Cocoa As Art

Oh, and a really cute brunch date, too!!

nico coco

All He Wants…

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for Christmas are his

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Gee, if he could only have his

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Then he could wish you MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

Now…as to what his Momma wants for Christmas: after seeing the difference in the pictures from my camera (top shot) and Auntie Jamison‘s camera (other two pics, both of which I cropped from a MUCH bigger shot of 6 children, so it’s pixillated to the max!! <Classic Peg>….or however you say it in fancy camera speak), my wish is clear: I want Santa to bring me Auntie Jamison’s camera!

Update on the “Office Remodel”

Thank you, faithful readers, for your patience with us as we bring you semi-weekly installments of the progress on the little office Jay is slowly creating in the corner of our bedroom.  Our first Horne Improvement episode of this particular series can be read here. And last week I shared the second episode with you.  Admittedly, this office remodel does seem to be dragging on.

Yesterday I decided that we’d waited long enough for the whole thing to get finished, so we brought in some professionals.

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Pretty cool gig for them in these economic times especially!! That short one doesn’t even feel the need to spring for work clothes, apparently!

I’m here to vouch for the fact that expertise in painting directly correlates with the amount of clothing worn. In other words, if your painter shows up half naked, you’d be well advised to find yourself another guy for the job!

Well, after painting over the not so attractive streaks created by the littlest member of the crew, I think the wall is looking pretty great!

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It’s ready for the carpenter to go to work and build the desk!

C’mon…Burn that Butter!!

Eating all those birthday cupcakes has motivated me to work out!! Well, not really…the realization about a month ago that swimsuit season is impending was motivation enough. Cupcake consumption just served to seal the deal.

A few weeks back, I began looking around for something new to inspire my efforts to get back into the swing of exercising. Jay will tell you that I have to think long and hard about exercising before I ever just put on my sneakers and go for it!!

Given our budget is pretty lean right now, I turned to my friend the library, and checked out several dvd’s to try at home. After working through most of them, I settled on my favorite of the bunch, a Denise Austin “Kick Your Butt” Fat Burner workout, and have used it a few times now. It’s felt helpful enough that I had to share a personal review with all my patient readers!

First, please do not be turned off by Denise’s lack of clothing as pictured on the cover of the DVD  – she wears something entirely different (and more covering!) during the actual workout. This is a great workout (said the “hasn’t exercised in a thousand years” girl) that will challenge you over and over.  It is circuit training: cardio bursts interspersed with weights, and consists of seven segments which each include about 4 minutes of high cardio activity immediately followed by a couple minutes of weight training. This goes on and on and on….till you wonder how Denise can still possibly be bouncing up and down, and looking downright happy about it!!

There are three levels of intensity shown for every part of the cardio exercise, and of course you can vary the size hand weights used for more or less resistance.  The moves are less “dance-y”, and much more athletic in nature. Most are inspired by kickboxing and basketball moves. Some of you may hate Denise’s upbeat, happy personality, but I find her comments about exactly which muscles you are using during each segment really helpful. Her banter is encouraging, and even funny. “Burn that butter!”

I gotta tell you though, that I do not look as awesome as Denise does while burning butter (or fat, whichever term you prefer). Her hair, neatly styled and worn past her shoulders literally never falls out of place or gets the slightest bit frizzy, and I do not believe the woman even began to break a sweat during the entire 45 minutes of high energy exercise. But Denise has a few advantages I don’t: for one thing, she has a huge workout studio with hard floors and plenty of space to punch, jab, and kick.  She has backup “dancers” er, workout buddies, to make her look good.  And perhaps most importantly, there are no children or animals sharing her workout space with her.

This morning while I sweated along, I had a toddler on one side of me brushing up on his own little jabs and punches, and a Kindergartener on the other side desperately trying to keep up with the fast-paced shuffling and kicking. The kindergartener also diligently weight-trained right along with Denise and me, using his own tiny set of weights (and asking me in a most polite manner to please move over so he could have enough room to do his workout properly!).

Of most help though was my eager lab, who would not submit to being put out of the room just because her 55 pounds were in the way of my workout. Instead she stayed close by to monitor our progress, and near the end happily licked my face repeatedly during a particularly trying set of tricep dips. I think she, like Denise was cheering on my feeble efforts.

Well, there you go.  I’ve never been a huge follower of exercise “videos” but I think a good one can be a nice help in adding variety to a fitness routine. If any of you have re-entered the world of working out after a long hiatus and found things that helped keep you in the game, please feel free to share!! Also, if you have favorite workout dvd’s that you want to share names of, please leave me a comment.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, enough of this exercise talk.  I must go stuff my face with some homemade queso and chips!!

Pasta…Oh MY!!

I have been experimenting more with pasta of late. It is a delightful basis for a meal because you can throw odds and ends of what you have in your fridge into a skillet with some garlic and olive oil, and produce an entree that tastes like you just sat down in a nice Italian restaurant.

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For this latest dish, I wanted a meal that would have great flavor without too much spice. And that also would not use a lot of meat. Here is more or less what I threw together; you could adjust and change amounts and ingredients around to your liking without too much consequence, I am thinking, as long as you keep the basic proportions of sauce to meat/veggies. Do not be put off by what look like at first glance a large amount of ingredients; it is mostly various veggies I put into the dish and then a few liquids thrown in to create a delicious lemon-butter-wine sauce.

1 package (12-16oz) your pasta of choice (I used farfalle, or bow ties)

3 slices bacon (if it fits into your budget, I believe prosciutto would taste even better in this dish)

2 Tbs olive oil

3 cloves garlic

1 green onion

1/2 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced or chopped

1/4 cup marinated artichoke hearts, chopped

1+ cup fresh spinach washed and dried

flour, for dredging chicken

1 chicken breast, cut into small bite-sized pieces

1 cup chicken stock (I make my own, but canned will do fine)

1-2 Tbs butter

1/2-ish cup white wine

lots of lemon juice (I am totally guessing here, but maybe a 1/3 cup?)

freshly ground black pepper

grated parmesan cheese, for sprinkling

Prepare your pasta “al dente” and set aside.

I used my electric skillet for the rest of this dish, but a large stovetop skillet would work well.

Cook your bacon, remove from skillet and set on paper towels to drain.

Remove bacon grease from skillet (I pour it out, then wipe the inside of the skillet with a paper towel).

Now to the skillet, add 1 Tbs of the olive oil and your garlic, stir to slightly cook, and add other vegetables up through the spinach. It won’t take long for these to cook through, maybe about 5 minutes. Remove veggies to a plate or the already used pasta pot till you need them.

Add the other 1Tbs of olive oil, and your flour-dredged chicken to the skillet. After chicken is cooked (about another five minutes) sprinkle a bit more flour into the chicken, and add your broth, butter, the wine, and lemon juice to the skillet. The liquid will thicken into a nice sauce. Crumble your bacon back into this mixture as the sauce thickens. Now add your vegetables back in, sprinkle with black pepper, and stir till everything is warmed and mixed together.

Serve over pasta, sprinkled with your favorite parmesan cheese. Add a glass of wine and salad to round out this wonderful, tummy-pleasing meal!! Mangia!

Lenten Meditation Day Two

From Phillippians 4…

4Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

I like this very familiar passage because it reminds me of several basic things, that I need to hear each and every day:

* Rejoice in the LORD! He is my God, my Saviour, my provision, my king! How can I not rejoice in his goodness to me? There is no qualifier placed on rejoicing in him; I am exhorted to find my joy in him in whatever circumstances I find myself. And just to be clear: This is not an executive order to “suck it up” when we are in the depths of despair, but a loving reminder to us from our Heavenly Father that he is sufficient for whatever this life throws our way.

* Let your GENTLENESS be evident to all. My er, gentleness has been anything but of late, I am ashamed to say. Some versions refer to this word as forbearance, or patience. I can always use more of this, and let’s just say there are four little people and one big people whom I live with that would not mind seeing a bit more gentleness from yours truly!

* The admonition to refrain from being anxious carries with it a precious promise: that the PEACE OF GOD which passes all understanding will further guard my heart and mind in Christ.

* A reminder to choose to PRAY instead of fretting, to bring to God both our concerns and our thanks!  Pray instead of worrying!! Pour out your heart full of concerns to him! And THANK HIM for that peace which he alone can bring into the darkest of situations.

Harry Potter-isms

Spoken quite adamantly by the six year old today because he was feeling exasperated at his three year old brother who had said one thing, and then turned around and did the complete opposite…

“Josiah!! You’re nothing but a hippogriff!!”

Conversation with Nicolas

Nicolas: Momma, can I please go finish my computer game that I started earlier?

Mom: I don’t know, Nicolas, I think you have played enough computer already today.

Nicolas: Oh please, Momma, I just want to finish my game!

Mom: Honey, it isn’t actually good for your brain and your body to play too much on the computer.

Nicolas: But Mom, it’s helping my brain, really it is! The game is teaching me how to “right-click”!!

Hmmmm.

Listening to…

…beautiful music: my 9 year old playing the piano, my 6 year old accompanying her with the guitar, and the both of them plus my two year old all singing “Nothing But the Blood”.  Priceless!