Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Whole Foods

I stopped in Whole Foods today to pick up a fillet of salmon for hubby's birthday today and was reminded again how much I love that store! Just walking into the produce section I surrounded by such variety and color. Love, love it! Unfortunately it's not very convenient for me, and I'm all about convenience! And it's also a tad pricey! My usual store of choice is Trader Joe's, but Whole Foods sure is nice as a special treat. I didn't have too much time today, but was able to get some fresh mozzarella, pirate booty for school lunches, fresh pineapple, and some bulk pine nuts to make pesto. I also bought a super yummy chocolate mousse cake to celebrate the birthday. I had to dash through the prepared foods section, but oh how I'd love to go back and browse! I could drop some serious cash there.

{all images from Google images}

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Paris With (or without) Kids

Dinner, A Love Story, just published a fabulous list of 25 things to do in Paris with your kids. After reading over the list, I'd say most of the suggestions would be fun to do even without kids!

We visited Paris in 2004 with our boys who were 4, 6, and 8 at the time. We had the best time with them, and honestly didn't do too many "kid" activities. We went to museums, took a boat ride on the Seine, visited Versailles and rode bicycles, went to the bakery every morning for fresh baguettes and croissants,  and went to see most of the major tourist attractions.

My #1 tip for traveling almost anywhere with kids is to rent an apartment instead of staying in a hotel. We did this in Paris and it was the best decision. We had a separate bedroom for the boys, a small kitchen with laundry machines, and room to stretch out and relax after a long day walking. Plus it made us feel like locals!

What are your top tips for traveling with kids?

Monday, August 29, 2011

State Letterpress

I love these State letterpress posters from Esty seller One Canoe Two.

I don't see one for Maryland or D.C. yet, but hopefully more will be added soon!

Beautiful Home: Portland, OR

I saw this beautiful home on the Bliss blog the other day and had to post these photos here too. This beautiful home is in northwest Portland, Oregon, and is designed by Jessica Helgersen. I love the neutral color scheme of whites, grays, blacks, and browns, punctuated by pops of color here and there. I'm thinking I need to repaint my home! I also love how they have used very modern lighting fixtures in their mostly traditional home. The contrast between modern and traditional is so beautiful here!

There are so many things I love in this family room, including the amazing modern coffee table and traditional armoire. The sofa is beautiful as well.

I love the red chair and ottoman here and the texture of the poufs. And the floor light is to die for!
The entry way leaves me speechless! There is so much amazing going on here, but again it's the contrast between modern and traditional that I love. The mirrors on the wall are crazy cool and I love the hanging light!

This is the kitchen of my dreams. This is a kitchen I would cook dinner in every night and not even be tempted to order carry-out! I love the clean whiteness, the beautiful counter tops, and the glass globe lights.

Again the contrast with traditional and modern: the beautiful round table paired with the modern chairs. And how amazing is the light mobile over the table! Definitely a house I could move right into.

For more photos and links, see the Bliss blog.

{photos via Bliss}

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Lists: Snacks, Breakfasts, Lunches

I know I posted some breakfast and snack ideas the other days, but today I'm posting a breakfast and lunch rotation schedule I've come up with for our family. As I've mentioned before, if it's not on the grocery list, it doesn't get purchased. Not that I don't make impulse buys, I just can't remember what I need if I don't write it down! If I pair my breakfast and lunch rotations with my dinner menu plan and check the snack list, I think we'll be set each week.

Breakfast Rotation:
Monday: oatmeal with toppings (this may be stove-top or baked oatmeal)
Tuesday: waffles (either homemade and frozen or store bought)
Wednesday: breakfast burritos (egg & vege-meat scrambled in a cheesy tortilla with salsa)
Thursday: scrambled eggs, toast, stripples
Friday: dirty rice (vege hot dogs, corn, seasonings, and rice, stir fried)

Other breakfasts we may add in as we like:
Bicher Muesli (a concoction of yogurt, oats, grated apple, strawberries, and ground walnuts)
cold cereal or granola
bagels & cream cheese
Egg McMuffins

Four-Week Lunch Rotation:
Monday: chicken quesadillas
Tuesday: baguette turkey sandwiches
Wednesday: bean burrito
Thursday: pasta shells with parmesan and peas
Friday: hot dogs

Monday: grilled cheese
Tuesday: turkey & cheese roll-up
Wednesday: refried beans & cheese with chips
Thursday: macaroni & cheese
Friday: chicken salad wrap w/ cranberries

Monday:chicken quesadillas
Tuesday: baguette turkey sandwhiches
Wednesday: taco roll-up
Thursday: pasta shells with parmesan and peas
Friday: falaffel in pita

Monday: grilled cheese
Tuesday: turkey & cheese roll-up
Wednesday: refried beans & cheese with chips
Thursday: macaroni & cheese
Friday: chicken salad wrap w/ cranberries

In the boys' lunch each day I also include: chips or snack item, yogurt, fruit or veggie, a sweet treat.

{photo credits: my own photo, tumbler, tumbler, family fun}

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Hurricane Irene

{photo via}

We are staying inside today, nice and cozy, riding out the effects of Hurricane Irene. We're not directly in it's path, but are close enough that the rain and winds will definitely hit us hard. We spent yesterday and this morning preparing: cleaning the gutters, putting away things on the patio, filling the cars up with gas. In addition, I've been preparing for the distinct possibility that we will loose power for a couple days. I've done all the laundry, ran the dishwasher, and bought a couple bags of ice which we threw in a cooler in case we need to move items out of the fridge. Tonight we plan to sleep in the basement. The worst of the storm should hit us during the night and with several big trees around the house, we aren't taking any chances!

We seem to loose power a couple times every year, either due to snow/ice or a bad summer storm, so I'm already resigned to the fact that it might happen again. Our phones and iPad are staying plugged in as long as possible so they're fully charged! It has already started to rain outside and we've spent the morning with the T.V. on, wandering in and out of the bedroom to see weather updates.

Now that we're prepared, we plan to spend the rest of the day playing games, maybe baking, and watching non-stop coverage on the Weather channel. Nine years ago Hurricane Isabel blew through. That was a big storm for us with lots of limbs and debris down in the yard, and we lost power for five days. Hopefully this one won't be quite so bad!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Back to School Food Ideas

I've been scouring the web looking for great ideas for Back to School breakfasts, snacks, and lunches. I have discovered that if I don't have a plan, food items don't get purchased, and as a result healthy options are not available when the boys get hungry. So often I resort to bagels, trail mix, or a quesadilla for after school snacks, when with a little preparation I could offer a bigger variety of healthier foods.

So my plan for the year is to have a rotating list of snacks, lunches, and breakfast foods each week. I can even write up a grocery list ahead of time. That is usually my biggest stumbling block 'cause if it's not on the list it doesn't get purchased! Here are some great snack ideas I've found:

fruit, granola and yogurt parfait
fruit kabobs with yogurt dip
{photo via Good Life Eats}

cut-up veggies with dip (hummus, guacamore, ranch)
{photo via Good Life Eats}

Zucchini or Banana Bread

And I have to include this link for baked oatmeal as I think this may be my go-to breakfast this school year.
 {photo via Simple Bites}

Egg McMuffins are a huge hit in our house. With or without bacon and cheese, and use a whole wheat muffin for extra nutrition.
 {photo via Simple Bites}

Scones. Delicious and hearty. This recipe has oats for fiber and heart-health.
{photo via Simple Bites}

Fruit and yogurt parfaits, with or without granola sprinkled on top.  These make great after school snacks as well.
{photo via Simple Bites}

What are your go-to ideas for Back to School snacks, lunches, or breakfasts?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Beautiful Space: Dining Room

I love, love this dining room! I have a bay window just like this and am wondering how I can make my breakfast room look like this. I love the chairs and shades too. What a perfect space!

{image via Stephmodo}

Backyard Idea

We are big Scrabble lovers in our family and this giant size game board would be perfect in our backyard! Sunset magazine has instructions here on how to make a set for your own backyard.

{via Stephmodo}

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

First Day of School

Youngest boy started school today, a full week earlier than his brothers, but a full week later than he usually starts! Because of the new school and teachers needing more time to move in and set things up, the start of school was delayed a week this year. We couldn't have been happier about that as it stretched our summer out a little longer and made our return from vacation a week ago a little easier.

He's still not thrilled about having to go to school while his brother's don't, but he'll sure be happy come the end of May when he's done and they still have three more weeks of school!

We had to upgrade his uniform to brand-specific shorts and pants this year, and of course had to pick out cool new shoes. He loves these shoes, and I like them better than the first few pairs he wanted!

He had a great first day, learning the ropes of middle school. I can't wait to see what the year holds for him!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Brand New School

The school my youngest boy has attended since Kindergarten (and his brother's also attended) finally completed the new building this summer. The school was founded over 50 years ago, and they have been meeting in the original building this whole time. Over the years grades have been added and the student body has grown, but we still met in the same (overcrowded) building. It's taken years of negotiations with the county and lots of fund raising, but finally we have a new building!!

We were on vacation when the open house was held, but as soon as we returned we headed over to the new building for a tour. The new building is three times as big as the old school and has so many more rooms: a beautiful auditorium, a huge gymnasium, and a multi-purpose room, whereas the old school only had one small gym for all three purposes. Youngest son is beside himself with excitement over the new school, and what makes it even more exciting is he is now a middle schooler.

I took a few photos to share:

this will be the new library once shelves and books are unpacked:

one of the beautiful, new, wide hallways:

the stage in the new auditorium:

the multi-purpose room, which will be used for lunch time (kitchen in the back) and sports practice:

another beautiful hallway (locker rooms to the left):

the gymnasium! with bleachers that pull out:

the courtyard (high school to the left, elementary to the right):

the atrium at the high school entrance:

view of the courtyard from the second level:

one of two computer labs:

the high school science lab:

the high school entrance atrium, from the second floor:

The entire building is so beautiful and spacious. What a difference after spending so many years in the old school! We are looking forward to a great middle school and high school experience in this building.

Best Ever Meat Sauce and a Few Other Things

{photo from Pioneer Woman}

So today was youngest boy's first day of middle school. His brother's don't start until next week, so he got to pick his favorite breakfast and dinner all by himself. For breakfast he picked his favorite, dirty rice, and for dinner he asked for spaghetti with meat sauce. That is actually a big step as up till now he's preferred his spaghetti plain with cheese. No. Tomatoes. Allowed. He had spaghetti with meat sauce at the Spaghetti Factory on our vacation though (twice), and loved it! So that was his choice for tonight.

I have made this sauce before, so I knew it was good, but what made it spectacular tonight, and helped youngest boy gobble up every bite, was my pureeing the sauce before adding the cooked ground beef. You see, apparently the problem with spaghetti sauce has been the chunks of tomatoes! Pureed sauce=no problem! Especially with lots of yummy chunks of meat.

This recipe makes a lot. Enough for dinner, and plenty left over to freeze for another 2-3 meals. The original recipe is from Pioneer Woman, but I've changed or tweaked a few things.

Best Ever Meat Sauce

  • 1/2 cup Olive Oil
  • 1-1/2 cup Grated Carrots
  • 1 whole Large Onion, Diced
  • 2 pounds Ground Beef
  • 2 Tablespoons Dried Oregano
  • 2 Tablespoons Dried Basil Flakes
  • 1 can (6 Ounce) Tomato Paste
  • 5 cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 1 1/2 cup  Red Wine
  • 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire
  • 2 cans (28 Ounce) diced Tomatoes
  • Salt And Pepper, to taste
  • Fresh Parmesan Cheese

Preparation Instructions

Heat oil in a large Dutch oven or skillet over medium heat. Add grated carrots and onions and cook for a few minutes. Throw in oregano and basil. Use fresh if you have it; if you don’t, it’s fine. Add both cans of diced tomatoes, tomato paste, garlic, red wine, and Worcestershire. Stir. Bring to a simmer, then remove from heat and using an immersion blender, puree sauce to your liking (can make as smooth or chunky as you like).

Meanwhile, in a separate pan, brown the ground beef and cook until no longer pink. Cook a few more minutes to make sure beef is cooked through. When beef is thoroughly cooked, drain off fat and add meat to sauce. Stir, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 30 minutes to 2 hours—however long you need.

Serve with pasta and a generous sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.

The original recipe called for adding a cup of milk to the sauce. I forgot this step, but loved the sauce without it.

I haven't been much of a cook this summer. Just haven't been in the mood, and haven't had a menu plan, so we kind of flew by the seat of our pants when it came to meal time. So tonight I was pretty proud of myself in making this dinner. Home cooked! From scratch! With a vegetable! How could I loose?! Well apparently I didn't need to make dinner tonight. Just as we were getting ready to eat, middle and youngest boy discovered that the sleepover they were going to tonight involved pizza. They ate a small dinner anyways, but didn't need to. Well at least oldest boy will love it, I thought. Except when I went to pick him up at the pool, he had a plate of hamburgers in his hand from the girls' field hockey team party going on at the pool. Humph. And of course, hubby being a vegetarian won't eat it anyways. On the bright side, I enjoyed it, and there's enough to freeze for several more dinners. Yay!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

We are Home!

Back from vacation that is. We spent two weeks in the Canadian Rockies, visiting Banff and Jasper National Parks and Lake Louise. We got home late last night and are spending the day unpacking, doing laundry, straightening the house, and grocery shopping. I will have lots more photos to share soon!