Thursday, March 27, 2014

Things I Love Thursday // 3.27.14

  • Christopher Walken dancing 
  • Having my first archery lesson ~ After quickly learning that even my slightly hyperextended elbow could get in the way of the bow string (ouch), I started hitting the targets and feeling like a bada$$. 
  • Being invited into a new book club ~ I was lucky enough to be a part of two book clubs when we lived in Oregon. It's definitely been among the things I've been missing most from the life we've built here in Charlotte. I attended my first meeting on Tuesday evening and had a great time discussing a great book with a group of fun, friendly, intelligent women. Our April book is In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick. 
  • My new t-shirt from J.Crew ~ Just picked this one up over weekend and I've already worn it twice! I also love, love, love this one that I bought for G. 100% of the net proceeds from G's go to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. 

  • Lena Dunam on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon ~ This playful, funny, and charismatic interview has inspired my new curiosity about the 1991 Reese Witherspoon movie, The Man in the Moon. Not only have I never seen the movie--I'd never before even heard of it. I like the idea of it being awesome so much that I hesitate to actually watch it for fear that it doesn't live up to the glory espoused by both Fallon and Dunam--and really, how could it?
  • This little pickle singing her heart out at her school concert last week ~ She had the honor of introducing one of the four songs and gave a brief history and synopsis of Ella Fitzgerald to the audience. She was so nervous beforehand and so proud of herself afterward (as were we). 
  • Changing my text tone ~ Seems as though everyone had fallen under the adorable spell of "Tweet" and it was getting more and more challenging to discern when my phone was chirping and when it was someone else's. I finally made a change. I encourage all of you iPhone owners to check out "Sherwood Forest." It's so pleasantly ridiculous, it brings a smile to my face every time. 
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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Recipe Review | Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Apples

This recipe was a little more involved than some of the recent recipe posts I've made but so worth it when it comes to flavor. Everyone loved the result and I'm certain I will make it again. I felt a little "busy" in the kitchen when trying to pull this all together but I know the next time it will be a smoother process. I would recommend that you prep the pork, apples, onions, and thyme before you jump in.
Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Apples
What you need:
2 (1- to -1 1/2  pound) pork tenderloins
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more as needed
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, plus more as needed
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 apples, cored and sliced (I used fuji)
2 onions, thickly sliced
1 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon butter
What to do:
  1. Heat oven to 425º F.
  2. Trim each tenderloin of any silver skin. Pat dry with paper towels.
  3. Using your hands, rub the tenderloins all over with 1 tablespoon oil, sprinkle with salt, and rub until both tenderloins are evenly coated.
  4. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large heavy-bottomed oven-safe pan over medium heat.
  5. Add the pork and cook, turning occasionally, until evenly browned all over. (This should take about 12 minutes.) 
  6. Transfer the browned pork to a large plate or cutting board.
  7. Check the pan, if it looks dry add 2-3 tablespoons of additional oil.
  8. Add the apples and onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. 
  9. While the apples and onions cook, use a brush (or your hands) to rub the pork all over with the mustard, sprinkle it with 1/2 of your chopped thyme and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. 
  10. Add the remaining thyme to the apples and onions, stir. Place the pork on top of the apples and onions and slide into the oven. 
  11. Roast 10-15 minutes or until an internal thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers between 145º and 150º F. 
  12. Transfer pork to a large plate and cover with aluminum foil. Let rest about 10 minutes.
  13. While the pork rests, place the pan with apples and onions back onto the stove and turn heat to medium. Add chicken stock and use a wooden spoon to scrape the pan, living any brown bits from the bottom. Bring to a simmer and cook until reduced by half. Add the butter and stir until melted. 
  14. Slice pork into 1-inch slices then serve on a bed of the apples and onions with pan sauce drizzled on top. 
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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Things I Love Thursday // 3.20.14

  • This sweatshirt from Private Party that I find so funny 
  • That despite the fact that she was probably suffering from severe food poisoning and had to make 13 trips in 8 hours, my 8YO monkeygirl makes it to the toilet every time ~ What a trooper! She never cried, complained, or gave up. In fact, she was sweet, apologetic, and so mature about all that puke. 
  • Tall socks with boots + a dress 
  • The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty ~ I really enjoyed this book and finished it in record-time. I found it to be an original, well-written, and thought-provoking story about relationships and morality.
  • My new pig napkin holder ~ I found this on clearance at Michaels the other day and knew that I could find something fun to do with him. For now, he holds the napkins. Perhaps in the future, he will hold candy, flowers, socks, or lipgloss. I'm not sure. He's so versatile! 
  • The reaction from my family after my epic fail at our traditional and annual St. Patrick's Day dinner of corned beef brisket, cabbage, and potatoes ~ My only guess is that I accidentally boiled the $hit out of the brisket within my quiet dutch oven instead of gently simmering it--which is what I thought I had been doing all afternoon. ?? (This was NOT my first time at-bat with corned beef brisket!) In any event, it was the texture of beef jerky and my sweet family reminded me that it's, "the thought that counts." 
  • The way this sweet and cheerful bouquet was born from the three "growers bunches" that my youngest picked out at the grocery store for me 
  • How the forgotten, still-fresh, and unused half-head of cabbage left over in the refrigerator prompted me into a scouting mission that resulted in an unplanned and thorough cleaning of the fridge
  • My new highlights ~ Upon seeing my hair pulled back in a ponytail for the first time, the littlest one sweetly declared, "I really like your new stripes, Mommy!" 
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Sunday, March 16, 2014

Recipe Review | Tomato Ravioli

Wow. This dinner is so easy and so flavorful. The recipe came from a friend who found it in Cooking Light magazine. We had been lunching together when I mentioned that I hadn't planned anything for dinner that evening and really didn't have a lot of time to squeeze prep and cooking in between after school activities that day. She gave me the shopping list over lunch and emailed the recipe link right afterward. 
Tomato Ravioli
(via Cooking Light)
What you need:
1 pound cherry tomatoes
2 large shallots, wedged
cooking spray
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
12 ounces cheese ravioli (I used 20 ounces because that's how mine was packaged)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
What to do:
  1. Pre-heat oven to 425º.
  2. Halve half of tomatoes. Arrange halved and whole tomatoes and shallots on a rimmed baking sheet, coated with nonstick spray. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil, toss. Bake at 425º for 35 minutes.
  3. Whisk 2 tablespoons oil, vinegar, salt and pepper, add to pan. Bake additional 10 minutes.
  4. Cook ravioli according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain ravioli, reserving 1/4-1/2 cup cooking liquid. Toss ravioli with roasted tomatoes and shallots (plus any juices). Add reserved cooking liquid if needed, a little at a time. Sprinkle fresh basil to garnish.
My husband and my eldest are not huge fans of pasta meals--especially heavy ones; however, this light ravioli dish really packs a punch and both became instant fans. This meal is going into the rotation. I hope you give it a try at your house soon!
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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Things I Love Thursday // 3.13.14

  • The lady who ran to our rescue with a monogrammed towel from her car this week while my littlest, suffering from Strep Throat, threw up in the parking lot at the pharmacy
  • These tulip bulbs I found (at my grocery store!) for the dining room table ~ We have enjoyed watching them change over the past 2 weeks. 
  • This genius idea to freeze herbs and flowers in ice cubes for cocktails
  • Finally finishing the Harry Potter series ~ I read the first four books back when J.K. Rowling was still publishing them. I finished The Goblet of Fire before the The Order of the Phoenix was published. Then I just stopped. A few years ago G got into the HP series (as I'm sure you know if you've been following this blog for very long). My dad gave her his set of hardbound books last year. She's whizzed through the first 5 and I've had to keep ahead of her to be sure they aren't getting too dark. (And by the way, we've put the brakes on the series for her after The Order of the Phoenix--too dark for now. However, once I got rolling again, I couldn't stop.) 
  • Catching up with this lovely lady in NYC while celebrating her Big Birthday ~ Oh yeah, and being IN New York for the firs time of my life. :) 
  • The start of Spring soccer season ~ Looking forward to watching the monkeygirls tear it up this Saturday at their first games.
  • Anticipating my brother Bobby's arrival from California next month to visit us ~ Every time I think about his arrival I do a little happy dance. :)
  • Chocolate Sea Salt Butter Toffee from The Secret Chocolatier 
  • Driveway Tennis ~ The girls started tennis clinics a couple weeks ago and G loves it so much that any free minute she has, she wants to rally in the driveway with whoever is willing. (I'm getting pretty good. Almost as good as she is.)
  • Putting the screened porch to use this weekend for the first time this season
  • My new Soi Candle and Moisturizer ~ This is the coolest thing. I love it. According to the SOi website, "SOi candles are created from soy oil that is naturally rich in Vitamin E, essential fatty acids, and lecithin which benefit the skin when applied topically, the melt pool can be used as a skin moisturizer and help remedy dry or irritated areas." 
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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Birds and the Bees

Oh yes, we're nearly there

My oldest was five and her sister about four when the subject of how babies are made first came up. The three of us were laying in my bed together on a rainy Oregon morning chatting when one of them wondered allowed, "How does the baby get out of your tummy?" Wanting to spare them any gruesome details, I remember replying, "With the doctor's help." That weak answer seemed to pacify them for about a minute before the follow-up questions bubbled up.
"Does it hurt?" ~Yes. But not so much that I didn't want to do it a second time (kiss for the littlest).
"Does everybody need a doctor to help?" ~No, but it's more common to have a doctor help.
"When I have a baby will I cry?" ~You might, but I'll bet they will be happy tears. 
"How does the baby get in there?" ~It grows there from an egg. And guess what? You already have eggs in your body to make babies. You are lucky to be born a girl because you get to carry the eggs from the moment you're born and then you get to grow the baby. Boys don't get to do that and let me assure you, it's amazing when you're not vomiting, exhausted, or crazy with hormones. (I decided to save those other things for later.)
"But what about the Daddy?" ~Oh my goodness. The daddy is so so important. You can't grow a baby without a daddy. A mommy needs a daddy's help to make the egg grow into a baby. You can't just wish for your eggs to turn into babies, you have to choose the best daddy for your babies first. Then after you get married, when you feel like you're ready, you can decide together when it's time to start a family. 

We talked a bit longer about adoption and what an amazing option that is for many families. We even touched on surrogacy. Through all of this, I was able to avoid specific questions about exactly HOW daddies help the eggs grow into babies. We left the subject with everyone feeling content and informed. That was about 3 years ago… 

Then the other day while the three of us were getting a snack together, out of nowhere, the younger one asks, "So how does the husband {Yay!} help the wife grow a baby?" To which the other one adds, "Yeah. He doesn't just stand next to her or hug her, right? How does he help? What does he do?" 

And here we are. 

I always thought when it came down to the nitty-gritty, and the girls started asking more pointed questions, that I would approach the actual "Birds and the Bees" conversation with grace, science, a conversational tone, and perhaps a visual aid or two. However, this was long before I realized that my adorable daughters have super big mouths and share absolutely everything with all of their friends and also anyone else within earshot. Trust me, odds are that your little darlings do the same--but probably not nearly to the degree that my loudmouths do. 

So here's the thing: While I think that I could do a fairly decent job of keeping the details simple, steering clear of embarrassment and shame, providing age-appropriate content, and offering frank answers… I'm more than a bit hesitant to become the parent of the child who will (likely) mix up her facts while relating all of this incredible science regarding sperm, eggs, uteruses, and all the other fascinating mechanics of reproduction to your child. (Special emphasis for the parents of other children who ride the "purple bus." As I'm sure you already know, a TON of heavy shit gets debated and discussed on that route!) 

Making this sticky situation even stickier (Pun intended. Too much?) is the fact that we no longer live in über-liberal Portland, Oregon. We now live in far-less-liberal North Carolina. I have to say, this is a big part of the dilemma for me. I can tell you that on more than one occasion over the last year, my adorably agnostic and possibly atheist children have been relegated on the aforementioned purple bus with tales of hellfire and doom because of their refusal to agree with the spiritual opinions and religious beliefs of the majority of riders on that lumbering, yellow vessel of unsupervised sharing amongst children aged five to eleven. (Thankfully, they were not too upset by the dire warnings of their bus mates, as the more outspoken one of the two shot back, "I suppose those threats only work if you believe in hell or the devil.") In any event, I'm left to assume that there's not a lot of frank discussion regarding either birds or bees happening in the homes of other 7 and 8 year olds around here. I suspect that mine are on the younger end of the spectrum regarding the topic--but I can't be sure… I don't mind. I'm happy they're inquisitive and we have always celebrated curiosity. It's just much more straightforward when, as was the case this evening, the topics included: the atmosphere, gravity, and planetary orbit.

I managed to avoid really answering The Question during our snack-making sidetrack but I know they noticed my hedging and I feel like they're ready for some answers. I don't want to keep side-stepping the issue because one of the things I value most and really want to hang onto is the idea that we can talk about anything together--even the hard stuff. Now is the time to lay out the foundation for honesty, trust, and open communication that I know is going to be so much more important in the coming years. They deserve an answer.

It goes without saying that I will strongly urge my girls to be discreet when it comes to the topic of baby-making with anyone other than myself or their father; however, we've explored that road a bit here today and I want to be realistic too. At some point the topic will come up among their peers and mine will want to contribute to the conversation. So here's what I'm wondering: To what extent need I consider everyone else's parenting decisions while making my own? And here's another thing: Do you happen to have a handy visual aid (or two) I might borrow? {wink}

Friday, March 7, 2014

Celebrating Dr. Seuss

"You're never too old, too wacky, to wild,
to pick up a book and read to a child."
~ Dr. Seuss
We are a family that loves books and we all read something every day. Naturally, we were excited to participate in the celebration of Dr. Seuss's birthday during Read Across America week. The girls' school organized a week of fun days to get the students involved. Monday - Hat and Tie Day, Tuesday - Career Day (we had a spy and an author), Wednesday - Wacky Hair Day, Thursday - Crazy Sock Day (which is practically an everyday occurrence around here), and Friday - Dr. Seuss Character Day.  

The girls immediately decided that they wanted to be Thing 1 and Thing 2. Of course, we didn't plan far enough in advance to locate their size shirts off the rack--so I was presented with the perfect excuse to get a little crafty. All it took was a couple $3 tees, some white felt, black fabric paint, "fur" yarn, and some elastic headbands. (We already had the striped pajama bottoms. Shh… Don't tell anyone that they're Santa jammies.) 
I used a salad plate to trace the circles and then penciled in the letters, referencing some pictures I found online. I outlined the letters with a black Sharpie.
After pinning the felt patch to the front of the tee, I hand-stiched it around the edge. I thought I had iron-on adhesive--but shockingly {insert heavy sarcasm}, I couldn't locate any in my craft pile closet and I didn't want to drive out the craft store again.
After the patches were secured to the tees, I outlined and then filled in the letters using the fabric paint. 
The "Blue Hair" headbands (sorry no close-up pic) were achieved by wrapping the yarn around half of the band over and over. This took a ton of wrapping. The yarn wasn't nearly as "furry" as it appeared all balled up in the packaging. A better route would be to purchase a small length of synthetic faux fur fabric from the fabric store and hot-glue it to a plastic headband. 
All said, we had a Seusserific week!
And here's some of our CRAZY hair!
Cheers! And happy reading!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Recipe Review | Honey Sesame Chicken (Crock Pot)

This is a new recipe I tried for the first time last week. I had pinned the recipe some time ago and finally got around to testing it. Honey Sesame Chicken was a hit with the family. The flavors are sweet and warm without being sticky. While the sauce was a little thin, the texture of the chicken was tender and the sesame flavor came through nicely.
Honey Sesame Chicken
What you need:
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
salt and pepper, to taste
1 green onion, thinly sliced (for garnish)
sesame seeds, *toasted (for garnish)
What to do:
In a bowl, combine onion, garlic, honey, soy sauce, ketchup, vegetable oil, and red pepper flakes.
Season chicken with salt and pepper and place in a crock pot.
Pour mixture over the chicken and toss gently to coat.
Cook on LOW for 3 1/2 hours.
Remove chicken with a slotted spoon and shred.
Return chicken to the crock.
Cover and simmer another 30 minutes.
*To toast sesame seeds, place about 1 teaspoon in a non-stick pan and cook, stirring and tossing often, over medium heat until golden and fragrant. Remove to a cool dish. 

I served mine garnished, over steamed rice. Had I thought of it, I would have served it with blanched and sautéed broccoli on the side. However, I failed to plan for that and instead found a bag of our favorite "in a pinch" frozen veggies in the freezer (Trader Joe's Fire Roasted Vegetables with Balsamic Butter). It may sound like an odd combination--but they actually worked really well with the chicken. :)

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