Monday, December 31, 2012

food blog addiction

It's no secret, I LOVE food. For most holidays, birthdays or any occasion really, I've asked for a cookbook. I currently have 30. But there's about 15 new ones on my wish list this very minute. Ridiculous, I know.  Lately, I've been getting my inspiration from various blogs, rather than turning to my beloved cookbooks. My google reader is filled with so many "food" blogs right now, I can't keep up.

I check reader most every day. Considering this is usually done in the mornings or on my lunch break, I star the titles that look good to me and I go back later to take a peek at the recipe (I can't help but read friends' posts right then and there, though).

So, in the spirit of what several avid bloggers do around this time of year, I'd like to share my favorites (from their blogs!) in 2012. Most of these recipes were made more than once, even twice at our house this year. And the remainder are our more recent favorites.

In no particular order.

1.  Baked Tex-Mex Pimento Cheese Dip   via Annie's Eats. This is my go-to cheese dip now. It's different than the usual and has an extra kick. It doesn't last long, either!

2. Chicken and Black Bean Enchilada Bake via Picky Palate. Working full time has me looking for easy meals during the week and this has been one of my favorites. And it's easy to substitute for a healthier version, too.

3. Taco Pizza via Real Mom Kitchen. Now, this one is far from healthy but easy and delicious. If you're like my husband and enjoy Taco Bell (I'm betting few of you) then this is your meal. I have not adjusted this recipe for a lighter version, but there could be a few things done.  Try it, you'll love it. I mean, who doesn't love crescent rolls?

4. Mexican Lasagna via Annie's Eats. There seems to be a theme here, I guess. This family loves mexican food and meals that will last more than one night! This is actually a low maintenance meal, though it looks time consuming. And its so, so good. Just read the directions carefully and remember to put foil on the pan before baking, or your noodles will get hard and burn pretty quickly. First time mistake I haven't made twice.

5. Orzo with Kale, Corn and Sausage via Family Bites. I absolutely love orzo. And kale is one of new favorite veggies. This is easy, delicious and pretty healthy. Especially if you go with whole wheat orzo. We've eaten it as a main dish, a side to a larger meat and most definitely for weekly lunches.

6. Brown Butter Funfetti Snickerdoodles via une gamine dans la cuisine. As far as cookies go, Snickerdoodles are generally off my radar. Sure, they're good. But you know, just the same ole, same ole. These are different, I tell you. And its definitely the brown butter. If you put enough sprinkles in, there's a little crunch, too.

7.Cinnamon Clove Coffee Cookies with Irish Cream Frosting via bake your day and BHG. These cookies are so good. If you love coffee, you've got to try these. The cookie itself is very similar to the Irish Cream cookies (linked within the frosting) I made for a cookie exchange a few years ago but the cinnamon/clove in this one really gives it a kick. And you can never go wrong with Irish Cream Frosting!

8. Jamie Oliver's Vegetable Soup via Jamie Oliver. This was brought to us by a dear friend while I was on bedrest with Elliot and I've made it so many times since then. Its easy, healthy and delicious! (Even Elliot loves it!).

In addition to the blogs above, I also frequent the following and suggest you take a peek sometime, too. Or add them to your Reader :)

-Espresso and Cream: Madison is a successful food editor and provides a wide range of recipes on her blog. Plus, other good (non-food) related reads. She's also the one that helped me win the cookie exhange a few years ago with her Iced Eggnog cookies!

-My Baking Addiction: There are some serious desserts here. I can't get enough of this one.

-Channeling Contessa: I've just recently come into this blog via Joy the Baker. Like me, she loves Ina Garten. And she recently got the chance to meet her, along with Joy the Baker and Willow Bird, below. If Ina has invited these ladies over for a cookie exchange, then I gotta see what they're all about.

-Willow Bird Baking: Also a part of Ina's cookie exchange this year, Julie has so many great recipes on her blog. I've loved every one of them. Including her rosemary thumbprints with clementine curd.  Very different, but good!

-Confections of a Foodie Bride: One of the most delicious from-scratch strawberry cakes can be found here.

-Kitchen Confidante: This girl, Liren can really cook. And she's got several awards/honorable mentions to show for it, too. Plus, good photos that make you want to prepare each recipe she posts.

I could go on and on, but I'll stop here. Hope you enjoy these recipes and blogs as much as I do!

P.S. We had a wonderful Christamas and the proof is coming!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


We had a nice little getaway to Arkansas with several friends last weekend and experienced our first ever, Beanfest. We visited Mountain View, AR this summer and really enjoyed the quaint charm of the town square. So when we heard that there was a festival-of-sorts going on in this amazing weather, we had to check it out.

Mountain View is a short drive from Heber, where our friends graciously hosted us for the weekend. The nearly 100 acres of land was just beautiful and we couldn't pass up the opportunity to snap a few shots. We spent most of Saturday walking around the small town square, listening to some blue grass music and of course, eating beans and cornbread!

Elliot fell in love with a hand-carved "cat" chair and she did not want to get out of it! (we're hoping this is not the beginning of a new love for cars because momma is allergic!)

Anticipation for the noon bell that was rung to signal the dash of grabbing beans and cornbread. I'm not used to eating a just a bowl of beans, so that part was strange but they were pretty tasty!

Love all these girls! The little ones had such a great time :)

 The weather was surprisingly cold for this time of year but we welcomed it with open arms and enjoyed spending our time chatting by the fire and munchin' on a few s'more bars. On top of that,  Elliot slept one full hour past her normal wake up time!

Perfect weekend. Looking forward to next year!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


This past month sure was a special one! As of September 20, my sweet baby is now considered a toddler. But of course, she will always be our baby. And it's true what they say, once your child is born you can't imagine your life any other way.

It's hard to describe how much we truly love you, Elliot. We will always remember the first day we laid eyes on you.
                               (though Mama tries to forget her own (HUGE) face in this one) 

To look at you now, walking, talking and feeding yourself just seems so unreal. And while I knew this first year would pass quickly, I'm not sure I was prepared for how "grown up" you'd be.

You have returned in full force with your tolerance for signing. We lost you for a little while, but glad you are enjoying it because I'm not sure there's anything cuter than you asking me for "more, please" with your gestures. We had a few rough patches with your desire to eat and be in control but you're slowly coming around :). I think you could eat a pint of blueberries if I let you! Bread, cheese and yogurt remain your faves. You've been good about eating more steamed veggies lately, but if it weren't for the pouches, I'm not sure we'd ever get your full veggie intake for the day! Thankfully, it appears you do not have a peanut or egg allergy and we enjoyed watching you down your first PB&J.

As your birthday came closer, we started weaning you from formula and you are officially finished drinking formula- thank goodness! While whole milk wasn't your most favorite to start off with, you've grown to enjoy it more in the past 2 weeks. Weaning you from taking milk in the bottle is a different story, I'm afraid. But, we've got you down to only having one at night these days. You're close!

Your sweet teachers at school helped us work with you on walking and a few days before your birthday, you took more than a few steps on your own! Now that we're nearly one month past your birthday, you've certainly picked up the pace and things are just not the same anymore. You are on the move! But we love watching you walk and think its pretty stinkin' cute. Especially in your skinny jeans. I can't handle it.

You have moved up to a "big girl" room at school where they have transitioned you into taking only one nap each day. I can't believe it! Recently that has meant that you are ready for dinner and bedtime earlier. So, we cherish our afternoons with you since you've got a 6:30 bedtime! And most recently, you've begun to enjoy getting dropped off at school. You reach for your teachers when Daddy drops you off and waive bye-bye to him. Too cute. But the first it happened to Daddy, he told me he almost cried. He loves his mornings with you!

Your actual birthday was spent with your friends and teachers at school, but we made sure you celebrated in style. Your daddy knows how to make a mean t-shirt. I'm sure this will be the first of many!

You had your very first Gibson's donut for your birthday breakfast. Mommy and Daddy love Gibson's and we were hoping you'd feel the same. We also hope this will remain a tradition in our family as we celebrate each birthday with you.

After it was touched, it was devoured!

And a few days later, we celebrated your birthday with your extended family. We decided to keep it fairly small for your first, because let's face it, you won't really remember this day. And the most important thing to us was to celebrate you with other family that love you just as much as we do. It was such a great day and you were a trooper. With only a 20 minute nap all day, come 3'oclock I thought you'd be on the verge of a melt-down, but you were ready to party!

What a year it has been. We look forward to all the funny things you'll do and how you will become even more of a little girl, this next year. We love and adore you, Elliot!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


It sure is hard to look at that number and think it has any association with my name. But, it's true. I'm officially 30 (back in July, that is). I've been told by many that their 30's brought great memories. Here's hoping to that. We're off to a great start, so far!

I'll admit, I wasn't too crazy about this birthday coming around the corner. But as it got closer and our plans to celebrate were shaping up, I started getting more excited. We celebrated at work a little early with a trip to the Trolley Stop (one of my faves), Jim's Place with the in-laws and Houston's with Mom, all back-to-back (I probably gained 5 lbs this particular week).

My friend, Leslie had a good idea to meet up for dinner one night of my birthday week to one of new favorite places, Las Delicias. The place was so crowded when we arrived and the hostess took us all the way to the back of the restaurant. And before I knew it, there were 16 girls yelling, "surprise!". I was completely shocked. So much so, I cried. And due to the embarrassment (it doesn't take much with me!) I quickly found an empty seat so I could stop crying. That's when I spotted my oldest and dearest friends who came in town just to have dinner and celebrate my birthday. We had a great time catching up and enjoying Muddys, of course. :).

Grant will attest to the fact that it's really hard to surprise me. But y'all did it! Thanks to my dear friend, Leslie for taking the time to arrange such a lovely celebration and my first surprise party! And to all my friends who came to celebrate with me- thank you, too! What a great way to start 30.

 It was super hot in this place (duh, it was July) and these are blurry, but you get the idea.

Love y'all!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

10 months

This little cutie is 10 months old already (July 20th). Months 8 and 9 were pretty busy so they'll just have to get lumped into this one, too!

My darling, Elliot. You have changed so much in the past 3 months! I cannot believe we are 2 months from you turning one. Daddy and I have recently discussed how its impossible to love you more than we already do but somehow, each day, it happens. I hate to leave you in the morning. I think about you all day and can't wait to pick you up from school when the work day is over. We are having so much fun with you and have enjoyed all the new things you've accomplished lately.

 You started several of these new things while we were in Europe. Crawling was essentially perfected in France where you became lightning fast! You also started pulling up to pretty much everything. That became a little tricky as you would pull up to the crib and not be able to get down. There were a few sleepless nights while we were gone and I think this may have contributed :). But about 2 weeks after we returned, you figured out how to get down without our help!

You love drinking out of Mama and Dada's water bottles or glass cups.

You're not really into posing for pictures and I kinda like it because we end up with some pretty hilarious ones.

 You started eating a lot more finger foods while on vacation which made meals pretty fun. You love bananas, blueberries and broccoli right now. You're very careful when you try new things-slowly pick it up, examine it and then put just a little in your mouth before you decide to ingest the whole thing. It's pretty funny to watch. We're still working on "please" and "thank you" in sign, but you've got "more" down pat. Well, your version, that is :).

 You love music and touching every instrument we have. We visited your friend, Juliette and y'all had fun on the piano. Aunt Leslie and I enjoyed watching the two of you interact, too. It mainly involved you both wanting each others toys!

We also went to the lake again for a mini-family reunion this past month. Your great-aunts were dying to meet you and we all needed a little getaway. This was your second time at the lake, but first time on the boat. And you love water...thank goodness! The first time we put you in your little float, you started screaming and clapping your hands. It was the cutest thing!

You and Maisy are becoming little buddies these days

 Of course this is what you'd rather play with on the boat... easy to please!

Daddy caught you a fish on our "beach" but he slipped out of our hands before you could touch him! 

We are starting to see your little personality shine and it's been fun to watch. When meeting someone new or someone you don't see often, you've started to turn your head away and give a bashful grin. It's pretty cute. And we've heard an intentional "uh-oh" from you so many times, now. Within 3 months, you have moved up rooms in day school two times! You're growing too fast and mama can't stand it. You love your little friends at school and have grown attached to each teacher you've had! Ive been told that the game you enjoy playing there involves removing the socks from one of your friends feet and laughing at him afterwards. Fortunately, he thinks its funny too and laughs right back.  This might get you in trouble one day, though! :)

One of my favorite things is to sneak up on you at school in the afternoons and see what you're up to. And this past week I came to the door to find you standing at a toy and I said, "hi baby!" and you turned to wave at me and proceed to clap your hands. It was the first time I had seen an intentional "hi" or "bye" motion from you without prompting and of course, it's always so sweet to see you excited to see me, too. Because I nearly race to school each day to see you!

You still cry when Daddy leaves the room and usually want to be held by him if he's near you. Mama jokes about him being the favorite but deep down I love that you have bonded with your Daddy. And I look forward to what that will look like in years to come. You two are quite the pair!

We adore you Elliot! 

Love, Mama

Thursday, July 19, 2012

European Vacation- Part III

Like I said earlier, once Elliot took her bottle everything was pretty much smooth sailing for the remainder of the trip The staff on the train came around at 10:30pm to help us pull down the beds for the night. Elliot and I slept on the bottom while Grant took the top. And she slept pretty well on me. Which meant scarce sleep for me, but luckily Grant got a good nights rest. (My rule in our house has always been that only one of us is allowed to be sleep deprived. So, as long as one of us has a full tank of gas, we'll be okay!) And it proved helpful for this trip.

 Mama, if you put me in this ONE more time...

We arrived in Milan at 5am where we had to stop and change trains for Florence. We finally arrived in Florence around 9am and were so relieved. For me, it is a very familiar place and I knew that I would be fine if I needed to veer off from the group. Good thing, because we literally stepped off the train, loaded our things onto a charter bus outside the station and the group headed straight for the Uffizi Gallery for a tour. Elliot and I packed all the things we'd need for the day and left everything else on the bus. We made our way to the Boboli Gardens where I knew Elliot would be able to get down and be free for awhile.

Unfortunately, we were in Florence on a Sunday and fairly early in the morning so some of the shops we had hoped to visit were not open at all this day. We stopped for a picture on the Arno, drooled over some jewelry on the Ponte Vecchio and spent a lot of time in the gardens. We met back up with the boys in the early afternoon and had lunch together. Elliot and I found the gelato place our friends took us to the year before and it was everything I remembered. It's one of the best in Florence, for sure! (Thanks Stephens!).

Despite our presence for less than 8 hours in Florence, we managed to do a lot and capture some of our favorite things in this great city.

 In the late afternoon, we hopped on the charter bus and headed for Montecatini Termi where we stayed a few days. This town is known for its spas and is a place where many tourists come to serve as base for the remainder of their travels throughout Italy. The hotel was so nice and had a gorgeous pool. Unfortunately, it rained the majority of the time we were there but Elliot and I had a great time together, despite the weather.

Well, there were a few moments of blue sky :)

The day after we arrived in Montecatini, Grant and I celebrated our 7th anniversary. Well, he celebrated in Cinque Terre with the boys while Elliot and I celebrated in Monetcatini :). After all the train travel the day before and the knowledge that we'd be back on a bus again several hours to the coast, we opted to stay in town.

concentrating on their sketches in Cinque Terre
while we stroll the streets. I might be the only one having fun in this scenario.

And after a late night of festivities in Montecatini we packed up (again!) and headed to Siena in the morning. We stopped in Vinci on the way to tour the Leonardo da Vinci museum and the town that he was born.


Just a short bus ride away and then we were off again for more adventures. I was in Siena briefly as a college student but didn't stay the night. After a little group touring, we were able to spend some family time together in the city and found several treasures here for our home.

 And then we hit our second breaking point around 1am that night in Siena. After dinner, I headed back to the hotel to put Elliot down for the night as she was especially fussy while Grant and the guys stayed out late. I fell asleep at some point but was sitting on the edge of the bed when Grant walked into the room. Because I found this guy in our bed, along with a few of his friends (cringe).

Long story short, we were pretty sure we killed them all and due to the fact that we were packing up and leaving Siena in less than 6 hours + a sleeping baby, we decided to sleep on the bed without any covers and I covered every inch of my body in as much clothing as possible. We didn't sleep very well but were glad to see morning so we could get out of that place! We were clear of bites and thought everything was okay (we didn't get comped for the room, of course. all fault was denied by the hotel). And things were fine until 2 days after getting back to our house. Grant woke up covered in bites. I mean, covered. All over. I know what you're thinking- we brought them home... but we had an expert come out and he ruled that out. According to a little google research, bites can show up, up to a week after received. We hated to see Grant go through that, but Elliot and I were thankful we were spared!

Okay, back to our last leg of the trip. From Siena, we headed to Rome. We had a great time showing Elliot some of our very favorite places and she was so well-behaved. We kept her out pretty late here, too and she did wonderful.


The Borgehese Gallery

She learned to nap just about anywhere, thank goodness!

Our favorite place to enjoy gelato, the Trevi Fountain
We enjoyed our last dinner in Europe, just the three of us. And it was perfect. We were the only ones eating inside, Elliot slept in the stroller for awhile while Grant and I enjoyed a nice quiet meal together. And it was the best meal of the trip, too. Perfect end to our time in Europe!

We've been home over one month now and we truly miss being there. We are so thankful to have had this opportunity and blessed to have had 16 young men with us to help keep Elliot entertained :). She sure did enjoy their company and I think they enjoyed her, too. (Of course, I never got a picture of them-awful!).

I've loved our trip Momma, but get me home!!