Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Giveaway Wednesday - Freshly Picked Moccasins!



OMG, y'all. Is there anything cuter than a baby in a moccasin?



I think not.



I was twelve kinds of excited to get these darling Freshly Picked moccasins in the mail. The leather is super soft, and they are just so tiny and perfectly made! I ordered Parker the Freshly Picked Beehive State Leather Moccasin because the color just screamed out autumn to me. 


Well, the sweet folks over at Freshly Picked are giving away a pair of moccasins to one of you, too! The sizes range from baby up to Toddler size 9, and there are so many different moccasins available. These denim ones are super cool, although I do have a special place in my heart for all gold shoes. And the red plaid? Hello, Holiday Season 2015!



Denim Suede Moccasin | Metallic Leather Moccasin | Plaid Moccasin

To enter the giveaway, just leave a comment below telling where you see your little one wearing these adorable moccasins. Out to the pumping patch? Running in the yard? I'll randomly select the winner a week from today. Good luck!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Taco Tuesday - Salmon Caesar Salad Tacos


Here's a fun, quirky take on Taco Tuesday... Salmon Caesar Salad Tacos! So easy to put together, and almost too pretty to eat. 
I love a Caesar Salad - it makes a very quick, yummy side for any dinner - so we almost always have a jarred Caesar dressing in the fridge (I like Marie's), plus grated Parmesan (from Costco) and croutons in the pantry (also Costco). But, these toppings also work so well for a Salmon Caesar Salad taco! To build the taco, stuff a white corn tortilla with baked salmon, then basically build the salad on top. Yum!


Salmon Caesar Salad Tacos

Ingredients
Salmon Fillets
White Corn Tortillas
Romain Lettuce*
Refrigerated Caesar Dressing (I use Marie's)*
Croutons*
Grated Parmesan*

*you can also buy a Fresh Express Kit in Caesar Supreme in your grocery store's refrigerated section, and this will take care of the lettuce, croutons, dressing and cheese


Directions
Bake the salmon in a 350 degree oven (about 10 minutes per inch of thickness). I love the salmon from the prepared section at Costco - it's flavored with a bit of basil butter, and it cooks in the same pan you buy it in - so easy, and no dishes! Once the salmon is done, stuff the white corn tortillas (or, chill the salmon if you want it cold). Top salmon with lettuce, add a dollop of the dressing, and sprinkle with croutons and cheese. Enjoy!



Monday, September 28, 2015

Manicure Monday - Autumn Colors

Our temperatures here in Alabama are dipping and I couldn't be happier. Cool mornings? Yes! Orange and gold leaves? Yes! Here are the essie colors I'm loving with the season change...


in the lobby is a new 2015 fall color that is dark, yet packs color, and is oh-so-fall. licorice has been a long time fave for this time of year, especially on Halloween! And finally, leggy legend, can I tell you that I've been stopped while out-and-about to be asked about this color? It's also a new color for this fall, and it just might be my go-to this year. It's a metallic shade, so it's super forgiving while doing an at-home mani, and the color just goes with everything! It's less orange-y when applied, and almost seems to change depending on what you're wearing (or holding, as in the photo below, ha!).


And how cute is the leggy legend polish bundled in a little autumn gift pack? Perfect for a special teacher or babysitter!

Happy Manicure Monday!


Saturday, September 26, 2015

Sweet Home Saturday - Crockpot Apple Butter



From the moment we decided we were moving to the south, "Fall Apple Picking" has been on my must-do list. While I still want to do it (there are tons of places to choose from!), our friendly CSA has been providing us with so many local Alabama apples that I wouldn't even know what to do with more right now. We've been getting a full peck (yes, that's an actual measurement!) each week for the past few weeks. We've actually had a bit of an overabundance, so I decided to try my hand at something I've never made - apple butter. 


Have you tasted apple butter? It's a sweet, concentrated form of applesauce that you can use in place of jam or jelly. I scoured Pinterest and found lots of different crockpot apple butter recipes. Score. You know I'm in love with my slow cooker. The recipes were all pretty different, so I basically went through and picked the ingredients I liked working with best. Next, I just made a guesstimate to the amount of apples needed. The recipes all called for different amounts: "seven pounds" or "three pounds" or "a dozen"... I didn't have a scale at home anyway, so I just peeled, cored and diced the apples until they filled the crockpot three-quarters of the way up (I probably ended up using 10-12 large apples).

 My mom has one of those fancy mechanical apple peelers that you hand crank, but I just use a regular serrated peeler (the serrated part makes all the difference) and an apple corerThe coring, peeling and dicing can get a bit tedious and time consuming, but once that part is done, seriously, the hard part is over. Just toss the apples in the slow cooker and add the rest of the ingredients directly in. Give it a good stir, then cook on low for a good 10+ hours. Yep. Ten. I actually left mine in for eleven, but all crockpots are different (and I actually cooked mine overnight while we were sleeping! Waking up to a kitchen that smells like apple pie? The best!). You want to keep the apples cooking until their sugars caramelize and they turn a deep brown color. They will be super, super soft and very easily mash-able. For the best consistency, though, pull out your immersion blender and blend them up right in the crock poet (I let mine cool a bit first). If you don't have an immersion blender, let the mixture cool and blend up in batches in a food processor. 

To store, put the apple butter in glass jars and refrigerate. It will be good up to two weeks.

The end product is ah-mazing. It's like eating autumn. I said before that apple butter can be subbed in anytime you'd use a jam or jelly - so pull it out to top toast, english muffins, oatmeal, waffles... or my new favorite breakfast, plain greek yogurt with granola and apple butter. Ohmyword, I could eat a whole vat of this stuff. I think it would also be fabulous warmed up on top of vanilla ice cream. 

Sugarmande's Apple Butter

Ingredients
10-12 large apples, cored and diced  (I kept the pieces fairly large)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp salt
freshly grated nutmeg (or, 1/8 tsp ground)

Directions
Core, peel and dice (large pieces are fine) the apples (you want to fill your slow cooker about 3/4 full). Pour in sugars, cinnamon, ground cloves, salt and nutmeg and stir to mix. Cook on low 10+ hours until apples are a deep brown color. Cool and use an immersion blender until desired consistency. Pack in small glass jars and refrigerate up to two weeks. Make best friends with your neighbors by giving a couple jars away. 


Friday, September 25, 2015

Friday Five

1.
OMG, y'all. These. Pajams. I was excited when I ordered them for Parker, but it's a whole new level of cuteness once they are on! Bonus, they are glow-in-the-dark! Trust me, your little one needs a pair.

Toddler Halloween Pajams

2.
I mentioned my Triple Sec purchase awhile back, and my ho-hum opinion of it. Well, after a few weeks, I realized why I wasn't loving it. I had gotten the impression from other reviews that this was a replacement for a dry shampoo. And for some gals, maybe it is. For me, I need a true dry shampoo if I'm working with day old (or two day old!) hair. When I used this as a dry shampoo, it made a hot sticky mess. I did discover that the Triple Sec is an amazing refresher/booster, though! I have officially moved to the love, love, love camp.
3. 
We had a cool, rainy Monday morning here in Alabama this week so we busted out our rain boots. Mine of course fit, but lucky Parker, his were too small which means he needs a new pair! I splurged last year and purchased him his first pair of baby Hunters. Y'all, I don't even own Hunter rain boots. But these were so classic and adorable, I know he had to have them (plus, rainy Alabama gave him plenty of opportunities to wear them). Flash forward to this week - Parker was wearing them out and started saying that his toes hurt and that the boots were too small! I explained that his feet had grown, and he would beed a bigger pair. He then whispered Yellow rain boots? And my heart just melted. All day, sweet guy kept talking about yellow rain boots. And wouldn't you know, for some reason his size is impossible to find in the yellow Hunters! I've searched all the obvious online stores, plus the UK ones, and husby has scoured eBay. I spent an inordinate amount of time yesterday on the phone and on hold with any store in the area I thought might carry them, and it's like someone went out there and purchased every UK Size 6 yellow Hunter toddler boot in existence! Gah! But this Mamma is bound and determined to find them!
4.
You know I can't get enough of my beloved Pumpkin Spice Lattes. I've been blogging about them since 2009! That's dedication, yo. But Pumpkin Spice M&Ms? I just can't wrap my head around this. Every time I see them at Target, I internally say No, Thank You. I imagine they are like eating a candy covered Bath & Body Works candle. Is there anyone with me on this one?? I mean, look at the picture of the poor M&M on the packaging! That says it all right there ;)


5. 
Speaking of pumpkins, we scored one in this week's CSA box! Plus, my favorite fall squash, Delicata Squash! If you haven't cooked with these before, definitely be on the lookout for them this season. The skin is very thin (you can actually eat it) so they are much easier to handle and prepare than, say, a Butternut Squash. The taste is super creamy and rich, and I love them just simply roasted with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper. I guess you'll know where to find me this weekend - in the kitchen! 

Happy Friday!




Thursday, September 24, 2015

Happy Fall, Y'all!

We love, loved our five years in Arizona, but Scottsdale had two seasons: deathly hot, and picture perfect. Basically, half the year the temperatures were so high you would only go outside if you were walking to a car, building, or straight into a pool (100 degrees at 7am? You'll find that there). The rest of the year was ridiculously amazing. Sandals all winter, picnics in February, gorgeous and sunny every single day. But actual seasons? Not so much. Saguaro cactuses don't have leaves to change color. And while California kind of had seasons, it was nothing like what's coming here in Alabama. We are officially in our last "first" season living in the South: fall!

From what I hear, they do it up BIG in the South for fall. This photo was taken at our Seeds to Sprouts class back in August. August! And the Botanic Gardens was already starting to get all decked out with hay bales, pumpkins and scarecrows all over. We are headed back this Friday and I can't wait to see what it looks like now. 

Our CSA boxes have been reflecting the season change as well. Fall squash, sweet potatoes, October Beans, and... apples! Apples for days over here, y'all! Apple butter, applesauce, apple crisp, we are going to apple it up to bring in fall.

A walk through the farmer's market also just screams autumn. How fun are these gourds? Parker loved them almost as much as Mamma did so we just scooped some up to take home. I'm usually not a "fall" decorator, but I couldn't help it with these awesome little guys! We just had to have them. 


 And ohmyword, I was twelve kinds of excited to have my PSLs in autumn cups this week! Starbucks, you are making me swoon with these! Bonus, enjoying my fall coffee with my fall nails (if you know me, you know it's an essie color!).

Finally, with fall brings the new television seasons. Max and I are still without cable, and I must say it's refreshing! But we are totally going to be streaming these season premieres as soon as we can (I am a tad jealous for everyone else who gets to watch them tonight!). I love the whole TGIT theme, but Grey's Anatomy will always have a special place in my heart. It debuted fall 2005, soon after I had started grad school and I have so many memories of taking study breaks with my grad school besties and watching the show (this was Season One, so we are talking the Izzy and George days!). I was super sad to see both Christina (my favorite) and McDreamy leave the show, so I'm anxious to see how this season plays out!


Happy fall, y'all! 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Giveaway Wednesday - Lil Gadgets Winner!


Thank you to all who participated in the LilGadgets Giveaway! It was so much fun to read about all your tiny travelers!

And the winner of the LilGadgets Connect+ Headphones and
is...

Emily Cole!

(Husby watched me use Siri to randomly select a winner from the comments)



Congratulations, Emily! Please email me with the colors you would like and your headphone/carbuddy bundle will be on its way to you in no time! I hope your little one loves them as much as mine does.


Be on the lookout for another Giveaway Wednesday next week, everyone!
And...
Happy first day of fall, y'all!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Taco Tuesday - Sausage, Peppers & Onions Soft Tacos


Part of the fun of belonging to a CSA is the surprise of what's going to come in the weekly basket, and planning meals from there. For the past few weeks, we've been getting bell peppers and onions in every singly basket. Onions are easy to incorporate into almost any meal, but I realized that the peppers were stacking up. I needed a meal that would use those babies up. I came across this recipe for sausage, peppers and onions, and I'll admit, while I was happy to be incorporating those bell peppers, I wasn't too excited about the recipe. I had made peppers and onions in the past, but they were never super flavorful or memorable. Well, I realized what I was doing wrong. According to my recipe inspiration, the key is to let the peppers and onions simmer for at least 30 minutes. I hadn't been cooking mine nearly this long. Y'all, it makes all the difference. The onions start to caramelize and everything becomes twelve kinds of delicious. Husby raved about this meal. And why is it that the simplest meals always get the best reviews? I mean, this dinner could not be easier. So much that I have already made it twice. Twice! The first time I was not planning on blogging about it (remember my low expectations?), and the second time, I literally woke up on Taco Tuesday pumped because dinner was going to be so easy to make. Score. I made a few tweaks to the original recipe, but these tacos are still ridiculously easy to put together. 


First the shopping list: onion, peppers, and sausage. Done. Add in some flour tortillas since we are making these into tacos, and I served them with CSA fruit. The original recipe used a chicken sausage, but I thought a sweet breakfast-style pork sausage would be super tasty, so that's what I picked up. 


For the prep, dice the peppers and onions. Done. I mean, I was not lying when I said this meal was suuuuuper simple. (The original recipe uses more traditional large pieces of peppers and onions, but since these were for tacos, I diced mine up. I'm also feeding a two-year-old, so having bite-sized pieces also totally helps come dinner time). 

The original recipe calls for heating up oil in the skillet. I did this the first time I made the tacos and they mixture turned out pretty greasy (delicious, but greasy). So the next time, I skipped the oil and put the sausage straight into a heated skillet. After browning for five minutes, I added the peppers and onions, and (as per directions!) let them simmer a good 30 minutes. And that's preeeetty much it. You now have thirty minutes to do the dishes, clean the kitchen, and even dice up some fruit to go along with your tacos. We had a cantaloupe in that week's CSA box, yum. 


After 30 minutes, the sausage, peppers, and onions should be ready! The original recipe added some chopped basil at this point, and since our garden is still producing it, I added a handful as well. I then removed the skillet from the heat and stirred in some shredded jack cheese to melt (you can also top the tacos with cheese right before serving like the original recipe, but husby likes his cheese melted so I did it right in the pan). Then just stuff your warmed flour tortillas and you are good to go! Happy Taco Tuesday!



Sausage, Peppers & Onions Soft Tacos

Ingredients
1 onion, diced
2 bell peppers, diced
1 lb. country style or breakfast style pork sausage

for serving: flour tortillas, shredded jack cheese, basil, fruit

Directions
Brown sausage in pre-heated skillet for five minutes. Add onion and peppers and simmer on low/medium low for at least thirty minutes. Add a handful of chopped basil (optional) and remove from heat. Stir in a handful of shredded jack cheese and let melt. Stuff into warmed flour tortillas, and serve with fruit if desired. Make a note to make them on the next Taco Tuesday because they are so darn easy. 


Sunday, September 20, 2015

2.5



On Friday, this amazing little man turned two-and-a-half!


He's nothing but sweetness! And we are so in love with him.


This bundle of energy lives for being outside. Blowing bubbles, throwing balls, running around, coloring with chalk, watering the garden... he can't get enough.



Parker gets happy feet whenever I say it's time to cook. And by happy feet, I mean he literally runs in place, now while narrating "happy feet" out loud since we've labeled this move as such. But really, cooking/baking is just that much fun



Whether it's pouring juice in a blender for a smoothie, whisking eggs, measuring out sugar for cookies, or stirring up our dinner salad, little man has to be in on the action. And I just love working with my tiny sous chef! Mamma is cooking like Baby!



As soon as Daddy comes home from work each day, little man requests to go to the "ahh-fuh" (Max's office, which is really a euphemism for his packed-to-the gills lab). Here you'll find Parker "helping daddy work" - typing on the computer (EXIT is his favorite word to type), using the screwdriver, pressing buttons on the multimeter, turning on the instruments, "working on" wires... I mean, it's totally normal for two-year-old to be using a spectrum analyzer, riiiight? Perks of having a super scientist daddy! Parker knows this is where things go to get fixed. If we spot something broken, Parker will be quick to say it needs to go to the office to be fixed with a screwdriver (a screwdriver is the answer to everything for him!). The office is above the garage, so Parker also gets to peek in on Daddy's project car, Sandy (the 911 convertible). Max has been changing out the wiring so the car is completely taken apart, and Parker will point to all the pieces that need to go back in. Those seats go in Sandy! Sandy broken!

Parker is also quite fond of Mommy's craft room where we stamp, color, and paint. Parker explained, while watercoloring in the photo below, that he had made a windsock and radar (because he is obsessed with both - it could have something to to with the 38 flights he's been on and all the time spent looking around at airports!). 

Little man is serious about his reading! 

His most-read books are pretty much memorized, so he loves to finish off sentences when we read them aloud and also likes to paraphrase the pages in his books. His favorites vary, but Little Blue TruckThe Little Airplane, and Little Owl's Night are all usually daily reads. We've introduced the concept of authors and illustrators, but for now he thinks everything was written by Lois Lensky ... as in, he'll "read" the title of a book (he's just committed all of them to memory) then "read" the author and say "by Lois Lensky" - no matter how many Eric Carles or Nancy Tillmans we drop in, everything is still by Lois Lensky. It cracks me up, but also makes my heart burst with happiness and pride because he is such a reader already! He sleeps with at least three of four books every single night, and has been doing so for probably the last year. During bedtime last week, we turned off the lights and he just wasn't finished reading, so he took his book over to his EXIT sign (we use it as a night light) and was reading the pages in its glow, trying to get in every last tidbit he could. 


Parker loves to sing! My favorite is listening to him wake up in the morning, reciting BingoOld McDonaldTwinkle Twinkle Little StarFrère JacquesThe ABCsThe Wheels on the Bus, and his other favorites. If we're in a group, he'll often say "Everybody sing!" and will call you out if you aren't participating! Then he'll direct the song (for The Wheels on the Bus verses, he'll say "How about the windshield wipers!" "How about the motor!" prompting these verses next). Little Man is also a dancing machine. He specifically requests Sitting on the Dock of the Bay,  Pharrel's Happy, ZZ Top, or anything by Taylor Swift or Meghan Trainor (he's got quite the eclectic taste in music going on). Or, he'll just ask that we sing "No Treble All That Base" and then he'll get down! 


Parker's food preferences are pretty random as well. He's picked up the typical toddler finickiness - having big appetites some days and none the next. When he decides he does want to eat, he loves a fruit smoothie (we mix it up and we'll make it with green juice or spinach), and also favors cheese, french toast, and milk. He cycles through favorite fruits and veggies - cucumber and raspberries usually show up most often on the "like it" list. He will totally surprise us out of the blue with loving very non-traditional toddler foods as well... sushi? Couldn't get enough. We had to order extra unagi. We explained it was eel, and he was totally for it. Capers? Smoked salmon and cream cheese? Yes, yes, yes. It's like he has the palette of a forty-year-old sometimes! He's also a big fan of Chia seeds, and loves to mix them in yogurt. And, he's inherited his Mamma's love for ice cream :)


Other favorites include snuggling, hotel lobbies, being tickled (he'll request "tickle baby!"), general horsing around (he loves when Daddy hangs him upside down), trains, elevators,  and getting cake pops at Starbucks. We conveniently have a Starbucks in the Target we frequent, and little man perks up when we enter, always requesting "Milk aaaaaaand a cake pop?"




Playing "pretend" has also become a big part of Parker's day recently! It's so much fun to watch. We'll be at home and he'll proclaim: Being like teacher! or Being lifeguard! or Driving! Driving monorail!, basically emulating all of these people (the teacher at our Botanic Gardens classes, the Lifeguard at the pool, the Seattle monorail driver). 



Television: We continue to provide Sweet P with a television-free environment. This includes time on iPhones or iPads, so it makes them big treats while flying or occasionally if we're dining out at a nice restaurant (because Parker would basically like to do anything but sit these days!).

Colors: Parker can identify all colors of the rainbow (though pink and purple still get mixed up a little), plus black and brown. He seems to like the color orange the best right now - if he's given an option lately the choice is always orange!

ABC's and 123s: Parker has been obsessed with letters for as long as I can remember. He's directed his own learning just by being curious about them. Parker can identify all 26 uppercase letters and many lowercase.  He can spell Parker, Klein, Exit, Yield, and Stop, and will randomly impress/surprise us doing things like pointing out an H somewhere and saying "H like Home Goods!" He counts to his teens, and identifies lots of numerals. He loves to point out the numbered registers at Target - Seven is open! Five is closed! His favorite register is eighteen. I'm not sure why he latched on to this number (possibly because he knows his birthday is March 18th?), but it's totally his favorite. He will exclaim "Eighteen open!!" if he sees the light on and insist we go to that register; it's adorable. If it's closed, he says "Maybe next time!"

Other gems that make us laugh:

(After Mamma brings in a shipping box from the front porch)
Open box with scissors! Only grown-ups! Get ooooolder. 

Hey Babes!
Parker will call this out to get my attention or Max's, obviously he's heard us using the nickname!

Meghan Trainor have a seat. Sitting by Meghan Trainor! 
(Parker at Starbucks, talking to his beloved Meghan Trainor CD case)

Need screwdriver!
(For anything that's broken)

Oh, thank you!
(When he delivers something.) 

 We just can't wait to see what lies ahead!

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