Things I Love : November, 2014

Take time to stop and bake mini donuts with your kids. Random things that I loved this month…

I usually work on blog stuff in the mornings. Even the weekend. So it was a really nice change of pace when my son found our mini donut baker in the garage and all but demanded we make them immediately. So we did.  And they loved them. And it was really fun to make something for breakfast and take a little more time with them instead of being on the computer. I guess sometimes you have to stop and smell the mini donuts.

The styling in Bon Appetit Magazine is the best. They get me. I die for food magazines. I rarely make anything from them, but I have to read them each month. Over the last year or so I’ve been falling in love with Bon Appetit and their styling. They just get me. It’s all I can do to wait patiently for the new issue to arrive each month. The creative direction is SO GOOD. Like, I want to rip out these pages and decoupage them on my dresser like I did with bands in high school.

Celebrating a friend who is following her dream. This didn’t happen in October but I didn’t download the photo until now so it missed last month’s ‘Things I Love.” My dear friend, Erika, was an extra on Brooklyn 99, one of my fave shows. So of course we had to have a viewing party at her house and experience it together. It was the Halloween episode. She nailed it. I love watching her explore this new path in her life and think she is awesome. See her on Cougar Town here.

My favorite Erin Wasson for RVCA shirt and vintage necklace. You guys. I’ve only been wine tasting twice now but both times I really felt like I needed to wear this vintage grape necklace that my grandma gave me. Do you really need to have a good luck charm for wine tasting? Because I think this is mine. My grandma wasn’t in to wine per se although she always ordered a Chablis when we ate at the pizzeria. One of the funniest conversations I ever had with my grandparents was them making fun of pretentious wine tasters and the adjectives they use to describe the wine. I will never forget it. I love this necklace. And this shirt. I will die if anything happens to it. It’s Erin Wasson for RVCA and it is my all time fave. If we’ve hung out in person you have certainly seen me in it. And I love my new necklace from Shop Serene Sky. I won it at a blogger event and it’s totally my style! So glad I didn’t win the free month of exercise.

Fried Green Beans from The Habit. Dearest fried green bean, how did I not know about you until now? I saw someone post about these on their instagram account and later that day went to try them. I adore green beans. It’s the world’s best vegetable. And fried?! Yum. This was my first time at The Habit, although it is in the same parking lot as my Joann’s so you know I’ve passed it and smelled it like a gazillion times. The burger was also amazing! Can’t wait to go back and try out more things! I also love that they put a gummy hamburger in the kids meals! Nice touch.

Nerds against bullying! You know I love Nerds, right? They are my fave. But if Nerds and green beans got in to a fight, I’m not sure whose earrings I would hold. That’s not true. I would mean mug the green beans and back my Nerds. And then eat the green beans and then the Nerds.  So when Geeky Hostess posted this it made my heart sing. Candy against bullying. Now that is a cause I can get behind. Well done Wonka.

High waisted jeans changed my life. YOU GUYS! I’m sorry to shout at you but these pants changed my life. So I’m pretty cheap about my denim. I used to buy pricey pants, and they really did fit and wear well. But it just isn’t the right time for me to spend a lot on good denim. So I’ve been hitting the cheapy stores for my pants. These stores usually go for a younger audience so the pants are all low-rise and terrible whiskering. Well, I finally came across that was high-waisted (but not in a Jessica Simpson high-waisted pants debacle, high waist) jeans and they are awesome! The whiskering and details are still not something I would typically go for, but the fact that my muffin top is fully ensconced in these pants is amazing! I instantly felt pounds lighter. Shirts lay nicer. And I don’t constantly have to hitch them up. Because they sit above my hip bones, they don’t slip down much to create saggy butt. Life changing. So now I wear them every day. I apologize in advance.

Kids on the red carpet. This one is also from last month. My husband has a friend who is an artist and he created some custom pieces for a show at the Long Beach Museum of Art. One of the pieces is a sort of team photo from a made up sport and my husband is one of the players. So of course we had to go see my husband hanging on a museum wall.  We took the kids and they were so much fun to have there. My oldest dressed like he was going for an art heist (here he is missing the beanie and hood up). And my youngest was super in to the receptions happening outside including dancing like a spaz to the band and sucking down Sprite from the bar. And, of course, we had to get them on the red carpet. The docents only had to talk to the boys a dozen times to remind them not to touch anything.

My favorite wines from @lorimarwinery/.I have new favorite wines! I fell in love with Trio from Lorimar Winery on my first visit (a red with notes of coconut, yum). But this last visit I was lucky enough to get to taste even more of their wines. Their sparkling wine is my fave sparkling! SO delicious!  And the Grenache Blanc is where it’s at. I can’t wait to crack that baby open! Looks like I’ve got my holiday drinking game plan set.

Tillamook Chef event with Haven Gastro Pub at Provisions Market in Orange. I was invited to attend a Tillamook cheese event a few weeks ago and it was amazing. Tillamook partners with chefs from all over the country and has them create sensational dishes using Tillamook product. This event was in conjunction with the Chef’s of Haven Gastro Pub and Provisions Market in Orange. The servers strolled around with platters of beer and cheese beignets and other delightful cheesey dishes. There was a fantastic cheese tasting spread set out complete with beer pairings and then there was this Mac and Cheese. Best. Ever. For this recipe they used the Extra Sharp White Cheddar and added bacon and other yummy goodness.  The event was awesome but my favorite part is that they are sharing all the recipes! I want to make everything!  Here is the White Cheddar Bacon Mac and Cheese.  I fell in love with the Black Pepper White Cheddar and can’t wait to find that again in a grocery store. Mmmmmm.

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Best Pencil Sharpener Ever

White desk with bright office supplies.Ok. You guys might think this post is crazy. Like, Sharon, you can’t possibly love a pencil sharpener this much. But it’s legit. My love is real. So much so that I want to share my love of an inanimate object with you. So much so that I sought Classroom Friendly Supplies out to do a review for them, at my request. They sent me a sleek, chic black pencil sharpener so my photos would be cuter but I have had a blue one for about 6 months. It’s kind of like part of the family now. And it’s the best pencil sharpener ever.

White and bright office space.With school starting and homework routines being set, my mom decided that my boys needed a really good pencil sharpener. I give her all the credit. She researched online, read reviews and spent time on this. It seems a good, manual pencil sharpener is hard to find. But then she came across this one by Classroom Friendly Supplies. It showed up at our house and the boys immediately started sharpening all of their pencils. I had no idea they would take to the sharpener the way I did.

Best manual pencil sharpener ever. I use only pencil for my editorial calendar and blog planning. The first time I used the pencil sharpener my world changed. I usually grab whatever dull pencil is lying around, left out by the boys. But a nice sharp pencil really does something for my productivity. We don’t have an office area set up at the house (thank you to Lauren for letting me borrow her workspace for these photos!) so the pencil sharpener sits on one of the counters in our kitchen where we keep the homework supplies. I couldn’t take a picture of it here because it is literally sitting next to a jar of mayo (unopened but still, ew gross – a result of pantry cabinet overflow) and a big jug of cranberry juice. No one wants to see that. This pencil sharpener needs to shine!

Best pencil sharpener. Ever. The pencil sharpener comes with a clamp so that it stays put when you are using it but we just hold it steady with our hands since we move it all around the house to where ever we need it. It comes in other colors as well, and they also have a discount if you buy 3 of them. And you should totally buy these for your kids teachers. They will totally want one.

Best pencil sharpener. Ever. Isn’t she pretty?

Best pencil sharpener. Ever. Recently I thought we killed ours. My kids sharpen far more pencils with it than they really need to. I was devastated. The price is not outrageous (they are $25 each) but I really didn’t want to spend another chunk of money on a pencil sharpener around the holidays). But as I was looking at the site, I came across their videos to troubleshoot problems. You guys!  It turns out that there was just lead stuck in the sharpener! I was able to take it apart, following their instructions on the video, and fix it!  World saved! This is a hearty little machine. It’s going to last you a nice, long time.

Best pencil sharpener. Ever. You see how the front part of the pencil sharpener, the metal part, is away from the body? Well, that holds the pencil and feeds it in to the blade for you as you crank. It’s so smooth and makes the nicest point. Yes, I’m a nerd and love this pencil sharpener.

The best pencil sharpener ever. For real. It's manual and it's perfect. And yes, I think it's odd that I love a pencil sharpener this much also...The shavings go right in to this little drawer that you can empty right in to the trashcan. It. is. the. best. ever. I am sure that the people on your holiday gift list don’t realize that they want this pencil sharpener. But they totally do! Or surprise them with it as a back to school present. This is THE only pencil sharpener you should ever have.

*I asked Classroom Friendly Supplies to send me a black pencil sharpener for my photos because I need you to know about this amazing product. And they did. Because they are awesome. And they are available for all your pencil sharpener needs.

School Milestone and Chocolate Soy Nut Butter Shake

Soy Butter and Chocolate Shake Recipe #StreamTeamMmmmm.  How yummy does that look? This is a chocolate soy nut butter shake. It may sound a little odd to you if you’ve never had soy nut butter (one of our fave pb alternatives). But for those of you who have tried it, you know that it is a great substitute when you are trying to get a peanut butter like taste or texture without it having any devil nuts. And I’m about to tell you why I made it.

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So I am happy to announce that I just became a member of the Netflix #StreamTeam! What that means is that, monthly,  I will be posting about my favorite movies and shows that can be found on Netflix. Let me give you a quick background on myself. I’m pretty obsessed with television. I graduated with a degree in Communications with an emphasis in TV and Film. It is my happy place. When I’m watching my favorite shows, it is my absolute escape and all is right with the world. I prefer sitcoms but also love reality, well written one hour shows (like Nashville and Revenge) and made for TV movies.

Netflix will be sending me prompts to help me round-up the shows and movies on their site that I want share with you. This month, they wanted us to talk about “firsts”. And there is one first that instantly jumped out at me and is totally relevant in my world right now. You guys, I joined the PTA. First time ever. Now, I don’t mean I joined by paying my $10 and getting a membership card. No. I mean, I joined and I’m involved. I’m making sh*t happen. I am the Recording Secretary and chairperson to two events as well as serving on several other committees. So far, it has been a bit crazy. A lot of us are new and learning as we go. But I am realizing just how important PTA can be to the students. That is not to say there hasn’t been any drama. Because there has. From what I am hearing though, that is par for the course. I’m excited to be part of this great group of parents, trying to give the kids the best school year ever.

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That is not to say that there aren’t times when I feel like I am in an episode of Parks and Recreation. With the red tape Leslie faces to get anything done and the running of a city department full of big personalities, there are some parallels to what one may find in a PTA experience. But that kind of stuff makes me happy. I love people watching and schools are kind of one of the best places to do that. Not in an I’m totally making fun of these people and judging them kind of way. But schools are their own little communities with mini mayors like my youngest son who like to know and say hi to each and every kid we pass to the “graders” as my oldest calls the upper graders, who are trying to figure out their sense of style and where they fit in. And, of course, the parents are pretty fun to watch too. From an observation stand point, schools are ripe with story lines.

As close as you can get to a peanut butter chocolate shake without nuts. #StreamTeamAnd since I’m focused on school, I decided to make a treat that my nut allergic son could eat. You guys, some of the best gossip I hear from my oldest son comes straight from the nut free lunch table. And while he won’t be eating this shake at school, I thought it would be the perfect treat for eating while watching some movies about school. All you need is some vanilla ice cream, chocolate syrup and soy nut butter (or Sunbutter which is made with sunflower seeds and is super yummy) and some milk. I need to pause her for a moment and tell you that this Midnight Moo syrup from Trader Joe’s is crazy good. It is much thicker than normal chocolate syrup and more rich. It was perfect for this shake. And also perfect for squeezing straight in to your mouth hole.

Soy Nut Butter and Chocolate Shake Recipe. #StreamTeamI just made a single serving so to my small blender cup I added two scoops of vanilla ice cream and soy nut butter.

Nut free soy butter and chocolate shake. #StreamTeamThen I added the chocolate syrup and milk and blended away.

Soy nut butter and chocolate shake. #StreamTeamSo yum! I added some mini chocolate chips to the top to give it a little more visual interest and a little bit of crunch when you sip. The straw is really just for show. Straws are just a way to make you drink your shake slower and make your head feel like it is going to explode from all the work you are putting in just to get to the shake. My son loved it. And so did I. I’m hoping next month’s prompt is something about losing weight though…

Netflix picks for school themed movies. #StreamTeamThese first four movies are for the adults and older kids, if you think they are ready for them. I am probably going to hold off with Ferris Bueller’s Day off for a while because my kids would get too many ideas. But School of Rock would be awesome for them. While these don’t focus on the parliamentary process they are school focused and awesome. And you can totally celebrate some “firsts” with these movies as your guide.

School of Rock : First time on stage, first band, first time you really find what you are passionate about

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off : First time calling in sick to school while not really being sick (but having to deal with consequences, of course…)

The Breakfast Club : First detention, first time realizing that people sometimes aren’t what they appear

Rock ‘n’ Roll High School : Lots of firsts in this one, should only be shown to age 14 and older and probably with a parent to explain and talk about most of it…but it has the Ramones.  So thumbs up.

School picks for kids on Netflix. #StreamTeamFor the kids, there are awesome school movies for them too.

High School Musical : First love, first major life decision about where to go to college, lots of talking points in this one.

Spy School : First lesson in trust and telling tall tales and the consequences that come with it.

Casper’s Scare School : And since Halloween is next week, it just makes sense to go to scare school.

Which of these have you seen?

*I was provided compensation for being a member of the Netflix #StreamTeam. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Quick and Easy Dinners

I haven't had much time to cook lately so I rounded up some of the quick meals I've been making for dinner. I’m pretty much ridiculously stressed out right now. And this totally affects how I feed myself and my family. So I’ve decided to share the recipes for the quick and easy dinners that I have been making that are still tasty but really easy to make. On the nights where we have extra activities like Cub Scouts, I stick to something super simple like pasta, which incidentally, is my kid’s favorite meal that I make. It’s store-bought sauce and meatballs, but they love it so why reinvent the wheel. But on the other days, I try to mix it up between crock and things that don’t take a ton of effort or prep work. There are go-to meals that we make but I try to add in some new things too. My kids are very picky so I try all different flavors to see if I can find something they are in to. And if they don’t like something, I take a break from it, but try it again a few months later.

Our regular favorites:

Salami and Peperoncini Pizza – This pizza was based on my favorite sandwiches and is super easy to make and SO tasty

Quick Teriyaki Stir fry – We are actually having this tonight. It is super simple to make and the boys LOVE it! Which is crazy because there are vegetables in it and it is pretty healthy. It is also great cold for lunch the next day!

Super Easy Chicken and Pasta – My husband requests this one and I am happy to oblige considering it uses store-bought chicken and has a ton of flavor. Did I mention it’s easy?

Tacos or Taco salad: Homemade tortilla chips with seasoned ground beef, lettuce, cheese and hot sauce.

New things I’m trying:

Bacon Cheeseburger Sandwiches – Made these two nights ago and they were INSANE! I skipped her seasoning, but added about 3/4 of a packet of onion soup mix (you know, the powder with dried onions? That.) to the meat. Super yummy. The cheese is a must to sort of bind the meet together, but even if it turns in to a big old mess, it is still super tasty. LOVED it!

Slow Cooker Creamy Bacon Ranch Chicken  –  This is on the agenda for tomorrow. My fingers are crossed that the boys will like it. My oldest has been in to ranch dressing lately and they love spaghetti so fingers crossed! I thought it would be a good way to much up our standard pasta.

Sweet Slow Cooker Sesame Chicken – I am pretty sure my kids will like this one. They seem to like teriyaki (although their tastes literally change by the minute). This will be on our menu next week.

Crockpot Rustic Italian Beef Ragu – I love a good ragu. So much flavor! And this one is done in the crock pot so that means I can busy myself with life and not be stuck over a stove except for cooking noodles. Yeah!

Bacon and Brie Grilled Cheese – By Friday night I’m over cooking from the week, but we are trying to save money and not go out much. I’ve decided Friday nights are sandwich night. Not cold cuts (probably not cold cuts) but sandwiches that are a bit fancier then we send to school in lunches. My kids love bacon so I am going to do a bacon grilled cheese this week. Except I am going to sub the brie out for some extra aged gouda which is closer to parmesan in flavor which I know my boys really like, but will melt a little better. I’m REALLY looking forward to this…

Need more recipe ideas? Follow my “recipes” board on Pinterest. And remember that fluke when I was eating all clean? I still have that board too…

Now, would you be so kind as to share with me what you are eating?  What are your go-to meals?

Upcycled Milk Jug Planters

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DIY milk jug planters. Every time my kids finish a container of milk my head spins. Those containers have got to be good for other things. I know they can be recycled but they can be so much more useful than that. So I decided to make some of the plastic milk jugs in to planters. And I decided to take my older son with me when I went to the master, his grandfather, to learn the best way to replant plants, since I have the blackest thumb possible. I figured we could keep at least a few of these containers out of a landfill and teach myself and my son something that could come in handy later. Both of my kids have expressed an interest in planting our own food, so this lesson will surely come in to play again. got milk? asked me if I could come up with a craft that would share how milk and healthy habits can be worked in to your everyday living. And I really think these planters do that.

Milk is full of things that growing bodies need to help them in the future. But first we needed a few empty milk jugs. Luckily, this kid LOVES his milk. If he could, he would drink milk for all of his meals instead of eat. I don’t hate that. Milk is full of good stuff that his body needs so he gets it for each meal and one snack a day. And before we knew it, we had 3 empty jugs for us to upcycle in to planters.

Making planters out of empty plastic milk jugs. Grandpa Al runs a nursery out of his back yard and sells cottage garden plants to mom and pop nurseries in and around Orange County (read this great article the Register wrote about him). So when it comes to anything with plants, he is the man. We brought over our plastic milk jugs and he and my son got to work turning what would have been trash in to something useful.  I had wanted to plant some herbs, as I really enjoy using them in cooking, but Grandpa Al doesn’t grow herbs. And while he used to grow heirloom vegetables, he has since changed his focus to cottage flowers. I decided that since I’m such a gardening novice, I would let him show us with his regular plants and then my son and I will be able to purchase some herbs and create an herb garden together. [Read more…]