Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Atypical Memorial Day

Happy belated Memorial Day! I have really been slacking on the blog posts lately so am pretty late on this one. I've been really tired and going to bed early every chance I get, and the days have been filled with trying to wrap things up at work and frantically getting everything ready for the baby's arrival. She is coming verrrry soon.

This wasn't our typical Memorial Day weekend, which usually involves pools and beaches and fun with family & friends, but it did feel great to get so much accomplished, and we were still able to squeeze in a BBQ and a fire with some good friends.

Among the absolutely gigantic list of chores and errands Matt and I put together for the weekend (amazingly, all of which got done), big items included furnishing the new patio, finishing the baby's nursery and planting our garden.

 I decorated the room in pinks, browns and greens, with lots and lots of owls. I love the way it came out! It's cute but not too cutesy, and girly but also warm.

As for the garden, this year Matt built raised boxes (4 in all) instead of doing our usual square plot with a fence around it. We didn't want to keep the fence up now that we have a nice large patio, but need the plants to have some kind of protection from Butters and other little animals. I love the way his boxes turned out; they add a lot to that little corner of the yard. And I can't wait for fresh heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants, strawberries and all the other goodies to start cropping up.

Saturday was actually Matt's birthday, so after a long hard day of work around the house, our little family headed out for a Mexican dinner followed by some ice cream. They were his only two birthday requests. Not hard to make that boy happy!

Sunday we participated in our big neighborhood yard sale, and had some friends over to sell their stuff with us. It was actually pretty fun to hang out all together on the front lawn while the kids played and we tried to sell our wares. I think we all caught the sales bug - it's quite the little excitement to negotiate with yard salers and actually make money selling stuff you're planning to get rid of anyway. Matt and I made a nice little bundle of cash, and are planning to use it towards a new farm table we're buying for our kitchen area.

Sunday evening more friends arrived for some snacks and a fire on the new patio to celebrate Matt's birthday. Not a bad little holiday Sunday. :) I did wake up Monday morning feeling completely wiped out though, so after a few errands, Matt made me relax on the patio couch while he worked on the yard. He's so good to me.

I'm halfway through a new dystopian novel, Halo, and loved laying in the sunshine reading in the afternoon, dozing off here and there. Can't remember the last time I did that!

After Mexican food and BBQing all weekend, I wanted something fresh and light for dinner by Monday night. I had a bunch of red and golden beets sitting in the fridge, so I roasted them off and made big salads for dinner, which we ate outside. On the plate:

- Mesclun greens dressed with flax seed oil and pear white balsamic vinegar
- Red and golden beets
- Goat cheese
- Dried cranberries (I found organic unsweetened ones at ShopRite!)
- Toasted walnuts
- A drizzle of aged truffle balsamic glaze

Soooo good. Dinner may have been veggie-filled and healthy, but we quickly ruined that with a quick trip to the playground so Riker could play and then soft serve cones at our favorite ice cream shop. I forgot to snap a pic, but my small chocolate & vanilla twist with chopped peanuts was fantastic. Just the way I wanted to end the holiday weekend.

After such a busy weekend of chores, I am feeling a little tired but also now, for the first time, ready to have this baby. If she comes tomorrow, we'll be ready. Eek!

How was your holiday weekend?

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Chamomile, Pear & Blueberry Smoothie (Recipe ReDux)

I have a new smoothie recipe for you this morning - one with an unexpected ingredient. I'm a huge coffee lover and really enjoy the daily morning ritual of sipping on a hot mug (or these days, iced cold mason jar) of rich dark coffee. But I also enjoy my fair share of tea.

Although I enjoy drinking herbal teas before bed or making all kinds of crazy flavored iced teas for daytime, I honestly never have cooked with tea before. So when I saw that this month's Recipe ReDux theme was about cooking with tea, I was a little stumped. But then it hit me. Why not replace the usual milk or coconut milk in my morning smoothie with some brewed tea instead?

Tea packs a bunch of health benefits, so drinking it in the morning with breakfast can give you a nice boost. This is also a great way to incorporate tea into your diet if you like the idea of tea, or want to get the health benefits, but don't really care for drinking it on its own.

I used chamomile tea in this smoothie, and it added such an interesting herbal, lemony flavor to the smoothie. I have tons of different fruit teas at home so I see more experimentation in my future. Use whatever kind of herbal tea you have on hand and see what you like best!

Chamomile, Pear & Blueberry Smoothie

Makes 1 serving

1 frozen pear (I peeled, chopped and froze mine overnight)
Small handful blueberries
1/2 cup cooled chamomile tea (I also brewed this the night before so it was chilled by morning)
3 Tbsp. plain yogurt
1 tsp. honey

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Family Moon

Well, we're down to less than three weeks before baby girl comes. Ah! For a while I'd been thinking about planning a little "family moon" for Matt and I to spend some quality alone time with Riker before things get a little hectic with a newborn in the house. Then I got a great surprise at work. My boss planned a corporate retreat for our company, and invited all our families to come up and spend the weekend with us after our work duties completed. Talk about an offer you can't refuse!

Our retreat and family fun getaway weekend was at Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, NY, which is just about 2.5 hours away from home. The perfect little weekend trip.

Mohonk is an absolutely gorgeous rustic resort nestled high up in the mountains, with about a million things to do. It was built in the 1800s so has great history and architecture, not to mention beautiful scenery and delicious food.

It rained all day Friday so we were stuck inside most of the time, but with daily 4:00 tea & cookies in the lounge and a spa-like huge indoor pool, that didn't really matter. Riker is such a little fish, I think we were at the pool at least three times throughout the weekend.

Thankfully the weather got beautiful on Saturday, though, so we got to spend a ton of time outdoors. Spring has finally sprung!

Some of the highlights included touring the 150-year old barn, feeding fish at the lake, seeing a birds of prey demonstration with enormous eagles, and taking a row boat out on the lake to go fishing.

Going "fishing" is probably an overstatement. All Riker really cared about was pushing the button on the reel and then reeling the line back in over and over again. Ah well, whatever makes him happy.

We also did a little hiking and a walk through the hedge maze, and had a gourmet picnic lunch overlooking the lake. I can't get over how pretty the grounds are.

I have to say, though, one of my favorite parts of the weekend was actually when Riker took a nap. ;) When we're at home and Riker naps, it's my time to get as much housework done as I possibly can in 2 hours. I don't often use the time to relax, and on the rare occasion that I do, I always feel guilty that I'm not doing laundry or some other chore. But at Mohonk, when Riker napped I obviously could not do chores, so I sat on our hotel room veranda and read a book while enjoying the sunshine and serene water views.

It was so peaceful, I could've sat there all day.

After our stay at Mohonk concluded and we were headed home, we stopped at a restaurant in town we'd been told was a must-do for beer lovers, Bacchus. I obviously couldn't drink beers, but Matt was excited about the huge selection and he tried a couple of sours he'd never had before. I was excited about the Ahi tuna tacos with jicama & green apple slaw. Oh and house made sweet potato fries with horseradish dipping sauce.

Uh, yum.

It was such a perfect weekend away with my family, and I'm glad we got a chance to relax and spend some quality time together before the excitement and whirlwind begins in a couple of weeks. It was also nice to get to hang out with my coworkers on a social basis rather than in a work setting; it's not often we get to do that, and I think it makes work so much better when you know your office mates on a personal basis.

Now that we've had our fun, the next two weekends will be cah-razy trying to get everything ready for the baby's arrival. I have a list about a mile long of things to do before she arrives, so here's hoping she stays put until my due date of June 10. Fingers crossed! :)

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Most Special of Weekends

I think I'm still high off of this weekend. The past few days have included so many special moments and I feel just so fortunate to be blessed with such wonderful family and friends who show such love and thoughtfulness. How's that for the start of a blog post? ;)

So let me take a step back a minute. My birthday and Mother's Day typically fall on the same weekend every year, so it's always an extra special couple of days for me. Matt is such a great husband that he makes a big deal out of both days rather than skipping one or the other since they fall at the same time. This year was no exception, but we had an extra special surprise in between as well.

Birthday celebrations started last Thursday night (my actual birthday) with cupcakes from Crumbs Bakeshop at my office in the city, followed by mini cupcakes and ice cream sandwiches from my favorite ice cream shop at home with my boys. And birthday presents of course!

Sugar overload!

One of my favorite perks of my job is that we get our birthdays off. I love that! I didn't take my actual birthday off since it's my weekly day in the city, so I took Friday off instead. I spent the morning with Riker, then spent some time at my in-laws, and then dropped Riker off there so I could have a few hours of "me time." I got a bunch of annoying phone calls crossed off my list which I've been procrastinating on, and then it was time for relaxation.

Starbucks, a prenatal massage (using a gift card I've had for TWO years, crazy!) and then a movie and a nap back at home. I can't remember the last time I took a nap. It was glorious. Just as I was about to lay down, the doorbell rang - which annoyed me at first, until I answered it and was greeted with a beautiful bouquet of roses from Riker (aka Matt). I adore getting flowers unexpectedly. And they are still in bloom in my bedroom 4 days later.

The festivities continued that night with a birthday dinner with my best girls at one of my favorite local Asian restaurants. Can't have a bad evening when I'm with these people!


On Saturday we had plans to go to a surprise graduation party for Matt's mom, who went back to college two years ago and is getting her degree next week. We were looking forward to an afternoon with the family, but were totally shocked when we walked in and everyone yelled "surprise" to US. We were super confused and thought they had mistaken us for Matt's mom, but nope...our families had gotten together to throw us a surprise "sprinkle" for baby girl.

I honestly couldn't have been more shocked, and was so overwhelmed with how thoughtful and generous it was. The theme was also super cute (and you know how I am about themes) - it was a tea party complete with fancy tea sandwiches, salads, scones with homemade lemon curd and jam, and about a million desserts.

Not to mention pink flowers and decorations galore. So adorable!

They even had favors for everyone - bags filled with jars of local raw honey and homemade jam from our favorite local organic farm. My sister-in-law is so talented - I would've just stuffed the goodies in a plain bag, but she glued on pink bows and little sparkly jewels. So cute.

We have a most amazing family and I am thankful for them every day.

What a wonderful day it was, not to mention we came home with a car full of baby girl clothes, blankets, stuffed animals, books and other necessities that I haven't had a chance to go buy yet. Such a big help!

As if the weekend wasn't already filled enough with celebrations, on Sunday we got to spend some extra time with Amanda and Justyn who spent the night at our house after the party (which gave us plenty of time to start talking about wedding planning since they just got engaged!! Woo!). Matt also surprised me with a few sweet Mother's Day gifts, after which we met up with his parents to spend the afternoon on the boat - our first boat day of the year.

It was 80 degrees and sunny, and a great day to start the boating season.

I honestly can't imagine a more perfect couple of days. I went to bed Sunday night feeling like the luckiest girl in the world, and am hanging onto that feeling all week - through the work stress and the sore hips and the tired nights as I try to get everything ready for the baby's arrival in just 4 short weeks. We have so much to be thankful for.

Speaking of sore hips and tired nights, this girl is off to bed to get some rest. Enjoy your evening!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Pineapple Banana Blender "Sorbet" + Tomatoes Contest

Today I bring to you the easiest recipe on the planet. Blender sorbet!

I've been wanting to try making sorbet in my Ninja blender ever since I bought it a few months ago, and when a beautiful fresh pineapple arrived in my Door to Door Organics box this week, I knew that's just what I'd finally be making.

This "sorbet" is dairy free, full of fruit and nice and thick - so it feels like a cold summer ice creamy treat, but is totally guilt free. Riker loved it and asked for seconds after licking his bowl clean. I said no, but only because I don't want him thinking he can have seconds of dessert - honestly, I'd be happy letting him eat three bowls of this stuff.

Here's the quick recipe:

Pineapple Banana Blender Sorbet

Serves 4-5

1 small pineapple, cored, cubed and frozen (I froze mine for about 3 hours)
1 frozen banana, chopped
1/4 cup coconut milk
3 Tbsp. coconut palm sugar
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
Handful of chocolate chips for topping, if desired

Place all ingredients (except chocolate chips) in the blender; blend for about 1-2 minutes, until fully pureed and thickened up. Add more coconut milk if it's too thick. Top with chocolate chips if desired.


Switching from pineapple to tomatoes now...

A few weeks ago I was contacted by Tuttorosso Tomatoes about a Facebook contest they're hosting. I've said before that Tuttorosso is the only brand of commercial tomatoes I buy, mainly because I was taught long ago by my grandmother that they are the only ones to be used in our family recipes, including vodka sauce and Nana's Tomato & Mushroom Mac & Cheese.

Today is the last day to enter the contest - and entry is super simple. Just share your cooking inspiration story on Tuttorosso's Facebook page and you'll have a chance to win a $250 prize pack that includes a serving plate, sauce ladle, pasta pot set and heirloom wooden spoon, plus $300 to a dinner celebration of your choosing. All entrants receive a Meal-occasion themed digital recipe flip-book with a $1.00/4 coupon, recipes, and cooking tips.

Here are the steps:

1. Like the Tuttorosso Facebook page 
2. Click to enter the contest here:
3. Post who has been an inspiration in your family cooking tradition and how would you celebrate in their honor. 

And if you don't win the prize pack, don't worry - we'll be hosting a tomato giveaway soon here on SSA too. :)

Good luck!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Cinco de Mayo Roundup

Happy Cinco de Mayo! Any excuse to eat avocados and drink margaritas (okay, no drinking of margaritas for me this year...) is a good holiday in my book. Can't wait until 6:30 rolls around.

This weekend was packed. Friday night we had the wedding of our friends Tom and Sarah, and it was an awesome night. You know it's a good party when you're nearly 8 months pregnant and your feet are killing you but you still can't stay off the dance floor for 3 hours. Such a great night with some of our best friends!

I love this bride photo bomb ever.

Saturday we had Riker's first dance recital. He didn't want to go on at first, but once he got his nerves up he went on stage like a champ.

The picture's a little blurry, but that's him waving to MomMom in the front row. <3

They are the cutest! This is the only year we'll be putting him in dance (he wants to do soccer next year) so it was fun to watch him on stage for his one song.

And then yesterday was a big patio construction day. Heather, Kevin and their girls came over for the day so Kevin could help Matt move 20 tons of dirt out of our yard, while Heather and I were on food & kid duty. Matt never could've accomplished so much without Kev's help, so thank goodness they came over. Progress!!

Matt started work at 7 am yesterday and didn't finish until 9 pm. He's such a hard worker.

I'm pretty zonked today and really feel like I need to start resting more since I'm down to only 5 weekends left before baby arrives (eeeek!), but there's just always so much to do. And today is no exception. A little tiredness isn't going to stop me from making some Mexican food for dinner! We're going with lettuce tacos tonight.

If you're still looking for some last-minute ideas for Cinco de Mayo fare, here are a few of my favorite Mexican dishes:

Surf Burritos

Black Bean & Corn Enchiladas with Salsa Verde

Black Bean & "Chorizo" Blue Cheese-Stuffed Burgers

Hope you enjoy some spicy food today, and have a margarita for me! ;)