Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Post Repeat

Hello bloggie friends!  I hope your Wednesday if off to a good start.  I’m excited because we are ripping out the floor in our kitchen and great room today and getting new tile installed tomorrow!  I’m not excited about the mess and losing the kitchen for a few days, but the end result will be worth it!  This may mean that my blogging could be sketchy the next few days.  We shall see…

I’m reposting a recipe I created a while back that still gets many anonymous comments.  It is my copy-cat version of the lettuce wraps served at FEZ, a contemporary Mediterranean - inspired restaurant in downtown Phoenix.  Hip, urban, and just a little bit different, it was the menu – particularly the lettuce wraps, that will keep me coming back.

Here is the menu description:

fez lettuce wraps

minced grilled chicken with dried pears, dates, dried cherries, almonds, pomegranate vinaigrette & romaine cups

My Version:

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I played with a the pomegranate molasses and a few other things to get just the right taste of the pomegranate vinaigrette.  Mmmm...just as I remember it to be, tangy, with a hint of sweet.  Perfect! 

Romaine leaves are used rather than iceberg.  I like the difference, as I think it creates a prettier presentation, and easier "wrap," and slightly better nutrition.  I didn't feel like running out to the store, so I substituted a dried fruit mixture that I had in the pantry for the dried pears and cherries.   I always have dates on hand, so they were added in as  well.  Although, I do want to make these again and try the pear/cherry fruits. 

FEZ  Mo’s LETTUCE WRAPS

1 – ½ cup grilled chicken, diced

½ cup jicama, diced

1/2 cup dried fruit trail mix (or dried pears and cherries)

½ cup (8-10 dates) slivered

sliced almonds

1-2 heads of Romaine lettuce

Pomegranate vinaigrette

Pomegranate Vinaigrette:

¼ cup pomegranate molasses

2 Tbsp. Red wine vinaigrette

1 heaping tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 Tbsp. Honey, or more – to taste

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Mix chicken ingredients together and add ½ of the vinaigrette. Stir to combine. Lay out romaine lettuce leaves over plate. Add chicken mixture and leave extra at bottom of leaves. Cover with slivered almonds and drizzle remaining vinaigrette.

Not your typical lettuce wrap, hese are delicious as a light lunch, or great as an appetizer to bring to a dinner party.  Let me know if you try them!

Have you ever copied a restaurant meal or appetizer and feel you succeeded? 

This is probably the closest I’ve come to recreating the real thing. 

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Review Time

Good morning friends.  What’s on your agenda for the day?  I get to go to the dentist – woohoo!  No, I’m serious, I’m one of the weirdos that LOVES to go to get my teeth cleaned and checked.  If my insurance covered it more often I’d probably go every 3 months instead of every six.  Does anyone else have any weird quircks like that? 

Today I thought I’d post a review of a workout video that I tried when I was in Minnesota.  I took my P90X, but did not end up doing it, and did this Get Ripped & Chiseled by Jari Love instead.  The reason I chose to do this instead was that I wanted a whole body workout, since I knew I wouldn’t be doing strength training as often.  Love’s workout was a full body workout, that is often compared to the Les Milles Body Pump workouts.  (I can’t attest to that since I haven’t taken one before.)

I set up my 8 pound dumbbells (all I had at my parents’ house) and put in the DVD.  I’m usually very skeptical of workout DVD’s, as I’ve found a lot of them to be to beginner-ish to me.  This was NOT.  After the squats and lunge tracks my legs were feeling like jello.  And as much as I love to workout my arms, I could not make it through the biceps and triceps track.  Wow!  That said, there were a lot of reps, and I was using 8 pounds, which was probably a bit heavy for that many reps.  I usually like to lift heavy with less reps, for strength, but this was a nice way to mix it up, and I certainly felt it the next day.  The video was split up into tracks where you could just work certain body parts separately, or do the full body workout.  That would come in really handy on days when I don’t have an hour, and just want to do upper or lower body, or just bi’s and tri’s, for example.  I will do this workout again when I want to mix up my normal style of strength training.

Now, because I believe in balance, and one cannot live by exercise alone, I feel the need to review a new favorite indulgence.

Cost Plus World Market’s All Natural Sea Salt Dark Chocolate

World Market Chocolate Bars - Cost Plus World Market  (source)

 

Oh my, I’m usually not a big chocolate girl, but …oh myDark chocolate with notes of substantial sized but sparsely scattered sea salt here and there.  Such a lovely contrast of flavor and texture, it almost made my heart flutter.  They are 64% Dark chocolate cocoa that melts into perfect luciousness on the tongue.  I have tried the Lindt with a touch of sea salt in the past, and they don’t even compare IMHO.  I’m a chocolate convert for sure – at least if it this dark chocolate.

Do you do strength training?  If you do, what is your usual style?  Heavy weight, high reps, bands, body weight only? 

What is your favorite chocolate? 

Monday, September 27, 2010

Just Another Manic Monday

Hey there bloggies!  How was your weekend?  I hope it was splendid!  Our was filled with dinners parties with friends.  I also did my 9 mile run in preparation for the Long Beach Half Marathon.  Luckily, I ran with my friend, Sarah, on Saturday morning and it wasn’t bad at all.  Especially considering I haven’t ran that distance in at least 5 years.  Thanks Sarah – I couldn’t have done it without you! 

Is it just me, or does it seem like Mondays are always extra busy?  Or is it that it is still instilled in my head from so many years of school and full time employment, to dread Mondays?  Either way, I always feel busy and a bit rushed to get the “do do” list done.

For instance today, my “to do” list includes:

Cleaning out closets (garage sale/Goodwill come by this weekend)

3 mile walk with Ava in the jog stroller

Laundry

Make homemade veggie burgers

P90X yoga

Flu shots for Ava and I

Facial

Tiny Tot’s Time (at the library)

Facial  (yay!) 

Oh, and playing with/watching my ever busy toddler to keep her out of trouble.  (The most time consuming task of all of them.)

I didn’t get to photograph one of the dinners this weekend, because I didn’t know the people hosting the dinner party until we got there and didn’t want to whip out my camera.  So, here’s a little bit of what else went down this weekend.

1.  The Vikings beat the Lions!!

2.  The Cardinals beat the Raiders!!!!!  (Exciting game)

3.  Yummy Pomegranate Martinis

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1 shot Pomegranate Vodka

1/2 shot Pomegranate juice

squeeze of fresh lime

lot’s of drink-gasms!

4.  Jasmine rice with wakame seaweed/sesame seed mixture cooked in

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4.  Perfectly seared fresh Ahi tuna

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5.  Leftover Ahi over Mixed Greens

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6.  Grilled tofu over grits, baby bok choy and shitake mushrooms.

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7.  More homemade apple crisp with Minnesota Haralson apples

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8.  Beautiful Caprese Salad (with tomatoes brought back from my mom’s garden)

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What was the best thing you ate or drank this weekend?

For me, best drink –pomegranate martini.   Best eat- apple crisp

Thursday, September 23, 2010

1 Minute Fresh Mozzarella, Tomato and Spinach Salad

Good morning! 

Now if you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you know that since we became parents, we are all about the ‘Quick and Easy’ meals.  Many nights we don’t start dinner until after we have put Ava down to bed.  This way, we can enjoy a glass of wine and relax while eating, rather than gulp everything down in 5 minutes like she does.  Although, many nights we are exhausted at this point, and do not want to spend a lot of time creating an intricate recipe.  We like to cook and eat good food that is healthy and quick, but sometimes that involves some short cuts.  I like to take short cuts on the side dishes, and this salad is a perfect example. 

First, start with some marinated fresh mozzarella cheese (the kind that has olive oil + herbs), and some small tomatoes (grape or mini heirlooms.)

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This is what the cheese looks like.  Don’t throw away the oil mixture, as that is your salad dressing. 

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Toss over some fresh spinach or organic mixed greens.  Add as much of the olive oil/herb “dressing” as desired. 

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Does it get any quicker than that?

Because this is such a quick post, here is another Ava photo.  It seems that the kitty and Ava were enjoying a nice sunny day in Minnesota. 

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On the agenda today:

Bootcamp Class  (!!)

Story time at the library

Costco for organic spinach

Laundry

Having friends over for dinner

See you tomorrow!

What are you favorite “go to” side dishes when you want ‘quick and easy?’

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Final Dinner in Minnesota

As hard as it is to leave the crisp fall mornings and return to temperatures in the triple digits, it feels good to be home.  I think 9 days away is a lot with a 14 month old.  Of course, now we need to restock the kitchen, do some laundry, and work on getting back into the normal nap schedule.  But first, here is the dinner we made our last night in Minnesota.

Scott grilled some fresh, local eggplant and the last of the zucchini from my mom’s garden.  Great job on the perfect grill marks Scott! 

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While Scott was manning the grill, I was in the kitchen making a recipe my mom had picked out that morning.  This is also from the September issue of Cooking Light magazine.  (I had left it on the counter after making the scallop recipe and she flipped through it and found this one.)  I made a couple of substitutions and forgot to add the fresh thyme.

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Chicken Stuffed with Spinach, Feta, and Pine Nuts (adapted from Cooking Light)


5 ounces fresh spinach, chopped
1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled feta cheese
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted  (we didn’t have, so I used capers)
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth

1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Heat a large nonstick ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add spinach to pan; cook 1 minute or until spinach wilts, tossing constantly. Place spinach in a colander; press until barely moist. Wipe pan clean.

3. Combine spinach, cheese, nuts, thyme, juice, and garlic. Cut a horizontal slit through the thickest portion of each chicken breast half to form a pocket. Stuff 3 tablespoons filling into each pocket. Seal with wooden picks. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper.

4. Heat oil in pan over medium-high heat. Add chicken; cook 3 minutes on each side or until brown. Add broth, and cover pan. Place pan in oven. Bake at 350° for 15 minutes or until done.

We also roasted some local butternut squash. 

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And enjoyed with a lovely crisp Chardonnay-Pinot Grigio blend.  This was an excellent accompaniment to the meal and perfect for the unseasonable warm Minnesota evening. 

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This meal was a success!  Normally not a big fan of chicken breasts, I found this moist and flavorful.  My parents loved it ~which is a score for me.  Usually we have very different tastes in foods, which has also been somewhat challenging with cooking this week.  Does anyone else have this problem when staying with family?  My parents eat very typical midwest “meat and potatoes.”  In fact, unless I was cooking or adding to the meal, there was very little colorful vegetables.  I take for granted that my friends and food bloggers are more adventurous in tastes and willingness to try new things. 

What do you do when you are with non adventurous eaters?  How does it effect your cooking and eating?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Seared Scallops with Farmer’s Market Salad

Today is our last day in Minnesota, so we are busy packing up to head to the airport later this afternoon, and I have to make this quick.  And speaking of quick, here is a super quick, impressive meal that we made the other night for my parents, brother, and sister in law.  From the Enlightened Cook- 5 Ingredient Cooking section of the September issue of Cooking Light, it literally took us less than 20 minutes from start to finish.  Corn, tomatoes, and basil all came from my mom’s garden.  (The corn was cut off the cob last month and frozen.)
Seared Scallops with Farmers Market Mom’s Garden Salad
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This recipe is a keeper for sure.  The flavors were fresh and vibrant, and really lended a nice texture underneath the buttery, tender scallops.  I really like when a recipe is both simple and impressive.  Great for when you want to spend maximum time catching up with guests, not chained to the kitchen.  It was also fun to use ingredients that my mom grew in her garden.  She really enjoys seeing us use the “fruits” of her labor.
We went with a simple, fall dessert utilizing local apples.  My parents live about 2 blocks from some huge apple orchards.  For this apple crisp, I used Haralson apples.  They are tart and crunchy, which makes them good for baking or eating.  The recipe, from Allrecipes.com was fantastic.  The only thing I changed was to use all purpose gluten free flour, as my sister in law is intolerant to gluten. 
Pre-baking:
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Blurry, post baked picture.  (Too much wine with dinner?) 
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Mmm…buttery, cinnamony, crunchy perfection.  This will be my go-to apple crisp recipe for sure. 
Ingredients:
  • 3 pounds tart apples
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup rolled oats
  • 4 tablespoons cold butter (1/2 stick)
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
Preparation:
Peel, core and chop the apples; toss in a bowl with lemon juice. In a separate bowl, combine the brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg; add to the apples and toss to combine.
In another bowl combine flour, sugar and oats. Cut butter into 8 small pieces, and cut butter into flour with a pastry blender or two forks until mixture is crumbly. Stir in the chopped nuts.
Butter a 9-inch square baking dish. Spread apple mixture in bottom of baking dish then sprinkle with flour mixture. Bake at 375° for 30 to 45 minutes, or until apples are tender. 
 
Ava is practicing her yard work on the deck with Grandma watching in the background.  (It’s also one of her first time in jeans and a sweatshirt.  :-)   
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What is your favorite fall dessert? 
I’d have to say fresh apple crisp or apple pie is mine.  Growing up near apple orchards it was as much of a fall Sunday baking tradition as watching the Vikings. 

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Minnesota Blogger Meet Up

Good morning friends!  I hope everyone had a great weekend.  Are you enjoying autumn weather where you are?  We are experiencing perfect crisp, fall mornings and moderate afternoons in Minnesota.  In fact, yesterday, was the perfect fall Sunday…just like I remember growing up. I also got in a cool 7 mile run first thing in the morning.  It was chilly, but a nice change from the warmer temperature runs I’ve been doing in Arizona.  I was dreaming about a nice hearty bowl of oatmeal to refuel when I was done. 

Our weekend was just as perfect.  One of the best parts was meeting Mellissa, of A Fit and Spicy Life, on Friday night.   Mellissa and I have been reading each other’s blogs for over a year.   Between her love of fitness, travel and healthy living, not to mention her reviews of restaurants and exquisite meals, I knew we would hit it off.    We met at a very cute restaurant called, Enjoy, located in Apple Valley, Minnesota. 

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At first we couldn’t decide between dinner, appetizers, or a drink before moving on to another restaurant.  We placed an order for a few appies, and put off deciding.  I felt the same way about the wine list.  So many great choices that I couldn’t decide, so I shared with Scott and we ordered a cab and chardonnay and then kept splitting additional glasses throughout the night.

Our appetizers were delivered and my lack of hunger immediately reversed. 

Delicious plump scallops, perfectly seared with a orange and pear mixed greens. 

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Mixed mushroom flatbread with sherry aioli and melted boursin cheese.    I wanted to dive into a vat of the sherry aioli…OMG!

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Seared Ahi with a Sesami crust.  Cooked perfectly to a nice rare “fish butter.” 

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It was hard to choose a favorite, but I think the mushroom flatbread was the most interesting in flavor and hard to reproduce with that sherry aioli. 

Mellissa is a total gem, and even though I felt like I already “knew” her from her blog, she was even more beautiful and charming in person.  I look forward to seeing her again either in Phoenix, or my next trip to Minnesota.

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Have you ever met one of your favorite bloggers in person? 

I have met one other blogger and that is Averie, when she lived in Phoenix. 

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Crunchy, sweet, delicious…and healthy?

Happy Humpday blogland!

I’m chillin’ here in Minnesota with coffee cup in hand.  Literally, chilling, being that it’s about 50 degrees outside and my Arizona blood isn’t used to it just yet.  Bring on more hot coffee!  I only wish I had a Nutridel cookie to dunk in my mug. 

A few weeks ago, I received some samples of cookies from Marisela at Nutridel.  I had heard about these somewhere in California, and couldn’t wait to try them for myself. 

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The variety of flavors including pecan, oatmeal, flaxseed and almond. 

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It’s hard to tell from this picture, but the cookies are very thin.  There are two in this package and I’d say they aren’t much thicker than a piece of cardboard. 

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Look at the fantastic nutritional stats.  All of the flavors are roughly the same calories, fat, and fiber. 

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Now, I didn’t mean to compare these to cardboard in the above comment.  No siree, these taste nothing like cardboard.  They are perfectly crunchy, nice and sweet, but not overly so, and grainy and seedy (in a good way.)  Pecan was my favorite flavor and reminded me of eating a healthy pecan sandie.  I enjoyed the lightness of the cookies, as a perfect bedtime snack with a cup of tea.  I love a sweet treat without the guilt!

Would I buy these if I saw them at the store?  Absolutely!!  I only wish they were sold in my area.

What are you doing this humpday?

My mom, Ava, and Iare going to ‘Story Time’ at the library in my home town later this morning.  Then, I hope to either get in a swim at the Community Center or a P90X sesh since the weather isn’t looking fabulous for a run.  (Yes, I brought P90X with me.  One of the things I found appealing about purchasing a DVD workout.)

Do you take exercise gear with you when you travel? 

Monday, September 13, 2010

Homemade Sushi Night

Hello from Minnesota!

Gosh, it was sure different getting up for a run this morning in 50 degrees, compared to the 80 degrees that I ran in Saturday!  It actually affected my pace a little, as my lungs were not quite ready for that cold air.  My legs felt great after having a rest day yesterday.  It was also a bonus not having to push the jog stroller since Ava stayed and played with Grandma NeeNee.

Now let’s rewind to last Friday.  We celebrated my birthday with a couple of my good friends coming over and making homemade sushi!  Sarah gave me a sushi cookbook for my birthday the week before, so we had to try it out.  It’s actually not as hard as you think. 

First off, Scott prepped a few ingredients for “filling” as I worked on the rice.  (We used sushi rice, and cooked it in the rice cooker.)  So far, piece of cake.  Hey, did someone say cake

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When the rice is done cooking, you combine it with a little bit of rice vinegar, mirin, and salt in a non metallic bowl.  Easy right?  Making sushi rolls is fun for a dinner party because everyone can get involved and it lends to great creativity in your rolls.    Here’s the first couple we produced. 

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Make sure you have plenty of edammame for hungry sushi rollers. 

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Here are a couple we tried with soy paper, and with a cucumber “wrapper” usually known as a “lollipop” roll.  Not as pretty, but these were a lot more advanced.  But, they still tasted yummy!

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Setting the table in an Asian theme.  Our nights have finally cooled down, so we took advantage and ate out on the patio.

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Spicy tuna hand rolls, part of a Rainbow roll and some nigari sushi.  (We found sashimi grade ahi and salmon at Whole Foods.)   We may never go out for sushi again!

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So glad we got over being intimidated by sushi and decided to give it a go.  We gobbled up every last piece.

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It was such a fun night!

Have you ever made homemade sushi?  What is one food or cuisine that’s you haven’t made because you didn’t think you ‘could?’

Have a great Monday bloggies!  We are off to go hunt down some fall Honeycrisp apples, that are literally grown almost in my parents’ backyard. 

Friday, September 10, 2010

Scallop Dinner and Announcement

Good morning!

It’s Friday – (hands waving in the air) and it’s my birthday!  (shameless plug numero uno)  Didn’t this short week fly by?  I have all sorts of stuff to get done today because Ava and I are leaving Sunday for a couple of weeks in Minnesota. I also have a birthday announcement to make (shameless plug number 2.)  More on that in a minute. 

The other day jumbo scallops were on sale, so I splurged and decided to pair them with some heirloom tomatoes that were also on special.  I thought this was a fun presentation with a cauliflower puree in the middle.  (Balsamic syrup for flavah and colah.)

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Scott played around with a different presentation and added a couple sugar snap peas for color.  Maybe we should take a vote on the better presentation?

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Scallops were simply seared in a couple of teaspoons of real butter and a little S & P.

Now, for my little “announcement”. 

In light of the fact that I’m the big 4-0, (shameless plug number 3,) I’ve decided to come out of distance-running retirement, and do a half marathon!.  I know that’s not entirely a long distance, but it will be on these 40-year old knees.  The other motivator…it’s in Long Beach, California- next month.  Running along the ocean in October?  Doesn’t sound to shabby, right?  After that, back to “retirement” and runs no longer than 4 miles.  (If I can still walk.) 

So, tomorrow will be 7 miles.  Luckily, the mornings are cooling off, so it should be enjoyable.  Today I’m going to have an active rest day by swimming a few laps, followed by some fun pool play with Ava. 

Vote – which presentation of our scallop dinner do you like better?  Remember it is my birthday.  :-)   (Shameless plug number 4.) 

See you from Minnesota!!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

SURPRISE!!

Hello bloggies!

Aren’t short weeks fun?  Like it feels like Tuesday, but it’s really Wednesday.  LOVE that! 

Yesterday I mentioned that I had a little surprise to tell you about.  Well, remember last Friday when we were talking about weekend plans and I mentioned we were going out for sushi for a friend’s birthday?  Turns out, my husband and friends had planned a surprise birthday party for me!  I can’t believe it because I usually can smell what Scott is up to a mile away.  They threw my off because it really was Mike’s birthday over the weekend, and because they did it a week early.  My birthday isn’t until this Friday. 

I was completely surprised and caught off guard.  SO.MUCH.FUN!

There were props…

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There were BFF’s…

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There was sushi and cocktails…

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But, where did that balloon with the 4-0 come from?  It must be for someone else…

I think I’m most surprised that I’m 40.  When did that happen!? 

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Friends under the fog of misters on the patio. 

Let’s just say I was a little slow getting up the next morning, clearly showing my age.  Well worth it, as it was so much fun to celebrate with my wonderful husband and great friends. 

Back to reality now…sigh.

A busy day today:

P90X Chest and Back

Grocery store

Clean playroom and family room for tomorrow’s playgroup

Bake banana bread (for tomorrow’s playgroup)

Swimming with Ava

Massage!! 

Have you ever had or given a surprise party?  Was it a successful surprise?