Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Something's Cookin'

I do not need a chef's coat. I am not applying for Top Chef anytime soon. But I have to say: This Mama is learning to cook! I have pleasantly surprised myself this past month and made over 15 new recipes, most of them falling into the success column. There are several things I am learning in my new cooking endeavor:

1. No fear. Like I've said in the past, cooking used to be scary for me! Any recipe that seemed more complicated than Rice-a-Roni made me nervous. But I've learned to not be fearful of the mistakes I might make, or an ingredient that I'm unfamiliar with. Just go for it! Worst case scenario: there's always takeout.

2. Dinner time is anytime. Cooking with Eli could be a little challenging. I never know if I'll be able to cook and eat a whole meal without my little guy needing my full attention. So I've started a little routine. If my recipe has a lot of prep work I start early, around 3pm. I put all the ingredients in little bowls that are easy to refrigerate in case Eli needs me to take a little break. This makes it easy to start back up again when I'm ready. When Eli is particularly joyful and tolerates his swing for the duration of the cooking time I end up eating at 4 pm. I've done this several times and you know what? My meal taste just as good a couple of hours before "dinner time".

3. Make it special, even if it's just for you. I decided that since I'm spending all this time cooking I should respect my meal and put it on a real plate. Not a paper plate and not just thrown together. I make it a point to take my time while plating. I make it pretty, even if I'm the only one who sees it.

4. Clean with a smile. I hate cleaning the kitchen! Ugh. It is my least favorite household chore and probably the one that needs to be done the most often. Now that I'm cooking using more than one pot a daily cleaning is necessary. And no, I do not have a new found love of cleaning, but I do have a love of cooking in a clean and organized kitchen. Also, if I'm having trouble getting motivated, a dirty kitchen will usually stop me in my tracks. So everyday, when I'm done cooking, I clean the kitchen to make shiny and new for the next meal. I'm trying to hate it less.

The last week and a half was especially delicious, if I do say so myself. Here's what I cooked.
- Healthy Peanut Butter Banana Oatmeal Cookies
- Cilantro Lime Chickpea Salad
- Linguine with Garlicky Bread Crumbs

All delicious, but here are some pictures of my favorites. (Clockwise)

- Toasted Sesame Ginger Salmon
- Cilantro Lime Shrimp
- Boy-Approved Spiked Pasta
- Shrimp Martini Appetizer
** In the center: My favorite Sous Chef, Eli.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Making it Work

In the words of Tim Gunn on Project Runway: "Make it Work".

I think Tim would be proud because I am applying his favorite phrase to several parts of my life these days, including my appearance. For the first two months of Eli's life I had mere minutes to deal with how I looked. I was either feeding him, changing him, or plastered to the couch while my angel took a comfortable nap in my lap. Taking a shower was about all I could muster those first two months (and even those were more few and far between than I'd like to admit). All I had time for was a messy bun thrown on the top of my head and bobby pins stuck in to hold the crazy flyaways out of my face. This look actually worked really well with my "fancy" yoga pants and which ever hoodie was most clean.

During this last month Eli has learned to make himself busy for a short while, which has given me a slightly longer amount of time to focus on my appearance. I don't want to fall into a routine of wearing my sweats everyday and convincing myself I can "work 'em" like I did in college. Let's face it- I'm not 21 anymore. So I've tried to make it a point to get dressed each day and take a few minutes to take care of me. Unfortunately, I do not have time to make it to a salon for a haircut or color, so I'm still having to work some magic on my hair. But I've decided to try to make it work.

I've been loving the vintage scarf trend this season and I thought this might be the perfect way to cover up the yikes that is my hair currently. So until I can make it to a salon for some hair TLC this is how I'm making it work. Hope you like it Tim. :)

How are you making it work?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Wearing Green and a Smile

Today was a great day for a few reasons.

1) Today Eli is 3 months old! The time has totally flown by. He's growing and changing so much everyday. It makes me so happy and stresses me out, all at the same time. Lately, Eli has been "talking" up a storm. He makes the greatest little noises and coos and it really seems like he's got a lot to say! I love it. Also, he's learned to grab on to things. His blanket, his toys, my hair (ouch!). It's so amazing to watch him lay on his play mat and really focus on wrapping his little hand around this little bee rattle. Incredible. The last Eli milestone I'll share is his new love of rolling onto his side. Every time I put him down he rolls onto his side and holds his little hands in front of his chest and just rests. He looks like Brandon when he's laying on the couch and watching TV. It really is so cute!

Here is Eli at 1 month, 2 months, and today. That bear is getting smaller! Right? Right?

2) Eli's little best friend, and my awesome Godson, Emmitt is 11 months old today!(I know they may not know they're best friends yet, but Emmitt's mom and I will make sure it happens.) I'm so thankful to have Emmitt and his fabulous parents in my life. Raising our boys together, whether we're near or far, will be such a wonderful adventure! TCU Freshman Class of 2028??

3) St. Patrick's Day! Holidays and kind of just weekends in general are a little rough when Brandon is gone. I really miss hanging out with him. And, like my Mom, I love making a big deal of every little holiday that comes our way. It's a little hard to do that when you're alone. But I realized, I'm not alone! I have little Elijah to celebrate with this year. So we dressed all in green and made the day fun all on our own. I decided that since I'm on my cooking kick I would celebrate with something festive. So for dinner I made this...

That's right... Shepherd's Pie. Oh. My. Gosh. I have never had Shepherd's Pie before and I'm actually a little sad about it. It is amazing! The recipe I used is from a lifestyle blog I found through Pinterest called Iowa Girl Eats. You can find her post with the recipe here. It was perfect. I love Shepherd's Pie.

Eli and I ended the night with a homemade Shamrock Shake and a good snuggle. Hope you had a wonderful day! Did anyone else cook, eat, or drink anything in the spirit of St. Patrick's Day?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Dinner on the Kitchen Floor

The meal I made tonight was: Zucchini and Squash Ribbon Pasta.

(I would give you a picture of my meal, but the one on www.shape.com does the meal way more justice. A food photographer I am not.)

I found the link to this recipe on Pinterest. I have to admit when I saw the picture of the recipe I actually thought it was pasta and that's why I pinned it. It wasn't until I was making my grocery list that I discovered it was a vegetarian meal and actually zucchini and squash cut to look like pasta. The picture looked so good and the recipe sounded so refreshing that I decided to go for it. As an added bonus, the recipe called for pesto and I had just enough left over from my last weeks cooking adventure. Perfect!

So, I set out to make dinner. I placed Eli's little swing in the kitchen, hoping the change of scenery would keep him occupied long enough for me to cook. I needed to chop, julienne, peel, and saute things all before Eli needed to snuggle. I was thankfully amazed. He sat in his swing just watching me cook. His little coos and smiles were very encouraging. When I was done cooking I plopped right down on the floor in front of his swing to try my meal. Success! It was pretty delicious, if I do say so myself. The zucchini and squash twirled around my fork just like pasta, and the crunchy textures of all the ingredients made for a hearty little meal.

Now, I'm not a vegetarian. And while this was delicious, I would have loved a little petite steak to go with it. In the future, especially when I make this for Brandon, a little protein will be necessary. But overall, this was a perfect meal for one. Healthy and bright.

Here are a couple things I'll need to remember for next time:

1) Peel the zucchini and squash from the outside like a potato. Don't try to half it before peeling because the seeds on the inside cause the ribbons to fall apart.

2) Place the corn cob in a bowl when scraping the corn off to avoid rogue kernels. They flew all over the place when I tried it using a plate.

Super excited about this success and feeling pretty brave in the kitchen this week!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Not from a Box

I married a chef. Yes, he's a soldier, but also an amazing chef. So cooking for him has always been a little intimidating. I'm the first to admit that I'm a very basic cook. Brandon would be the second to admit it. (Not in a mean way, just a realistic way.) The first three years of our marriage he ate a lot of slightly strange or improperly cooked meals. During the fourth year I think I gave up on cooking. If recipes had certain words in them I got intimidated. Poach, broil, julienne... yikes. Food from a box is more my speed. If it comes in a box I can usually handle it. Anytime I've tried to make anything even remotely ambitious it's taken me hours and every pan in the kitchen. And it's never quite right.

This week I started my meal makeover adventure. Cooking for one can be tricky, but I think it's actually going to work out great. If I mess up, I'm not ruining anyone else's dinner but my own. No big deal. I can always fall back on the box.

Here are some images from my first week of meals.

Clockwise from the top left:

1) Healthy Recipe: Easy Bruschetta
2) Basil Pesto Tortellini: Pasta Buitoni, Basil Pesto from Grace's mom's recipe!
3) Turkey Sandwich with sprouts, lettuce, and pesto mayonnaise
4) Crispy Pesto Potatoes
5) Caprese Grilled Cheese
6) Marinated Mahi Mahi

Such a delicious week!

Friday, March 9, 2012


There are several things that I do differently now that I'm a parent. I'll smile to myself and think, "I know I'm a Mom now!".

You know you're a parent when....

You baby is sleeping and you run out of the room to sneeze, open a bag of chips, or anything else that makes the slightest sound. When your baby is sleeping EVERY sound is loud.

You'll sit in the same position without food, water, or bathroom breaks, as long as your baby is sleeping in your lap.

When your baby starts to nap in the other room and you watch the monitor instead of the TV.

You can do almost anything with one hand.

You can accomplish anything in 5 minutes or less. Eat a full meal, shower, do a load of laundry.

If you know what I'm talking about add to the list. Or just laugh along with me :)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Ombré Nails

Trend to Try: Ombré Nails

I usually do my own nails because I'm not patient enough for a professional manicure. (I never wait the appropriate amount of time before leaving the salon and almost always ruin my nails on the way out.) Doing my own nails allows me to try different colors without the pressure of ruining a $40 manicure. This week the trend I tried was Ombré nails. And I love it!

For "starter" ombré nails you need three colors in the same color family. I chose red. (I already had two complementary reds, so I just needed to buy one new polish. Perfect.) The idea is to start at one end, either pinky or thumb, with the darkest color on two nails, the lighter color on the next two, and finally the lightest on the last nail. I played around with the colors for awhile, did it a few different ways, and ended up with this:

Not the "traditional" ombré nails, but I like it like this. Now that I've discovered I love it I'm going to try new colors. Next color family: Blue!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Mommy Makeover

Being a Mommy can sometimes be a little rough. Taking care of Eli is my very first priority, so taking care of me falls by the wayside. The past couple months it's been very easy for me to spend all day in pajamas and eating whatever is easiest (not healthiest). I'm a happier, more balanced Mama when I'm taking better care of myself. To help with this process, there are several things I'm "making-over" in my life and I'm going to keep track of them here!

1. Trends to Try- trends, fashion stuff, and hair and makeup styles I've been wanting to try. (the occasional pajama day will still happen, of course!)

2. Making Meals- Mac and cheese or ramen do not a meal make. So I'm learning to cook real meals. Any easy recipe would be helpful! I have a 2 month old, so any meals I can cook and eat with one hand are ideal. Ha!

3. Shaping Up- I have a ton workouts on my Pinterest board that I'm dying to try. Most of them are things I can do in my living room in 20 minutes or less. Ideal for me right now.

4. Creative Outlet- DIY projects, house projects, and care package ideas for Brandon.

Any ideas, recipes, or inspiration you'd like to share is welcome! Thanks for following along on my Mommy Makeover.

Monday, March 5, 2012

It's a Twister!

Last week was crazy here in Tennessee! Tornado season has come early. No tornadoes actually touched down here in Clarksville, but at one point during the day the warnings were surrounding our county on top and bottom. Someone up there is watching out for us! Whew!

I have always hated storms. Always. The first thunderstorm I remember was when we lived in San Antonio and I must have been three or four. My brother, Rob or "Bubba" (a name I will forever call him- and yes, I know I'm 28 and he's 41) and I were home alone. The power had gone out and we were sitting on the floor in the corner of my parents' big maroon couch. He had lit a few candles, but I remember the lightening seeming so scary because it lit up the whole house and I knew the thunder was coming right after. I don't remember much else, only that Bubs let me sit on his lap and was so comforting. Aside from the storm part, this is one of my favorite memories of Bubba and I. Love you Bubs!

When I was 7 we moved to Oklahoma and I was introduced to a new kind of storm. A tornado. What?! Like in the Wizard of Oz? Now you should know that The Wizard of Oz was (is?) my favorite movie when I was little. I know this movie scared a lot of kids when they were younger, but not me. I loved it! The Wizard of Oz was the only reference point my seven year old brain could think about when I heard the word tornado. And all I could see was my house swirling in the sky. In school, we would have tornado drills and talk about what to do when a storm is coming. Get into the interior room in your house. Crouch down and cover your neck with your hands. Get in the bathtub and cover it with a mattress. Uh, scary!

I was actually in a tornado when I was 13. It hit the amusement park in Oklahoma while I was there with a friend. We had to take cover in one of the restaurants and I remember so clearly the sound of the tornado coming through. It sounded like a freight train! The story of my Mom that day is legendary in my groups of friends and family. My Dad tells it best and paints the picture of my Mom as a MacGyver like hero. As my Dad's story goes:

Of course, as soon as she heard the tornado was headed toward the amusement park she made me jump in the car and chase it. We didn't get to the park until after it hit, but I swear that as I pulled up to the front of the park Mom jumped out of the moving vehicle. Then she proceeded to "pole vault" herself over the parks sign that had fallen and blocked the entrance.

Now I'm not actually sure how tall the sign was, but my Mom was not the pole vaulting type regardless of the height. So you can imagine my Dad's shock.

So, needless to say, I hate tornadoes. It's one of the few things I miss about California. No chance of twisters there! Last week was enough tornado scare to last me throughout the summer, but I fear that this will not be the last time Eli, Maya, and I spend the day in the "Man Cave". I had everything we could possibly need down there. A backpack with our emergency binder, house documents, flashlight, medicine, and changes of clothes in plastic baggies. I had a ton of other stuff shoved in that bathroom. I even brought this little megaphone I gave Brandon as a gag gift for when we need help with Eli's diapers. It's a tiny megaphone, but it's pretty loud. It will work well if we need to call for help. I was watching a combination of the Weather Channel and three local news stations. I had the National Weather Service website up, the local weather, and the map of counties in Tennessee. Also, I have text messages sent to my phone for severe weather watches and warnings. WE WERE READY. And... it rained for five whole minutes. I'm not frustrated that I did all that for nothing. I will do it again if I have to. I hate storms, but I'm ready for them when they come!
Hopefully Eli will not inherit my fear of storms. But for right now, I think he's cool with them…