You are never too old to hop out of bed, skip your routine cup of coffee, and board a shuttle full of excited/sleepy parents and kids.

You are never too old to run down Main Street, rush into Tomorrow Land, and zip onto Space Mountain before the line gets too long.

You are never too old to enjoy a corn dog from the Corn Dog Castle, fried chicken from The Plaza Inn, bbq ribs from Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue, and a giant ice-cream sunday from Paradise Pier Ice Cream Co. Don’t forget the popcorn, a giant pickle, a tall glass of lemon aid, and a few antacids to wash it all down with!

You are never too old to get excited when you finally see Mickey Mouse, stand in line to give Goofy a hug, or take your turn to defeat Darth Vader in your impromptu Jedi padawan training.

You are never too old to be dazzled by fireworks while eating a muti-colored lollipop, surrounded by a crowd of children and children at heart.

You are never too old to fall in love with Disneyland all over again.

My boys are finally wrapping up their school year and I don’t know who’s more excited for summer vacation, them or I!

Have you ever noticed that summer vacations tend to take on a theme? One year we were all about the pool at the gym. By the end of that summer my three older boys were professional swimmers and I was an expert at packing a stroller with a toddler, towels, lunch and pool toys! The summer after that we explored Northern California. We rented an RV for a week, spent every other weekend on a different beach and had a wonderful time exploring our beautiful state.

This year our summer theme has been set early after a crazy Memorial day filled with three BBQ’s back to back. I have a feeling this vacation will be filled with a lot of charcoal, burgers, hotdogs, ketchup, and potato salad! But what if a person doesn’t eat hamburgers or hot dogs?  Is he or she doomed to a season full of filling their plate with side dishes, and chips as everyone else sinks their teeth into a perfectly grilled main dish?! No way! I gotcha covered with this honey, dijon chicken breast sandwich. I came up with this alternative to grilled red meat or pork after I volunteered to host a BBQ where none of the guest ate hamburgers or hotdogs. True story. Thankfully these chicken sandwiches grilled up beautifully and deliciously filled the void of hotdogs and hamburgers for Ryan and I!

Ahhhhhhh, summer vacation! We are so happy that you are finally here!

Let’s talk about the difference between opportunities and obligations.

An opportunity is a chance you are either given or take in order to accomplish something. Opportunities are usually pretty exciting because of the possibilities they can create. For example: If the opportunity to have lunch with a stranger arises, take it! Especially if that stranger is a person that you’ve been wanting to get to know better. Chances are you’ll leave that lunch totally inspired by her (or his) story, and excited to have made a new friend. Mission accomplished if you ask me!

An obligation on the other hand, is something you have to do. Obligations are not nearly as fun as opportunities, and more often than not they are kind-of a bummer. Example: Sometimes eating vegetables can feel like an obligation, especially when all I want want to eat is ice-cream!

Here is the funny thing about obligations, with a little imagination they can almost always be turned into opportunities! Example: I want my kids to eat fresh vegetables everyday. Some days this feels like a huge struggle (obligation), as some of boys will happily eat their veggies and some of them will not. On the flip side all of them love to eat popsicles. So what if I crammed as much spinach as I can into a smoothie, and then make that smoothie into a popsicle?!

Is it me, or do the best opportunities usually start out as the worst obligations?

The first step to being good at something is being bad at it.

It takes courage to try something new, to fall flat on your face, to dust yourself off and try, try again.

Every success I’ve experienced has started with a miserable failure. My first career as a hairdresser began with a lot of bad haircuts and my second career as a housewife started with quite a few frustrated tears. Giving up on either job was simply not an option and despite feeling overwhelmed I am thankful that I kept going. Learning my way around the art of hairdressing and figuring out how to manage a busy household are two skills that have proven to be well worth the time and patience I needed to invest in both. Without either of them I wouldn’t be the professional multitasking wife/mother, or friend-that-can-give-you-a-quick-trim I am today! More importantly conquering those skills gives me the confidence and perspective I will need to go on and ace the next challenge I decide to pursue, whatever that may be.

Another craft I have recently mastered is that of pizza making. For years my family has suffered through plenty of over topped, soggy, bland pizza crust. Determined to master a flavorful, thin crispy crust, I kept moving forward. Recipe after recipe, and then it finally happened. I cracked the pizza code! It all magically came together; the temperature of the oven, the amount of yeast and olive oil to use, how much garlic to work into the dough. Success was mine, and it tastes as delicious as it felt!

Whether we are aware of it or not, we all practice our own food philosophies. Some of us are more stringent than others living committed vegan, vegetarian, or all organic lifestyles. A few of us are fueled by sugar, willing to choke down spinach in order to get to the best part of any meal, dessert! Then there are the advocates who help keep our food safe and also keep consumers informed on how our food is raised.

Regardless of where your food values lie, what should be important to all of us is knowing where our food comes from. It’s easy to shop through a supermarket, picking up beautifully wrapped produce or meat without a thought as to how it got there. Were these tomatoes grown locally? How far did your eggs, nestled neatly in their crates, have to travel to make it to the refrigerated section? Just as it’s important to know if our food is organic, GMO or gluten free, we should also be asking where our food comes from and is it locally grown or not?

Earlier this week another local food blogger (Dorothy over at Crazy for Crust!) and I were invited by the California Farm Water Coalition to tour a few local walnut orchards (national walnut day is this Friday!) and see first hand where a good portion of our nations walnuts are grown and exported. We had the honor of meeting Todd Ramos of Ramos Farms, a third generation walnut grower. After listening to his story I quickly understood that what he does is not just a job; instead it is a lifestyle and a legacy passed down to him by his grandfather, who came to this county with nothing but an American dream. After our walk through the orchards, the red carpet was rolled out for us at Lester’s bakery. There we ate mile-high sandwiches served on homemade walnut bread, and apricot walnut bars (YUM!) for lunch. We were even able to meet Stan Lester himself, a local walnut grower, packer, and shipper. He too reflected on the farming lifestyle quoting Warren Buffet “Do what you love.” Stan passionately explained the importance of knowing your market, your crops, staying current with efficient watering techniques, and the economic influence their farms are to their community and nation. It was obvious to us that these men love what they do but they also innately understand the importance of protecting what they do. The responsibly to perserve these increasingly important family-owned farms doesn’t end there. As consumers we also need to know where our food comes from and to buy as locally as we can. More than just for the sentiment of buying local, supporting local farmer’s markets, fruit stands, and local grocery stores directly supports these farms, the countless jobs these farms provide, our local economy, diversity in the food market, and the ever important American dream.

After taking a look around the Mariani Nut Company and being a gifted a huge bag of walnuts, we drove home reflecting on the rich farming history in Winters, California full of gratitude for the hard work and dedication from these farmers and their families. Of course I couldn’t let that beautiful bag of  walnuts sit in my pantry for too long! I whipped up this easy spinach and walnut pesto for dinner the next night and I couldn’t help but smile knowing the food I was feeding my family was lovingly grown by generations of proud, hard working families just like mine.

I hope all my talk about health and granola hasn’t scared you away from this place. My intention here has never been to discourage or make you feel guilty about what you’re eating, but instead to inspire and encourage you to cook for yourself and for those around you. I also always want to be 100% honest with you about what I am currently feeding my own family. Yes, on occasion we order pizza, go through drive-thrus, and treat ourselves to Taylors milkshakes and hamburgers.

So just because I am constantly sharing ways on how to add more spinach to our diets, or trying to figure out how to make healthy snacks for my boys doesn’t mean I don’t love junk food every now and then! The thing that I don’t love about junk food is the way it makes me feel. Sluggish, tired, and all around blah. So when it comes to junk food I have two choices, 1. Eat/enjoy the fast food and don’t complain about the stomach ache it might give me. 2. Figure out how to make the junk food minus all of the funky ingredients that make me feel kinda gross.

Notice I didn’t say a word about making these treats less caloric or “skinny”? Sometimes diet substitutes are just as bad for you! I don’t indulge my junk food habit everyday so when I want to dive into a basket of animal style fries, a big plate of nachos, or a crispy, sweet funnel cake it better be the real thing!

Take this frozen peanut butter, chocolate, pretzel pie for example. Yes, there is a whole stick of butter in that crust. There is a thick layer of chocolate ganche, and and even thicker layer of whipped cream, real sugar, and peanut butter on top of that buttery crust. Did I know what I was getting myself into when I cut myself a nice big slice for desert? Oh yes, and every bite was worth it because I knew exactly what was in this creamy, frozen slice of heaven!

The older I get the more health conscience I become.

The more health conscience I become the more intolerant my taste buds (and stomach!) become of anything artificial or fake.

The more intolerant my taste buds become, the more time I take to read the ingredients of the food my family and I eat.

The more educated I become on what is in our food, the more disappointed I become when I see unhealthy ingredients in so-called health foods.

The more frustrated I become with what food labels tell me, the more I start to make my own snacks, sauces, dressings, and juices.

The more I take my (and my family’s) food and nutrition into my own hands, the happier and healthier we are.

And what more do I need when the people I love are happy and healthy?

Apr 23

Funnel Cake

My experience competing in the Mrs. California pageant was nothing short of amazing.

No I did not win the crown, Miss Congeniality, or even best gown. Not to take away from any of those accomplishments, (or the amazing women that did win!) what I chose to walk away with has been more valuable to me than any title or sash.

First there is the bond we contestants created during the three full days of rehearsals, photo ops, and backstage pep talks. Opposite of what you see on pageant reality shows these women were encouraging, kind, helpful, and prayerful. It was a lot like summer camp, but instead of hiking boots and bug spray we wore high heels and spray tanner!

Then there is the memory of my family cheering me on all weekend long. Thanks to my sweet husband and boys I was fed, emotionally stable, and felt like a million dollars every time I walked on stage. I love cheering my family on with all of their endeavors, but along the way I had forgotten that I also need that kind of support from my family and friends. This was not an adventure that I could have braved on my own. Because I let my guard down and accepted help I was reminded that I am deserving of that kind of attention and support. Hearing my boys cheer me on is a sound that I will treasure for life.

Lastly, because of this pageant something inside of me has come alive and I have no choice but to be obedient to what has been uncovered. Don’t ask me to explain it because I can’t. All I can say is that I feel as if I have finally found my light and now all I need to do is learn how to shine.

This funnel cake is dedicated to all of the sweet and hardworking women I met a few weekends ago. I hope you have been enjoying your post pageant pig outs we all talked, dreamed and drooled about! I know I have!!

Later this week (on Saturday to be exact) I’ll be competing along with 17 other awesome ladies for the title of Mrs. California United States.

What exactly does this mean? Well, for the past two months I’ve been working on my platform (Real Food for Families) and have been talking to local organizations that encourage families and children to have a diet full of wholesome foods. There has also been a little bit of shopping (shoes!!) and of course I’ve had to invested a bit more time in at the gym. Bathing suit, stage, bright lights, YIKES!!

And on that note I’ve also decided to really button up my diet these past few weeks. I wouldn’t call it a diet, a cleanse, or a fast. I’m not a big fan of any of that and because I’ve been working so hard physically I knew that my body was going to need the proper nutrition in order to keep up. Instead of focusing on what I shouldn’t be eating, I decided to focus on what I should be eating. Lean meats? Yes! Complex carbs and whole grains? Please! Fresh veggies, fruit, nuts, TONS of water, and healthy fats? Keep em’ coming! After filling my fridge and pantry with so much good stuff I didn’t have room (or time) for any refined sugar, processed fast food, soda, or even my beloved red wine. I’m not going to lie, I’ve really missed having a glass of wine with dinner! Luckily the huge reward of knowing that I’ve done everything I could to be able to put my best foot forward this weekend has been worth the small sacrifice. Also whether they like it or not, my family has benefited from all of this healthy eating! This baked sweet potato filled with fajita seasoned chicken breast and seared veggies was one of my more creative, clean and delicious meals. My boys were able to top their potatoes with cheese or sour cream, while I stayed strict with salsa and avocado.

All of this hard work comes to an end this weekend as I place myself in the hands of the judges. Whatever the outcome, the journey in itself has been incredible!

There is nothing like a long conversation with a good friend to help give me a fresh perspetive on things and to also aid in clearing any writers block I sometimes struggle with.

There is nothing like the fast approaching summer/bathing suit weather to help motivate my sometimes sluggish efforts at the gym. Thankfully Christmas and all of it’s comforting dishes (and sweaters!) will also be here before we know it!

There is nothing like a bright Spring season full of fresh new veggies and sunshine to help pull me out of a super frustrating cooking rut. Yes, I also go through times when I feel like I am cooking the same thing for dinner every night. Roasted chicken, pasta, soup, ect. And if I’m sick of cooking the same ol’ things, I know my family is sick of eating them! Thankfully it only took a few bundles of tender early asparagus to save my family from one more night of uninspired cooking! I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with it at first, but I knew the end result was going to be awesome.

As promised this asparagus and sausage risotto is just that, deliciously awesome!