of Halloween indulgence, I'd like to share a few new-found-internet-how-to-delights (yep, my kind of treat).
How to create the perfect wave {like this very cute gal}...
   Image via her lovely blog, The Daybook
 Image via this new-found blog (thanks to my SIL!)... "Where Gluttony Meets Fitness" (love it)
How to add a handy-dandy "printer-friendly" button to your blog posts (for all of your super-captivating-must-save-in-print material)...
 Image via that one super-captivating-must-save-in-print material-filled blog, um, What's it called???
And as a little extra treat, [if you use Firefox], how to add a bookmark and share toolbar (print, FB, tweet, bookmark any viewing page with the click of a button)...
That's all for now folks!
Oh, I tricked ya after all- one more...
Here's the latest and greatest recipes from the exchange- Chicken Pot Pie and Potato Soup!  We'll be enjoying a big ol' pot of chili with lots of toppings, and of course, cornbread & Kir Royale's in these festive flutes, or maybe some of these "treats" (and some say that Halloween is only for kids!).  What about you???


Image via

I am writing this post in a spirit of gratitude.  Gratitude for your ideas, support, encouragement, in how you have managed to achieve balance in your many competing priorities- how you have managed to keep moving, and better yet, given yourselves the right of way.  Because really, this is what it's all about, right?  Figuring out what you want your priorities to be (not what they should be).  Balancing your needs with the needs of others.  And staying committed to fitting what matters most into your life.  So, thank you - for sharing and inspiring!

AND by the way...

The recipe exchange is moving right along too, with Tina's Spaghetti Squash Gratins & Apple Cider Donut Holes (!), and over @ Kimmy's- corn, leeks, and potatoes- 2 ways... as a delicious corn chowder, and a healthier version of potato cakes.  And, I look forward to seeing what Elaine's got cookin' up today!

Enough is enough.

Photo by Norman Jean Roy for Vanity Fair Magazine
Image via

No "What we did this weekend" post today.  Nor "Recipes: tried & true."  Instead, a simple ask for help.

I alluded to it a bit here, but I'll just come right out and say it.  

My exercise routine has been non-existent for the past few months.  I had been wanting to switch things up a bit at the end of summer.  Somehow that "switching things up" turned into doing nothing.  Of course, there's the occasional walk here and there.  The running around the house frantically cleaning before guests arrive.  The squatting down to pick up dirty clothes scattered throughout.  But in full disclosure, nothing that's bringing me remotely closer to any of the 5 pairs of dusty jeans hanging out in my closet.

So, without further ado, I'd like to ask you...

What do you do to stay active, to exercise, to fit into those jeans?

I am ready to switch things up- for real this time.  I truly look forward to your comments on this topic, so for any "non-commenters" lurking out there, PLEASE jump right in and share! 

The basics... with a litttle *bling*.

This weekend, we're attending my sister's Bat Mitzvah [Not that a disclaimer is necessary, but in case you're wondering, I'm not Jewish.  My father remarried, had a daughter, and converted to Judaism.]  And as Ryan has heard about 500 times more than he would prefer, in his married lifetime, "I have nothing to wear."
So last night I took a little trip to Forever 21.  I'd been needing to go ever since I saw Valerie's post, and other Buy This, Not That posts, in which she highlights a not-so-budget-friendly item and a budget-friendly alternative (love it).  My finds were pretty basic, but the classic GAP girl inside of me sauntered on the edge a bit, with shiny sequins, risqué lace, and puffy sleeves.  Okay, really not quite that exciting, but never hurts to spice things a little.
My picks...

A note of inspiration.

I'm headed to hang out with the gals for a book club gathering tonight, and I've got thank you cards and hostess gifts on the mind.  Too often, I grab a bottle of wine on my way out the door- no card, no cute ribbon- just wine.  Which, don't get me wrong.  Wine is always a much appreciated gift in our home.  But on the rare occasions that I'm not scrambling to finish the book up until the minute I have to leave, it is nice to put a little more creativity and thought into the gift... or at the very least include a card with the wine!  I mean, these ladies really do go all out for the occasion.
Which leads me to these lovely polaroid notecards, from a seriously fun place to gift shop, Fred FlareIt's nice sending a note with a little added inspiration.  The cards are creative, original, and simply, dreamy.  Each image sparks up a childhood memory, a favorite place or experience, or a reflection of nature, and the changing seasons.  {Note:  These may have hit the blog world already, but since I'm a fairly new blogger, I'll play the new 'card' here and share anyways.}
The creator, Jen Altman, is brilliant, in my book.  This pretty much says it all...
...she is a photographer, writer and editor.  and she loves italy, chocolate gelato, the south, pretty much anything that has been deep fried, french pop, old school heavy metal and thinks science is almost as fascinating as art.
Yes, my kind of lady.  And, I just discovered that she has a blogA happy day.
  {Here are some of my favorites...}
 The cards can also be purchased here and here.
On another 'note' (I'm on a roll with the puns today!), make sure you visit my friend Stephanie, for not one, but 2 recipes.  And one of them can serve as an appetizer, dinner, or dessert!  Check out the rest of her blog, while your at it... if you're up for witty, down-to-earth, real life stories, and lots of tips and inspiration too :).
I made Abby's soup last night and it did not disappoint.  It was hearty, healthy, and delicious.  I adapted it a bit, according to my pantry (as she suggested), and topped it off with kalamata sourdough bread/Gruyere croutons.  Her blog is another one of my new daily reads!  Just read this and you'll see why.  She had me at "a big old farmhouse."


On Friday, I asked if your weekend, would be filled with work - or play.

Ours was a little of both.  But I'll spare you the work part...

a rainy day, apple cider mimosas in spooky glasses & breakfast Toast Cups
{thanks to this post} 

(* cook's notes:  used ham instead of bacon- didn't need to pre-cook... cooked eggs longer due to picture below- easy yolk removal, for a non-yolk eater)

a trip to the pumpkin patch...

...for some round and not-so-round pumpkins

(And what you're thinking this pumpkin looks like, is exactly the reason that Ryan chose it.)

 round & round... and jumpin' high (on a wet & dirty slide!)

It's going to be a rainy week here in southern CA, which means lot of warm beverages &  hot meals.  I look forward to heading over to Rikshaw Design to see what Catherine will be cooking up for today's recipe!  

...Have I mentioned how much I love this recipe exchange??

Friday catch-up (or catch-all).

Image via
If I want to experience relaxation of any sort this weekend, I better "dig in" and get to work.  {Though I just may work a little harder with a pair of red Wellies on.}
*Doesn't mean I won't check in here and there to do a little blog readin'.  Or to print out the latest and greatest recipes... Roasted Vegetable Enchiladas and Mexichocolatetofu Pudding!  And I know today's recipe will be a good one.  Jora never disappoints when it comes to food.
How about you?  Work - or play - this weekend??

La cucina povera.


Last week, we finally reached our goal of a clear pantry (and refrigerator... and freezer).  Of course with a few random items- hot fudge that my grandma bought for us (in light of Monday's post- just what I need), an extra can of cherries, lots of booze, and a few other must-have staples, like Ovaltine, Nutella, and gourmet hot chocolate.

We were overstocked and overspent, and it was time to get creative, get resourceful, and get cookin'.  And, it felt good.  Thanks to Stephanie and Jora, Shauna and Molly, Kim and Sharon, and I'm sure many others- lentils were stewed, bread was pulled from the the freezer, cubed and toasted, tomatoes were simmered... nuts, dried fruit, and coconut were spiced and roasted into granola.

I couldn't quite put into words just why it felt so good- until I saw Jora's post, which introduced me to the phrase, la cucina povera, or "cooking of the poor"... "embracing constraints and discovering the delicious creativity that can spring from making do with what you've got."  I was left with not only a clear pantry, but a clear mind.

And now, in good conscious, I am off to do a bit of stocking up.  I've got apple-filled pop-tarts to bake, Taco Soup to toss into the slow cooker, and lasagna to layer and freeze.  {The tarts turned out amazing (combined both recipes) and were incredibly simple to make, but I only used up ONE large apple!  Looks like there will be more tarts (and all things apple) in my very near future.}

* If you'd like to do a little slow cooking yourself, make sure you check out today's recipe... Mediterranean Pot Roast... Mmmm. 

A new tradition.

A delightful, crazy, relaxing, and indulgent weekend of eating, socializing, and well, eating.  First it was a late-nighter of lasagna and food prepping with my sister-in-law.  Then, of course the party... Maple Glazed Pork Tenderloin, Cauliflower Gratin (should have Gruyere somewhere in the title, as it was deliciously loaded with it), "World's Best" Couscous, and Hot Fudge Pudding Cake.  

As if that wasn't enough, we were up-and-out bright and early on Sunday, headed to Oak Glen for a day of good ol' fashioned fun [and food].  Picked up some apple donuts in Oak Tree Village, some honey sticks and snacks for a picnic from the cheese shop, and we were well on our way to do a little raspberry and apple picking.  And of course, the day just wouldn't be complete without a few other treats- fresh cider, pumpkin butter, apple pie...

It was truly a perfect day- one that brought great memories of a past tradition, that will most definitely be brought back to life moving forward.  It was one of those rare occasions in which a childhood activity relived was really all that I remembered it to be, even more enjoyable as an adult.  And best of all, our kids- from the little 2nd graders to the big high-schoolers- had a blast.
Oak Tree Village...

Raspberry Picking @ Snow-Line Orchard & Apple Picking @ Los Rios Rancho...

{A BIG thank you to Christi @ Grey Umbrella for this handy dandy Oak Glen apple picking guide!  For our first time picking in Southern California, it was extremely helpful.}

Now that we're all stocked up on various varieties of apples, the indulgence cannot yet come to an end, I'm afraid.  I've got apple tarts to bake (here and here) and plenty of  'fall exchange recipes' to try.  In fact, Danielle's Pumpkin Lasagna is in the oven as I type, with an intoxicating aroma of nutmeg and pumpkin bliss, I might add.  And I can't wait to see what Chassity has in store for tomorrow.
If I can roll out of bed and over to my laptop, I'll be sure to let you know how the lasagna- and tart- turn out.  Until then...

Happy Birthday Mom.

My mom...
A woman who can run circles around me cleaning a house - who has truly mastered the art of housekeeping.  Who is forever mistaken as my older sister.  Who mixes M&M's in with her popcorn.  Who all of my guy friends had crushes on.  Who trick-or-treats in the pouring rain.  Who will stop at a moments notice to offer a helping hand to anyone in need.  Who has an open-door policy of others, but more importantly, of life.  A woman who has the the charm of a butterfly, the energy of a race horse, and the heart of a lion.
Tomorrow is my mom's birthday, but since we're in full swing {dinner} party-planning mode for the special day, I wanted to take a moment now, to wish her a happy birthday, and say thank you, for...
Making single-motherhood look easy.
Not telling me to go you-know-where when I complained about what you were making for dinner, and whether or not it was going to involve onions.
Taking us camping (on your own!).
Buying  *fresh* Christmas trees every single year- even though we had to lug it up a billion steps to get it through the door.
Inspiring my love of road-trips, music of all types, 'boy' movies, bargain shopping, down-to-earth people, parties, family, roller coasters, popcorn, hard work, Christmas lights...
For taking every opportunity to "get into the spirit" (like spray painting my hair on 'color day').
For taking me roller skating every week (until I got it down).
For loving my kids more than life itself.
For  helping others endlessly & selflessly.

A {simple} perfect present.

{Not an extremely *exciting*, day, but still nice to take a moment to reflect on it, none-the-less.}

I'm kinda loving this diary that Lily and her mom gave me.  In the midst of a super busy week, it's nice to give my mind a little playtime at the end of the day.  "A taste of philosophy, a bit of psychology and a twist of insight"... yeah, pretty much a perfect present.
On another note~
Don't forget to visit Karen today for another tasty fall recipe!  I'm kinda loving this recipe exchange too (click here for the full line-up of recipes) :).

Recipe Exchange- Let's Get Cooking- Butternut Squash, Sage, & White Bean Soup ... and a perfect autumn salad.

The lazy days of summer are long gone.  Tossed salads and Lucky Charms for dinner just don't cut it during the months of autumn.  Time to pull out the ol' slow cooker and start watching some of the zillion Food Network shows that have  been sitting lonely in our DVR.  

No, really, if you've been following along, you know that I do love fall, and I have been back in the kitchen for a while, trying to 'cook up autumn weather' here in sunny southern California.  But, it does take time(!) trying to cook healthy-efficient-simple-cost effective-edible-to-my-kids meals night after night.  I'm constantly scouring blogs for inspiration, bookmarking recipes left and right.  That is why I was so delighted when Michelle, aka- Pretty Mommy initiated this incredible {roaming} fall recipe exchange.  Dinner ideas- DAILY... Delivered right to my reader!  Michelle kicked it off yesterday, with a seemingly delicious Taco Soup, straight from her mom's recipe box.  And I'm up next!

Ever since attending this cooking class at an amazing cooking school in LA, the arrival of fall = the making of this simple, incredibly aromatic soup.  I guarantee- if fall has an aroma, this soup is it.  Today, was a cloudy, cool, drizzly day - perfect timing.  Hearty enough for a main course, easy enough for a weeknight meal, and tasty enough for an autumn dinner party.  Below the soup recipe, you'll find a very versatile vinaigrette.  Truly a "recipe" to taste and perfect- according to the menu, your preference, and salad ingredients.  Just the right balance of salty, sweet, tangy, deliciousness...

{Click recipe to print; cook's notes below}
*Cook's Notes:
  • I recommend roasting the butternut squash- makes your house smell wonderful, and adds a nice flavor to the squash (1/2 in. dice... the smaller the dice, the 'roastier'- and tastier the squash!).
  • The soup keeps for about 4 days and freezes very well.
  • You can also eliminate the beans and serve in espresso cups as an appetizer.
I hope you try these recipes, and others to come.  Follow along via the schedule and links below, and let's get cookin'!!  I've seen the "to-cook" list, and I promise- Good Stuff in Store.  

Head over to see Katie today, @ the30girl.com... She's up next!
Oct 4th - Michelle - Pretty Mommy
Oct 5th - Torrie - a place to share...
Oct 6th - Katie - the30girl.com
Oct 7th - Karen- It all started at Mother's
Oct 8th - Estelle - Under A Pink Moon
Oct 11th - Danielle - domestic dish
Oct 12th - Chassity - Look Linger Love
Oct 13th - Rebecca - Reluctant Floridian
Oct 14th - Elisabeth - You Plus Me Equals
Oct 15th - Jora -- Domestic Reflections
Oct 18th - catherine - Rikshaw Design
Oct 19th - Abby - 5th Joy
Oct 20th - stephanie - Scrumptious
Oct 21st - jennifer - Whisk It Good
Oct 22nd - kate - Everything but the Squeal
Oct 25th - Tina - Bull In A China Shop
Oct 26th - Kim - Lighter and Local 
Oct 27th - Elaine - Mama Seasonings
Oct 28th - Jess - Shades of Sunshine

Meet & Greet... an online class reunion.

  Image via
So, when Michelle  asked if I (because I know she was 'speaking' directly to me) 'have the chutzpah to participate in an online class reunion of sorts' for today's Meet and Greet, I replied, "Oh, I definitely have the chutzpah!"  [To self:  "What IS chutzpah??"]
In all seriousness, I thought this was a perfect idea to poke a little fun at our era (and ourselves) - and to get to know each other a little better.  It was pretty amusing diving into my past for a bit... 
...the rockin' 90's.  The era of overalls, Doc Martens, 90210 (Oh, wait, that show's still on.), acid washed, high waist [mom] jeans, bare midriffs, Clueless, pegged pants, Nirvana, body suits, Saved by the Bell, Vanilla Ice... Yes.  I've sported quite a few all of these trends, as evident in some of these flashback photos.  Maybe I'm better at staying on top of trends than I realized.
To put it bluntly, high school was not my favorite time.  When graduation came, I was definitely not one of the many gals sobbing that it was all coming to an end.  I was pretty much on the other end of the spectrum of, "Please give me my diploma so I can get outta here and start my real life!"  I went to a tiny school, and didn't really fit into any category- not a jock, cheerleader, or band geek.  Just a few good friends, lots of acquaintances, and a "mysterious" boyfriend (who attended another school).  Here's a little glimpse...
   the boyfriend, or high school sweetheart, now husband (of 13 years!)
{both sporting the pegged jeans}
the senior pic
{with slight bags under the eyes from staying out way too late the night before}
senior "banquet"
{my school didn't use the term "prom"}
the bare midriff
{was not going to include, but too silly not to... 'chutzpah'}
a slight step up (+ a body suit)
{from the pegged jean days}
Thanks for joining me on my stroll down memory lane!  I can't wait to see the much-more-exciting-past of the other gals. 
Check 'em out for yourselves (links below)! 
Michelle at Studio Surface
Danielle at Elleinad Spir
Now your turn... Who were YOU back in the day???  Please share:).
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