Wednesday, February 27, 2013

On hiatus

So....I've not been doing much cooking, quilting, knitting or much of anything else lately because of the classes I've been taking this quarter in my grad program.  I'm in an "exclusive" creative writing workshop (or at least I like to think it's exclusive); there are just four of us.  But that means we each have to bring a new story every week for the whole quarter!  And the other class I'm taking is a very interesting 20th century British colonial/postcolonial literature class.  We're reading Conrad's Heart of Darkness, Virginia Woolf's The Voyage Out, and E.M. Forster's A Passage To India, along with some postcolonial novels, including Achebe's Things Fall Apart, which happened to really rock my world.

So I haven't been able to do any quilting, etc., which makes me sad.  But the good news is that I've written 80 pages of my thesis in the past two months!!!  Graduation is just around the corner, and I am so, so glad I decided to apply to this program because it's far exceeded my expectations, and I feel that it's re-awakened my passion for literature and writing and, really, all things creative.  But I promise that, come June, the quilts will be churned out with zeal, and my blog posts will be more frequent than they have been as of late.

No news on the adoption front.  We're just taking some time to decompress and enjoy the last bits of our educational careers at the moment.  Unless I apply to another be continued!  

Friday, January 18, 2013

Homemade Chicken Soup for flu season husband and I got the flu.  And not the stuffy nose, aches and pains flu, but the stomach bug that's been going around that makes you feel like Sigourney Weaver when she gives birth to the alien.  It was absolutely dreadful.  Thank goodness for saltines and ginger ale.  But ALSO, thank goodness I made a huge batch of my homemade chicken soup and froze it in quart containers a couple weeks ago!!!  Here's my recipe:

8 cups of low-sodium chicken broth (I've made my own, and I've also used Better than Bouillon)
4 stalks of celery, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 medium-sized yellow onion
1/2 pound of boiled chicken breasts, shredded
3/4 cup of uncooked noodles (I like to use mini shells, but whatever is your favorite is fine!)
handful of fresh parsley (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

First, I saute the onion, celery, and carrots in a tablespoon of olive oil until the onions become translucent.  Next, I add the broth.  Ahead of time, I've boiled 1/2 pound of chopped up chicken breasts.  When they are cooled, I shred them into bits.  So now is the time to add the shredded chicken to the pot.  Next, throw in the uncooked noodles. Lastly, I throw in the handful of chopped parsley, add a little salt and pepper, lower heat to medium/low, and let simmer for about 45 minutes.  If the carrots are still a little crunchy by this point, lower heat to low and let simmer for another 15 minutes.

And it is really that simple!  Also, it's a great, delicate soup to help nurse a cold or flu.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Cooking for an Army of Two?

For the past year of grad school, I've taken advantage of the breaks in between quarters to cook like a madwoman and freeze home-cooked meals so that I don't have to cook during the quarter, and when I'm in class at night, my husband can still have his home-cooked meals that he can just warm up.  He's spoiled!  So this year....we got a Costco card!  I always thought it was silly to have a Costco card when I live in a two-person household, but since I'm cooking enough meals to last three months at a time, meat and veggies can get expensive at the regular grocery store around the corner from our house!

Next quarter I am taking two classes, and tomorrow I'm starting to work on a new case that should be in depositions mostly every day for the next couple of months.  We also may be getting an addition to our family within the next month or so (more on this later!  trying not to get my hopes up too much before it is actually official), hence the need for ready-cooked meals, at least until I graduate in June.

So here's what I cooked today after a trip to Costco (which is VERY dangerous, by the way.  I can see how ladies get on that coupon/hoarders show if they have a Costco card):

2 meatloaves, recipe on my blog (the two loaves are around 12 servings)
2 pots of marinara and meatballs (around 16 servings)
1 crock pot of turkey chili, my favorite! recipe on my blog (around 18 servings)
14 twice-baked broccoli cheddar potatoes, which my family will be sampling tomorrow for dinner with the meatloaf.  On other nights, we can just grill up some chicken to go with it, which we bought tons of at Costco to freeze, too (so...14 servings, ha!)

This weekend I will make:

Albondiga soup, recipe is on my blog if you want to search it (around 12 servings)
Chicken noodle soup in case we need comfort food during cold/flu season (12 servings)
Tortilla Chicken Soup (12 servings)
Stuffed peppers (12 servings)

I know this sounds crazy, but that equals over 100 meals, totaling $3 a meal. I freeze them in freezer-safe, heat-safe plastic containers and thaw them the morning I want to serve them for dinner.  I've frozen all these recipes before, and they freeze beautifully!  You really can't tell that they weren't just cooked.  Anyone have ideas for what else I could make that freezes well?  Post a response!

Happy holidays, all!

Monday, November 26, 2012


Here are my works in progress as far as quilting goes.  Just a bunch of jelly roll quilts.  I bought all of these jelly rolls from the Fat Quarter Shop:

Here are the backs of the quilts:

They are all crib-sized quilts, and I plan on quilting them myself, except for the last quilt, which I took to my long-arm lady.  Finally, I'm finished with these batiks!!!  It only took me a year!  My excuse is that I've been in grad school, ha!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

New Quilt!

Hi, everyone!  Thanksgiving was wonderful this year.  Daniel and I spent it with my mom and her two beagles.  It was a quiet, low-key day of watching movies and playing games.  Then yesterday I got a phone call from my long-arm quilter letting me know that I had quilts ready to pick up, yay!!!  I love those phone calls.  She did a beautiful job and made my substandard quilting skills less noticeable.  I am giving this quilt to my mother-in-law for Christmas.  She doesn't read my blog, so I'm in no danger of spoiling the surprise.  Of course, I haven't put the binding on yet, so you will have to use your imagination:

I was inspired by this quilt, which I thought was so lovely, so I improvised a pattern.  I can't wait to bind it and wrap it up!  This quarter in grad school, I had over 2,000 pages to read for my Victorian Lit class.  I figured, for the novels I won't be writing my term paper on, I could listen to some of them on Audible while I'm quilting!!!  So I read/listened to Mill on the Floss by George Eliot while quilting this quilt.  Great book!    

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

It's been a busy month

November is through, and how sad I am about this fact. I love November. The crisp air, leaves changing colors, Thanksgiving leftovers, pumpkin pie, making fires and staying in. Now comes December, the most hectic time of the year. Just the word "Christmas" brings on hives and an increased heart rate! I am so glad that our family chose to listen to my Secret Santa idea a few years ago because this has eased some of the craziness of frantic Christmas shopping. In spite of this anticipated chaos, I got quite a bit done in November:

1. Home study complete. Just waiting for the final report.
2. I participated in National November Novel Writing Month, and I wrote 68 pages of a novel! I didn't finish the novel, but that is neither here nor there.
3. I knit Daniel a new cap since I accidentally shrunk his last one.
4. I am halfway through a beret for my sister Sara (it may end up being's very cute)
5. I cooked many good meals this month! I also made my yearly Pasta Flora pie at my dad's request, and following in my grandmother's spirit, I refuse to post the recipe for the pie. It's a secret I will take to the grave (or urn).
6. I've been working a lot, and I haven't hated it. I've had some interesting and entertaining depositions lately that have given me a newfound appreciation for court reporting. I feel very blessed that I've had such a successful career. And our Christmas party is at Lake Chalet this year, and I heard there are going to be gondola rides!!! Hope nobody falls in the lake.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Cherry Chocolate Wine Cake

I made the most amazing bundt cake for my mom's birthday!  It was my first bundt, and I had two go-arounds with it (the first one fell apart as I was taking it out of the bundt pan, and yes, I swore like a sailor). 


Nonstick vegetable cooking spray

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate

1 cup red wine, such as cabernet sauvignon

1/3 cup whole milk

1 3/4 cups granulated sugar

2/3 cup (10 2/3 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature

3 large eggs, slightly beaten

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 box (.3 ounce) sugar-free black cherry gelatin

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

For the Wine Glaze

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup red wine, such as cabernet sauvignon

1 cup confectioners' sugar, plus more for serving

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 350.  Mix all the dry ingredients together.  Mix the sugar, butter and eggs together with a mixer until fluffy.  Melt the chocolate and mix with wine and milk in another bowl.  Combine all mixes now in one large bowl, mixing well on low until smooth with no lumps.  Generously grease the bundt pan and pour in the mixture.  Bake for 40 to 45 minutes.  Let cool for 15 minutes.  Tip over and release bundt on a cake dish.  When ready to serve, make the wine glaze by mixing the butter, red wine, sugar and vanilla in a small sauce pan until a syrupy consistency.  Sprinkle powdered sugar over cake and drizzle the wine glaze over each serving with a garnish of fresh berries. 

This cake was delicious and moist.  Everybody loved it!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Our Three-Year Anniversary

Our third anniversary was January 3. I know, I'm pretty late in posting the pictures of our overnight getaway. I've been busy!!! Anyway, we went to Carmel and stayed at a cute little bed and breakfast walking distance from the beach. We got a killer deal on the room because we stayed the day after New Year's. So we really celebrated on January 2, but it's okay!  Time slips by too quickly.  I can't believe we've already been married three years.  Hey, in another two, we'll be able to adopt from any country we want!!  We just won't have any money left.  Details, details...

We had dinner at this little French bistro called "Le Bicyclette."  Good food!

Here's our room!  Very cute and cozy.  Too bad I had a cold and Daniel got food poisoning from lunch.  We were both passed out by 10:00, haha!

The morning of our anniversary, getting ready to head back home.

Have you ever seen a gas station sign this cute???  Only in Carmel...

Sunday, February 12, 2012


Okay, so I will be the first to admit that I'm not the person who people are calling off the hook for beauty advice, and my sisters are not shy about reminding me of that.  Picture hiking boots, ponytail, sweatshirt and jeans, and that's pretty much me when I'm not at work.  But...I do like to have pretty nails and try to keep them painted and looking nice.  I do them myself, though.  I was at a nail salon with my BFF, getting ready for her wedding, and she told me to try shellac.  She said I would LOVE it!  And she was right.  I absolutely did.  But I watched the manicurist closely, and all shellac really breaks down to is painting your nails with a special polish that cures under the UV light.  But that manicure cost me 30 bones. 

So I told my friend Carrie, "There must a cheaper way I can do this at home," and she looked at me like I was certifiable, since the whole point is to be doted on at a salon!  Well, not for me.  I am a very busy woman, and I don't like being doted on.  It makes me uncomfortable.  So I plopped myself down in front of the computer and searched on Amazon for a UV light and shellac polish, and voila!  For $85, I bought a light, four polishes, and this would give me at least 30 manicures.  That comes out to $2.83 per manicure.  Can you really beat that?????  No!  So here's what you need to get nails looking like these:

You need a Thermal Spa UV light that will accomodate both hands.  $45 on

You will need a base coat, a top coat, and a color coat of any brand, but I like CND.  You can get them on  They run about $10 to $15 a bottle, but keep in mind, it will give you 30 applications.

You will need cotton balls and 91% rubbing alcohol.

AND THAT'S IT!!!  So here are the steps:

1.  Push your cuticles back.
2.  Apply the base coat and place hands under UV for 20 seconds.
3.  Apply color coat and place hands under UV for 2 minutes.
4.  Apply second coat of color and place hands under UV for another 2 minutes.
5.  Apply top coat and place hands under UV for 2 minutes.
6.  Your nails will feel sticky at this point.  Take a cotton ball and soak it with alcohol.  Rub nails until they are smooth and shiny.  And that's it!!!  You will have beautifully shellac'd nails for two weeks.  No chips, no breaks, looking amazing for two weeks.  When you are ready to take the color off, the polish literally peels off, doing no damage to your nails.  Honestly, I will never go back to a nail salon again.  At $2 a manicure when it is most convenient for me, why would I?
7.  Enjoy!! Anything to keep my mind off the adoption, right?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

All the lonely tamales

My dad loves to buy fresh-made tamales by the truckful from a local Mexican market that's owned by one of my brother's friends.  I usually reap the benefits of these tamale runs, since my dad always brings me back a bag of them.  This Christmas, my dad and stepmom hosted dinner, and they bought tamales at another Mexican shop.  These tamales seemed more filling, and by the end of the evening, there were tons left over.  Well, Daniel loves tamales, and I do, too.  But I can only have tamales for leftovers so many nights!  Daniel suggested that we throw them into a soup, to which I replied, "That's ridiculous!"  We looked online for a tamale soup recipe, and sure enough, there were many.  So I had to eat my words and also the leftover tamales, but this time in a delicious and hearty soup!


1 can of black beans

1 can of diced tomatoes

4 cups chicken broth
1 cup onion, diced

1 tablespoon garlic, minced

teaspoon cumin, ground

1/2 teaspoon  cayenne powder

teaspoon salt

teaspoon ground black peppers

4 to 6 frozen tamales (chicken, pork, or beef), cut into bite-size cubes 

1 cup mexican-style cheese, shredded

In a large pot, heat up some vegetable oil and sautee the diced onion and garlic until translucent.  Next add all the other ingredients, except for the tamales and the cheese.  Bring to a simmer while cutting up the tamales.  Last, add the cubed tamale pieces and allow to simmer for about 20 minutes.  Ladle into bowls and top with shredded cheese.  I made quesadillas on the side.  Delicioso!