November 30, 2016

My Desert Backyard

I love where I live! When I moved into my house I found a new love for the Southwest. It is so nice to have Saguaro National Park basically in my backyard. Having beautiful mountains, hiking, and a different type of green.

The saguaro is a universal simple of the southwest and Saguaro National Park is the place to go if you want to see them!

Saguaro National Park is located in Tucson, Arizona. The park has two sections. Both have visitors centers and amazing mountains. The west side has the Tucson Mountains and the east side has the Rincon Mountains. The best time to visit is when the weather is cool. This is October-April. Many people who go other times often get in trouble with the heat.

The biggest question I get about the park is "If I only have time to go to one section, which do I go to?" This is a hard question to answer, but I am going to try and help with that! If you can only visit one, use the guide below to find your park.

Better to Drive: East (Cactus Forest Loop Drive 8.3 miles).

Better to Camp:  Toss Up. You cannot camp in Saguaro National Park. In Saguaro West there is Gilbert Ray Campground that is only 3 miles from the park. That is closer than Saguaro East which has the nearest campground 6 miles away.

Better to Hike: West. Both sides have excellent hiking trails, but I always seem to find it less crowded on the west side which is nice.

Better to Bike: East. I am not a big biker so this designation might not be correct, but I seem to see more people biking on the East side so I assume that is for a reason.

Easily Accessible: West. It is closer to the freeway so I think for out of towners, it should be easier to find.

Better Visitors Center: East. It is bigger and more accessible.

Where I See Petroglyphs: West. And only west! Hokokam Petroglyphs.



So both are great options. Hopefully you have time to visit both!
Remember to bring water!

November 28, 2016

Dad's Green Chile Meatballs

There is something about fall that tends to make me slack off a bit when it comes to my health. The holidays are a distraction, the food is fattening, and I work out less. When I go home and see my dad he constantly has lots of really great food. I can't help myself but tuck in. Never the less, healthy fall habits are something I admittedly need to work on, 

My dad surprised me the other day by making a healthy fall dish. Underneath it all, my dad is a big old softie who will do anything for his girls. That includes making a healthy, but delicious meatball! Making simple healthy switches is going to be my main goal in improving my fall health. This will help during this season where it seems every bit of progress made in the gym these last few months quickly disappears.

Ingredients:

For the Meatballs:
1.3 pounds of ground turkey
1/4 cup of panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg
1 tablespoon of onion powder
1 teaspoon of salt and a pinch of fresh pepper

For the Sauce:
1/3 cup of chopped green chile
1 can of chicken or turkey broth
1 teaspoon of olive oil

Directions:

In a large bowl, combine the turkey, breadcrumbs, cheese, egg, onion powder, and salt/pepper. Form small meatballs.

In crock pot, mix together chile, broth, and oil. Drop meatballs into sauce and set crock pot to low and go for 4-6 hours.


How do you plan to stay healthy this fall?

November 25, 2016

How To Survive Holidays Away From Your Family

As a nurse, I have written about working holidays. I work holidays every year. As a nurse, I spend a lot of holidays away from my family. To be honest, sometimes when I spend them away, I get into these moods where I don't look forward to the holiday. But sometimes, you just want to make everything feel as normal as possible, so buck up buttercup! This year I am so lucky to only have to work Thanksgiving and no Christmas or New Years (at this point at least). This is a first! 

I was talking to a friend who is unable to afford a plane ticket home to celebrate/spend the holiday season with her family. So whether you are working or just unable to spend a holiday with your family, here is how to survive it! This is applicable to Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, whatever big holiday it is that you are spending away from your family.
Eat:
Let's face it, a lot of the amazing parts of holidays include amazing meals. If you don't want to make your ham or turkey, place an order for one to go! I have even done this with some of my work colleagues! Who says you can't have a holiday potluck?! Make sure you have too much food. Leftovers are a traditional holiday necessity!

Do Something Untraditional:
Since you don't have a house full of family to sit and socialize with, turn your day (or days around the holiday) into a holiday by getting up and going out and exploring! Go hiking, out to a fancy dinner, volunteering at a soup kitchen, whatever you want!

Start a New Tradition:
Somethings don't need to be celebrated the day of and sometimes retaining a semblance of tradition can help your holiday spirits. Watch that favorite Christmas movie in PJs every year, make cookies, go look at Christmas lights, write a letter to each other about what you are thankful for; whatever you want!

Celebrate Early With Friends:
Try a Christmas cookie exchange or white elephant. Do a favorite things party, Friendsgiving, or adult Easter party. Whatever you do, find good company!

Document:
Take lots of pictures. You never know when your worst holiday will turn into your most memorable!



What do you do when you celebrate holidays away from family?

November 23, 2016

Thanksgiving S.O.S.

In honor of Thanksgiving, I am sharing some of my favorite leftover recipes that I learned from my Dad. Monday I shared a recipe for my favorite Turkey Pinwheels and today I want to share a breakfast recipe.

It is a take on a S.O.S. If you are from a military family, you probably already know what S.O.S. is. For those who don't know it stands for Stuff on a Shingle. With another word for stuff...

I love love love S.O.S. It is typically toast topped with ground sausage smothered in gravy. My dad shows his love through food. Sometimes I remember he would just wake up early on Sundays and make it for me. So good.

For Thanksgiving, he adapted it and once again, I am in love..

Now here is a picture of Thanksgiving S.O.S, but let me prep you, this is a delicious dish, but not very photogenic AT ALL. Kind of looks like it's name...

Ingredients:

Stuffing (enough to form into two patties)
Leftover gravy
Leftover turkey
sliced green chile

Directions:

Mash together stuffing and form into a patty. Place into a pan and fry lightly on either side of the patty.

Place stuffing patty on plate. In a sauce pan, mix gravy turkey, and green chile together until warm. (Usually my dad makes his own gravy for Thanksgiving and for this purpose, white gravy is better than brown gravy, but both work!)

Top patty with sauce mixture and enjoy immediately. Then ask for seconds.


So do you call it stuffing, filling, or dressing?
Have you ever had S.O.S?

November 21, 2016

Turkey Pinwheels

My dad is the KING of leftovers.

Literally, no one can convince me otherwise. He is a no waste kind of guy. A visionary so to speak. He can look at what is in the fridge and pantry and make something out of anything. Sure there are some not great dishes, but that is where my trial and error creation style of recipes comes from.

Now of course after a holiday meal, there is a lot of great leftover food to recreate. One of my favorite after Thanksgiving leftovers is making Turkey Pinwheels.

It is nice because you can prep them and keep in the fridge until you are ready to eat them!
Trust me, they will soon be your favorite too!


Ingredients:

3 large flour tortillas
1 1/2 cups of shredded leftover Thanksgiving Turkey
1 cup of shredded cheese (fiesta blend)
Some extra shredded cheese
1/2 cup of sour cream
Cilantro

Directions:

Lay tortillas flat, top with turkey and cheese evenly.

Roll up tortillas and refrigerate until cool enough to slice into pinwheels.

Place pinwheels flat on plate. Sprinkle with set aside shredded cheese and warm in microwave until melted.

Top with a dollop of sour cream and sprinkle with fresh cilantro.

Then enjoy!

November 18, 2016

5 Rules For Guests When Invited to Dinner

Tis the season for invites to dinner and parties! I shared some ideas for dishes if you are hosting Thanksgiving this year, but what about what is needed when you are going to someone else's house for dinner? Here is what you need to know:

Be Ontime:
I know this sounds like a big old "duh", but coming late or early can be oddly imposing on the host.

Don't Bring a Dish Unless Asked:
The host is the one whom plans the menu and works hard on that, so while your mashed potatoes may be great, she already has it.

Make Yourself Useful:
Offer to come early and prep. Do not take offense if you are told no. Once there, it is polite to ask if there is anything you can do, but do so only with permission from the host.

Bring a Beverage:
You can ask if there is any specific beer, wine, or nightcap the guest would like. If nothing specific is listed, bring something you think the host would like. Remember, white wine should come to a party chilled.

Bring a Gift:
If you are instructed to "just bring yourself", bring something small. No one ever gets mad when you show up with something with nice thought. Here are some ideas of things a host would love to receive:

Flowers: Bring them in a vase and trimmed already so the host does not have to attend to them. Sometimes I like even a simple mason jar, because it is a jar I don't mind giving up.

A Special Bottle of Wine: This is a fancy one that has a note for the host to enjoy it later when there are not as many relatives there that the host has to share it with.

Edible Sweets and Treats: Compound butters, cheeses, crackers, fruits, pancake mixes, chocolates, etc...are all great for the host to put away for another time.

Others: Candles and notebooks are always good little ideas 


Hosts and guests, what else would you recommend?
Happy partying!

November 16, 2016

Lauren's Guide To Friendsgiving

Today we are talking about Friendsgiving. The past 3 years I have hosted my friends before the actual event. Usually this is before two actual events; one being at my parents and the other with my husband's family. Because why can’t we feast multiple times in the month of November? It seems like the right thing to do.

Unfortunately I work the day of, but leftovers at my parents sound good too. At our Friendsgiving, everyone brings a side dish or dessert and I handle turkey, cranberry, and wine. Oh and this year, I made lime bars. I have a ton of limes and am trying to use them all. I am working on getting you the perfect recipes, but it is lime trial and error over in this house.

It is always a great time with a great group of friends. Oh and lots of laughs. Here are my tips on how to throw a fun and delicious Friendsgiving:

Send Invites:
While this dinner may not be as formal as your actual Thanksgiving dinners can be, you should send out invitations.Since there is an actual sit down dinner component to this party, I think having a solid number of guests let's me know how many people to prepare for. I send my invite through email. Every year, my guest list has changed slightly and so everyone replies all so we know that 2 people aren't both bringing pumpkin pie.

Go Grocery Shopping:
This may seem like an obvious "duh", but hear me out. There was one year I did not go grocery shopping soon enough and had to thaw the turkey very slowly with cold water. Whatever you are making, make sure you have enough room in the oven and more than enough food for all.

Set The Table:
This one is always a hard one for me because I am a person who is indecisive when it comes to shopping and has an odd sized table. Therefore, I do not have the white table cloth or set of chargers that I want. Never the less, I like to try and set out flowers and set the table nicely.

Make Sure Drinks Are Plenty:
The last thing you want to be doing is mixing, pouring, getting drinks for your guests all night. You can mix up a big signature cocktail for a punch bowl, mix up some apple cider, and have your wines and beers already up and ready (friends are always helpful and know how to use a corkscrew and bottle opener). I also (especially when people are drinking) make sure there is enough water for everyone.

Sit Back And Relax:
I will admit, this has been made easier by hosting this party more than once, but things will take care of themselves. I don't worry anymore about my table not looking like Pinterest, or having the perfectly crafted decor and presentation...and guess what?!? Neither do my friends. They do not worry at all! Generally there are leftovers and people take home what they want. We spend the time laughing and even have a funny tradition of everyone hiding their name tags around my house. Usually with something dirty on it (this all started the first year when my cursive J looked like a penis to someone. I assure you, it did not.) Would I have ever guessed that finding papers with dirty body parts drawn on them would be a result of hosting a dinner? Heck no, but when you sit back and relax and worry less, the party can take care of itself!

And remember to:
TAKE PICTURES! I honestly do not take enough and forget a lot. I mean this year I remembered to take a picture of the group AFTER three people left. I took pictures of the table before the festivities, but NONE of the food or rest of the fun. Learn from me and snap pics all night! I figure I would rather have too many instead of too little pictures.


So eat, drink, and have fun!
Happy Friendsgiving!

November 14, 2016

10 Easy Dishes for Your Thanksgiving

It is that time of year again! Time to prep the menu for holiday feasts. Here are some ideas of what to serve for Thanksgiving and trust me, you won't be disappointed. 

Delicious, easy, and fool proof is something you need for a holiday dinner as big as this!

Fresh Cranberry Sauce is better than store bought, easy, and a specialty of my husband's!

Can't Live Without: Broccoli and Cheese Casserole
My mom's recipe makes me feel like I always have a piece of history and tradition.

Looks Elaborate, But Easy to Make: Pecan Acorn Squash
I mean how fancy does this look?! Your guests will be so impressed!

Need More Carbs: Creamy Mashed Potatoes
Everyone loves a good standby of creamy mashed potatoes.

Need More Greens: Citrus Salad
This is a flavor packed salad perfect to fill any holes you have left on your plate!

What Everyone Sticks Around For: Peanut Butter Pie
If pumpkin pie isn't your thing or in addition, this Peanut Butter Pie is great!

To Tide You Over Before The Main Event: Pumpkin Muffins
Put them out on a plate for you and your guests so that you have something to tide you over till the big dinner, but so that you aren't too full when you have dinner!

For Breakfast The Next Morning: Pumpkin Over Night French Toast
I mean, hate to let all that canned pumpkin sit too long in the pantry. This is easy and a definite crowd pleaser!

To Make For Leftovers: Turkey Soup
Because some TV, warm soup, and a big fuzzy blanket on the couch is all you need afterwards.



The Make Ahead Plan: How far ahead we can make this stuff listed above

Three Days Before:
I have messed up and not thawed my turkey in time. In cold water though, you can de-thaw your turkey. It takes FOREVER. But for your turkey, the easiest way to de-thaw is to remember that you need to have your turkey in the fridge 24 hours for every 4-5 pounds.

Pumpkin muffins can be made ahead and stored room temp for 1-3 days before hand. It is often one of the first things I make for the big meal.

One Day Before:
You can make ahead your Broccoli Cheese Casserole the day before to save oven space for your turkey. Store in the fridge with aluminum foil over it.

Start and make your Pumpkin Overnight French Toast. Then it will be ready for the next day. Or do it tomorrow for breakfast the day after Turkey Day.

You can make your Peanut Butter Pie. It can easily be made day of since it takes no oven space, but you can get it done now for later!

Day Of:
Actually make the turkey!

I love fresh potatoes so personally I do not make my mashed potatoes early, but you can!

Make your salad day of. It takes no oven space so you can do it! Same with the Cranberry Sauce!



The day of after the meal or the day after you can start making your leftover Turkey Soup.
For more great tips, read more about preparing for a big meal.

November 11, 2016

Five on Friday

Working today guys, so it is a quick Five on Friday for you this morning!

One
Speaking of work, I got a promotion! I am now a clinical nurse lead on my unit. Basically I am in charge of the day to day operations and am there to make sure the day goes as smoothly as possible for patients and nurses. I am enjoying it so far! One of the great things about nursing is there are so many different things you can do within the nursing scope, that you are never bored!

Two
One of my friends had a 30th birthday. I couldn't help myself but give a gag gift...I put 20 chocolate kisses on the bottom and topped it with twenty suckers!

Three
It was a rough political season, but I want everyone to stop being hateful or bullies. I have seen people say and write some pretty horrendous things about people just because they voted one way or the other. Democracy is the best policy and we have spoken and we are all one United States of America. Let's just celebrate differences and work together!

Four
I am loving Arizona weather cooling down and hanging with my girlfriends. Some of my girlfriends and my sisters are far away, but I can't wait to see them soon!

Five
My husband gets every other Friday off with his work schedule, so I always try and take those days off with him. Today is one of those Fridays, but I had to work. Lately he has been out of town working, so he surprised me yesterday by taking the day off and going into work today so we could have a Date Day. We went to an Antique Market where I got the most beautiful punch bowl, took my loner car back since my car was done with service, went out to breakfast, went shopping at Marshalls, took his car in for a new battery, saw Girl on the Train, and went out for wine and pizza. Topping it off watching my beloved Browns do their normal thing. But it was such a great day! It is so nice to have good days like that!


Have a great weekend!
Have you ever had a great day of playing hookie?

November 9, 2016

Thoughts During My First Overseas Flight

I am writing this post in bed. Because what else would I do on a day off after having traveled for almost three weeks. Yeah, my own bed feels really great. I have one more trip to round out this year and I am reminded of my recent overseas flight to and from Europe I just took. I thought it would be fun to give you some insight to some of my thoughts that occur during those 9 hour flights!

Because what else would you want to read on a Wednesday?
Hour One
I really should be asleep to prevent jet lag. 

Hour Two
Okay now I should really be asleep, but they are handing out wine and food! 

Hour Three
Okay nap time. Yep nap sounds good.

Hour Four
How long did I sleep? Are we almost there? Oh...wait. It was only one hour....ugh!

Hour Five
Now I will listen to that playlist I spent hours making. Hopefully I can fall asleep again...

Hour Six
How much longer? Are we there yet? I have to pee...

Hour Seven
Well stretching my legs felt good. So maybe I should just stand here for a while in the aisle. Okay and now I should go to sleep again.

Hour Eight
I have to pee again. Why am I hungry again? Oh I should try and sleep some more. But oh, more food!

Hour Nine
Great, we are almost there. That wasn't so bad!


What goes through your mind during a long plane ride?

November 7, 2016

Pesto Ham Sliders

It is finally cooling down here in Tucson (and by cooling down I mean 80s for day time highs). But never the less, cooling down is cooling down and I could not be happier!

Actually, that is a lie. I could be happier. Maybe if the Indians could have actually won. Ugh that last series game killed me. But, congrats to the Cubs and to my Indians you did a great job this season!

But onto happier things like the weather: cooler weather and my team losing calls for comfort food. After travelling and working though, an easy weeknight meal/comfort food recipe for me are my Pesto Ham Sliders.


Literally this meal takes 10 minutes to prep and 15 minutes in the oven. Honestly I only give them 5 minutes to cool, so really quick and really easy and REALLY yummy.




Ingredients:

12 Hawaiian rolls, cut in half.
1/2 cup of pesto
2 slicing tomatoes
14 slices of deli ham
1/2 cup of shredded cheese (mozzarella or fiesta blend or provolone)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Spray a 9x13 inch baking pan with cooking spray and add the bottom half of the sliders.

Spread pesto over and then add layer of cheese. Then add sliced tomatoes and ham. Top with the top of the Hawaiian roll.

Spray rolls with cooking spray and then sprinkle Italian Seasoning over top.

Bake covered with aluminum foil for 15 minutes.


What are some of your favorite fast comfort foods?
Did you watch the World Series?

November 4, 2016

After Travel

Happy Friday! We are back from our trip to Italy! It was an incredible adventure and all too fast I am heading back to life as I know it.
I am bringing back a heart full of love for the world, a mind full of exciting new thoughts, ideas, a camera full of memories, and a ton of extra weight (let's not talk about that last one).

But I would like to cover it of course here. It was an incredible trip. It may be a while seeing as there was so much we did and are coming back to. I learned a lot. I know a lot of people encourage solo travelling, but I would never. Family and friends are irreplaceable and they are the ones I want to share these moments with. I could go to the beach, eat whatever I want, etc...but I want to laugh and love it with someone. Thank you to Kevin for doing such an amazing trip with me. 

I can't wait now for the holiday season at home. Home may not always be my home, but home is also where your people are. I am excited. This means shopping with my mom, laughing with my sisters, and eating with my dad.

So all and all, there is beauty out there, go see it. But I do always have this want after travel to just be home. Almost needing a vacation from my vacation. Right now I have lots of laundry and time that I wanna spend with the ones I love.


Who wants to come do laundry for me?
What are your weekend plans?

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