Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas Baking

Who needs dinner this week when all we will be doing is eating the sweets that are all around us this time of year? I just finished my grocery list for all the yummy goodies I want to bake to give as gifts to our neighbors, family, and Luke's old coworkers. 

Here's the plan:
Peanut Butter Blossoms 
I got this recipe from my Aunt Becky and it is so easy and so yummy! There are many different variations on this recipe I'm sure but these turn out so soft and perfect every time I don't think I'll ever try another recipe. I am a huge fan of peanut butter and chocolate and these look so cute on a plate. Plus, they are so great for little hands to help with -- unwrapping all those Hershey kisses and  rolling the dough in sugar before baking.
Peanut Butter Blossom
Photo from here.

1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
3/4 - 1 Cup peanut butter 
1 egg
2 C Bisquick
Hershey Kisses

In a large mixing bowl, beat sweetened condensed milk, peanut butter, egg, and vanilla until smooth.  Add Bisquick and mix well, Chill at least 1 hour. Preheat oven to 350. Shape dough into 1 inch balls and roll in sugar. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cooking sheet. Bake 6-8 minutes until lightly browned. While they are baking unwrap the Hershey kisses. When cookies come out of the oven, immediately press a kiss into the center.
Makes about 48 cookies.

Oreo Truffles
Yum!! Cream cheese and Oreo's -- how can you go wrong? These look really pretty on a plate and because they are pretty rich you can get away with only putting a few on a plate to share.
Pinned Image
Photo from  here.

1 pkg. Oreos, divided
1 pkg. cream cheese, softened
2 pkg. (8 squares each) Baker's  semi-sweet chocolate, melted

Crush 9 cookies to fine crumbs, set aside.  Crush remaining cookies to fine crumbs. Place in medium bowl and add cream cheese. Mix until well blended. Roll mixture into 42 balls, 1 inch in diameter. 
Dip balls in melted chocolate. Place on a waxed paper covered baking sheet. Sprinkle with reserved crumbs. 
Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.

 Maybe I'm crazy for trying a new recipe to give as gifts but these look delicious and hard to screw up! 

Pinned Image

Again, another new recipe but they look so delicious! She has a great step by step tutorial that will make them easy to try.  

I think that's going to do it this year... if I get really brave I'm going to try Pioneer Woman's Cinnamon Rolls but that's if I'm bored and looking for something to do, which I highly doubt will be the case.

And to work off all this lovely baking and eating I want to enjoy -- here's a quick easy workout you can do while your food is baking in the oven. 
Found this here.

Happy  baking and Merry Christmas!

* I changed the comments section and you don't have to be a member now to leave comments! Please comment away! *

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Hand Print Christmas Tree

We made these adorable hand print Christmas trees with two other friends and their kids yesterday. It was fun (messy, chaotic, fun) project to do together. They turned out so cute and were all so different. I love that it's a reminder of how small their hands are and will be a fun decoration to get out every year since it's on canvas. I found the original idea for this here.

Supplies you'll need:

3 year old Kasen
  • Green acrylic paint (we did a dark shade and a light shade)
  • Brown paint
  • Gold paint,
  •  Red paint 
  • Paint brushes, 
  • Canvas (as big or small as you'd like)

I used a foam brush and painted Norah's hand dark green - we did four hand prints for the sides and five across the bottom. I stuck with the same hand for the entire tree but it probably would've been cute to do her opposite hand on the other side of the tree so her thumbs were out on both sides - live and learn I guess. Then it was on to Stella's hands -- I did hers in a lighter shade of green and we filled in the spaces in the middle as best we could. I painted the trunk with brown and added the star with gold paint and gold glitter paint. (I wish I could say Norah painted that star because it's not my best work and looks like a 3 year old did it but sadly, it's my own work.) I wish I would've made it with a pencil and then painted it on - live and learn again I guess. Then we decided it could use a little more color and we just used red to make little dots as ornaments in the white spaces. One of the girls had some gold and red glitter puffy paint and she went over her star and ornaments with that and it looked really good too.  A small 2011 in the corner and our piece of art was ready to hang up. If you notice on Denai's tree she used her almost 3 month olds little feet as the trunk - super sweet touch! A friend that saw it today said she might paint the canvas red and then do the tree on top of it - anyway you do it it's going to look adorable and the imperfections and smudges are what make it cute.
3 year old Norah and 1 1/2 year old Stella
3 year old Catalina and 3 month old Aida

Sunday, December 11, 2011

What's for Dinner?

Another week closer to Christmas! This week I might try to start wrapping gifts since I've had two rather large Amazon boxes sitting on my porch for a few days because I just haven't been ready to deal with them yet. Getting closer to being done  -- my goal is to be all done by Friday so I can enjoy doing some baking the week before Christmas. My sister in law and I are planning a holiday dinner for this weekend with our families and our in-laws. If it's a good menu I'll be sure to share it!

Here's what's for dinner at our house this week:

Chicken Rollatini with Prosciutto & Cheese (because I have left over prosciutto from an awesome pizza recipe and I don't know how else I'd use it), Vegetable & Spinach Salad

Meatball and Spaghetti Soup, French Bread, Sliced Fruit

Roasted Potatoes, Chicken Sausage & Peppers, Salad

Turkey Chili Taco Soup

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Feel Good Friday on a Saturday

This definitely counts as a "feel good" event and I'm so glad we were able to do this as a family. We got up this morning and rang the bell with Luke and one of his Sunrise Rotary buddies for the Salvation Army in downtown Chico. A beautiful, crisp, winter morning, warm jackets, coffee and lots of people out Christmas shopping were the perfect combination for our morning of bell ringing and handing out candy canes. The girls loved ringing the bell and Norah handed out candy canes to anybody that would take one.  And, how you could pass a candy cane up from that little sweetheart, I don't know.
We saw people from all walks of life donate money - from a handful of change to ten dollars bills they donated their money to those that could use it.  I was the most touched by the man who was dressed in dirty, wrinkled clothes, looked like he could have used a shower and a shave and walked up and donated some change. Now, I know that you can't judge a person by what they are wearing or how they look -- he very well could have been a successful businessman who was taking it easy on his weekend --  but he also could have been someone who needed every quarter he had and he still found a way to give. I will always try to have change to donate or to give to the girls to donate when we are out shopping and I hope ringing the bell will stay one of our Christmas traditions.

Luke rocking the red apron and Norah adding some coins to the pot.
Our little bell ringer.

Dancing, shaking, and smiling the whole time she rang the bell.

Taking a little break from bell ringing and handing out candy canes.

"We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give."  
Winston Churchill

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Lean & Mean


Start 2012 off on the right foot!  Build lean muscle, get your heart rate up and have fun!  A combination of resistance training and high intensity cardio intervals will be used to make you “lean and mean.” All levels are welcome as you’ll set your own pace and no coordination is needed.  Please bring 5-10 lb. hand weights and water.  Come prepared to sweat and feel the burn!

Monday/Thursday starting January 2nd for 8 weeks from 5:15-6:15 p.m.
 at the Orland Rec Center

Instructor:  Lindsay Reimers

$40 including childcare
$30 without childcare

You can sign up early at the Rec Center or the first night of class.  Make checks payable to Orland Rec Department.                                                        
 Call 865-1630 for more information or to sign up.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

What Can We Make?

Toilet Paper Roll Bird Feeders:
What a fun morning craft this was! I've been wanting to do some sort of craft with birdseed to hang in the trees for the hungry birds and squirrels around here and this was the perfect one. (I found this idea here). Norah loved this -- she sat at the table and worked on spreading the peanut butter with her little knife very content for quite a while. The perk of this activity is that it is also a snack (the peanut butter, not the birdseed!). In between smearing the peanut butter on the roll she'd take a little lick and enjoy her snack. Stella is not quite at the age to appreciate the fun in this craft; she basically ate her bowl of peanut butter then asked for a banana. Can't fault her for the peanut butter/banana combination though - that's one of my favorites!
We spread peanut butter all over four rolls, two toilet paper and two paper towels, then it was on to the fun part - rolling them in birdseed. We covered the rolls the best we could then used a string to be able to hang them from the tree, (you could also just stick the roll directly on the branch).

Spreading the peanut butter on the tp roll (and below is a picture of Luke on our wedding place mats).
Stella quickly decided eating the peanut butter straight was a much better idea.

The fun part!

Now a paper towel roll.

The finished products ready to hang in a tree.

Stella had more fun carrying the feeders to the tree than actually making them.
Bird feeders waiting for hungry birds to find them . . . 
And instead a hungry kitty found them . . .

Saturday, December 3, 2011

What's for Dinner?

Since we are out of town in Reno till Monday I tried thinking of a few meals we'd eat this week before we left. Seems like the evenings are getting busier and busier with parties, dinner with friends, shopping, and all the other fun stuff I love about Christmas, so I'm still trying to make a conscious effort to have healthy meals at home.

Oven Baked Chicken Fajitas, Brown Rice, and some sort of vegetable

Chicken Pot Pie Soup, Salad ( If you are looking for a good salad idea I made a great spinach salad with strawberries, blueberries, feta, toasted walnuts and used Lucero's Peach Balsamic with a tiny bit of olive oil on it --  it was delicious! It earned rave reviews from the ladies at our book club dinner on Thursday! Love, love, love Lucero Olive Oil and all of their products.

Lemon Feta Chicken with Oregano,  (I think I'm going to use chicken breast since that's what I already have) I might have to make that Broccoli Orzo from last week to go along with this.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Feel Good Friday

Here we are in December and the countdown for Christmas is on!
 I was recently reading a blog where she did a Random Act of Kindness each day leading up to Christmas with her kids and I fell in love with the idea. (I have a girlfriend who did something similar for her 30th birthday, you can read about it here.) I knew I wanted to try this this year and I hope we can make this a tradition for our family in the years to come.  It is a good reminder, for us and our children, that Christmas isn't about the gifts we receive but it's about the joy of giving to others. For now we are going to use Friday's as our RAK Day; I hope you'll join me.
 I used these printables and  decided to spread some Starbucks cheer today. I love my Starbucks and think most people would agree. I bought four $5 gift cards and attached them to the card I printed. On the gift card itself I wrote: For: You, From: ,? Price: $5 Merry Christmas! Please spread the cheer!

We had so much fun driving around and letting the girls help pick out which cars to leave them on; we left one in the parking lot of a middle school, in the Denny's parking lot, Safeway parking lot, and Premier West parking lot.  Throughout the morning we talked about the surprise someone would get when they walked to their car and I asked Norah how she thought the'd feel, "very happy"  she replied. Yep, I'd have to agree.                                                                                                                                  

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

What Can We Make?

 Chocolate Chip Granola Bars (or in our case White Chocolate Craisin Granola Bars)
I'm a big fan of Her food is very healthy, even easier to make, and very kid friendly. When I was making baby food for the girls I loved trying many of the puree combinations she posted. I love having a snack item to make with the girls and then have it to snack on all week. ( Coconut Apple Carrot Muffins are awesome too!)  I try to have the girls cook as much as they can with me; even if they are just standing at the sink making their own pretend "soup" I love having them help. Norah loves stirring and helping empty the measuring cups into the bowl and Stella just loves doing whatever her big sister is doing. It's not always the cleanest,  most time efficient, or most practical but they seem to enjoy it and I love the memories we are making. I can always clean the floors later, right?
When I found this recipe for these homemade granola bars I knew I wanted to try them. I had all the ingredients without having to go to the store minus the chocolate chips so instead I tried them with leftover Crasins and white chocolate chips. Yum! Just watch them while they are baking because they can overcook very quickly. I'd suggest checking them at 20 minutes. I think mine were in about 35 minutes and they were golden brown on top. When I was trying to cut them into bars some areas were still pretty crumbly and fell apart - so on top of little granola bars for the girls I also have a container with granola pieces for our yogurt. I wish I knew what the secret was to have them stay together - next time I"ll play around with the time a little more. The combinations you could put in them are endless and you could use whatever you have on hand. I wonder how fresh diced apple and cinnamon would be?

Somehow mixing turned into emptying the silverware drawer...

The floor after our adventure in's impossible to cook with those girls and not get anything on the floor.

Chocolate Chip Granola Bars
4 Cups Old Fashioned Oats

1/4 Cup Whole Wheat Flour

1/2 Cup Shredded Unsweetened Coconut

1/3 Cup Brown Sugar

1 Cup Chocolate Chips* ( I did 1/2 C Craisins and 1/2 C white chocolate chips)

1/2 Tsp Kosher Salt

1/2 Cup Canola Oil

1 Tsp Vanilla Extract

1/2 Cup Honey

 Preheat oven to 325 F. Combine the first 6 ingredients in a bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the 
remaining ingredients. Pour the wet ingredients over the oat mixture and stir to combine. Place granola mixture
 on a parchment lined baking sheet and shape into a rectangle, about 13 x 9 x 1 inch thick.
Bake for 40 minutes. Allow to cool for 10 minutes then cut into 3 x 1 inch bars.**

* You can substitute raisins or other dried fruit for the chocolate chips.
** Individually wrapped, the bars will remain fresh for several weeks.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Get Moving!

  Here's a few ideas to get your kiddos moving this week - you'll probably be right there moving with them too!

* Play some fun music (Christmas?) and when you pause the music they have to freeze until you press play again. Be silly, change the music style often and encourage them to dance slow, fast, high, low... This activity is good for working on their listening and following directions and to gets them to burn off some energy. 

* Sun Salutation: Norah and I have done yoga poses together a few times, but never an entire series of poses in a row. When she would have her head down (on the floor basically) and in a pike position I"d always call out, "Downward Facing Dog" and now she calls that out when she finds herself in the pose. The benefits of yoga are numerous. While I am not a consistent Yogi (is that what it's called?) I love how I feel after a class both physically and mentally.   The Sun Salutation is a series of yoga poses that if you take a yoga class you are likely to see. I taught it in my PE classes multiple times and a yoga unit always got a great response; I'm not sure if that's because they got to lay around in the dark listening to mellow music at the end or they actually liked the workout. I've been wanting to try this for awhile and am going to do it this week in the mornings with her and see if it could become part of our morning routine. I've posted a video of the sequence of poses and I like how she incorporated counting with the poses - you'll be working on yoga and counting! The picture below is pretty self explanatory - start at the top and work your way around the circle. In my searching I found the website, and it looks like a pretty neat website with tons of ideas on poses to do with kids. I think I'll be finding more to use from that site!

sun salutation

* My last movement idea for this week is just a simple ball toss. Find different sized balls you already have already the house (rolled up socks work just fine too!) then find different sized bowls, hula  hoops, boxes (anything to toss the balls into) and spread them around the room making some closer and farther away from where you'll toss from. To make it easier you'll want bigger items -- boxes, laundry baskets etc., to make it harder you'll want smaller - bowls, cups, etc. You could also use masking tape and tape it in a circle shape on the floor and they could try to toss the ball into the circle. Then let them go to town trying to toss the ball into the bowls/boxes etc. You can work on underhand toss or let them try to throw overhand. Wait until all the balls have been tossed before sending them out to collect and try again. 
Activities that involve throwing a ball improve children's coordination, body movement and gross motor skills but they'll just think they are having fun!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

What's for Dinner?

I don't know about you but I feel like all I've been doing is eating! This week I'm going to go for light and simple meals to compensate for all the yummy eating we did over Thanksgiving and the days following.

On the menu this week:
Pan Seared Shrimp, Broccoli Orzo, and a Spinach Salad
Crock Pot Minestrone Soup, French Bread
Balsamic Chicken with Roasted Vegetables

Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving and enjoyed time spent with family and friends.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Feel Good Friday.

Great movie, book, and words to remember.
Well said words from one of my all time favorite books, The Help by Katheryn Stockett. 
These are good words to tell ourselves or someone we love - our children especially. I teared up when Aibileen would say these words to the sweet little girl she cared for and in the movie it was even more powerful. If you haven't read this book please add it to your list. It is a "feel good" book and I always know I love a book when I'm sad  it's over. And, if reading isn't your thing the movie is really, really good -- not as good as the book (they never are) but one of the better book to movies I've seen.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What Can We Make?

In true Thanksgiving fashion here are two turkey crafts you can do with your little ones this week.

Toilet Paper Roll Turkey
This is  a cute little turkey made with whom ever hands yous choose to use. I was able to do one with Norah's hands and one with Stella's hands. As I'm typing this I was thinking it might be cute to do one with one of each family member's hands.  When we did it we didn't have the googly eyes so black marker did the trick. The link above will take you to step by step directions if you need them.

Thanksgiving Printables
The above link will take you to a great set of Thanksgiving worksheets geared for 3-6 year olds. Looking through them there are some great pages for kids to color, trace, count, etc. They are a little old for Norah but she'll have a ball coloring them and might be into the tracing. I will for sure be printing a few of the pages out for the girls and my nephew to color if they need something to do on Thanksgiving.

Happy crafting with your kids and Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Get Moving

Get Moving Monday will have 2-3 ideas for you to use throughout the week to get your kids, yourself or your family all moving and off the couch! Some weeks will strictly be for your children and other weeks will focus on workouts you could do at home while they are napping or between commercials while you watch your favorite TV show. I have an 18 month old and a 3 year old so the kids activities will be geared towards that age group, but there should be ways to make things easier/harder for older and younger kids.
I'm a planner. I like to have my week planned out on Sunday with meals, crafts and activities to do with the girls. Does this happen every week? Heck no. But it's always fun when it does and I'm making a more conscious effort to try. Just like when I was teaching and would have my lesson plan for the week I feel more productive at home when I have a plan as well. I could never find a website where they were all in one place each week so I'm doing that part for you. Monday's I will post"Get Moving" and Wednesday's I will post "What Can We Make" where there will be 2-3 themed crafts you could do.

Walk with Egg Carton Nature Box
I found the idea for this egg carton nature box off of Pinterest (where else?) I can't remember the exact site but I knew it would be a hit and easy to do.
I spray painted an egg carton white and then we painted the holes rainbow colors and let them dry. I had Norah help me do polka dots on the outside of the box to add some more color. Now you have the perfect vessel to talk about colors, matching, and whatever other discussions will happen while you are outside exploring. Bundle up the kiddos and take off outside and look for things that match each color and put them in the appropriate spot in the egg carton. With two of each color it actually works great for two kids because they can each have a side. If they were older and competitive you could make it a game who could fill it up the fastest by leaving the egg carton in one spot and they have to run back with their colored item to fill up their side.
Some of the colors are harder to find so you just get creative (a small piece of blue plastic? perfect!) This time of year there are so many beautiful red, orange, and yellow leaves where we are living that you should be able to find everything easily. If you don't live where you can just go out your door and do this then take them to a park or somewhere else were you  can get out and walk and let your kids get a little dirty picking stuff up and exploring the big, beautiful world around them. I was having issues importing my pictures so I wasn't able to show my "after" picture with the egg carton full of our goodies we found, but they really got into trying to fill each space and Norah was very observant to the colors around her while we were outside.

Indoor Obstacle Course
This isn't a new invention or something that requires special equipment; sometimes we just need a reminder to use what we have as a way to let kids get energy out and move. I know I'll be using this throughout the coming winter months when we can't get outside to burn off some energy. Will your living room get a little messy? Yes. But they'll have fun and you'll be able to make them use different motor skills to go through whatever kind of course you design. 
  • Crawl over pillows (as many as you want)
  • Crawl under a chair or a bench 
  • Through a tunnel (I bought one at Target awhile ago and it was a great purchase!)
  • Tip-Toe Walk on a jump rope (Or a piece of yarn, string or shoelace - just something skinny they could try to walk on).
  • Crawl into a big cardboard box (Thank you Amazon for shipping my diapers).

 Just use what you have and think about ways they could use their body to move over, under, through, around or jump, hop, roll, slide. Just by watching them try it you'll probably be inspired for something new to add to it! Have your camera handy too - you never know what you might capture.

Turkey Strut
I had to have something turkey themed for this week. I found this idea just be searching "thanksgiving movement ideas" and it was an answer on Yahoo questions here. Dancing and music are a big hit in our house and I think they'd get a kick out of this. Norah already does something similar with lily pads in her ballet class so I think she'd catch on to the concept pretty quickly. And Stella will just want to follow her big sister so they might end up sharing feet which is fine too.
Use pieces of masking tape to make turkey footprints all over the floor. Start playing music and have kids pretend to be turkeys and strut around the room. When you stop the music, have them find footprints to stand on (try for one child to a footprint) When you start the music again, have the "turkeys" continue strutting about the room. This will be good focus on following directions, sharing, and moving. I might even try to find different music tempos and see if I can have them move slow or fast like the music. If they were older you could also change the way they had to move each time i/e jumping, skipping, crawling, all while still trying to strut like a turkey. 

Remember the goal here is that we want our kids to move! We want them to be comfortable running, skipping, hopping, acting silly (show them how to strut like a turkey yourself and the sillier the better!), exploring and appreciating the world outside of t.v. and all the technology we are bombarded with every day.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

What's for Dinner?

I am loving this lazy Sunday afternoon --  football's on, fire is going in the fireplace, cozy rainy weather and dinner is cooking away in the Crock Pot. It was so nice to come home to yummy smells coming from the kitchen after taking family pictures at Bidwell Park this morning.
Over all I was really impressed with all the recipes I tried last week from Skinnytaste. I will continue to look for recipes to try from the website and will be adding  these two to my favorites:  Cilantro Lime Shimp (really easy and fast, great fresh flavor) and the Turkey White Bean Pumpkin Chili (don't let the idea of canned pumpkin turn you off -- it was really hearty and filling and the girls loved it -- Norah ate 2 bowls!).
Meal planning for this week is a little crazy with Thanksgiving and family and friends in town. I'm only going to plan out these two meals and then plan on leftovers and of course the big Turkey Day on Thursday.
I had leftover shrimp from last week and in my recipe searching I realized I already have all of the ingredients for it (love when that happens) so Angel Hair with Shrimp and Asparagus will be on the menu.
I'm also going to make my Mom's Spicy Potato Soup. I love this recipe because it is perfect on a cold fall day and will be easy to put on the stove when we've got company staying here through the weekend. Served with crusty warm French bread and topped with grated Parmesan cheese it is so comforting.

Spicy Potato Soup
1 lb. ground beef (I've never tried turkey but I bet it would be good)
4 C cubed, peeled potatoes
1 small onion, diced
3 8 oz. cans tomato sauce
4 C water
2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. pepper
1- 1/2 tsp. hot pepper sauce (This is to your taste - if you like it spicy add as much as you'd like!)
Brown meat and drain. Add everything else. Reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour.


On a totally different note I have to brag about my brother and his photography!Check him out here!  He's made quite a name for himself along the Central Coast and has even had some pictures published in a surfing magazine.  I'm so impressed with his eye for photography -- he definitely got that from our amazing Dad

Friday, November 18, 2011

Feel Good Friday

 Pinned Image

I wanted to share this quote with you as we get ready to head into Thanksgiving week. I think it is a nice reminder to focus on the good and focus on what we do have to be thankful for. Next week at this time we will still be half in turkey comas I'm sure. Our Thanksgiving tradition always involves not one, but two dinners and by the end we are stuffed. I think leggings will be the wardrobe to add for optimal eating comfort. I love Thanksgiving. I love the beautiful, cozy table my Mom always sets with candles, acorns and beautiful colors of orange and brown. I love the family that meets around the table, and I of course love the food. 
I'm taking a moment today to pause and reflect on what I'm thankful for this Thanksgiving. Although we should be thankful and grateful every day, Thanksgiving gives us the opportunity to really think about it and voice those parts of our life we are most thankful.
 I'm thankful for this new routine I'm living every day. There are moments where I do miss the teacher in me and I miss the amazing colleagues I worked so closely with for those years . But, I am thankful this opportunity presented itself to be able to stay home and I am thankful I was brave enough to take it.
I am thankful for my little family. I am thankful for two amazing little girls who are changing before my eyes and I am learning to be thankful even when they are driving me crazy (i/e -- as I am trying to type this, Stella is sitting on my lap and reaching for the keyboard...thankful, thankful, thankful....)
 I am thankful for my husband who works so hard for us and is so patient with me.
 I am thankful for immediate and extended family who helps us whenever they can. I have learned what it means to be a selfless parent by watching how giving my parents are.
I am thankful for my friends and the friendships that are such a support system.
I am thankful for the beautiful view when I look out my window. Yes, there are many moments I'm not thankful and would rather have a shorter drive to get to Target (or a decent grocery store for that matter) but when I stop and just look at the beauty around us I am thankful.
I am thankful for being sore after a tough class at the gym yesterday. Yes, I am thankful I' m sore. I love feeling this way and knowing I pushed myself and my muscles. I'm thankful I had a body that could get me through the class. I am probably the youngest one in my class and when I look at Francine (who's probably 65) I am in awe as she's doing jumping jacks with the weighted rope and doing sprints in the parking lot -- she's my inspiration to keep moving and pushing. I want to be like her when I'm that age!
The whole point of "Feel Good Friday" is to give you some food for thought, a positive quote, a fitness tip or inspire you to do a random act of kindness. It felt good for me to think about how much I really have to be thankful for; it's so easy to focus on what we don't have. But when you really stop to think, like the quote says, there's always something to be thankful for. So, your Feel Good Friday goal -- think about what you are thankful for and tell someone! It always is good to hear and it feels good to focus on what we are thankful for.
 A little random act of kindness goal too --  today I paid for the coffee of the person behind me at Starbucks. Have you ever been the recipient of something like that? It feels good, plain and simple. I hope they decided to continue the trend and pay it forward for someone else.
Happy Thanksgiving!

20 Thankfulness and Gratitude Quotes for Thanksgiving ♥

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Meal Inspiration

Here's a quick post with a few recipe ideas for this week. All the recipes are coming from Everything I looked at on her site looked very healthy, easy (3 are crock pot recipes!) freezable, and family friendly. So, if you are like me and hate planning your meals for the week - here you go! 

Here's my meal plan:
Cilantro Lime Shrimp
Crock Pot Asian Pork with Mushrooms  * I'll use the leftover from this like she suggests for the 5th meal *
Crock Pot Turkey White Bean Pumpkin Chili
Crock Pot Chicken Taco Chili

I'm excited to try these new recipes this week and will give feedback if any are definite "keepers."

Can't believe that we are almost halfway through November - Thanksgiving will be here before we know it!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Two Fantastic Appetizers

Last night I hosted a fun Scentsy party and made two new appetizers that I found off of Pinterest: Jalapeno Cream Cheese Poppers and Creamy Pumpkin Pie Dip. I love Scentsy! I love that there isn't a flame to worry about and love the yummy scents they have! Check out my friend Marie's website if you'd like to learn more. I had to share these two recipes because they got tons of compliments, were really easy and perfect for a party.  All the snacks were eaten before I had a chance to take any pictures tonight so please enjoy the high quality, well photographed pictures from their websites.

Jalapeno Cream Cheese Poppers
Recipe from:
Makes 32 rolls (** I only got 18 - I don't know how the heck they got 32 rolls out of 1 tube**)

1 package Cream Cheese (8 Ounce Package)
4 ounces,Canned, Diced Jalapenos 
1 Tablespoon Sugar
8 ounces, weight Tube Refrigerated Crescent Rolls

Preheat oven to 375.

Mix cream cheese with as much of the jalapenos as you'd like (the original recipe called for 3/4 of the bar of cream cheese with 1/2-3/4 of the can of jalapenos - I did this and they were quite spicy, very good, but still spicy - if you don't like things spicy I'd suggesting using less.)
Add the tablespoon of sugar and mix well so it's incorporated. 
Unroll the crescent rolls and press together to make it a rectangle. (**The recipe says to get 2 big rectangles from the tubes by pressing them together - if I made this again I'd probably make 4 smaller rectangles and just have smaller rolls, but you can do whatever you want.**)
Spread the cream cheese mixture on the dough and roll up. 
You can then slice them immediately and bake on a sprayed/greased cookie sheet for 13 minutes or you can cover and refrigerate. I think they are a little easier to slice when they have set and chilled.

Golden brown, creamy, spicy, hint of sweetness. Betcha can't eat just one!

Creamy Pumpkin Pie Dip
Recipe from:
Makes 2 Cups

• 1 8 oz. package spreadable cream cheese, room temperature
• 1 cup pumpkin pie filling
• 1 teaspoon cinnamon
• 1/2 teaspoon ginger
• 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
• 1/4 cup sour cream

* If using plain pumpkin puree ADD: 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/8 teaspoon 
ground cloves, 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg (or: 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice). PLUS: 3/4 cup icing sugar
(**I did this and just added the teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice and 3/4 C sugar to it, not quite sure what icing sugar is.**)

Cream together cream cheese and pie filling until smooth. Stir in cinnamon, ginger, vanilla and sour cream. 
Refrigerate 2 hours before serving.
Serve with graham crackers, ginger snaps, cinnamon cookies or fruit such as apples and pears.

This was delicious! I served it with really thick cinnamon graham crackers from Trader Joes, waffle cone cookies, again from Trader Joes, and apple slices. I think pears would be good and so would ginger snaps like suggested. Easy, yummy and definitely tasted like pumpkin pie - try it if you are into that sort of thing, you won't regret it.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Trip to Morro Bay

Last week I road tripped down to Morro Bay with the girls to visit my brother and their Uncle Jason who lives there. Luke was out of town and I wanted to take advantage of not being prisoner to the school schedule yet. So we loaded up and hit the road. We survived the drive with only one stop, lots of snacks and a few tears due to Stella throwing her blanket so far between the door and her car seat that I couldn't safely reach while driving.
Jason had to work Friday so we were on our own until we were planning to pick him up later in the afternoon. We packed up and headed a little north of Morro Bay to Cambria where they have this beautiful 2 mile boardwalk along the ocean. Gorgeous. Beautiful morning after a rainstorm the night before, the ocean crashing down below us, and two girls who were all smiles. Love.
We picked Jason up from work (great job at the County of San Luis Obispo, ladies) and went to the San Luis Obispo Children's Museum -- such a fun, great place for kids! It's three stories of sensory, dress up, imagination... you name it. This picture below is from when Jason looked at Norah and said, "Quit hogging it." Little kids, and big kids alike will have a ball.

We spent a few hours there just letting the girls run around and play. Fun, fun, fun. If you are ever in the area and need a good place to take the kiddos this is it. It will stay a regular visit for us on our visits to Uncle Jason for sure.
Saturday we filled the day with the Cayucos Car Show, Pumpkin Patch near Avila, and finally painting pottery at Red Hot Pottery. I'm not sure what we were thinking - there were a few moments of chaos and concern for all of the ceramic dishes, cups, plates around us at perfect height for Stella to grab. Norah picked a small turtle to paint, I did a platter and a coffee cup and Jason did a platter. For how young they are and how little attention they can truly hold on one thing, they did great. Norah's turtle has about 17 layers of paint so it will be interesting to see what color it is when Uncle Jason brings it at Thanksgiving.

 We ended the day with the biggest carnitas burittos I've ever seen and watched the sunset for a few minutes before packing the girls and us home for an early bed and a long drive home the next day.
Adding to my list of loves -- the central coast - I could seriously live there! And huge love to my brother, what a great guy, friend, and uncle he has become!