Exhausted, tired, lack of energy. Just plain pooped!

At least Ms. A enjoyed laying next to her daddy while he caught a little cat nap. I'd be doing the same thing if I worked 90+ hours a week, too.

We love you, Iron Chef, and are thankful for all you do for our family.


Sweet Potato Splenda

In an effort to eat healthier, I decided to try a new recipe to go along with our sandwiches the other night for dinner - Baked Sweet Potato Fries. Sometimes big knives and raw meats keep me from having my "greatest helper" from helping in the kitchen. But, then there are other times when I have recipes with lots of shakers and fun ingredients to stir. In case you weren't aware, to an almost two year old toddler, spices are known as shakers because usually make a small noise plus a cause and effect relationship. You shake the spices, something comes out. This is ever so exciting to a toddler.

I added my own twist to the recipe by adding a few other spices and eliminating others and I opted not to use my crinkle cut knife (only because I couldn't find it at the time). I'm still adjusting to my new kitchen and can't quite get the cooking utensils in the right spot yet!

A little spice here and a lot of spice there. The end result - burnt sweet potato fries!

The recipe didn't turn out, as can be seen in the picture. The fries turned brown in less than half the baking time. The crunch in the fry was completely non existent and was replaced with a soft potato texture. I think I cut the strips too thin and didn't add enough olive oil. Needless to say I won't be trying this recipe again but am on the hunt for another replacement instead. And in case the recipe appeals to you or you want to know what not to do - the recipe is shown below.

Baked Sweet Potato Fries
Recipe courtesy Paula Deen, 2008

House Seasoning:
1 cup salt
1/4 cup black pepper
1/4 cup garlic powder
Olive Oil, for tossing
5 sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch long slices, then 1/4-wide inch strips, using a crinkle cut knife
1 tablespoon House Seasoning
1/2 teaspoon paprika
For the House Seasoning:
Mix ingredients together and store in an airtight container for up to 6 months.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Line a sheet tray with parchment. In a large bowl toss sweet potatoes with just enough oil to coat. Sprinkle with House Seasoning and paprika. Spread sweet potatoes in single layer on prepared baking sheet, being sure not to overcrowd. Bake until sweet potatoes are tender and golden brown, turning occasionally, about 20 minutes. Let cool 5 to 10 minutes before serving.


This is How 'She' Rolls

Posh Tots. Most definitely. Apparently all the other moms in LMAKT (Lincoln Moms and Kids Too) and our playgroup think this as well. Or, at least we'd like to think so.

Scheduled weekly playgroups and weekly events. Plus a whole lot more!

Let's just say I'm loving this group of women. And, we most definitely have a group of little tots that love to be entertained and catered to. Just part of the fun.

Not only do we have weekly scheduled playgroups and weekly events, but with over 70+ families, you can only imagine the kind of activities, service projects and meetings that are planned. Just a tad different than my old Moms Club (and I miss those women dearly - they were a fun bunch, too, don't get me wrong!) Our assigned playgroup - otherwise known as the "Nubbies" - has 12 moms ... and some have 3 kids that attend playgroup. Yes, it's that big!

And - - I hosted my first playgroup in our new house. Hosting your first playgroup is always a little nerve racking. Toys and fun and of course, the snacks, drinks and goodies to go along with the morning. Nothing but the best for the posh little tots.

Above is a little menu for the morning jazzed up with Valentine's Day dishes from Pottery Barn - juice, fruit snacks, dried pea pods, wheat crackers, pretzel crackers, goldfish, carrots, celery, rice cakes, cookies, coffee for the ladies, etc, etc. The kids go crazy for snack time!

They play hard and are definitely rewarded at the end or the middle or at the beginning with a fun snack. I didn't capture pictures of our full house (only 5 moms were in attendance), but I did snap a picture of the aftermath. And to think this was after a quick tidy and cleanup from the kids. God bless their little hearts.

Let's just say it's a good thing we don't have a dining room table right now because the kids took over this room and LOVED the extra space. Plus, now that Ms. A's toys are getting larger and bulkier (play house, kitchen, riding toys, basketball hoop, etc) the extra space is definitely needed. I temporarily moved some of the toys downstairs from her playroom because I did not want kids going up and down the steps.

So ... there you have it. Another fun day in the life of Ms. A.


Self Portraits of Two Best Buds

Best Buds.

Those words truly sum up how Ms. A feels about her "Mumma" (as she calls me). I think it's because we've been spending most of our days and nights together these days.

I've been trying to think of new and fun things to do with A and I thought of a mini photo session pretending that we were in a photo booth getting a strip of 4 photos on a sheet. Kind of like the old days, but yet, we weren't in a booth. Nor were we going to be receiving a little photo strip at the end. Thus, the photos ended up being more like a self portrait taken by yours truly. Trying to aim a large SLR camera w/ the lense and hold it at a proper distance definitely takes skill. I never seemed to master that skill. The pictures, however, turned out rather comical.

Here's our photo session. Mommy and her little princess and the dialogue that was spoken between us.

"Stick your tongue out!"

"Shut eyes now."

"Goofy faces, A." Or in her case, big buck teeth!

"Shark teeth!"

"Cheek to cheek."

"Fish lips." A was in the process of doing fish lips that were opening and closing so she could make the fish lips sound. ;)

Let the fun continue and our memories never end. What a fun day!


Rollie Pollie

If this chunky monkey doesn't make you smile, I'm not sure what does! Baby rolls are just the cutest, aren't they?

While searching for a few photos for an upcoming post, I came across this picture and it made me smile. Enjoy!

This picture was taken back in September of 2008.


A Little Blue Colt

YEAH for the Colts! Hip hip hooray! A super win for a super team that's headed to the Super Bowl.

As for today, it was another long weekend w/ the Iron Chef working in full force. But, in honor of the Iron Chef's love for football and his love for the Colts, we watched a little bit of the game on television and Ms. A sported her cheerleading outfit for this grand occasion as well.

She also decided that she wanted to fit in her dolls' cradle and did NOT want to get out. I moved all the toys into the living room/dining room for playgroup tomorrow. I think she was a little excited.

She also decided to peel off almost all the labels on a pack of crayons. Wierd, I know! But, she had fun doing it and kept going until the labels were off.

And a close up look at her work.

Our Colts team pride shall continue ... with the super bowl!


Looking for a Little Sunshine

While I was making tons of phone calls about our car and figuring out the little details, Ms. A decided to take it in her own hands to find something to entertain her while I was having serious conversations. I had the baby gate up so she couldn't leave the family room/kitchen area ... but apparently it takes no more than a yellow crayon and a clean glass window to occupy her time.

So she decided to draw.

And draw.

And draw some more. You may have to look closely to see the details (yellow color turned out pretty hard to see w/ the camera), but there was seriously yellow crayon as high and low as she could reach with her yellow Crayola.

Maybe she was trying to find the sun and draw the rays around the sun as well. The rain has been non stop the last week and has kept us indoors most of the week. Or, maybe she was simply being the toddler that she is and causing havoc when "Mommy" was not looking.

God bless her little soul.


"The Dirty Dozen" and "The Clean 15″

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) publishes a Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce. They came up with this list called The Dirty Dozen - the 12 fruits and vegetables they have found to be the most contaminated and The Clean 15 - the least contaminated produce.

This is definitely something I did not know. Maybe it's just living on the West side of the country and previously having lived in the Pacific NW (more specifically Portland area) and being majorly exposed to areas of organic and buying locally. Well, regardless of the reason, I've chimed in a little more than I thought and am being more aware of the type of produce I purchase and do not purchase.

Spending all of my grocery money at Whole Foods or purchasing all organic simply isn't in my budget, but I try to do what I can such as purchasing milk without growth hormones and purchasing my own carrots instead of the precut minis. One little step at a time.

So ... here's the dirty dozen and the clean 15. Did you know these?

The Dirty Dozen (buy these organic)

Bell Pepper
Grapes (Imported)

The Clean 15 (lowest in pesticides)

Sweet Corn
Sweet Peas
Sweet Potato

Why Does It Matter?

EWG research has found that people who eat the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables consume an average of 10 pesticides a day. Those who eat the 15 least contaminated conventionally-grown fruits and vegetables ingest fewer than 2 pesticides daily. WOW!

And people wonder why there's so much cancer, infection and disease out there ...


The Trip to the Zoo That Ended it All

The Iron Chef had a weekend off - woo hoo - FINALLY (Yes, he's still working 11 straight days without a break). We, as a family, decided that a great way to kick off the weekend was to go to one of the local city zoos for Ms. A. She loves animals right now and we really knew she'd enjoy watching the animals in a low key environment. We knew we'd have a great time ... but most definitely did not know this would be the trip to the zoo that ended it all.

We pulled into the parking lot and saw real animals running all around the place.

The roosters, chickens and peacocks running free were amazing, especially to an almost two year old. Ms. A loved it!

But, it was after our trip to the zoo and on our way home, when our little Olds decided to start having engine problems. We made it to the local GM dealership and the rest is history. We know how our new car and our old car is still sitting in the back of the service center at the dealership.

A New Highlander

The latest addition for the Chef Family ... a new Toyota Highlander. We had been searching for a new, larger vehicle for some time now but continually put off the purchase because our 2003 Oldsmobile Alero seemed just fine for a family of 3 (except when we had visitors). But, after our recent trip to the zoo, we decided the time has arrived and we would be purchasing a new vehicle over the weekend.

We debated over several different vehicles but finally decided on a Highlander.

And finally, the odometer. Just 20 miles. ;) Brand spankin' new. The smell of new car is lingering in our nose ... and the smell of fresh tires AND new car is lingering in our garage.

Welcome Toyota Highlander to our little family. We hope you treat us well. ;)


RIP our Little Car

Car shopping ALL weekend. Headed to the zoo for a family fun day w/ Ms. A ... and came home around almost 8 pm at night in a rental car while we decide what to do with our engine broken vehicle with almost 4 thousand dollars worth of work needing to be done. Wow! Apparently the screws were too tight and caused the cylinders to break off? Who knew? Especially since I've only had our engine serviced/fixed once while we've owned the car and everything was still under warranty.

What a weekend ... and it looks like it will be RIP to our little car.


"New" Pictures on the Walls

Here is a photo of our old bedroom. Yes, a little blah, a little boring. I'm not that great w/ decorating and this was a middle stage of our OLD house in Vancouver. We made changes before we sold our house, but I never got around to take pictures before we moved. Thus, the resulting photo.

Well, since this photo, we have moved to a new house w/ a different master bedroom. However, our bedroom furniture, accessories and decorations have stayed much the same. All except one little thing. The pictures on the wall.

If you noticed in the first picture [ old house ] the pictures truly get lost on the wall. The problem - No color, no bold frame, the pictures get lost on the wall. The solutions - DIY project and a little spray paint and elbow grease.

What did I do?

1. Take the pictures down from the wall.

2. Cover the glass like crazy! I simple used tape and paper to cover the frame, sliding the paper underneat the frame to make sure I didn't get any paint on the glass.

3. Spray paint. I used an oil rubbed bronze color this time around, although the spray paint still looks very much brown or espresso to me. I wanted for the frames to dry and then took the paper and tape off the frame.

4. Hang new pictures and enjoy.

Ahh ... much better.

You'll also notice that we have plantation shutters. I'm still adjusting to this new style of window treatments and pondering what else I should do to jazz up the windows or leave them as is.


These are A Few of my Favorite Things

The joy and the excitement of a child at Christmas. There is simply nothing of its kind. To see a childs' eyes light up and sparkle as they see their gifts under the tree from Santa. Something you truly don't understand until you have a child of your own. What a special time.

Last year for Christmas Ms. A was only about 9 months and simply did not understand the concepts of gift opening and the excitement. What a difference a year can make!

If this picture doesn't sum up the joys of Christmas (not the true meaning) then I am not sure what does.

And so the celebration began. Family, fun, friends and great times. For the littlest Chef, it was one celebration after another with gifts on almost every single day. She started to look at the tree and always think something under there was for her to open and enjoy. It wasn't rare to find her ripping open a gift under the tree when someone wasn't looking!

Drinking milk and gift opening at the same time requires skill.

Still a bookworm. Although she looks like a little old lady in this picture.

The ever growing family (minus Heather - we missed you).

After our vacation in Michigan, we packed up our bags and headed for Indiana, our next stop where Ms. A enjoyed seeing her grandparents and great grandparents and taking a walk in "candy cane lane" where her great grandparents live. She loved the decorations, lights and festivities.

And another Christmas celebration ...

Taking time to make a gingerbread house - a whole family affair.

Christmas morning arrived and Ms. A was smiling from ear to ear.

Art projects are another favorite for Ms. A.

The "Chef" Families' other family. This photo definitely took some bribery and several M&M's to get the little munchkin to smile. It's suprising we even had a photo that turned out so well.

After a long return flight back to California (via Phoenix) we settled into our cozy home ... and yet another Christmas for Ms. A. I must admit, that after so many celebrations, she was overwhelmed with excitement and didn't really know what to do. The Iron Chef and I ended up opening the last few remaining gifts for her. She opened one gift - thanks John and Zoe - and then had Kyle and I open the remaining ones.

Until she came to this one. The box for this item was too large for wrapping paper so we took a huge red blanket and wrapped it around her new playhouse. Thanks Mimi, Papa, Nana and Papa for this one. She has already had tons of fun with this gift and will have many more memories to come.

Goodbye Christmas and all of our fun holiday celebrations. Until next year! This will definitely be the last of my posts (super belated) about holiday celebrations.