Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

A certain little lady went trick-or-treating around the neighborhood for the first time this year! It went so well, she even knocked on a few doors all by herself.
Here's our sweet little strawberry just before we went trick or treating!

We took the dogs out trick-or-treating and they got so many compliments because they were completely quiet and happy to sit nicely and wait for Hadley to get her treats. Such good pups!

We had some friends over for dinner and to go trick-or-treating with us so Hadley got to eat dinner in her costume... so fun.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

MSP Airport Art Exhibit

I turned in my mixed media piece today for the MSP Airport 3rd annual art exhibit for airport employees and their families. So lucky that we have a very special family member that works at the airport, right?! ;)
The Metropolitan Airport Commission foundation does a really great job of sponsoring this showcase of kids, teens, amateur and professional artists so it is a lot of fun to be a part of! Last year there were so many great pieces in the exhibit so I can't wait until the reception on November 30 when we get to check everyone else's stuff out. They even had a chef intern that was making yummy appetizers too which was just icing on the cake!
I will definitely share pictures from the reception since it's much more fun to see art it in the context of an exhibit, especially a fun showing like this one.
Have a very Haunted Happy Halloween tomorrow everyone!! I'll share pictures of our fun on the flip side. ;)

Friday, October 26, 2012

Foodie Friday

Yesterday we got our first snow of the season.... oh the joys of living in Minnesota. Nothing really "stuck" to the ground but Hadley and I watched out the window and pointed at the huge, wet flakes over the few hours that it was falling pretty steadily. How is it already winter and more importantly why can't winter be shorter?

On Wednesday, I ventured into the world of homemade tomato sauce via my new {totally created by me} recipe for Baked Macaroni. I think it turned out pretty great especially since I combined different parts of recipes that sounded good to me but needed to be lower fat or more kid-friendly, etc. Admittedly, Hadley liked it better reheated as leftovers but she might have just been suspicious of the tomatoes.... much like her daddy.

Brittney's Baked Macaroni
Easy Tomato Sauce (below)
1 package Jenny-O 99% Fat Free Ground Turkey
2 cups uncooked elbow noodles
2 small yellow onions
1 8-ounce block Neufchatel cheese (1/3 less fat than regular cream cheese)
1 bag part skim Italian shredded cheese mix
1 tbspn butter or margarine
4 tablespoons reduced fat Parmesan style cheese
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup flour
1/8 cup canola oil
Salt and Pepper
1.  Boil noodles for 7 minutes (al dente), then drain and set aside.
2.  Cook ground turkey in a saute pan until it is white all the way through, then add Easy Tomato Sauce and remove from heat.
3.  Chop 1 yellow onion finely (I used a Cuisinart food processor to make sure it was chopped as finely as possible). Move onion to microwave-safe dish and add 1 tablespoon of butter. Microwave for 4 minutes, stirring once halfway through. Mix cooked onions with the Neufchatel cheese until the mixture is well combined and smooth. **Setting your Neufchatel cheese out when you first start cooking makes it much softer and easier to work with in this step.
4.  In a 13x9 baking dish sprayed with olive oil or PAM, add a 1/4 cup of the turkey/tomato sauce mixture. Next, add all of the cooked noodles. On top of the noodles, smooth on the onion/soft cheese mixture as evenly as you can (it may not spread evenly -didn't for me!- but when it bakes it all liquifies so don't worry). Add all of the remaining tomato/turkey mixture, then top with the bag of Italian cheese and the Parmesan cheese.
5. Bake on middle rack at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.
6. With remaining yellow onion, slice thinly into strips. Soak in the milk for 5-10 minutes. Put flour on a plate and heat the canola oil in a saute pan and heat to medium-high. Add the onion slices to the oil and cook for 30 seconds tossing in the pan. Use a slotted spoon to remove to paper towels to cool and drip-dry. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
7. Add fried onions to the top of the pan and return to the oven for an additional 5 minutes (watch that you don't burn the onions).

Easy Tomato Sauce
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 tspn italian seasoning
1 tspn onion flakes
2 tbspns olive oil
4 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped fine
Combine in a saucepan and simmer on medium heat for 20-30 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste after cooking.

This is a great dish to prep ahead and put in the fridge or freezer. It's also an easy recipe to double and make two pans of at the same time if you are looking for something to take a friend or if you'd just like an easy meals to throw in the oven after a busy day.
Today, I'm making Bourbon "Crack" Chicken in the crock pot (of course!) and I found this recipe on Pinterest a while back and haven't tried it yet. My philosophy with Pinterest is that if you Pin it, you should try it otherwise, what's the point? If you haven't been on Pinterest, I highly recommend you check it out.... and FOLLOW ME to see all of my crazy recipe/craft/art/decor inspirations!


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Spooky Halloween Taco Dip

My sweet grandma made my recipe for Halloween style taco dip last night and her results were awesome! It was the hit of the party and I'm so glad I was able to help her pin down such a winner.

Spooky Halloween Taco Dip
1 can refried black beans
1 envelope taco seasoning
1 (4 oz.) can diced green chilies, drained
1 cup salsa of your choice
1 cup sour cream
1 cup guacamole
1 1/2 cup shredded cheese
2 green onions, sliced
2 cup shredded lettuce
1 cup chopped fresh tomato
1 small can whole black olives
A couple large bags of tortilla chips
1. In a small mixing bowl, stir together the refried beans and taco seasoning.
2. On a large Halloween platter or plate, spread the beans in an even circular shape. Leave room around the edges for the garnish.
3. Sprinkle green chilies over. Smooth salsa over. Smooth guacamole over.
4. Place your sour cream in the end of a ziploc bag. Cut the corner off. Squeeze sour cream on top of guacamole in several concentric circles (or octagon shapes for a more authentic look). Using a knife or the handle of a fork, run lines lightly through the sour cream to make the web shape.
5. Sprinkle lettuce in a circle around bean dip. Sprinkle tomatoes and green onions over. Sprinkle cheese over.
6. Make a "spider" out of a black olive. Half an olive to make the "body" and place in the middle of the dip "web" then slice halved olive to make the "legs" it's so spooky! :)
7. Garnish with spider and serve with tortilla chips.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Holy POTTY Batman and Tuesday Ramblings

This morning marked a very important occasion in our house! Hadley tugged at her diaper so I thought that I needed to go change her-- no big deal, so I take her to her room. I soon realized that the diaper was still dry from when she had gotten up over an hour before and she was antsy. I took her into the bathroom and perched her on the toilet (we don't have a potty chair yet, I thought all of this was months away at the very least). Within thirty seconds she did her tinkle business and grabbed for the toilet paper to wipe!!!!! Wow, she already knows what to do?! Last week, my sister-in-law had mentioned that she thought that Hadley was showing signs of being ready so I was watching for "signs" of being interested. I definitely wasn't thinking that her pulling her diaper was a sign this morning until I put a lot of things together really quickly and rushed her into the bathroom. We don't want to rush anything (it's so early!) so if she gives any hint that she's interested or wants to try to go then we will let her otherwise we will see how it goes over the next month and beyond. Quite a development right?!! There will be a potty chair purchase this evening..... so exciting.

I am lucky to have 20ish minutes with both kiddos asleep right now, so that's how I got the chance to sit down and write. We have curry chicken going in the crock pot recipe here and I'm also working on a Pumpkin Banana Bread to send to work with Jim tomorrow. AND I have to reorganize the Tupperware cabinet since Hadley got to play with everything in there this morning after her Big Girl moment. :) The photo above is of Hadley on Sunday in the yard, I posted it to facebook but I thought I should post it here too in case anyone didn't get to see it yet. I may use it on our Christmas card; she is such a little beauty!
Last night I made a knock-off of PF Chang's Mongolian Beef and it was AMAZING. It's a must try if you love Chinese/Asian food. It was seriously the best thing I've cooked this year!! The only modification that I made was that I didn't fry the beef in 1 cup of oil like the recipe describes-- I only used 2 tablespoons of canola oil and 2 tablespoons of water (yay for cutting fat out) and it was still so good. You must try it!

Friday, October 19, 2012


As of today, I have kept up blogging for nine whole months!! I had tried blogging before and only stuck with it for a few weeks so this is a major accomplishment.

I would like to keep updates and pictures of Hadley flowing on the blog along with a mixing in a lot more D.I.Y. projects and home improvement content. Some of my favorite daily read blogs are about decor and I would love to share more about what we have done around here! I also will commit to more personal updates because I love sharing with my family now that we are all a lot more spread out.

Hadley continues to love to dance! It's probably her favorite activity. She has started to get over the excitement of being able to toddle around on her own.... yes, raiding of the kitchen drawers has begun. If I'm not watching her, she will grab spoons, measuring cups and ladles to run around with. We locked all of our kitchen cabinets months ago and those work beautifully so maybe we need drawer lock too. {As the family cook, I feel like I'm in prison -via baby locks- in our kitchen already.... more locks? g r e a t.... but for sanity's sake it's better to do it because chasing her every moment is not in my mommy game plan.}

Thanks for hanging around for nine months and continuing to read. I can't wait to celebrate our 1st Blogiversary on January 19, 2013!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Holiday Stress... Alas, I'm NOT Martha Stewart

Okay, so I promised myself that this week I was going to make an effort to get real on this ole' blog. Not that I haven't been "real" but I wanted to blog so that I could write down what I'm thinking about and my opinions. This is my tiny place to get real in a world so caught up in being politically correct and outwardly inclusive of everyone that I get overwhelmed. If this doesn't interest you, then don't read it thankyouverymuch.

Today, I want to write a little bit about the terrible, ulcer inducing stress that I personally feel around the holidays each year. This is in an attempt to find ways to be more at peace around the holidays and not pass the internal pressures I've felt for so many years on to my sweet daughter. I haven't felt real enjoyment during the holidays since I was school-aged. :( There has to be a better way.

I've grown up with the giving of holiday gifts being thought of as an overwhelmingly super important expression of love. That is a lot of pressure. If you haven't put enough prep and thought into each of your gifts, it can seriously cause disappointment and bad feelings with other family members through the next year. I would love to de-emphasize the importance of gifting family and find better ways to show each other how much we CARE AND LOVE THEM. It's not worth five months of shopping (stress and stomach aches) to find the illusive "perfect" gifts. Maybe Dr. Suess had it right and we all just need a little resfresher.... "And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store? What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?"  -- How the Grinch Stole Christmas, 1957

I'm pledging to family that I will simplify shopping this year AND learn to make a list of what we actually will give each person/couple then STICK TO IT. I will not (for the first time in years) spend weeks second guessing each choice. I will shop no later than the after Thanksgiving day sales and then we will wrap everything up and be done DONE. That will help reduce the "pressure to be perfect." By just not second guessing everything this year, it will be a huge improvement. I will still spend time wrapping and embellishing the gifts, channeling Martha Stewart herself, but I won't get too crazy and over the top like I have in the past.

My sweet friend C came by yesterday to chat about this subject and she did an amazing job of making me feel less like an island in terms of my personal holiday stress. She opened my eyes to the fact that there are many different things that people feel stress about related to the holidays that I luckily haven't had issues with but I'm so not alone and that's nice to know. You may feel stress about hosting a large group each year or you may have a difficult time dealing with the family interactions that come with the holidays. If you've dealt with serious stress about the holidays and found great methods to cope, please take a few moments to email me. I would love to compile some (anonymous) real life scenarios on how to cope and improve your holiday cheer quotient through stress reduction in a future post to help anyone who may be looking for better ways to deal.

I'm thinking that it might be nice to have some holiday yoga sessions with friends or family beginning at Thanksgiving and going through the holidays. Is it wrong to give a gift like that to myself? In my mind, it would be amazing to have a spa treatment and yoga session with special people instead of exchanging presents. I could certainly use the opportunity to relax and slow down mentally. If that sounds interesting, please let me know. ;)

IN THE END. We want Hadley to really love giving gifts to each family member without stressing/feeling overwhelmed/not enjoying actually getting to be with everyone. I don't think that we can do that until I can break the cycle of stress and pressure that I've felt for so long. Thank goodness I have Jim because for real, the guy is so thoughtful year round with everyone that he will be a huge part of making things better. I actually was thinking that maybe we could do some homemade/D.I.Y. gifts this year with Hadley's help in order to "up" the personalized and thoughtful quotient in our favor... Pinterest ideas are already being pinned!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Fall Fun Outside with Auntie Parker

It's Monday so that means we've got auntie Parker over after school to play with Hadley (and see us but we aren't as cool haha). Today was really warm at least compared to last week so we are playing in the backyard while Jim and I rake up leaves.... yes my allergies will hate me for this tomorrow.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Pumpkin Coffee Cake

We went for a good early morning walk at the Mall of America today as a family :) before the stores opened! Fun right? When we got home I settled into a crock pot freezer prep fest and got a little baking done too.

The baking went wonderfully! I made the Six Sisters' Pumpkin Coffee Cake that I had found on a blog that I read occasionally, 5th Belle Avenue. It was so easy to make and I can't wait to find out how much Jim's co-workers enjoy them.

Pumpkin Coffee Cake with Brown Sugar Glaze


1/3 cup water
1 (15 ounce) can pureed pumpkin (not pie filling)
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 (18 ounce) box yellow cake mix
1 teaspoon baking soda


1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup all purpose flour
4 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350°F.
In a large bowl, mix water, pumpkin, eggs, vanilla, and pumpkin pie spice. Mix in the yellow cake mix (just the dry mix, not the ingredients listed on the box) and baking soda and mix until combined. Pour batter into a greased 9 x 13 baking pan. In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar, flour and melted butter. Sprinkle over the top of the cake.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Serve your cake warm or cooled to room temperature.

I LOVE to bake but this is the first sweet recipe that I have made in the last nine months since I have terrible will-power as far as having baked goodies around the house. Like I said above, these are going to work with the hubby tomorrow so I only had one (DELISH!) and I'm happy to sweeten the Monday of others. ;)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Fall Photo Love

We have tried to really enjoy the warmer fall days with Hadley and since it's getting more and more cold :( I thought I would cheer myself up a bit by sharing some cute pictures of our sweet angel. AND I mean seriously... who doesn't LOVE seeing this girl rocking her pink patent Sperry topsiders!
She has had so much fun outside since she's been walking and it's a bit of a shame that it's going to be a lot more indoors time for the next six-ish months. The upside (looking for a silver lining....) is that she will hopefully get to stomp around in some snow for the first time. Maybe we will get her a sled too. ;)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Dining Dreams.... A Banquette?

I've been desiring a banquette for a dining area for years.... like even in high school I loved them (and that was decade ago). A booth in a retro (but updated) kitchen would be a DREAM but a banquette is the closest second place and so there in lies my current dining area desire.
In our current home, we have a smallish dining nook in/off of our galley'ish kitchen. The space is a small rectangle and we have a lovely round pedestal table with a leaf extension that my parents gave us (they have the same one at their house). I love that a banquette would fit back into the nook and open up the walkway around our table into our kitchen from the front door.
**I've included a very 'before' photo below and this first one is a more updated look from this last March. The only thing we've changed since March was that I dyed the white chair covers to a mocha color which is better but not great.

Ballard Designs makes a few different styles of banquettes in various sizes to suit your space. I've found one that I adore so now I need to run it by Jim. ;)
Here's the one that I really like in the indoor/outdoor fabric Mazarin taupe Sunbrella so that it's totally durable, wipeable and will withstand kiddos and pets.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Crock Pot Freezer Meals

Ok, I've pinned more recipes on Pinterest.... I know that this is super uninteresting to some of you but these are cool and a different concept so I have to mention it.
So the concept is that you prep a bunch of meals all in one day and then you freeze everything into separate gallon-sized freezer bags. The day before you want to make any frozen bag, you just move it to the fridge to thaw a bit and then throw it in the crock pot the next day. The payoff is that you can have yummy meals with zero day of prep (other than dumping a bag into your crock pot and setting it to cook) and the more you prep at one time, the more overall time you save.
Last Wednesday I went ahead and prepped for 4 different recipes and each one created two gallon sized bag meals. It took me a little over an hour to prep everything but divided up between the 8 meals that I made it was really not bad at all. I loved that I could chop garlic and onions all at once to streamline the overall prep and add in frozen chicken breasts all in one swoop, etc.
We've only eaten 3 of the meals so far but they have all been awesome so I would highly recommend them!
Hawaiian Chicken sandwiches (or lettuce wraps!) & Scalloped Potatoes with Turkey Ham
The only meal we haven't tried yet is the scalloped potatoes but everything has been so awesome so I'm sure it will turn out great!
One of my sweet sister-in-laws sent me a link for other crock pot meals yesterday (she tried the stroganoff and recommends it) so I'm going to try to adapt a few of them for freezing also!  Here's the link-
Here's a look at the Thai Pork... so yummy!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Pumpkins & Marin's birthday party

We had so much fun this weekend! On Saturday, we went to pick out free pumpkins in Eagan with Pete and Norma. Then on Sunday, we went to our friend Marin's first birthday party. The theme was sock monkey and it was absolutely adorable!
I'm loving the iPhone app PhotoFrame for making these cool pic collages. It's free so definitely check it out. :)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Already October?!

I can't believe that I'm going to have to live with the fact that fall is officially here in Minnesota. We went out yesterday for a walk and I ended up being a little chilly in my jeggings and a sleeveless tunic which is sad {I guess it's the southerner in me that longs for eternal summer}. The leaves are all changing (beautiful) and the weather is getting more crisp (read:freezing!) so it is officially time to dust off the Uggs boots and North Face jacket.
I can't wait to go pick out pumpkins and eat apple pie/sip apple cider! :) Halloween is also close on the horizon which is exciting since Hadley can go trick-or-treating in her sweet costume that my Gram bought her. Can't hardly wait. ;)
The Minnesota winter is not far away. Hadley was SUPER lucky last winter since she didn't experience the typical Minnesota winter last year since it was incredibly mild. This winter she is ready with new snow pants, mittens and a big snow coat so all we need is boots, a sled AND lots of SNOW... we will be ready for lots of winter fun!