Monday, January 31, 2011

I'm Dreaming of a Mini Vacation

What is one supposed to do on a rainy, cloudy, cold day? Think about vacations, of course! :-) And I am thinking about some of my favorites. Rick and I have taken lots of little mini vacations throughout our twelve years together and I have to say that some of those overnights and weekend getaways have been some of the best. Here are a few of my favorites.

Niagara Falls (via}
There is nothing like viewing the falls at night. Hubs took me here the second time we visited his folks back in New York. We took a little overnighter from Maine up through Buffalo and across the border. It was amazing!
Lake Tahoe {via}
Lake Tahoe is another of our favorite getaways. I remembered this beautiful place from my childhood and had an image burned into memory of the Lake framed by snow covered trees. An absolutely beautiful and romantic place. On a little mini vaca a few years ago, Rick and I bought a five dollar chicken lunch at the local grocery store and found a place right along the edge of a creek where we leisurely took in the beauty and enjoyed each other's company.
Durango {via}
We've spent our last two vacation in the beautiful Rocky Mountains above Durango, Colorado. There is so much to do and to see. This is where I jumped 100 feet out of a tree and zipped 1400 feet across the Animas River.
Sedona {via}
I am drawn back to this spiritual place over and over and over. Rick and I were married here nearly seven years ago. We've enjoyed dining creek-side, jeep tours in the back country, browsing award winning galleries, and cozy bed and breakfasts.
La Jolla ~ April 2009
And finally, my favorite place for a weekend getaway. I've collected so many sweet memories in this luxurious little ocean side town. If I could own a home anywhere on earth...I think it might be here.

Over the years I've learned that even short little getaways give me the time and space to shake out the stress, renew, recharge and reconnect. Where are your favorite spots? ~Blessings, Janet

After glancing back over this post...and the photos, I see a theme emerging :-) ~~~~Water~~~~Interesting, yes? :-)

Friday, January 28, 2011

Reevaluating Date Night ~ I think I forgot how to do Date Night

Remember how I took a vow, well not a vow, maybe more like made a declaration to revive date night? That was about three weeks ago and I'm sort of starting to reevaluate. I think we forgot how. The first one was really great. We started off with happy hour at our favorite little neighborhood Greek restaurant and ended the evening with Bailey's and Coffee and a sweet movie at home. Week two hubs decided on Olive Garden (his fav comfort food) It was good and he surprised me by stopping by Cheesecake Factory for some fab cheesecake to take home. We both enjoyed that on the sofa with a movie. It was fun too...but not what I had imagined Date Night to be. Then...last week. Ugh!

Hubs thought he would surprise me by taking me to Red Lobster at 6:30...on Friday night. His heart was seriously in the right place because every time one of those commercials comes on with the lobster dripping with butter, I always go...."Mmmmmmmmmmm slurrrrrrrrrrrrrrp!" The thing is, have you ever been to Red Lobster at 6:30 on Friday night? It was packed!...and I dislike...really dislike crowds. And...I don't wait in line...for anything. Poor hubs. He asks me if I want to wait and I'm like, no, but anywhere else is going to be just as busy on Friday night too, so we suck it up, put our names in and stand in the middle of the waiting area. I start to look around at the benches and chairs that line the perimeter of this space and I swear...really, I mean I swear; Geeeeeez, it freakin' looks like the waiting area of the ER I spent Christmas morning in.

"Honey," I whisper in his ear "Look around. Doesn't this remind you of the ER?"

He looks around and rolls his eyes. I can tell he thinks I'm being a bit dramatic, so I turn back to him.

"Seriously," I say, "Look at everyone. No one is smiling, and they're like, all schleppy. No one is dressed up and some of them look sick. And look at all the kids."

I'm thinking this is how germs get spread but I can see his discomfort at my less than stellar attitude so I giggle. "Aren't you glad you married me?"

He chuckles....but doesn't answer. I wonder, hmmm.

So, tonight is Friday night...and yesterday he asked me if we are on for Date Night. Brave boy...I have NO idea what to do. He's like Meditative Mom's Practical Joe and the thought of spending $60 at Olive Garden or Red Lobster is a big deal. I'm thinking, back date night off to once a month and spend $200 in a quiet jazz club somewhere. Is there a happy medium? We have some really fun restaurants in our area:
Cork or DVine for example...I think people might dress up a little more...and would hire a babysitter...and not be sick...or sad. Wish me luck. I'll let you know how it goes. :-) Have a great weekend! ~Blessings, Janet

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Through the Seasons ~ And other reasons to celebrate

Climbing out of our post-grad rut is a goal the hubs and I have agreed on this year. I mentioned here that we are reviving our date night DONE! :-) and here that we are just going to DO IT! either by planning outings or just spontaneously jumping right in. I have also mentioned a number of times that I am compiling a sort of Through the Seasons Family Cookbook. Another activity we are planning on raising from the dead is entertaining friends and family at home and I am thinking that this blog will be a good place to dream, organize, and share ideas and recipes as traditional and new events come up throughout the year. By year's end, I should have the cookbook completely compiled. This will be my first post in the series.

My nieces, who are avid football fans will be visiting next week and will be here over Super Bowl weekend. At home, in San Diego, their family puts on a Super Bowl party every year as do many families throughout the country. We haven't been one of them :-), however, this year we're going to have our first Super Bowl Party. If it's a hit...we'll make it a fun new tradition.

Easy, Breezy, and Beautiful is the party style I will be going for this year. As a self-admitted introvert, crowds of people tend to be intimidating so in order to get through (and I really do love parties) the event without worrying about the details, I have a cocktail, glass of wine, or some other such liquid libation to calm the nerves about a half hour prior to party time :-). As guests arrive, I am primed to party. And because I am so relaxed if something goes awry, I just let it go. No one would guess I'm a type A :-)...However, that is also why I do as much of the prep work ahead of time.

Since we don't really care who wins this time, (sorry, we're sort of lukewarm Cardinal fans and my nieces are die-hard Charger fans) we're going to go for Super Bowl logo color theme, red and blue. Also cause it matches my blue denim sofa and red pillows...and it's close to Valentine's Day. It works.

It will be a rather small gathering of close family and a few of Rick's colleagues, and will, of course, be casual. I'm thinking a help yourself with a sort of open house feel. A nice beverage bar sporting a drink dispenser of punch and a galvanized big ice tub of assorted canned and bottled beverages will start everyone one off with something to drink.

Chips, salsa, guacamole and a delicious melted jalepeño cheese dip (recipe from Miguel's in San Diego) and a few veggie eats to munch on before and during the game. Maybe I'll even throw together a cute assorted popcorn station.

At half time we'll put out a big crock pot full of pulled pork for mini sliders which will make a nice savory entreé. Sliders are already mini, right? Right, so, just sliders then cause I don't want them the size of marbles. Add a couple of cold salads and maybe, just maybe, some baked beans to round out the meal.

We'll do a separate dessert bar...simple, but with a bit of a WOW factor too! Old fashioned favorites updated to minis will be adorable and guests can enjoy a sweet bite at their leisure during the second half of the game.  I'm toying with serving, football shaped brownies, chocolate chip cookies (hubs fav), mini strawberry shortcake (cause I want to use my whipped cream maker), oreo truffles (to surprise hubs), and, of course mini cupcakes.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Verrines ~ Making it interesting, enticing, and intriguing

Did you know that layering different ingredients with contrasting temperatures, textures, flavors and colors in a small glass has a name? I didn't, at least not until today. Looking for some inspiration for an up-coming event,  I perused through images of elegant desserts and ran across this interesting little tidbit.

When you are layering ingredients for a dessert, it is called Verrines Et Petits-Gateaux. I'm not quite sure how to pronounce that, but it will sure look elegant on a card in front of a pretty little tray of this sweet little lebkuchen cream genoise verrines with apple craisin compote. Doesn't that just sound delicious with a warm apple compote mingling with cool cream?

This girl's got a passion for chocolate and I love how this little votive is layered with chocolate mocha mousse, whipped cream and garnished with gilded coffee beans, a signature chocolate disc and crunchy toffee. Just gorgeous presentations and not just for dessert.

 This sweet little tomato and avocado salad makes a very nice presentation for a stand up buffet event. I love how the dressing coats the bottom of the glass and forms a nice nest for fresh diced red tomatoes and green avocado. I love avocados so I may just have to try this...It is a nice alternative to my favorite guacamole. Appetizers can look even more appetizing when layered in small portions.

I love how this shrimp is layered over shredded crab in a tangy dip. This too would be a nice addition to any appetizer menu. I think you may have to double up on the number of them though because I think they would be pretty popular.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Two Bite Tuesday ~ From My Heart :-)

Love is in the air and Valentine's Day is just around the corner so I thought I'd share a couple of sweet culinary finds that will make a romantic dinner even more special. I love creating show stopping presentations that make my guests feel special and these two sweet finds will make it really easy.

1st Bite ~ Wilton's heart shaped springform cheesecake pan will make it easy to say I love you when you present a beautiful and delicious Cheesecake Heart.

This red velvet cheesecake looks absolutely delicious, so I might try it, but I'm also thinking that my version of Crab Catcher's incredible Paradise Pie will be perfect.

My next bite was a toss up so I just decided to show both. There really isn't any good reason to hold back, right? Besides, what if you're more of a pie person than a cheesecake lover?

2nd Bite ~ William Sonoma's Heart Shaped Pocket Pie Molds

Make's Perfect little Pie Pockets
Our 4th of July Star Shaped Cherry Pocket Pies were the hit of the Red, White, & Blue dessert bar...and they were not only adorable, they were delicious and just the right size with a couple of mini scoops of vanilla bean ice cream.

When dessert isn't the only thing on the menu you can add a little something unexpected using this next bite. I found this a couple of years ago and it is still in the box, so I thought I would share it in this little bonus bite today.

Bonus Bite ~ The Stack Kit: The Art of Verticle Food

For making ordinary, extraordinary
Complete with recipes
Do you ever wonder how in high end restaurants they get the dishes to come out perfectly stacked in a fun or funky shape? I used to...and found these. Creating one course in your meal, whether it be the salad, an entree, or dessert adds interest.  Even a layered rice dish becomes a conversation piece. I've always thought that food should be beautiful, as well as healthy and delicious...oh yes, and easy. I know that last one can get a bit dicey, but that's how I roll anyway. You won't see anything complicated coming out of this blog :-) Have a great evening! ~Blessings, Janet

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

And the doctor said ~ Eat Breakfast

I saw my chiropractor, Dr. Lavender today and did a set of stress re-scans. It wasn't good and I was disappointed to see that I have allowed a year of family crisis to stress me to the point where it is affecting my physical health. There's always good news though. I can turn it around by prioritizing my well-being.

Dr. Lavender's first perscription is to eat some protein within thirty minutes of waking up. Really? You saw yesterday's post right? I'm a coffee junkie first thing in the morning. I don't even think rational thoughts until I have about three quarters of a cup in me. But, I have another appointment in two weeks and I want to tell him that I've been eating breakfast :-)....and I want to feel better. So, what do you have for breakfast protein that isn't ham, bacon, or sausage?
Very Berry Protein Blast
Steel cut oats are one of my favorite breakfasts. I love them with sliced almonds, berries, a drizzle of real maple syrup and a splash of milk. This evening I baked a bowl and refrigerated them so that I can just quickly heat them up in the morning. Variety is a must or I'll set myself up for failure so I have a fresh dozen organic local eggs, protein powder, frozen berries, fresh bananas, sliced almonds, walnuts, fresh homemade granola and vanilla Greek yogurt. This way, what ever mood strikes me in the morning...I'll be ready.

How are you taking care of yourself in the morning? ~Blessings, Janet

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Two Bite Tuesday ~ Hot and Cold

Hot first :-) I just love this first bite. I'm a self admitted coffee fiend. I think about my first cup of coffee before I even open my eyes in the morning. Morning coffee is a ritual for me and it is not a good day when I run out.

1st Bite ~ This was actually a Christmas gift from my stepson Christopher. Having lived with us as a teenager, he knows my love of all things, coffee.

My Saturday evening Bailey's & Coffee :-)
I love that you can make one cup of over 200 varieties of coffees and teas. Saturday evening, I made a quick Bailey's and coffee, with my Keurig and, of course, fresh homemade whipped cream. DELICIOUS :-) Thanks Chris.

This next bite comes because I could not find Macadamia Nut ice cream anywhere local. When Rick and I were in La Jolla for our 5th Anniversary we had lunch at the Crab Catcher and enjoyed the most delcious lobster pasta. Then for dessert we shared their Paradise Pie (macadamia nut ice cream pie, chocolate cookie crust, topped with warm chocolate sauce, whipped cream and chopped macadamia nuts.) It was one of those meals to remember and attempt to duplicate.

2nd Bite ~ In an attempt to duplicate our 5th anniversary dessert, and not being able to find the ice cream, I decided I would make it. So, I found this sweet little one quart electric ice cream freezer by Sunbeam...and a recipe for homemade macadamia nut ice cream. :-)

Fresh homemade ice cream
Of course, I'm going to be trying out my mini cheesecake pan to see how I can make twelve decadent little perfect desserts. Ohhhh, I think that will be pretty :-)

Ohhhh...I almost forgot. After I bought this sweet little machine, I found out that I can get Macadamia Nut Ice Cream from the Häagen Dazs Store at Arizona Mills Mall! It's good to know that I could still buy it :-) Better late than never :-) ~Blessings, Janet

Monday, January 17, 2011

Week Ending ~ Working and Playing

Ours started out at Olive Garden on Friday evening. (Remember, we're reviving date night.) We decided to stop by Cheesecake Factory and bring home slices of strawberry topped New York style cheesecake and Dutch Apple Caramel which we enjoyed while watching Celine Dion's documentary: Celine, Through the Eyes of the World. Sweet story.

Saturday was a bit of a work day, taking down outdoor Christmas lights and doing some household chores. Then, I made reservations for Sunday afternoon to do this!

In Front of Marriot's version of The Isle of Capri

More of the Isle of Capri :-)
More fun that I've had since zip lining through pine and aspen forest and across a river in the Rocky Mountains. We took the Desert Ridge Segway Tour around the grounds of the Marriot. What a blast. A little nervous I wouldn't be able to stay on the thing, but within seconds was zipping right along. Now I can cross that off my 50@50 list and call her DONE!

We are off to a good start in digging ourselves out of that post-grad rut and I am really looking forward to coming up with some fun and creative things to do. Any ideas? Please share :-) ~Blessings, Janet

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Happy Birthday John and Mark!

Tomorrow is my nephew John's 18th Birthday...Woo Hoo and Tuesday is my handsome brother Mark's birthday. I don't need much of an excuse to go off and find a gorgegous cake to celebrate the occasion and I didn't have to go far to find these two. {Squeal}

Gorgeous? Yes! I love the combination of fluffy soft chocolate and gold beads above and the rich chocolate below. The flags are an adorable addition. Both cakes are creations by Nicole of Herriott Grace and forty-sixth at grace. You can purchase her flags and rustic wooden pedestals in her shop. I love this idea for a more masculine yet still sophisticated look. Beautiful...I'm hungry for chocolate cake now. ~Have a beautiful Sunday! ~Blessings, Janet

Woo Hoo ~ I Have Baby Broccoli! and Greens :-)

I am grateful for another gorgeous sunny day here in the desert southwest and I celebrated by going out early this afternoon to water my winter garden. Hubs has it connected to the automatic watering system, but there are times when hand watering is like meditation. I really get to take the time to enjoy what is going on with each and every plant. Yesterday when I watered, I pulled back the big green leaves of the broccoli plants to reveal what? More tiny green leaves :-) But today when I went out to water, I didn't even have to pull back the leaves, I just poked my head over the plant and Woo Hoo...a baby broccoli head. Six of my eight broccoli plants decided to produce overnight! I've not mentioned that broccoli is my favorite vegetable but I am ecstatic about these little babies :-)))
Isn't she just so sweet? :-)
And in other exciting garden news...The kale, swiss chard, and lettuces are all thriving beautifully.

Winter Kale
Swiss Chard (despite Micheal's efforts to chew it to bits :-)
Red Leaf Lettuce
My cabbage and snow peas are still alive and while I'm sure they will be producing in the next six weeks, they aren't just yet. Sadly, the tomatoes, peppers and potatoes were taken out by a couple of freezing nights. When I plant this garden next year, I'll be sure and heed the weather man's advice and cover them :-).

I absolutely love the idea of walking into the back yard and picking ingredients that will go into a beautiful fresh healthy salad.

Simple Week Night Salad
I make a salad for dinner almost every night. I figure it is a super easy way to make sure we get a couple of cups of fresh veggies every day and it only takes a few minutes to put together. I use four basic ingredients every time...romaine lettuce, cucumber, tomato, and cheese. Depending on what mood I'm in a particular week the add ins might be shredded carrots, purple cabbage and snap peas...or perhaps walnuts and cranberries, raisins, or other dried fruit. They are absolutely delicious.

Oh,one other thing that might be of interest. About three months ago, I quit using processed bottled dressing and began experimenting with flavored vinegars and olive oil, and I haven't looked back. There's a little olive oil and vinegar shop nearby and I have become a frequent shopper. My most recent vinegars are cinnamon-pear and pomegranate. Besides the obvious health benefits, another nice perk of having a variety of vinegars is that they add a nice elegance to every meal, and you can coordinate your salad dressing with the flavor of your entreé. You can be a gourmet, without being a gourmet :-)

Have a beautiful Sunday! ~Blessings, Janet

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Entertaining Tips ~ 2011 Food Trends

I'm far from an expert, and I am always surprised that I get rave reviews on the few parties I host each year. I have a sneaky suspicion that it's because I tend to do something a little out of the ordinary each time. Do you want your next party to be something your guests will be talking about months from now? One sure fire way to keep the buzz going is to introduce them to some haute new food. The folks over at NutritionUnplugged have delivered the goods and are sharing the top food trends and ingredients for 2011. Check out some of my favs.

1) Multi Culti Tacos ~ I love these Blue Corn Fish Tacos...looks like the color of the wall in my office :-) Yum! Every time I look at my wall I'm going to want one of these tacos!
 2) Artisan Ice Pops ~ and you just knew this would be one of my favs....loving this yogurt shooter pop.
 3) Meatballs ~ Who knew meatballs would become a trend? And of course I'm drooling over this Italian Style Mini Meatball Sandwich...Meatballs are so versatile. The possibilities are endless!
 4) Korean Spices ~ You read that right! Intriguing don't you think?
 5) Grits ~ {Squeal} Love, love, love 'em...and this Spicey Ginger Shrimp and Grits makes a down home favorite into an elegant entree fit for a dinner party.
A little bird is whispering that Designer Donuts may be the New Cupcake and we haven't even scratched the surface with what we can do with the lovely Macaron. I'm really excited to hear that more restaurants will be purchasing locally grown and raised foods and the trend to healthier cuisine is getting still growing. Want to know what else is haute? Check out NutritionUnplugged! And come back and share your favorites...~Blessings, Janet

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Two Bite Tuesday ~ Sweet Beginnings

Okay so, I was inspired by fellow blogger Carmie who brilliantly authors The Single Nester to hold onto my passion for maintaining a paper calender. I love to keep my calendars from year to year because as I shared with Carmie, they are a sort of diary. They remind me of what I've been up to in different phases of my life. There was the year I was taking piano lessons so I could learn to read music and help my daughter with her practice. Years later, I led youth group and her girl scout troop. There was the fabulous trip to the beach....and months, and months, and months of orthodontist appointments. You get the picture.

1st Bite ~ I fell in love with Anne Geddes's precious babies when I saw the cover of this sweet calendar.

At first I didn't really think it was "me," then I thought that it was actually the perfect calendar in a year where I am adding HypnoBirthing to my practice. I will be reminded daily of the gentle way that our precious babies should make their entrance into the world. It is also a call to the Universe that I am ready to serve in this way. I am smitten :-)

This next bite is inspired both by sweet beginnings and endings of a different nature; good foods and good friends :-). I've mentioned that this month I am on a search for new and different local culinary ingredients with which I can prepare and entertain using fun and sometimes fascinating food and that this month I have Prickly Pear on my mind. While Prickly Pears are not in season right now, I was lucky enough to find some fun Prickly Pear related things.

2nd Bite ~ Cheri's Prickly Pear Syrup, Goldwater's Prickly Pear Jelly, and Ciao Bella Prickly Pear Sorbet


I'm thinking a Saturday Night Southwest Style Dinner Party to try out these intriguing ingredients. Prickly Pear Margaritas, Wine Spritzers and Lemonade come to mind. I think a nice compliment will be Prickly Pear and Goat Cheese on top of Artisan Bread for appetizers. And because I have sooooo many favorites, I haven't decided on the entree yet, but I'm thinking Prickly Pear Sorbet as a sweet ending. What do you think? Have a wonderful day! ~ Blessings, Janet