Monday, January 14, 2013

Make this tonight!

I know a lot of us are looking for new recipes to work into our weeknight repertoire and with the new year, a lot of us are watching what we eat. I made this Tortilla Chip Casserole last week and it was one of the best things I've made in a few years.
Tortilla Chip Casserole Recipe
As usual, it comes from Cooking Light, as nearly all of my weeknight recipes do. They have delicious recipes that are light, but not too light. As in, they don't remove every trace of the good stuff, like cheese, but just use it sparingly. Really, I should be their spokesblogger. Cooking Light, are you listening? That would pretty much be my dream job. Or Southern Living. Anyway, about the recipe...

This Tortilla Chip Casserole is deliciously creamy, flavorful and easy! That has been my one problem with recipes I've made from Cooking Light, anything that requires me to cook the meat myself, I know to increase the "hands on time" listed on the recipe by at least 50%. Since this calls for cooked chicken, such as a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store, the cooking time was 100% accurate. It took 30 minutes to prep and 30 minutes to bake in the oven.

I followed the recipe without making any changes or substitutions of my own (even buying organic black beans, which I normally don't do), as I try to do when making something for the first time; however, I did not have coriander. Even without that spice, it was delicious. Next time I will use the full can of black beans. I can't imagine why it didn't call for the full can in the first place. I mean, a single can of organic black beans is $2.50, and to use only half the can is such a waste. It makes the perfect amount, calling for a smaller 11x7 casserole dish, instead of the larger 13x9 dish.

I hope you'll try it and let me know what you think of it. Bon appetit! (Please read that in your best Julia Child voice.)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Extreme Laundry Room Makeover

A few months ago, my Facebook friends may remember me posting something about getting a new washer and dryer and being really excited about it. So that happened, but it wasn't just a new washer and dryer, I got a whole new laundry room. Okay, some people are reading this and thinking I must lead the most boring life ever, but I know that some of my (female) readers know this is pretty cool. The inspiration for our new laundry room came from something I saw in The Container Store catalog, so you know it's good.

I wish I had gotten a better "before" picture, but how often do you think to take pictures of your laundry room? So I came across this picture, which at least took place in the laundry room, though it doesn't exactly show the whole thing. But who am I kidding? All my laundry room is is a pass through room between the garage and the house, you know the kind. There is room for a washer, dryer and drying rack, plus there was a single wooden shelf above each. So here is the "before" picture:

Yes, that was Lanna dressed for her second Easter. To begin our Extreme Laundry Room Makeover, Eric tore out the wooden shelves to give us room to...stack the washer and dryer! Okay, I always thought your could only stack tiny washers and dryers, like the kind you might have in a small apartment. But apparently with the new front loading washers and dryers, you can stack many full-size versions too.  Then, we installed floor-to-ceiling shelving, which included drawers for gift wrapping and crafting supplies galore, plus room for hanging clothes as well. Seriously, I have so much room in the laundry room now, I'm still trying to find stuff to put in there! Don't worry, I'll fill it, but currently there are still two completely empty drawers. So, drumroll please...

The room didn't actually get any bigger, so it was a little difficult to get a picture of the whole thing, so if you're really interested in seeing what we did, pay us a visit or check this out:

That picture is almost exactly it, minus a few shelves and a couple drawers. I pretty much just brought the catalog to the store, pointed at the picture and said, "I want this." Oh, and if you really like what we did, don't run out and buy it today. Elfa goes on sale 30% off in January. We got it 25% off in September. I just love it! Cheers to my husband for installing the whole thing by his manly self in just a few hours!

Monday, October 22, 2012


Recently I was able to knock an item off my bucket list. I saw Madonna in concert. I've always wanted to go to one and even before I really knew the term "bucket list," I said I wanted to see both Michael Jackson and Madonna in concert. Unfortunately, MJ died before I could cross that item off my list (yes, I think even crazy, delusioned Michael Jackson would still have been an amazing performer). When he died, I became even more determined to see Madonna in concert. So when she announced her first performance in Dallas in 15-20 years, I was on the computer waiting for seats the very morning they went on sale. I hesistated before buying and the Saturday show sold out...which wound up being totally lucky for me. A Sunday show was added, and I quickly bought tickets. Months passed, the show approached, and the Saturday night show got cancelled! That totally sucked for all those people, but lucky me for hesistating to buy Saturday tickets!

Anyway, the show...Eric was totally not on board for Madonna and he's been a good sport about going to lots of stuff with me, so I didn't push it. Instead, I got to go with my longtime friend and fellow '80's music lover, Lorraine Garrison. The tickets said the show started at 8 pm, but the concerts I've been to in the past year or so have reminded me that 1) there is always an opening act, and 2) concerts never start on time. I knew it was going to be a late night and that we could be fashionably late, but man! Did she even stop to consider the fact that it was a Sunday night and people had places to be the next day? Her show didn't start until almost 11 pm! We arrived around 9 pm and there was some lame deejay spinning records for the crowd. Okay, considering he was opening for Madonna, he probably wasn't lame, but I just don't get deejays. He seemed mighty proud of his ability to push a button and make someone else's music play. And I totally don't fit in with the ecstasy and glow stick crowd, so I felt like a total stick in the mud during all that.

Finally, finally, as my eyelids were drooping, Madonna came on stage. As you may have heard, she spent the first three or more songs shooting all her dancers with graphic blood splatter in the background. From the rafters, we couldn't really even hear the music, so I have no clue how that was relevant. I imagine plenty of people were offended by it, but it's Madonna. She's provocative and she's not going to back down. The first several songs sounded highly autotuned, which is understandable considering she cancelled the previous night's show due to laryngitis, but I think she did sing much of the music herself. When she sang the songs I knew, it was awesome, but there just wasn't enough of it and those songs were often shortened or remixed to the point that you couldn't really sing along. Thankfully she had the most amazing dancers ever, so even when I didn't know the song, I could totally enjoy watching the dancers.

The best part of the whole concert, for me, was the middle set where everyone was dressed in band/majorette uniforms. She sang more of her hits during that time and it was all capped off by the drum corps that was suspended from the rafters. It. Was. Amazing. With one exception: a 50-year-old woman should never march around with pom poms. Here is a crappy iPhone picture of the scene:

Here is a picture of the whole concert scene:

I'm not going to go through a play-by-play of every song that she sang, but my favorites were "Express Yourself" (with a little "Born This Way" mixed in), "Open Your Heart," and "Like a Prayer." Oh, and I'd be remiss not to mention that over the course of four or five songs, Madonna stripped down from a business suit-type outfit to a bra, thong and fishnets. Oh, and the cameras were zoomed in on her ass...several times throughout the show, actually. It's okay, she has a good ass.

Overall, I'm glad I went because it was Madonna, but I'll admit, I was disappointed. I wanted more old stuff, but thinking back, I may have to go download some of her new stuff. It wasn't bad. As a performer, she's pretty awesome, though I'll admit we'd never get along as BFFs. The crowd was really fun to watch because there were a ton of Madonna lookalikes. It made me wish I had come up with a tulle skirt and lace gloves of my own. Missed opportunity. I should have seen Madonna in concert 15 years ago, but the opportunity wasn't there. So, in closing this rambling post...yay for bucket lists and yay for seeing Madonna in concert!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Back In the Saddle Again...

Yes, I'm blogging again. I've been meaning to for a really long time and I just haven't made it a priority. Pregnancy made me really tired (lazy) and new motherhood has kind of kicked my butt, but no more excuses!!

Here's an update from the past 7-8 months or so...I was pregnant, had a baby, and now I'm learning about life with two girls. Elise Danielle was born July 26 at 7:05 am via C-section, just like her big sister. She weighed 7 pounds and was 20 1/4 inches long (though she was likely shorter than that--you try stretching out an hours-old baby to see how long she is).

We opted for another C-section because it was the safest way to go, but I was kind of bummed about it. As strange as it sounds, I wanted to experience labor pains, if only just a little. The idea of a totally scheduled C-section, which sounds ideal to many women, was a bit disappointing to me. I held out hope that I'd go into labor on my own, then we'd drive to the hospital for the C-section. I sort of got my wish. I did have a few very minor pains in the weeks before Elise was born, but nothing severe or consistent. So bright and early Thursday, July 26 (exactly one week prior to my due date) Eric and I checked in to the hospital. They quickly got me hooked up to all the machines and pumped me full of fluids (just to ensure I looked nice and plump in all our pictures), and lo and behold...we discovered I was in labor. I started feeling a few pretty intense pains during the two hours before our surgery. So as it turned out, I felt a few labor pains and Elise kind of came out on her own time. Maybe a few hours early. Here is our newest precious baby girl:


That was ten weeks ago. Here is a more recent picture:

As expected, her big sister just LOVES her. So much so that sometimes I have to make sure she naps in places where Lanna can't reach her. I'm just thankful she isn't jealous. Here they are together:


Anyway, she's a sweetie little baby and sleeps like a CHAMP!! I give her one last feeding around 10:30 pm and she sleeps until 6:30 am--and she has been doing this for more than a month now.

Lanna is back in school now as a totally new kid! Her teachers tell me that gone is the quiet, shy little girl from last year, replaced by a cute, outgoing little jokester. Who knew? I love it!

Okay, enough of this. I promise I'll be back to posting normal stuff again, not just kid stuff. It's hard not to mention the major changes in my life since my last post so long ago. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

What's For Dinner? Tomato-Basil Soup

I love sharing a good, easy weeknight dinner recipe, and last night I made a great one. I love Tomato-Basil soup, but I've never ventured to make it myself. I saw this recipe in Cooking Light and knew I had to try it. Quick aside, I believe I've mentioned this before, but I love Cooking Light magazine! The recipes in it aren't diet recipes where they completely leave out all the good stuff, they simply offer lighter ways to cook delicious meals. I highly recommend them.

So below and linked you'll find the recipe I followed for last night's Tomato-Basil soup. Everything it called for was easily found at my grocery store, though I imagine the canned fire-roasted tomatoes might be difficult to find in a small-town grocer. Next time, I will likely raid my mother-in-law's garden for basil as the package I bought at the store was barely enough for the full 3/4 cup of chopped basil used in the recipe. My whole family loved both the soup and the asiago cheese bread that we enjoyed as both a side and as croutons in the soup. This is an great weeknight recipe as it only took about 30-40 minutes for the whole thing. It was touted in the magazine's 20-Minute Cooking section, but let's face it, most of those claims are only true if you have a prep chef or actually buy things like pre-chopped onion--and who does that? Not me. Still, there was minimal prep involved, but things did get a little hectic as I was trying to stay on top of the soup without burning the bread in the forget-about-it-for-more-than-a-minute-and-you-burn-it broiler (and I did).
Tomato-Basil Soup Recipe
Photo and recipe copyright Cooking Light magazine.


  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups prechopped onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 (28-ounce) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, cut into cubes
  • 2 cups 1% low-fat milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 12 (1/2-inch-thick) slices French bread
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 garlic clove, halved
  • 1 ounce shredded Asiago cheese


1. Preheat broiler to high.
2. Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion; sauté 3 minutes. Stir in garlic; cook for 1 minute. Add basil and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Stir in cheese until melted. Place mixture in blender, and blend until smooth. Return to pan; stir in milk, salt, and pepper. Return to medium-high; cook 2 minutes.
3. Place bread on baking sheet; lightly coat with spray. Broil 1 minute. Rub garlic over toasted side; turn bread over. Top with Asiago; broil 1 minute.


Monday, February 13, 2012

Gettin' Crafty for Valentine's Day with Pinterest

In today's post you're going to see where the marketer and crafty mom side of me come together. I just finished making some really adorable Valentines for my daughter's preschool class, and while I feel proud of my craftiness, it totally made me question what I had gotten myself into.

When I began looking for ideas for cute, homemade Valentines I went straight to Pinterest to see what others had already pinned out there. I didn't see much, so I did a Google search and found a few cute ideas on the Disney Family Fun site. Right there is where many marketers would take note, I did not start with Google, I went straight to Pinterest. Granted, this is precisely what Pinterest is designed for, but for a site that has been mainstream for less than a year, that's a pretty amazing change in consumer behavior. So anyway, on the Disney site I found these adorable Dum Dum flowers made using scrapbook paper and also some really cute pipe cleaner rings with Hershey's Kisses for the bling. I pinned them on my Pinterest page (I'm for those who want to follow me) and was amazed at how quickly they took off around the Pinterest world. Within an hour or two, my two little Pins had been repinned dozens of times, and it's not like I'm some big crafter with thousands of followers.

In deciding which Valentine to make I was tempted to let the Pinterest world decide for me just do the one that had been repinned the most (the rings), but instead I went with the one that I like the best (the flowers). And that, my blog readers, is where I went wrong. The other was repinned so much because people saw them and said, "Wow! That looks so easy. I could do that!" Instead, I chose the really pretty ones and ended up with a craw instead of a hand at the end of it all. Without further ado, here are some pictures of the finished products:

Pretty cute, right? I'm happy with the finished product, and they actually make for a pretty centerpiece if you make them ahead of time, but I'd file these under "What's wrong with the Mickey Mouse ones from Walgreens?" While they were fairly simple to make, they required too much cutting--thus the craw. For each, I cut some kind of pretty center for the flower, two leaves and three hearts for the petals, then you simply poke small holes in each (I used a small hole punch), place them on a Dum Dum stick and add a little tape at the bottom to help the paper stay in place. I made about 30 of these and in the end, my hand just ached even though I spread out the cutting over the course of three days. I'm glad I made homemade Valentines for once in my life, but next time I'll definitely stick to something simpler or try to find die-cut shapes to use (though I've never had any luck finding those).

I'm going to have to read how others have reviewed these to see if they have the same opinion as me. And if any of my Pinterest followers decided to make these too and now are also left massaging a craw-hand, I'm sorry. When I took them to school this afternoon, my daughter's teacher saw them and immediately said, "Pinterest, right?" Well, sort of. I found them myself and pinned them (you're welcome Disney Family Fun). Now, because I have a lot of marketing-minded friends, here are some fun facts I found the other day on MediaPost's Engage:Moms Blog:
  • "Pinterest – which technically is still in closed, invitation-only beta -- drives more sales to retailers than YouTube, Google + and LinkedIn combined and is nearly equal to Twitter’s referral traffic."
  • Bloggers are also feeling the love. One blog, For Mamas, "received over 700,000 views for a recipe that became popular on Pinterest--the recipe garnered 77 Pins and had 0 Facebook Likes and only 5 Google + recommendations." Translation: 77 unique people pinned it on Pinterest, then their friends repinned and repinned and repinned, sending roughly 700,000 people to the For Mamas site. Not bad, huh?
  • Source: "A Guide To Pinterest and Moms"
Let's see if this post can turn that kind of results for me! I hope you enjoyed a few fun facts about Pinterest and have a wonderful Valentine's Day. And hey, if you read my me some love and follow me (also, let me know if you run into trouble doing so, I want to know). I know I have more than five readers!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Terrible Threes

Yep, you read that right, The Terrible Threes. Parents of any child that is 3+ are nodding their heads with me on this one. Non-parents and parents of under threes are probably going, "What?! I've always heard of the Terrible Twos."

Three hit us hard in this household. Thankfully, we were prepared for it thanks to those "Just Wait 'Til" parents who said, "Just wait 'til she turns three. Three is worse than two." While I still don't like any statement that begins with that phrase (see this previous blog post), that advice did at least prepare us for what was to come.

You still get the falling-on-the-floor, crying tantrums, but you realize that at age two they were still a little cute. At three, well, some days kids make you just want to lock yourself in a room, simply because locking them in a room is frowned upon. My kid is just downright obstinate.
As frustrating as it can be, I came to the realization the other day that while at three the lows may be pretty low, but the highs are even higher. She may make me want to bash my head into the wall, but then I'll watch her on the playground chatting it up with new friends she's made and marvel at how just six months ago she would have only played near them. She may have spent most of her twos telling Daddy she only wanted Mommy, but now when Daddy comes home she runs into his arms and yells, "Daddy I LOVE you!" Yep, at three, the highs are pretty high.