the Essential vitamin.'s to some *major caffeine productivity in the coming week.

{image via}

Busy bees.

in an hour or so, I will wake hailey up, "throw" her into the shower (since her poor ol' mom was too exhausted to do so yesterday evening)... and transform her into amelia earhart for her first memorized presentation.  she's been working hard all week... the biography portion (a written report) was done on tuesday, then the speech was written on wednesday- and she's been practicing ever since.  last time i checked-- isn't she only in 3rd grade??  

as i type, jacob is vigorously working on homework that he was just too tired to finish last night.  lots has been squeezed into this boy's schedule as of late.  a big KMO competition earlier this week, a full x-ray exam after school yesterday (dr. ordered due to slight imbalance of chest bone structure... fingers crossed that it's nothing)... a scout camping trip, this weekend, to prepare for.  he's the patrol leader, which means he's in charge of all communications, cash, and most importantly- food.  so, he and ryan scrolled the grocery store isles yesterday, calculator in hand.

all that to say, it's been a pretttttty busy week in the sessions' household, kids & parents alike.  and, it's not over yet.  not until the day is through... not until her speech is complete... not until we 'pack him up' & send him off to camp...

so last night, i decided we needed a nice hearty, soul-soothing dinner.  one that was meaty enough to satisfy my growing boy (can you believe we now wear the same. shoe. size???)... one that was packed with enough pasta to her pasta-loving heart's content... one that i could toss together in minutes- then let blip~blip~blip away during the chaos.

turkey bolognese
*from my father's daughter, by gwyneth paltrow

{I've had this book since it came out, but there are so many recipes i've been wanting to try- including this one.  The recipes are not "earth-shattering" (like jora said), but they are wholesome, and comforting, and a bit festive, even... and easy enough for a weeknight (but tasty enough for a weekend).}

serves 4 (with enough for leftovers... YES :))

5-6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3/4 lb italian turkey sausage links
1 lb ground turkey (ideal to use dark meat)... used lean ground beef
coarse salt & freshly ground black pepper
2 medium yellow onions, peeled and finely diced (about 2 cups)
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 28-oz cans whole peeled tomatoes with their juice
1/3 cup tomato paste
3/4 lb rigatoni... found [& used] whole what rigatoni!
grated parmesan cheese, for serving
Heat 2-3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large heavy pan over medium0high heat.  Add the sausages and cook, turning them now and then, until browned all over, about 10 minutes.  Remove the sausages to a plate and add the ground turkey (or beef) to the pan along with a healthy pinch of salt and a few fresh grinds of pepper.  Cook, stirring here and there, for 10 minutes, or until nicely browned.  Remove to a separate plate.
Add another 2 or 3 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan and add the onion and garlic.  Cook until these are softened and just beginning to brown, another solid 10 minutes.  Add the tomatoes and their juice along with about 1/2 cup of water that you've swished in the cans to get all the tomato out of them.  Add ground meat, stir the sauce well, and nestle the sausages in.

Bring the sauce to a boil, season to taste with salt and pepper (I recommend waiting until later to season) and turn the heat to low.  Cover almost completely with a lid (let steam escape from one side) and gently simmer for 4 hours, adding splashes of water every hour or so if the sauce is at all drying out.  Uncover the sauce and stir in the tomato paste, barely cover, and simmer for 1 more hour.
When it's about ready for serving, bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and salt generously.  Drop the rigatoni in and cook according to package directions.  Serve the sauce over the cooked rigatoni with a nice grating of Parmesan on top.  Perfect.
  •  This was a great simple "base" bolognese recipe.  No carrots or celery (which worked, since I didn't have them on-hand)... No spices, fresh herbs, or wine- which also worked well for last night, since I was short on time, & the "less is more" approach was entirely necessary.
  • That said, as time permits, I'd definitely add any- or all- of the above if I happened to have it on hand.  In her ragu recipe (which I've made several times), she tosses a few sprigs of rosemary into the meat (along with red pepper flakes & crushed fennel)... divine. (*and she adds a cup of wine, which never hurts)
  • Speaking of the turkey ragu recipe, I've noticed (no clue as to why I'm just now noticing this) a weird taste in ground turkey (even when mixed with all of the deliciousness mentioned above).  For this recipe, I used turkey sausage, but instead of ground turkey, I used lean ground beef.

well, looks like "miss amelia" is up... 

here's to a busy friday, and a wonderful, revitalizing weekend.

Wonder woman.

I believe every woman needs to be recognized now and again for their incredible multitasking prowess.

{mother's day is just around the corner after all}

Speaking of items in which we all *need, this is also pretty high on the list.

{an all-sriracha-cookbook??  a dream come true}

Since I was so busy being "wonder woman" today, my weekly recipe post won't be here till tomorrow... or maybe Friday.

*apron via

The big "F" word.

For the past 2 1/2 years, this is what at least half- if not more- of our weekend looks like {aka- homework}...

On weekends when I, also have a lot to do, it gets a bit challenging to incorporate "fun" into the mix.  The kids get up each morning and ask, "What are we going to DO today???"  In my mind, I reply- "NOTHING!!!" ... or "Where are we going to GO today???"  ..."NOWHERE!!!"  My intention is not literally to do nothing or go nowhere...  But to them- returning a shirt, painting my {very scary looking} nails, getting the car washed, organizing the garage, ...... is essentially Nothing and Nowhere.

But no matter how busy I am- or he is... I refuse to let the television, or the Wii serve as the entertainment director/babysitter.  Believe me- I don't see it as my sole responsibility to "entertain" them.  I'm all about letting them create their own fun.  There's plenty of Christmas/birthday gifts that have been merely touched and would surely keep them busy {& happy} for hours.  There's bikes & skateboards & scooters... & gorgeous "summer" weather to boot.  Not to mention, a very playful dog who is always up for company- & an intense game of fetch.

Of course their questions (or interrogations, rather) are partially in the hopes of squeezing an answer outta me- such as, "We're going to DISNEYLAND!!" or "I'm going to let you play ALL of the video games you want... and eat ALL of the candy you want!!"  But I also recognize that sometimes "fun" is not FUN if not shared with others...

And I am incredibly honored to be included in their weekend dreams.  Plus, I need a little fun in my life too, right?

So... I replied, WE'RE GOING TO BUILD A FORT!!!

And we did.

And it was sure FUN =).

*a must read article (via Mary), if you, too, are {or once were} into fort-makin'.


Ever since it became available to Android users, I've become completely & utterly ADDICTED.

And it's not just the cool filters, or the ability to share, but the quick hits of inspiration I {need} get from browsing through others' pics ...while waiting in the school pick-up line, in between toilet-scrubbing- when I need a little jolt of inspiration.

That said, I posted a pic of two books I planned on cracking open, but due to last week's craziness, had yet to do so. 

{...two books that were highly recommended from two of my favorite ladies.}

So, last night I finally had a chance to start.  First up- Parisian Chic (because I needed a little "light" reading after a non-stop day).  I'm only a few pages in, and already in love.  I think you need to read it too.  Seriously.  So we can be "chic" together.  Here's a lil' excerpt...
The Parison loves discovering new labels, especially if they're creative and affordably priced.  She will rave about a great find in the humble supermarket (yes, really!  Parisans adore the Monoprix chain), but never fights to be first with the latest high-priced bag, especially not if it's waiting-list only (so vulgar...).  Her wardrobe is a clever mix of cheap and affordable buys, holiday purchases, and a handful of luxury pieces.  Impossible to tell if her jeans or denim jacket are from Gap, Notify, H&M, or Hermes!  She won't blow her salary on the latest "must-have"- she can't afford it, for one talent as a fashion stylist:  why spend so much on something she could have designed herself?  The Parisan knows she will never go out of style.  She sweeps fashion aside (but she always sports a telling detail gleaned from the latest trends).  It's part of her charm.

Pure FUN.  

Between this, Simplicity Parenting, Instagram, and getting caught up on this lovely lady's blog- so that when these books are finished, I can begin her book (already ready & waiting on my bookshelf, along with a box of tissues in which I know for a fact that I will need)... I'm totally covered this weekend- entertainment-wise.  

Now if only I can figure out how to keep the rest of my family busy, while I lay and bed & read all weekend.................

What's on your nightstand?  And more importantly- are YOU on Instagram??

{if you are, I would highly suggest following the aforementioned "lovely lady's" feeda total happy-maker :)}


Yesterday, I got my cooking partner back =).  

Thank you, thank you, thank you for your prayers, concern, & well wishes.  It means more than you know.

While he's much better, he's still on the road to recovery... & I'm doing all that I can to get this boy back to full health. 

I knew just the cookbook to pull of the shelf... written with pure passion for our culinary pleasure... wholesome, lax, chic (yes, recipes can totally be chic), simple (I realize I am saying this about every recipe I've shared, but seriously, her recipes are impressively simple)- & better yet- arranged according to the season... with a lovely little story behind each one (she definitely inherited the "writing gene").

An abundance of parsnips was the determining factor behind last night's chosen recipe- which is btw, in the "winter" section, but apparently parsnips are thriving among our csa farms.

{hollers'} curried parsnip soup

*from miss dahl's voluptuous delights, by sophie dahl 

serves 4

4 large parsnips 
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
Olive oil
1 tbs of curry powder
2 cups of chicken (or vegetable) stock
[we added 1 small can white navy beans, drained & rinsed]
2 tbs light cream (we used a dollop of greek yogurt)
a handful of chopped chives
salt & pepper
a handful of chopped, fresh parsley

 First, peel and chop the parsnips, cutting them into rough chunks.

In a large soup pan, gently sweat the onion and garlic in 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  Add the curry powder and stir.  Pour the stock into the pan and add the parsnips, and beans, if using.  Bring to a boil and then simmer until the parsnips are tender, around 15-20 minutes.  Puree and put back into the soup pan, adding the cream and the chives.  Season and serve garnished with the chopped parsley.  {for time's sake, we left the parsley out}
A perfect way to use up your parsnips,  if you ask me. 

A cup of comfort.

it's amazing how one week, you're frolicking through wine country, livin' it up- no restrictions applied...
and within days, your whole world turns upside down.

the past week has been pretty awful.  ryan has been sick since wednesday... the kind of sick that involved dr's appointments, antibiotics, testing, waiting, new antibiotics, more testing, more waiting... 

he's finally almost 'back to normal', and we're hoping to get some answers tomorrow... to reach an end to this restless waiting game that we've been thrust into "playing" since 2:30am on wednesday morning.

in the midst of waiting, we've all been pretty unplugged... quieter than usual- which has actually been a blessing in disguise.  with caffeine and wine out of the question, there was one constant each afternoon... a cup of tea.   it's been said that "there is no trouble so great or grave that cannot be much diminished by a nice cup of tea" {bernard-paul heroux}.  

so very true.

the kids joined us in our new little ritual after arriving home from school on a rainy friday afternoon.

tea & television... ahhh the good life

he was the "good" boy... choosing instead to finish his book while enjoying his tea :).


on the bright side, these moments sure do have a way snapping everything right into perspective, don't they?

Pot o' beans.

In Mark Bittman's book- Food Matters (one of the most influential books in regards to "conscious eating" that Ryan and I have read), he says that he's "on a mission to make sure every fridge or freezer in America is stocked with a container of home-cooked beans... a simple process that requires no advance planning and very little attention, yet provides the backbone for several delicious meals." 
I could not agree more.  Incredibly useful, versatile, easy, &- CHEAP!!  From red beans & rice (a future recipe post), to Stephanie's "scrumptious white beans," to the "{best ever} boston baked beans"... there is just something so satisfying these hearty peasant style meals- created from the the most basic ingredients- culinary magic.  Give me a slice of warm crusty bread, some simple greens, & a serving of beans... & I'll be one happy gal.
Since we weren't even close to the final bits of ham, I decided to postpone split pea soup for few days, and to use up most of the meat in other dishes throughout the week.  First up- hand's down one of the easiest soup (more like a stew) recipes that you'll ever make.  But not lacking in flavor whatsoever.  But c'mon now.  How could it with all of that glazed ham goodness??

{For the recipe, click HERE. :)}

I've fallen and I can't get up.

from a week of birthday festivities straight into a week at home with the kids, to a lovely holiday weekend... i've fallen straight into summer mode... & i don't know if i will be able to 'get back up.'

 no shorter cups on hand, so we made do (since we're never short on these "cups")

my favorite easter egg :)

the easter bunny has an eye for beauty

...and an appetite for carrots

her easter treat

a glazed ham for the holiday

{remember when i talked about new traditions?  well, this holiday, we started a new one... a ham to enjoy the night before easter (and the morning of :)).  my mom & her husband hosted a wonderful easter lunch/dinner yesterday, but this is the one holiday that tends to change each year- in terms of location/time/food... so our plans are always a bit different from year to year.  but, saturday is always the day of easter egg dying & "bunny prep"... a perfect day for an annual spring feast, don't you think?  and even better- Split. Pea. Soup. Tonight.}

*this will serve as last week's tried & true recipe since i slacked a bit and didn't post one (summer mode, i tell ya)...  it was our first attempt at ham, and this is the recipe we used... ridiculously simple & so very tasty (& fun to score, i might add).  i've made their split pea soup recipe before (with my grandma's leftover christmas ham)... equally simple & delicious, and it's what i'll be using tonight!

The {paso robles} *itinerary.

{day 2/winery #1- gettin' into the "spirit" rather early}

*a huge thank you to Laura, @ Sweet Life a la Carte, for literally mapping out our entire day of wine tasting (& eating :)).  The detailed recommendations, directions, and information was incredibly helpful, and very much appreciated!

Day 1 {not pictured}

arrive... after checking in, shower, look presentable... proceed to winery #1 (before they close for the day!)... eat a huge "cowboy-style" dinner- here... roll head back to hotel, watch the break up (with full intentions to go back out & see "the band" play at the bar after their 9:30pm arrival)... instead, crash from utter exhaustion/satiation.
Day 2

with full awareness of the continued gorging/alcohol-consumption that is to come- start the day off right- with an early morning hike... bask in the glorious spring sunshine.

stock up on "wine-tasting necessities" (cheese, bread, olives, prosciutto...){here}.

head off into wine country and well, drink up {here, here, here, AND here}...

...with a necessary "palette-cleansing" olive oil tasting added into the mix :) {here}.

and finish the day with... More. Eating. { an incredible restaurant- here.}

Day 3

One last tasting {here}, a delicious "farmstand" lunch {here}, and a traffic-filled, but incredibly pretty drive home along the california coast.

...and arrive "home sweet home" where laundry- & spring break- awaits :).
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