Thursday, June 30, 2011

Kalista - 19 Months

Our darling girl is 19 months old today!

Kalista's Tidbits:
Vocabulary = Way too much for me to jot down.
Takes dirty clothes off and puts them in the laundry.
Opens cabinet to get her shoes, as well as Mommy's & Daddy's shoes.
Takes her shoes off upon entering the house.
Throws away trash.
Marches upstairs to brush her teeth.
Circles around the bean bag chair and says, "duh, duh, duh...goo." (Duck, duck, duck...Goose)
Sings, "Wheels on the bus" in her own words, which I don't know how to spell. : )
Either sticks out her tongue or pinches her cheeks when asked to show her funny/silly face.

Back to Basics

The other evening I was thinking about how I was going to prepare the next night's salmon dinner. I knew I wanted something other than panko crusted or miso glazed or tomato based. Then it dawned on me. Why not go back to the basics? I adore cookbooks, cooking shows, cooking magazines, food blogs and well you get the picture. But lately I have definitely overlooked the simple and clean flavors of O'Naturale. Naked. Uncomplicated. Simple but not bland. Every meal doesn't need to have a recipe. Sometimes all the flavor you need is in your main attraction - you just need to add a little pinch of the basics.

Fresh caught Alaskan King Salmon - Compliments of hubby's fishing trip
I love the color of this salmon. And I am happy to know it's not artificial coloring.


Recipe (and I use this term loosely):
olive oil
lemon
salt & pepper

I love summer. The barbeque becomes my best friend.
So easy, light and full of natural freshness.
Let your food go naked! : )

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Fresh Blueberry Cookies

Brown Sugar Blueberry Cookies

Sometimes my minds seems to take off a million miles a minute with ideas, questions, curiosity and just plain 'ol nonsense. Late night web-surfing does wonders for a mind like mine. Especially the other night when I really wanted to make something with my blueberries but not the usual muffins, scones or coffee cake/sour cream cake/what-ever cake. Hmmmm. What if I type in 'blueberry cookies'? And voila!


I found this lovely recipe at How Sweet It Is. I tweaked it just a little bit. Sometimes it helps to read comments made by others. Seems there was a problem with these cookies spreading out when baked. So I skipped the refrigeration step. And I only went with the 1 tablespoon of milk to avoid a wet dough that may not spread.

Ingredients:
1 stick of butter, room temperature
3/4 cup packed, light brown sugar
1 extra large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 tablespoon milk
1 cup fresh blueberries

The Steps:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until smooth. Add egg and vanilla, mixing well until combined, about 2 minutes. Stir in flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon with the mixer on low speed. Mix until dough comes together. Add in milk. Fold in blueberries gently with a spatula. It's okay if they break a bit.
Form 1 1/2" balls or use an ice cream scoop and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 for 10-12 minutes. Transfer to wire rack and let cool completely - if you can : )

These are super yummy. No seriously they are. Sophia said so. : ) The brown sugar and cinnamon give the cookies a nice Snickerdoodle-ish taste. And the blueberries break down nicely into a preserve like texture. Next time, I think I will roll the dough balls in a little bit of cinnamon sugar before baking just to add a little sweet crunch.

Now a couple photos of my personal taste testers approval:

Monday, June 27, 2011

Introducing...Mrs. Mark Spitz

Okay, maybe not Mrs. Mark Spitz since he was born in 1950 (that would be a little creepy). Sophia has been doing so well with her swimming. I'm pretty sure she takes after David and his college swimming years. Congratulations Sophia! You are water safe - but we will still be watching you like a hawk : )

video

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Sophia's Latest Style

Ah yes, Sophia is a little girl who loves the world of trendy fashions. Oh Lordy, why am I having flashbacks to my childhood days of a revolving closet gushing of trends?! Heaven help us! : )

I was very surprised she chose red/black feathers.
I thought for sure she would want pink or purple.

Friday, June 24, 2011

A Gift from the Bumble Bees

This week I received an unexpected surprise from Sophia's class, The Bumble Bees. It was such a heart-felt thank you for participating as Room Mom. I had a wonderful experience as a first-time Room Mom and I can't wait to do it again! That's right...I've already signed-up for Sophia's Pre-K class, The Butterflies. In fact, I let our director know she could just recruit me for the next 4 years. I mean, what kind of mom would I be if I missed out on Kalista's preschool years. ; )

Beautiful orchid along with a class project flower card.
Cute thumbprints turned into bumble bees from each student
and teacher in Sophia's class.
and the cutest thumbprint bee of all!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Devil's Food Peanut Butter Cup Cupcakes

David had his office barbeque party at the house last Friday. It was pretty low key on my end in regards to food preparation since it was potluck style and David was on barbeque duty. However, I couldn't show-up empty handed at my own house! So I decided to whip up these super rich and easy cupcakes. Devil's Food Peanut Butter Cup Cupcake. Wow, that's a mouthful! You could use any type of mix whether homemade or boxed. Don't cringe... but I went with a boxed mix to save time. Afterall, I do have 2 kiddies to look after! ; )

Whatcha' need for these cupcakes:
One box of Devil's Food cake mix
4 eggs (I've learned that an extra egg makes the cupcake more dense and prevents cupcake tops from sinking especially if you have a center filling)
1 1/3 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
Mini Peanut Butter Cups, frozen (this will help the cups from melting away into the batter as they bake)

What to do with this stuff?
Preheat oven to 350F.
Line cupcake pan with liners. TipI like to coat the pan with non-stick spray too so the puffy cupcakes tops don't stick when removing.
Combine first 4 ingredients and mix well.  Evenly fill each liner with batter (I use an ice scream scoop) and drop one mini peanut butter cup into each cupcake. No need to push down on the peanut butter cup; it will gradually bake down.
Bake at 350 F for 25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. *Remember to test the perimeter of the cupcake and not the ooey gooey center.

Now for the frosting. I didn't want to overpower these cupcakes with more peanut butter, so I decided to go with a buttercream frosting instead. There are a lot of buttercream recipes, but I had to make the one inspired from the photo below:
If you EVER find yourself in New York, you must satisfy your sweet tooth here!
Whatcha' need for Magnolia Bakery's Vanilla Buttercream:
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
6-8 cups confectioners' sugar (I used 7 cups and got the right consistency)
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Food coloring, optional

What to do with this stuff?
Put butter in a mixer. Add 4 cups of the sugar, the milk and then the vanilla. On medium speed, beat until smooth and creamy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Gradually add the remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition (about 2 minutes), until the icing is thick enough to be of good spreading consistency. You may not need to add all of the sugar. If desired, add a few drops of food coloring and mix thoroughly. Use or store the icing at room temperature because icing will set if chilled. Icing can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days. This makes enough to generously frost 2 dozen cupcakes.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Happy Father's Day

This year Father's Day started a few days early when David took Sophia to school for "Dads & Donuts Day." Sophia was very happy to have her daddy take her to school and play for a while. And I know David enjoyed spending time with Sophia instead of seeing patients.

Handmade presents for the Best Daddy
Nuts and Bolt frame with Sophia's description of her daddy.

On Sunday, David went out on our boat for what was to be a day of fishing with another father & buddy, Tad. David works extremely hard and I really wanted him to have a carefree day to himself. And because I knew there was no way he would have arranged to spend Father's Day away from the family, I contacted Tad.

Unfortunately, the conditions at sea were to murky to free dive and spear fish and too windy to deep sea fish. I guess this means there may need to be a re-do in the near future! Luckily we have 2 dedicated freezers full of vacuumed-packed fish from Alaska to last us what seems to be a lifetime. Below are a couple of photos from David's fishing trip in Alaska from earlier this month.

What is it with men and the sea?
Looks too cold for me!
 
This was the happiness I envisioned for today's trip.

WE LOVE YOU DADDY!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Farewell to Mina

Last week we had to say goodbye to our lovely babysitter, Mina. Gosh didn't we just say goodbye to Sarah, another fabulous sitter?! Oh why must our great babysitters move onto the Real World? Mina adored our little girls just as much as they adored her; which from a parent's standpoint is a great quality. We are going to miss you Mina! Thank you for everything and thank you for referring Crystal! : )



WE LOVE YOU, MINA!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

First Cut is the Deepest

Well it was bound to happen. I mean, it has been almost 4 years without Sophia having to take a little trip to the ER. While I was at a Junior League retreat, I received a text from David letting me know Sophia had split her chin open. Apparently she was standing on her tip toes trying to look over the counter, at The Habit, lost her balance and came down on the counter. I guess fast food really is bad for you, huh?

As an Operating Room Nurse I learned that some of the best facial repairs were done by OMF Surgeons. I vividly remember working with David as he tediously and meticulously worked on putting the faces of children as well as adults back together bone-by-bone, skin-by-skin. His work was beautiful and still is.

Luckily, Daddy knew what to do and so that dreaded long ER wait was bypassed.
Some precise approximation and correct use of Dermabond = A beautiful closure without a needle.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Strawberry Mojito


David loves a good Mojito. Now that's silly - who loves a bad Mojito? Anyway I, on the other hand, have taken a little more time acquiring the taste for these rum concoctions. I think it's because not all Mojitos taste the same. I know I'm not the only soul who thinks it's VERY disappointing when your cocktail just doesn't taste the way you want it! So frustrating. Therefore what better way to guarantee a yummy cocktail each time than to make it yourself!

Farmer's market strawberries and fresh mint make for a fab Mojito!


Mojito Muddlins' (makes one cocktail):
5 strawberries
5 fresh mint leaves (you can taper to your desires)
Agave Nectar (amount depends on your sweet thermometer - I squeezed in about a teaspoon)
1/2 lime
2 ounces light rum
soda water

How to get your shaker on!
In a chilled shaker muddle strawberries, mint and Agave Nectar. Add juice from 1/2 lime and the rum. Get your shaker on! Pour unstrained, muddled goodness into a chilled glass, add crushed ice to the top and finish off with soda water. Garnish with mint leaves.

Heat up the pool (skip this step if you are not living in a coastal June Gloom) and enjoy a little taste of Summer!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

9:55

Tonight was our weekly Nite Moves outing with our family friends and Sophia unexpectedly let us know she wanted to try the kids mile run. So David took Sophia up the hill to the starting line. When the race finished, I saw this cute little girl holding a ribbon with a beaming smile!

Personal Best = 9:55
In a dress running and talking the whole way : )
After the race Sophia asked one of our friends,
"Why are you breathing so hard?"

The choice of running shoes?

Who knew Crocs were so speedy?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Agave Nectar Fruit Pops

It's the dreaded June Gloom here in Santa Barbara and although it's not officially Summer until June 21st, it didn't stop me from making some refreshing fruit popsicles for the kids.

Agave Nectar has been my new go-to sweetener these days. I love the light taste and I also love how it dissolves so quickly into recipes; especially cocktails : )

This recipe couldn't be simpler. I used raspberries and pineapple, but feel free to substitute with whatever fruit your heart desires! Here's what you'll need:

  • At least 2 kinds of fruit (one will be used for the puree and the other(s) you will leave in small chunks)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Agave Nectar
  • Popsicle mold (or you can use any other small vesicle like Dixie cups). 
  • Popsicle sticks

  1. Take 2 pints of raspberries, 1/2 cup of water and Agave Nectar (measured to your ideal of sweetness) and bring to a gentle boil in a medium saucepan. 
  2. Cool slightly and add to blender. Puree until smooth. I have a Vitamix that I LOVE. I think it purees better than a regular blender or food processor.
  3. At this point, I guess you could strain this puree to avoid the raspberry seeds. But I actually like the look of the seeds so I skipped this step.
  4. Add a couple of pieces of fresh pineapple (cut into small chunks) to your popsicle mold. 
  5. Fill mold half way with raspberry puree, drop in more pineapple then finish off with puree. 
  6. Secure the lid, add your sticks and transfer to freezer. If you don't use a type of mold with a lid, make sure to secure your popsicle sticks by using plastic wrap or foil as the cover with the sticks poking out.
  7. To un-mold, dip tray into warm water for a few seconds. If using Dixie cups, you can just peel away the paper.
I think I need to invest in some cuter molds. Maybe star shaped or the classic missile shape.

Find some cute kids to be your taste testers. I happened to have these two hanging around ; )
 Next time, maybe I'll choose a fruit that's not red...if you know what I mean!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Hummingbird Cake

I had never heard of a Hummingbird Cake until I Googled "cake with bananas and pineapple." Apparently the origin of the name is not known - only speculation is maybe it has something to do with the sugary goodness like the nectar hummingbirds love to feed upon.
The inspiration. Who knew something would
actually come up when Googling these
2 main ingredients?
I should have disguised the sides with chopped
pecans, but I made this nut free.
The top looked pretty though!
Wonderful flavors and very moist!
Hummingbird Cake - Food Network 

Monday, June 6, 2011

While Daddy was away...the Hall Girls played!

The past week, David went on an Alaskan fishing trip with some friends. Although I knew it was going to be hard on the girls, as well as me, not having our favorite guy around I think we did pretty good keeping busy!

We had a fun time celebrating Sophia's best buds, Jack & Luke's, 4th birthday. And despite the slight turn in the weather, the kids all went swimming and warmed up in the hot tub. 
Happy Birthday Jack & Luke!
Bundled up and happy!
See what I mean when I say Kalista likes to eat?
And no Mom, I didn't really let her eat with a knife.
Nor did I let her eat this huge piece all at once. : )

I promised to take Sophia out for "pantycakes" while Daddy was away. So on Sunday morning we headed off to Mesa Cafe for breakfast. I actually wasn't sure where to go for pancakes. I normally don't take the kids out for a sit-down breakfast. I would have rather gone to Jeannine'sRenaud's or Fresco's. But none of these places had pancakes; just waffles or french toast if at all. Oh the sacrifices we make for our little ones!
Can you believe this was off the kid's menu?!
Sophia did not finish her "pantycakes" but she did
polish off the bacon! Definitely Daddy's girl!

Sunday was a little bit of a sad day. Our long time babysitter, Sarah, watched the kids for the last time while I attended an event my friend Talina hosted. I can't believe Sarah has known us since Sophia was 2 months old! What a pleasure it has been having her watch our kids. And to think I was so nervous posting my own add on Craigslist to find a sitter. What a gem we found! 
We'll miss you Sarah!

Sophia really started to miss her daddy come the 4th day. She didn't cry but I could tell that she was a little sad. I was missing Daddy too. But we did our best at putting on our happy faces and maybe a few silly ones as well. *Wardrobe Disclaimer - If you have kids; especially girls, you know when to pick your battles. : )


Aside from the busy days, late night nibbling and aperitifs, I did manage to do a little shopping. Online is so much easier than schlepping two kids around. Don't worry David...I didn't go overboard ; )
What's that term? "Happy wife, happy life?"