Monday, September 30, 2013

1st and 2nd Trimester Maternity Style Must Haves

With my first pregnancy, I gained a lot of weight, like more than half my body weight a lot, but that is a post for a different day.  The point is, I gained weight all over early on and was in maternity clothes by 16 weeks.  This time around, I've been doing much better and haven't really worn much by way of maternity clothes yet, though that time is rapidly approaching.

In order to make my regular wardrobe stretch I've discovered that a few things are key.  At the very top of this list is maxi dresses and skirts.  I know I've said before how great maxi dresses are in general, but even more so for mamas-to-be.  If you don't have any maxi dresses in your wardrobe you can buy maternity ones if you want, but non-maternity are cheaper and will still be useful after pregnancy.  The key is to find ones that don't have a defined waist, empire waist or tank style are perfect.

A close second on my list of maternity must haves is the belly belt.  This thing is amazing!!  I inherited mine from a friend, who inherited it from her sister-in-law.  I can not say enough about this thing.  It allowed me to wear my pants, completely unzipped, without them falling down.  I know a lot of people love the belly band for this same purpose, and while I have one and have used it, I didn't find it very comfortable.  I have had a lot of stomach aches with this pregnancy and when my stomach hurts, the last thing I want is a giant, tight band pressing in on my entire stomach area.  The belly belt solves this problem completely.  Now it comes in a two pack, one for bottoms that button and one for bottoms that hook.  It also has some little fabric pieces to cover up the bare skin exposed by the fact that your pants are unzipped.  I only have the button one, nothing else and I still couldn't survive this pregnancy without it.  Get one, it will be the best $20 you spend this pregnancy.
That brings me to maternity must have #3: long tops.  No matter what you are doing with your bottom half, you will need longer tops.  Loose, tight, flowy, whatever you have in your closet that is long enough to cover your zipper and fits over your bump.

These tanks are great.  They are long, soft, stretchy, cheap, and come in tons of colors.  Also they aren't so low cut that your newly enhanced bust is on display.  (Remember I teach 6th graders so I try to be extra aware of this.)  You can layer them under tops that are too short to wear with your unzipped jeans, under a tied or unbuttoned button up, or wear them tucked into a maxi skirt.  All in all they are a great basic.  I didn't buy new ones, I just wear the ones I already had.

Rounding out my list of maternity must haves are leggings.  Leggings are perfect for those days when you just don't want to deal with clothes.  Pull on, pull off, basically wear pajamas all day.  Not pregnant, I'm not sure where I fall on the whole leggings as pants issue.  Pregnant, I say bring them on.

Leggings are one area where I really advise buying maternity.  I wore my regular leggings for a while, just rolled down, but then they started to press in on my bladder and that is not a good situation.  I really wanted the under belly ones because it is hot here so I didn't want another layer.   I bought the GAP supersoft leggings on sale but they were way too sheer for me so back they went.   I lusted over some more expensive nicer ones, but since this is our last baby I couldn't justify it.   I lucked out and found the last pair at old navy for 97 cents.  You read that right, 97 cents.  These look the same, I don't know why mine were so cheap, not that $15 is very expensive.  My best advice is to check out your local stores, try some on, and bend over.  If you can see everything, keep looking.

Obviously every woman is different and every pregnancy is different (I'm a prime example of that) but these few things can make your wardrobe go a long way.

I'm linking up with Style Sessions, What I Wore Wednesday, and I Feel Pretty.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Healthy Oatmeal Raisin Muffins

Now that I'm working 5 days a week, Jake is going to school 5 days a week.  This means 5 days where my two slow-pokes have to get out the door on their own in a timely fashion (I usually leave before the boys get up).  To help them make it to work and school on time I try to have breakfast ready to go for Jake.  I know this is a struggle for a lot of families and we are no exception. 

Luckily, Jake likes to eat the same things over and over for breakfast so I don't have to mix it up day after day.  Muffins are great for this because you can bake a batch and pop them in the freezer.  A few seconds in the microwave and a homemade breakfast is served.  Add a glass of milk on the side for protein and you are ready to go.  Today Jake wanted to make blueberry muffins but we didn't have any blueberries so we decided to make raisin muffins instead.

I started out with Quaker's best oatmeal muffin recipe and then made some tweaks to healthify them.  Jake actually prefers healthier foods most of the time, he's not that big of a fan of sugary muffins.   True story: Once I made Jake these muffins with bran buds soaked in milk, chia seeds, and no sugar.  He absolutely loved them.  Then I made yummy, sugary, apple muffins with demerara sugar sprinkled on top.  He seriously tried one and was like, "I don't care for these Mommy."  He's a total weirdo, but in an awesome way.

Back to today's muffins.  These are super simple to make.  I don't recommend using your mixer though, just a bowl and a wooden spoon will serve you perfectly.

Start out by combining some whole wheat pastry flour with quick oats, brown sugar, baking powder, and pumpkin pie spice.  I love this stuff, it's not just for pies you know.  It has such a warm, comforting, fall flavor and goes perfectly with the flavors of the oatmeal and raisins in these muffins.

In a large glass measuring cup measure out your milk, then add in your egg, applesauce, and vanilla.  Mix this well and then pour it into the dry ingredients.  I like to just do this in the measuring cup because it is one less bowl to clean and it pours easily into the dry ingredients.

Stir the wet and dry ingredients together until just combined, don't overmix them.  Or in my case, don't let your 4 year old assistant overmix them while you wash the glass measuring cup.  If that happens, they will still taste good, but they'll be a little denser.

Fold in your raisins.  You can use just 1/2 a cup but my sous chef LOVES raisins and requested "A LOT OF RAISINS MOMMY, LIKE A LOT, A LOT!" so we added a full cup.

Use your ice cream scoop to scoop your batter into your muffin tin lined with paper liners sprayed with cooking spray and bake at 400 for about 13-15 minutes.

You can eat these room temperature, but I highly recommend eating them warm with a little butter spread on top.  Mmmmmm!  Keep out what you will eat in the next couple of days.  Then freeze the rest.  To reheat, microwave for about 20 seconds.

 Oatmeal Raisin Muffins
Adapted from Quaker's Best Oatmeal Muffins

Makes 12 Muffins
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 cup quick oats
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tbls. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 cup skim milk
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 to 1 cup raisins
  1.  Preheat oven to 400 and line 12 cups of a muffin tin with paper liners.  Then spray the liners with cooking spray.
  2. In a medium bowl combine flour, oats, sugar, baking powder and pumpkin pie spice. 
  3. In a liquid measuring cup, measure the milk.  Then add applesauce, egg, and vanilla and mix well.
  4. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and stir just until combined.  Then fold in raisins.
  5. Bake for about 13-15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

I'm linking up with Link Party Palooza, Best of the Weekend, Strut Your Stuff Saturday, Sweet & Savoury Sunday, Marvelous Monday, Inspiration Monday, Busy Monday, and Monday Funday.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

What I Wore Wednesday - Colorblock Sweater Dress

It was finally a little bit cooler here (it's back to hot again though) so I was really excited to be able to wear something more fall-esque.  I've decided that's a word, by the way.  I had my back-to-school night and because my school is far from my house, I don't go home in between.  This meant that I needed something that would still look nice after a 12 hour day and would keep me relatively comfortable through the entire 12 hours.

I actually bought this dress on sale at The Limited last year at the end of the season but then didn't end up wearing it because it has wool in it and I'm allergic.  I love the way it looks but didn't have a slip that could go underneath it so it sat in my closet, sad and forgotten.  Then when I was searching for something that could still fit over my bump I came across it and knew I had the perfect solution.

I recently bought the Bumped by Blanqi maternity support tank which worked perfectly under this dress.  It helped support my ever expanding belly while protecting my sensitive skin from making contact with the wool dress.  Win-win!

I love the combination of navy, cranberry, and burgundy in the color-blocking of this dress.  It really reads fall to me.  As an added bonus, the navy meant I could wear my favorite comfortable heels again.
Dress - Limited - old
Navy Heels - Giani Bernini from Macy's - old 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Liebster Award

A couple of weeks ago the lovely Susanne of Bebeandj nominated me for a Liebster award.  As a new blogger I was super flattered even though I didn't really know what a Liebster award was.  It turns out that it is basically a way to recognize new or newish bloggers.  I meant to get this post up sooner but to be perfectly honest I've been so swamped at work (any of you teachers out there know how crazy the beginning of the year is) that I hadn't had a chance to search out my Liebster nominees.

This weekend I was determined to sit down and find my nominees.  My nominator specified 11 blogs and 11 questions, but if I had to get to 11 this post would be delayed even more.  I know some bloggers who received the Liebster a while back and they were only supposed to find 5 blogs so I decided to go that route.  I hope that's okay.

Part of receiving the Liebster award is answering the questions posed to you by your nominator so here goes:

1. What is your favorite food?  This is an easy one for me, pasta.  I LOVE pasta!!  There are so many different ways to make it and all are delicious.  Plus, when you're having a bad day, nothing is as comforting as a bowl of pasta with real butter and good Parmesan.  Yum, yum!

2. What is your go-to recipe for family dinners? Not surprisingly given my answer to question 1, it is pasta.  I like to add in spinach and tomatoes along with some sort of protein for a quick and easy one dish meal.

3.  Whose blog are you really digging right now? I have to say, I am a faithful fan of Brown-Eyed Baker.  She never steers me wrong in the dessert department and I've had an even bigger sweet tooth than I usually do with this pregnancy.

4.  Where do you get your inspiration?  This might sound cliche, but it's my family.  I want to be the best wife and mom I can be and part of that is taking time to do something for myself which is why I started this blog.

5. Who is your favorite author? I don't really have a favorite author.  I love reading and I love books but there isn't one author I turn to time and again.  That being said, my favorite book is Irving Stone's The Agony & The Ecstasy (a biographical novel of Michelangelo).  I'm also super in love with the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon.

6. What was always on your holiday wishlist as a child? To be honest, I'm not sure.  I think I sort of changed what I wanted from year to year, but I have always been a bookworm so books were probably somewhere on the list.

7. Do you sing in the shower? No, my family is usually asleep so I'm always trying to be super quiet in the mornings.

8. Why did you start blogging? I know how consuming motherhood can be, especially new motherhood.  I also know how easy it is as a mom to lose sight of yourself as a person instead of just as mommy so with baby #2 on the way, I decided blogging would be a good way for me to keep doing something for myself the person.  It is also a neat way to feel connected with all of the other amazing women out there doing the same thing in their own unique way.

9. What are you working on that you are excited about? I'm been sort of on a project hiatus for the  past few weeks with the beginning of the school year, but I am in the midst of working on baby boy's room as well as Jake's Superman birthday part.  The party has a lot of really neat components that I know Jake will love which makes me super excited.  The baby's room is exciting because as it comes together I can picture him living in it which is exciting for the obvious reason, he'll be here!

10. What is at the top of your bucket list? I don't actually have a bucket list.  There are lots of things that I think it would be amazing to do one day, but if I never got to any of them, I would be okay with that.  I have a wonderful family with an amazing husband and son (with #2 on the way).  I've been to my favorite place in the world, Italy, 3 times.  So I guess I feel like I've already accomplished the top of my bucket list.

11. Something you can't leave the house without? Moisture!  Water, lotion, and chapstick.  I'm addicted to all three and if I forget one of them, I sort of panic.

Now onto my nominees:

Motherhood, RA, and Me
The Contrary Commentator
Confessions of a Hoarding Housewife
Baking a Moment
Adventures in the Fish Tank

The rules for participating are as follows:
  1. You must link back to the person who nominated you.
  2. You must answer the questions given to you by your nominator.
  3. You must pick 5 bloggers, each with under 200 subscribers, to be nominated for the award.
  4. You must come up with 5 questions for your nominees to answer.
  5. You must go to their blogs and notify them of the nomination.
Here are my questions for my nominees?

  1. What blog post are you most proud of?
  2. If you could make one change, big or small, to your day-to-day life what would it be?
  3. What is your favorite guilty pleasure?
  4. What is your favorite part of the day?
  5. Savory or sweet?

Friday, September 20, 2013

Brother Picture Frame

While looking on pinterest for nursery ideas I came across this brother frame.  I loved the phrasing and thought it would be so cute to make one for each of the boys' rooms.  I decided I would use square frames, dark brown for the nursery and white for Jake's.  I'm still looking for a frame for the baby's room but I found a white one at Joann's on sale for $7.99 and I snapped it up during their teacher appreciation sale so I got an extra 25% off, score!
Jake has a baseball themed room, which I'll post some pictures of soon since we did some really cool DIY projects in there, but for now, let's talk about the project. When I saw this cute baseball scrapbook paper I knew it would be perfect for this project but I was a little nervous to use it since I haven't had a lot of success using my silhouette with anything other than cardstock.  It was on sale for 16 cents though, so I figured I would give it a try and I'm so glad I did because it turned out perfectly.

This couldn't have been easier and is so easily customizable.  Just change your paper and frame and match it to any theme.  You could also change the wording to "Best Friends Are We My Sister And Me" if you have little girls or one of each.  In Silhouette Studio I opened up a 12 x 12 page (that's the size of my frame) and tried out a bunch of different fonts until I found one that I liked.  I typed the first half of the phrase at the top of the page.  Then I used the square shape tool to draw a 4 1/2 x 4 1/2 inch box in the center of the page.  Finally I typed the second half of the phrase at the bottom of the page.  Then I was ready to go.

I used a cricut cutting mat instead of the one that came with my Cameo because it is slightly less sticky so it is easier to get the scrapbook paper off without it tearing.  Then I loaded the cutting mat into my Cameo and let it do it's magic.

Once it was finished cutting I very gingerly lifted the main page off of the mat.  The paper was a little curly after being pulled off of the cutting sheet so I put it under a heavy book to flatten back out while I used my little silhouette spatula to pry off the tiny pieces from inside the letters.

The trickiest part, and it really wasn't that tricky, was gluing the inside part of the letters onto the background page.  I put the baseball paper on top of a 12 x 12 piece of red cardstock and then layed a book on either side to hold it in place.  Then I took all of the tiny pieces and laid them on the red paper where they belonged.  One by one I used my Tombow Mono permanent adhesive to carefully attach the inside of the letters to the red cardstock.  Then I just put the two pieces of paper into the frame. 

I can't wait to put in a picture of Jake holding his baby brother.  When I do, I will use my Tombow to glue the picture to the red cardstock and just lay the baseball paper on top.  They are both the same size as the frame so they stay in place perfectly.

I'm linking up with Thrifty Thursday, Link Party Palooza, Best of the Weekend, Pin Junkie, Simply Create, A Peek Into My Paradise, Strut Your Stuff Saturday, Think Pink Sunday, Sweet & Savoury Sunday, Sunday Showcase, Marvelous Monday, Busy Monday, Monday Funday, Motivate Me Monday, Mad Skills Party, Inspiration Monday, Pincentive Blog Hop, Tasteful Tuesday, Whimsy Wednesday, Thrifty Thursday, and Pin Junkie.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

What I Wore Wednesday - Geometric Print Dress

The weather has been kind of strange lately.  Cool in the mornings, then super hot in the afternoons.  Since I spend most of my day in the classroom it doesn't make much difference to me, but this week I had morning recess duty so I had to consider the weather more than usual.  This dress was the perfect solution because it has long sleeves but is a thin, cool fabric.

I tend to shy away from bolder prints and probably would have walked past this dress but my sister was with me and convinced me to try it on.  I love the style and adding the red belt not only creates a waistline (when I'm not pregnant, here it just separates the girls from the belly), it also adds a bright pop of color.

Let's talk about these shoes for a minute.  I have to admit, I'm usually a Nordstrom's girl, but I was looking for a comfortable yet stylish pair of navy pumps and Macy's had my perfect pair.  I am super in love with them.  They are a subtle snakeskin print with a patent leather heel.  The heel is sturdy and they have some cushioning inside, both of which are good for being on your feet all day.

Overall, this was a great outfit.  It lasted me from 6:30 in the morning until 6:30 at night and kept me looking stylish and pulled together, yet comfortable the whole time.

Dress - GAP - old
Belt - Kohl's girls department - old
Navy Pumps - Giani Bernini - old 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Roman Style Spaghetti Carbonara

This is not the Spaghetti Carbonara you are used to seeing in restaurants.  It isn't made with peas or cream.  This is so much better!  The ingredient list is short and as is true of many simple dishes, the combination of a few quality ingredients creates a delicious, creamy sauce that has my husband scraping the bowl before he does the dishes. 

This dinner is super fast.  In the time it takes to cook the spaghetti, dinner is ready.  Start out by putting a pot of water on to boil for the spaghetti.  Then heat up some olive oil in a pan over medium heat.  Add in some diced pancetta (I use the citterio pancetta cubetti) and cook, stirring occasionally.

While the pancetta is browning, crack a bunch of black pepper (I just do this into the bowl I am going to mix up the pasta in).  When you think you have enough pepper, add a little more.  My little assistant really likes using the pepper grinder so sometimes I set him to work on this step. 

Once the pancetta is lightly browned, stir in the pepper and cook for about 2 more minutes.  Then pour it into a big serving bowl to cool slightly.

By now your water should be boiling so put in a pound of spaghetti and cook until al dente.

Who likes Parmesan?  If you don't, I'm not sure we can be friends (unless you have a legitimate allergy or something).  I love Parmesan a lot, like more than you can possibly imagine.  Put a bunch of Parmesan in the bowl with the pancetta.  I used my favorite Parmesan and Romano blend from TJ's.

Doesn't that look like heaven?

Now add a whole egg and a few egg yolks (I save the whites for Josh to have for breakfast the next day).  Stir this all together until it is well combined.  This is going to be your sauce.  Don't worry, the heat from the pasta will cook the egg.

Once the pasta is ready add it to the bowl with the other ingredients and mix it all together really well.  I find tongs to be the easiest way of doing this.  Then add some pasta water a little at a time until the sauce is as creamy as you want it to be. 

Even if you are a big fan of American style Carbonara, give this recipe a try.  The sauce is so deliciously silky.  The tang of the Parmesan, the bite from the pepper, and the saltiness of the pancetta all combine to make an irresistible dish.

Doesn't this just make you want to stuff your face make this for dinner?

Roman Style Spaghetti Carbonara
Adapted from Saveur magazine
  • 1 lb. spaghetti 
  • 4 tbls. olive oil
  • 4 oz. diced pancetta
  • 1 1/2 - 2 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups grated parmesan
  • 1 whole egg
  • 3 egg yolks
  1. Cook spaghetti according to package instructions for al dente.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add pancetta and cook about 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally until lightly browned.
  3. Stir in pepper and cook about 2 more minutes.
  4. Pour pancetta mixture into a large serving bowl to cool slightly.
  5. Add parmesan, egg, and egg yolks to pancetta mixture and stir until well combined.
  6. Put cooked spaghetti in bowl and mix together, adding pasta water a little at a time until you have reached your desired consistency. 

I'm linking up with Sweet Savoury Sundays, Marvelous Monday, Inspiration Monday,  Busy Monday, Manic Monday, Monday Funday, Cropped Stories, Tasteful Tuesday, Tasty Tuesday, Two Cup Tuesday, Whimsy Wednesdays, Wake Up Wednesday, Real Family Fun, Less Laundry More Linking, Pin it Thursday, Best of the Weekend, Strut Your Stuff Saturday, Pin Junkie, and Link Party Palooza.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Maternity Fitness - Why Lindsay Brin is my BFF

I've mentioned before that I gained an ungodly amount of weight when I was pregnant with Jake.  I had never really exercised and other than walking around our neighborhood, that didn't change when I was pregnant.  I didn't eat crazily, but I also didn't not eat something if I wanted to.  At the end of the day I gave birth to a healthy baby and 18 months later (yes, that was a long time but I struggled with milk supply which made it very difficult for me to lose weight) I weighed even less than I did when I got pregnant.

Fast forward to today and I am pregnant again.  This time around I am maintaining a much healthier rate of weight gain.  Of course, food was not my friend for the first few months and that certainly played a role, but overall I am chalking up my success this time to exercise, specifically the prenatal DVDs by Lindsay Brin.  You can buy all of her DVDs on  

If you love exercise I guess we can still be friends, but I am not like you.  I hate exercise.  You know how some people say once they get started they like it.  That is not me.  If I'm on the elliptical, I not only have to talk myself into getting on, I have to pep talk myself through the entire workout.  The only part of exercise I like is how I feel about myself for having done it.   When you have a little one and no free child care, going to the gym can be difficult.  For me, going to the gym was just one more way for me to talk myself out of going so DVDs have been the perfect solution for me.

Several months after I had Jake I discovered Lindsay Brin's postnatal bootcamp on (that is a great daily deal site if you haven't discovered it yet).  I was an instant convert.  She mixes it up so you aren't bored and before you know it you are doing the cool down and moving on with your day.  Each of her DVDs has different people doing the workouts with different modifications (easier, regular, and advanced) so you can use them no matter how fit you are when you start.

After my rave reviews, my sister bought Lindsay Brin's prenatal series available here with the postnatal boot camp.  When I got pregnant this time I borrowed it and I love it.  My only concern with this series is that each trimester has one cardio and toning routine and one yoga routine so I thought I might get used to it and stop seeing results.

Luckily, Linsday just put out a new pregnancy 3-pack that also includes a 4th bonus DVD for core recovery in those first few weeks post partum.  Each DVD in the series is tailored to a trimester and has a 2 week workout calendar which helps keep variety in your routine.

To give you an idea of my routine, I do 1 week of the old prenatal series, then the 2 week calendar of the new prenatal series.  Then I start all over again.  I usually do 6 days a week.  Monday through Friday I do cardio and toning, Saturday I do yoga, then Sunday I rest.  The longest day is less than 45 minutes and it really does go quickly.  If you want more specifics on my routine just email me, I'll fill you in.

Between helping me lose my baby weight the first time, and helping me manage my weight gain this time, I have a major girl crush on Lindsay Brin.  We may never have met, but she has definitely earned the place of BFF in my heart. 

In addition to the two prenatal series sets and postnatal boot camp DVD, I have used (and loved) her Boot Camp 2, Shed 5 Fast, and Dance Jam.  She has a new series called Pretty Fierce (one tailored to weight loss and one tailored to losing that last 5-10 pounds) that I can't wait to try when the time comes.

This is not a sponsored post.  Lindsay may be super special to me, but she doesn't know I exist.  I just really, really love her DVDs and I wanted to share with all of you lovelies.  Check her out, she offers a free trial of any program.  If you love her as much as I do, I'd love to hear about it.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

What I Wore Wednesday - Emerald Dress Redux

I really love the bold emerald color of this dress and I know that my days of wearing it pre-baby are numbered, so I decided to bring it back out.  I swapped out the leopard belt seen here for this cute bow style black belt.  I love the way this belt adds a touch of femininity from the bow, but because of the edgier style of the bow it isn't over the top girly.

Once again I'm wearing a nice big bag to balance out my big baby bump and I can't seem to get enough of my wedges lately.  I'm sure once I can't see my feet I'll have to retire them so I'm enjoying them while I can.

Do you have any favorites you keep in heavy rotation?

Emerald Dress - Banana Republic Factory
Bow Belt - New York & Co. - old
Wedges - Charles by Charles David - on sale for $59
Bag - Coach Factory - old

Monday, September 9, 2013

True Food Kitchen Kale Salad

Several months ago a friend and I met for lunch at True Food Kitchen.  On her recommendation I ordered their kale salad and absolutely loved it.  The restaurant isn't very close to me so I decided I would try to make it at home.  Luckily, they have their recipe online.   It is just as good at home as it was in the restaurant.

I made a few changes to the recipe.  True Food calls for using homemade bread crumbs and while I don't doubt that they are wonderful, I don't have the time or inclination for that.  Panko works great as a substitution.  I also used less breadcrumbs and less parmesan.

One of my favorite things about this salad is that it is good for days.  Most salads are gross the next day because they get soggy.  Kale is the exact opposite.  If anything it gets better with time.  I love to make a batch of this and then eat it for lunch all week long.  I usually serve it with a little grilled chicken for protein since I am pregnant, but it is delicious as is.

Start out by tearing up your kale, discarding the tough ribs.  My store didn't have Tuscan Kale so I bought the bag of organic, chopped Tuscan kale at TJ's.  If you do what I did, it is a little more labor intensive because you have to pick through it all to strip the ribs whereas if you buy it by the bunch you can just hold the whole leaf and strip it all the way down.

Once you have your kale prepped, mix up the dressing.  In a liquid measuring cup combine the oil, fresh lemon juice, garlic, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.  Then pour this over the kale and toss to combine.  It will look slightly overdressed at this point, but trust me, it isn't.

Next add the parmesan and toss it again.  Now let it sit for about 5 minutes.  Finally add the breadcrumbs and toss again.  Let it sit again before serving.  I prefer to make it the night before.

As you can see there are only a few ingredients so it is important to use high quality ingredients.  This means extra virgin olive oil, fresh lemon juice, and good parmesan.  I like to use Trader Joe's grated parmesan and romano blend.  I hope you love this salad as much as I do.

Kale Salad
Adapted from True Food Kitchen
  • 4 - 6 cups torn Tuscan kale leaves
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • juice of one lemon
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • generous pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs 
  1. Tear up the kale leaves, being sure to remove the ribs, and place in a large bowl.
  2. Whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, crushed garlic, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.  Then pour over the kale and toss well.
  3. Add parmesan cheese and toss well.  Let sit for 5 minutes.
  4. Add panko and toss well.  Let sit at least 5 minutes or overnight.
*Keeps well in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

I'm linking up with Weekend PotluckInspiration Monday, Tasty Tuesday, Two Cup Tuesdays, Whimsy Wednesdays, Wonderful Food WednesdaysPin Junkie, Link Party Palooza, Best of the Weekeend, Strut Your Stuff Saturday, and Sweet & Savoury Sunday.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Dark Chocolate Football Cookies

As if being interfatih wasn't enough religions for one house, my husband has another religion to call his own, sports.  He doesn't discriminate, he loves them all.  Early in our courtship he tried to convince me of this mythical month when there were no sports on (February) and yet I can't really think of a time when sports are not on a TV in my house.  While he loves all sports, no sport is more important to him than football.

You know those fun superbowl (and less important game) parties where everyone sits around eating and drinking and generally having a good time?  The get-togethers that make watching football more fun for someone who is slightly less interested.  Well, we almost never go to those because if the Packers are playing my husband doesn't really like to hang out with other people because they talk too much and interfere with his concentration on the game.

For the rest of you football widows out there, you know that even though he is a Packers fan, he will, and wants to, watch every other game as well.  Now even though football season has just started, in my house it gets kicked off in mid August with fantasy football drafts.  If you don't know what fantasy football is, count yourself lucky.  Josh participates in multiple leagues and he recently hosted his first draft at our house.  This league is his old fraternity brothers, aptly named the "Old Farts" League.  Way back when we were in college I used to send him to his weekly meetings with homemade cookies for the guys so two times a year when they congregate at my house for drafts (yes they do a baseball league too) I hearken back to those days and make treats for the guys to enjoy.

As much as I may tire of football season, draft night is always something I look forward to (now that he consults with me on when to schedule it) because I get a mom's night out while Jake stays home with the boys for what he has named "Daddy's sticker party". 

Sorry for that rambling intro.  Onto the cookies.  This year I couldn't decide what to make.  I kept waffling back and forth until I was about 5 hours away from the party and still didn't have a treat.  Whoops!  I had recently made these delicious Dark Chocolate cookies by Averie Cooks and while mine came out flat, they were sinfully good.  I thought with a couple of tweaks, I could make them thematic for tonight's draft.

Start out by creaming together the butter, sugar, egg, and vanilla.

Then it is time to add the dry ingredients.  I find that cocoa powder gets kind of clumpy and nothing is worse than picking up a delectable treat and biting down on a little clump of dry, unmixed cocoa powder.  To solve this problem I sifted all of the dry ingredients together and then added them in.  To help them be a little less flat I replaced the baking soda with baking powder and I added some kosher salt to cut the sweetness.  Once I had my dry ingredients sifted and mixed into the wet I was ready to go.

I busted out my new Reynold's pan lining paper and lined a small rimmed baking sheet.   Use a rubber spatula to press the cookie dough into the baking sheet.  I was hurrying so I didn't do this very smoothly.  Don't be like me, or do and love them anyway.

Bake at 350 for about 8 minutes.  (I got distracted so these stayed in for 10 minutes and were a little bit dry, but as I mentioned, I was in a time crunch so I couldn't start over.)

Remove the cookie sheet from the oven and lift the pan lining paper off the cookie sheet.  Then cool completely on a wire rack.

Now for the fun part, get a football cookie cutter and trying to keep them as close together as possible, cut out your footballs.  I love doing this instead of just rolling out a dough and cutting cookies out raw because the edges puff up and you lose some of the clarity of the shape.  More importantly, you are left with all of those little scraps to devour while your little one is napping and no one can rat you out. If they are scraps, I'm pretty sure they don't have any calories ;)

Now if you stop here, you will have some nice brown oval shaped cookies, but to really make them look like footballs you will need a little icing.

I used the white icing writer because it is super easy to use and as you can see I don't have the steadiest hand, but feel free to use whatever you have on hand.  Use the icing to draw the laces onto the football.

Ta da!  Football cookies with minimal fuss and only 1 bowl to clean.  Enjoy!

I'm linking up with Retro Repin, Tasty Thursdays, Link Party Palooza, Show Stopper Saturday, Strut Your Stuff Saturday, Sweet & Savoury Sundays, Bakerette, Marvelous Monday, Mix It Up Monday, Manic Monday, and Inspiration Monday

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

What I Wore Wednesday - Back to School

Yesterday was the first day of school for my students.  It was also the first time since I became a mom that I started the school year as a full-time teacher.  I know how lucky I have been to have had so much extra time with Jake, but I am really struggling with being back to full time.  Since we only have a few more months as a family of three I am mourning those couple of days a week of Mommy & Jake time that we are losing.

That's enough on my little pity party, onto the clothes.  Now that I am entering my third trimester (I'll be 27 weeks on Saturday) I figured it was time to break out the maternity clothes.  I saved everything from my pregnancy with Jake plus I've inherited things from a few people.  I spent some time on Labor Day going through the bin and doing laundry.  One of the pieces that I'm adding back into my closet was this dress.

I actually wore this dress for the first day of school when I was pregnant with Jake, 5 years ago.  I was 6 weeks less pregnant then than I am now, but I had also gained a lot more weight that time around so this is still a little roomy.

I wanted to look a little dressed up, but it has been disgustingly hot here and I wanted something that was going to help me stay cool.  This dress is cotton so it is nice and breathable.

I was a little nervous about spending the whole day on my feet (and rightfully so, they were killing me by the end of the day) so I decided flats were in order, though my favorite wedges would have been even cuter.  This sweet little pair of flats are actually kids' shoes.  (I'm a size 6 so I can wear a girl's 4.)  The cut-outs make them a little more interesting than a plain white flat would be, plus they add a little bit of air flow.

Dress - Motherhood Maternity - old
Flats - Target (kids) - old - Similar here on sale for $12.99 

Monday, September 2, 2013

Comic Book Letters - DIY

My birthday is December 30th.  Then I married a man whose birthday is on New Year's Eve.  Fast forward to 2009, I had a January baby.   Now this little guy is expected at the beginning of December.  This all means that our life is pretty much crazy from Halloween until mid January.  At the same time, birthdays are a big deal to me.  I know what it is like to have your birthday get lost in the shuffle of holidays and winter break so it is really important to me that my kids' birthdays are amazing.  I also realize that I can't go all out every year because it is a lot of work so I decided that I would do an over the top home party every other year and on the off years our kids can have a party at a place that does it all for us.  This is a good plan except that this coming January, just 5 weeks after our little man is due to arrive, I will be throwing an over the top party.  Yes, I am crazy!

In order to make this all possible, I started working on the party this summer.  Jake decided on a Superman party so I've spent the past few months pinning away and planning.  Now it's time to start working on the details.  Obviously there are some things I won't be able to do in advance, but as much as I can, I plan to.  That is where today's post comes in.  Having never used Mod Podge before I used this great video tutorial by Being Geek Chic.

To make these letters you will need a comic book you don't mind cutting up, paper mache letters (I found mine at Hobby Lobby), scissors, a pencil, a paintbrush, matte Mod Podge for paper (the one with the light blue label), and Golden's medium gel gloss (optional). 

I made the J and the S before I started this blog so these pics will focus on the M which I decided to add later.  I only used Mod Podge on those, but then I bought the gel gloss for a project for the baby's nursery and found it less ripply, so I decided to use it for the M.  It's pretty pricey though so I wouldn't buy it just for this.  (I used a 40% off coupon to make it more affordable.)

Start out by picking the images you want to have on the front of your letters.  For the letter J, I decided to use one large image that would cover the whole front.  For the M and S I picked more of a collage style.  Once you have picked your image you will need to trace your letter onto the image and then cut it out with your scissors.  *Elizabeth recommends attaching the full page to your letter and then using an exacto knife to trim it, but when I did that I ended up with a bunch of ragged edges so I pulled it off and redid it by tracing the letter on the comic page and cutting it out with scissors.

Paint a thin layer of gel gloss (or mod podge) directly onto the letter.

Then carefully lay your cut out comic piece on top smoothing it out as well as you can. 

Repeat this process until you have covered all sides of the letter.  The inner parts of the letter are a little tricky (I used my paintbrush handle to help press them down).

Then let it dry for 2 hours.  After 2 hours have passed you will paint another layer, of Mod Podge this time, over the top as a sort of varnish.  If you wanted it to have a glossy finish you can use the gel gloss for the top as well but I wanted matte so I used the Mod Podge.

That's it.  You are done.  If I'm totally honest, I ended up with a few ripples and it drove me crazy but Jake thinks they are the coolest thing ever so I am embracing their imperfection.

I'm linking up at Flashback Friday, Manic MondayMarvelous Monday, Mix It Up Monday, Inspiration MondayCraftastic Monday, Busy Monday, More the Merrier Monday, Mad Skills Party, Whimsy Wednesdays, Lovely Ladies Link UpMade By MeWake Up Wednesdays, Project Stash, Pin it Thursday, Less Laundry, More Linking, Real Family Fun, and Thrifty Thursday, Pin Junkie, Link Party Palooza, Show Stopper Saturday, Bakerette, and StrutYour Stuff Saturday.