Friday, August 8, 2014

Snippets of Summer

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The highlight of our summer thus far was a wonderful long weekend in San Clemente with our kids.  Now that they are married it is extra special to be able to spend extended time together.

We have vacationed in San Clemente every summer since we got married. Because of that, it holds a special fondness for all of us.

This year, however, we hung up our usual camping accomodations in favor of resort life - there is no turning back now!  
We stayed at the San Clemente Inn and would definitely go back.  It was reasonable and had a lot of great amenities.

We had so much fun going to the beach, playing tennis & miniature golf at the hotel, visiting great local restaurants, shopping at all the cute shops in town, and of course some good evening Sequence tournaments.

At one of the antique shops, we found this, and since we had the truck with us, we decided why not make it ours?

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It has a new home in our dining room and is just perfect for my little Depression Glass collection.  It will be a great place to serve drinks or set up coffee.

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Of course, our summers are always full of homegrown heirloom tomatoes!  It hasn't been the best year for some reason, but we've gotten some real beauties.  

To give some perspective, in this picture the tomatoes are on a regular sized jelly roll pan.  The big yellow tomatoes in the foreground are called Pineapple and are about 2 lb. each.  They are gorgeous, juicy, and flavorful.

Here's one way to serve them:

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Just a little red onion and blue cheese makes a pretty salad.  We sprinkle on our favorite rosemary olive oil and a little good balsamic.  This is practically a meal in itself!  Add some good crusty bread and you're all set with an easy summer dinner. 

We have also made salsa with fresh jalapenos and cilantro. Fresh salsa is the best.

Since I love Rao's bottled sauce so much, I decided to plant a San Marzano tomato plant this year.  I have made a couple batches of marinara and it is delicious!  I just put the tomatoes in the vitamix with some fresh garlic, sweet onion, and fresh basil.  I pulverize it and simmer it on the stove a long time with some olive oil, salt and pepper.  That's it!

Other things we are growing:  lettuce, carrots, beets, strawberries, Japanese and Armenian cucumbers, Japanese eggplant, colored bell peppers, basil, jalapenos, yellow squash, and zucchini. 


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Our pup Buttercup has gotten so big and weighs around 40 lb. now!
She has proven to be a typical lab in the water.  She loves to play fetch or just lounge on the step to stay cool on hot summer days.

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And it's sure a "ruff" life having your own lounge chair in the shade.

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We have found a new fave place to frequent - Urth Caffe.
 There is one downtown that we love, and Rich has taken me there on several occasions when I've come to his office.

Now there is a new one in Pasadena!  
Check out some cool photos of the place here.  
It's the perfect place for breakfast, lunch, afternoon coffee or a Boba.  And it's fantastic at night for dessert and coffee. They have great organic coffee and outstanding pastry.

Their food is so fresh and absolutely delicious.  I love the ambiance! 
The restaurant is very large and open air and done in Spanish decor, which includes lots of tile mosaics and a pretty fountain.

I must say I have found myself here a few times this summer either with a friend or most recently on a breakfast date with my hubby.  The above photo was Rich's beautiful food - poached eggs over fresh, yummy veggies.   

Below was my dish - I'm such a fan of their oatmeal.

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This and a fresh hot Americano really hit the spot on a slightly chilly morning.  :-)
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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

WDW returns with ACAI BOWLS!


Meet my new obsession -- Acai bowls.

They are like ice cream that is good for you!
I like to eat them for breakfast or lunch but feel free to treat them like dessert!

What is an acai berry anyways?  It's considered a "superfood" from the Amazon rainforest in Brazil.  The acai tree is actaully a type of palm tree.  Brazilian natives consider the berry to be a secret of health, providing energy, and boosting immune and metabolic function.

Here are some interesting facts about acai berries:

-They contain amino acids & omega fatty acids.

-They have all the same vitamins and minerals of most fruits, but also contain unique chemical compounds found in no other fruit on the planet.  

-Acai contains one of the highest levels of antioxidants you can find -  including a superpotent one called anthocyanin.  It also has free radical powers. Acai's ORAC (oxygen radical absorbancy capacity) is over 3500, which is hundreds of times higher than your average apples and bananas.

The best way to get acai is by buying it frozen.
The company Sabazon sells convenient packets of plain Acai and Acai mixed with guarana extract.  The latter is lightly sweetened with organic cane juice and I prefer that one.


How to make 1 serving

 In high-powered blender add the following:
-1/2 frozen banana, cubed
-1 packet Sabazon Acai puree 
(I get mine at Costco, they also have it at Sprouts and probably Whole Foods)
-1/2 cup liquid (I like almond milk or raw milk or half OJ/half milk)
 -small handful of ice

Blend to the consistency of ice cream.
Now, the fun part... toppings!
 
I like to add the following:
fresh fruit 
(my faves are fresh berries, sliced bananas, peaches, and kiwi)
homemade granola
toasted shredded coconut
and my absolute fave: chia seeds

If you're near Los Angeles, and want a foodie adventure, here's a link to the best acai bowls in town!



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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Adventures with Annie Sloan Paint

Recently I got turned on to the ease of refinishing furniture with a product called Annie Sloan paint.

I knew a few people who had tried it and had raved about it.  With this type of paint, which is a chalk paint, you are able to paint over any wood finish without sanding or priming.  You just have to be sure your piece is cleaned off and you can start painting it.  I had a few pieces of pine furniture and a kitchen table set I wanted to refinish, so I decided to give it a try.  My sister Suzanne helped me with the first piece, which is a dresser we use in our family room.

Here is a before shot of the dresser (I forgot to take the pic before we painted the drawers).  Originally we purchased this piece unfinished over 10 years ago.  It's just a basic piece with not much detail.  When we got it, we put a clear coat on it and over the years it grew to be a light honey pine color.  

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Since I am slowly moving my house colors from the warm to cool.  So I chose a gray color called French Linen.  Annie Sloan paint is about $40 a quart but I only used about 1/4 of the can for this piece.

  We applied three coats of the paint and then I waxed it twice with Annie Sloan wax.  The chalk paint dries, well...chalky.  :-)  So you need to finish with a protective product after you paint.  The finish with the wax applied has just the slightest sheen but feels smooth.  This is easy to do with a brush or cloth.  I am really happy with the way this turned out (my walls are being painted a pale gray as I type, so just ignore the clash of the butter color- also do you think I could have straightened the lamp shade before snapping a pic?) Suzanne graciously donated some extra vintage-type glass knobs she had so I estimate the cost of this project to be about $10.  Nice!

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Next, Suzanne and I tackled my kitchen table.   Again, we had bought the set unfinished and we painted it black.  To be honest, I've never been very happy with the way it turned out, so it was the perfect candidate for Annie Sloan!   I chose the color Old White.   I am so thankful my sister helped me because this was a much bigger project.  We actually used a whole quart of the paint for this and put on three coats of Polycrylic.  Here is the table and chair before:

 


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And after:

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What a difference!  I love it.  
I did a light distress and some of the black paint came through and it's perfect.  The original micro suede chair cushions were aging and a bit blase with all the white, so I ordered this fun fabric to recover them with.  My walls are being painted a light grayish blue so this fabric will look perfect.   

Project cost on this was about $80 since I'm recovering the chairs.  Pretty good for such a dramatic makeover. 


The breakfast nook will be so light and cheery!

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My next project was my master bathroom vanity cupboards.  They were a (yellowing) "white washed" oak, which is GREAT for the 1990's... anyways I should have had them refinished dark when my kitchen cupboards were refinished a few year ago - but I'm not that smart.  :-)   

I figured Annie Sloan would be a easy and quick fix and I was right.  My bathroom is also being painted a pale gray (hence swatches painted on the wall) so I thought to use the French Linen again on the cabinets. 

Again, I forgot my "before" picture until I was already trying the paint on a little. 

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Don't even ask what my bathroom tile is  -- it came with the house. It's kind of Southwesty/Art Deco (if there is such a category) and features unique metallic elements.  Yeah.
I've learned to make peace with it.  
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Ta-da!  Super easy facelift for about $5 and a few hours of time! 
I used 2 coats of Annie Sloan and 2 coats of Polycrylic. 
I am very pleased!


Stephanie was over last Saturday refinishing a vintage dresser my sister found her for $20 at a thrift store. She did it this fabulous Duck Egg blue and waxed it.  She's going to get some cool knobs for it and hang a large ornate mirror over it for her bedroom.

 Here's the before shot:

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And after - mid-century becomes funky and cool:

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Stephanie also helped me redo this cute little vanity seat I had from Rich's mom.  We used the French Linen then wet distressed it (wiping a damp cloth over it right after painting) which revealed the former cherry wood finish.  I put a quick coat of wax on this and it was done. We recovered the seat in a scrap of fabric I had laying around, and Stephanie is going to put it in her house.

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 So after all this, Rich asked me (in a very nice way) to please not paint EVERYTHING in the house - ha!

Just so you know, Home Depot also sells a less expensive chalk paint.  My sister tried it and she said it's similar to Annie Sloan.  
Happy painting!

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Friday, June 6, 2014

Princess BUTTAcup

{If you're not a Princess Bride fan, you may not get my title!}

I'm finally getting around to blogging about our little puppy girl Buttercup who we've had A MONTH already! She's doing so well and is a good little girl.  Don't get me wrong-- it's a lot of work (and it's tiring) to have a puppy who has a "schedule."  It's almost like having a baby!   I cannot go out for more than 2 hours at a time, since that is about all the time you can expect a puppy to wait without needing to relieve themselves.  :-)  And since our yard is not totally "puppy proof" when she is outside I must join her.  When she is inside she is either in her crate or in the kitchen closed off with baby gates.  :-)  I don't let her wander around the house just yet. She is about 90% housebroken now, and has begun communicating her need to go out, vs. just letting go on the floor, but I don't trust her fully yet.  So she keeps me busy!

We were very pleased that she came to us with the skill of sleeping through the night (PTL!). I expected some sleepless nights and bleary-eyed 3 am flashlight led potty runs, but alas she pleasantly surprised us.  She goes in her crate around 9pm and Rich gets her up around 5:00am.

Having her has reminded me of how much we adore labradors. I feel a little guilty when people ask where we got her (at a breeder). I know there are tons of pups in shelters needing homes, but we just love the purebred labs.  They have the BEST temperaments and love EVERYONE.  Not a mean bone in their bodies.  This is super important to me as she will likely be here when the grandkids start coming.  :-)  And I think it goes without saying that labs are some good looking dogs.  They are also super fun and love adventure like swimming and hiking.  Our kids adore her and she is already a very loved family dog.

Though it's cramped our empty nester style a bit (not gonna lie), we are really enjoying her.  It's a little hard that she can't really be out in public yet unless we carry her (and she has gone from 8 lb. to 15 lb. so it's getting harder to tote her around).  This is due to the fact that her vaccinations are not complete and the prevalence of canine parvovirus.  In two more weeks she can walk on a leash in public places and we are looking forward to that! 

As you'll see in the pics, she's getting along very well with our 13 year old chocolate lab, Missy. I think Missy has gotten a little perkier, too having a puppy friend.   I tell you, Missy has the patience of Job.   Buttercup does everything annoying possible to her.   Sometimes she barks at her, but I know she wouldn't hurt her.  They have a cute relationship.

Enjoy the pics!

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First day home - 8 weeks, 8 lb.

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9 weeks

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First outing -- Chipotle on Rich's birthday.

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A few pics of her all tuckered out ...

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Don't think of it as "sleeping" but rather "recharging" :-)

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Fun with sissy Missy

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11 weeks - last Saturday afternoon at Montrose Arts/Crafts Festival.
People continuously stopped us to admire her cuteness  :-)


Friday, May 16, 2014

Anniversaries... it must be May

Celebrating 27 years of marriage today with this guy, who has always carried me through life.  

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THEN:  May 16, 1987
Marina del Rey Hotel



NOW:  May 8, 2014
Bouchon Restaurant

And, it's hard to believe, but these two will be celebrating their one year anniversary on Sunday.  It seems like yesterday. 
Congrats Drew & Stephanie!

View More: http://tracydodsonphotography.pass.us/drewandstephanie

May 18, 2013
Santa Clarita

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Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mother's Day


I always dreamed of having four children. 
But, after my 3rd pregnancy, it seemed like that would be it for me.

However, God has blessed me with these four:

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People often ask me if I like the people my kids married. 
The answer is always a resounding "YES!"
I truly love and adore them like my own.

Even if I had been given free choice in the whole world, I couldn't have found anyone better to be my son and daughter in law than Nick and Stephanie.

I am really proud of all of them.

I could say much about them, but here are just a few words.

Drew is fun and funny, and super even-keeled.  So much like Rich, really. This past year I have proudly watched him graduate college, get a good job, and become a great husband.  It's been a true joy.

Stephanie is sweet, fun, creative, and thoughtful, and I love her personality.  I love to see how much she enjoys and loves my son.  She is so good-natured, and has fit in perfectly with our family since day one!  

Emma is hard-working, adventurous, & people-oriented. She really endears herself to all. It is so wonderful to watch her in her new role as a wife and homemaker. She has a very busy life with nannying and photography but she has put a lot of effort into making a lovely new home for her and Nick.

Nick is kind, hardworking, and patient.  He's also very fun to be with.  Even though he has had a lot of physical trials in the past couple years, but you don't hear him complain.  He has strong character, and I trust him completely to take care of my daughter.

The best part about these four is that they all love the Lord.
I am richly blessed by this common bond.
It brings me great joy that they have found the one "whom their soul loves."  
I love to see them so happy.

And today, May 11th, also happens to be my son Brady's birthday.  He would have been 25 years old today.  I marvel that He is in the presence of God and I look forward to our reunion someday.

 My heart is full this Mother's Day.



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Thursday, May 1, 2014

Our new little love (warning: cuteness overload ahead!)


In a little over a week, we'll be adding a new member to our family.
We've been wanting a Labrador puppy for some time...
I finally found a good local breeder with this litter of yellow labs-- the white color ones... and I almost died!!
We are naming her Buttercup. She is only 5 weeks old here, the day we picked her out. 
 Just look at this little LOVE!!

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Empty nesters in need of a new baby. :-)

 

Seriously in love!!

 

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Emma's cell phone that she picked up in her little mouth --  next to her shows how tiny she is!

 

That face... those eyes... that chubby pink belly!!!

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Oh, and that lab profile! It kills me.

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The three girls we had to choose from -- not an easy decision!
 We finally decided on the biggest most playful one.
Is there anything cuter than a lab puppy??

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