Thursday, April 17, 2014

Before Anna, there was Annie

Like our children will recall belting out along with Elsa and copying Anna's charming antics, the soundtrack of my childhood is Annie. I could recite every line and sing every lyric and I did-much to the chagrin of family and friends. Watching Annie, I fell in love with NYC and musicals.
Because most of our wedding guests knew this about me, it was fun to walk out, after pronounced Mr. and Mrs., to "Together At Last". My dream of playing the little red-haired orphan as a child quickly morphed into playing Miss Hannigan as I've grown.
"Lucky me. Lucky me. Look at what I'm dripping with...little girls!"

By January, let's face it, the beloved Frozen songs started to haunt me-in my head, in the van,  randomly belted out from any one of my family members.
When I saw the stage-version of Annie at the library, I grabbed it, desperate to diversify our musical interests. I'm partial to the original with Aileen Quinn and Carol Burnett and Bernadette Peters, but my kids sat with mouths ajar through the whole movie!

And just like that, I happened serendipitously upon one of my greatest pleasures of parenthood yet.

On the other side of this counter,  I wow them with passionate renditions of "Tomorrow" while they're eating and take requests for "Maybe far away" at bedtime. Bonus victory: I hear them singing "Hard Knock Life" more often than "Do you wanna build a snowman" these days.
Oh and..
You can probably imagine a scene like this at your house: one night, after I'd been alone with the kids a few consecutive nights, I was preparing dinner and all three kids were sitting at the island, requesting and whining. I was reduced to short answers, "Yes.", "Wait." ,"Not now.", "Be patient." "No." "Later.", "Maybe." "I said yes.", "I said no." "Don't ask again." This went on for a bit. Eventually, silence.
My 2 year old spoke up, "We love you, Miss Hannigan."

I snapped this photo of Radio City while I was in NYC this week and my kids immediately recognized it as "where Annie went to the movies!".
My work here is done.
~
Anyway, give it a try, if you're ready to let go of "Let it go". By the way, Elsa, Elphaba, Adele Dazeem-whichever you way you know Idina Menzel best-happens to do a swell version of "Tomorrow" (you may remember I shared it here).

Have you heard about the new version coming out this Christmas 2014? My purist heart feels stretched enough, but I'm sure we'll be in line opening day.


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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Spring finds

At this point, I dream of burning my children's puffy coats in our first campfire this Spring. With snow in the forecast, it's not going to be anytime soon.
Desperately seeking brighter and lighter, I've grabbed a few Spring things and wanted to share them with you. Especially if you have sun streaming in your window and not Uggs slippers on your feet.

I had to return a gift at Kohls, and was stopped in my tracks by LC Lauren Conrad's collection! I grabbed this dress & always get compliments wearing it; it's super comfy too.
I don't wear flats so I was glad to find these sandals, from Old Navy, with the slightest heel & just $25!
I've been crushing on this Paint Pallette duffle from Anthropologie for weeks.
Bright pink on my nails, with snow on the ground, reminds me it's April! I love Style Hunter from Essie's new line.
This linked braided belt from Loft goes with everything & they always seem to be having a sale.
The buzz about Pillow Soft Curls (available at Target) has me curious, my hair dries naturally wavy/curly but not in a cute way, so I'd like to give this a try. I'm cheap about hair products unless they're tried & true-I buy salon brands at Marshalls or TJMaxx.
How about you? Loving anything new this Spring?
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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Obeying just because

Until recently, we had "family chores": helping around the house because you were a part of the family and "personal chores": weekly tasks that were the responsibility of one person for which they were given money.
We've implemented a new reward system to replace the "chores equal allowance" formula we've never really loved. The main reason for the change was we began noticing the conscious decision not to do the chores or to whine while doing them when his wallet was stocked with birthday money-which it has been since February. Also, oddly, remarkably more willingness came from his younger sister, who has never taken part in allowance only thanks & praise for good spirits.
The goal is to convey that in our house, each member of our family plays a part because we're a team. The reward is belonging. The motive is love. The attitude, grateful and willing.

Have you seen the Noah movie?
I haven't. But all the buzz got me to re-read his story in Genesis. Here's what stood out to me:
Noah obeyed because he loved and feared God. Not because God promised a reward for such obedience. Other than the preservation of his family, Noah wasn't promised anything for following God's commands and believing God without tangible reason. After the flood, for his blind faithfulness, God rewarded Noah with promises for an abundant future. But what faith! To do such work solely because He loved and believed God!

When my son had a wad of cash, and with it, the freedom to buy candy from the racks in the aisle or purchase a new app at will-you know the basic needs of an 8 year-old-his investment in chores significantly lessened.  
Why do the work if I no longer need the reward? Why obey? What's in it for me?
As Christians, this is a tempting pattern for us to fall into also.
Until recently, my argument for following Jesus would have included "It's always worked for me! I've followed His way and He has been faithful to me!"
And there are many promises of blessings for those who obey and curses for those who do not, but what about the times when our faithfulness to Him doesn't equal answered prayers and desires fulfilled? Why remain committed when we aren't receiving the reward?  

I love what Tim Keller says, "Is God committed to your happiness? Absolutely. And yet if you come to Him to make you happy, you're coming to a false god. If you say, 'I'm interested in this Christianity, and maybe I'll come bite on it if I can see that it can help me reach my goals and make me happy'. You're not coming to a God, you're coming to a butler.
Either he exists or he doesn't and if you come to him it should be because he created you and he owns you and to not come would be an injustice."

Our new rewards system is largely based on attitude. There are rewards, but specifically not one-for-one because we want our kids to know that sometimes we work hard in life and we don't get directly rewarded. (hello, stay-at-home-moms!) 
We want to teach them to choose integrity and wholeheartedness regardless of reward. And judging by the tears last Friday and the agreeable attitude since, it's working. Right now, I'm guessing it's motivated by maximum # of dips into the prize box, but we're hoping one day it will be because they love God and are committed to honoring him. 

"Lord, we show our trust in you by obeying your laws; our heart’s desire is to glorify your name..Lord, you will grant us peace; all we have accomplished is really from you.." Isaiah 26:8,12 Pin It

Friday, March 28, 2014

Friday Finds: Favorite Foundation

Friday Finds:
Favorite Foundation
How's that for alliteration?
It's been so long since I've done a Friday Finds post. Honestly, I have started, stopped, and saved several (gosh, I'm really on a kick today) much more meaningful (I swear it's just coming out this way) posts this past couple of weeks but decided against publishing them because the content is dear to me and it takes a certain confidence to be vulnerable. Maybe next week I'll get the gumption!

Today: foundation! Now that's a big deal, in a different way-but good Lord, finding the right match is quite a feat. I have combination and sensitive skin. After a couple of months, I can say I've found a winner in Estee Lauder Double Wear liquid foundation.
I've used Bare Escentuals for the past 5-6 years and while I liked it, I prefer more coverage and a better color match to my skin. I wanted to love Clinique CC cream, Laura Mercier, and Makeup Forever HD but they weren't the right fit for me.
Double Wear was awarded Allure's Best of Beauty 2013 & has quite the fan-base, so I went in for a color-match and went home with a 10-day supply sample. LOVE IT! No skin reaction, and it provides such a pretty, natural finish that holds up all day. I highly recommend trying it.
It's oil-free, non-acnegenic, fragrance-free and offers a selection of 30 shades
It boasts: 15 hour staying power, buildable, natural semi-matte finish
I'll likely be switching to Double Wear Light for the summer months.
Lucky for me, when it came time to buy & still today, at Macy's, you can get a FREE 7pc gift set with $35 purchase.
My little girl came with me and her eyes lit up immediately as the escalator approached the cosmetics floor. She was in her element trying on lipsticks and blush. At 2, I'm always stunned by the girlyness that oozes out of her so naturally. I'm with her, Sephora has always been a happy place for me.
 Because you can get an additional GWP when you spend $75, I also bought the Double Wear powder, that I apply with a brush to finish-though I'm not sure it's necessary since the foundation alone sets semi-matte. I'm also using the Double Wear concealer that came in the GWP. I snapped a photo with no filter to show you. The extra pink in my cheeks comes from dabbing my lipstick for blush like my mother-in-law so famously does! Kudos to those of you that have mastered the selfie, It is terribly embarrassing for me, but I wanted to give you an idea of the coverage (don't worry, I've since cleaned up my brows.)
I grabbed this little Pixi eyeshadow palette (in Buff Blizzard) to take on a trip with me last month and I've ended up using it nearly every day since. If you can't spring for a Naked palette, at under $15, this is a pretty great alternative & perfect for travel. As always, applying with brushes over the sponge applicator included will make a world of difference. If you can't find it at Target, try Urban Outfitters.
This drugstore cleanser and moisturizer is still a winning combination for my combination & sensitive skin. Have a beautiful weekend! Pin It

Friday, March 21, 2014

5 things I learned (& loved) living in Texas

I've never felt more out of place in any place than I did living in Texas. Those five years were shocking! The shock of figuring out my identity as a first-time mom, on top of trying-mostly in vain-to figure out where I "fit in" took me by surprise. 
As much as I struggled with loneliness while living in Texas, several things about it made a home in our hearts.
It's a super place to live! I'd give anything for that sunshine this morning, oh, and the sunsets-breathtaking! We miss the low cost of living, always enjoyed pretty drives in Hill Country & have fun memories in San Antonio and at the Fort Worth Zoo.
My breakfast this morning inspired these 5 Loves from our life in Texas.
#1: Love thy neighbor. I'll never forget the smiley blond gal, claiming to be my neighbor, arriving with a cooler full of "Cokes" (universal for all soda) and a vacuum cleaner when we arrived. The friends we did make, swung the doors opened wide for us to their homes & their lives. Many of them have continued to provide prayerful support and friendship across the miles & years later.
West Texas hospitality came in the form of waving at passersby, smiling at strangers, and sharing casseroles and anything else they have that you need. We have tried our best to emulate it ever since.

#2: Love thy local football team. This may be the best of all! I married a college football player, but he was burned out, so the religion that is Texas football re-kindled his passion and created a football fan for life out of me. The community support, the way the city is a ghost town outside of the stadium on game day, Tech beating UT-yes, it was my favorite thing about Texas.

#3: Love thy Tex-Mex. Breakfast burritos, huevos rancheros, fajitas with house-made tortillas and lots of fresh lime & cilantro, yum! Putting fresh salsa on my eggs this morning inspired this post. BBQ was tasty and eating steak in Texas has ruined my husband for eating steak anywhere else in the USA, but I crave that fresh, Tex-Mex monthly!

#4 Love thy financial freedom. Millionaires wear Wranglers and drive pick-ups in Texas. Where I grew up, people were more likely to be decked out in designer duds and drive a Lexus, and have credit card debt & depleted bank accounts. These are generalizations, but my perception was that folks in Texas were less concerned with image and more concerned with building wealth & investing in local entrepreneurs than I'd ever witnessed elsewhere. Immersed in this culture, I learned the freedom that comes from living below your means. We quickly adopted conservative spending habits and lofty savings goals.

#5 Love thy back comb. Kidding. Not really. No, I am; it's not that bad. Who am I kidding? Yes, it is. But those Texas girls are so pretty, tanned-skin, gorgeous even for morning school drop-off, "full face on" even at the gym in the morning.
Yeah, it's no wonder I never fit in. Pin It

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

When seasons stick around too long

Last week, New Yorkers got a jolting reminder that the calendar means little when it comes to seasons. I got a good, cathartic laugh out of this graphic.
On Tuesday, the 51 degree weather had me planning to bring out Spring clothes & wash the quilts for storage. Overnight, our town was blasted with a snowstorm!
As I drove around my own Arendelle, I couldn't stop snapping photos. Trees and branches, houses and hills were covered in glittery, white snow. Everywhere a picture!

I could hardly mourn my flip-flop fantasies, because the beauty (like the Winter) seemed inescapable.
There are figurative seasons in our lives like Northeastern Winters. Seasons that seem never-ending; waking up day after day to the same struggle, all relief efforts, in vain. If your gut tells you change is up to you: read this post I wrote to find the courage.
If your gut tells you this season will stick around for awhile, you're best bet is to embrace it! Your mission is to find the blessings and the beauty hidden between hardships.
It's tempting to lose heart, abandon your values, ignore the lessons you've learned through experience for the sake of immediate relief or gratification. It's frustrating to watch, helplessly while pain and consequences appear inevitable.
Paul talks to the Galatians about this in Chapter 6:
"Make no mistake: God can’t be mocked. What you give is what you get. What you sow, you harvest. Those who sow seeds into their flesh will only harvest destruction from their sinful nature. But those who sow seeds into the Spirit shall harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. May we never tire of doing what is good and right before our Lord because in His season we shall bring in a great harvest if we can just persist."(v7-9)
There's much more waiting than doers, like myself, prefer. Further, as a Christ-follower, you commit to a life of trusting, hoping, believing without seeing. As I've entered my thirties, I've come to respect time in a way I had no time for in my twenties.
I've learned whether good or bad, so few circumstances are permanent. Feelings are fleeting. Exactly what you have right now is worth enjoying. Anxiety doesn't help or hurry, just hurt (I've had the ulcers to prove it).
Changes come in time. Lessons come in time. Healing comes in time.
If your season has been determined by God, all of your best efforts are no match for time.

My effectiveness in the current season is determined by how present I am in it. 
If I've already moved on mentally, started "Pinning" and pining for the future, I'm less useful where I am now. Even worse, comparison seriously threatens contentment.

Watching a mom, reading in a lounge chair by the pool while her older kids swim, tempts me to wish away my season of life with children too young to swim alone.
Witnessing friends using their talents and passions in exciting ways can make confining mine at home with my children seem insignificant and unsatisfying.
When what's best for me, in this season, is met with criticism or disapproval, its tempting to defend or explain in the effort to gain approval.
But here's what I'm learning about seasons of life: they're personal. If you're a Christian, your choices only have to win God's approval.

Arbitrary ideals and expectations can keep you from embracing your season.
Step back and ask what this ideal is based upon. Distribution of household chores (garbage is the man's job, right?!), how money is spent & saved, ideas of romance-it's all subject to personal ideals.
What is really determining how many activities your children are involved in, your schooling choices, your birthday parties? Is it social acceptance or your personal values? They're your children, it's your marriage-free yourself to follow what works for you! It only has to line up with Biblical standards, not your neighbors or even that of your childhood home.

If this season is harsh, consider what James says:
Don’t run from tests and hardships, brothers and sisters. As difficult as they are, you will ultimately find joy in them; if you embrace them, your faith will blossom under pressure and teach you true patience as you endure. And true patience brought on by endurance will equip you to complete the long journey and cross the finish line—mature, complete, and wanting nothing. If you don’t have all the wisdom needed for this journey, then all you have to do is ask God for it; and God will grant all that you need. He gives lavishly and never scolds you for asking.
The key is that your request be anchored by your single-minded commitment to God. Those who depend only on their own judgment are like those lost on the seas, carried away by any wave or picked up by any wind. Those adrift on their own wisdom shouldn’t assume the Lord will rescue them or bring them anything. 
Happy is the person who can hold up under the trials of life. At the right time, he’ll know God’s sweet approval and will be crowned with life. As God has promised, the crown awaits all who love Him.
(James 1: 2-4,6&7, 9 | The Voice)
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Thursday, March 6, 2014

Dinner in a Flash: Turkey Chili

3 things make a recipe a win for me lately:
1. "Real food" ingredients. High on veggies-even better
2. Comes together without too much effort. No fancy ingredients, not much forethought, in less than 30 min: perfect.
3. Family [happily] eats it. Asking for more helpings, so I don't have the pressure of leftovers.
This turkey chili is such a meal. Most of the ingredients are in the house perpetually and it comes together with less effort than it would take to eat out.

I follow the recipe on page 100 in one of my go-to cookbooks, Dinner A Love Story, with only a few minor adjustments. Add diced pepper of your choice to the onion & garlic saute in the beginning. Add frozen corn kernels with the beans at the end. (I'm not black bean fan, so I used cannellini beans.)
Don't skip the cinnamon.
Double the next time if you want leftovers, this recipe will serves our family of 5 & pot is clean. Seriously, her 8 year old made this chili:
Turkey Chili Recipe here Pin It

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Lessons in $ with Monopoly

On odd occurrence, Carter & I were alone in the house and I had predetermined to say yes, no matter what he requested to do together. He picked (Electronic) Monopoly. We both like this game, mostly because one of us typically wins in our family, I presume.
This time it was just him and me. I was winning-which explains his facial expression. He doesn't like when his trusted strategy (buying all the railroads, collecting 2,000,000 on each landing) doesn't work; neither does his mama, so I keep my heckling under restraint. 
Electronic Monopoly, like real life, has progressed to the more convenient "swipe" over exchanging paper dollars and only the banker regularly sees your balance. You don't feel the money moving in or out, which isn't exactly conducive to smart money, so I wasn't sure I liked my young kids learning the practice.
Me: Carter, are you going to buy it?
Carter: No.
Me: Really? Why not? You have enough. 
Carter: Yeah, I know, but I need to have an emergency fund.

Way to "act your wage", son!
It's funny how playing board games can bring out things they are picking up from us, parents.
I don't even remember who won, honestly, because that was the real win for me.

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Monday, February 17, 2014

Frozen Party | Olaf Party | #DisneySide home celebration

We certainly showed our Disney Side this weekend, throwing a party with a Frozen theme, featuring the more boyish side with Olaf, Sven, and Kristoff in honor of the birthday boy.
As I mentioned earlier, I was selected to host a #DisneySide home celebration, and received luggage and Mickey & friends party supplies-which we plan to use for another party, because we couldn't resist a Frozen party.
First, we set the tone with this ticket invitation: 
No decorations outside necessary; the morning of the party, our place had the eternal Winter look down perfectly.

Here's a look at some of the decorations:
Silver & white balloons were strung on white ribbon and hung from ceiling above Olaf. While snowflakes dangled from the chandelier.

Reindeer food (Chex & Cheerios cereal, peanuts, pretzels, & M&Ms covered in white chocolate) berry-blue flavored water, white cheddar popcorn & Olaf noses were perfect for munching.


We kept the house full of 8 year olds occupied with a few snowman activities: 
Do you wanna build a snowman? 
I made individual kits ahead: Marshmallows: 3 regular & 2 mini. Toothpicks: 2, 1 cut in half, and 1/2 toothpick pushed into the center of an orange Mike-n-Ike for the nose. 
We used black gel tubes to add buttons & faces. The snowman treats were gobbled up immediately after assembled! No toothpicks eaten, phew.
Next up: Teams were formed, 1 snowman selected in each group. Groups were set equidistant from a central location and given 2 rolls of toilet paper, a hat & scarf. 
The object: Wrap your snowman, topped with hat & scarf & get your snowman to the central base without "melting" (toilet paper falling off). Winner had the least melting (and got to eat the piece of cake with Olaf's face on it-most coveted piece.)


We did a little ice magic too using this tutorial.

The birthday boy is quite creative himself, and was in charge of the cake & favor. He chose an edible image for the cake and it was a HUGE hit-there were a few broken hearts over getting a piece with a face.

We love this clever idea & printable to use as a favor. He chose fire balls & rock candy to represent "The HOT & the COLD".  I won't soon forget picking through the bulk bin for the icy blue colored rock candy, both Carter & I giggling. 
He's a great kid. Tucking him in after the party, he said it was the best day of his life. He melts me. As Olaf says, "Some people are worth melting for."

Source List: 
Olaf balloon: Amazon
Olaf/Sven/Kristoff invite: Etsy
Olaf (favor) printable: My Sister's Suitcase
Olaf table cards: Etsy
Plaid runner & sparkly mesh: Hobby Lobby
Turquoise wood-grained runner: JCPenney Martha Celebrations wrapping paper
Brown rope & jewel snowflakes: JCPenney 
Branches: Hobby Lobby
Flavored Water: Aldi
Galvanized milk jug: WalMart
Party plates, cups, napkins: WalMart
White & Silver balloons: Walmart
Cake: Tops Markets
Reindeer Food recipe: Alton Brown
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Monday, February 10, 2014

when mom's sick

Snowflakes have perpetually fallen here in central NY for weeks. If you follow me on Instagram you saw that since we live on the end of the cul-de-sac, the snow plow creates a sledding hill right in our front yard. (if not, check it out here).
With cold temps, come colds. And 4 of 5 of us have each been knocked out with painful sore throats and ears, drippy noses & eyes. I thought I had escaped the germs coughed into my face, but naturally, my turn came. And I feel so badly that I didn't coddle even more, now that I feel how they must have felt. 
Lilah's funk lasted longest & started clearing just as it came down hard on me
Lilah: Mom, can you make me bacon and eggs?
Me: Lilah, mommy doesn't feel good.
Lilah: pause
Lilah: head cocked to the side. brown eyes staring into mine.
Lilah: So, what about those eggs and bacon?

 Reminded me of this ecard.

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Friday, February 7, 2014

Frozen party for boys | My Disney Side Party

Guess what?! A few weeks back the big brown truck delivered a big brown box from Disney! We gathered around for the ceremonious opening of the box to find American Tourister luggage filled with loads of party supplies and more. I am thrilled to be selected to host a Disney Side party and Carter immediately took ownership, asking to make it his upcoming birthday party.

A Winter party in a town that could easily have been the inspiration for eternal Winter was just begging for a Frozen theme. And let's face it, we are the family with no need for the lyrics & bouncing snowflake at the bottom of the screen to sing along, because we've been immersed in the soundtrack since opening weekend. "MAAAAAAHHHHMM! EVERY. WORD. TO. THE. SONGS. IS. INSIDE!!", a nearly breathless Carter shared with me when he opened this primitive form of music called a CD.

We're skipping the princess sisters and focusing on the boyish side: snowman treats and games for Olaf, Reindeer food and snowy woods decor for Sven and Kristoff.

Printable ticket invites, found on etsy, couldn't have been more perfect.
For a decorations I'm planning something like this, but with blue instead of red:
If you follow me on Instagram, you saw that I scored a few Winter items at 90% off at Hobby Lobby.

I've been pinning away over on my #DisneySide party board, feel free to check it out.
Here are a few of my favorite Frozen finds:

From to row (left to right):
I'm still brainstorming kid-approved & Frozen-themed food.
Bottom row (left to right):
I happened upon a lovely Frozen party at yellowblissroad.com. If you have a girl, I'd check it out. Her white treats are so pretty, popcorn is perfect except for the inevitable trail (eek!)

Spoonful makes an adorable Olaf-inspired cupcake.
You should see this impressive Olaf & Sven cake!

My board has much more, including activities for the smaller set: snow slime, easy indoor snow, snowball playdough, snow painting, and more.
Check it all out here on my Pinterest #disneyside board. 

I've updated THE GLAD I READ THESE DISNEY WORLD TIPS & TRICKS SERIES, to include FastPass+, Magic Bands, and Memory Maker information
Check them out here:


Disney World with a Baby/Toddler (Pinterest favorite)
 
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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Granola

With a growing family, a big batch of granola, stored in a clear container on the counter is a good thing.
Using Ina's recipe as a base, I switched up the oil for coconut oil and used a bit less honey (1/4c) (Agave Nectar works too, I just add less because it's so sweet.)
Combine 4c old fashioned oats (not the quick cooking), 1 1/2-2c coconut flakes, 2c almonds, slivered. Melt the coconut oil & whisk in honey (if you use the same measuring cup you did for the oil to measure the honey, it slips right out!) Toss the oat mixture with the oil and spread it on a half sheet pan.
Bake on 350 for 30-40min. Stay nearby the oven around 30 minutes to check in & avoid over-toasting the coconut. I cleaned & organized my spice drawer.
When it's toasty brown, pull it out & let it cool a few min-push it together if you like your granola clumpy. Add dried fruits & seeds. I like Trader Joes orange-flavored dried cranberries & dried cherries are yummy too. Chia or flax seeds are nice to mix in also. Try adding dried apricots, figs, pumpkin or sunflower seeds.
The best thing about homemade granola is it's more of a method than a recipe, that you can customize to your preferences. 
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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Penne with bacon & tomato-cream sauce

When I found this preservative-free, uncured bacon at Aldi I scooped it up along with Organic diced tomatoes, whole wheat penne, and heavy cream because I knew I could make a quick weeknight meal out of it.
I mentioned before that Aldi has a growing selection of Organic, preservative-free, nitrate-free items to choose from at their famously low prices and I've been shopping there for a few months.

My husband was working late and I decided to rearrange the furniture in our master bedroom after homework was complete, before I knew it, the clock was nearing 7pm and the kids-occupied with hopping from mattress to boxsprings-hadn't eaten dinner. In about 20 minutes, this pasta & salad were on the table.

I followed Buddy Valastro's Penne Alla Vodka (minus the vodka) recipe, with a few adjustments.
  • 1/2 c instead of 1c heavy cream (once it's whipped up, I find 1/2c to be plenty.)
  • Bacon (Applegate or SimplyNature for uncured, preservative-free choices) instead of Pancetta.
  • Whole wheat penne
  • 28oz can of diced tomatoes because that's what Aldi has in Organic. 
  • (I added a splash of dry red wine to the onion & garlic before the tomatoes just because I had it.)
Put a glass bowl in the freezer. Chop the onion, garlic, and bacon while water is boiling. Saute bacon first & pull it out along with some of the grease. Saute the onion & garlic next, add the tomatoes and bacon back in before you throw the pasta in the boiling water. Meanwhile, whip the cream in the cold, glass bowl. Drain the pasta. Add the spices & the cream to the tomatoes & turn off the heat.

Simply Nature Organic spring mix (Aldi), grape tomatoes and vinaigrette-I like Gwyneth's standby-make the perfect compliment to this quick meal. My kids asked for thirds of the pasta and only two paid any attention to the salad. There was nothing but a big spoonful left for daddy when he got home.
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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

NYC favorites

As thousands descend upon NYC this weekend, with their newly emptied pockets and puffy coats, I can't mock their willingness. Sometimes, it's just worth it. 
NY was the coldest city in America the weekend we were engaged, 11 years ago this week. Warmed by our flaming hot romance and fueled by our first visit together, I ran him all over we ran around my favorite city.
Luckily for us, because of the bitter cold temps, we had the bridge to ourselves for the fateful moment he asked me to marry him. It's nice to relive the moment every time this place pops up in films and photos, The Plaza Hotel, where we stayed, in the background.
Isn't new love grand? Now, he'd never walk around, freezing and I'd never agree to spend as much on a hotel room.

While I appreciate the iconic NY moments to be had atop the Empire State Building and standing in the incomparable, Times Square, I generally avoid touristy spots in favor of a more "local" experience when I visit. I love that every day things feel extraordinary when done in NYC and I enjoy being amidst locals, treating public spaces as an extension of their living rooms.
Sometimes a line out the door means more than just "this place is on screen"; it's simply, the best. Conversely, there's so much to uncover, every visit feels like a search for hidden gems.

Here are some of my favorite ways to experience NYC.
A NY bagel (no toasting, that's insulting. perfectly crisp on the outside & chewy inside):
Arguably, one of the best is, Ess A Bagel, 831 3rd Ave Midtown
I order whole wheat everything with scallion cream cheese
ess a bagel | photo: detailgalblog.com

If ice skating tops your list, consider Trump's rink in Central Park, since it's typically less crowded than Rockefeller center & about half the price-CASH ONLY.

Avoid the wait for frozen hot chocolate at Seredipity3, and warm up with Hot Chocolate at City Bakery:
City Bakery Hot Chocolate | Photo: gothamist.com

Dodge the cronut & cupcake cults, for a chocolate chip walnut cookie at Levain Bakery . If you fell for NYC while watching Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks fall in love, than nothing feels more "NY" than a walk in the UWS, along Columbus or Amsterdam, and shopping at Zabars on Broadway.
Levain Bakery chocolate chip walnut cookie | Photo: foodspotting.com
I like to stay outside of Midtown, just a few stops on the Metro away. This way I can enjoy the touristy excitement in Midtown, but leave it all in favor of a more neighborhood-y experience. Chelsea is great in the warm months for walking to the Market and the High Line (more on this area here), and it's an easy Metro ride up to Times Square or down to the village. Recently, we stayed in the Murray Hill neighborhood, at The Roger, with a rooftop terrace & a view of the Empire State Building.
the roger hotel nyc | photo: detailgalblog.com
The lobby is chic, the rooms are tiny but well-designed, with everything you need for sleep & a shower (just bring your own ____ , because they charge extra for pretty much everything but the bed & faucet. Thumbs way down for that, folks.) Since we drive in from upstate, staying outside of Midtown on weekends means we can find street parking, for FREE! Woot! Woot!

In this neighborhood, you can take your morning jog in Madison Square Park.

Head left from the front doors of the hotel for good coffee at Perk Kafe, 162 E 37th just before you hit Madison Square Park.
perk kafe murray hill | photo: detailgalblog.com
If you head up Madison, you won't be able to resist a walk through the doors at Olde Good Things on Madison & 32nd.
olde good things: ogtstore.com
Also in Murray Hill:
Try Penelope for comforting brunch.
And Dry Bar before your big night out. Seriously, no matter where you're staying, get on your smartphone & book yourself a blowout at Dry Bar, whichever location is available. It's simply the most feminine experience; I'm hooked!

More NYC favorites: 

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