I've alluded to it several times, but I'm just going to come out and say it.  

About a year & a 1/2 ago, I started struggling in my role as a "homemaker."  As I've said before, I have not once regretted my decision to stay at home with my children.  This part not only feels right, & has for the last 5 years.  But for me, for now, it is right.  

As for the "stay-at-home mom" part of the equation, I was fully content.  The problem was with the rest of the *unwritten responsibilities of the role.  If I decide to do something, I want to do it well.  So, 5 yrs. ago, I fully immersed myself into the role... cooking, baking, volunteering, "accounting" (inc. bill-paying, & tight-budgeting), cleaning, trying to make friends with other "soccer/softball/scout/pta moms" (to no huge avail), party-planning, scheduling, organizing, shopping, disciplining, managing homework/chores/family communications/photos...

One of my "hot buttons" is this question:  "Don't you get bored staying at home??  I could never do it."  I'll hold back on my rant of all that this question implies, but really- the answer is NO.  I really don't get bored... or ever- EVER run out of things to do.  My brain is always filled with things to do, places to go, recipes to try, projects to begin.  So, as much as I thought I would (back when I was a busy, "important," working gal), I never go stir-crazy.  

But- long story short- I sort of got lost in the process.  Squeezed myself right outta the equation.  I felt a big hole inside that needed to be filled... I felt disconnected, uninspired, frustrated, exhausted, and simply- empty.  I made a decision to make some big (and small) changes... who I associated (or didn't) with, how I spent my time- or chose not to spend my time... took some classes, learned the art of "simple cooking," got a new computer (& camera!), started a blog- and have spent the past year & a 1/2 taking care of not only my family- but of myself.
Well, in an effort to put myself back into the equation, I've let a few responsibilities slip.  Responsibilities that are important... not because I have to accomplish them, but because I want to.  
  1.  Cleaning.  Really, I'm not a slob- or lazy.  In an effort to not spend every waking hour cleaning, I've become a master picker-upper.  I've remained in "general maintenance" mode, & often get behind on deep cleaning.
  2. Breakfast/Dinner.  I've fallen into pure laziness when it comes to feeding my kids breakfast.  Convenience has taken priority, and it needs to change.  As for dinner... I'm all over the board.  No planning, start too late in the day, sacrifice nutrition for "meals that the kids will actually eat"... This is an element of staying home that I truly value, and I'm determined to fix. it.
  3. After-school snacks.  My kids look forward to this seemingly minor activity.  They used to light up when I put a little more focus on this part of the day- on making it a little special.  Now, their immediate "what are we having for a snack???" questions get on my nerves.  They're only allowed a short window of time before diving into homework... & cleaning their rooms.  If they're stomachs are full- their hearts are a little more content, their tired/grumpy 'after-school attitudes' are diminished, & they have a bit more energy to sustain them through all of that homework
 Along with others, these are areas that I've let go- a little too far for my liking- and I want to commit to changing.  

...which [finally] brings us to this week's tried & true recipe- the simplest, most basic recipe yet.  But when it comes to #3- my lowest-energy time of day- I need simple & basic... & just due to the fact that it's not an orange- or crackers- my kids consider it "special" :).

 {today's after-school snack}

pita pizza
* adapted from the little big book for moms, a vintage-style book I've had ever since I was pregnant with Jacob... a treasure box of inspiration, rhymes, songs, stories, games, & recipes for mothers to share with their children.

makes two small pizzas
1 whole wheat pita round
tomato sauce
broccoli (little pieces)
diced leftover chicken
cheddar cheese, grated

Split pita into two circles.

Spread with tomato sauce.  Sprinkle a little cheese.  Add chicken, then a little bit more cheese.  Add broccoli, and top with a little more cheese.

Put on a cookie sheet and broil until cheese melts.

{and... she liked it!!  he did too :)} 

Fabulous fun for everyone.

Farrell's Ice Cream Parlour... "an incredibly magical place that justifies an entirely separate post."

Well, as promised, here is that post.

We tried to go last month with the intention of "testing" it out to see if it was in fact suitable for the celebration of Jacob's 14th birthday.  Of course I knew for a fact that it was indeed suitable.  It was thee. place. to. be. when you had a birthday to celebrate, when you wanted a big ol' sundae, or when you wanted to be wildly entertained by men & women in skimmer hats-  parading around the place- beating drums, blowing whistles, ringing bells, blasting sirens- all in an effort to reach the final destination of that lucky boy or girl.  And by "big ol' sundae" I mean BIG OL' SUNDAE... I'm talkin' huge bowls with 30 scoops of ice cream, erupting volcanoes, zoo characters... delivered by multiple servers- carried on stretchers- all accompanying a special reward if/when fully consumed.  The ultimate challenge

Well, eventually Chuck E. Cheese took over, and Farrell's closed.  Until recently.  It's BACK.  And as you can see above, we're not the only ones who want to relive those childhood memories.  We were smart this time though.  We got there before the doors opened, stood in line, & when 11- hit, we were seated right away.  Happy times...

{the gibson girl & her date.}

{chocolate coke... not sure quite what he expected}

{look of horror when he realizes that embarrassment is inevitable for the birthday boy}

{and heeeere comes the parade...}

{nowhere to hide when asked to stand up on the table- in a crowded restaurant & dance}

{he was a good sport}

{apparently, the complimentary sundae just wouldn't cut it}

{let me introduce you to the "pig's trough"}

{they managed to devour every little bit}

{... which resulted in further embarrassment- another visit from the "parade crew" :)}


Tomorrow, he will earn another.

14 years ago, this sweet boy lit up our hearts & home.
And each year, we've had the honor of watching him grow into the young man that he has become.

...but he will forever be our baby.

Happy birthday Jacob!

...looking forward to a weekend of celebrating YOU.

A royal homecoming.

Well, it sure was a good weekend with that little girl of mine.  Hair cuts... nail painting... an all-day-marathon shopping trip... a beautiful film... chips n' salsa... an entire season of Tori & Dean (yes.  judge as you may... just started watching this year- season 6- & admittedly, kinda love it.  so of course i had to rent the first couple of seasons)... but best of all, lots of girl talk & giggles {& no bedtimes!}.  In short:  MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.
After 3 days of driving, snowshoeing, & driving some more, the boys made it home safe & sound {from a quick Yosemite trip}- just in time to unpack, settle in, & enjoy the season finale of Downton Abbey [tears], and a beloved British comfort dish (cause themes are important when it comes to t.v.)...

english *cottage pie with root vegetables
from sizzling skillets and other one-pot wonders, by emeril lagasse

{same as last week- a delicious meal made in one pot- from a genius cookbook- compartmentalized according to our essential go-to one-pot vessels (skillets & saute pans, casseroles & baking dishes, dutch ovens, big pots, woks, even slow cookers)... love a chef that acknowledges- rather than snubs- the slow-cooker.}

8-10 servings

5 tbs unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the pan (I used less, & added a little olive oil to the potatoes)
2 tbs vegetable oil
2 lbs lean ground beef
1 1/2 tsp salt, plus more for cooking the potatoes
3/4 tsp black pepper
1 1/2 cups diced onion
1/4 cup (about 12 cloves) minced garlic
1 1/2 cups diced turnip
1 1/2 cups diced parsnip
1 cup diced carrot
2 tbs tomato paste
3 tbs all-purpose flour
2 tbs dried rosemary
1 tbs dried thyme
1 tbs dried parsley
1 bay leaf
1 tbs plus 1 tsp dry mustard
1 3/4 cups beef stock or canned low-sodium beef broth
1 tbs worcestershire sauce
3 lbs idaho potatoes, peeled & quartered
1/4 cup plus 2 tbs half & half (I use 1% milk)
1/4 tsp white pepper
1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup shredded sharp yellow cheddar cheese (about 4 oz)

Grease a 3-qt baking dish with a small amount of butter and set aside.

Heat a tbs of the butter and 1 tbs of the remaining butter and the remaining tbs of the oil in a deep 5-qt saute pan over medium-high heat.  When hot, add the ground beef, 1/2 tsp of the salt, and 1/4 tsp of the black pepper.  Cook the meat until browned, breaking it into pieces with a wooden spoon, 1- to 12 minutes.  Transfer the beef to a plate and set aside.

Return the pan to the heat and add 1 tbs of the remaining butter and the remaining tbs of oil.  Add the onion and cook, stirring, until soft and lightly caramelized, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds.  Add the turnip, parsnip, carrot, and 1/4 tsp of the remaining salt and cook until the vegetables are slightly tender, about 4 minutes.  Return the beef to the pan and add the tomato paste.  Cook, stirring for another minute.  Add the flour and leaf, mustard, stock, and worcestershire and stir to combine.  Bring to a simmer and cook until the sauce is slightly thickened, about 1 minute.  Reduce the heat so that the sauce barely simmers, cover, and continue to cook, stirring once midway, for 20 minutes.  Remove from the heat, remove the bay leaf, and season with 1/2 tsp of the remaining salt and the remaining 1/2 tsp black pepper.  Cover and set aside.
Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 400.
Place the potatoes in the saucepan and add enough cold water to cover by at least 1 inch.  Bring the water to a gentle boil, season with salt, and cook until the potatoes are fork-tender, 12 to 15 minutes.  Immediately drain the potatoes.  Pass the potatoes through a ricer into the same pot (or mash until smooth using a potato masher) and return the pot to the stove over low heat.  Add the remaining 1/4 tsp salt and 3 tbs of butter, the half-and-half, white pepper, nutmeg, and 1/2 cup of the cheese.  Stir to mix well and cook until heated through.
Transfer the meat mixture to the prepared baking dish.  Spoon the mashed potatoes over the meat mixture and, using the back of the spoon, smooth the top of the potatoes.  Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup cheese over the mashed potatoes.  Place the baking dish on a baking sheet and bake until browned and bubbly on top, about 25 minutes.  Remove from the oven and serve.
*  A shepherd's pie is made with ground lamb, hence the name, "cottage pie".

Definitely a lot of chopping, browning, stirring... but oh so worth it.

In motion.


Still alive.
[the message i received today]

{so much more to say, but our girls' weekend is still in full effect (10:59pm)... & we've got more fun in store for tomorrow (not to mention- cleanin' this place up- so as not to give the appearance that our weekend was ALL play & no work, as they were sweating bullets up the snowy mountain).  but as much fun as it's been, we miss our other 1/2 :) ... see ya in a couple days- & happy presidents day!}

The morning after.


the weekend is FINALLY here.

happy to report- the book was read in it's entirety (which is not always the case... such a good one, and definitely not just for the younger crowd- i'd highly recommend)... & as for the dinner- i decided to go the maintain-my-sanity route... all purchased from my favorite lil' italian market... lasagna, garlic bread, caesar salad (from tj's), spumoni ice cream, wine cake, & a simple appetizer platter of greek olives, and rosemary marcona almonds, salami, provolone, & crackers... next best thing to homemade (& although it was not easy for me to go that route- which sounds ridiculous, but true- it was the best decision i've made all week).

but my real reason for writing this post is to say this.  you see those lovely napkins up there?  they were created by my friend, estelle.  she is one talented lady.  she's extremely creative and has such a way with words.  she wrote a post earlier this week, titled,  Are we unknowable to our mothers?- that i can't seem to shake (she warned us)- nor do i really want to shake.  it was fairly short... but incredibly powerful.  it touched me in a big way.  i get to spend an entire weekend with hailey, & i so look forward to getting to know her a little better, in a way that has yet to be seen- or that i have yet to allow myself to see.

i hope you take a minute to read it as well... that is, if you dare to be shaken up a little.

Happily ever after.

With Ryan on jury duty... while working, while starting his new class, while preparing for a camping trip {to the snow} with Jacob- & me- STILL READING, we knew just the book to pull off the shelf for last night's at-home Valentine's dinner.  So, after they rushed off to purchase snow shoes... and Hailey & I rushed off to Claro's to purchase food for Thursday's dinner... and then rushed home to do a million more things- I sat down and helped Jacob with an assignment, while Ryan literally threw this together... in a matter of minutes.

And it magically turned our night around, from pandemonium to peace.   

Again... like last week's {tried & true} recipe... simple, healthy, & TASTY.  But seriously- "simple" is truly an understatement in this case.

cassoulet-style italian sausages and white beans
*from perfect one-dish dinners, by pam anderson

2 1/2 lbs sweet Italian sausage links (we used chicken sweet italian from trader joe's)
3 pints cherry tomatoes
1 medium-large onion, cut into 1 1/2″ chunks
4 large garlic cloves, sliced
3 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tbs balsamic vinegar
2 tsp dried thyme
3 bay leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 cans (about 16 oz each) white beans (cannellini), undrained

Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 425 degrees F.

Mix sausages, tomatoes, onion, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, thyme, bay leaves, and a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper in a large heavy roasting pan.  Set pan in oven and roast until sausages are brown and tomatoes have reduced to a thick sauce, about 45 minutes.  Remove from oven, stir in beans, and continue to roast until casserole has heated through, about 10 minutes longer.  Fish out bay leaves and serve...

{... preferably with red wine... or sparkling... or both (it was a valentine's day afterall)}

  • Pam Anderson is one of my favorite cookbook authors.  And that's saying a lot, seeing as thought I have about a gazillion cookbooks.  Here's why... 
  • If you're still wondering if you should try this recipe, watch THIS. {promise... it's more than just a 'recipe demo.'} 

One day at a time.

we needed a weekend with absolutely no plans... no big adventures... no home improvement projects or complicated meals.  just lego mind-storming {jacob}, a difficult research paper {ryan}, downton abbey season 2 {all... yes, we're *all addicted. even lil' hailey}, hunger games {yours truly... gotta finish the book tomorrow!!! book club this thursday... & still scrambling to FINISH... no idea what i'm serving........}, and of course- valentines for hailey.

i knew heading into to february that it would be non-stop from beginning to end... from the superbowl party, all the way to jacob's birthday (with a million things in between).  we're halfway through... and movin' right along.  doing the best we can to to keep our sanity intact, while longing for the {calmer} month of march.  taking it one day at a time
 {happy love-week :)} 

{finger-painted homemade sticker & candy buttons~ simple, yet made with lots of love... & kisses}


Culinary magic.

Yesterday was cloudy & rainy.  I did my first personal training session (upper body only)... and I left literally shaking.  And the scary part is, she went easy on me- only one rep of everything (as opposed to the three that I can expect in the future).  The kids had an early-out day- which meant, I only had a short window of time to figure out what to make for dinner, and get what I needed.  I needed something simple, healthy, but of course tasty... Let me rephrase that.  ..."tasty," as in something that the kids will EAT.

I found just the recipe- one that fit the bill in all of the above categories... and made my house smell delicious. 

It comes from one of those newly accumulated cookbooks that I mentioned at the start of this 'new recipe project.'  An Invitation to Indian Cooking, by Madhur Jaffrey.  I was truly excited to crack this book open.  Ever since I made a simple Indian dish over a year ago, I've wanted to try more... to taste more... to learn more about this irresistible cuisine.  The simplicity, the flavor, the variety- I'm utterly intrigued.  Basic ingredients such as lentils, peas, potatoes, cauliflower- are transformed into exceedingly delicious (and healthy!) meals.  Who knew that lentils could taste so good?????  And often, with only a few spices- and at an extremely low cost (a huge plus).
Thanks to Naina, I've been able to try a few more exceedingly delicious recipes, and thanks to Bruce, I was led to what is referred to as 'the final word on the subject' of Indian cooking.  And I can't wait to cook my way through it.
dal [split-pea] soup
*from an invitation to indian cooking, by madhur jaffrey
[including her excerpt because I like it :)...]
My mother used to make this mild-flavored "split-pea" soup.  The only spices in it were cloves, peppercorns, and turmeric.  It was served with lemon wedges and homemade croutons.
serves 8 (as a side- but we had it for dinner, & there were no leftovers)

1 1/2 cups green or yellow split peas, washed
6 cups chicken broth
24 black peppercorns
15 whole cloves (tied in cheesecloth along with the peppercorns)
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 - 3/4 tsp salt (more if broth is unsalted)
8 lemon wedges
croutons made from 6 slices of slightly stale bead and enough vegetable oil to cover 1/2-3/4 inch in a 10-inch skillet (I used sourdough- and much less vegetable oil)
Combine the split peas and chicken broth in a pot and bring to a boil.  Remove scum from the top.
Add the spices in the cheesecloth, the turmeric, and the salt.  Cover, lower heat, and simmer gently for 1 to 1 1/2 hrs. or until peas are tender.  Remove cheesecloth from soup, squeeze through a strainer,  using the back of a spoon, or put it through a food mill.  If the soup seems too thick, add a little water.
Serve in bowls, garnished with lemon wedge.  Pass around croutons on the side. 
(These can be prepared ahead of time.)
Remove crusts and cut slices of bread into 1/2 in. cubes.
Heat oil in skillet over medium flame, and put in a third of the croutons.  Fry for 3 or 4 minutes, turning them around, until they are golden brown.  Lift out with slotted spoon and leave to drain on paper towels.  Prepare the rest of the croutons in two more batches, and leave to drain.

  • I wanted to try our new blender out, so I blended the soup instead of pressing it through a strainer, or food mill.  It thinned the soup out a bit too much.  I'd recommend the strainer, food mill, or blending only 1/2 of the soup so that it retains a thicker consistency.

Not sure what my menu will consist of for the rest of the week, but one thing's for certain.  I will not let the week go by without trying Stephanie's roasted tomato caprese salad (her description has left me craving it for an entire week).  Make sure you visit her later today to learn how to make one of the best sauces known to culinary arts... 
a balsamic reduction


We've made it through the dreaded week.  Mammogram's DONE, results IN (all good!), annnnnd......... "re-wiring hell" is OVER.  Thanks to my husband, our music will soon be all in one 'all-access' spot, and we can now stream our way through Downton Abbey...
So, in the midst of uploading cd's, downloading songs, stringing hearts, & bakin' beans, this (see above image) is pretty much how the 1st 1/2 of our weekend will be spent.

{except it most likely won't be iced coffee in my cup :)}


Iced cinnamon lattes.

I'm happy to report that the "load" got a little lighter- only 2 days in.
I simply made a decision to focus on what I CAN control... what I can do lighten the mood- the load- the agenda... 

Instead of taking my grandma home on Sunday- or even Monday, I asked her to stay a few extra days.  She was happy to do so.  Not only has she provided company, she's helped with cleaning... organization... essentially- everything on my daily to-do list, and much, much more.
So, today, I decided we needed a little treat.
Today's tried & true recipe... 
iced cinnamon latte 
* slightly adapted from giada's kitchen 
4 servings
4 shots of espresso (about 1 1/2 oz each)
1/4 cup cinnamon simple syrup (or less)
1 1/3 cups low-fat milk
Combine the espresso, cinnamon syrup, and milk in a small pitcher.  Fill 4 large, tall glasses with ice.  Pour the latte mixture over the ice. [easy-peasy]
cinnamon simple syrup
makes 1 cup 
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
4 cinnamon sticks
In a saucepan, combine the sugar, water, and cinnamon sticks.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, reduce the heat, and simmer for 5 minutes, or until the sugar has dissolved.  Take the pan off the heat, and cool the syrup.  Any extra cooled syrup can be saved in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week.
{since she was here, I was able to to make a 4:30pm workout (yay for not having to wake up at the crack of dawn!)... which gave more of a reason to drink-up (caffeine boost pre-spin class can't hurt, right??)... but also to *lighten it up a bit}
And such a treat it was.  Both the latte & the company :).
Sounds like Stephanie had a treat-filled afternoon as well... Visit her a little later today to find out more (& of course- to get yet another scruuuumptious recipe... a roasted tomato caprese salad. mmmm.).
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