Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Chocolate Bouquet

My kids have been invited to another birthday party and they have been trained to be thoughtful yet frugal when it comes to gift giving. I think I might be training them well. My dear son, age 11, has a very good friend girl (not girlfriend, that would be totally not the right thing to say. I have been schooled.) and she is having a swim birthday party this week. Her older sister is friends with my 14 year old daughter and so both my oldest kids will be going to the party together. Kind of a nice thing, if you ask me.
My son remembered that I had done some kind of "pot thing," he called it, with chocolate and remembered that his friend is a huge chocolate fan. Great!! In my budget and allows for us to get creative together. We made a little project that he could present her with. Here is the final result. Square metal planter has floral foam attached to the inside bottom and is then covered with Hershey kisses. The candy bars are attached to various sizes of skewers, inserted into the foam and then tied with ribbon. The name is cut with my Cricut in vinyl and wraps around the corner of the silver planter. Hope she really does like pink and milk chocolate! All we have left to do is make a coordinating card and wrap the whole thing in cellophane and tie a big bow. I know I wouldn't mind getting something so yummy as a gift. Happy birthday Maren!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


New York New York Casino. Home away from home.
My birthday is in April and this year my mother and step-father gave me the most awesome gift that a grown up could receive- an all expense paid vacation and an offer to watch my children so I could GO on said vacation. I was ecstatic! Unfortunately some medical issues came up which caused me to postpone my trip a couple of months. It was a little hard to wait, to say the least. Time passed though, I healed and the school year ended. So... the time finally arrived and my husband and I were able to get ourselves to Las Vegas. Woohoo!! I am 37 years old, live within driving distance and had never EVER been to Vegas. I am so embarrassed. ;-) But as luck would have it, we were also given airplane tickets. Yep. Airplane tickets. Double the awesomeness! That was only the second time in my life (that I can remember) flying anywhere. You have no idea how much I (we) needed a vacation. SERIOUSLY, needed it! I mean, with 4 kids, (2 of them having special needs) and a very interesting husband, a girl can go a little stir crazy. ;-) So, off we went. 3 whole days without responsibilities. It was wonderful! Thanks Mom. It was the best trip I have had in a very VERY VEEEEEEEERY long time. Here are a couple of pics of our adventure.

Ok. Not the real Elvis. But he had to do. This one single shot fulfilled a wish that my husband has had for a very long time. Go figure. LOL is what I say... Roaming Las Vegas Boulevard along with Elvis were some very interesting characters. Michael Jackson, I will have you know, is alive and well as are just about all of the Marvel Superheroes that you can think of. The creepiest thing we saw was that horror character, Jason? I think that's his name. The one who wears the hockey mask? Yeah, that dude. There was one of him complete with a severed head and everything. Yuck. Not exactly what you want to see as you are wandering the street and minding your own business. Luckily there was a showgirl and some transformers beyond him to lighten the mood a little. Thank goodness.

Cheesecake Factory for lunch. Why? Because we could. Cheesecake that you don't have to share with 4 kids ALWAYS tastes better anyway. Plus, it was yet another place that we hadn't tried before. This one was pecan turtle cheesecake with chocolate ganache frosting, or something kind of like it. It was heavenly. I would bathe in it if I could. Ok... that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but it was awesome. Could only eat half of it, it was so rich. But it made an even better midnight snack, I will tell you that!
We did some serious "shopping" while we were there. Walking through all the luxury malls pretending to be rich. Didn't go in to any of the foofoo sheshe stores but we sure did look at them. And man oh man are they pretty! Beautiful famous name boutiques that I hadn't been exposed to in my little California town. Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Prada, Harry Winston, Tiffany... You name it and they were there. It was very cool. Oh... Lots of purses everywhere. Lots and lots of purses. It was kind of baffling actually. Who would have thought there was such a need for $600 dollar purses? Also thought it was strange to see a Gucci store on every corner. Practically. Bizarre.
It had been recommended to us that we eat lunch here at Olives at the Bellagio Hotel. We did. It was awesome. If you like fancy food, then you are in luck. I had the best handmade butternut squash tortolli and Cablecar drink in the history of the world. Pretty much. Dave had the felafel with feta cheese and skinny fries, all gourmet-ified. He isn't even a vegetarian and you would never have known the difference. He ate it like it was a gift from God. Most expensive lunch I will ever have in my life probably. ;-)

 I have a paralyzing fear of mountain lions and large cats. There I said it. But for some reason I decided to go under the 3 large female lions that were on display in the lion sanctuary at the MGM Grand Hotel and take some pictures. I figured that the 3 inch thick plexi-glass tunnel was adequate protection from doom and/or being hand picked by the furry huge inhabitants of the very lovely sanctuary, to be dinner or a chew toy. What happens in Vegas...

This is one of the many fountains sprinkled throughout Cesears Palace Hotel. We saw an even bigger marble fountain with an aquarium on the back side of it too. That one had animatronic story tellers who let us know all about the falling of Atlantis (in a very ginormously fiery display.) But for some reason I only took video of that one, like a dodo head. You will just have to take my word for it. It was quite interesting.

Ok, this place was cool. The atrium place at the Bellagio Hotel was just fabulous. It smelled better than any candle or room spray that I have ever come in contact with. Eat your heart out Glade. lol. I heard that they change all the themes seasonally. I bet it is just breathtaking in the fall and winter! As it was, being patriotic and full of American things and all, it was nice. I was impressed with the hot air balloons and just the overall grand scheme of things. Real master craftsmanship/gardening skills were evident for sure. I could have just sat there for hours except it was ridiculously hot and humid and I was schvitzing like a mule in there. ;-)

Last but not least... The gambling. You have to do it. I mean, why come all this way and then not have the experience of losing money to a slot machine?? Well, as luck would have it I actually won a couple of times. I was so stinking proud of myself. It sure makes it nice! I TORE UP those penny machines like there was no tomorrow. Sometimes, I even bet 5 whole cents on one spin. Yep. I know how to party. ;-) This particular picture was taken at the Cosmopolitan Casino which is one of the newer ones. They were having a promotion where if you signed up for their "club" they would give you $25 in slot credit. Well, I like free things even on vacation. Dave and I both signed up, put in our new cards and LITERALLY walked about a little over $200 richer. I am not kidding. It was awesome. I don't know if you can tell, but this is a 50 cent machine. Apparently, free money makes you a big spender. But it also makes you a winner too! Thanks Cosmopolitan! We'll be back. :)

Yummy Zucchini Casserole

This is the time of year when all your hard work in the garden should start to pay off. You know, the time when you start to have extra veggies laying around waiting to be used before up or forgotten about until they are a nasty mess. (Please tell me I am not alone in that...) Never underestimate the power of one little zucchini plant! NEVER. Or so I can remember.
I used to have a thriving little garden in my backyard. Cute and perfect sized to manage and very productive- but a whole lot of work! Then one summer, I was huge and pregnant and totally unable to tend to the garden like I wanted. It died. To say the least. I have yet to start a new one successfully. A couple of seasons ago, my loving husband decided that we should try raised planter box gardens and so he built a couple of them. Good idea, but we just couldn't get them going like they should have and so I think we only got 2 tomatoes and a couple of zucchinis from the whole summer. Big bummer. Sooooo... I gave up. It is definitely something that I would like to start again. But for now, I have to settle for buying it in the store at a ridiculously high price. Grrrrr. And I will! Because I have the most yummy recipe for zucchini casserole that we make when my husband or I get a hankering for it. And as luck would have it, he requested it last Sunday for Father's day so I thought I would share the recipe with you. Hope you are able to try it. Enjoy!

Zucchini Casserole

1 large onion, chopped
1 tbsp. minced garlic
2 tbsp. olive oil
saute the above ingredients in large frying pan until onions are softened.
8-10 cups shredded zucchini
Cook until softened. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Add salt and pepper to taste along with 4-6 shakes of Tabasco sauce.
Cube 8 slices of wheat bread. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, beat 6 eggs.
Add bread and eggs to cooled zucchini mixture.
Add 2 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese and stir to distribute evenly.
Place in greased 9x13 baking dish and cover with foil.
Bake in 325 degree preheated oven for  45 minutes and then remove foil. Bake for an additional 45-60 minutes or until center is set. Allow to cool for 10 minutes and then serve.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Best Veggie Dip Ever!!

Once a month, I get together with several friends and we stamp/create greeting cards. It is a night I look forward to. A night when I get to be a grown up. All alone without kids or husbands, we chat, laugh, eat and have a blast! We take turns bringing things to eat for dinner or projects to work on. This was not my month to contribute to the food category, but, one of our newest members, Elaine, brought a really  awesome dip for vegetables. SO awesome, in fact, it caused me to eat cauliflower. Yes, you heard me. Cauliflower. The most detested of all vegetables in my world. It was amazing. SO amazing that I had to run out and get the ingredients to make a batch to share with my family for lunch. We pretended that we were vegetarians. I cut up an assortment of "exotic" veggies and then dared my kiddos to "conquer" them. And guess what... THEY DID!! I had my kids eating mushrooms, grape tomatoes, bell peppers, etc. It was incredible. I seriously recommend you give this one a shot at your next shindig that requires vegetables. You won't regret it.

Vegetable Dip (Barefoot Contessa recipe)
shared by my new friend Elaine

8 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream at room temperature
1/2 cup good mayonnaise
3/4 cup chopped scallions, white and green parts (3 scallions)
1/4 chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Blend together the cream cheese, sour cream and mayonnaise. Add the other ingredients and combine well.

**I will mention that we used low fat cream cheese and fat free sour cream but the full fat mayonnaise, just so we wouldn't feel too fancy. ;-) I also couldn't find fresh dill so used about 2 tsp of dried dill instead. I don't have kosher salt and was too lazy to grind the pepper with our pepper mill so I just used the regular stuff. Didn't really make a noticeable difference so you can go right ahead and do the same thing when you make your batch, without any fear or hesitation. ;-)

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