Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin

I must be crazy.  I joined a second book club with my fellow September 2008 brides when I barely have time to finish the one book a month I've commited to in my other online book club with my fellow March 2010 mommies.  This month I actually pulled it off and read two books in a month.  Incredible.  Of course it involved a few late nights and a rainy weekend of reading every chance I got, but I did it and thoroughly enjoyed it.  The first book I'll review this month was your classic chic lit novel.  I loved it.  I can't wait for the movie to come out on Netflix even though I know the movies based on books are never the same.

My two favorite characters (Ethan and Hillary) in this book actually weren't the main characters in the story, but both played fairly important roles and added to the dynamic of the story.  I grew to feel sorry for the main character, Rachel, and loathe her self centered, materialistic friend, Darcy.  Their relationship reminded me a lot of one that I had where I played the part of Rachel (except for the sleeping with BFF's fiance part) and it even opened up some old feelings that I had buried away.

I won't go into too much detail about the story for those of you who have not yet read the book or seen the movie, but the basic story is about a woman, Rachel, who slept with her best friend's fiance after her 30th birthday party. The story tells of their affair, the feelings that went along with it, and how they lived happily ever after- or not. You'll have to read to find out!

Do I think that it was okay for Rachel to sleep with her best friend's fiance no matter how vile she was?   No.  Having been cheated on before, I can empathisize with how it feels to be betrayed.  I wasn't even engaged to the guy and it was awful.  We were living together at the time, but I can't imagine how awful I would've felt if we had been engaged.  Darcy lost two people in this story.  Her fiance and her best friend.  In a way, Rachel was no better than her "friend" in that she commited the ultimate betrayal.

Would I chose true love over a friendship, though?  It depends.  If my friend didn't approve of my love interest and it was a healthy relationship I probably would chose love.  I'm a romantic and I feel that if my friendship was genuine, they would love me unconditionally and offer support with my choice in a mate.  If they had a valid reason to not support the relationship (i.e. abuse, past knowledge of said boy's behavior that was damning) then I would hope they would explain themselves and we'd go from there.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Pork with Spicy Orange Cranberry Sauce

YUM to the E is this recipe from my new diabetic cook book!  A.R. was recently diagnosed as prediabetic/diabetic and he has had to get serious about making changes in his diet to regulate his blood sugars.  It's been a hard adjustment for him, but he's making progress and since he now has to take his blood sugar levels 5 times a week (three nights and two mornings) it has helped to see how various foods effect the readings.  I received this cook book from a friend and coworker of mine who is also diabetic as a pleasant surprise one day.  I'm really greatful to her for the tips and advice she has given to me as I am the primary chef in our household and I prefer to keep A.R. around a lot longer to watch Mariela grow up with all his limbs in tact.  His doctor scared him into taking positive steps forward by saying he literally is risking limbs now if he doesn't start taking care of himself- which translates to him not being able to walk Mariela down the aisle one day in his head.  I'll take the scare tactic since nothing I've said has seemed to sink in!  Making changes in my cooking hasn't been difficult yet, but I still have a lot to learn about it.  So far, A.R. doesn't have to take insulin, but we'll know more about that and his prognosis after his follow-up next month with his primary care physician.

Pork with Spicy Orange Cranberry Sauce

Ground Turkey with Potatoes and Spring Peas

This recipe was a-mazing and husband approved.  I liked it as well and there were hardly any leftovers for my lunch the next day because A.R. chowed down.  If you haven't had a chance yet, check out for more amazing recipes.  Thank you, Morgan, for sharing this site with me!

Ground Turkey with Potatoes and Spring Peas

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Operation Garden 2011

This year's garden is off to a slow start thanks to all the rain and thunderstorms we've been having lately. My in-laws decided not to plant this year as my father-in-law was visiting Puerto Rico during prime planting/tilling time. They did plant two little bean seeds in our garden, but he didn't even plant anything in his own yard this year. That means we have our whole HUGE garden to ourselves with room to plant whatever we want.

It was much easier to do the tilling this year since we had the garden in the same spot last year.  We rented a tiller from Home Depot for a day and after a slight learning curve, A.R. started tilling away. We plan to buy our own tiller in the fall or later this summer when they go on sale now that we'll have a shed to store it in (look for a post on that coming soon!). We'll till again in the fall before the winter comes to work some fertilizer into the soil in hopes that it'll make spring preparations a bit easier next year and to replenish any lost nutrients from having the garden in the same spot two years in a row.

This year we are doing things a bit differently with the planting as well.  I decided to buy a Farmer's Almanac and use it to plant my seeds by the phases of the moon.  Farmers have been doing it for centuries, so why not give it a shot?!  I started my seeds indoors on May 16th, which according to the charts in the Almanac was prime planting time.  I've also moved them outdoors and planted in the ground during June's prime planting days.  I still have just under half the plants to transplant, but right now our garden is too muddy with all the storms we've been having.  I'm hoping to get the last of them in this Wednesday and I'm praying that the plants I already have in the ground don't rot or float away!

A.R. tilled the garden once with the rented tiller and to do the rows he tilled again using a tiller attachment that goes with his Ryobi weed wacker.  That thing is amazing!  It has all sorts of attachments you can get for it and has earned the money we've spent on it and the attachments tenfold.  We switched up the rows this year and sowed the rows the opposite way and divided our garden in half.  I'll have to take a photo once it's all planted. :)

Now, for the great list of what we've planted: tomato, potato, carrots, beans, sunflowers (to attract pollinating insects and for the seeds), acorn squash, yellow (summer) squash, butternut squash, zucchini, green beans, cantaloupe, watermelon, cucumbers, and broccoli.  Here is hoping we reap the fruits and veggies of our labor.  We're hoping to harvest enough that we can share with all of Alexi's family and even some coworkers, too.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Got cake?

I had the opportunity to take a stab at my second fondant cake as a gift to my good friend who is having a baby in July.  I helped host her baby shower recently and she was gracious (brave) enough to let me make her cake.  She picked out a cannoli cake with cannoli filling as her flavors and left the rest up to me.  I was a little nervous as it would be the first cake I made that strangers would actually see and be able to critique.  Her whole shower theme was puppies and it was a neutral baby shower as they opted to not find out the baby's sex.  I made the cake to look like the puppy on her invites, banner, and thank you stickers and I have to say it turned out pretty well.  I was quite pleased with it.
The cake the night I made it, with sample invite to the right.
My second attempt at making the rolled marshmellow fondant from scratch and covering the cake went fairly easy with no setbacks and it also took a lot less time because the cake was smaller than the one I did for M's birthday.  I am still bad at planning out how much batter I need for my cake pans and had to mix an extra batch of cake batter.  DOH!  I also had to run out and buy more ingredients to make the buttercream frosting because I ran out of butter and eggs.  I know I'll get better with that in time, though.  This time around I also tried a new buttercream icing recipe thanks to the recommendation of a friend (thank you, Brie!) and it turned out fantastic.  It took a bit longer to make, but the results were well worth it.  I made a Vanilla Swiss Merengue Buttercream recipe based off a recipe on Annie's Eats blog.  I have dreams about licking the frosting spoon after I was done. :)
On display at the shower
The cake was made using two 14" round cake pans.  I sliced them each in half and made her cake into three layers (discarding the fourth layer).  Before I put the filling in, I stacked the three layers on one another and cut them to match the puppy's head shape on the shower invite.  Yes, I did it free style without a template...who knew I was such an artiste?!  Once the basic shape was cut, I added the cannoli filling between the layers, covered with the buttercream, and then covered it all with white rolled fondant.  It only took me one try to get the fondant right this time. Woot!  Then, I decorated the cake with fondant I had dyed with brown food coloring gel.  All decorations on the cake are made of fondant, except for the eyes, nose, and mouth which are black icing.  The cake looked so cute and the mom-to-be loved it.  She even announced before she cut it that I made it from scratch.  The best part was the comments the shower guests made about how delicious it was.
And another view...
Now, I want to take Wilton cake decorating classes to perfect my new found skills. :)

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Come a knockin'

After 2 1/2 years in our beautiful home, we have slowly begun to make small improvements (3 rooms have paint now!  Well, really 2 rooms and a 1/4- more to come on that) and changes to make it ours.  The latest change was something I've been wanting since our first Spring in our home when it would've been wonderful to have a cross breeze from the front porch into the kitchn.  We finally ordered and installed a screen door!

A.R. and I picked out a door we liked at Home Depot after doing a lot of window shopping and finally custon ordered it when our tax return from Uncle Sam made its appearance.  Ordering it was the easy part.  Having the time to actually install it was the tricky part.  I think it sat in our garage for a good month before A.R. attempted to put it up!  He was determined to do it himself and not ask his brothers for help.  It probably took him a little bit longer than planned (a full week), but it is installed and works great.  He even took the time to spray paint two air spring closures hunter green to match the door and installed them so that it self-closes (a must with dogs and children ready to escape in an instant).
Checking out the new door on tippy toes!
Our dogs and M all love looking out the door now when it's open, but they haven't stayed there long enough for me to snag a photo.  Yet! :)

Friday, June 03, 2011

Zoom, zoom!

I was completely surprised on Mother's Day when a special package got delivered by the USPS (on a Sunday, no less!) and A.R. helped M "carry" a small box to me.  I was even more surprised to find a new camera lens, a UV filter lens cover, and a butterfly lens hood in the box!  This is coming from the child who seemingly rolls her eyes (She would if she knew how, anyway.  I just know it.) when I pull the camera out and the husband who rolls his eyes and sighs when I ask if I can just "take one more picture. Hold still."  I was so surprised, I was speechless and all I could do was hug the two of them close as A.R. fumbled for words and kept saying he hoped it was the right one and if I didn't like it we could exchange it for a different lens.  Um, no.  It's perfect dear husband and so are you and our beautiful daughter. 

Well, enough of the sappy stuff.  My loves bought me a Canon EF-S 55-250mm  f /4-5.6 IS zoom lens for Mother's Day.  We have an assortment of wildlife in our backyard that I haven't been able to capture on film and after missing yet another coyote sighting, A.R. got the idea (all by himself!) to get me a zoom lens.  Our property backs up to State protected land and we've seen turkeys, coyotes, and fox out there.  One of our neighbors even claims he saw a bear.  YIKES, to that one!  I'm loving this new lens so far and can't wait to practice more with it now that I'm brave enough to take my camera (Canon Rebel T2i) out of auto mode setting.

Here is a shot with my kit lens (EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS) of a turkey on the edge of our property line.  It is actually a lot closer than it appears:

And here is a shot a couple weeks ago of a fox in the field behind our house with my new lens zoomed to 250mm.  The fox is actually in the field pictured above, about halfway to the row of bushes/trees you see in the background.