Monthly Archives: January 2013

Double dose of birthdays

Today is not only my mom’s birthday, but also my grandfather’s. I am so thankful to have these two very special people in my life and the abundant love they have given me. I wish we could be in Tucson to celebrate with them both, but am glad that they will be spending the day together as they kick off what I’m sure is the beginning of another great year.

Happy birthday to the woman who has taught me what it means to be selfless, the value of a good shoe sale, how to make homemade mashed potatoes and a firm believer that family is always just a phone call away. And happy birthday to the man who is always joking, who used to feed me and my brother Cookie Crisp (occasionally accompanied with ice cream) for breakfast and can never turn down a game of dominoes. Love you both so much!

Happy birthday, mom

Happy birthday, mom

Happy birthday, Tata

Happy birthday, Tata

Happy birthday, Dad

Happy birthday, dad! Wish we could celebrate this special day with you, but until we see you again, we hope you have a great day to kick off another wonderful year. In honor of your birthday, we will spend the morning searching for garage sales and will raise a glass of wine at dinner in your honor. Happy birthday, papa bear!

Love you, dad

Love you, dad

Mr. Wrigs turns three

Celebrating Wrigley's birthday

Celebrating Wrigley’s birthday

Last week, our best bud Wrigley turned three. This little guy adds so much to our lives, from his happy (and slightly spastic) energy whenever we come home to his not so charming habit of stealing or biting a chunk out of the toilet paper (not cool, Wrigs). His third birthday also marks the one year anniversary of when I first started making homemade treats for Wrigley and I have to say, I love it. I’m not sure if Wrigley realizes the effort, but I can tell he loves how they taste over his regular treats! This year, I made him some muffins I found on Pinterest (of course). This recipe had a few ingredients I know Wrigley enjoys: yogurt, apples and cheese. Sounded like a winner to me!

Apples: one of Wrigley's favorite foods

Apples: one of Wrigley’s favorite foods

I'm convinced Wrigley knows when I'm cooking for him

I’m convinced Wrigley knows when I’m cooking for him

It’s safe to say Wrigley enjoyed his treat… when I tried serving one of the muffins to him properly on a plate so I could get a cute picture, he snatched it up, ran to the rug and tried eating the whole thing in one bite (note to self: make mini-muffins next time so our glutton of a dog doesn’t choke himself). We have since then cut the muffins into thirds and are trying to portion control Wrigley’s indulgences… not sure if he appreciates that! Happy birthday, pup!

The muffins were definitely a hit!

The muffins were definitely a hit!

Blueberry Oatmeal Bake

I’m a pretty big fan of breakfast. Many morning staples are some of my favorite foods… eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes, oatmeal, you get the picture. Unfortunately, having a full course breakfast isn’t plausible on a week day (at least not for the two of us!). I’m still able to have at least an egg and toast most mornings, but there are definitely days where I quickly eat some Kashi cereal while simultaneously packing my lunch before heading out the door to work. So when I saw a recipe on Pinterest for a blueberry oatmeal bake that made six servings, I thought this would be a great quick and easy breakfast option to have on hand, especially for Chip, since he’s usually out of the house pretty early to go get some studying in before work.

I’m not sure what I like more about this recipe: how good it tastes or how easy it is to make. Try it out!!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts, divided
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup (I used sugar free)
  • 1 cup milk (I used low-fat)
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2-3 ripe bananas, peeled and sliced
  • 1 cup blueberries or raspberries, fresh or frozen, divided

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 375F.
  • Lightly grease a 2-quart baking dish. In a medium bowl, mix the oats, half of the walnuts, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Stir to combine. In a liquid measuring cup, combine the syrup, milk, egg, butter, and vanilla.
  • Spread the sliced bananas in a single layer over the bottom of the baking dish. Top with half of the berries. Sprinkle the dry oat mixture over the fruit in an even layer. Pour the liquid ingredients evenly over the oats.
  • Sprinkle the remaining nuts and berries over the top. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the top is browned and the oats have set. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.
  • Reheat your serving in the microwave in the morning and enjoy!
Blueberry Oatmeal Bake

Blueberry Oatmeal Bake

Some much needed TLC for the garden

As many of you know, Chip and I planted our very first garden last spring. Much to our surprise, this garden started to flourish like crazy a few months after we got it started. It soon reached the point where our plants were getting so big that they were actually starting to kill each other as they all tried to get their necessary sunlight. We’re talking squash plants crowding their space and watermelon vines wrapping around nearby plants. Who would have thought gardening would be so intense?? Not me. Despite some of the chaos and learning curve that we experienced, we did get a lot from our garden. We had plenty of tomatoes and basil to go with our homemade pizzas and even had some squash and bell peppers grow.

Our garden in its heyday

Our garden in its heyday

At one point in the summer, while I was out in the garden diligently watering my plants when I realized that overnight, almost of the tomato leaves had disappeared. As I continued to stare at my tomato plants in complete confusion, I found the biggest, fattest caterpillar going to town on my plants. In the words of Stephanie Tanner from Full House, all I could think was “how rude!” This caterpillar was definitely not invited to hang out in our garden. Thankfully, Chip came to my rescue and quickly disposed of this pest. However, the damage was done; he had eaten the leaves off of the three large tomato plants and had made some significant impact on my cherry tomato plant, too. I was so personally insulted (a little dramatic, yes; I blame my Lopez genes for that) and am still surprised how one bug could take the wind out of my sails.

Also around this time, I stopped overwatering my plants. FYI, If I’m going to kill a plant, it’s usually from over-loving them in this way so be forewarned if you ever ask me to watch some plants for you while you’re out of town. I think this initial neglect came from the despair of the infamous caterpillar and his monster teeth damage, but I was so surprised (and slightly offended) that a lot of our plants were doing better without all my watering and attention. So I went from watering every day to really never watering at all and instead having our garden survive on our sprinklers going off once a week and any occasional rain. Yes, I realize I went from one extreme to the other. Since I was no longer spending time every day in the garden, I kept feeling so taken aback at the amount of growth and weeds whenever I went back there to get basil or check on some of the flowers. Then came fall and colder weather and I spent even less time outside. Then came a couple of freezes… as a first time gardener, I completely forgot about the need to cover plants during freezing weather. Oops. So we had a few losses from that this winter, which sadly included my faithful gerber daisies and our hearty (and slightly out of control) basil.

Chip had been trying to gently encourage me to not be intimidated by the work that needed to be done in the garden (thanks, Chip, for being patient with the however many hundred times I said “I promise I’ll work on the garden soon…”!). So while he was out this past Saturday morning getting some studying done, I finally got to work. Here’s how it looked like when I started Saturday morning:

Eek, what happened?

Eek, what happened?

Not pretty. It actually wasn’t as bad as I had expected, but I started Saturday morning expecting to pull just about everything out. Luckily, about half is actually staying. Our succulents did fine through the winter, although they need some cleaning up, as did our rosemary (so thankful for how neatly these continue to grow!), bell peppers, gardenias and lavender. The tomato plants never really grew their leaves back (but still managed to produce tomatoes… my photosynthesis knowledge isn’t good enough to figure this out), so those will be taken out and replaced this spring. The basil that had once gotten out of control died with the cold weather, as did the gerber daisies. There were also leaves everywhere from all the trees around the garden. I decided to work on the leaves first and started raking all of them over to one side to get them out of the way. With the leaves taken care of, I could then see where the different weeds were growing and work on pulling these out. Within an hour, I felt like I had made a lot of progress on getting the area cleaned up. I was also able to dig out the three different basil plants and clear space for some new ones. I stopped short of taking out our tomato plants; I saw a neat little spider web between them and didn’t feel like facing whatever spider had made its home there (i.e., I really don’t like bugs and had already run out of the garden several times at the sound of a bee).

I’m really encouraged that just a couple of hours dedicated to the garden made such a difference and that we seem to still have really good soil. We’ve started working on a game plan for how to keep our garden going and not feel overwhelmed by it this time around, so stay tuned for what will hopefully be a very fruitful spring/summer (pun intended!).

My best buddy helping me rake the leaves

My best buddy helping me rake the leaves

The big 22

Today’s is my brother’s 22nd birthday. Having him turn 21 was a big deal to me; now 22 is solidifying him as an adult in my mind. I have to admit, this is a little hard for me to process. I think a part of me will always see him as a goofy 16 year old that lounges around the house in flannel shirts, basketball shorts and his black Nike socks (he’s quite the fashion stud…). A part of me is also coming to recognize the man he is becoming. Sure, he looks like a man with his mountain beard and tall physique (most strangers think he’s older than me… rude), but what’s made me most proud is to see him mature over the last couple of years and take on more responsibility. Don’t worry, he can still be a complete fool, but I’m excited to see this maturing process continue and all that this year has in store for him.

Happy birthday, bro. I sure do love you a lot.

I love my little brother

I love my little brother

Alex has always had a flair for dramatic backyard games

Alex has always had a flair for dramatic backyard games

One of my most favorite pictures from our childhood

One of my most favorite pictures from our childhood

Christmas crafts, decorations

Happy 2013, everyone! I had been meaning to have this post done earlier, but somehow didn’t have the time. So although it’s a little delayed, here’s a quick post on a Christmas craft project Chip and I did for family gifts and as well as some of our holiday decor this year.

Last year, Chip and I baked two different types of bread and mailed them out to family as a gift. It was fun, but definitely wore out our little oven and also meant our families had to eat the bread pretty quickly after receiving so they would get to enjoy it before it went bad. This year, we decided to do a small variation based on an idea I saw on Pinterest. Instead of mailing out already baked bread, we decided it would be fun to layer all of the ingredients in decorated mason jars to send out. This also had the benefit of allowing our families to bake the bread whenever they chose since the packaged ingredients have a three month shelf-life.

First things first, we had to choose which bread we wanted to send. After doing some searching on Pinterest, we found a chocolate oatmeal bread that looked promising. We tested it out ourselves and liked it, so the decision was made pretty easily. Next, Chip went to Costco and bought our ingredients in bulk to be cost efficient. It was pretty entertaining to see him come home with huge bags of flour, sugar, oatmeal and chocolate chips! We next went to Hobby Lobby and bought just about all of the mason jars they had in stock… Hope they didn’t mind!

We got to work one Saturday morning and tried out a first mason jar to see how we should best layer the ingredients. That’s when we hit a roadblock. The site I found from Pinterest said to use a one-quart mason jar. However, there was a total of five cups worth of ingredients. That’s more than one quart. Fail. We tried super compressing the ingredients to see if we could somehow defy the laws of matter and get the five cups to fit into one quart, but that didn’t work… shoot. While I was starting to get flustered that our gift idea was going to go to waste and that we had bought 14 mason jars for nothing, practical Chip spoke up and reassured me that it would not be tacky to send a smaller one-cup jar along with the mason jar. Problem solved. So Chip went off to Hobby Lobby to get some small jars while I re-packed our first mason jar. By the time Chip came back, I had decided which way I wanted to sort the ingredients so they could look as cute as possible. Before I could get started on the second jar, however, Chip stepped in proving that his efficiency minded personality is valuable. He (politely) bumped me out of the kitchen and set up an assembly line of bowls full of all of the ingredients for this bread. Chip then worked on the first two ingredients for each jar and passed them on to me as he finished them so I could then add in the next two ingredients before we switched again. This helped us work so much faster; so thankful for the ways his mind works differently from mine! I’m not sure how long it took us to finish, but it was a surprisingly smooth process.

Chip's assembly line

Chip’s assembly line

Chip working on the mason jars

Chip working on the mason jars

Completed jars!

Completed jars!

With the jars filled and ready, I then cut the fabric I bought at JoAnn’s and fitted them over the tops to make them look a little more festive. I then filled out some labels from Hobby Lobby with the steps on how to bake the bread. We then divided up the jars and shipped them off! They all successfully reached their destinations before Christmas (nice job, mail system) and we’ve heard lots of sweet compliments from our family (although lots of the ingredients did get jumbled up despite how tightly we did each layer… boo). We hope everyone has (or will!) enjoyed this gift!

Baking instructions on the back of the jars

Baking instructions on the back of the jars

Since this was only our second Christmas as a married couple, our Christmas decorations are still a little sparse. We buy a little something new every year, so I know we’ll slowly build our supply of holiday decorations. Here’s a glimpse of what we had up this year in addition to our Christmas tree and wreath on our front door.

Simple centerpiece on our dining table

Simple centerpiece on our dining table

back when we were dating, Chip got me a basket of Christmas candle tumblers; it didn’t take him long to realize my love for the holidays! The little snowman is from our day at Clay Casa last year when we decorated a few ornaments together.

Decorations on our wine cart

Decorations on our wine cart

 

Reindeer candle holders on our TV stand

Reindeer candle holders on our TV stand

This year, we decided to display our Christmas cards on a mini-clothesline in one of our kitchen windows. This is another idea from Pinterest (what would we do without that site?!) and I love how it adds color to our kitchen and let’s us see all of this year’s pictures.

This year's Christmas cards

This year’s Christmas cards

Below is the awesome chalkboard tray Haley made for us as a Christmas gift. We love it! It’s definitely going to stay in our kitchen with different notes on it throughout the year. Behind the chalkboard tray is a candle holder we’ve been looking for forever to hold our wine corks (found it at Kirkland’s). We like saving our wine corks and writing on them with the date and event (like our birthday dinner at Fralo’s, etc.), so we may need to get another one of these candle holders!

Chalkboard from Haley

Chalkboard from Haley

Lovely Christmas cards from friends and family

Lovely Christmas cards from friends and family