50/50 Friday -Week 41

It’s been several weeks since my last 50/50 Friday update. I haven’t posted lately on this subject because, well, there hasn’t been much to say on the subject. Number 37, Cooking a New Recipe Once a Week, has fallen way off–I have been “cooking” a lot of ready-to-eat-meals. Trader Joes has become my sous chef. I can’t even get myself to make any progress on Number 20, Try a New Wine because I know one glass will knock me out before I am done doing the dishes, folding laundry, and managing the growing pile of mail that is taking over my entry table. With a little over one year before the big Five-OH, I have to jump start my plan. So, this past weekend Juan and I set out to accomplish something together–Number 16, Teach Diego to Ride a Bike.

Diego is 7 years-old. I don’t remember at what age I learned to ride a bike, but I do recall all the bumps, bruises and scratches that I got in the process. I do remember hanging onto a chain link fence while I tried to balance myself on the cool red and white bike that was a hand-me-down from my brother. I finally learned how to ride that bike and when I outgrew the red and white bike, and I passed it along to my sister. I rode my brother’s purple bike for a while until my 9th birthday, when I finally got my own bike. It was the hottest shade of pink, with a sparkly pink banana seat, sissy bar and pink and white basket. I rode that thing until my 13th birthday and it was too embarrassing to be seen on it any longer. I think I passed it along to my sister. But I digress.

Juan and I tried teaching Diego to ride a bike a couple of years ago, but he just wasn’t ready. Rather than force the issue we kept Nico’s outgrown bike in the garage, waiting for the day Diego would want to ride it. Meanwhile, Diego watched as the neighborhood kids, including the 4 year-old next door, rode to the neighborhood ice cream store on their bikes. Diego and I would sometimes ride together on the trail a bike attached to the back of my bike, but he didn’t always pedal and it was hard to enjoy a bike ride, dragging along and extra 80 pounds behind you. Meanwhile, he has become really good at riding his scooter, and I noticed that his balance and coordination was really improved. Last Sunday, it was a beautiful Spring-like day, and a perfect opportunity for a bike ride. We took out Nico’s old bike, removed the training wheels and pumped air into the tires. Diego got on and tried riding the bike on our street. He did okay, but seemed nervous due to the slight incline on our block and the narrow sidewalk. We decided to go to a nearby park with a nice wide, level bike path. That was all the confidence boost he needed. No sooner did we strap on his helmet, and guide him along, that he took off! I couldn’t keep up with him!

Riding his bike like a pro!

 Click Here to see Diego on a Bicycle

I did manage to make a new recipe this week, even though it took all night. I saw this great idea for St. Patrick’s Day cupcakes, and thought I’d like to try it. Our office had a bake sale to raise money for a victim’s fund, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to try using fondant. Let’s just say I won’t be making these again anytime soon. For someone who is too busy to cook her family a fresh meal, I wasted spent an inordinate amount of time making these cupcakes. I am glad they all sold out, priced at $3 each at the fundraising bake sale, but for all the work they took to make, next time I’ll just write a check.

Beer mug cupcakes

One last thing, I have been working on is Number 46 on my list, Complete Covenant 2. Let me explain. About 8 years ago I joined a membership class at my church, All Saints Pasadena. It was a really wonderful experience, writing our spiritual auto-biographies and exploring what spirituality meant to us. The subsequent class, Covenant 2 delves a lot more into the Episcopal religous traditions and each participant considers whether or not they wish to be confirmed at the end of the class. I have been participating in the class since January, and last weekend went on a retreat. I have been enjoying the classes and plan on being confirmed in May. Until then though, number 46 is still a work in progress…

I hope to make more progress on other items on my list. My pantry is so out of control, I hope to be able to check Number 3 from my list really soon.

Happy Friday!



50/50 Friday – Week 34

Its Friday and another week has passed since I started my list of 50 Things I want to Do Before my 50th Birthday. I am beginning to worry that I won’t be able to check off more from my list before my next birthday, in a little over four months. Yikes! I better get moving. Considering that I am a mother of 4 kids, it’s no surprise that I have to cook and I want to drink. (Numbers 19 and 20 on my list.) I guess it stands to reason then that I am not making much progress on number 18 on my list, lose and keep off 15 pounds, and number 26, drop a dress size.

So, I am glad that with the New Year, came new eating resolutions. I have done this before. “This year I will lose 10/15/20 pounds.” But, this year I have taken a different approach to losing weight. In the past, I have weighed myself on a weekly basis. I am a lifetime member of Weight Watchers, which means that at one time I reached my goal weight with their program. You notice I said, “at one time?” That was about 20 years ago, when my metabolism was burning fuel like a furnace. Now, that furnace can barely keep me warm on a cold California winter’s night. Recently, I went to my doctor for a physical. When I complained about the hard time I was having losing weight, she told me that it was normal for a woman my age. Ahem. She said that after 40 a woman typically gains about 5 pounds a year. Glad to know that I am right on target. But I digress. As I was saying, in an effort to lose the dress size, and not obsess about the number on the scale, I have decided not to weigh myself. Instead, I am writing down my food using the Lose It App on my iPhone, and I am exercising. I feel better. My clothes are less snug and my energy level has increased. I will weigh myself when I go back for a follow-up doctor’s visit, but at home I won’t step on the scale so as not to get discouraged seeing the number on the scale.

Another item I did some work on was number 21, visit a local landmark once a month. In December I celebrated my friend Julie’s own milestone birthday. She wanted a low key celebration so we went to the spa, had a nice dinner together and stayed overnight at the Hotel Shangri-La, a renovated art deco hotel in Santa Monica.

Cool bathroom in the art deco style.

I love Santa Monica, but I live on the other side of Los Angeles, closer to the foothills, so crossing two freeways to get to this part of town, makes it feel like a foreign place to me. Consequently, I don’t get out here too often, and when I do, I wonder why I don’t visit this Southern California gem more often.  After our night of celebration, where we were in bed by 10:00 p.m., Juan joined us for breakfast. He brought Diego, and Julie’s daughter Ty with him. We had a great time walking around the 3rd Street Promenade, playing on the beach with the kids, and taking in the Southern California sunshine in December.

Beach Babies

Santa Monica wasn’t the only local landmark I visited lately. I have been able to check off more landmarks from my list. Since I participated in the Amazing Los Angeles Race, I got to visit Grauman’s Chinese Theater and the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

I also made a little progress on cleaning out my attic, number 2 on my list. A couple of weeks ago we had an estate sale at my grandmother’s house. We had quite a few items for sale, and I decided to add a few items from my attic. But it was like two steps forward, and one step backwards, because I brought home two pieces of furniture from my grandmother’s house, and stored them in my attic. Sigh.

Estate Sale

Now that the holidays are all wrapped up and I am settling into the New Year, I hope to make more steps forward and knock out some more items on my bucket list.

What’s on your bucket list? How’s your progress?




50/50 Friday Weeks 10-15

It’s been several weeks since I have updated my list of 50 Things to Do Before I am 50.  My progress has slowed to a near grinding halt, since I have been preoccupied with getting everyone back to school, including me. Well, I am not actually in “school,” but I am studying for a big exam, and it leaves me little time to do anything else, including working my 50/50 list.  When I am not working my glamourus full-tim job as a high-powered government attorney, driving carpool, or helping with homework, I am reviewing criminal law and procedure. Bleh.  But, the family still needs to eat, and I still need to have my ocassional glass of wine, so here’s some minor progress on my list:

Iced Coffee.

It was really hot recently. My Colombian husband practically grew up on cafe con leche.  Iced coffee sounded like the best way to satisfy my  husband on a hot end-of summer day, without having to take my clothes off.  Plus, I was tired and needed a jolt of caffeine. I found this recipe on this website. It looked so good and very simple. The problem was that I didn’t have a  container big enough, so I had to cut the recipe in half. That involved some simple fractions. Yuck. Hey, if I was good at math, I would have gone to medical school, not law school. The end result was that I made some really strong iced coffee. Even my coffee addict husband thought it was too strong. After we diluted it a bit, poured in some half and half, it was as good as any baristas’ iced coffee and a fraction of the price.

Cedar Plank Salmon

Over the Labor Day weekend we hosted both sides of the family for a family dinner. When both sides of our local immediate families get together we number 22! Naturally, our celebrations involve pot luck and I assigned myself one of the main dishes, Cedar Plank Salmon.  I have tried cooking salmon wrapped in cedar paper, but it didn’t seem to have enough flavor. This time, I bought some cedar planks at the grocery store and soaked them in water.  I bought the fish at Costco, seasoned it and sprinkled it with brown sugar. I was inspired by this recipe, but, I didn’t have all the ingredients, so I kind of improvised. The fish was a hit, as evidenced by this photo. We couldn’t take the photo fast enough. The crowd was hungry!

Cedar Plank Salmon

Smothered Pork Chops

The next thing I made was Smothered Pork Chops. Last Sunday I was feeling like I wanted some comfort food. I had some pork chops in the refrigerator so I looked on my favorite online cooking resource and found this recipe.  Just what I wanted, and even better because I only had to wash one pot.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts

As a side dish I roasted brussel sprouts. I didn’t really need a recipe for this since I have made brussel sprouts before, but I still consulted with a few sources to find a different way to prepare them. I have boiled them and sauteed them before, but never roasted them. First  I cut them in half, then I drizzled some olive oil on them and seasoned them with salt and pepper. I placed them flat side down on a cookie sheet and roasted them in the oven for about 40 minutes at a temperature of 425 degrees. When they were done I sprinkled a little parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes on them.  I thought they came out great, and I will probably always make them this way.  Here’s what the dinner looked like:

Smothered Pork Chops and Roasted Brussel Sprouts

September Wine

During our family gathering we served this wonderful pinto gris. Juan scored this wine for a great price at our local grocery store. It was crisp, light and if I really knew anything about wine I would say it had tones of citrus and vanilla. What I do know is that it was really refreshing, and our guests enjoyed it too. It seems like we weren’t the only ones who liked it, and I am not the only one to blog about it. Check this mom’s post about her review of the same wine.

50/50 Friday – Weeks 7 thru 9

I can’t believe I am still checking off my list of 50 Things I Want to Do Before 50. Lately,  Summer is keeping me busier than school days, so it is no surprise to me that the only thing I can seem to get done these days is cook. Actually, not really cooking, more like heating things up. It’s been so warm lately I haven’t felt much like cooking. But, I still want to stay on track with my “bucket list” and complete Number 37, “Make one new recipe a week.” So, that’s what I am doing, even if I am three four weeks behind. Hot weather or not,  I am using a new recipe a week, although the recipes don’t always involve food. For instance, one of my new recipes came from my trusted web site, The Food Network, and it involved this.

When life gives your neighbor’s lemon tree a lot of lemons, make lemonade. And when life gives you a garden full of fresh mint, and a hot day with cranky kids bored on a summer day, what do you do? Make Minted Lemonade, of course.  Actually, it was sticky, sweet and delicious fun!  Nevermind that the recipe called for a lot of sugar, and all I had was raw Turbinado Sugar.  The raw sugar turned my Mint Lemonade, a gross  brownish color, but it was still tasty.  I tried not to mind too much when the kid next door,  who had designated himself the lemonade stand hawker, was shouting, “ICE COLD MINT LEMONADE! DON’T WORRY ABOUT THE COLOR! IT TASTES GREAT!”

My second recipe was from a favorite blogger’s website. And sticking to the beverages and kids formula, I thought a recipe that involved Nico and Erica’s favorite soda, Dr. Pepper, would be sure to please.  I guess it would have been a kid pleaser too,  if I had not overcooked it. What did I say about it being a busy summer?  I asked my babysitter to put it in the oven to cook for me while I was at work. She did, but unfortunately, I did not come straight home after work and by the time I made it home, the dish was in the oven for over 6 hours. The meat was still tender, but there was no juicy Dr. Pepper sauciness. (Is that even a word?) Ah well. When life gives you a pork roast without sauce, make carnitas. That’s what it tasted like to me. So I made a little taco bar and we had “carnitas” for dinner.

The last catch up recipe on my list, involved no recipe. That’s right, I had planned on making my old stand-by meal, the-late-from-work-no-time-to-cook-dinner-ground -turkey-with-pasta-and-sauce-from-a-jar, when I learned about a recent ground turkey recall.  Instead of making dinner as planned,  I enlisted my girls to help in the kitchen, and we improvised.  They are both surprisingly good cooks. We inventoried what we had in the pantry: 1/2 a box of penne rigate, and 1/2 a box of angel hair pasta, and garlic.  We inventoried what we had in the refrigerator: a bag of frozen shrimp,  leftover roasted red bell peppers from last night’s barbecue, fresh parmesan cheese, and artichokes. We also took stock of the wonderful bounty of fresh pear tomatoes that a friend had grown in her yard.  Since there is no recipe, I’ll tell you what we did.

We chopped about 6 garlic cloves. I steamed the artichokes and then took out the hearts. Olivia made a dip with mayo, butter, lemon and dill and we noshed on the leaves while we finished the rest of dinner. Erica sautéed the shrimp in most of the garlic, with olive and a bit of butter. We squeezed lemon over the shrimp in final minute of cooking. We then removed the shrimp from the pan and Olivia began to work her sauce magic. She deglazed the pan using white wine, while I supervised, drinking white wine and nibbling on artichoke leaves, of course. She threw in some butter, more garlic, added some lemon juice and seasoned it with salt and red pepper chili flakes. Then,  we kept it warm while we sautéed the already cooked peppers, chopped artichoke hearts, and the fresh pear tomatoes. We tossed everything in a big pasta bowl,  added the sauce, and tossed in some fresh basil and parmesan cheese. It tasted as good as it looked.

The last thing I was able to accomplish these past few weeks was Number 20 on my list, Try a New Wine. On a trip to Napa Valley one year, Juan and I were persuaded to join a cellar club at Jessup Winery. We loved the wines there and so it really wasn’t a hard sell for us. We no longer are members of the cellar club, but that has more to do with economics than it does with the wine. Unfortunately, we have made quite a dent in our wine inventory and we only have a few bottles left. We have had this one lying around for a while, so we decided to open it.

Juan had never really had a lot of port before, and me, being the wine connoisseur that I am, told him it is usually poured with a dessert. Since I am also an epicurean, I told him that this port would go wonderfully with Smores. Yes, Smores. Because we are such wine snobs. Can’t you tell?

We lit a fire outside, roasted marshmallows and brought out the graham crackers. And because the port we were drinking had wonderful cherry flavors, and  smokey undertones, I brought out the dark chocolate. Can you say, “food and wine pairings?” I think I have created a new classic pairing.

So, nine weeks in and I still have two recipes to catch up on,  among other things. The kids go back to school in a couple of weeks, and my real job is becoming busier, so I’ll  have to see how much cooking and checking things off my list I can accomplish.