Sunday, April 29, 2012

Fitness Fiesta

Have you read Gretchen Rubin's book, The Happiness Project? In this guide to life, one of Gretchen's many suggestions is to pick a 'spiritual master,' basically, someone whose approach to life you would like to imitate. Gretchen selects a couple of historical figures to emulate.  Me? I thought of people much closer to home. My girlfriends.

My friends inspire me so much that they became an integral part of my proposal to Foodbuzz for their April 24 x 24 Feature, in which 24 bloggers create a special meal during the same 24 hours.

But first, a little more about the girls...

Meet a few from my amazing crew:
(top row, from left)

Tracy: puts in countless hours volunteering at her children's school (and often steps in to help me look out for Miss P in the afternoon). Exercise of choice: swimming with her kids.

Alaina: Supermom extraordinaire who teaches, helps run an after school program, takes fabulous care of her three active boys, and does not know how to complain. Exercise of choice: running with her dog.

Me (in green). Exercise of choice: hiking with fabulous girlfriends.

Lorrie: master seamstress and baker, who stays on top of her two boys, volunteers galore, and is so kind, offering to help me in my classroom over the summer and bringing me Starbucks during teacher appreciation (even though her kids go to other schools!) Exercise of choice: Hula dancing.

(bottom row, from left)
Linda: epitome of class and graciousness; spending her 40th birthday taking her friends out to dinner, instead of the other way around. Gives her all to her two children, and is known for creating excel spreadsheets to organize everybody for everything, from girls' weekends to family camp-outs. Exercise of choice: any fun, high energy aerobics class.

Beth: Crazy hard worker, juggling her two girls, and a busy job teaching disadvantaged students. Exercise of choice: Zumba

Sandra: Another active volunteer mom (are you sensing a theme?) with a great sense of humor, who totally inspires me with her dedication to a fit and healthy lifestyle. Exercise of choice: running, baby.

In our twenties, us girls might celebrate with a night on the town. As we hover at 40, In our late 30's,  These days, a 'fitness fiesta' is more our speed. The seven of us carpooled to Rancho San Antonio in Los Altos at 8:30 a.m. (after many of the gals completed had already run a load of laundry or two). We hiked the Wildcat Loop Trail (about 4.5 miles) exercising our vocal chords as much as our glutes.

Two hours and two water bottles a piece later, we were ready for some refreshments. With fitness over, the gang headed back to my house for the fiesta, featuring smoothies and banana bread.
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On the menu was Moist Banana Walnut Bread (above) And what's better than one banana bread? TWO banana breads. So we also had... 
A Hint of Chocolate Banana Bread. Strawberries and tangerines rounded out meal.
(All the latest fitness magazines provided additional entertainment).

The crowd favorite, Pineapple Vanilla smoothies, provided some liquid refreshment for the team.
And for the recipes:

Pineapple Vanilla Smoothie
2 cups of low-fat vanilla yogurt (I use Mountain High yoghurt) 
1 1/2 cups of diced pineapple
2-3 teaspoons of sugar (depending on preference)
1/8 teaspoon of nutmeg
1 cup of ice

Combine all ingredients into blender. Process until smooth. Makes four servings.
* * * * * *

Moist Banana Walnut Bread (inspired by Flour's Famous Banana Bread)
1 2/3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup of sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup oil
3 mashed bananas
2 tablespoons sour cream
2/3 cup walnuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of a loaf pan with parchment paper

Sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Beat sugar and eggs with a whisk, then drizzle in oil. Add mashed bananas, sour cream and vanilla. Fold in dry ingredients and nuts. Pour into loaf pan and bake for 45 minutes to an hour.
* * * * * * * * *
Hint of Chocolate Banana Bread
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
2 mashed bananas
1/2 chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of a loaf pan with parchment paper.

Sift together the flour, salt, sugar, and baking soda. Mix in the oil, bananas, and eggs. Stir in chocolate chips and pour into prepared pan. Bake for 50-70 minutes, depending on oven.

Thanks for featuring me, Foodbuzz!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

How do you like to cook?

Lately, cooking dinner each night has become one of the most relaxing parts of my day (second to cozying in bed reading). One part I like is the solitude. Miss P is usually looking for some downtime herself after a day of school, play, maybe homework, maybe swim practice, etc. She's off reconnecting with her stuffed animals or communing with her beloved Wild Kratts. I turn on my TV (a little kitchen TV is a must) and cue up a House Hunters, or another of my favorite HGTV's, and as the picky couple debate floor plans, I dice and sauté. It is kind of mediatative.

On the other hand, on a night, when I'm not recovering from wrangling  teaching my 30 kindergartners, or am just feeling particularly 'energetic,' I enjoy the cameraderie of the family around, entertaining me with chatting as they sit at the island. Paige loves to help, and sometimes we have drinks out, and sample the food as we go.

How do you like to cook?

(Recipe for the above dish coming. Now I have to put on my educator cape.)

Monday, April 23, 2012


Another busy weekend! I was up at 6:00 a.m. on Sunday working on my to-do list. I read somewhere that everyone should one day a week - for instance, Sunday - to do nothing but relax and spend time with family.  The author stated, 'if you can't do that, you are obviously too busy and need to cut back somewhere.'  I wish I could make that happen! I did enjoy some relaxing time on Saturday when the three of us enjoyed lunch outdoors at a restaurant.  We also relaxed late afternoon on Sunday, outside on our porch, with this snack.

Triscuts with goat cheese and sundried tomatoes. So I almost always get some relaxing in, just not a whole day.

During my Sunday grocery shopping, I came across these ramekins in Target. I recently have been coveting ramekins, and feel like I've only seen them online, and for a little pricier. These were about $2 each at Target. In case you are like me, and did not know what a ramekin was last year, they are individual deep dishes that are oven safe up to 400 degrees or more - perfect for individual pasta bakes (they can be personalized), etc. Yea!

Did you relax this weekend?

Saturday, April 21, 2012

One of those weeks...

an impromptu Friday night date

You know those weeks where you feel like you need to sit down and make a giant to-do list, so you can map everything out on paper?

Those weeks, when you are tempted to bring your calendar on your date night so you can have a planning meeting?

Weeks when you're involved in planning a first communion celebration, a birthday lunch, an engagement party, a baby shower, a school lunch for 40, and a retirement party?

When you are running up and down the stairs like a crazy person trying to find the wrapping paper to coordinate with a certain ribbon, and a box, (and you keep finding either two lids or two bottoms) for a birthday gift, minutes before leaving for work?

This was one of those weeks.

The end of the school year is coming! Deep breaths, deep breaths...

Monday, April 16, 2012

pictures, pancakes and potty humor

( not Paige)

Today Spring pictures arrived at school. Oh, the horror. A year or two ago, I was slightly horrified to receive my kindergarten class' picture with me looking cross eyed and quesy. I mean, come on photocompanysname, really - you can't get a shot with me looking halfway decent??? I'm standing there with my eyes open and posed smile the entire time? (Except the nanosecond the shutter snapped.) I imagined the 20 or so kids whose families were proudly brandishing their child's first class picture on the refrigerator, with their goofy, blinking teacher center stage. You know how vain I am? I jokingly asked the parent who puts together the school yearbook if she could work some magic. And she did with photoshop, making me look normal in the yearbook. (And the photo company could not do that because....?)

Fast forward to this year. I quickly glance at my darling daughter's photos. Individual portraits - fine. And there it is. Her second grade class photo. There is Miss P, in the front row, looking cross-eyed and ready to vomit. Again, really? I take group shots of my class all the time (under pressure), and I've rarely had a kid look this bad. And you regular readers know my skill level in all things photography. I kind of got worked up over it and called the photo company to complain. Actually, all I wanted was another version of the class pic, where P looked human and not like a demon trying to send a message with her zombie eyes, but they claim they only take, or save, one. What a racket!

P felt a little bummed when she saw her picture, but I know I made her feel worse when she overhead my ranting about the irresponsible photographer. I'm not ashamed to admit that I indulged her in a variation of bathroom humor to lighten the mood (think: 'At least you didn't have boogers hanging off your nose,' and the like. And, yes, I got worse.) It totally worked!

After swim team, we had pancakes for dinner to stay in our happy place. And we laughed at other classic funny school pictures online (and then funny sunburn pictures, and then funny Christmas pictures...)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Donut Day

picture courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens

So Miss P and I had getting crap off her floor cleaning her room on our agenda today (Day of 4 of the Rainy Spring Break Tour). Suddenly, making donuts sounded more fun and adventurous. So make donuts we did.

I've never made donuts before, hence the 'adventure' aspect. We scoured our recipes and settled on this one by BH & G.

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/3 cup milk
1/2 cup butter, melted
4 eggs, beaten
2/3 cup sugar
Vegetable oil for deep-fat frying
Cinnamon-Sugar or sifted powdered sugar


1. In a bowl combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg; set aside. In another bowl combine milk and melted butter. In a large mixing bowl combine eggs, and sugar; beat with electric mixer until thick (about 5 minutes). Add milk mixture; stir with a wooden spoon to combine. Add flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until smooth. Cover dough; chill at least 2 hours (dough will remain slightly sticky).

2. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. (What I like to do: I use painter's tape to tape wax paper down over half of my kitchen island - I get a bit grossed out at the idea of putting the dough directly on the island.) Roll dough to 1/2-inch thickness. (Note: this dough rolled out perfectly!) Cut dough with a floured 2-1/2-inch round cutter. Use a 1-1/4-inch cutter to cut the hole for the doughnut. (You can also use a standard doughnut cutter.)

3. Fry 2 or 3 doughnuts at a time in deep hot fat (375 degrees F) for 2 to 2-1/2 minutes or until brown, turning halfway through cooking with a slotted spoon. (Make sure it doesn't get too hot though, or your donuts will burn quickly on the outside and be a little underooked in the middle. Or the fire alarm will go off. Or both.) Drain on paper towels. Repeat with remaining doughnuts and doughnut holes. Makes about 15 doughnuts and doughnut holes

4. Shake warm doughnuts in a bag with Cinnamon-Sugar or powdered sugar. Serve warm (or reheat each doughnut 8 to 10 seconds in microwave on high).

We loved watching the donuts puff up on the frying pan. (Make sure to deposit your grease in an empty can for later disposal.)

Another successful P and mom adventure! And the icing on cake (or the powdered sugar on the donut?) P *cleaned her room* while the dough chilled, by herself without prompting - guess she wanted a little more adventure!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A little frugal fun

Today Miss P and I enjoyed a mother daughter date full of 'frugal fun.' I was lamenting how much we always spend on vacation, even 'stay'-cation, and with a lot of expenses coming up, we (I) decided we'd challenge ourselves. First, we packed up some clothes set for donation and headed to our nearest consignment shop. While the folks assessed our goods, we browsed. Oh my goodness, I found a pretty nifty selection of Paige Premium denim (Miss P keeps asking if she's famous), Seven and other designer jeans in my size for between $30 - $40. And they all looked brand new. I tell you, if (I mean when) I shrink a size or two, I'm going THERE to stock my new denim wardrobe. We didn't make out money wise that well, but it was a fun-ish experience just the same.

Next was a quick stop to the libary to freshen up our stock of books. More free entertainment! For lunch we used a La Petite Boulangerie gift card I'd been stashing since Christmas. Bonus? We then got desert with a Nothing but Bundt cake gift card! Finally, we hit Micheal's for a birthday gift and supplies for P's first communion banner. Using what else? 40% off coupons! Finally, our 'splurge' of the day was P's $14.99 white dress shoes for aforementioned communion from Payless Shoe Store. Paige is thrilled that they have small heels.

Six hours later we arrived home, with Paige saying she was 'content.' Great way to spend a (rainy) frugal fun day!


I wanted to include at least a couple pictures from Easter - even if they are a little blurry. Have to figure out how to better use my camera! I wanted us to have a little celebration of our own, so on Saturday Miss P and I colored eggs, then she had a little hunt and we ended the evening with the three of us watching Hop. I got some bad news mid-day, so it put a little damper on things, for me. I often feel like when I fixate on making a really nice family day, or date night, something ends up casting a gray cloud. And then it is the unexpected, impromptu jaunt or time together that ends up being perfect. Oh well. Paige said it was 'a great day!' Below is what we woke up to Sunday morning. The Easter bunny was nice! I was super excited to get a copy of Nie Nie's book Heaven is here. (It helps to have a 'side gig' as Easter Bunny.)

Later, after church we visited with my in-laws and had of course, another hunt! The kids, or course, had a great time. Paige's cousin and good buddy is darling (as are all my nieces and nephews!)

Now we are *enjoying* a rainy spring break. I'll pop back soon!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Rookie Proof Pillow Tutorial

Remember that cute pillow I (me, Miss All Thumbs) made one crafty March Morning? I was jonesing for a new decorative pillow to pretty up my brown couch, but didn't want to pay the $$. Here 's how I did it.

Before - faded pillow

After: Springy new Chevron pillow
I looked at several tutorials online, and my visual spatial self had quite the time with them. : ) I ended up creating my own.

You will need:

Cute fabric of your choice


stitch witchery


adhesive velcro dots

Step 1: Cut fabric to fit the size of your pillow

Step 2: Cut a strip of stitch witchery (remove wrapping first; I learned this the hard way!), and using the iron, seal one end of your pillow cover

Step 3: Apply stitch witchery down the middle seam, and iron again to seal shut.

Step 4: (not pictured) Turn pillow right side out once cooled. The bottom seam and middle seam are done. Insert pillow form in through the top opening of the pillow. Finally, fold over material at the top of the pillow and attach velcro dots, to close final seam (and allow for an opening to take this pillow form out when it is time for another change!)

Voila! another look at the rookie pillow!


Boy Easter Basket Ideas

People! I eagerly await pictures of your Easter baskets. Until then, (or to get you started?) I saw a few fun, non-candy ideas that would be perfect for boys, (or girls). Here they are, all currently found at Safeway, for less than $5:

1) Finger skate boards (see top of post) Have you seen these? My friend with 3 sons has a huge collection. Apparently, there are all kinds of tricks you can do with them...there is just something about little collectibles....

Star Wars Lego Pens. For making homework more exciting.

Finally, the 'microkite.' Ed may or may not be receiving the 'fighterjet' version for Easter. Big boys need treats too.

By the way, Paige is currently jonesing for the kite (and has one mini skateboard), so I can attest these treats could work for either set!

One last reminder to link-up to my Easter Basket challenge below!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


I am now the proud parent of a swim team member! Miss P had her tryout yesterday and was deemed worthy of a spot. I now get to do a plethora of volunteering and spend three days a week at practice - yipee! In all seriousness, we are so excited for her and hopes that she continues to be enthusiastic about swimming (right now she loves it). Although, in terms of swim team, we really got her attention at the mentions of 'pool sleepover,' and 'donut day.'

In other exciting news, I have officially weaned myself off of in-store Starbucks Monday - Thursday and am now enjoying the breakfast blend in the k-cup version at home. Hoping my favorite barista isn't missing me too much! I did make an exception today as I was gearing up for a 12-hour day making phone calls to pass our school district's parcel tax after school. Go Measure A - save our libraries and counselors!

Finally, please consider linking up to my Easter Basket party! Even if your basket isn't all put together yet, show us the goodies/ideas you have so far. You might even include what you *plan* to buy. Remember, there is a Pier 1 gift card at stake! : )

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Show Us Your Easter Basket Link-Up!

I love making Easter baskets.

Some years I've made multiple baskets, not only for Miss P, but for little friends and cousins. Two years ago I made a basket for E that included his favorite microbrew from college (which they had recently started carrying at BevMo), and even one for myself that was 'book' themed. However, Paige's basket is clearly my main act.

I try to buy things for P that I think are useful or fall under the category of 'Imighthaveboughtforheranyway,' instead of just a bunch of candy or other junk. I have a lot of fun trying to find things that I think match her interests or will tickle her fancy, and aren't too expensive. Here is a break-down of this year's basket:

This cute little top on sale at gymboree - all knit tops on sale (you're welcome, gymboree). Are you getting your glasses out? My photo did not turn out. It has a dog on it - her fave - and a flower basket. I also got a few hair accessories. Guess what - they fit perfectly in plastic eggs! I was very excited to find the next item at Micheal's (best place in my opinion) to shop for Easter basket gear. All kinds of unique little items for less. Remember these playground staples? Oh yes, and I forgot to mention that P's basket this year has something of a slumber party theme.

I used my 40% off coupon to get a smash jornal. Have you heard of those? It's actually like a journal/scrapbook/anything book. I actually can't decide whether to keep it, or give it to P. I'm actually thinking I'll get a second for myself and we can doodle it in together over Spring Break. Paige is happiest with a pen and notebook. (Well, she's happiest having a playdate but this is a close second!)

Rounding out the basket is a fun (and g-rated) Truth or Dare type card game with dares like 'pretend the person on your left is a baby and burp them,' and truth ?'s like, 'what is the longest you've gone without taking a shower?' I can imagine P's laughter at these! I also included a slumber party mad-lib pad, and a peg board game with bunnies and dice. It can easily slip into a bag and travel to a restaurant.

Now it's your turn! Get ahead of the game and sort out your basket(s). Then take a photo, detail your findings, and link up here by Saturday. I will randomly select one winner to receive a $20 Pier 1 gift card.