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Have an adventure. Eat good food till your pants are too tight. Enjoy a good belly laugh.


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This weekends project: prepping for the day after Thanksgiving

I love Thanksgiving, but I must apologetically admit I love the day after Thanksgiving just a little bit more.  I am one of those crazy people that go shopping, but I am not talking about braving the mall (or Walmart as they will be price matching.)  After the shopping is done and we have stuffed ourselves with leftovers I will make my annual pilgrimage out to the garage to retrieve the Christmas decorations. I cannot tell you how excited I am to throw out my back hauling over a dozen Rubbermaid boxes into the house.

Decorating next weekend means doing all the heavy cleaning this weekend.  especially since it will be impossible to do heavy cleaning while the Christmas decorations are up, sorry mom.  This weekend I am doing the equivalent of spring cleaning. There will be dusting, vacuuming, mopping, switching out of air filters, everything will be cleaned out including the piles but have mysteriously accumulated on my fireplace hearth.  I am getting tired just thinking about it.

So tired…. yawn…


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A fall activity for the girls

We are now officially in the final countdown as we prepare for Thanksgiving and I am going big as this is the first time in years we are going to have a crowd.  Food is figured out and so I have mentally moved on to decor.  While I have a ton of decorations for Haloween (my husband’s favorite) and Christmas (my favorite) there is a lack of anything  holiday related in my house when it comes to Thanksgiving. A couple leftover pumpkins that I have from Halloween are still out but that is a pretty pitiful excuse for Thanksgiving decorations.

I am desperate and don’t want to spend a ton of money so I am going to pull the oldest trick in the book.  I am going to have my kids make stuff.  Here is the plan:

Table decorations:

• The Mayflower – the craft store sells heavy duty sheets that are almost like a plastic like foammy thing (that is a technical term.)  We are going to use these foam sheets into a 12 inch long Mayflower tall ship.

• Turkeys for the table – The Martha Stewart website has a project online where you trace leave patterns on to cork board squares and then cut them out to use as hot plates.  This project is great, but why should I stop at leaves.  We have found a turkey pattern so we will be making turkey trivets for turkey day.

• Leaves – We are going to use the Martha Stewart pattern to cut leaves out of construction paper.  We will then work as a family to write things we are thankful for on all the papers before stringing them up to make garland.

Well, that is all I have come up with so far.  I will post pictures, assuming it works out the way I picture it in my head… lets be honest.  You will never see pictures.


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If I can’t drink coffee in bed at night I will read (and dream) about it

I am a bit of a coffee addict.  My husband makes me a latte in the morning before I head to the office. I have a couple cups of coffee during the day.  If we have company over in the evening I have been known to fix evening lattes for everyone, but I have to draw a line somewhere.  So, I have decided that I should not get back out of bed to go make another cup after settling in for the night.

I can however read about different varieties of beans and different techniques to roast and brew them.  This is my kind of self help book.  I am about twenty pages into “The blue bottle craft of coffee.”  It is a fun book about the owner of Blue Bottle Coffee‘s half cocked quest to learn more about roasting and brewing coffee. I say half cocked with love, really! This book is filled with great stories, interesting facts and RECIPES!  I can’t a wait to get some free time to try the recipe for madeleines.  They are one of my girls favorites! Who knows maybe I will be roasting my own coffee beans by the time I am done.


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Creating the perfect storm… also known as my Thanksgiving Menu

I love to entertain.  There is nothing that makes me happier than watching people stuff their faces with the 12 things I slaved over a hot stove all day to create.  Fortunately for my sanity, there is nothing my husband loves more than cutting my list of dishes for any given party or holiday in half.  I curse him for doing this, but I do realize it is for the best.

As I sit here in bed with my newly completed master list of the wonders that our family will rush to the table to enjoy, I wonder which of these masterful items will not make the final cut.  Here is my current list:

Starters:
1. Brie with cranberries, apricots and pistachios
2. Shrimp cocktail
3. Chili cheese dip & tortillas (I could tell my husband wanted this to make the list)
4. Goldfish  (I have kids.  They should eat too.)

Main course:
1. Cloverleaf rolls with rosemary and salt
_  Sugar free cranberry dressing (mother-in-law bringing so this should not count towards my grand total)
2. Cranberry orange jello
3. Turkey (brined with a herb butter stuffed under the skin for roasting) & Gravy
4. Stuffing with dried cherries, apricots, figs and pecans
5. Maple whipped sweet potatoes
_  Broccoli Casserole (mother-in-law also bringing)
7. Creamed corn

Desert (before we leave the table)
1. Cranberry-Port sorbet (he will most likely knock this out but it sounds so good)

Desert (later when we have gathered our strength)
1. I just don’t know yet.  So much pressure for the #1 slotted desert to rock!!!!
2. Maple-Pumpkin Tart
3. Vanilla Armagnac Ice Cream
4. Vanilla Ice Cream with Left Over Halloween Candy Mixed Into It (the only question here is do I make it into a pie or not. To pie or not to pie.  That is the question!)


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Getting outside: the family goes for a walk

The leaves are changing color, there is a crisp edge to the breeze… How I love the fall.  Then again, this is a matter of supply and demand.  Where I live in Texas the fall is in short supply.  This past weekend it was 89 and I ended up with a sunburn.  So, I love the fall.  Every little bit of it.

This means it is my responsibility to drag those I love out to appreciate the fall as well.  My drug of choice was Bear Creek Park, which has a meandering walkway that runs between a series of playgrounds.  We walked one mile to a great pirate themed playground with the girls.  The best thing about the park is that there are bathrooms by the pirate ships (modern convinces even for my scurvy crew.)

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My oldest told me that her favorite parts were 1. The play area, 2. Petting dogs by the play area, 3. The play area and 4. Getting done walking.  Oh well.  I will keep trying.

PS: If you want to find a great place to go for a hike, check out alltrails.com.  You can sort based on how close the trail is to you, the length of the hike and so much more.  I especially liked that I could choose to sort on kid friendly and dog friendly.  If you are looking for nearby parks go to your cities website.


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Life sized paper dolls

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I recently had to come up with an activity for a group of kids ranging in age from 2 to 7. I know what you’re thinking. Eek, but think.  What do these kids have in common? They all love coloring on things that they don’t feel like they should be coloring on. I decided to trick them.

I pulled out a really long role of paper. Everyone took turns getting traced and then the kids went to town coloring the big sheets that now completely covered the floor in my dining room. This actually work out much better than I expected as even a little 3 year old boy that was with the group got in on the action.  His mama may have helped him a bit too, but I am not sure if that was his request or hers. 🙂


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A Pot of Italian Goodness… Braciole

I believe in the kind of Sunday dinner that has to sit on the stove over a low heat for hours smelling up the whole house until it holds the aroma of family.  The kind of food that makes people feel like they are home.  My favorite way to create this magical smell of home is to make a big pot of braciole, meatballs and sausages in homemade sauce.

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Braciole

Mix together & set aside:
1/2 c pine nuts
1 c parmesan regiano
1 c herbs (I like basil and parsley but feel free to play with this part)
1 T garlic (or to taste)

Heat a large dutch oven over medium heat.

Meanwhile on another counter… lay out 1/4″ thick slices of top round roast ideally in the neighborhood of 5″ x 7″ (can cut bigger pieces in half.)  Season both sides with salt, pepper and a little oil.  Give it a little rub down and then set a half slice of provolone on each piece.  Next, add a heaping tablespoon of the herb mix on top of each piece of provolone.  Roll steaks starting on the thinest end.  As you get them rolled up set them seam side down in the hot pan.  If you are the skittish type you can secure with a tooth pick.  Once they are browned on the one side flip them and brown the other side.  Stuff will be falling out by this point.  Let that make you happy as this is what will make your award winning sauce.  Once they are browned on both sides pull them out, sent them on a plate and move on to the sauce.

Sauce

Add to your dirty pan 1/2 a small onion.  Cook 5 minutes till slightly transparent.  Add 1T garlic and cook 30 sec.  This is the fun part…throw 1/2 c or a bit more red wine in the pan and start scraping the brown bits off the bottom so that they can become one with the sauce.  Cook 3-5 minutes till it has cooked down by about half.  Then add 2 big cans of crushed tomatoes.  Bring to a slow boil and then add back in the braciole with any drippings.  You can also add meat balls and sausages at this point.

Cook 2-3 hours.  By the time it is done the braciole should be fall apart tender.

Serve with pasta and garlic bread to loving family members.  If you want to serve this to friends that is fine too.  It will make them family.


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A fun night at home… no really!

I know this is going to sound crazy but I had the best night tonight. Tomorrow is Halloween which means it’s time for potlucks and snacks to go to schools and work. I ended up making pasta with bacon, butternut squash and roasted sage for my work potluck, bread pudding for work, a second bread pudding for the wonderful family that’s taking us trick or treating with them tomorrow and chocolate M&M cookies for the babys school party. I feel like I have accomplished so much and I have all this yummy stuff to show for it. There is nothing like making someone happy by feeding them!

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I will share the recipes in the next couple of days but in the meantime have a wonderful and yummy Halloween!!!


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Birthday parties are better with pea pesto

We recently had a birthday party for the baby.  Just a small get together for some close friends and kids (4 kids total although all 8 of us are young at heart.)  My husband, being the smart man that he is, suggested that we order some pizza and keep things simple.  Simple is not my middle name, but I thought about it and saw the logic.  I did however add a couple easy items to the table to create some healthy and flavorful options for all to enjoy.

We ordered pizzas from Joe’s Pizza (guys are from Brooklyn and you can tell!)  I added to the table a big pitcher of Sherley Temples, Cesar salad, cheese bread, garlic bread and pea pesto.  The pea pesto is a go to favorite of mine because it is easy as pie (birthday cake in this instance) and sooooo good!

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Pea Pesto

Thank you Giada for originally sharing this with the world

Step 1
Throw  the following items in your food processor : 10 ounces of frozen peas (defrosted), 1 clove garlic, 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, 1 tsp salt and some fresh pepper.

Step 2
Turn on food processor and slowly pour in 1/3 cup of olive oil and then continue to run the food processor until the pesto hits a texture that looks good to you.  I like it just a little lumpy.

Step 3
Put in a bowl and stick it in the fridge before you find yourself eating it all.

That is it.  You are already to go!


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A birthday surprise!

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The impossible has happened!  No, my dogs have not started speaking fluent french.  This is even more amazing!  I have successfully done something I originally saw on Pinterest! I will admit that it is not quite as nice as the Pinterest photo that inspired it, but what is.

For the baby’s 2nd Birthday my 7 year old and I  created balloon and streamer door.  All I did was blow up a lot of balloons (cheated with a little hand pump so that I wouldn’t be too lightheaded to blog) and then attach them to streamers of the same length but different colors.  Then I laid down a long piece of packing tape and place the loose ends of the streamers side by side on the tape.  I know that both of my girls will pull at the balloons so I placed another piece of packing tape on the back side of the lined up streamer ends (streamer and tape sandwich) before using yet another piece of tape to attach it to the top of the doorway.  I may have used a lot of pieces of tape to attach it to the doorway.

I am expecting hours of entertainment out of this one.  Defiantly worth staying up late to do.