Tuesday, September 25, 2012

On Our Table

Made a really yummy meal tonight and anytime something is successful I feel the need to broadcast it.  Our bountiful basket had sweet potatoes in it and I had spinach and chicken breasts ready to go. 

Spinach Stuffed Chicken Breasts
4 chicken breasts
1 bag frozen spinach, thawed and drained dry
1.5 cups shredded cheese
2 Tbsp minced garlic
(all seasonings are to taste)

Preheat over to 350.
Cut a slit in the chicken and place in baking dish.  Combine spinach and all other ingredients in bowl and heat in mircrowave to mix it all together. Spoon mixture into chicken opening.  Sprinkle S&P on chicken and bake for 40 minutes or until chicken is done.

This turned out so great. The spinach was super tasty, though I may season the chicken more next time. Jeffrey loved it too.

Sweet Potato Fries
3 sweet potatoes
2 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
garlic powder
cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 450.
Slice sweet potato into 1/4 inch pieces and toss all ingredients into bowl until fries are completely covered in the mixture.  Cover baking sheet in parchment paper.  Spread fries over baking sheet so they are in one layer.  Bake for 25 minutes at 450, turning fries sometimes in the middle of cooking. they are good a little soft or a bit crispy, so it's up to you how long you bake them.

If you make this recipe, let me know how it turns out for you.  I have to stop posting now before jeffrey eats all of our fries. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Too lame for Facebook

time for another installment of Too Lame for Facebook.

Just realized I'm wearing two different earrings. This is what happens when you own far too many pairs of silver hoops...and you get ready at the gym.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

(Nearly) Wordless Wednesday

Some of my Chi Omega Sisters at Book Club
typical bear
Connor reading an ebook to Noah
just being silly
i know you cant tell but this peach was the size of a softball
The boys wearing their America shirts for Constitution Day
Candyland hi-five
walking with grammy & papa barnes to watch their cousin Jalen play for Mountain Pointe


just can't beat an AZ sunset

dancing for the stands

patiently waiting in line for the pinata. had zero interest once it was his turn
and he realized what he'd been waiting in line for

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Books fall open, you fall in. -David McCord

Etsy - i think i need this

My sorority alumnae group has a book club. I love it.  It started several years ago at a dinner club event (so many clubs...) when we discovered that we always chatted up the books we were reading and swapped books at dinner. Why not start a book club someone suggested? So we did.

We read a different book each month and hold book club at a different restaurant once a month. It's kinda like a book club/brunch club since sometimes we talk about the book and sometimes we just drink mimosas and catch up. Sometimes there are 4-5 of us and sometimes there are 12. It's a great time and I'm thrilled it's still going so strong. I lead the book club for a few years but gave it up last year when another Chi Omega showed interest. I still loyally attend. I cannot remember exactly when we started it but I think it's been at least 5 years so that means 60 books!! amazing. If anyone is interested in the list of books let me know...I kept track for a while and am happy to send it along.

We pick several months ahead so everyone has time to track it down and purchase/borrow/download their copy. Anyone can suggest books which is the best part. We end up with quite the variety - and that's the whole point of a book club right? Fiction, Non Fiction, Memoir, Young Adult, Romance, Biography, etc. We try it all. I'm more of a smutty romance kinda girl or a funny memoir kinda girl so I love that this forces me to try other genres. I admit that sometimes I'll see that we're reading something I have zero interest in and just decide to show up for pancakes and coffee and that's ok too. In the past, I've posted lists of our book choices so I thought I'd share the upcoming picks. We just had book club today to discuss King Peggy and chose books for the next six months. Here they are with summaries from Amazon.

Chicago, 1920: Hadley Richardson is a quiet twenty-eight-year-old who has all but given up on love and happiness—until she meets Ernest Hemingway and her life changes forever. Following a whirlwind courtship and wedding, the pair set sail for Paris, where they become the golden couple in a lively and volatile group—the fabled “Lost Generation”—that includes Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.
Though deeply in love, the Hemingways are ill prepared for the hard-drinking and fast-living life of Jazz Age Paris, which hardly values traditional notions of family and monogamy. Surrounded by beautiful women and competing egos, Ernest struggles to find the voice that will earn him a place in history, pouring all the richness and intensity of his life with Hadley and their circle of friends into the novel that will become The Sun Also Rises. Hadley, meanwhile, strives to hold on to her sense of self as the demands of life with Ernest grow costly and her roles as wife, friend, and muse become more challenging. Despite their extraordinary bond, they eventually find themselves facing the ultimate crisis of their marriage—a deception that will lead to the unraveling of everything they’ve fought so hard for.
A heartbreaking portrayal of love and torn loyalty, The Paris Wife is all the more poignant because we know that, in the end, Hemingway wrote that he would rather have died than fallen in love with anyone but Hadley.



After undergoing gall bladder surgery at age twenty-three, Jennette Fulda decided it was time to lose some weight. Actually, more like half her weight. At the time, Jennette weighed 372 pounds.
Jennette was not born fat. But, by fifth grade, her response to a school questionnaire asking “what would you change about your appearance” was “I would be thinner.” Sound familiar?
Half-Assed is the captivating and incredibly honest story of Jennette’s journey to get in shape, lose weight, and change her life. From the beginning—dusting off her never-used treadmill and steering clear of the donut shop—to the end with her goal weight in sight, Jennette wows readers with her determined persistence to shed pounds and the ability to maintain her ever-present sense of self.

Marriage can be a real killer.
On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy's diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?
As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?

With her razor-sharp writing and trademark psychological insight, Gillian Flynn delivers a fast-paced, devilishly dark, and ingeniously plotted thriller that confirms her status as one of the hottest writers around.
Babe Walker, center of the universe, is a painstakingly manicured white girl with an expensive smoothie habit, a proclivity for Louboutins, a mysterious mother she's never met, and approximately 50 bajillion Twitter followers. But her "problems" have landed her in shopping rehab—that's what happens when you spend $246,893.50 in one afternoon at Barneys. Now she's decided to write her memoir, revealing the gut-wrenching hurdles she's had to overcome in order to be perfect in every way, every day. Hurdles such as:
- I hate my horse.
- Every job I've ever had is the worst job I've ever had.
- He's not a doctor, a lawyer, or a prince.
- I’ll eat anything, as long as it’s gluten-free, dairy-free, low-carb, low-fat, low-calorie, sugar-free, and organic.

When Barry Fairbrother dies unexpectedly in his early forties, the little town of Pagford is left in shock. Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty fa├žade is a town at war. Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils…. Pagford is not what it first seems. And the empty seat left by Barry on the town’s council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations? Blackly comic, thought-provoking and constantly surprising, The Casual Vacancy is J.K. Rowling’s first novel for adults.

It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . .
Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau.
This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.

I've experienced a whole lot the last few years and I have a lot to share. So I hope that you'll take a moment to sit back, relax and enjoy the words I've put together for you in this book. I think you'll find I've left no stone unturned, no door unopened, no window unbroken, no rug unvacuumed, no ivories untickled. What I'm saying is, let us begin, shall we?
Have you read any of these?  What do you think? 

Are you on Goodreads? omg I love it. It's a lot of work to first get going but once you have all your previously read books entered it's great for finding new books and keeping track of books you have read or want to read. If you are on there, find me here.

Rosemary Chicken with Veggies

we had potatoes and onions left over from our bountiful basket last week (or the week prior...) and i was sick of looking at them so i decided to find something to get rid of them. We decided not to get a basket this week which we always, always end up regretting. we went to sprouts and loaded up on produce and jeff thought the eggplant looked good. what?! if you knew my husband you would find this odd. he's not really big on...veggies. that's not fair. he likes mushrooms. and peppers.

i had eggplant, onions, potatoes, broccoli and chicken to use so i threw something together. i'm blogging about it because it turned out well and i want to remember what i did so i can do it again.

8 chicken breasts, halved
large head of broccoli
4 medium potatoes, sliced
egg plant, cut in chunks (surely there is a better way to say this...martha stewart i am not)
baby carrots
red onion, quartered

1 cup olive oil
1 T crushed red pepper, no lie i just used packets from the last time we had pizza delivered. fancy.
1 t rosemary
salr & pepper to taste

combine the marinade.  chop up all veggies and dump into marinade for 30 minutes and then dump on baking sheet covered in foil (easy clean up thank you!).  make another batch of the marinade and dump chicken in there for 30 minutes as well. If you have a large enough bowl you could certainly soak veggies and chicken together, but I like to bake them separately. Dump chicken and leftover marinade into baking dish. Cook at 400 for 30 minutes or until chicken cooked and veggies lightly browned.

it came out yummy. maybe a bit too rosemary-ish for our tastes so next time we'll likely cut that down or sub another italian seasoning. also, clearly i forgot carrots. dont forget carrots. you can really use any veggies you have on hand. if we had peppers or zucchini or cauliflower i would have used those. you could also skip picking out seasonings and just use one of those italian salad dressing packets.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Crockpot Tuesday

except that it's Friday.

I did actually make this on Tuesday I think. It may have been Wednesday. Who could say? Not I. I'm just happy that I am posting food stuff again. Food stuff. That's right, I'm fancy.

We do bountiful baskets co-op for our produce and since you never know what you are going to get, it forces us me to get creative with our meals.

We got hatch chiles last weekend and I have never prepared them before. Eaten them?  Yes. Never prepared them though. I spent about 13 seconds online finding how i roast them and set to work. They came out beautiful...especially considering I did them in the oven instead of on the grill. It's too hot outside and i'm too lazy. 

broil as close to the element as possible. 15 minutes on each side or until they get all
blistery and blackened. Put in plastic bag for 20 minutes to steam. pull off all blistery skin, remove
seeds and stem. You'll be left with the actual pepper meaty goodness
Jeff and I both love chili so I decided to use the chiles for a big batch since we usually have all the ingredients on hand. 

how did the Del Monte corn make its way into the pantry? Clearly, we only buy Kroger brand.

chopped up onion, can of tomato sauce, couple tablespoons of minced garlic, can of peeled tomatoes, corn (drained), couple cans of black beans, hatch chiles, three lbs of ground beef.  I don't brown the meat before dumping it in the crockpot. I don't see the point in cooking something just to dump it in the crockpot. I will however, mix garlic along with a couple tablespoons of chili powder into the meat before i put it in the crock. Dump all ingredients into the crockpot and cook for 4 hours on high or 10 on low.

You'd think that after I took the time to photograph ingredients and chiles, I'd have thought to take a quick pic of the finished product but nope. I do however have this:

it was good.
Do you have a favorite chili recipe?? Do you like yours sweet or spicy?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Take your parents to lunch day

So many parents volunteer in Connor's classroom during the day and we can't really do that too often.  Now, Jeff and I both have flexible roles where we can do it occasionally...but, we also both have very busy roles so that it's tough to get away.  Ditching work for an hour to have lunch is totally do-able though.

Today we went to Brisas to have lunch with Connor. He was so, so excited. He told his teacher all morning that we were coming and was thrilled when he saw us. I know that in a few years, he'll want us dropping him off down the street from school so we're going to enjoy the excitement for now.

Ok, so lunch is only 20 minutes long. That totally BLEW my mind. Connor is a slow eater and managed to get through half of a turkey/cheese sandwich and most of his applesauce. I don't know if he was just distracted with us being there but my goodness. I wrapped up the other half and he'll be seeing that for dinner tonight. Jeff had chicken nuggets and spinach and I had the turkey/cheese sandwich with Connor.

oh, you fancy huh?
Oh, also we were asked to sit at the allergy table. Yes. There are so many kids eating lunch that there's no additional room for parents so we sat at a distanced table reserved for kids with allergies so that 'mainstream eaters' didn't have to limit their foods. I'd just like to say now that I like PB. I felt like I had to say that because I sat at the sad table. His friend Kaci was excited we were there and decided to sit with us.

we love kaci
I think I'm going to try and stop in for lunch once a month if I can, maybe more. As mentioned, soon enough he'll hate us so we may as well squeeze in all the love now while we can. 

it was brown day at school and this was his only brown shirt
i'll likely photoshop out the graphic before this goes in the photobook

Mickey better prepare himself

I feel like we can actually start our countdown to vacation now!!  We only have 30 days until we head to California on a giant family vacation.

We've never taken the boys to Disneyland.  I know lots of people take their kids when they are really little but we just didnt see the point.  It's crazy pricey to do Disney and when one was too young to ride most rides and the other was too little/short...we just didn't want to spend a gajillion dollars to walk around and gaze upon $60 tshirts.  We decided that we'd go when Connor was 5.  He'd be tall enough for most of the rides and those he didn't meet...he'd likely be a bit afraid to attempt anyway.  Bear would only be 2 but he'd be free to get in so it would work ok.  Plus, Noah will be able to ride on some things as well.

I plan on walking around enough to burn off all the junk food I plan on eating.  Also, I'll take some pictures.

Also, we're driving. That will be nutso since being in the car for more than 45 minutes tends to make me stir crazy. When we drove to San Diego last summer, I was snarky before we left the 602 area code. Fortunately, it resulted in funny fb posts. I make no promises this time as I never know if my snark will result in hilarity or the silent treatment. I shoot for a nice balance of both. Except that kids don't give the silent treatment - they scream. Also, they throw things.

Anyway, Jeff's family LOVES Disney. Who doesn't?  But they really love it.  I'm thrilled that everyone is able to come along when we take the boys to Disneyland for the first time.

It's going to be crazy fun, mostly because of how many family members are coming. It would take a white board with a full blown chart to explain it all so I'll just say that my dad and Corliss are coming, Jeff's parents and two of his three sisters as well. One of those sisters has four kids and of course her husband is coming. His brothers have families of their own as well and his parents too. Did you get all that? All in all we're thinking between 20-25 people...I think 10 of those will be kids...ranging from itty bitty baby to teen. That's three sets of grandparents too so we'll be fortunate to be able to have adult time for a dinner or drinks here and there as well.

Other great news...Jeff's parents have a timeshare and our branch of the fam will be staying there so we're fortunate enough to skip paying for a hotel.  This is great as we'll likely be there a full week.

I only half jokingly suggested that we have shirts made up for all of us.  We could do baseball style raglan shirts with each branch wearing a different color.  Fun right?  No one was interested which surprised me because I got this email from my youngest sister Megan yesterday :)

Ok... So, the Barnes family is definitely full of nerds. We sort of unofficially decided that on Saturday we are going to wear shirts that are of traditional Disney characters (i.e. Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, etc.) and we don't want you guys to be left out. Steph and I have Minnie shirts that we got from the last trip. The girls both have Minnie shirts as well. Kaden has a Goofy shirt and Ryan and Jacob have these cartoon strip shirts with Mickey and Goofy on them. Also, the Birch Blum family has other little theme days;
Sunday - Girls are wearing Alice in Wonderland (only because Bella and Olivia are coincidently wearing the same exact shirts as Maddie and Lanie)
Tuesday - Bambi/Dumbo characters (not sure if the boys will participate in this day either because not sure that they will care about either movies, but could fit Peter Pan in there also)
Wednesday - Phineas and Ferb (the entire Birch Blum clan will be wearing Perry the Platypus shirts)
So, that is it for my nerdiness.

Love you,

I bought my first Disney shirt in preparation of this trip.  I'm not really a character shirt kind of gal. Not for my kids either.  I prefer my kids' clothing to have a pattern, not an animal.  I don't always win that battle.  It's nothing crazy, my shirt.  It has a mickey head, that's it.  Maybe it's Minnie. I'm really not positive honestly. Our branch is all wearing Mickey shirts on day one. Update: I took a pic of my shirt. It's bedazzled of course. Also, signed by the mouse. I'll pause for your gasp.

Our friend, Megan of Megan J Photography lives in California and will be doing photos of our branch of the family as a gift from Corliss. Can't wait.  I think it will be so fun to have family pics in Disneyland. Megan is amazing. She did our family pics in 2010 that we did at ASU. Here and Here. Last years pics were a shit show, so this year has got to be better. As amazing as Megan is, I'm anticipating a lot of pics like these:

oh awkward family photos, i adore you.
We'll spend 4 days in Disneyland and are considering squeezing in another Sea World trip maybe or the beach - though it will be freezing in October.  I don't care.  Jeff's not an ocean/beach fan but I love it and dammit I want a picture of the boys on the beach. So, that's happening. 

Stay tuned for more updates as we get closer to the trip.

I'm also open to suggestions on what to call this trip. The Great Barnes/Blum/VanHook/Ditton Extravaganza is a bit wordy for a hat. And I'd really like a hat.