Tuesday, April 8, 2014

lunch salads

Obsessed with these Trader Joe's salads. Am I the last to discover these?!?

I have to share with you my new discovery: prepared salads from Trader Joe's!!!  Possibly, I'm the last to discover these.  Admittedly, I've probably seen them all along, out of the corner of my eye, but I never thought of them in relation to my own situation.  I don't know why.  But a couple weeks ago, I was browsing through a new-to-me blog, and I saw this fun post wherein she mentions eating these salads throughout her pregnancy.  Well, something clicked in me--why not try these salads in my own lunch situation?

I work full time, and I always eat lunch in my car.  I have a little routine which is very comforting to me.  I drive through the McDonald's close to my school and get my daily Diet Coke and then swing into the parking lot of the adjacent Starbucks and find a little patch of shade and have my lunch and relax and check blogs on my phone.  I love my little routine and it gives me a chance to re-charge.  I even take my shoes off. 

Salads I've tried so far (I've been making a little list because I love to gather info and write stuff down like this--domestic life sort of info):

:: broccoli slaw and kale salad with white meat chicken.  My favorite so far!  It's the one pictured above.  13 Weight Watchers points.
:: lemon chicken salad--10 points.  My second favorite.  Love this.
:: salad with BBQ chicken with dressing--14 points
:: harvest salad with grilled chicken--12 points
:: honey glazed miso salmon on salad greens--8 points
:: shrimp and surimi w/ louie dressing--6 points

I love all of these.  As you can see, the points values vary, but I'm ok with that right now.  I feel like I'm eating so many more greens and veggies than I ever would normally (I am)!  Also, I've never considered myself much of a salad eater.  At home, they're a lot of trouble to make and I'm still at a loss for finding a dressing I like.  And in restaurants I'm much more likely to order a burger (I'm basically a child at heart).  But these prepared salads are so easy for me to grab and they are super yummy and they run about $4 which I think is great. 

What do you guys eat for lunch?  Before I found the salads a couple weeks ago I was packing my lunch daily in my Planet Box and having a half sandwich, cut up fruits, some raw veg, and pickles. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

scandinavian festival!

scandinavian festival scandinavian festival

scandinavian festival scandinavian festival scandinavian festival scandinavian festival scandinavian festival

On Saturday we attended the best Scandinavian festival! This was our third year in a row and  was perhaps the best year yet. 

I've written about the Scandinavian festival before.  This year my boys were older with much longer attention spans and were much more happy, willing, and able to participate in all the crafts and activities that were offered.  In that last photo they are sanding down wooden butter knifes.  They worked so hard on them this year!

Other highlights were the Viking dress-up station and getting to pat and hang out with the most gorgeous Norwegian Elkhounds.  The boys and I are all obsessed with the breed now and are dying to get one. 

The weather was fantastic this year too--the most beautiful, temperate day you could ask for.  Once again, my mom went with us.  It has gotten to be quite a tradition now, as this was year three.  Can't wait to mark my calendar for next year. 

Thank you Scandinavian Festival!  We love you!

Monday, March 24, 2014

english muffin toasting bread



I love toast. When I came across this recipe for English muffin bread (via Pinterest), I knew I had to make it.  This weekend I finally remembered to buy the bread flour it calls for and I whipped this up on Sunday.  It's a truly easy recipe--I love the soft bread dough recipes, the ones you stir up with a wooden spoon and that require no kneading. 

So my honest review is that this tastes delish, but it really bothers me that it will not brown up when toasted.  No matter how long I toast it, it will burn at the edges before really becoming brown and toasty.  That almost makes this a non-repeater for me.  I want my toast to be toasty!  That said, this does have a deep, toasty flavor that truly is reminiscent of an English muffin.  Also, the texture is super crisp and crunchy, which I love. 

I want to do a side-by-side comparison between this vs. this bread as toast.  My mind is already turning towards summer when I can bake a lot of bread recipes and compare them as toast. 

Thanks so much to everyone who has been stopping by and commenting.  It's so nice to still have readers, despite my infrequent posting.  Thank you!

PS--this article is a fascinating read about the toast craze that is sweeping San Francisco.  Do read it--it's more about mental illness and the lack of support there is for mentally ill adults, but it is also very inspiring because this particular woman has found a way to survive and thrive.  I loved it.  The same story as a podcast is on the current episode of This American Life (episode #520--"No Place Like Home"  (listen through to the end--it's the last story).

Friday, February 28, 2014

dreamy/practical



It's raining!  A cozy weekend with rain* is rare around here, especially these last few years.  There is rain right now and we are so grateful.   Thinking about for this weekend--

Dreamy
:: be cozy by the fire
:: drink coffee with half and half
:: go to a Saturday night movie with Ken
:: watch the Oscars!  My mom is having us over for a little "Oscar Party"!  I haven't watched the Oscars in years, and this year I've seen quite a few of the nominated movies, so it will be extra fun.  Can't wait!

Practical
:: do some key cleaning tasks I've been putting off.  It will feel good!
:: de-clutter.  I always feel like a million dollars after getting rid of stuff.
:: laundry--always!
:: the meal planning and grocery shopping are done for the week.  We have ingredients for cucumber-yogurt chicken, Summer's mustard-maple chicken (we're making this for the second time), and a simple beans and rice dish.

*with all the rain, I'm tempted to bake, but I'm also dieting!  Not sure if I should.  I'll try to resist.  Baking but not eating is not a reasonable option in my opinion!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

dinner makes me happy



There is something so grounding and so comforting about making dinner.  I've come to feel this way--supported and nourished by the process, rather than inconvenienced or annoyed--over the last year or so.  Perhaps just because I'm getting older.  And eating a home cooked meal is so bolstering to the spirits.

Here are three meals I've made lately.  The top photo is the beef-barley-mushroom-kale soup from an old issue of  3191 quarterly.  This is my favorite quick weeknight soup lately and I'm crazy about it with cornbread.  By the way, I'm loving making a less-sweet cornbread lately (maybe only a tablespoon or two of sugar in the batch).  I love the way the pure corn flavor shines through when you cut the sugar.  And it tastes fantastic with salted butter.  Yum!

The second recipe is Sweet Soy Chicken & Rice from a new cookbook, The Family Flavor.  Do you get excited about new cookbooks as I do?  I love this one for its beautiful photography and the ease of its recipes.  All the ingredients are ordinary, which I love.  And the dishes are  family friendly.  I loved this soy chicken--next time I'm going to double it.

The last recipe is from Weight Watchers--a very light lemony chicken.  I've made this twice already and have stocked the freezer with chicken breasts so I can have this any time (I love how easy it is to find organic chicken at Trader Joe's, but I have to plan ahead a little).

Up tonight:  I'm making this maple-mustard chicken from Summer Harms.  Can't wait!  It looks so yummy.  By the way, do you read Summer's blog?  She is so inspiring and positive.  I love her (and she just had a new baby, which has been fun to follow).  (Another fave recipe from Summer:  this chili).

What have you been making for dinner lately?

PS--Someone posted the recipe for "sweet soy chicken" here.
The lemon chicken recipe can be found here.
The beef-barley soup recipe isn't posted online, but here's a fun post from Stephanie about how she uses grains.

PPS--I've been doing Weight Watcher's since January and I lost 8 lbs.  So glad about that!  Now to maintain it!!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

scenes from the past few weekends



I haven't been posting any weekend pictures lately, so here is my attempt at catching up a little bit.  There were various January birthdays--Dieter, Jacob, Ken and Ben are all January boys.  Genrally, my weekends have felt a little "off" to me.  I guess I'm still working to perfect my weekend formula! 

Weekend things I love:
  • going to Saturday morning yoga class
  • having a family swim at the club
  • eating out
  • any de-cluttering or cleaning I can force myself to do (because the results thrill me)
  • movie date nights with Ken
  • making a good Sunday dinner

One little weekend tradition that is very dear to my heart right now is the car washing ritual that Dieter and I have going on.  On Sunday mornings, with very few exceptions, we take the new Subaru to a car wash--the kind where you drop quarters in and spray the car yourself and then dry and vacuum it yourself.  I love having this time with my boy and he is a true help!  Usually we also stop for gas, go get cash from the ATM, and pick up any last minute groceries from the local market (I do the big shopping at Trader Joe's on the way home from work on Fridays).  Aside from spending one-on-one time with my boy, how awesome it feels to have a clean car, a full tank of gas, and cash and groceries for the week!

Are there any weekend rituals you are loving lately?

Monday, February 17, 2014

final thoughts on christmas



 I know it is super late to be posting more thoughts about Christmas, but for some reason I want to go ahead and put this post up.  I've been thinking about our Christmasses and what works for us and what doesn't, and year after year (since we've been doing it this way), this advent calendar is a sweet, fun, non-materialistic ritual that the kids and I get a huge kick out of.  I've written about it each year for a number of years now.  Basically, I have this "vintage" advent calendar wall hanging that my mom made from a kit back in the 70's (or maybe even 1969??) and she passed it down to me a number of years ago.  I love it!  When we were little she'd tie on small gifts or candies, and I've done it that was as well, but about 5 years ago I switched to this "advent village" theme.  Each item is wrapped and tied onto the wall hanging (photo #3) and the boys take turns unwrapping one each day and placing it in the "village" (photo #4).  I have some light up houses that I thrifted and that stable and the vintage bottle brush trees are from my mom.  That piece of blue felt is a "lake."  As advent progresses the village fills in.  They boys have fun arranging and rearranging the village.

We just have so much fun with this.  I've noticed some moms around blogdom feeling frustrated by their advent calendar traditions.  I highly recommend this one!  I keep it a little bit exciting by adding two "new" items for days one and two.  This year it was a wooden shepherd boy and a wooden racoon.  I'm dying to find a snowman someday.  The rest of the stuff is saved items we use from year to year and things from around the house--wooden animals from the farm, etc.

Also, on the topic of Christmas, and then I will move on.  I think we really need to restructure our thinking about gifts and material stuff around the holidays.  My boys don't need that many toys, and what they do need they already have.  Mostly they play with blocks, marbles, Hero Factories (Rainer) and books, art supplies and paper, and games on the computer (Dieter).  I just did a huge room clean-out of the boys' rooms and ended up tossing or donating so much of what they received.  We also donated a lot of books because we just don't have much space for storing even nice books.

I think there needs to be a major paradigm shift around Christmas.  Instead of giving material presents, lets exchange handmade cards and letters, or experiences with each other (a trip to the beach, a meal out, a movie), or plan a trip or something.  I feel so stongly about this!  I wonder if this is true for most kids today--that they play with fewer toys.

As far as what we (Ken and I) got the boys, I had the idea to get them scooters and they were a hit!  Both boys love their scooters and Rainer still rides his in the house as a daily pleasure.  His is a Maxi-Micro scooter and Dieter got a Razor scooter.  The Maxi turned out to be the best.  The boys kind of fight over it a little bit.  Everything else they received has been sort of cast aside.  Sad, but true.  They still totally have creative childhoods.  They draw, build marble runs, build with blocks, take down and reassemble Hero Factories, act out pretend scenarios, read (mostly Dieter) and they are active outdoors and do swim team and take piano lessons.  Having lots of toys is just not part of that.

I'd love to hear your thoughts if  you are willing to share!





Sunday, January 12, 2014

cookies--christmas and otherwise



I never fail to be delighted by the simple roll-and-cut cookies we do every year at Christmas. (Of course my children are delighted by them as well).  I've blogged about them a gazillion times before, but couldn't resist showing you this year's batch.  I love how they turned out.  I was lazy and only dyed two colors of icing, but it's sort of nice to keep the palette simple.  I've posted the recipe here.  The recipe for the icing is here.

And I wanted to let you know about the oatmeal-walnut-fudge cookies I also made.  They didn't really "work" for me as a Christmas cookie (not Christmassy enough! so hearty!), but I love them as a "granola bar" of a lunchbox cookie.  They are so toasty and walnutty and the fudge center is fun and a little different.  I found the recipe here.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

christmas 2013



Christmas felt rather fast and furious this year.  With school extending all the way through December 20th (!) and with me leaving for Spain early on the morning of the 26th, a lot of festivities felt packed into a few days.  Not that we actually have a lot going on--we don't--but there was never a leisurely stretch of days to do Christmasy things and hang out by the tree.

We did do our Solstice trip to the beach, which I love.  We have a fun lunch at Crushcakes, head to Carpinteria State Beach and do whatever tidepooling we can do (the tide was pretty high this year, but it was still fun) and head home for a dinner of something cozy like soup or chili and later have hot tea and cookies and a bonfire.  That is so Christmassy to me!  This is the third or fourth year we have done the winter solstice this way.  (By the way, this year I made Summer Harms' chili and it was great.)

We made the roll and cut Christmas cookies on Christmas Eve and that turned out to be a fun project for that day.  In the afternoon Dieter and I went to church with my parents.  Rainer was having a fit, so I left him home with Ken.  That night we had cheese fondue.  On Christmas day we opened presents and had a brunch here and later went down to my parents' house and my mom made a super lovely meal.

That's it!  Early the next morning I was off to LAX before the sun came up.

I'm going to do a separate post about the cookies and the advent calendar because I love those traditions so much--they deserve more pictures and their own post.


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Madrid, Spain



You guys, I never meant to abandon the blog for so long.  I'm sorry if any of you were checking back and wondering.  I still want to do the blog, I just haven't figured out how to fit in blogging in my current life.  I used to make it a big priority, and now I just don't want to anymore.  But I do want to fit in a bit every week.  I just need to figure out when.

Faith is spending an academic year in Madrid, Spain, so the day after Christmas I flew out to visit her.  Wow!  Madrid.  I never would have made it to Madrid if Faith had not been there.  Admittedly, I had no curiosity about Spain (I do have tons of interest and curiosity in the UK or any of the Scandinavian countries, or France).  On the other hand, Madrid is way more exotic than those other places because many people just don't travel there.  I loved all the old buildings and beautiful architechture, and its European-ness.  Perhaps you can tell by the photos that we valued being together, going around, having tea and drinks and meals, but didn't make it to any tourist attractions.  I'm okay with that.  I just wanted to spend time with my girl.

What are your experiences with Spain?  Anyone been to Madrid?

Hopefully I'll be back soon to blog about Christmas.

Happy January!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

palm springs trip

children's museum in palm desert museum museum cabazon dinosaurs! cabazon dinosaurs frog juice in the hotel room snow! san jcinto state park leaving the desert

 Ken and the little boys and I took a little Palm Springs trip before Thanksgiving.  What a great time to visit Palm Springs!  We usually visit in the summer when it is hot.  The desert was gorgeous in cooler temps, though.  Much less threatening.  I felt that I could notice the beauty so much more this time (although it's fun visiting in the heat too--I like both).

We got a Travel Zoo "deal" on a fancy resort.  I'd always thought we can't affort Palm Springs in the fall or winter at all because the prices are so much higher, but the Travel Zoo deal made it possible.  My dad happened to point it out to me and on an impulse I booked the trip.  I'm so glad we did!  It was so much fun.  In addition to swimming and water-sliding and lazy river-ing at the hotel, we went to a fun children's museum and also rode the Palm Springs aerial tramway up to Mount San Jacinto to the snow.  That aerial tramway is pure magic.  I highly recommend it.

Trip details:

The resort we stayed at is this one.  We're dying to go back next year--I hope they run the special again.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
Children's Museum in Rancho Mirage.  This museum was gorgeous and so wonderfully open, airy, and uncrowded.
Cabazon Dinosaurs--it's kind of cheesy but the boys loved it.  I'm glad we stopped.   

The trip did not go entirely smoothly--Rainer woke up after midnight the first night with bad vomiting and gastrointestinal issues.  We lost half a day to that, but miraculously he was able to be up and about by afternoon and enjoyed the museum.  Obviously we were furiously handwashing the rest of the trip. 

I'm so happy we had some true vacation time together.  Now the holidays are coming fast and furious.  I'm hoping to be super organized this year and keep things extremely simple.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

thankful

my feet . . . and fall color fall color in southern california post office tower at dusk

Sorry to be gone for so long.  Lately, blogging falls to the absolute bottom of my priority list.  But I wanted to acknowledge Thanksgiving today and take a moment to be thankful!  Do you guys keep a thankfulness journal?  I was doing it for a little while last year, and I want to get back to it.  It feels good.  Also, I guess studies have shown that it does good things for you--maybe reduces stress--which I could certainly use.  So I think I'm going to start that up again, for a few minutes a day.

What are you up to today?  We are going to my parents this afternoon for dinner and this morning I am cooking.  I'm making two pies, sweet potato casserole, and green bean casserole.

Today I am feeling thankful for
:: my loved ones!  Ken, the boys, my grown up children, my parents, my friends.  Hooray for human connection and love.  It is the most important thing in life and I am SO grateful for my people.
:: medical insurance.  We have put ours through a workout this year--lots of medical stuff I haven't blogged about.  I am SO grateful for our good insurance. 
:: health. 
:: my job.  I'm so lucky to have a good job and work with good people and be at my present school site.
:: having money to pay the bills.
:: sweet little boy cuddles.  I'm so lucky to get these every day!
:: living where we live.  For the longest time I resisted Southern California.  Now I see how lucky we are to live here.
:: all our little day trips and longer adventures.  We just got back from a mini-vacation to Palm Springs--Ken, me, and the little boys.  So fun!  We have so many adventures and so much beauty right outside our back door--I love this.
:: morning coffee, my commute, daily rituals, Tuesday night pizza, date night with Ken, movies, the internet, electronic gadgets, books, vitamins,  clothes and shoes and makeup and jewelery, green grass and trees, water, podcasts, science and figuring things out, crayons and coloring with the kids, Frog Juice and other games, folding laundry and watching old Nigella episodes, the beach, little boys reading on the couch, Facetime, cookbooks, pretty photography, seasons, weather, rain (rare here), cupcakes, Saturday morning yoga class, pool membership, and a lot more I'm not thinking of here.

Happy Thanksgiving!