Sunday, July 24, 2011

Things I love... California Edition

Alternatively titled: What we will do when we go to California.

Nothing more really needs to be said. If you have eaten In-N-Out, you know what's to love. If In-N-Out could be here in Colorado, and I could eat at In-N-Out AND Chick-fil-a whenever I wanted, life may just be perfect! :)

Again, food. Or rather, a drink. CCC's are Chocolate Coffee Creams- a drink that my favorite coffee shop, the Great Bear, in Los Gatos, CA makes. Luke took me here on our second date. I told him that I don't drink or like coffee. He assured me, I would like a CCC. I was certain he would be wrong. And he was right. Yes, you heard it! My husband was right. CCC's are like a little bit of heaven, especially on a hot summer day. I really miss CCC's, but considerung they are loaded with lots of fat and calories, it may be a good thing I can only have them on the rare occasion we are back in San Jose. (And in case you are curious, a CCC is made with Ghiardelli Chocolate Powder, iced coffee, milk, and ice cream; basically a chocolate coffee shake. And topped with real, homemade whipped cream).

The Fountain in Los Gatos
We started taking Silas to the fountain in downtown Los Gatos when he was one year old. He loved it! Luke and I both love Los Gatos- Luke always dreamed of living in downtown Los Gatos. (Dreamed because it's insanely expensive). When we lived in California, one of our favorite things to do was spend the afternoon in Los Gatos. Los Gatos has a small town feel, a very cute downtown, and is surrounded by the Santa Cruz Mountains. There are lots of great restaurants. Fun, unique shops. Some chain stores we like (William Sonoma, Gap, Borders). Coffee shops. Candy and ice cream shops. And the fountain. It's a pretty perfect place to spend a beautiful afternoon.

The Santa Cruz Boardwalk
Our last year in California, we started going to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk a couple of times a summer with our friends Brian and Marny (and their kids). We would go to the Boardwalk on Monday or Tuesday night- when all rides are $1- and some food items are $1 (soda, cotton candy, and hot dogs- and let me tell you, the hot dogs taste like they cost $1. I had one once, never again.) Mostly the kids go on rides and we have chance to hang out with some of our best friends and catch up. And the ocean is right there- the Boardwalk is lit up. It's so much fun! 

Pizza My Heart
This is a northern California pizza chain. They sell pizza by the slice- and the slices are huge! Their restaurants are surfing in theme- surf posters, surf boards hanging from the wall... We ate their often when we lived in California. We would grab pizza in Capitola and eat it on the beach. There is a Pizza My Heart in Los Gatos- we ate their often. And another favorite location was the one located right next to San Jose State University. When Luke was still in school, Silas and I would meet him there for dinner some nights when he had class... Lots of memories at this place- and the pizza is delicious!

Willow Street Pizza
Probably the restaurant I miss the most... I waitressed at Willow Street for 5 years. I started their shortly after I moved to California and waitressed until I was 8 months pregnant with Silas. I always hoped to go back- it was a fun restaurant to work at and I always made great tips! I worked at the original Willow Street in Willow Glen- it's small and quaint- with lots of regular customers. When I was pregnant, I had some of my customers bring me baby presents... After I quit, we ate there often. I still have friends that work there- and the food is as good as ever! My favorite pizzas: Thai Chicken and Garlic Chicken. My favorite sandwich: Chicken Pesto Sandwich with Garlic Fries. (Oh, the garlic fries are so good! When I used to work there, sometimes I would have garlic fries and plate of pepperoni for lunch. Honestly, I have no idea how I don't have a serious weight problem!) Favorite dessert: Carmel Apple Bread Pudding. Favorite free thing they serve? Homemade Honey Wheat Bread- made twice a day. Always delicious- especially good right out of the oven. 

La Villa Ravioli
A little Italian deli in Willow Glen that makes amazing handmade raviolis. I didn't discover this little gem until I had been living in California for years. Sad. I miss it. Last time we were in California, I went and bought a bunch of the raviolis, froze them, and brought them home to Colorado. Yep! I carry food on flights- sometimes it's a wonder that Luke puts up with me! :) And yes, I will be bringing more home when we go to California in a few weeks.

One of my favorite grocery stores. Is it weird that I have favorite grocery stores? Probably. And truth be told, I have a few. We shopped at Lunardi's mostly for produce- great produce and pretty good prices. And good meat. They have very quite kid size shopping carts- that Silas loved. He was a little maniac- pushing the cart around the store. :) And the bonus is they give free cookies to kids- whatever kind they want. Silas always would choose a sugar cookie with big sprinkles covering it.

Trader Joe's
Another favorite grocery store. I have no idea why we don't have Trader Joe's in Colorado. I have heard it's because of the liquor laws... I have heard it's because we don't live close enough to a distribution center... The truth is that there are lots of people from California that live in Colorado. Hence, there are lots of people wanting Trader Joe's here. I hope someday they will open here. We will bring some of our favorite things home with us (like their Cinnamon Bread). But there are some favorite items that can't make the trip because they have to be frozen... Orange Chicken, Chocolate Croissants, Burritos... I have often said that if there was an In-N-Out and Trader Joe's in Colorado, it would be a perfect place to live.

Santana Row
Think upscale restaurants, shops, hotels, and lofts. This is Santana Row. I have heard some call it the Beverly Hills of northern California. It's not nearly that big- maybe 4 blocks long and 3 blocks wide. Before we had kids, I was a secret shopper for a company that was hired by a lot of restaurants (one of them being Willow Street, which was how I got connected with them.) This company "shopped" most of the restaurants in Santana Row. So I would receive a few assignments a month to visit specific restaurants- and we were reimbursed for our expenses. We had the opportunity to eat at quite a few restaurants we never would have visited if we were paying for it. Some of our favorite restaurants in Santana Row are Strait's, Yankee Pier, the Counter, and Pasta Pomadoro. Santana Row was a fun "date night" place for us. Dinner, coffee, stores to shop in, and a fun atmosphere.

Vasona Park
One of our favorite parks in Los Gatos. Luke and I had engagement and some wedding pictures done here. It's beautiful! Lots of walking paths and trails. A lake. Multiple play structures for kids. Picnic areas. And Silas' favorites: a carousel and train to ride.

The first (and only time) I have had Sprinkles cupcakes was in April of 2010. We were on a trip to San Diego and stopped for lunch (and to try to spot some stars) in Beverly Hills. I had read about Sprinkles (probably in People magazine)- and when we saw it, I had to stop and try these cupcakes. WOW! They did not disappoint. They were amazingly delicious! I have tried other specialty cupcakes from shops and nothing has compared to Sprinkles. My favorite was a dark chocolate cupcake. I am hoping we will be able to hit the Sprinkles in Beverly Hills and in Palo Alto when we are in California- you only live once! :)

The Ocean
I have realized that for me, water = life. Colorado is DRY. I miss water. We definitely did not taken advantage of how close we lived to the ocean. But when we did take the time to go to the beach, we loved it. We are looking forward to going to the beach in San Diego and in Santa Cruz.

Phil's BBQ
This is our favorite San Diego restaurant. It is the best BBQ I have ever had. Seriously. It's that good. The line is almost always out the door. But it's worth the wait. My favorite is the Broham sandwich- which a BBQ pork sandwich- and huge. And I eat the entire thing. :)

"Our" Children's Museum
Silas always calls the Children's Museum in San Jose, "Our Children's Museum." We had a membership to the museum when we lived in California- and we definitely got our money's worth. We went a lot. And I miss it too. We loved going as a family- and it was a great place to meet friends and play. I have lots of happy memories at the Children's Museum.

Well I started this post over a month ago... and I am glad that I waited until now to finish it. Writing about our favorite places and looking at some of these pictures... it makes me homesick! I am so glad that we are going to California soon. We miss lots of people in California- and lots of our favorite things and places. But it's not where we want to be anymore (at least not most days). Colorado is finally starting to feel like home- and we are so happy to be here. But we excited to be going back to California for a long visit! :)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Summertime Fun

We are having a great time with my sister and her family this week. We have been to the park, swimming at the Y, and to Focus on the Family to play. (Up tomorrow: a water park). Plus we have had hours of playing and just being silly. And, who could forget, FOOD! We have grilled out (AKA: barbecued) and had a picnic. We have also eaten at Chick-fil-a, Chili's, BJ's Brewery (pizookies!), and LuLu's Frozen Yogurt.

For my sister's family and my family, bedtime is flexible- especially in the summer. For my family, when it's light out later, somehow we end up always doing things late in the evenings- and the kids end up being up late. Last Friday night we were at Target- until they closed! On Sunday night, we were at Kohl's until they closed- and then went grocery shopping. So we thought nothing of going out for frozen yogurt at 8:30pm last night. Sugar before bedtime? Not a problem in our family! That's the benefit to going to bed late... they are tired enough that sugar doesn't effect them. And the added bonus for me is they sleep in the next day! 

Me and Natalie... Natalie was my first niece- she will turn
10 years old next week. Hard to believe!

Kelly, Corey, Kieran, and Natalie- love her expression. :)

Luke's frozen yogurt
My frozen yogurt

Luke and I are similar in lots of way- yet so different in others. One way we are different is dessert. My motto when it comes to dessert is: "If it's not chocolate, it's not dessert." While Luke does like chocolate things, he also loves fruity things- and considers them dessert. Luke's frozen yogurt choice: Summer Lime and Razzmatazz. No toppings. My frozen yogurt choice: Fudgesicle. Toppings: M&M's, brownie pieces, cookie dough, and peanut butter cups. 

My parents, AKA: Papa and Grammie (or Gaga)

This little guy is always smiling... even when missing out
on yummy stuff like frozen yogurt!

Best Buds: Silas and Connor

Luke and Teyla 

Kieran trying the lime frozen yogurt... :)

Eliana, AKA: Miss Messy Face

LuLu's Frozen Yogurt....

is good to the...

very last drop!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Things I love...

Summer comes and I fall in love with fruit. Seriously. If you looked in our fridge right now you would find: apples, bananas, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, cantaloupe, grapefruit, cherries, and grapes. I love eating fruit in the summer- and drinking lemonade!

Burt's Beeswax
I love this chapstick. Colorado is extremely dry and chapstick is more important then ever. Burt's Beeswax is by far my favorite chapstick. If you have never tried Burt's Beeswax, try it. You will love it.

Working out at the Y
I started working out at the Y about two months ago. The first time I went, I tried the eliptical machine for the first time. I hated it. I felt like I was going to die- and that was after only using it for 1 minute and 11 seconds. I am not joking. Now I have grown to REALLY like it- and can do it for much longer then 1 minute and 11 seconds! The kids have fun in the childcare- and I enjoy having some time to myself to get healthy. And I love being able to take a shower and get ready for the day without constant interruptions too! :)

One of the big "positives" about moving to Colorado was Chick-fil-a. Our family loves Chick-fil-a! We love the food, it feels like a "healthier" fast food option. And all Chick-fil-a's have a play land, which makes it a great play date place. The customer service is ridiculously good and it's a business I like to support. I miss In-N-Out, but I think I have grown to like Chick-fil-a even more. (California friends, don't hate).

Nap time!
Need I say more? I have three beautiful kids 4 years old and younger- and though I love them to pieces, this mama loves nap time! All three kids basically nap at the same time every afternoon- for about 2 hours. Right now, that means most days I nap for about 2 hours too. :) I always have things that need to get done during naptime, but after reading to Eliana and reading to Silas, I am half asleep. I always think that I will nap for just a half an hour. But the reality is that normally Silas wakes me when he wakes up. The bonus of summer is that we love eating salads for dinner- and salads are the perfect fast dinner after a long nap.

Sarah Young's Book "Jesus Calling"
My mom bought this book for me last spring and it is amazing. It is a year of short devotionals. The author writes as if Jesus were talking to you- all based on verses from the Bible. I can't tell you how many times I have read a page and whatever the topic is, it directly relates to a situation in my life. This book has been a huge encouragement for me- and I can pretty much guarantee if you pick it up, you will benefit from it.

On a side note: It was about one year ago that I found I was pregnant with Levi. When I look at his sweet face, I can't even fathom that a year ago he wasn't a thought in my mind. Levi is proof that sometimes the unplanned/unexpected things in life turn out to be a great gift.
Taken yesterday at Chick-fil-a... :)

Friday, July 15, 2011

Three Things on Thursday... one day late

#1- This week has been crazy busy (which is why this blog is coming to you a day late). I volunteered to help with VBS at my parent's church (and sort of my church... I am a church hopper right now). Anyways. I had intended to sign up doing something low key like snacks/refreshments. By the time I got around to signing up though, the "easy" jobs were gone. I asked about being a preschool assistant. I was told they really needed teachers. I am a sucker- and a people pleaser. Thus, I was a preschool teacher this week. The bonus was that I had Silas in my group, so it was a fun thing for us to do together. I had 2 helpers and 8 kids- not bad at all. And our kids were really well behaved (at least compared to some of the kids in other groups!) The thing that killed me this week was getting up early. We really needed to be leaving the house by 7:30AM. (Notice I said "needed to"- that is also code for, it never actually happened). Normally my early riser is Silas at around 8:30AM- and I often try to convince him to go back to sleep for a little bit longer. So getting up early was a huge challenge. Thursday morning I overslept. I work up at 7:30AM (remember, the time I am supposed to be leaving). You know how normally when you oversleep, you fly out of bed and the adrenaline starts pumping? This did not happen for me. I was out of adrenaline apparently- I was that tired. I just started getting ready, got the kids ready, and left late. Thankfully there was no traffic. I only arrived about 10 minutes late- not bad at all. Then I opened the van door. Levi had projectile spit up all over himself- even getting some on the seat of the car. Awesome. (Side note: Levi has never done this- so of course it happens in the car and when we are running late). So I had to clean him up and change him, and then clean up his car seat. Needless to say, the day continued to have other "bumps"- like forgetting some important VBS stuff and breaking my new sunglasses. Oy!

#2- Working at VBS has really opened my eyes to ministry. Ministry is great- and God calls us to serve. But I have realized that my first ministry is my family- Luke and my children. If I can't do that well, I shouldn't be doing anything else. I think it's so easy to fall into a trap, especially for Christians when it comes to church, of trying to do a lot and help with everything. Serving others is a good thing- but serving my family is a better thing. I don't regret working in VBS this week- despite being tired it was a lot of fun. And it worked for the kids. We got up earlier but took earlier and longer naps. (Note, I said "we." I think I took a nap every day this week too.) But this week was a good reminder to me that I need to be careful about how much I commit myself to- because everything I do effects my family- especially my children. I love being a mom. And I don't want to be so busy doing things, that my children (and Luke) get only my leftovers. I want to give them my best.

#3- We have lots of exciting stuff coming up- I can hardly wait! My sister and her family arrive on Monday to visit for about 10 days. My sister is one of my best friends- and I haven't seen her since November. I haven't seen my nieces and nephews since October. So we are all really excited for lots of days of summer fun. Silas is already thinking up a long list of things to do with his cousins while they are here. The day after my sister leaves, we leave for our Tour de California. We will be spending time in San Diego, San Jose, and Redding. We cannot wait! Luke and I started making a list of things we wanted to do in San Jose while we were there. We realized pretty quickly that most of our list revolved around eating and coffee. Sad, but true. We are really excited to see family and friends while we are there too. We love Colorado and are really happy we live here, but there is much we miss about California too... Though one of those things, IKEA, is coming to Denver soon! We will be hitting that up once we return from our trip.

I hope you enjoy your weekend. I am looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow- and *hoping* that our waking up early this week does not carry over to tomorrow and become the norm for my kids. :)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Through Silas' eyes...

Silas loves to take pictures. He is definitely his father's son. The other night I gave him my camera and let him go around the house taking pictures. You can tell what's important in his life by the following pictures...

Levi- his favorite (and only) brother

Me and Eliana

These are Silas' favorite toys- a rescue helicopter, police car,
and ambulance.  He can often be overheard pretending
a "rescue" of some sorts. It's very cute. 

Toys- an important thing in life.

His bed, with his favorite bed buddy, whose name is "Curious George."

Looking out the window by the front door.
We often hang up "projects" in this window.

His wildflowers are beginning to sprout.
He checks their progress daily.

A favorite book, "Otis." Silas LOVES to read.

Luke with Levi. Silas loves his daddy!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Our Little Levi

Can't believe this little man is 3.5 months old already!

Though having Levi wasn't our plan, I am so thankful it was part of God's plan. I can't imagine our family without this little guy- he bring so much joy to our lives!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Foodie Friday: Mediterranean Beef Stir Fry

Mediterranean Beef Stir Fry
1/2 lb. sirloin steak
1/2 c. water
1/4 c. red wine vinegar
2 tsp. minced dried onion
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/8 tsp. ground red pepper
6 oz. linguine
2 T. butter
2 tsp. cornstarch
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 T. olive oil or cooking oil
1 c. broccoli
1 c. cauliflower
1 c. carrots (sliced)
1 c. mushrooms (sliced)
Grated Parmesan cheese

Cut up all of the vegetables and set aside.

Thinly slice across the grain, bite size strips of steak. Combine water, vinegar, onion, pepper, and red pepper together in a medium size bowl. Add meat and mix well. Marinate for 15 minutes at room temperature.

 In a large pan, Sir fry garlic in 3 T. oil for 30 seconds.

Using a slotted spoon, remove the meat from the marinade and add to pan. Add cornstarch to the remaining marinade. Stir and set aside. Cook meat for about 3 minutes.

Add vegetables- stir fry about 5-7 minutes, until vegetables are tender. (I put a lid on the pan because it helps the vegetables cook faster.)

Add marinade to meat and vegetables. Cook and stir until bubbly (about 2 minutes). Meanwhile, cook linguine pasta. Toss with butter after cooked and drained. Serve with pasta and parmesan cheese. Makes 3-4 servings

My notes: When I make this, I often use more meat then the recipe calls for- probably more like one pound. This means that I also sometimes increase the marinade. I also sometimes change the amounts of vegetables. I don't love mushrooms, so I often do less mushrooms and more of the other vegetables. I served this with a strawberry and orange romaine salad you can find here.

Looking for more great recipes? Check out Designs by Gollum.