Friday, August 22, 2014

dreamy/practical :: new school year edition

Huntington Gardens in Pasadena

I just completed by first week back to work. SO glad to have that first week behind me. To tell you the truth, only Thursday and Friday were student days, but nonetheless the week felt intense. Opening school is hectic. I'm so glad to be off and running.

A dreamy/practical list feels appropriate.  Something I've been thinking about is approaching the weekends with more intention.  I'd like to plan a bit ahead, have something specific to look forward to during the week, and not let the precious weekend simply wash over me.  These two days each week are so valuable and I want to make them count.

So with that in mind, here is my list for this first weekend of the school year.

Dreamy

:: my mom turns 79 today!  We will go tomorrow and wish her happy birthday and sing to her and eat cake.
:: date night with Ken on Saturday night.  Hooray for Saturday date night!
:: Saturday morning yoga.  The summer was crazy and I barely made it to any yoga classes.  Sad!  And now I'm back at square one and 5 lbs heavier (at least).  It will feel good to get back into it.
:: and after yoga I want to lay out by the pool for one hour.  I think Ken and the boys will meet me there and maybe we will order lunch.
:: dream of recipes and cooking.  We've been getting a kitchen remodel this summer and I haven't had a kitchen for the past several weeks.  Two or so more weeks to go!  Can't wait to make poached eggs and family dinners.
:: on Sunday we want to have a little picnic in the park.

Practical

:: laundry is more challenging since the kitchen remodel means we also don't have a laundry room for now.  I've been doing laundry at my parents' house, but I may go quicker this weekend and use a laundromat.
:: wash the car Sunday morning with Dieter.  It's our little Sunday ritual.  He's a great helper and it's one of the few times we can have mother-son time (with just him and not his brother).
:: neaten up the house--pick up and swipe down the bathroom
:: set out clothes for Monday morning.

I'll be back later with my ideas and thoughts about starting the school year.  Happy Friday!

Monday, August 18, 2014

pasadena!

Colorado Blvd. with full moon. Pasadena trip. Pasadena trip. Pasadena trip. Pasadena trip. Pasadena trip. Pasadena trip. Pasadena trip. Huntington Gardens in Pasadena Huntington Gardens in Pasadena Pasadena trip. Pasadena trip.

My BFF Carrie and I were able to get away for a little end-of-summer trip a week ago.  You guys, we had SO much fun.  This is the favorite girls weekend we have taken so far.  Longtime readers of this blog know that in the past we have gone to Covina (!) for Ikea and hanging out.  Seems like a silly destination now but at the time we had fun and as I always say, our friendship is "conversation based" anyway.  But we finally have sated our fascination with Ikea and have moved on to better things.  Pasadena was lovely.  We stayed in Old Town Pasadena which means we did not have to rely on driving everywhere which is a HUGE bonus for me.  It made the experience much more of a true vacation.  I love being able to settle into the hotel and walk everywhere.  It turned out to be a spa/beauty/shopping/eating kind of trip.  Which I loved.  And of course there was lots of talking.

I kept a list of where we went and what we did for future reference.  I'd love to repeat this trip next summer when we turn 50.

Day One
:: picked up Carrie from LAX in the morning and drove to Pasadena (not a bad drive)
:: checked in at the hotel--we stayed at the Old Town location of Courtyard by Marriott.  Loved it!  I definitely would stay here again.
:: lunch at Mi Piace.  A great place to watch the world go by as you eat Italian food and sip wine.
:: after lunch we walked around the shops a little bit and then we both had our brows shaped at Zoey Van Jones (definitely make an appointment first--it's a really busy shop)!
:: pie at The Pie Hole (this is in a really cute space--5 businesses sharing an open "lofty" kind of space--a florist, a pressed juicery, the Pie Hole, a spice merchant, etc).
:: more walking around and shopping
:: mani-pedis at Dashing Diva (this is a fun spot but there were tons of other nail salons as well.  We were perfectly happy with our nails and they also give free Cosmos on Thursday and Friday evenings!)
:: light dinner at the Pita Jungle (we shared a salad because we were still crazy full from the Pie Hole)
:: bought some juice to go from Pressed Juicery.

Day Two
:: early morning wake up for our spa appointments
:: Croissants and coffee at Aux Delice
:: massages at Burke Williams spa (loved this place--I highly recommend this spa chain if you are in California and you like spa experiences).
:: late breakfast/brunch at Russell's (love this place so much--we ate here twice.  The bloody Mary's are fantastic, as are their breakfasts.  Great burgers too and yummy coleslaw with lots of colored crunchy cabbage).
:: More walking around and shopping.  Coffee at Intelligentsia.
:: Back to Burke Williams for anti-aging facials.
:: Dinner at Picnik (loved this place.  They have tons of beers and housemade sausages.  Yum!  Mine came with homemade watermelon pickle relish.  Pure delight.  Great atmosphere here and outdoor seating a a full moon.  Fun and lively.)

Day Three
:: pool time and sitting out on the patio and ordering oatmeal and having it brought out to us.
:: we ventured away from the hotel and went to Americana at Brand in Glendale for shopping and lunch.  We ate lunch at Amici Trattoria (huge portions--next time I'd split something or order a small plate) and then we walked around their lovely Nordstroms.  Carrie splurged on a new suitcase from the Tumi store and now I want one too.  I think she will have that suitcase for life.
:: we legit needed to pick up a couple things at Ikea, so we headed over to Burbank.  Big mistake.  It was crushingly crowded.  I had to buy a bedside lamp (they have the best there) and she needed to pick up a duvet cover her son had requested.  We got our stuff and dashed from there.
:: after re-grouping at the hotel we had a casual, fun, funny dinner at Russell's (our second meal there) and again the bloody Mary's were fantastic.  We laughed a lot at that dinner.
:: then more walking around on Colorado Blvd. and we stopped in at Lush which was really fun and had more pie and iced coffee at The Pie Hole.

Day Four
:: sad!!  Our last day.
:: but we stretched it out as much as possible.
:: more coffee and oatmeal at the hotel patio and pool time.
:: after check-out we went to the lovely and amazing Huntington Library.  Whoa!  I'd never been.  Tons of art and artifacts and gardens.  So so good.  It was super hot though so we mostly stuck to the indoor galleries and didn't really explore the gardens so much.  I'd love to go back in a few months when it is cooler.
:: lunch at the Huntington (they have a casual cafe and also tea rooms--we didn't have tea room reservations so we ate at the cafe).
:: drove to LAX and dropped off Carrie

It was such a fun trip with just the right mix of fun, laughter, conversation, relaxation, and beauty treatments!  And what can I say about having a best friend that I love so much?  I'm so lucky to have her.

Now, fast forward a week and I'm getting ready to start school and get back to reality.  I'm ready and excited but, you know, transitions can be hard.  Our first official day back is Wednesday. 

PS--I realize my last 3 posts have been "travel" themed posts!  I do intend to get back to "normal" blogging soon.  Just have to figure out when/how.  Thanks for reading along!


Sunday, July 27, 2014

much needed Solvang anniversary trip

Solvang anniversary trip Solvang anniversary trip Solvang anniversary trip Solvang anniversary trip Solvang anniversary trip Solvang anniversary trip Solvang anniversary trip Solvang anniversary trip Solvang anniversary trip Solvang anniversary trip Solvang anniversary trip Solvang anniversary trip

Ken and I were able to get away for two nights to the Solvang area (Solvang/Santa Ynez/Los Olivos) for a little anniversary getaway.  So fun and much needed.

Basically I copied all the suggestions from this blog post and everything was wonderful (thank you, Megan K. Graham)!

You can just read Megan's  post for more and better info, but here's my take:

:: we loved staying at the Hadsten House.  They have a lovely indoor pool (rare in California, but delightful to be out of the sun) and a large outdoor jacuzzi (the best of both worlds).  I was loving the whole pool scene and we relaxed a lot there.  It was just us for a lot of that time, which is ideal as far as I'm concerned.  The hotel rooms were large and modern and lovely.  And there is a restaurant on the property which was also very good!  They serve a lovely hot breakfast (included in the price of the room) and the dinner we had there was delish.  I had the Caesar salad with salmon.
:: the first day we had lunch at The Red Viking in Solvang.  We both love their smorgasbord--you can sample a lot of Danish foods that way.  Yummy!
:: Gah!  SY Kitchen and Sides Hardware and Shoes (both restaurants recommended by Meagan) were both amazing!!  Will definitely visit both again when we have the chance to return.  Super special!!
:: we saw a live show at the outdoor theater--Forever Plaid.  Such a lovely setting and the show was really sweet.  (Plus, you can buy fresh warm cookies and coffee at intermission).
:: I bought a tub of butter cookies at Mortenson's.  I'm trying all the Solvang bakeries trip by trip.

I absolutely loved getting to spend time alone with Ken.  It was so great to reconnect and just hang out together.  It's hard to be able to BOTH get away together because of course I have to ask my mom to watch our kids (she is SO kind and generous to do it for us).  It's thrilling to just be a couple for a few days and to remember what brought us together in the first place.

Summer is speeding by.  I have about 3 more weeks before it's back to work.  I hope yours is lovely!!


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

palm springs vacation, baby!

On vacation! Palm Springs. upload Rainer photobomb. Getting date shakes. Palm Springs Vacation. upload upload Playing in a public fountain. They're having a great time. Palm Springs vacation. upload Best children's museum (our favorite anyway). Palm Springs Vacation. upload

As soon as school was out we headed to Palm Springs for our big summer trip.  This was our second time taking the kids on to Palm Springs (we also went in November).  Both times we stayed at Omni Rancho Las Palmas.  We have such a great time there--it is so much fun and such a less crowded resort than something like a Disneyland Hotel or, heaven forbid, Las Vegas.  I guess I'm more of a Palm Springs type of girl.  The hotel is really fun, with a great pool area for kids and they even show summer movies out by the pool at night (we saw Frozen and Despicable Me 2).  There is tons of stuff to do in the area and we always feel like we barely scratch the surface.

Some of the stuff we did--
:: spent a lot of time at the pools/waterslides/lazy river at the hotel
:: went up the Aerial Tramway and went for a hike and had lunch up there
:: spent an afternoon at the Children's Discovery Museum of the Desert (it is awesome!!)
:: went to Shield's Date Garden and got date shakes
:: went to a movie at the Mary Pickford theater and played in the fountain (we saw How to Train Your Dragon 2)
:: went to The Living Desert (this was awesome but we needed to go earlier to avoid the heat--we only got to see half but what we saw was great)
:: stopped at Cabazon Dinosaurs (super cheesy but my kids like it--it's pretty cute and fun)

It was a great way to kick off the summer and both boys kept commenting, "this is the best vacation ever!" I'm very much hopeful we can make it back again in November.   I have a little saving account that I devote solely to a vacation fund and automatically deposit money there each month.  That way I can enjoy these trips and not freak out about how expensive absolutely everything is.  I love these little family getaways and think they are so bonding.

Where do you like to vacation?  Do you stay close by or travel far afield?  We always stay close by, but there is so much to do in California that it hardly feels like a hardship. 

Monday, June 30, 2014

wonderpot!

Wonderpot Wonderpot

You guys, I came across a bunch of "wonderpot" recipes on Pinterest and I was so intrigued.  They are "pots" of food cooked together all at once on the stovetop.  Some of the photos made them look so yummy and I'm all about easy family meals that are made more or less from scratch.  I kept my expectations low and decided to make the Spinach Artichoke wonderpot because I was so curious. 

Well, as expected I was correct to keep my expectations in check.  This was pretty plain and bland.  Not horrible, though.  I sprinkled some shredded mozzarella on mine and that helped a lot.  I think the main problem here is that the dish is virtually fat free, vegan, and low in salt.  That combination is bound to be pretty not-so-great in my opinion.  But I will say it was very fun tossing everything in the pot and only having to worry about stirring every now and then.  It was very low stress but just domestic enough to hold my interest.

I actually still have some curiosity about these recipes and want to explore other, higher fat wonderpots.  Something with meat and/or cream would be ideal.

What about you?  Have you seen these pins going around?  Are you going to try one?

Link to recipe is here

Friday, June 27, 2014

maleficent

Peonies.
totally unrelated picture of peonies


Ken and I took the kids to see Maleficent last night at our little local movie theater and you guys, it was so fun.  I was really surprised by how much we all four enjoyed it.  Our expectations were low--the previews made it look so dark and scary--but it was actually sweet on many levels and there were fairies and magical folk, and we always like that sort of thing.  I'm not a big Angelina Jolie fan, but she was not bugging me at all in this.  I was able to forget that she is "Angelina Jolie" and just get lost in the movie--so I guess she did her job.  And Elle Fanning was adorable. 

To tell you the truth, we live in a very small town and we rarely patronize our local movie theater--mostly because we don't really have a babysitter locally.  We end up going to the big multi-plex in Oxnard.  But lately I've been thinking about "voting with our dollars" and it's important to me that our local theater continues to stay in business, so we decided to see Maleficent in town last night.  And when we got there I was so pleased with the "feel" of the experience.  The theater is just so small and cute and we always see people we know (small town thing).  I was charmed by the snack bar--again, small and "local" feeling.  I think we are going to make more of an effort to see movies locally when we can.

Other ways I am "voting with my dollars"--I also shop quite a bit at our local market, which just changed ownership--and I basically refuse to go to a large supermarket like Vons and Ralph's (ugh--hate those places so much!).  (To be fair, we do do a large shop-up at Trader Joe's once a week as well, but are constantly running out to the local store for everythiing else and last minute stuff).

Do you like to shop locally?  Also, what did you think about Maleficent??

Thursday, June 26, 2014

beach day

Working on a castle. Carpinteria. Carpinteria.

I'm not quite ready to give up my blog.  I've been struggling with posting.  I want to give this one last try by really simplifying things here.  I'm going to limit myself to posting only 1-3 photos per post.  That in itself is a big relief.  And I'm going to just post random stuff.  What appeals to me about continuing the blog is the journal aspect of it.  I love the memories and family photos.  My blog is the closest I have to a family album.  I hate to give up the documenting of all of that. 

We are on summer break now.  The first week we spent in Palm Springs--we had the funnest vacation--Ken and I and the two little boys.  I love a true "resort" type vacation.  Maybe I'll blog about it tomorrow (posting only 1-3 photos!  LOL).  Now were are back and settling into summer.  It's actually a harder transition than one might expect.  I thrive so well with structure and a schedule.  I love my ordinary day of commuting, working, coming home and making dinner, having pizza on Tuesdays.  I'm sort of at loose ends without that.  But yesterday was a better day and maybe I'm starting to hit my stride.  I took the boys to the beach in Carpinteria.  I kept the outing so simple and it turned out to be a great afternoon.  The boys were so good and barely fought and they even carried all our stuff down to the beach for me.  Dieter loves to jump in the waves and sit and think.  Rainer likes the waves too and he spent a long time working on a big sand castle complex.  I gathered rocks for him and placed them around the castle, which was awesome.  I love the sound of the waves so much and I love getting out of my head a little bit while being there. 

Also of note, I'm getting so so much better at driving the "mountain route" to Carpinteria, which is making me very happy.  I used to stick to the main highways, but I'm finding I love taking the mountain pass.  I like to take the curvy roads pretty conservatively, and yesterday I had plenty of practice with pulling over to let cars pass me. 

I'm thinking I want to take the boys to the beach twice a week in summer.  It's good for my soul.  We got a tiny bit sunburned yesterday (mostly me) so I'm vowing to be more careful re. sunscreen in the future.

I'm off to yoga right now--also a healthy summer thing. 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

dreamy/practical

I basically never tire of pictures of the boys on the beach.

What are your plans this long weekend?  We really don't have many plans.  Mostly it's just exciting to be on the last 3 day weekend of the school year.  Summer is looming!  Here are my thoughts:

Dreamy

:: drink coffee with half and half and have a second cup.
:: watch an eye shadow tutorial and learn how to do the technique (I like Hot & Flashy's videos)
:: have a date night with Ken.  Any movie recommendations?
:: read a book.  I'm reading The Goldfinch but honestly haven't devoted much time to it.
:: have a little back yard barbeque with just the family.
:: head to the beach.  That photo above is making me long for the ocean!

Practical

:: do my Sunday routines with the boys--wash the car, get gas, stop by the local market.
:: laundry (that is always on my list).  My goal is to attack this early in the weekend.
:: cook (but that is sort of dreamy too, because I enjoy it).  I'm trying a new recipe for veggie enchiladas.
:: do a bit of cleaning.

Happy Memorial Day Weekend everyone!


Thursday, May 22, 2014

awesome granola that clumps!

Chunky granola. Chunky granola.

 I am so happy I finally figured out how to make granola that sticks together in clumps!

When I visited my friend Carrie in Kansas over spring break, we bought the most delicious granola at her local health food store.  It's the kind of granola that holds together in big, texture-y chunks.  I'm crazy about that texture in a granola.  I became a little obsessed with duplicating it at home.

I honestly wonder why all granola recipes say to stir the granola every 10-20 minutes while you are baking it.  Because it turns out that if you don't stir, you will get a big sheet of granola that can be broken into chunks of whatever size you like.  So easy!  I help it clump up a bit by patting the granola mixture firmly into the pan before baking it.  Use a low temp and bake until it's a little bit golden.  When you remove it from the oven don't stir it then, either.  Just let it cool completely in the pan.  When it is completely cool, break into chunks.  You can make very big chunks and they are practically granola bars.  This type of granola is great for snacking and packing into lunches.

I've been slightly experimenting with my old reliable recipe.  Obviously "anything goes" with granola, but here is my latest version:

Sweet Granola*

4 c. rolled oats
1/4 c. whole wheat flour
1/4 c. sesame seeds
1/2 c. sunflower seeds
1/4 c. toasted wheat germ
2 T. brown sugar
1/2 c. of chopped almonds (I've been chopping them pretty small for this)
very scant half-teaspoon salt (or actually a slightly rounded 1/4 t.)

Mix your dry ingredients together in a bowl and then add:

1/3 c. neutral oil
1/2 c. maple syrup
1 t. vanilla

Mix it all together until the dry mixture is thoroughly moistened.  Pat it all evenly into a large baking sheet (you can spray the sheet with cooking spray if desired.  It helps keep the edges from sticking).  I pat it down pretty firmly.  Bake in a low oven (about 300 F) for 40-ish minutes.  Start checking at 30 mins.

Remove from oven when golden.  Allow to cool completely without stirring.  Then break into large or small chunks and store in an airtight container.

*so named because this is sweeter than the honey version.  For the honey version omit the brown sugar and the maple syrup.  Use 1/2 c. honey.  Definitely start checking at 30 mins and adjust your oven temp if necessary.  The honey version browns much more quickly than the maple version.  (It also holds together even more firmly).  I've been alternating types until we figure out which is our favorite.


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

scenes from the weekend

upload upload Me feeding the ostriches. Dieter and Rainer feeding the emus. Just bought a tub of butter cookies. #solvang upload upload      

We had a fun weekend, out and about.  On Saturday, my mom and I took the kids to Solvang.  It's a little Danish village here in Southern California--it's so cute and so fun to visit.  We stopped first at Ostrich Land and fed the ostriches and emus.  Those birds are so strong and intimidating--especially the ostriches.  I yelped a little bit when I was feeding them!  They all came at the bowl and started pecking so powerfully!  It was really something else.  We loved this little side trip and definitely want to go back.

After Ostrich Land we went into the town of Solvang and had lunch at The Red Viking and then walked around a little bit and stopped at Birkholm's for cookies.  There are so many bakeries in Solvang.  We love the little tub of butter cookies we brought home, but naturally I want to try and compare them all.  We wrapped up the day at Sunny Fields Park.  The boys say it is their favorite park ever.

On Sunday Ken had a meet and I took the boys to Santa Barbara.  We often go to the Natural History Museum.  We are regular members.  On this day, the Butterflies Alive exhibit had just opened.  So many butterflies this year, and they were so lively!  We loved it.  We also brought our own picnic and ate in the museum back yard.  And then we walked all around the museum permanent exhibits like we always do.  The boys and I have a little game we play where we each say what animal we would be in each exhibit.  We play that every time--it's classic for us.

Thoughts on our picnic:  I loved doing it this way.  Usually we buy lunch out on these outings but on this day I wanted to simplify things and save money.  In the past I've complicated the picnics by packing too many heavy containers and ice blocks.  But this time I packed everything very lightly and compactly in sandwich bags and slung it all over my shoulder in a canvas bag.  Done and done.! We ate early, so no ice blocks necessary.  We bought drinks in the vending machines at the museum.  So easy!  Now I'm curious about packing more picnics and how I can keep them simple (and lightweight) but maybe add a teeny bit more variety than our regular sandwiches.