Double Digits Today: Alyannah’s 10

Seems like just yesterday I was planning her 4th birthday. It was a princess theme. She was dolled up in a pink dress with matching pink sandals and a tiara on her head. She truly was our little princess. Today, she is 10 years old. How ironic that we had a ‘royal’ themed birthday for her this year – Tween Queen.

Then & Now

Then & Now

Personalized Favors

Cousins & Sibs

Ella upgraded her sister’s crown – lol

“Happy birthday, Aly – I hope you enjoyed your special day. I feel so blessed to have such a joy in my life. I love you.”

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Random Thoughts Thursday

  • I’ve been M.I.A. from relished for the past week…Dad went back to the hospital. Let’s just say it’s been another hell of a week. Praying…constantly.
  • Felt so much love from extended family and friends this past weekend – I honestly believe their prayers played a huge part in my Dad being released from the hospital this week.
  • It was such a beautiful thing to speak to so many of my relatives this past weekend.
  • Surprisingly, in my search for it, I’ve found some normalcy at work. I’ve had a very productive week!
  • Hoping Ella doesn’t have more than a cold — tugged at her ear Tuesday, vomitted Wednesday. When I asked her if she still felt sick she replied “Not anymore Mommy.” and seemed to be in a pretty good mood today. I hope she gets better soon.
  • Hosting a party for #3 this weekend. So exhausted mentally but I’m sure I’ll feel re-energized being around family.
  • Actually using my iPod this week after a lull of about a year or so.
  • Sad I missed out on my Godkids’ celebrations this past weekend. :(
  • Happy I’ve met 20% of my total weight-loss goal – gotta keep on pushing!

Random Thoughts Thursday

  • One of the longest weeks EVER!
  • So bummed that my sickness is keeping me away from this beautiful weather.
  • Proud of son for receiving his first college acceptance call to Northern Arizona University. Hope this is the first of many.
  • I’m down another 2 – gotta keep up with this pace to reach my April goal :)
  • What is this sudden craving for pork rinds all about? Who knows!
  • I’m feeling like “dim sum” this weekend — something exciting about trying a bunch of different bites. I’ve reached out to my FB foodies for recs on where to go and am narrowing down their suggestions.
  • I feel like me and son’s BM get along quite well — and I’m thankful for that. :)
  • Slightly irritated about not knowing the softball schedule during our soon-to-be 10 year old’s birthday weekend — how can a Mom make plans?
  • A restaurant I recently Yelped about is in the process of trying to redeem itself — to accept or not accept the gift card offer. Hmm.
  • Finally found a pair of brown boots that I REALLY like for under $50 (the under $50 is actually a nice bonus)!
  • Kind of loving the lemon cilantro hummus from Fresh & Easy — love that place and all the cool food finds.
  • Can’t wait for a pre-Vday group date with my Besties and their Hubbies.
  • Shame on me for using the word “fricken” — guess who’s said it a couple of times and had to be told no.
  • Looking for some normalcy. Being sick or having someone in the family sick turns your world upside down.
  • Vegas bound to celebrate our 4th anniversary next month — thanks to one of my dearest friends for hooking up the resort accommodations.
  • I’m feeling incredibly relieved and blessed that my Dad is home after 5 days in the hospital.
  • Hours away from Friday and Payday…always a good pair.

Inspired by Edmon & Maya

This weekend will be one of great celebrations! My godson Edmon is celebrating his 4th birthday and my goddaughter Maya will be baptized. After such a stressful and emotional weekend (read previous post), I am actually amazed that  I had the focus and motivation to dive into my creative projects. But somehow, it was chicken soup for my soul — it allowed me to channel my energy and thoughts into these two little loves of my life.

My godson is a superhero — really, he is. He jumps and leaps from high places and always exudes this great energy! The last playdate at his house, I noticed that he only had a blanket draped across his shoulders — this was his cape. Knowing that his birthday was approaching, I challenged myself to make him a real superhero cape. I didn’t have a pattern or a clear idea of what his emblem would look like. I just kind of took the scissors and cut here, cut there, etc… Overall, I am happy with how it turned out. The Hubby helped secure the patch and Ella of course was my model. :)

Super-Edmon

 I am so honored to be Maya’s godmom — my Bestie (Maya’s mom) always has things under control and is making these fabulous s’mores pops for her favors. I asked Bestie if Hubby and I could add to the favors using an idea I saw awhile back on one of my favorite blogs Sara’s Party Perfect. Plus I couldn’t resist this adorable picture of Maya which had perfect positioning for the “heart pop”. Also a great idea for your little one’s Valentine’s cards!

Sweet Treats

Today

Today was probably one of the craziest days of my life. It started with a phone call at 1:30am and a series of heavy emotions that followed — sadness, fear, anger, wonder, nervousness, denial. Dad was ambulanced to the ER for heavy bleeding — he lost quite a bit of blood and had to undergo a blood transfusion. Questions are still unanswered and the cause of the bleeding is left a question mark — testing begins tomorrow I was told. I am thankful though; thankful he is alive, alert, communicating and strong enough to say “Go home and get some rest, I’ll see you tomorrow. I love you.” To me, he looked incredibly strong compared to his frail state just hours before. He’s amazing. I continue to worry, pray, hope and wonder. I hope to know more tomorrow and am hopeful that they will soon fix my Dad.

“Hang in there Dad – we love you…”

Mission: Make Candy Out of Pili Nuts

My mother-in-law “Mama” is back from the Philippines (yay) after 6 months of being away from the family. Everytime she visits the motherland she brings back bags of glazed pili nuts. I have never had a pili nut until I married my Hubby. It’s not a product of my parents’ provinces in the Philippines, so this was a surprisingly new and delicious treat for me. If you haven’t had a pili nut, you must find a place that sells them (possibly Asian/Filipino grocers) and if you’re lucky, you’ll get to try a batch that tastes pretty fresh, as opposed to some “stale” ones I’ve had. But the ones my MIL brings back from the PI are as fresh as you can get them. In fact, she challenged me to make some sort of “candy” out of a batch she had that still had it’s “third layer” of shell still on. I accepted the mission.

Saturday night, as I was enjoying my “down-time”, I realized that those nuts were still sitting in the fridge and somehow I heard her voice in my head saying “you have to do this right away before they go bad”. I jumped up, went to my collection of cookbooks, and found a recipe for a “bark” I had made calling for cashews and macademia nuts. I thought “this should work, right?”

First things first…she said something about blanching these little guys and peeling off the skin. That took no time at all. Then I had to warm up a few simple ingredients together: light corn syrup, granulated sugar and a stick of butter. Add to that my shelled pili nuts and stir. I poured this sticky mixture on a bed of chocolate chips that were sitting in a 9×9 foil lined pan and let the goodness cool before placing it in the fridge.

After blanching

Peeling...

Mommy's Sous Chef

Stir it up...

Chocolate chips waiting for some company...

Voila -- pili nut bark!

Some notes:

  • Although the in-laws enjoyed it, they recommended that I pan fry the pili nuts in a shallow pan with butter to give the nuts a bit of a crisp
  • These are more of a chewy bark, not a crispy brittle
  • In my opinion, I could use less sugar and more salt

First Date Night of 2011

Although I still can’t believe we have an 18 year old sometimes, one of the perks to having a “man child” as I jokingly call him, is that he is old enough to watch his baby sister while we get to run errands or…go on a date night.

Where to go is always the big question mark. And with this healthy eating kick that we’re on, that posed another challenge. After changing our minds (ok after I kept changing MY mind), we decided to go to Kensington Grill as we’ve both really liked their food in the past and I really enjoyed Happy Hour there when I went with my friend Gary.

We arrived at KG at exactly 5pm which is when Happy Hour begins. Sadly, I thought there would be more than ONE appetizer to choose from (as was the case when I dined with Gary) but the special was $5 fish tacos. We decided on two orders of the fish tacos (which came with 2 tacos each) and the calamari which was delicious, even the bed of seasoned cabbage that it was sitting on. All the roughage made it feel like more of a healthier meal! Later we decided to add the “Hog Bar” which was a pork hash, a chipotle sausage and pork rinds — we loved this. For dessert, we had their Snicker Torte Vanilla Gelato dessert — of all the things we had that night, this was just okay. Oh and Hubby had the pale ale and I had a margarita.

Margarita for Me & Pale Ale for Hubby

Happy Hour Special - 2 Fish Tacos for $5

Calamari on a bed of bell peppers, sprouts and cabbage...mmm!

The Hog Bar with Pork Hash, Sausage & Pork Rinds

Vanilla Gelato & Peanut Snicker Torte

Happy 2011!!!

Justice’s 18th Birthday

I know I said awhile back I’d post pictures from Justice’s 18th birthday — then came Christmas and all things Christmas-y. I had intended on many occasions to do it, but just never got to it. So as promised…

Some background to the party planning…

Hubby and I enjoy planning parties (even if he doesn’t want to admit it, I KNOW he enjoys it – heehee) as a way to get together with our family and friends, celebrate special milestones and especially to celebrate our children’s birthdays. Correction, as this child specifically just became an adult with this birthday. Sigh.

The challenge was how to come up with a party that appealed to 1) a bunch of football players and 2) teenagers. Of all of our kids, he is the one we never planned a themed party for complete with an invitation, catering, etc. Sure, we had celebrations for him but they were quaint and usually at home or at the grandparents’ or at a restaurant. This was his first real party, since I’ve been in his life anyway.

I went down one path with his invitiation and completely changed my mind when I saw the Bruno Mars video “Just The Way You Are”. I scrapped my original design that was 95% done, grabbed the Canon and opened up Photoshop. The photography took minutes (I can be pretty quick sometimes) and then Hubby had a brilliant idea to include the Dr. Dre headphones in the design so we shot that midway through the redesign. Still…it was minutes for this portion of the development. Surprisingly.

I wanted his invite to have a bit of retro (cassette tape) and a lot of “cool”, plus a place to personalize with shout-outs. I also wanted to include a baby picture and his senior class picture. This is the final invitation:

The invitation

I was intrigued by many party planning blogs and was determined to include a “photo booth” type thing at his party. With the help of our two good friends Myko V. and Ryan A. we were able to make this happen. Again, sticking to the “hip hop” theme, I designed a black and white backdrop with a pattern of boomboxes. I thought it would be fun to have “props” and was worried they wouldn’t be used…but was I wrong! They were a big hit!!!

Our family & friends having fun and getting creative...

The photo booth!

Here are some photos from the day — both sides of Justice’s family, friends and heartfelt speeches. Hubby burned about 75 CDs of a special hip-hop/R&B mix our good friend Rudy put together. Thanks to Tre from Z90, Raekwon from WuTang (thanks to our dear friend Rona) and our 3 girls for personalizing the CD with dedications throughout the mix. This CD was one of the two favors for his guests. The other favor was a bag of candy with personalized labels that matched the photo booth backdrop. We also had the Tabe Taco Truck cater the event and Unique Technique play music throughout the day. The birthday cake was our family’s favorite Tuxedo Cake from the Ralphs bakery near our house. And we lucked out with a sunny day during a series of continuous rainy days. It was a very happy, blessed day for our family.

The details

The most heartfelt part of the party was when it was time to do speeches. His mom, his dad and I said our speeches and then Justice had his turn. Me being Miss Emotional could not keep it together to save my life — but I was able to say everything I wanted to say to him and to our guests. I would have to say that the best part about that day was having a special moment with him after our speeches where he came up to me and told me he really appreciated me and all I do for him, complete with a big hug. That meant so much to me.

Speeches

Happy 18th birthday, Justice. I love you and am so fortunate to have you in my life as my Son.

Health Is Wealth: Under The Sea

A new food Hubby and I are taking on to is FISH. We like fish, don’t get me wrong, especially fried pampano. But that’s the problem…fried. Ugh. We’ll have to consider this a little splurge whenever Mom and Dad decide to cook these up. We’ve always been shy about preparing fish assuming that it was time-consuming and messy…or so we thought. Introducing our solution to eating MORE fish:

Gorton's Grilled Tilapia

Right now at our local grocery store, each package of 2 frozen grilled and seasoned fillets is $1.99. What a steal for something I consider to be pretty tasty AND good for you. On a WW points system, each fillet is worth 2 points. This week, we found that preparing healthy dinners and lunches have been easier with Gorton’s grilled tilapia. And can you believe we passed up cheese tortellini pasta and garlic bread for dinner last night to have a fillet of fish and a side of salad? Sorry, I had to “brag” a little bit about our will power. Ha!

For those of you out there wanting to eat more or even just want to try eating fish, give Gorton’s a try. A true, tasty timesaver solution!

Health Is Wealth: Coffee Time

So this year, I will start blogging under a new category called “Health Is Wealth”. In working towards my goal to get to my wedding weight (and possibly less), I will be posting new food choices, activities and habits under this category, as well as any challenges I face on this journey to a healthier lifestyle. Baby steps…

I love me some coffee…but even more than the coffee itself, I love how much flavor the CREAMER brings to my cup of love. Creamer, at least the kind I would use which would vary in all the fun flavors available, and in the amounts I’d use (my coffee is nowhere near “black” EVER) can be super-fattening. Let’s just say it’s one of those “sleeper” fatty foods that sneaks up on you. But I have to HAVE my coffee every day. So my mission…I had to find a way to get that same yummy flavor but not the calories. So here’s my recipe for a good lower calorie cup of  coffee.

  • Brewed or instant coffee of any brand and flavor (I drink Starbucks because that’s what they have at work)
  • 2 tsp of Great Value (Walmart’s brand) sugar-free French Vanilla powdered creamer – only a dollar and some change for a size that fits nicely on your work desk :)
  • 1 pkt of Great Value sweetener

I’m telling you — it’s just as good as the creamy stuff. You’re definitely not sacrificing flavor. Give it a sip!