Friday, October 30, 2009

Three-Cheese Chicken Penne Pasta

We tried a new recipe this week and it was absolutely delicious.  This will definitely be added to our family's recipe book.  It was super easy, healthy and it's made with ingredients that we almost always have in the house.  What more can you ask for?

Three-Cheese Chicken Penne Pasta
1-1/2 cups multi-grain penne pasta, uncooked
1 pkg. (9 oz.) fresh spinach leaves
1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
1 tsp. dried basil leaves
1 jar spaghetti sauce - I used Bertolli's Vidalia Onion with Roasted Garlic
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
2 oz. cream cheese, cubed
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
2 Tbsp. grated parmesan cheese

Cook pasta as directed on package, adding spinach to the boiling water the last minute.
Cook and stir chicken and basil in large skillet sprayed with cooking spray on medium-high heat 3 minutes.  Stir in spaghetti sauce and tomatoes; bring to boil.  Simmer on low heat 3 minutes or until chicken is done.  Stir in cream cheese.
Drain pasta mix; return to pan.  Stir in chicken mix and 1/2 cup mozzarella.  Spoon into 2-qt. casserole or  8-inch square baking dish.
Bake for 20 minutes @ 375 degrees.  Top with remaining cheeses and bake another 3 minutes or until mozzarella cheese is melted.

Ella Is Just So Silly

Since this blog is first and foremost a family journal for us I wanted to share some of the funny things Ella has done lately.  She is almost two and becoming quite a character.  In the last couple of weeks her vocabulary has just taken off and she is starting to say things so much clearer... at least I can understand her... usually. :)  She isn't using complete sentences yet, but she is starting to pair words together, which makes it so much easier to understand what she is trying to get across to us.  She also has so much energy and is so inquisitive about everything around her.  While I love that she is so eager to learn about and discover the world around her I'm not quite sure that I'm ready to give her that much freedom.  Where do you find the balance of letting your child learn and explore while also keeping them safe and keeping your sanity?  I must confess that Andrew is the better parent when it comes to giving Miss Ella Bella her independence.  For me I think I have a harder time with it because 1) I have two children to keep an eye on and 2) I still think of her as my baby girl and it makes me sad to let her grow up too much too fast.  One of these days I hope to find a good balance, but until then I'll just keep plugging away as that parent who smothers their children.

Some funny and absolutely adorable things that Ella says:
"futterfly" = butterfly
"shew fly" = she says this to any flying bug such as bees, wasps, flies, etc. while swatting her hand at them
"boon mommy, boon" = balloon, oh my heck, she can spot balloons anywhere, on the ceiling at the grocery store, flying in the sky, in the background on t.v., you name it and she'll spot it
"airpane" = she loves to see airplanes and will always point them out for you
"Dubbin" = she loves her cousin Dublin
"Nach" = her favorite Uncle Zach
"Mommy Baby v. Ella Baby" = that is how you determine when she's talking about  her brother or her doll

She loves anything that provides transportation as well.  She insists on pointing out every bike, boat, bus, train, airplane, car and truck and she says everything with a New York accent... it brings a smile to my face just thinking about it.

Ella also gets very excited for things that she loves.  For example, we had to go to the mall a couple nights ago and since Andrew was with us (and we forgot the double stroller) Ella got to walk.  When we got in the store she was running from one thing to the next telling us what everything was with such enthusiasm.  Shoes mommy, tie daddy, sunglasses, necklace, etc... this occurred with everything throughout the store right down to the mannequins hands.  On our way back out we, I mean I, was perusing the munchkins clothes.  I found a dress that had some cats appliqued on the front and when I held it up to show Ella she said "Whoa!!!  Kitty, kitty mommy"!  I couldn't stop laughing, it was one of the funniest things I've ever heard her say.  Of course she came running up to the dress after and thought that was just the coolest thing ever.  I didn't even know she knew the word "whoa".  I think it'll be one of those times that's burned into my mommy brain forever.

Anyways, Ella is just getting so big and independent and giving us lots of laughs every day.  We love her so much and can't imagine life without her.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


We are home, unpacked and settling back into life at home once again.  We had a great time in Florida and were able to enjoy some beautiful weather before coming home to snow.  We soaked up some sun at Fort Myers Beach and a beach in Sanibel.  We also got to tour through Thomas Edison's winter home while enjoying the beautiful grounds with over a thousand different types of plants and flowers.  We visited the Manitee Park, but didn't see any manitees. :(  I guess it isn't cool enough yet.  We did see lots of butterflies though so Ella was quite happy with that trip.  We also did a driving tour through the wildlife refuge in Sanibel.  We saw some racoons, birds and lots of jumping fish, but no alligators.  On Sunday Andrew and I got to go ocean kayaking to some orange mangroves, which were pretty cool.  We also got to enjoy the pool and hot tub quite a bit.  Thanks Granddad and GrandPam for the great trip, the amazing food and the free babysitting.

Ella's "Dripping Mud Sand Castle"

Ella's baby had to go for a walk on the beach :)

My Dream House on the Canal

I tried sending Andrew a message, but he wouldn't listen

Mr. Handsome really enjoyed the grounds of Edison's winter home

Edison's Winter Home

Ella was so excited to see so many "futterflies"

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

... And What We Came Home To

Well I showed you what the weather was like when we left on vacation last Wednesday.  It was beautiful fall weather and the yard was looking like something out of a movie.  Well we got back late last night and we had of course had another change in weather.  That's the problem with fall around here, it doesn't last very long.  It was cold and stormy all the night.  The wind was blowing really hard and we knew that a storm was rolling in.  Well this is what we woke up to this morning.  Ughhh!  In the five years we've lived here I can't remember the last time we had snow before Halloween.  Don't get me wrong, I like the snow, but I usually prefer that it come after Thanksgiving and if I really had my way it would only stick around for the month of December; just long enough to have a white Christmas.  Oh well.  I guess winter is well on its way now.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Sudden Change in Weather

On Monday we had a sudden change in weather.  We've been having nice fall weather, but on Monday it turned to cool fall weather.  Since this change our yard has undergone an amazing transformation.  I thought I would share our beautiful yard with you.  Enjoy!  

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Twelve Weeks of Christmas

Okay, I know I'm a couple weeks late with this, but I just found it so cut me a little slack please.  It's Twelve Weeks of Christmas.  To any of you that don't like to think about Christmas until after Thanksgiving, well you'll just have to bare with me because I love Christmas and twelve weeks of it just sounds like too much fun.  If you love Christmas as much as I do then join me over at Red Writing for twelve weeks of Christmas.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Another Mini Photo Shoot

The weather on Monday afternoon was absolutely beautiful so the kids and I enjoyed a little time in the yard in between packing for our Florida trip.  They were both very happy and photogenic that day so here are some fun pics for our family.  

Ella found my sunglasses in my purse and thought she would wear them outside... this is how I found her playing in the backyard.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Saturday... Busy as Usual

On Saturday we took the family to a Historic Farm nearby.  They have seasonal activities throughout the year and with fall upon us they have wagon rides, a corn maze and pumpkins for the kids.  Each year they've done something different and I've always wanted to go, but we've just never been able to squeeze it in before so this year we put it on the calendar and made the time.  We had so much fun and Ella had a blast running around.  Ella played at the duck ponds, fed the chickens, petted the cows and saw too many other animals to mention.  We got to go on a wagon ride, which Ella wasn't super fond of because she had to sit down, wander around the corn/hay maze for little kids and at the end she picked out her very own pumpkin.  When we were finished with everything Ella got to do her very favorite thing of all and run races with her daddy on the grassy field.  We had a great time and will definitely be going back again.  We'll have to check out their winter activities.  After our day at the farm we were pretty hungry so we went to Market Street for dinner.  It's a great seafood restaurant and it's always a treat to go there since they're a little more on the pricey side.  Fortunately, we had a gift card that Andrew won at work for being on the winning team of his firms golf tournament.  Woohoo!  Plus it's my birthday today and we wanted to celebrate with a nice dinner.  

I have to add this picture of Andrew's handiwork.  Since people are often surprised that Andrew can do stuff around the house because "he's a lawyer".  Last weekend when we were working on the front flower beds he broke the sprinkler line in two places.  Whoops!  So this Saturday he had to fix it.  He was quite proud of his work and insisted that I take a picture of it.  Thanks Babe for all your hard work and your willingness and eagerness to learn how to fix stuff around the house.  I appreciate it.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Why I Love Fall

I've mentioned before that fall is my favorite season.  Fall didn't start out so well for us, in fact it started late and when it finally came it went from mid-80's one day to mid-50's the next.  With that big of a drop in temperature it was pretty chilly, but our real fall, the fall I look forward to every year has finally come.  I've noticed as I drive through town that the leaves are all starting to change and when I'm driving along the east side looking over the valley you can see all of the fall colors throughout the valley; it's so gorgeous.  The air has started to have that crisp feel to it as well and I've found myself wearing cozy sweaters and my favorite jeans the last couple of days.  Ahh... I love this weather.

Anyways, enough rambling.  We have a tree in our yard that I see every time I look out my kitchen window and I've been watching the leaves change for days now.  Then yesterday morning as I was getting Ella breakfast I noticed the colors were just right and the sun was hitting them perfectly.  Being the wanna-be-photographer that I am I rushed upstairs to throw on clothes (I can't be the neighbor who walks in the yard in their robe), ran downstairs, grabbed the camera and ran out the door while yelling at Ella to follow mommy.  I know she thinks I'm crazy.  Anyways, I was able to get some gorgeous shots of our side yard, but here are just a couple for your enjoyment.  Don't I have a pretty view?  I think this picture justifies my craziness.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Spooky Blocks Tutorial

I've had a few people ask for a tutorial on how to make these blocks, so here it goes.

Stuff you need:

Wood blocks
Vinyl lettering
Six pieces of scrapbook paper
Craft paint
Mod Podge
Paint brush
Black and white stamp pad

Cut and sand the edges of your blocks.
Paint the blocks using craft paint.  I used black paint.
Cut the scrapbook paper to fit the blocks.  My paper was a 1/4" smaller than the block on all sides.  Just enough for the paint to pop through the edges.
Apply the vinyl to the paper before mod podging onto the blocks.  If you want to distress the paper with a stamp pad then do this now before mod podging the paper to the blocks.
Mod podge the paper onto the block and flip the block upside down to help keep the paper from curling up until dry.
Once everything is dry add a final coat of mod podge to the front of the block.

I ordered my vinyl from JK Vinyl Designs on etsy.  She did an excellent job and was really affordable and quick.  My lettering was 5" high.  I found that the perfect block width for that height was 4.5".  I also staggered the height of my blocks between 6" and 7.5".

Good luck!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Happy Fall Y'all

Well fall is officially here.  It's actually quite late this year.  Usually fall hits the first week of September, but it's only cooled off in the last two weeks.  It went from mid-eighties one day to mid-fifties the next.  I hate those dramatic drops in temperature.  Anyways, the weather has been beautiful although about ten degrees cooler than usual.  I guess we just can't win.  Of course fall is my favorite time of year so it's a little irritating that I can't fully enjoy it, but what are you gonna do.  Since fall is coming so late, hardly any leaves have changed color or dropped.  We've had one tree change color so far.  I guess we need to go for a drive up the canyon to see any changes.  All our flowers are actually in bloom again, which is sort of odd.  Anyways, here are just a few cute decorations I put out.  I also thought my "spooky blocks" turned out so cute that I ended up making some "fall blocks" too.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Here Kitty, Kitty...

I just finished Ella's costume and I'm so excited about how cute it turned out.  I used the Pottery Barn Kids cat costume as my inspiration, but since it's pretty cold here at Halloween I had to do some tweaking.  She just looks so darn cute.  I know that I've already posted way too much today and you're sick of me I'm sure, but seriously have you ever seen such a cute cat?

Oh my heavens... too cute!

She's trying to show you her tail.

I just need to finish her treat bag now.

Pottery Barn Costume... I'm going to attempt to replicate this bag.

New Barstools...

So after living here for five months I've finally found barstools that I really like and didn't feel like I had to sell a kidney to afford.  The only problem is that while I like the color of them, I just don't like how that color goes in my kitchen/dining area.  So here is my dilemna... what color should I paint them?  Here are the options I'm considering: blackred or robins egg blue.  Keep in mind that the cabinets are going to be painted white so they will no longer be the bleached oak you see in the picture.  Any opinions?  Please.  I know what I'm leaning towards, but I appreciate all suggestions.  Or is there a color that I haven't even considered that I should?  Our dining room chairs are black and so I'm thinking the black will coordinate with that, but I also like the idea of adding a little pop of color.


Ella's Exciting News

Ella wanted me to let everyone know that yesterday she got her very own big girl bed.  She was very excited to not be in a baby bed anymore.  Now she can crawl in and out of bed on her own, kinda scary if you ask me.  She slept so good last night and we only had one incident at about midnight when she woke up crying, but after sitting with her for a few minutes she went right back to sleep and even let me sleep in this morning.  She is getting so big and is excited for her second birthday since she likes to tell everyone she is "two".  She has also decided that since she is a big girl she wants to eat her cereal with milk now.  Surprisingly she has done pretty well with this adjustment and we've had minimal spillage.  Here are some cute pics of our big girl.