Monthly Archives: January 2012

Jan 30

Mac & Cheese

I believe in the pursuit of excellence.

I believe that practice makes perfect and I believe in falling off the horse, dusting yourself off and getting back on again.

I believe that laughter is the best medicine, that silence is golden and that a good ugly cry can be a beautifully cleansing thing.

I believe in trying to drink 80 ounces of water each day, enjoying 2-3 cups of coffee every morning and accidentally having too many glasses of wine every now and again.

I believe in making new friends and I believe in keeping the old. I also believe that both sets of friends are worth more than their weight in gold.

I firmly believe in duking it out, walking it out, talking it out, then hugging (or kissing) it out.

But most of all I believe in the power of prayer, the power of love, the incredibly healing power of forgiveness and the power of a really really great dish of macaroni and cheese.

Not long after our friends Matt and Shannon got married they quickly established themselves as a couple that loves to entertain. Ryan and I have such fond memories of enjoying beer and BBQ in their first apartment, sharing pizza on Shannon’s aunts vintage dinning table (the couple lived in their family’s retro estate for a bit) and countless homemade meals enjoyed along side our rambunctious collective 8 children in their charming Rocklin home.

Recently this incredibly gracious pair threw a very grown up dinner party in their cozy Land Park abode and we felt very lucky to be included on that guest list. We were excited to attend this intimate gathering of friends for a few reasons, 1. No kids were allowed! Thats right adults only! 2. No boys in one room and girls in another. It happens at almost every party we go to! The men end up outside smoking cigars and the ladies find a comfy spot inside to chat and finish off the wine. Matt really wanted the group to stay together, so they cleared out the living room and in place of the family couch was a long beautifully set dinning table. 3. Last but certainly not least, it is always more than a treat to enjoy Shannon’s home cooking! What did we have that night? A beautiful salad with plenty of  blue cheese, a creamy perfectly seasoned butternut squash soup and the piece de resistance beef bourguignon that took both Matt and Shannon two days to make.

While we all dinned on this food made with so much love we chit chatted with each other, shared silly stories about our kids and got to know each other better than we already did. In my opinion these moments shared around a table with friends or family can be some of the most valuable moments in a person’s life. These friendships have become one of the things Ryan and I treasure most in this world and we are so grateful for all of the get togethers that have helped nurture our close connection with Matt and Shannon.

Did I mention that Shannon is a fabulous cook?! I did? Ok good because she really is! We have been trading recipes for years and on a recent spa day together she described a chicken marsala recipe that really got my (and our driver’s) attention. The dish starts out by making a traditional marsala chicken but ends decadently with a whole tub of mascarpone cheese. It wasn’t the first time she explained this dish to me and after making it, it certainly won’t be the last time this creamy, savory dish graces our dinner table.

It’s true that people come and go in our lives and we all have seasons of hanging out with one couple or another, but when somebody suddenly becomes non-optional to you don’t take that feeling for granted. Invite them over for dinner and if you can muster up the courage try to let them know just how important they really are to you.

My husband and I have always tried our best to introduce our boys to things beyond their age. We’ve taken them to restaurants that are without kids cups and crayons. We’ve let them order from very grown up menus (within reason of course) and have even expected the older boys to speak their order to the waiter. Don’t forget to say please and thank you!

We’ve taken them to museums that are void of any type of children’s section. We’ll walk quietly around taking in the art and answer any questions they might have about a particular piece, “Is this really art?” “Why is that lady naked?” “Is the guy that painted this dead?” Visits to a museum usually last under an hour and are almost always followed by ice cream and running around the nearest park to let off any steam the younger boys might have accumulated while having to act like perfect gentlemen for a bit.

I can’t remember the last time the boys and I listened to top 40 music while driving around in the car. If you go through my ipod yes you’ll find Katy and Britney but those girls are strictly for the gym and maybe for a little singing in the car when nobody else is around. The boys ipods however are filled with carefully, lovingly selected artist such as Bon Iver, Astronautalis and The Avett Brothers. There is so much good music out there we want them to develop their own musical taste and not be limited to what is in heavy rotation on the radio at the moment. Undeterred by the lack of pop music in their lives somehow Bruno Mars still found a place on their playlist.

Yes at times this can be a lot of work for Ryan and I going against the normal kid grain. But by stretching their patience and palette’s we hope all of this subliminally lets each of them know that nothing in this world is beyond them. The only person who will stop them from doing something, experiencing something or tasting something is themselves. The world is their oyster and it can be all theirs but only if they are willing to sacrifice the work and risk into prying open that oyster.

Despite our best efforts Ryan and I have listened to our fair share of the Disney channel, have boughten enough non-educational silly toys to supply several preschools and I have even had my children beg me to fed them Top Ramen! How they even know about that stuff is beyond me! Of course I gave into the ramen but not without a huge compromise. If we are going to eat this stuff we are going to make it my way and it will have nothing to do with that creepy little flavor packet. My way will start with a homemade chicken stock, it will be seasoned with complex spices and it will end with big handfuls of fresh spinach and bean sprouts.

Their response? “Whatever mom just buy us the soup already.”

If my husband brought me home roses on Valentines day I would probably laugh at him. Not because I’m a jerk but because I think husbands should bring their wives flowers when the mood strikes them, not because of a silly made up holiday. Lucky for me Ryan is the kind of husband that does randomly surprise me with flowers and they are always well received with kisses, not the snide chuckles of a Valentines day scrooge .

As much as I love a day being devoted to motherhood I usually reserve mothers day to celebrate my own mom. My sweet family always wakes me up with a homemade breakfast, cards and gifts on this very special day but my thoughts are always on my own mother. Just as my family wants me to know how appreciated and loved I am, I also want my mom to know how much I love her and that I value her now more than I ever have.

Every year Ryan and I make an agreement to not buy each other gifts for Christmas and every year we break those rules and get each other something small but thoughtful. We also both have a hard time keeping these presents from each other so we usually do our gift exchange a week before the actual holiday leaving Christmas morning all to the boys. I take full responsibility for our early gift opening ritual. I love finding the man-who-has-everything the perfect gift and as soon as I find it I want him to have it!

It’s my birthday this week and the people closest to me know that I am a bonafide birthday brat through and through! Let me explain myself, I am not the kind of brat that expects loads of gifts and elaborate parties. I’m the kind of brat that very much loves the birthday phone calls, cards and messages. That’s not to say I didn’t absolutely love the surprise 30th birthday bash Ryan threw for me, I smile every time I think of it babe! I don’t mind flying under the radar on any of the other holidays, but it just seems wrong to let this day go by without a little bit of fanfare! A dinner out with my family, lunch with my sister-in-laws or maybe a day at the spa with my very dear friend. I guess it’s hard for me to ignore a day that should be spent with the people I love.

To get this years party started I baked my family these chocolate and marshmallow cupcakes. I found the recipe in Dorie Greenspan’s baking cookbook and they were chocolately, light and topped with an easy to make chocolate glaze. This simple cupcake recipe also left lots of room for creativity, hence the marshmallow filling and sprinkles!

Thank you to my husband, boys, family and friends who help me to forget that I am getting older but instead make me feel grateful for another year spent with those that mean so much to me. A birthday doesn’t just belong to the person that was born that day but it also belongs to the people that person was born to love.

I don’t know about you but I need a nap…

A big glass of water…

And a salad!

Raise your hand if you’ve had an awesome holiday season. We sure did! The Halloween candy, the turkey, the never ending pies and cookies! I might have also had a few holiday cocktails here and there. My parents always serve the best wine and New Year’s just isn’t the same without a champaign toast with friends! Every year around this time after a festive few months full of treats I am always ready to bring my everyday eating back down to reality. I have definitely had my fill of prime rib, fancy party hors d’oeuvres and tiered platters full of my sister-in-law Jacqueline’s amazing homemade sweets. Thank goodness swimsuit season doesn’t directly follow the holiday season!

So goodbye mashed potatoes with loads of gravy on top and see you soon sugar cookies galore. We won’t have to be apart for too long, but for now I’ll be replacing you with things that are healthy and fresh! Like any unhealthy routine that needs to be broken I think I’ll be able to handle this change as long as I ease my way into it. This pretty spinach salad is easy on the dressing but is still heavy on the flavor thanks to some sauteed red onions and crispy fried bacon.

I am always sad to put our Christmas tree on the curb and take down our holiday lights. It’s easy for me to get used to all of the fun family get togethers and my husband’s lighter holiday work schedule. The promise of Spring right around the corner always brightens up my mood, and with that thought I know that next years pumpkin pie will be on my plate faster than I can say “Happy Holidays!”