Tuesday, August 13, 2019

It Has Been A Year!

Literally and figuratively!

I blinked and the months just flew by.

July 2018 was a month of rest for us before a whirlwind end to the year. Then we went full speed into 2019 and before I knew it we were right back to July again.

Along the way we bought a new car, my sister got married, we gained a niece, I went on a vacation without my family, got an ankle repair surgery and we went to a couple more weddings!

I still haven't figured out why my computer and phone aren't connecting but I am done worrying about it... for now! We also didn't plant a garden this spring and I am barely tending to the two plants that successfully overwintered.

Our oldest kid starts his first season of soccer this week and the younger one will be two in just under 2 weeks.

I am not going to make promises about plans to reinvent this place but I am finally coming to a place where my kids are more self sufficient and I am getting back to having the time for things I love! For those still following this space, I appreciate you and hope you continue read here as I continue to regain my footing!

Monday, July 16, 2018

July | Currently

settling in after another handful of trips. 
looking forward to a few weeks at home after being on the go for so long. We were away from home more days than we were home in June and it carried into the first week of July too.
listening to kids audiobooks on our road trips lately. The Complete Tales by Beatrix Potter and Charlotte's Web by EB White were good titles, except I forgot how morbid the first few sentences of Charlotte's Web can be. We are currently waiting for some new titles to be available on Overdrive via our library loan system. 
planning to be gone most of August now too.
hoping for a very slow fall and winter this year. 
celebrating so many big things throughout my extended family. Graduations, weddings, and babies on the horizon!
struggling to finish The Book Thief. Look for a new Book Report post coming early next week. my 
trying to get back to spending my mornings in the word. 
looking to implement a new weekday routine for the kids and myself once we are done traveling this summer.
thinking about starting a loose "preschool" like learning time for Teddy. 
spending a little bit of time each day barefoot in the garden.  
enjoying the grounding feeling I get each day, especially when I do it in the morning.
loving that our replanted tomatoes are producing. Between all three plants we have nearly 25 tomatoes ready to ripen. This is such a huge difference compared to our single unripe tomato last September. 
researching  some hardy winter plants to start in our other boxes.  
contemplating what to do about the mating pair of non-venomous snakes that have taken up residence in part of our yard where Teddy and Berke like to goof around. Thankfully, they have been docile for now but we are worried that may become more aggressive/defensive once their babies arrive. 
branching out in my recipe choices thanks to the 52 Recipes project. I am up to 30 recipes. I haven't been the best at sharing them all here, but if you are on Instagram, I do have a Stories Highlight dedicated to the project. 
stealing moments here and there between naps and in the evenings to get my words down in posts. Most of my time gets wrapped up in editing and uploading photos and it is hard to do that with.
troubleshooting a few different issues right now. First, the materials, that I spent forever looking for and buying for my chair project, do not work for these chairs. So I feel like I am back to square one. Also, my laptop, phone, and computer don't want to connect to each other and it is maddening. Lastly, we have vehicle stuff going.
making hard decisions regarding our automobiles. My daily driver was recently "totaled out" by the insurance after a small encounter with a deer. 
praying we make the right choice for our family not just a hasty decision to remedy the situation as soon as possible.
feeling like time just keeps speeding up. 
considering all the options for Eliza's first birthday! With all the travel coming up, I feel like I need to get a jump on it sooner rather than later and make a solid plan. 
doing my best to keep up with it all. 

Monday, May 28, 2018

Disneyland After Dark | Star Wars Nite

If you follow Disney at all, you may know that Disneyland announced that they would be doing four Disney After Dark events throughout 2018. The second was announced as a Star Wars themed event on May 3rd. We were considering going as an early birthday for T and Mother's Day trip for me but the tickets sold out in record time. Then, late in April, Disney announced a second Star Wars Nite on May 9th! We promptly ordered tickets, booked rooms, and somewhat foolishly made plans for a rather impromptu Disneyland trip!
We arrived to the parks around 7pm. Honestly, after reading reviews of the previous event, I was expecting long lines and a mad house. Thankfully, that was not the case! The event didn't officially start until 9pm so we took a little bit of time to make a game plan and decide what we wanted to do that evening. These events go all out with themed PhotoPass locations, character meet and greets, themed foods, and entertainment.

Teddy asked that we go to the Tiki Room and ride Winnie the Pooh while we waited for the event to start. As it turned out, one of the PhotoPass locations was set up right next to the exit of Winnie the Pooh in Critter Country. We got to quickly meet the droid Chopper, then headed over to Fantasyland to see BB-8.
The BB-8 and Jakku PhotoPass meet and greet was set up in one of the pathways that will soon connect to the area that is to become Galaxy's Edge in Summer 2019. It was a perfect setting with the Big Thunder Mountain themed rock work. There was a short wait, again nothing like we were anticipating, but it was well worth it for Teddy to meet one of his favorite droids! Also, the photos were amazing!

By the time we were done with BB-8, it was around 9:30pm. The fireworks were set to start at 9:45pm and we made our way towards the front of the castle. As we rounded the corner from Frontierland, into the hub, we got our first look at the castle and the projections. It was pure magic!
Then the fireworks started and we were blown away. I can honestly say that this fireworks show will be top of my list for a long time to come! "Remember, Dreams Come True" was fantastic, and "Together, Forever!" evokes all sorts of nostalgia and emotions, but this special Star Wars themed show was just so much more than I could have ever imagined it!
As the fireworks wrapped up, we had just enough time to hit Plaza Inn for the Red Squadron Wings! Berkeley and I shared the plate which came with five dry rubbed chicken wings, jalapeƱo hush puppies and a yogurt dipping sauce. They were so good!! They weren't your typical sticky buffalo wings. They had a really great spice rub with a subtle kick. I hope they make these wings available once Galaxy's Edge opens!
While eating, we reevaluated what else was going on and what we wanted to do and decided to head into Tomorrowland. We were soon greeted by a wandering Jawa! This Jawa was on the more playful side and initiated a quick round of Peek-a-Boo with Teddy, then fawned over Eliza. It was a ruse though as the Jawa tried to sneakily lure them away. Silly Jawa, younglings and babies aren't droids!

As we approached the Launch Bay, we noticed Imperial Guards keeping watch from the Tomorrowland Terrace. We made a quick trip through Launch Bay to see what all was going on in there. We decided against meeting Darth Maul as we felt he may have scared Teddy. We also wanted to catch the March of the First Order with Captain Phasma so we decided to leave. However, before leaving, Teddy noticed Boba Fett. We have "met" Boba Feet several times but Teddy wanted to get a little closer. We stood nearby the line and Teddy continuously was saying "Boba Fett, is that you?" Then, in between guests in line, Boba Fett drew his blaster. Teddy giggled, then tuck behind my legs. Boba Fett responded "Excellent!" Teddy loved it!
We headed to Galactic Grill for a snack and that is when we discovered that Beru's Special was Disney's take on Blue Milk! It was a light blue Jasmine Milk Tea with tapioca pearls. We grabbed one blue milk and a Galactic Red Slush. After grabbing our drinks, I was waiting with Eliza while the boys ran to the bathroom, I pulled out my nicer camera to take photos of the Imperial Guards. The orange light from the camera, that gauges brightness, caught the attention of one of the guards and he watched me intensely as I tried to get the best shot. That attention to detail is what makes events like this worth it for me.
After pursuing the Launch Bay, we took some time to slow down, let Teddy dance to the DJ in the Tomorrowland Theater. Soon it was time for the March of the First Order. The lighting and music changed and all eyes focused on the Tomorrowland Terrace. The Imperial Guards were replaced by a huge entourage of Stormtroopers led by Captain Phasma. They marched from terrace, down around the outside of the Launch Bay. Then she led the  troopers through Tomorrowland and back to the ramp to the right of the Launch Bay exit. The March of the First Order was part parade, part show and it was fantastic! Teddy was amazed to see all of those troopers and Phasma up close!

The March ended around 12 midnight and we decided to move along from Tomorrowland. We head up around the east side of the Matterhorn and came across the Sarlaac pit. Ultimately we decided to jump over to the Forest Moon of Endor to party down with the Ewoks. Both littles fell asleep in line so they were a little grumpy when they first woke up. Despite that, the Ewoks were so sweet with the kids.

As we departed our Ewok dance party, it was nearing 1am. Instead of trying to do more in what little time we had left, we slowly made our way back down Main Street. The buildings still had the projections and it was just a magical way to end the evening. Little did we know, there was one last surprise waiting for us toward the main gates. In the Town Square area of Main Street, there was a small fleet of R2 units rolling, roaming, and interacting with guests as they were leaving. Again, the perfect attention to details to make the event. Teddy was so incredibly tired that he could not even wake up to see R2D2!

There were a lot of other things that Disney After Dark had to offer that we ultimately chose to skip for some reason or another. We both would have enjoyed the Galaxy's Edge panel but as a family it wasn't feasible with the kids. One thing I did not talk about was rides. We were able to walk on to most of them. We were the only ones on Buzz AstroBlasters and our ride scores were insane compared to a normal ride through.

Overall, we felt that this event was definitely worth the money! We are a family of Star Wars Fans. We appreciated and enjoyed all integration of the Star Wars franchise across the parks. Outside of the specific Star Wars theme, one thing I found super cool about these events are the PhotoPass locations. Not only did they provide these fun photo opportunities, but they provided the PhotoPass photographers and PhotoPass+ with your ticket for the night!

It was fantastic! We had a blast! If you may be at all interested in the next After Dark event, I highly recommend going! These events are just that good!!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

52 Recipes | Grilled Whangdoodles aka Spiraled Hot Dogs

Back in March, Teddy started asking for a Willy Wonka Tea Party Unbirthday Party for his birthday. We took that as some mash up between Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Alice in Wonderland. Thankfully, both of those stories/movies leave a lot of room of creativity and weirdness. My mind started to spin with all of the possibilities. In the middle of planning and after inviting some people, we decided we would be going to Disneyland (more on this on Friday) right before the party! Gears switched and I decided to focus on the food.

I have been wanting to try spiraled hot dogs since they first were popular a few summers back. I felt like making them and calling them Grilled Whangdoodles was a great tie in for the party. If you are unfamiliar with the reference, Whangdoodles were one of the types of horrible creatures that Willy Wonka rescued the Oompa Loompas from. It happened to be a pretty big hit. They were so good, we forgot to take pictures right away.

Again, no true recipe but the idea is pretty simple. Grab your hot dogs, some skewers, buns and a knife, and then light up your grill. Slide the skewer through the entire length of your hot dog. Place hot dog on cutting board then cut into the hot dog at a slight angle. Turn hot dog and continue cutting until you reach the other end. Carefully remove skewer from hot dog. Repeat with remaining dogs. Grill them up and then top to your liking!

Results and Thoughts
This is such a fun and easy way to jazz up such a simple meal like grilled hot dogs. It took a few extra minutes of prep but it was worth it. We will probably be doing it again. Also, I really love the extra crispy edges.

Monday, May 21, 2018

May | Currently

getting back into the swing of things after a busy few months and an especially busy couple of weeks. 
celebrating Tiny Krueger being not so tiny anymore. Teddy turned three earlier this week and the weekend prior we had a small barbecue in his honor. 
eating all the party leftovers.
making small adjustments to our daily routines as we head into the busy part of the summer season. 
loving that the structure leads to most days being pretty predictable.
reading Jess Connolly and Hayley Morgan's Always Enough, Never Too Much devotional. I have been struggling with my faith and feeling like I do not fit in with the church congregation we have chosen to fellowship with the last two years. It is hard to feel like you belong when most of the people in the community are in vastly different  phases of life. This amazing devotional has been helping bridge that gap. 
trying to get back to spending my mornings in the word. 
looking for a daily devotional. Do you have one you love?  
spending more time outside as the days get warmer and longer.
enjoying the return of our summer sunsets.  
replanting most of the vegetables and flowers we planted in April. After fairly mild winter, we felt it was safe to get our garden all set up. Then we were hit with an early May cold snap, snow, and frost. Almost everything was nuked.
working on finally getting those patio chairs redone. I have a plan and now I am searching for all of the correct materials. 
thinking about all the other goals and plans I want to make for this summer. Every spring I make our "Summer List" and every fall I am glad I did. I feel like writing out a solid list of plans, intentions, and goals helps to answer the typical "what do you want to do today?" question and guide us to fill in free days.
cooking my way through my 52 recipes for the year. My current count is about 15 recipes. I am about five recipes behind the overall schedule for the goal and I have seven or eight recipes I need to post here. 
spending evenings and random moments throughout the day in front of the laptop, writing posts, editing photos while podcasts play in the background.  
listening to all the podcasts again. This, this, and this are the top of my list right now but I rotate through about a dozen others. Clearly I am into True Crime. 
feeling like time just keeps speeding up. 
watching the kids hit all sorts of milestones. Eliza is crawling and trying to get into all sorts of trouble already.
doing my best to keep up. 

Thursday, April 12, 2018

52 Recipes | No. 5 Hominy Burrito Bowls

​One of my favorite recipes growing up was my mom's red enchiladas made with ground beef, red sauce and hominy. A few months ago, I had made some of her enchiladas and had some of the meat mixture leftover. What I had wasn't enough to make a whole other tray of enchiladas so I set it aside in the freezer. After our most recent Disneyland trip, we had not gone grocery shopping yet and I was looking for something to make. I decided to pull out this frozen meat mixture and see what I could do with it.

There isn't a true recipe here. I mixed together roughly a half pound of browned, lean ground beef, a 15ish oz can of hominy, 2 cups cooked pinto beans and 2 cups of red enchilada sauce. I added cumin and chili powder to taste. I served the mixture over jasmine rice, with shredded cheese, lettuce, tomato and sour cream. This is one of those throw together dinners where you could add anything you want.

Results and Thoughts:
For using what we had on hand, this was really good! I was honestly surprised. It probably won't be something we eat regularly but the next time I make my mom's enchiladas, Ill be sure to prepare a little extra meat so we can have this variation of burrito bowls later in the same week.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

52 Recipes | No. 4 Honey Sesame Chicken

Now that we are back from our Spring Break trip, I can continue posting about my 52 Recipes in 2018 project. I had planned to post while we were away but then left my laptop at home. Oh well! I am back and I am chugging along. Although this is only the fourth recipe I've shared, I think I am up to thirteen for the year. From the nine that I haven't shared yet, three were complete disasters, four are keepers that Ill be sharing them soon, and two I want to make a couple more times to see if they are worth sharing.

Today's recipe is the Honey Sesame Chicken from the Chef Mickey cookbook. According to the book, this dish is served at the Nine Dragons Restaurant in Epcot China Pavilion at Walt Disney World. This is one of about ten recipes from the cook book that I wrote on my initial list. While I selected a lot of recipes based on recreating magical foods at home, this one was purely a "I am craving Chinese food" decision. I've never made Chinese food at home from scratch before so this was a great recipe to try.

Honey Sesame Chicken from Chef Mickey - Treasures from the Vault & Delicious New Favorites. There are quite a few Disney food related blogs that copycat recipes posted as well.

No real "adjustments" but I did leave out the sesame seed and green onion garnish.

Results and Thoughts:
So I have never made Asian style chicken over rice from scratch before. I was super nervous and this recipe was a bit of an undertaking. There were a lot of steps and was a tad bit overwhelming with a toddler and newborn demanding my attention. It didn't help that we decided to make this on a weeknight. It definitely would have been smarter for us to wait for a Saturday afternoon because we ended up eating after bedtime.

All that aside, I am still so glad I made this! It was delicious. I can't comment on how this recipe stands up to the Nine Dragons original because neither of us has eaten the original but we enjoyed this and will be trying it again!

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

2018 Book Report | Jan - March

Every year I challenge myself to read something. Anything. Some years it is a specific list (Hello abandoned Rory Gilmore Challenge), some years its "Just Read Something" and others it is a set number of titles. For 2018, I am going to read at least 26 books. That is a book every 2 weeks. I could have pushed myself and gone for something upwards of 100 books but with two kids, I just wanted something doable.

At the end of December when I set my goal, I also started a list. Much like my 52 Recipes project, I knew that success means having a plan. I wrote out all the titles I knew I wanted to read, books I needed to finish from previous years and stuff I wanted to reread by myself or as a family with the kids. As of the end of March, I have eight books (only six if you ask GoodReads) finished and about 50 on my To Be Read list. I am feeling good.
screenshot taken from my GoodReads profile

Tips For Living // This was a January Amazon First Read pick. I am glad I chose it for my first read of the year. Its been marketed as a Suspense but it is more of a curl up with a blanket on a cold afternoon mystery.  It was an easy read (I finished in less than 48 hours), and some of the plot points were predictable. That said, I did find it entertaining and I really wanted to know "who did it".

The Last Letter // I love me some Historical Fiction and The Last Letter did not disappoint. There was so much to take in between all the tragic events that befall this group of 1800's homesteaders. It took me a bit longer to finish but once I got to the second half of the story, it really took off. The rest of the books from this series are currently on my To Be Read list.

The Starlight Hill Series Books 1-3 // With as heavy parts of The Last Letter were, I decided to read something lighter. Hello Chick Lit. I got this for free and did not realize at first it was three books in one. The series starts off innocently enough with no romance novel-esque sex scenes. Once you get to Book 3 it is a little more present. I only mention it because it caught me a little off guard as I was not expecting it, however it is nowhere near the sex from Harlequin books I would sneak read as a teen. Or even Flowers in the Attic!

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine // This title was chosen as part of the short-lived It's All Good Book Club with Dani Hampton of Sometimes Sweet. I am not sure that I would have chosen this on my own just from seeing it on the shelf. From the onset, I found it Eleanor so relatable and unexpectedly lovable with all her outlandish quirks. As the book goes on, it becomes a little heavy, quite heartbreaking and humorous all at the same time. I was a little let down by the ended but only because it was different than I had hoped. For a debut novel, it is fantastically written and I look forward to reading more from Gail Honeyman.

Anywhere With You // Again, I needed something a little lighter after a heavy. This is a small novella taking place after the third book of the Starlight Hill series I read at the end of January. Like I mentioned above the series starts our more Chick Lit/Rom Com and slowly turns more Romance. This one had some ridiculous love scenes that read as if they were out of a teen girl's diary. I had to roll my eyes a bit.

Silent Victim // This was my Amazon First Read for February. Another Suspense title pick for me and this one was actually thrilling to read. The story is told from varying perspectives of three different characters spanning from 2003 to 2017. This is easily one of my favorite types of storytelling and I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Just was a warning there are potential triggering topics in this books.

Currently Reading/Planning to Read 
I chose Feast: True Love in and out of the Kitchen by Hannah Howard as my Amazon First Read for March. I started it but it didn't pull me in right away. I had planned to pick it up during Spring Break but that didnt happen. Also in progress is Modern Lovers by Emma Straub. I have been trying to read this book since last fall. It is very similar to "my kind of book" but I haven't been able to get into it. I think if it were on my Kindle I may have more luck but I am still trying to finish it. The second and third books from The Letter Series, Turtles All The Way Down, and The Dirty Life are all standing out as titles to be read next as well as whatever I pick for my Amazon First Read.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

March | Currently

settling into routine again after 17 days in California
celebrating spring with snow showers, rain storms, and small bouts of warm weather, and I love it
preparing for our Resurrection Sunday celebration
filling and rolling dolmas for Sunday
feeling a little sad that we won't be with our extended families or close friends for the holiday
remembering the old days out on the Lopez Family Patio making fried dough
chasing around a curious almost three year old and an army crawling seven month old
marveling at how fast Eliza is growing
wondering if our family is truly complete with two kids
thinking about adopting a furry family member
scaring myself with the thought of adding another wild beast to this equation
dreaming about our summer garden and backyard plans
gathering the supplies to start the work
planting roots, figuratively and literally
embracing Berkeley's promotion to Engine Captain
letting go of my "return to Flagstaff" dream, for now
missing our people
opening myself up to new people and relationships, and new opportunities building a community here in Alpine

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

52 Recipes | No. 3 Meatball Sliders

Moving on to recipe three of my 52 recipes project for 2018. Today it is meatball sliders. This is a recipe I hodgepodged together from a bunch of different things that I've seen on the Internet. We've all seen those Tasty and BuzzFeed Food videos that are popular on social media right now. And those recipes using sweet Hawaiian rolls. All of those were what got me thinking about making sliders to begin with. Then I went searching for a recipe that I thought we might like but nothing really called me so here is what I did.

Pistachio Project Grain Free Meatballs with diced onion and grated carrot

12 2oz. meatballs
Slider buns or Sweet Hawaiian style rolls
Provolone cheese
Pasta sauce
2-3 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
1 Tbsp grated Parmesan

Open the buns and lightly toast both sides under the broiler. While the buns are toasting, warm the meatballs and pasta sauce in a saucepan. Remove the buns, and a loos to cool for 5 minutes. Preheat oven to 350*F. Place bottom buns in a casserole dish, and layer provolone slices on top. Then spoon a meatball and some sauce onto each bun. Cover with the top buns. Mix olive oil, salt, pepper, and Parmesan cheese together and drizzle over the top of the buns. Cover with foil and cook for 10 minutes. Then remove the foil and cook for another 5-10 minutes making sure the top buns don't burn. Serve while warm!

Adjustments and Thoughts:
This is another recipe where I use the Pistachio Project meatballs. I love Britney's recipe and we use it for all different kinds of meals around here so they are always on hand.  Sometimes, I hide veggies in them like bell peppers or carrot. If I know I am going to be making sliders later in the week, I will prepare larger meatballs by adding in a little bit more meat and veggies and roll out 12 meatballs instead of 16. They end up being closer to 2oz instead of the 1oz ones from the recipe. Than I cook them for 25 minutes. You can use whatever meatballs you like though.

Most recipes for sliders I saw called for shredded mozzarella over meatballs and sauce on top of an untested bun/roll. Instead of ending up with a soggy mess, I decided to toast my buns then layer on sliced provolone then add the meatball with sauce. I feel like this allows for a more solid slider. The cheese acts as a little bit of a moisture barrier and things are a lot less soggy.

Like I mentioned above, because I use the meatball recipe that we like, I tend to have the meatballs already made and so it's an easy meal to throw together on a busy night. Also, this is something that my husband and the toddler both love. Most nights, we serve them alongside a nice big salad and it's a complete dinner.