September 30, 2016

Friday

Can I get a hooray for making it to Friday?! Arizona hasn't really cooled down despite all my fall welcoming efforts. Thankfully with work, I am heading into a long weekend that is going to consist of cooler temperatures (with the smell of chile in the air), watching football, seeing family, and relaxing for me! I am more than okay with that! Do you have any fun plans this weekend? Fill me in, if so!



My "I love driving so much face" above and a rare Instagram story. Hopefully reformatting my phone will take care of my issues I have been having posting on Instagram Stories and Snapchat. When I try my phone just completely freezes. Here's hoping....

Have a happy weekend!

September 28, 2016

Breakfast Braid

I have a love hate relationship with breakfast. If a meal is sacrificed by me in eating, it is breakfast. But my most of my favorite foods...breakfast items. It is tough sometimes!

I don't host breakfast often, but I did the other day and I thought making a quick breakfast braid would be great. What is perfect is that it is very simple. Lately I have just used lots of crescent rolls for easy recipes and I am not mad about it.

The best part about this recipe is it is versatile. You could just do it with the cheese mixture like a cheese danish, add sweet jam like I did, or do something savory. The possibilities are endless!

Ingredients:

1 tube of crescent rolls
1 (8 ounce) package of cream cheese
2 tablespoons of sugar
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
3/4 cup of jam/jelly (use my homemade recipes or buy some. I used blackberry and it was great!)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.

Mix together cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla extract. Beat until smooth.

Unroll crescent rolls seamlessly onto the baking sheet. On each long side of the dough, make 2 inch long cuts about 1 inch apart using a knife or pizza cutter.

Spread your cheese filling down the middle of the dough. Add jam over the cheese layer.

Starting at one end, fold the strips over the filling on an angle alternating sides. This will give it a braided look.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the danish is golden brown.


How do you like your danish in the morning?

September 26, 2016

Visiting Oregon: Columbia River Valley

I had a spur of the moment vacation flying into Portland, Oregon. Now while I did not spend any time in Portland--Oregon served me well!

Remember how I said spur of the moment?! Well, so spur of the moment, that I forgot my camera. There are plenty of posts on travel out there, but I still thought I would do blog posts with my camera phone pictures. Who am I kidding anyway....almost every photo on this blog is a camera phone photo. And if you have interesting vacation photos and thoughts that you want to share, you should go for it!

So okay, thanks for your rant Lauren...now just share your trip!

Also, I tried to post a little on Instagram/Snapchat, but I am probably the only person in the world who only has 150 megabytes of data. Yeah, not a lot.

But for a great little trip, I highly recommend doing the Columbia River Highway. Here are the highlights:

Start at the Crown Point Vista House: A beautiful stone exterior and marble interior makes for a beautiful building. The name Vista House is appropriate because on a beautiful day, the views are just great!

Latourell Falls: This is the first major waterfall on your drive. You can access a view point to the falls by going on a very short moderate hike. After that, go further and trek even higher for an amazing waterfall experience. This was my favorite!


Bridal Veil Falls: This is a beautiful two tier waterfall that has a short and easy pathway that leads to the falls.

Wahkeena Falls: There is a small short paved trail from the parking lot to a misty falls. You can go past that and walk the Multnomah-Wahkeena Loop Trail. I opted to just drive to Multnomah to save my time hiking to see more waterfalls.

Multnomah Falls: This is the tallest waterfall in Oregon and the second tallest year round waterfall in the US (I don't know what the first is.) It is tiered and classic. The view points are easy walks from the parking area. This is the most popular falls and therefore, the most people will be here.

Oneonta Falls: So we were running short on time after being so enamored with all the falls before this one. So we did not go here. So sad! Next time for sure! This is supposed to be one of the best! You hike through a slot canyon to get to some beautiful falls.

Horsetail Falls: Right of the road this is a beautiful fall that is calm enough to be peaceful but strong enough to be astonishing. 


 All these beautiful waterfalls are getting me excited to explore Iceland like my girl Andrea! One day...but till then, Oregon is beautiful and I would love to go back!


Have you ever explored Oregon?

September 23, 2016

Exploring Wilamette Valley Wineries

I decided to spend a weekend getaway in Oregon. Like any trip, I of course did not have enough time for all the exploring I wanted to do, but I sure enjoyed exploring the land of Pinot Noir: Wilamette Valley. I landed in Portland and drove and stayed in Salem. Here is an overview of some of our findings in the Willamette Valley.
We used the Oregon Wine Passport. I HIGHLY recommend it because it is good for two people and pays for itself in a heartbeat. Plus there are SO MANY wineries that it serves as a good starting guide of places to go.

Buddaha Kat Winery
So this was a very modest tasting room. Just a woman going it her own way. It was fun to meet an eccentric wine maker, but I may not suggest the wines to anyone.

King's Raven Winery
So we went during Harvest and since we visited this on a weekday, we had the place to ourselves and the family was busy. One of the things that initially grabbed me was that this is not an estate where you pull up and it looks like a grand castle. When you pull up you might think, "They make wine here? Is it any good? Should we bail and go somewhere else?" Just park and walk around back, you'll be pleasantly surprised.They left Granddad in charge of the tasting room and he was very nice and knowledgeable about the wine and its history.

Coria Estates
Small tasting flight, but I liked all their wines. They had a beautiful outdoor seating area to enjoy wines and if I had more time, I would have liked to!

Carlton Cellars
This was my favorite winery and I bought from here! In the tasting room we were helped by John who was so knowledgeable about the wine making process. He even taught us a new trick to wine tasting! Very nice, friendly, and on top of it...great wines! So that wine I bought? Not a Pinot, ironically! It was an Auxerrois Blanc which is something I had never heard of or tried! It is a German grape that was a mix for me between a Pinot Gris and Chardonnay. So good!

Troon Vineyard Carlton Tasting Room
This was a great little tasting room! Right next to Carton Cellars! Right after we had walked in, there was an obnoxious group of girls that walked in smelling strong of cigarette smoke. Thankfully the woman doing our tastings deftly made sure we were taken care of and we tried some great wines. And as for the reds, they were not only Pinot Noirs! Imagine trying some good Sangiovese and Malbec to the mix! Well done, Troon!

Naked Winery
An experience for sure! Every wine name is an innuendo and all wines are paired with dark chocolate and goldfish (naturally). Their mission stated they wanted to "cut America's divorce rate in half by inviting couple to shut off all electronics and share a glass of wine nightly." Now personally I don't want to share a glass...I want my own, but it was fun to laugh over some provocative labels and wines.

Youngberg Hill Vineyard
This is a beautiful, beautiful winery. The grounds are just gorgeous and it is family owned and operated. The couple has three daughters and they have wines named after them. Their tasting room is surrounded by views and their Pinot Noir was very good. They have a beautiful inn where I will be begging Kevin to let us stay next trip!

Walnut City WineWorks
Super modest tasting room. Unfortunately the girl pouring did not know a lot about the wines she was pouring or process, but they had a nice tasting that we enjoyed.

Vista Hills Vineyard Treehouse Tasting Room
Treehouse for a reason! It is surrounded by trees with views of vineyard behind it. It is modern, zen, and beautiful. Now I am normally not one for Rose, but they had the closest thing for me here by doing a Pinot Gris Rose. They are all estate grown and served some great Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir.



Longplay Wine
So like the first winery we went to, it is an eclectic place with a winemaker who is just doing his own thing, living life. The owner is a farmer and just loves what he does. He did teach us about pouring wine through an argon capsule so that a bottle of wine did not have to be open. It was kind of a cool trick. If you like 70s vinyl playing while sipping some wines in a casual laid-back environment, this may just be your vibe...

ArborBrook Vineyards
This was a great place with some great snacks to go with your wine. I noshed on cheese and chocolate covered hazelnuts while drinking my wine. The owner (who just so happened to be pouring for us) said that his wife likes Sauvignon Blanc and so he sourced some grapes from Washington and poured us a great wine. Having so many Pinot Noirs, it was so refreshing to have a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. But their Pinot Noir selections were also very good. Overall, a great place!


And that wraps up my reviews of Oregon Wine Country! I wouldn't mind trying more and coming back to some for round two. Hopefully you have discovered a new winery or feel inspired to pack up and make a weekend and visit. If you do, take me!

Have you been to Oregon wine country?

September 21, 2016

Baked Brie

In Arizona, the end of the summer is known as monsoon season. Basically we get all of our rain then. Well, this monsoon season, I found that I have a leak in my house. Yeah...not good.
Usually monsoon season is great. We get tons of rain, the weather isn't triple digits and then a couple of hours later we have full sunshine. It makes for some great days. Unless of course you have a leak.

Now in between works, leaks, and a number of other things going on (car not starting and needing a new battery and new job changes), I needed some quick easy recipes. So how easy is it to throw some cheese into a crescent roll? The answer is very easy and thankfully, very very yummy!

In addition to amazing simple the ingredients, the combo of cool sweet and warmth of the cheese is great. It is the perfect vehicle for both summer and fall. Good for both and good for transitional seasons. Basically, the perfect recipe for anytime! 

Ingredients:

1 round of brie
1/4 cup of jelly/jam (I use and enjoy my homemade with apricot and strawberry plum as my favorites)
1 tube of crescent rolls

Directions:


Unroll crescent rolls flat onto a greased cookie sheet. Push together the creases and top with brie round.

Cover the top of the brie with your jam.

Roll up crescent roll to cover the top and cook at 350 for 30 minutes.

Enjoy with some crackers or just eat with the crescent roll dough.


Happy Wednesday! Try and make it a great one!
The weekend is in our sights!

September 19, 2016

Apple Crumble Pie

Lately I have been more conscious about what I eat. I would be lying if I said I was doing a great job. I can't seem to completely give up carbs and some of my other food weaknesses.

One of my biggest cravings is my mom's crisp topping. It is so good! When I was little I used to sneak into the kitchen and pick of the crisp topping. If we are being totally honest, I still do it, it is so good! But apart from the topping, add some warm apples and you have a calorie worth it dessert! Just in time for fall!

It is one of my husband's favorite. You can serve it warm with a nice scoop of vanilla ice cream. It also holds up nicely if you can eat it when it is cool to serve (or more likely enjoy as leftovers!)

Speaking of fall, here in the desert, fall is not showing up quite yet. One of my favorite ways to get into the spirit of fall is to visit my parent's house. It is no wonder that fall is my favorite holiday. It is also my mom's and she knows how to welcome it and make the season feel perfect!

Ingredients:

Filling:
homemade apple pie filling

Topping:
1/3 cup of sugar
3/4 cup of flour
6 tablespoons of butter

Directions:

Prepare filling by slicing the apples and coating with cinnamon and sugar.

Prepare topping by cutting butter into sugar and flour with a big fork.

In a 9x13 baking dish, evenly apply filling and cover evenly with topping. Bake at 400 for 35 minutes.


What is your favorite thing to do when the weather is transitional?

September 16, 2016

Three Things To Do Before You Go On Vacation

Vacations are important for everyone. Everyone should get out and explore! But before traveling and after you pack, there are things that you should do before you head out. To protect your home, here are my before vacation checklist items that ensure I leave a prepared house with as few worries as possible.

Let Your Water Heater Take a Vacation Too
Water heaters use a lot of water and can spend a lot of energy (read $$) keeping at a good temperature. Simply flip the switch before you leave and flip it back on when you get home. It should take at most 20 minutes for it to heat back up to normal.

Turn Your Thermostat Up or Down
Another thing you don't want to be using too much of while you're away is your AC. In the summer I set my thermostat to 92 because going above that is just yucky for my house. I honestly don't care how cold it gets when I am travelling in the winter, so I just make sure the heat isn't on. Personally I have Nest so I can set my settings to away and be rest assured. If I am not, I can communicate with my smartphone. This can give me a piece of mind to change the temperature or check for abnormal temps. (Like if it is winter and the house is hot...go have a friend check it out for you...)

Embrace Technology
I totally have and love that we have home monitoring. We can check in via smartphone on our house. There is plenty of great gear out there for everyone to have a well watched home. And technology doesn't stop at monitoring. Lights are a great way to give the appearance that you are home and so automatic lights and lights that turn on with movement are a great thing to have!


What do you do before you leave for a vacation?
Who's ready for a vacation?

September 14, 2016

Painting Furniture

Everything I have done in my house has pretty much been on a small budget. In my master bedroom, I really wanted to find a very nice piece of practical but beautiful piece of furniture. When I realized that it was all out of my budget, I took to Craig's List and found this beautiful wooden dresser. I scored it for $150. The wood was beautiful so it pained me a little to paint it, but the end result was exactly what I wanted!

I absolutely love the way it turned out.

Thanks mom for teaching me how to paint EVERYTHING!



Step 1: Clean
Unfortunately painting is not as easy as just slapping some paint on. Over time it will chip and peel. So you give it a nice cleaning first. I usually do this with a lightly soaped sponge and water. After make sure you dry it well. During this entire process, all drawers should be removed and done as well.

Step 2: Sand and Tack
Sand your furniture to get it roughed up. You are trying to take off some of the shine so that your paint has a surface to really grab onto. Medium grit sandpaper should be fine. I do use a belt sander for big surfaces like the top of the dresser. You do not need to strip the finish completely or sand it down to bare wood unless you are staining it. And now there are gel stains that are basically like paint! Now, take a slightly damp sponge and wipe down all the surfaces. Then dry it with a dry sponge. Then use a tack cloth to remove all dirt and dust. Oh and since we wanted new hardware on our drawers, we did putty, sand, and tack those holes.

Step 3: Prime (optional)
Most people will kill me for saying that, but I have a brand of paint that works so well, I don't prime before I use it. I used it on my walls without priming and it has held up wonderfully. I even went from darker color to lighter.

Step 4: Sand and Tack (again)
If you do prime, you need to sand again. Very lightly and then tack. You should do this between every layer of paint. It helps it all adhere and give it a nice even feel.

Step 5: Paint
Ah! The main event. For furniture I use semi gloss. On my walls I use flat (unless in the bathroom I use semi gloss) Paint in thin, even coats. This is important. You would rather do more coats than put it on gloppy and uneven. Same basic principle as doing shellac nails! ;-) Oh and between every coat remember to go back to step 4 after you let it dry! I usually wait 12 hours for dry time. I normally paint 2-4 coats.


So bottom line, not a short process, but one well worth it!

September 12, 2016

Manicotti

I have been wanting to try making manicotti for a while now. I make some pretty easy and awesome stuffed shells, but I wanted to use that creamy idea for some manicotti. I added some spinach. I mean, healthy right?! Spinach makes this dish healthy...right?! 

Okay so maybe I will just keep telling myself that, but pasta is such a comforting dish. This one is perfect because it is cheesy and creamy.

It is as straight forward as it looks. So go ahead and make it!



Ingredients:

1 manicotti shells
1 ounces of frozen spinach, thawed
16 ounces of ricotta cheese
1 egg
1 teaspoon of oregano
1 1/2 cups of mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups of marinara sauce (I use store bought)

Directions:

Cook manicotti shells to package instructions. Cook spinach in saucepan.

Combine spinach, ricotta, egg, oregano, 1 cup of mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well!

Stuff each manicotti with filling.

In a 9x13 baking dish, spread 1 cup of marinara sauce on the bottom. Arrange manicotti over the sauce and top with remaining sauce and 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. I love serving with garlic bread and a nice salad!


Is it so wrong that I had leftovers for breakfast brunch?
Happy Monday!

September 9, 2016

Five on Friday

It is Friday! I hope this week flew by for you all, like it did for me! Things have been busy and don't seem to be slowing down anytime soon! I think I am okay with that! I am okay with all things fall.

One
If you know me, you know I am indecisive. I think I am fearful of missing out on something better, making the wrong decision, etc...I really do think I would be lost without my husband helping me to make some decisions. But hey, that's why we are a team! Thankfully he has all the patience in the world with me. Marriage is a partnership that I wouldn't trade for the world.

Two
I love having cooler weather 1.5 hours away from me. It is always nice to have a day escape from the desert! We went out with some friends to grill and for a short hike and it was a great day!
Great picture of us considering we hiked and got rained on! Or I just hang with a good looking crew...or both!

I mean seriously, how beautiful!
Three
I swear my hairdresser must hate me. I get my hair cut so infrequently that she has a lot of work to do. I am telling you this, but just know that I am not proud of this...
I know that a combination of being not proud of this fact and feeling so fresh and light after getting a haircut would encourage me to do so more often. It is rejuvenating. Go cut your hair!

Four
Lately I have seen people on blogs basically assuring readers that people’s lives on social media are not real. They say don't compare yourself to them, blah blah blah. But let me just rant for a second. Any picture you see from me is real life. Sure I am not posting me with morning breath when I first wake up in the morning, but I am also not spending 30 minutes to get a perfect shot of flat lay. I am all about real life and showing that, and I hope people do the same. Oh and no need to compare yourself no matter what.

Five
We are a food dehydrator family. It provides quick snacks for an on the go nurse and a healthy alternative for a man at his desk. I love my dehydrator because I use it for beef jerky and fruit. Using a dehydrator is more energy-efficient than slowly baking fruit in a low oven, and the results are more consistent.

Shown below from left to right: banana chips, dried apricots, and strawberry leather.

Anyone else ready for fall?
Happy Friday!

September 7, 2016

Football is Back!

We live and breathe football in our house. I am so excited it is back. Last season was a great one as a Broncos fan, let's hope this year doesn't disappoint! There is not a game that goes unseen and a chance to celebrate that goes un-celebrated! We usually homegate rather than go to games, but I like days filled with ongoing fun, food, and football. If you are planning on having a football party this year, consider these Big Game Homegating must haves to make the most of your day:

A Good Recipe: Cheesy Cheese Crisps

Ingredients:

2 eggs
1/2 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup of shredded parmesan cheese
1/2 cup of flour (or almond flour or crushed pork rinds for low carb)
1/3 teaspoon of baking powder

Directions:

Add eggs to large bowl and whisk until beaten.

Add cheeses, flour, and baking powder and mix well. 

Roll into a ball and place on greased baking sheet.

Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown at 400 degrees. Serve with a chili dipping sauce, salsa, or any other fun dippers you can think of!

And for more recipes check out the recipes tab!


Stock Up Your Bar:
Food is the staple of any football party, but you should provide a variety of drinks for your guests. Keep it flowing!



Dress Up:
Make sure you have your apparel/colors in full force! 


Festive Themed Decor:
Wave your flag and keep your decor in full force!

Impress With The Set Up:
My engineer puts up two TVs side by side so we can see all the action and go back and forth!


What are some of your homegating basics?

September 5, 2016

Brownie Ice Cream

My husband has gotten into making ice cream. I try and stay away from most of his ice cream, but sometime you just have to indulge and my favorite ice cream he makes is Brownie Ice Cream. It is amazing!


Ingredients:

1 cup of cocoa powder
1/2 cup of sugar
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1 cup of whole milk
1/4 teaspoon of salt
2 cups of heavy cream
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
brownie pieces
brownie slices to top

Directions:

In a stand mixer, combine cocoa powder, sugar, brown sugar, milk, and salt.

Add heavy cream and vanilla to mixture and combine, Cover with saran wrap and put in the fridge for one hour minimum.

Transfer to a frozen ice cream maker bowl and place bowl into the ice cream maker and let it churn for 15-20 minutes to thicken.

During that time, cut up brownies into bits and place on a baking sheet and place in the freezer for 5-10 minutes.

Once ice cream is thickened, add brownie bits.

Eat it immediately because it is good, It will be more like soft serve. If you want a firm ice cream, put  the ice cream in a container and freeze until ice cream sets (about two hours).

Adapted from here


Hope everyone is enjoying their labor day! 
Ice cream sounds like the perfect way to cool off!
I am off laboring today!
What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?

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