Friday, October 29, 2010

comfort zone and a "little" updo.

I've been thinking a lot about comfort zones lately and have come to the conclusion that mine is decidedly not very comfortable anymore.  In fact, it's down right making me nauseous.  So I'm kickin' it to the curb.  With that in mind I decided to switch it up Wednesday night when we went out to dinner for my mother in law's birthday. I've recently discovered Beth Jones (a fellow resident of OC) at B. Jones Style.  She's got these fun "hair tutorials" where she videotapes* herself showing off her cheapest accessory--a cute hair style.  These are styles that I wouldn't normally consider for one or more of the following reasons--A) I'm too old.  B) I'm not stylish enough.  C) My ears and/or head are too big.  D) My hair is too fine/straight/fuzzy/damaged.  E) Who am I trying to kid?  No way I can pull that off.  

Well, when your comfort zone is speaking such negative smack to you it's time to put some duct tape over its mouth and just go for it.  So I watched this and did.

P.S. *Is "videotape" even the right term anymore????  (Child of the 80's much?)

P.P.S.  I've been eating too much and spending far too much time in the kitchen doing dishes so I decided that we were all eating cereal for dinner this week (not really) but here are some yummy recipes from the fabulous ladies participating in Pretty Mommy's Fall Recipe Exchange.  Have a fun filled Halloween weekend!

Oct 25th - Tina - Bull In A China Shop 
Oct 26th - Kim - Lighter and Local 
Oct 27th - Elaine- Mama Seasonings
Oct 28th - Jess - Shades of Sunshine
Oct 29th - Michelle - Studio Surface, The Blog 

Monday, October 25, 2010

hair today, gone tomorrow.

In the last year I've gone from this--

to this--

Quite a change for me, my friends.  There were a few colors in between.  Some carefully placed caramel highlights.  A not so carefully applied home dye job (which I highly do not recommend!)  Finally, I got the courage to do what I've been wanting to do for the last 10 years--become a brunette.  Why did it take me so long?  Why did I allow a hair color to define who I was for almost 20 years? (Yep, I started coloring my hair at eight. =)

The truth?  I AM a blonde.  A dirty dishwater blonde.  A color that seems to work well on so many other women. But not me.  When I was a child, well, I looked like this--

And I think I've spent the last decade and a half of my life trying to somehow find a way back to that hair color. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective,) that hair color doesn't exist in a bottle, it only exists in my memory and in my parents' photo albums.  So I decided to lovingly leave it there and try something new. I'm not sure if the new venture has been successful.  And honestly, I don't really care.  I am simply happy that I moved out of my comfort zone and evolved

Saturday, October 23, 2010

cheater cheater, pumpkin eater, bake sale + block party.

My weekend is full of fall fun.  The school pumpkin patch is Sunday morning, and I'm helping host a block party for our street the same evening.  I need baked goods for both.  And well, you know how I feel about baking.  I've got four boxes of spice cake mix sitting in the pantry.  (They were on sale for 99 cents.)  And of course, a few cans of pumpkin.  But honestly, I'm over the original "cheater pumpkin muffin" and want something a little different.  Who knows why given that I'm making these for other people.  And am not going to eat any myself. Really I'm not. Except I have to eat one,  it is a new recipe after all.  Can't just expect people to eat my muffins (or buy them for that matter!) without tasting one myself.  Maybe I'll just have one bite and then give the rest to Ava.

So here's what I came up with:

1 box spice cake mix
1 cup oatmeal
1 can pumpkin
2 snack size containers no sugar added apple sauce (because that's what I've got in the panty-- about 8 ounces)
1 cup white "chocolate" chips

Mix it all up.  Portion into muffin pan with really cute liners (this is completely necessary.)  Bake about 20 minutes at 350 degrees or until completely cooked through.  Let cool a bit, but best eaten slightly warm so that the white chocolate chips are all melty and still gooey.  What?  I can tell that from one bite.  I can.

P.S.  These are about a thousand times better than the original cheater muffin.  And I can tell that from one bite too. 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

fall recipe exchange, part deux: app! dinner! or dessert!

How to have a good night:

How to make it better.  Add:

and two *pop* loaves of Pillsbury Crusty French Bread.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until bread is golden and cooked through.

Eat a lot.  With someone you love.

fall recipe exchange, part one: dinner!

i deface books.

sadly, the last of my homegrown basil 

my new favorite shortcut

Crock Pot Chicken Spezzatino or Chicken Zoooooop (as the two year old calls it)
*adapted from an original recipe by Giada de Laurentiis in Everyday Italian, one of my favorite books.  Buy it!

4 tablespoons olive oil
4 celery stalks, cut into bite sized pieces
2 carrots, peeled and cut into bite sized pieces
1 large onion, chopped
2 teaspons salt, plus more to taste
1 teaspoon pepper, plus more to taste
32 ounces low sodium chicken broth
1 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 chicken breasts with ribs (about 1 1/2 to 2 pounds total)
2 (15 ounce) cans great northern white beans, drained and rinsed

Saute the celery, carrots, and onion in olive oil over medium heat in a large heavy pot until the onion is soft and translucent, about 10 minutes.  Add the garlic and saute another minute.  Dump this mixture into a slow cooker set at high.  Add salt, pepper, tomatoes, broth, basil, tomato paste, bay leaves and thyme. Stir well.  Add chicken and press to submerge.  Cover slow cooker and cook on high for one hour.  Reduce heat to low and cook for 6 to 8 house.  About 30 minutes before you are ready to eat, remove the chicken and let cool about 5 minutes. Discard the skin and bones and shred chicken.  Add beans to stew and heat through (about 30 minutes.)  When ready to eat, return chicken to the stew.  Add salt and pepper to taste and garnish with more fresh basil.  Serve with warm crusty bread to soak up the yummy broth.

Cook's notes:
1. Honestly, I have no idea how much broth I add.  I pour in "just enough."
2. Sparky and I like things spicy but our girlies aren't quite ready for it.  I've found that swirling a tiny bit of Sriracha into our bowls right before eating adds a nice amount of flavor and heat.  (Where as when I add straight red pepper to the finished stew, it tastes like straight red pepper and not a part of the dish.)
3.  Al dente pasta is a nice addition.
4.  I'm sure you could cook the stew for 8-10 hours on low without the first hour at high.


Thanks to the Pretty Mommy Michelle for organizing the fall recipe exchange and allowing this newbie to take part!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

insomnia + the best laid plans + some weekend photos

When I started this blog, I sought out Joslyn for some advice.  I asked her how she found the time to write her wonderful blog Simple Lovely, given that she has two beautiful daughters, a husband, a career, and what appears to be a very full time LIFE.  She graciously responded, telling me that the biggest "game changer" for her was getting up an hour before her girls did.  She said that she does 90 percent of her blog writing in the silence of the early morning, drinking a cup of coffee.  A fabulously simple but genius idea.  And yet, I was immediately turned off by it.  Here's why.

Sleep is a hot commodity around here for me.  Even though I am quite gifted at teaching my children how to sleep well (I actually refer to myself as the "nap whisperer,") I'm personally not very skilled at it. I wake at the slightest noise (read: girlie cough, giggle, cry or sigh, Sparky snore, dog whimper.)  You'd think that in itself would be great for blog writing.  I mean, I'm up in the middle of the night for hours at a time with nothing to do, many many minutes of uninterrupted Stephanie time.  But, sadly, no.  It seems my middle-of-the-night brain has only the capacity to a) watch reruns of my beloved Law and Order (the original,) b) shop, c) create imaginary to do lists and d) read other people's stories in blog land.  My sweetest sleep is usually between the hours of four and six thirty a.m. when I somehow find dream land for a few hours before my girlies wake for the day.

However, in an effort of good faith and because it's quite clear that Joslyn is doing something seriously right, I decided that at some point I would give her idea a try.  Well, today was the day.  Mainly, because I woke up at 4:45 and thought to myself, "Some people get up at this time everyday.  It's morning.  Sort of.  I'll just get up." And then I got excited.  Yes!  I'll get up.  Make some coffee.  Drink it.  And WRITE.  An entire hour and half of quiet solitude.

Well, friends, within 5 minutes of those lovely first sounds of coffee percolating, G was calling for me.  No joke. "Lay Momma.  Lay Momma."   And really how does one say no to that?

Early morning writing: Major F to the AIL.

Early morning cuddle session with Georgia: Epic WIN.

artist at work

dance party and the tutu that won't quit

rocking the 80's inspired side braid (Ava's current signature hair style)

shopping at Jonathan Adler. "mommy, I'd like this chair for my room, please."

"yes, Ava, well I'd like this one for my room. please."

dressed up for church and a lovely lunch.  (what's missing here? the color gray is a hint.)

what the table looks like after sweet husband walks girlies over to gelato so mommy
can sit quietly enjoying her Sunday lunch glass of Justin cab

Thursday, October 14, 2010

rainbow turkey burgers.

This is simply the best turkey burger you will ever eat.  It's also two meals, one prep.  And a rainbow of healthy veggies are hidden within for your non-veggie kid (or husband, in my case.)  Genius.  If I do say so myself.

Rainbow Burgers/Meatballs (heavily adapted from a Rachel Ray recipe a long time ago)
4-5 tablespoons tomato paste
3/4 orange bell pepper, chopped
3/4 sweet yellow onion, chopped
2-4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons finely chopped Italian parsley
5 baby bella mushrooms, chopped
2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 black pepper
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 pounds ground turkey
swirl or two of olive oil

Put all ingredients including the olive oil in a large bowl and mix well (preferably) by hand.   Flatten the meat so that it is "even" in the bowl.  Then score the meat down the middle.  Put half of the meat mixture in another container with a lid and store in the refrigerator for meal #2.

Meal #1 ~The Burgers
Score the rest of the meat in half and then quarters.  Take each section and form into patties.  Saute in  olive oil over medium heat about 5 minutes per side until cooked through.  Serve with all the yummy burger fixin's.

Cook's notes:
1.  I chop all the vegetables finely as I don't like to bite into a chuck of onion and neither do my kids.
2.  Any mushrooms will do.
3.  I usually leave out the cayenne if I'm making these for kids, and double it if I making it for just adults.
4.  You can change up the herb you use.  I have a love affair with fresh basil so I often use that in addition to the parsley.
5.  I use one pound of dark meat and one pound of white meat turkey.
6.  If you like cheese burgers add a slice during the last minute of cooking.  (I add two.  Spicy jack is great on these.)
7.  You can barbeque these, but they tend to stick to the grill so I generally do them in a saute or grill pan.  I'm not the bbq girl. (That's Sparky's job.)  Anyone have any tips to keep the meat from sticking?

Meal #2 ~The Meatballs
Leftover Rainbow Burger Meat
Rao's Marinara Sauce (the best and actually worth the stiff price) or homemade
Box of your favorite pasta cooked al dente
Freshly grated parmesan cheese
Chopped basil

Form 1-2 inch meatballs out of the rest of the meat mixture.  (Seriously, I hate that term "meat mixture."  What else can I call it?)  I use a small melon baller to keep things somewhat uniform.  Place meatballs on a cookie sheet completely lined with foil (to make clean-up easy.)  Broil for about 15 minutes or until almost cooked through and browned.  I flip after 10 minutes.  Place in your favorite marinara sauce in a saute pan and finish cooking in sauce.  (This adds flavor to the sauce as well.)  Serve over pasta of your choice, sprinkle with parmesan and basil. 


I snapped away on my monster Canon but (shockingly) I was unhappy with most, actually, all of the photographs of our delicious meals.  So instead of showing you one of the disappointing photos, I thought I'd show you this epically successful one.

This one too.

P.S. Please check this schedule and wander over for more shared yumminess from some lovely ladies.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

am i the only one?

The five year old and the two year old are currently bodyboarding.  On the couch.  The five year old is the "board" and the two year old, well, she's the "body."  They are in violation of more house rules than I care to count.  But I just can't bear to intervene as they are a) both laughing hysterically b) enjoying each other's company c) not watching tv and d) thoroughly entertained without me being involved.  So I'm quietly looking the other way because I am currently surfing.  On my laptop.  Sitting down.  Without little fingers trying to poke at the keyboard or little voices telling me what site to go to.  I'm also drinking a glass of wine.  Did I mention I'm sitting down?

And it's priceless that Sparky walks in from work in the midst of it.  Cheers!

P.S. Yes, the almost two and half year old still uses a binky.  Anytime she wants it.  Go ahead and judge me.

Monday, October 11, 2010

on sale now.

Did you know?  Today, in stores only, Gap is having a 40% off everything sale.  (45% if you use your Gap Card.) I thought everyone knew this, but I spoke to a couple of my friends today, both are major shoppers (and have little girlies to buy for) and neither of them knew.  Thought I'd share just in case you were out of the loop!

And speaking of Gap, what's up with their new logo?  It pretty much sucks, as discussed here.

missing + girl crushin'.

Vanessa Jackman, where are you?

I'm going through withdrawal.  My favorite street style fashion photographer hasn't posted any of her stunning work in nearly 3 weeks.  I love her photographs and the amazing way she captures style and personality.  Plus, she writes like we're chatting over a latte at Joe's in NYC.  (Maybe that's just where I'd like to be this morning...)

Her last post coincides with my current (style and beauty) crush.

Let's talk about this girl, shall we?  Where to start?  The fabulous seventies inspired fashion that I could personally never pull off but that she kills? (I was born in the seventies so I've a little bias there.)  The fabulous smile that shows up in her fabulous crinkles (might I call them her fabulous wrinkles?) around her equally fabulous (slightly over) mascaraed eyes?  No, of course not.  Hello?  The hair.

Friday, October 8, 2010

cheater cheater pumpkin eater.

I have a confession to make.

I cheat.

It all started with this autumn recipe for (ridiculously easy, tasty, and cheap) pumpkin muffins.

Maria's (Cheater) Pumpkin Muffins

1 box spice cake mix
1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin

Stir together well.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Yep, that's it.  You've probably seen this recipe before.  Or maybe you haven't, and in that case, you're welcome.

One day I decided to add this complicated step:

Mix in 1/2 cup chocolate chips and 1/2 cup raisins before baking. (I certainly don't measure, just throw a handful of each in.)

After that bold move, the five year old (then 3 and then 4) requested these every time we were appointed snack family at preschool.  And because they have raisins and an entire can of pumpkin, they are (sort of) healthy. (Appease me here.)

Personally, I love muffins.  (I even like the way the word rolls off the tongue. "MU-FIN."  Actually no tongue action involved at all with that word.  But I digress.)  Anything individually portioned is a winner in my book.  There's no issue with sharing or (my problem) eating too much.  Muffins can be savory or sweet, decadent or healthy.  You can "hide" many different types of veggies and fruits in them for that picky eater (In our house--Sparky, mostly.) You can make them ahead of time and then, freeze for breakfasts and snacks.  They often show up in cute wrappers.  They're good at room temperature, heated, or cold.  A pat of butter is sometimes a great addition to a muffin.  If you're really lucky, frosting is spread all over the top (a.k.a the cupcake.)  I mean really, what's not to love about a muffin?

A few days ago, the 30 girl posted about this muffin, which actually is healthy with apples, pumpkin, and oatmeal as the star ingredients (Oh, and no cake mix involved either.  Or sugar, for that matter.)  These muffins also looked delicious.  (I'm totally on board for healthy treats, but if it doesn't taste good I'm not eating it.)  So today, as I was headed to my gracious neighbor Jackie's for a play date, I decided to bake these muffins as our contribution to the lovely snack spread.  I've mentioned before that I'm not much of a baker.  It's partly because I like to eat entirely too much of what I bake, but also partly because baking involves too. much. exact. measuring of sugar and baking powder (or is it soda?), flour and flavorings, etc., etc., etc.  I usually just don't have the patience.  But I was going to give it the old college try for those precious two year olds.  Then, I remembered I had all that spice cake mix just sitting right there in the pantry.  So I cheated.  Again.

the 30 girl's Pumpkin Apple Breakfast Muffin, Cheater Style

1.5 cups spice cake mix
1.5 cups oatmeal
1 cup pumpkin
1 egg, beaten
2/3 cup milk
scant 1/4 cup canola oil
1 cup shredded Granny Smith apple

Stir together cake mix and oatmeal.  Combine wet ingredients and then stir into dry ingredients until just mixed. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.


I can happily report that the muffins were well received by the mommies and two year olds, alike. Thanks to Katie for providing me with this amazing recipe.  Sorry for bastardizing it. Someday I will make the original true (healthier) version.  But until then, I'll make them cheater style, and next time I'll throw in a handful of chocolate chips. 

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

a little success.

Via Katherine Marie Photography.

Today I tried my hand at adapting one of my favorite recipes to the crock pot.  There is something that is warm and comforting about crock pot meals.  Who doesn't love coming home to the smell of a yummy dinner just waiting to be eaten?  Unfortunately,  sometimes the recipes I've found for slow cookers are either a) too complicated (isn't the point to be able to dump basically everything into it and end up with a meal?) or b) not very tasty (so why bother?)  I'm happy to report that my attempt was a smashing success, and I will most likely be sharing this recipe with you as part of the Roaming Fall Recipe Exchange (hosted by Pretty Mommy) that I mentioned earlier this week.  Until then, check out Torrie's recipes for Butternut Squash Soup and A Perfect Autumn Salad as well as Katie's recipes for Pumpkin Apple Breakfast Muffins and Chicken Pot Pie.  They all look delicious!

And more yumminess in store via the links below.  Enjoy!

Oct 4th - Michelle - Pretty Mommy
Oct 5th - Torrie - a place to share...
Oct 6th - Katie -
Oct 7th - Karen- It all started at Mother's
Oct 8th - Estelle - Under A Pink Moon
Oct 11th - Danielle - domestic dish
Oct 12th - Chassity - Look Linger Love
Oct 13th - Rebecca - Reluctant Floridian
Oct 14th - Elisabeth - You Plus Me Equals
Oct 15th - Jora -- Domestic Reflections
Oct 18th - catherine - Rikshaw Design
Oct 19th - Abby - 5th Joy
Oct 20th - ME! =) - Scrumptious
Oct 21st - jennifer - Whisk It Good
Oct 22nd - kate - Everything but the Squeal
Oct 25th - Tina - Bull In A China Shop
Oct 26th - Kim - Lighter and Local 
Oct 27th - Elaine - Mama Seasonings 
Oct 28th - Jess - Shades of Sunshine

for fall: need

Shorty cognac colored leather jacket.  Okay, it's a want.  But still.

Photo via the amazing Sartorialist.

And because I'm not really in the market to spend $500 to $1000 on a new leather jacket, I'm happy to have discovered this at Target. It looks even better in person; the color is richer.  What do you think?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


Trying to get G to sit and smile for a family picture last year.  Fail.

On Halloween every year I dress up to go trick-or-treating with the girlies in our very kid friendly neighborhood.  The last couple of years I've been an angel as it so obviously goes with my personality and demeanor.  This year I was hoping to change it up.  The five year old initially expressed a desire to be a honey bee, but has since changed her mind about a thousand times.  However, that bee idea is still buzzing around in my head.  I've decided I'm more of a bumble bee and I've been scouring the internet for a cute costume.  These are my basic choices:

or this.


Monday, October 4, 2010

finally fall.

Well, it officially feels like fall.  I walked the five year old to school today in a pretty heavy drizzle.  She wore thick polka dot tights and was stoked to do it. (It's clear I'm a child of the 80s after using the word "stoked," isn't it?) The weather is quite a change from last Monday, when it was, no joke, a smokin' sweaty hot 102 degrees!  So hurray fall!  Hurray boots!  Hurray jeans!  Hurray sweaters!  And hurray to cool(er) weather cooking, baking, and most importantly eating!

That said, I'm very excited to be part of a blogger fall recipe exchange that was the brain child of Michelle at Pretty Mommy.  She's kicking the exchange off today with a Taco Soup recipe that looks delicious.  I'll be sharing my recipe(s) on October 20, but check out Michelle's site for the full list of amazing bloggers that are participating.  I'll also be linking to the recipes each day so that you, my loyal 13 readers, can share in the wealth of some yummy recipes.

photo here.

Happy Monday!