Friday, May 29, 2015

Weekend ready

Let me just announce that four-day work weeks are amazing. Can't they always be like this!? Not only that, our sunny and warm weather was back this week, and is looking like it will stick around for the weekend - win!! We don't have any plans this weekend, so I'm hoping we can relax in our backyard while the kids splash around in the kiddie pool (and maybe if we're really lucky, Grant and I can even enjoy a festive cocktail).

Here's what I've been enjoying this week ...

Sunshine + Treats! One day this week I needed some fresh air, so I whipped into Whole Foods, got two macaroons and left my office in exchange for an hour of work outside at the nearby Starbucks! It was heavenly. 

Not to mention, who knew Whole Foods' macaroons would be SO amazing?! Oozing chocolatey goodness - such a fun little treat!

Birthdays. Earlier this week I posted a recap of Lila's 4th (tears!!!) birthday, as well as a recipe for the Elsa Frozen birthday cake I made for her (#remindmetobuyacakenextyear). If you have any Frozen fans in your house, and you're more adept at baking than I am, this is a fun cake to try!!

Berries. For the last two summers we've grown raspberries and strawberries in our yard. Lila loves helping pick and even though not very many berries ever make it inside the house (we seem to eat more than we put in our bowls!), we love it! Last summer we also planted some little blueberry plants and earlier this week I noticed their little buds! I'm hoping we can get a few before they are eaten by birds (apparently a common problem), but we have a little netting that'll hopefully protect them. Look how cute!

Wagon Rides. We never got a double stroller and sometimes in the evenings Lila doesn't really want to walk to the park, so we use this old wagon Grant got from a co-worker! They LOVE it! We load up some snacks and park toys and head out. Owen especially thinks it's just the best ever - he gets to be a big kid and sit by Lila! Also - how cute is his "cheeeese" face (full of graham crackers bunnies)?! 

Hope you have a great weekend!!! If you need me, I'll be outside with my feet in the kiddie pool!!


Thursday, May 28, 2015

Aquarium fun

It's a joke among our friends and family how often we go to our local zoo, but it's a great place for the kids to run around and once you've been there enough you don't feel like you have to cram seeing everything into one visit. But! There's another zoo and aquarium about an hour from our house that we'd never been to and they have a South Pacific shark / tropical fish exhibit that we'd been wanting to see! We decided to make the trek last weekend despite the long drive. Sometimes an hour car ride with our crew isn't very fun but they did pretty good. Family selfie first of course!

First stop - sting rays! You could reach in and touch them, which Lila was not sure about to start, but we gathered our courage and touched the pretty blue polka dotted one below. 

Then off to the tropics! SHAARKKKK! I'd never seen a shark before! This was a small one - but still!

Owen kept shouting "KARK, KARK!" as they swam by ... 

I LOVE tropical fish! Here's Lila pointing out that she found "Nemo." 

We also saw giant walruses and a Polar Bear too! 

"Cheeeeese" from the boys! 

We made a list of activities we want to do this summer, so it was fun to kick off the first "long weekend" of summer (ok it's technically not summer yet) with a new activity. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Elsa birthday cake

I mentioned yesterday that Lila wanted an "Elsa Cake" for her birthday, and after seeing this video on YouTube (via Pinterest), I decided to go for it myself. All in all, it turned out OK, Lila was thrilled and our guests were impressed, but I realized I am NOT a cake decorator and think I'll probably just BUY them in the future!!! 

To start, I bought an Elsa doll from the local store ($9). Then, make three cakes - two 8" rounds and a "dome" cake using a 1 quart Pyrex oven safe bowl. I used this recipe for the cakes and used boxed Duncan Hines "ultra moist" chocolate cake. For me, one box made all three. I baked the two rounds together at 350 for about 30 minutes (check the back of your box for cook times). The "dome" I lowered the heat a bit (per the video's instructions) and cooked for longer. 

While your cakes are cooling, make your frosting. I used this recipe for the frosting. I mixed in a few drops of blue food coloring until it made the perfect "Elsa color." 

When the cakes are cool, you can assemble. I put a generous "layer" of icing between each layer. Top with the "dome." Then cut a small circle hole in the top just big enough to fit Elsa (don't worry if it's messy at this point).

Then came my panic moment. When I'd made the cakes, I went against the directions and used a 1.5 quart Pyrex instead of 1 quart, which made for a wider, lower dome - apparently that was a bad idea, because when I went to stick the Elsa doll into the cake before decorating it, it only came up to her mid-thighs! EEK! I went into panic mode, thinking I'd need to bake another layer to raise it up, until Grant said - "can't you just rip her legs off?" Knowing Lila already had the same Elsa doll and that I wouldn't have time to bake, cool and decorate the cake before our guests arrived, off came the legs (#poorElsa).

Once she was "firmly" in place (sans legs), I began to decorate. I frosted the cake using the same frosting I used for the middle layers. Then I added a bit of green food coloring to the leftover icing to make a slightly darker color. Then I used a cake decorating tip to make little flowers around the rim and around Elsa's waist. 

Then I used a white icing gel pen from the store to make little snowflakes and "snow." It was far from perfect, but I "let it go" ... (I had to!) 

Ta da! Elsa and her "cake" dress. 

Here's what a cut piece looked like. It was DELICIOUS cake. I just needed a few adult beverages once it was completed. 

Recipe for Elsa Birthday Cake: 
1 Elsa doll (found at any toy store, Target, etc. Mine was $9 at Walmart)
1 box of chocolate cake mix
2 small boxes of instant chocolate pudding
1/2 cup of veggie oil
1 1/4 cups of water
4 eggs
1 cup of chocolate chips (plus more for garnish...I used the mini kind, but use what you have on hand)
Bake according to box directions and video directions via the links above. Let cool before decorating (I actually cooked mine the night before and assembled the next day).
Icing: 8 oz of cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 13 oz jar marshmallow cream
4 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoon vanilla
Blue and green food coloring (add a few drops at a time for your desired color). 


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Lila's birthday Weekend!

Our sweet Lila turned FOUR this weekend!! It seems like we've known her forever but also that it's flown by. We had a family party for her on Saturday and she had the best time. All of her favorites were in attendance, she'd requested her favorite dinner - rice & beans from our local Mexican restaurant (which we paired with carne asada tacos), and an "Elsa cake" for dessert. I went out on a Pinterest-fueled whim and decided to make the cake. I'll share the recipe tomorrow, but in short I've decided to purchase birthday cakes in the future (let's just say there were a few small snafus in the cake process, including Grant having to rip the doll's legs off ... more on that later!). 

We did a little video with her the night before her birthday, asking her all sorts of questions, including ...

Favorite Food: Ice cream, and rice & beans
Best Friend: Mama (I didn't pay her to say that!) 
What do you want to be when you grow up: A mama, because I'll be getting married soon, at 15. (#um...)
Favorite color: pink, purple and gold
Favorite thing to play: school and house 

The other thing she wanted to do for her birthday weekend was to go to the beach. Unfortunately, despite all the AMAZING weather we've been having, it was cloudy and cold all weekend. We'd even bought a new backyard pool in anticipation of the long weekend, but the kids used it for about 10 minutes before wanting to come in and take a hot bath instead. 

So, on Monday we decided to go for it anyway and headed to Lake Washington. As soon as we stepped out of the car, we knew it wouldn't quite be the "beach day" we'd been hoping for. Here's how we felt about the weather (even Owen's little tongue is sticking out!)  

Lila was less than thrilled ... 

Although it has a bad reputation for always being rainy, Seattle is actually usually more like this - grey and cloudy.

I tried to wear festive garb for Memorial Day, including my stars sweatshirt and red saltwater sandals, but was definitely regretting the shorts as soon as we stepped out of the car. Brr!

We did manage to BBQ all of our dinners though, despite the cold.

I'm glad to see the rest of the week is supposed to be sunny and 80s here! Bring on the sunshine! Hope you had a great weekend!


Friday, May 22, 2015

Long weekend ahead!

Happy Friday and Memorial Day Weekend!!  It's been a crazy week around here ... is it a full moon or something!? Two nights this week Owen's had a total meltdown over bedtime and Lila's been a bit off too, I think wanting more Mama time (tear!).

But, I think the long weekend is just what we need. PLUS! Tomorrow our sweet girl turns FOUR!!!! We are having a little family party  (Frozen-themed of course ...) and looking forward to lots of fun.

She was thrilled this morning when she got to bring cupcakes to school for her school party!! 

Speaking of all things sweet, have you tried the new "mini frapp" yet? I surprised Lila after school this week with a strawberries & cream version, and snagged a coffee one for me and they were quite delish ... And was nice to have the smaller size rather!

And since we can't forget this sweet boy ... "Hiiiiiiii!" (his new favorite word) from Owen! 

Hope you have a great weekend!!


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Working from Home

One of the great things about my job is that I can work from home pretty much whenever I want. I normally only work from home one day a week at most, since my Mom is there with Owen, but it's a fabulous option to save on commuting time and also offers the ability to get a few things done here and there around the house. 

And of course, there are other benefits ... 
I love working for myself from home. I get along with everyone in the office, I can show up in pajamas, and I always win Employee of the month.

Another reason I don't work from home as regularly as I could is because our "office" is now Owen's room. Meaning, our office stuff is now set up in the garage. Grant has no problem working in there, but I generally set up shop on our couch for dining room table. 

Recently, I detailed what a work from home day looked like for me. I had early calls, so Grant took Owen over to my Mom's house so he could play over there for the day. 

Here was my rough schedule:

7:30 a.m. - join a two hour conference call. Make sure I have lots of coffee. Banana bread doesn't hurt either. Start to-do lists. 

8:30 a.m. - still on conference calls. Don't I look so cute in my headset!?

9:30 a.m. Conference call ends. Time for a bathroom break and to throw in a little laundry (benefit!)

11:00 a.m. - Working away. Now that my calls are done for the time being, I'm able to turn on a bit of background TV. 

12:00 p.m. Lunch break! Almost time to start into another three-hour session of phone calls, so it's a quick lunch.

2:00 p.m. Quick break means time to throw dinner in the crockpot. Taco soup for the win! (Since I started it so late this time, I cranked it to "high" so it only had to cook four hours instead of the normal eight on low).

3:00 p.m. Starting to go cross-eyed. 

4:00 p.m. Time for a pick-me-up! Costco chocolate chunk cookie (and more coffee) it is!

4:30 p.m. - Heading out the door to pick up Lila and then Owen! 

5:30 p.m. - Return home, play, and have dinner. Here's a final look at the taco soup!

So, there you have it! Do you ever work from home? Do you like it? I'd love to know ...


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

#Current Loves

Love. Love is all you need. Watermelon.

There is nothing I don't LOVE about the above picture. We've been doing a lot of loving and laughing around our house lately, too. The kids have been so goofy and now like to make each other laugh! I hope they are always BFFs! I'll be savoring this time when they don't bicker yet. Can I pretend they never will? Yes, I think so.

Here are a few things I've been loving lately! 

+ New Reads. On vacation I read two (!!!!!) books. Yes, two books. Novels. I love to read and used to read so much, but lately I'm lucky to sit down and read for any length of time before falling asleep. I read "The Girl on the Train" by Paula Hawkins first - it's really good, a thriller and kind of dark (aka not chick lit!) but if you liked "Gone Girl" or mystery type books, it's great! Highly recommend.

I also read "Me Before You" by Jojo Moyes. It also also equally as good. It's a bit sad - it's about a young gal who gets a job caring for a quadriplegic (and duh, they fall in love). The ending wasn't what I wanted, but it was realistic. I also highly recommend and am excited about reading one of her other books! I love discovering new authors.

+ New Jewels. My mom and I popped into the Kate Spade boutique in Palm Springs and let me tell you - I wanted EVERYTHING!!! I held back and bought two small pieces of jewelry, but I wanted their bathing suits, dresses, springy purses - all of it!! Highly recommend checking out their bathing suits if you need a new one this summer. They had some really cute/well constructed one and two pieces. Next year! I got a "spade" bangle in white, and also the gumdrop earrings in bright green. Love them both!

+ New Cocktails. I can't wait for summer when we can continue our creative cocktails that we had on vacation! I featured a delicious citrus sangria last week (definitely check it out!!!), but my other favorite was an amazingly fresh paloma with fresh grapefruit juice, lime juice and a splash of OJ (you can find many paloma recipes here). 

Here's the recipe for ours:

Fresh Grapefruit Palomas for Two 
1/2 cup Tequila (make sure not to go for the bottom shelf stuff!)
1/2 cup FRESH grapefruit juice
2 TBL fresh OJ (you can leave this out if you don't have any)
1/2 cup club soda
1 TBL lime juice
1 tsp sugar (plus extra if you want a cute sugared rim for your glass)

Mix all together with a cocktail shaker and serve over ice!


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Salmon Caesar Salad with homemade dressing

We're all about simple dinners around here (especially for busy nights after work). Recently we had some leftover salmon and made a quick and easy salmon caesar salad with homemade dressing. The dressing only took a few minutes to whip up and made for an easy, delicious dinner. 

I love to make our own salad dressings. I never knew how simple it was to make them, and they always taste so much better than the store-bought ones (which also seem to be FILLED with chemicals and unpronounceable ingredients). 

Homemade Caesar Salad Dressing
1 cup mayo
1/2 cup grated parmesan
2 garlic cloves (if you aren't going to use a blender at the end, mince them very finely)
1 tsp anchovy paste (most grocery stores have this by the condiments or canned tuna)
3 TBL lemon juice
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
Black pepper to taste

Add all to a blender and blend to desired consistency. Let sit in the fridge for 20-30 minutes before serving. 

For our salads, I chopped two romaine hearts into bite sized pieces, washed and added to a large serving bowl. Add garlic croutons and more grated parm. Top with a dollop or two of your homemade dressing and mix well. Top with salmon, grilled chicken or simply eat plain! Delish!! 

PS - make sure to try this dressing too - homemade blue cheese dressing

Monday, May 18, 2015


Happy Monday! I'm sitting here wondering where the weekend went - it truly flew by, leaving a sink full of dishes, a messy house and me needing a nap ... But those are usually signs that lots of fun was had, right?

We had early birthday celebrations for Lila and her cousin yesterday, since their birthdays are a week apart. Poor Lila came down with a fever Saturday but tried to rally and had a good time despite not feeling great. Owen was a total clown as usual though, squealing with delight and double fisting pieces of cake. 

Lila perked right up when she saw her Auntie had brought her a Frozen cake with Elsa!!!! 

Owen couldn't get enough of the blower horns ... he'd blow them and LAUGH! So cute.

Then all the kids decided it would be hilarious to attack Papa with the blowers! 

The rest of the weekend we hung at home and relaxed in our backyard. Each of the kids has their own "kiddie" sized lawn chair this year. Here's Lila putting her feet up after a long day!

And me and Owen saying "CHEEEESE!" (yes, I'm crammed into Lila's chair, and yes, Grant dressed Owen ... haha). 

Happy Monday!!
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