August 29, 2009

Woodland Park Zoo

Last weekend Oscar and I took Ozzie on his first trip to the zoo. It has been years since either Oscar or I have been back to Woodland Park Zoo so it was a new adventure for the whole family.

Ozzie absolutely loved the zoo. He was growling at all of the animals. Ozzie loves to growl. When you ask him what a puppy, lion, cow or any other animal "says", he growls. So he was growling at all of the animals and shouting at all of the other zoo patrons. At one point he was hanging out of his stroller, pointing his finger at all of the passerbyers and happily shouting in baby babble/gibberish. He was really enjoying himself.

It was a fun summer day and well worth the drive into downtown Seattle. I am seriously considering buying an annual membership. A membership to the Woodland Park Zoo is about $100, so it really pays for itself after a few visits since adult admission is $16.50. I am thinking when Ozzie gets just a little older it will be well worth the cost. You really can't see all of the attractions in one visit and the zoo does a great job of adding new activities each season.

We are definitely planning our second visit. I think Halloween at the zoo would be a blast. Can you imagine all of the little babies running around dressed up as their favorite zoo animal? Too cute!

Below are some pictures from our fun outing!

We started with the hippos.

Then some cute little monkeys. This guy posed perfect for Oscar.


And tigers...

And bears. Oh my!

Orangutans were up next. My absolute favorite!!

Then the elephants.

The giraffe feeding experience. Ozzie was in absolute awe at how close the giraffes got. It was pretty amazing.

I think this picture of the giraffe against the sky is pretty.

The baby snow leopards were already asleep but I had my own snow leopards posing for me!

Another favorite of mine are gorillas. Here is a baby gorilla and his mama.

And another gorilla family.

We ended with the flamingos and penguins.

Hurray for summer days at the zoo!

August 26, 2009


Oscar and I frequent a little taqueria in a neighboring town probably too much. Although taquerias are where you typically go to eat authentic Mexican tacos, we always end up buying tortas.

Tortas are Mexican sandwiches commonly served on a white hoagie roll with carne asada or al pastor and garnished with lettuce, tomato, onion, and avocado. Really you can add any garnish you prefer. I've even seen tortas with rice and whole beans. Tortas can be served hot or cold.

Oscar and I always order the carne asada torta. Always.

One summer day, when it was too hot to cook and a sandwich sounded perfect for dinner, we attempted to recreate our favorite torta at home.

Typically carne asada is made with skirt steak but we opted for a much leaner flank steak. I did have to tenderize the steak a bit in order for it to work on a sandwich. We chose all the same fixins as our favorite taqueria and were pretty pleased with our homemade torta.

Flank Steak Torta

1 lb flank steak
1 avocado
1/2 white or yellow onion. Walla Walla sweet onions are delicious in the summer.
1 tomato
Lettuce, typically ice berg is used but romaine tastes great as well.
Mayo, I actually prefer Miracle Whip.
White hoagie rolls

Tenderize flank steak
Season both sides with salt & pepper
Grill on medium-high heat/coals for 10 minutes per side for medium steak.
Cut steak into bite sized pieces
Peel, pit and slice avocado thin
Slice onion thin
Slice tomato thin
Shred lettuce
Toast hoagie on grill, or not, the choice is yours.
Spread mayo on hoagie and load it up!
Be careful not to pile it on too high or you end up with an huge open faced hoagie.

Paired with a salad on the side and you have yourself one delicious summer dinner. Stick with the Mexican theme and throw together this corn salad. Enjoy!

August 25, 2009

Happy Anniversary!

Today Oscar and I celebrate our 2nd wedding anniversary. As I reflect back on the last two years all I can think is whirlwind.

We spent our first year of marriage pregnant and our second year of marriage fumbling through parenthood. Don't worry we lived together for 7 years before getting married so we are not THAT crazy.

Ozzie was born a little less than a month before our 1st wedding anniversary. Unfortunately his colic and my lack of sleep, not to mention delicate emotional state, prevented us from a big celebration. Oscar did surprise me with a spa gift certificate, which sadly I still have not used. I think I cooked dinner and maybe dessert but that first four months was a blur thanks to those sleepless nights.

How did we celebrate this year? The exact same way. Parenthood sure does change your life, eh?

I cooked one of his favorites, steak with garlic mashed potatoes. If you know my husband you know the way to his heart is through his stomach, most of the time anyway. Like every other red blooded American man he loves steak and potatoes.

For dessert, I tried my stab at these vanilla cupcakes from Sweet Paul. Oscar loves plain cake, especially vanilla or white cake. He'd prefer it without the icing all together. That's why I thought these cupcakes would be perfect. He can add as much or as little creme fraiche and jam as he wants, or even none at all.

We opted for blackberry jam over the raspberry jam that was suggested. The creme fraiche gives the dessert a bit of a tartness that many people enjoy. I actually am not a fan of tart desserts. Call me traditional but I want my dessert sweet. It was very good though just not my favorite. The actual cupcakes were delicious. I will add the recipe to my recipe binder just for the vanilla cupcakes. I also like that the recipe only yields 12 cupcakes. Sometimes you need just a few for a special celebration and the usual 24 can be way too much. This was my first Sweet Paul recipe; he posts new ones every Monday. I will definitely try more of his recipes in the future.

I know I've mentioned before how lucky I am to have Oscar as my husband. He honestly is one of the best people I know. He is loving and kind and patient with me & all my shenanigans. Most importantly he makes me laugh everyday even when I'm mad, ESPECIALLY when I'm mad. How did I get so lucky? I don't know but I thank God everyday.

Below are some of my favorite wedding and engagement photos.

Happy Anniversary Honey! Thank you for being YOU!

August 21, 2009

Ozzie's 1st Birthday Party

It has taken me forever to get all of the pictures together in order to post Ozzie's 1st Birthday party but here it finally is! Oscar and I wanted to throw Ozzie a big bash since it was his 1st birthday plus we figured a July birthday called for a big backyard barbecue.

Below are the details to his big day. Sit back, take off your coat and stay awhile because this is going to be a long post. I apologize in advance but I spent a whole month planning his big day, it takes a month when you can only party plan in between naps, so I WILL share every last detail.

As I've mentioned before Ozzie shared his Mickey Mouse love with me by humming the tune to the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. We watch the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse in the mornings before his nap. So there he was happily humming the tune while playing with his toys one morning. When I finally caught on to what he was doing, I started singing along with him. He got so excited that I understood him and started humming louder in between giggles of course. It was really cute, he was quite pleased with himself for "communicating" with Mommy and I was impressed with his mini-milestone. Naturally when it came to deciding on a 1st birthday party theme I went with Mickey.

I wanted to set the theme for his party with the invitations. So I made Mickey Mouse invites and the trendy envelope mailing wraps that keep popping up all over the blogs. I found free Mickey clip art on Disney Clips and free Mickey font at 1001 Free Fonts. I used Microsoft Publisher to create both and printed the invitation on white card stock. Below are his invitations. Oscar talked me out of a black border around the invites and I'm still wishing I didn't follow his advice. They look as if they are missing a little something to me. Oh well, what's done is done.

Next up were the favors. Since Ozzie has a summer birthday, I went with the summer theme and gave out bubbles. The Dollar Store had 3 bottles of bubbles for $1 in Mickey colors so I snatched up about 30 bottles and started on the Mickey bottle labels. I used the same Mickey clip art, font and background for the bottle labels as the envelope mailing wraps.

On Saturday mornings, we have a Farmers Market just down the street where I picked up local dahlias in Mickey's red & yellow colors. I used old pasta jars for the vases and scattered red & yellow dahlias through out the house and on each table outside for the barbecue.

Garlands, garlands and more garlands. I discovered my love of garlands when I made this cross garland for Ozzie's Baptism back in June. I thought it would be fun to make Ozzie a little "I'm One" garland for his high chair as well as the "Happy 1st Birthday" garland that we hung above the mini-candy buffet. Using the same clip art and Mickey font, I cut out the letters in circles, glued them to larger yellow & red circles and hung the letters on red ribbon. Who knew garlands would be so fun? Now I'm hooked and will be making a garland whenever socially acceptable.

I knew I wanted to attempt to create a candy buffet since they are all the rage right now. However, I decided to go with a mini-buffet because I had already made 48 cupcakes and did not want my guests to be overloaded with sweets. Of course, the candies were in Mickey's colors- red, yellow and black. Sorry the lighting is horrible. Photographer I am not.

I found this template for mouse ears on Disney Playhouse but I didn't like the suggested cone hats because they were very busy. Instead I purchased cone hats at the party supply store in primary colors. Using the template, I cut out mouse ears with black card stock and added the ears to the cone hats by cutting a hole on each side with a craft knife. My only regret is that we didn't get a picture with Ozzie wearing his red cone hat and ears.

I made Ozzie a 01 t-shirt with iron on numbers and a plain red t-shirt. Sorry it's wrinkled, this picture was taken after the festivities started.

Here are pictures of the 48 cup cakes I made. I actually made three flavors; yellow cake, chocolate cake and Barefoot Contessa's coconut cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. I have to say that her cream cheese frosting is the best homemade frosting I've had.

Also, her recipe does not call for toasted coconut flakes but I toasted them anyway. I can't have coconut cupcakes without toasted coconut flakes sprinkled on top. YUM!!! I found baking cups in yellow and red and the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse cupcake toppers at the party supply store.

Oscar insisted we personalize Jones Soda bottles for Ozzie's birthday after seeing it at a friend's birthday party. Unfortunately Jones did not have a soda in yellow or red so we went with Berry Lemonade since it worked best with the barbecue theme. Funny thing is we forgot to put these out and only remembered when half the guests had already left- whoops!

I made Ozzie a chocolate Mickey ears cake. There was no way I was going to tint vanilla icing black so he got chocolate ears. I used one side of the Wilton Ball Cake Pan and cut a cupcake in half for the ears. I used icing to adhere the cupcake halves to the round cake.

Below is the progression of Ozzie freaking out after everyone sang the Happy Birthday song. He didn't like the attention and wanted nothing to do with the cake after that. I even tried to give him a lick of the icing but he wanted out of that chair and out of the spot light immediately!

Remember those pom poms I made for Ozzie's Baptism. Well I loved them so much, I made more in yellow and red and hung them from the umbrellas and tent in the back yard. I am officially pom pomed out so I don't think you will see them again as lovely as they are.

Since Ozzie is half Hispanic, he couldn't have his 1st birthday without a pinata. I found a Mickey pinata at the party supply store. Below is a picture of my Mom helping Ozzie hit the pinata. This is yet another thing we forgot to do until the party was half over. In fact the only kids left to hit the pinata were Ozzie, my nephew Andrew {seen below without his shirt on- remember this was the record breaking heat week for Seattle} and a friend's son. Of course, Ozzie cried after hitting the pinata too. It's funny, almost all of the kids in Oscar's family cry at their 1st pinata but boy do they get the hang of it by their 5th birthday!

As I mentioned earlier, we decided to throw a back yard barbecue since the weather was so nice. We went with an all American theme for the food since Mickey is America's favorite cartoon in an effort to tie the two together. I went to my favorite, The Barefoot Contessa, and a few others for recipes.
The Menu

Main Dishes:

Sugar Ray's Body Blow Ribs via Paula Deen- so so good!
Wild sockeye salmon with Potlatch Seasoning from Williams-Sonoma
Big Al's barbecued chicken

Side Dishes:

Ina's Potato Salad- if you make this, make sure you steam the potatoes for the full 20 minutes as suggested. The first time that I made this, I only steamed the potatoes for 15 minutes and some of the larger ones weren't as soft as I would have preferred.
Ina's Lemon Fusilli with Arugula. I have blogged about this salad before. It is my new favorite pasta salad. Her recipes says to serve warm but it is equally delicious cold. Also try adding salmon or shrimp. We served it with smoked salmon.
Corn, Avocado and Tomato Salad. Quite possibly the only recipe from Paula Deen not loaded with a pound of butter!
My Mom's Pansit
Italian Pasta Salad by me
1 lb dried fusilli or rotini pasta. Cook as directed and set aside.
Fresh mozzarella mini-balls or cut a large piece into bite sized chunks
2 red peppers- thinly sliced
1 can artichoke hearts
1 can medium sized olives
Dry Italian Salami- as little or as much as you'd like
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Bottle of your favorite Italian dressing. Use as much as you'd like. I prefer Newman's Own or Bernsteins.
Mix all ingredients in large bowl and season with salt & pepper to taste. Serve cold.


My Mom's famous Lumpia
Vegetable crudite
Chips & dip
Fresh fruit


Ina's Coconut Cupcakes

Chocolate cupcakes

Yellow cake cupcakes
Mini-candy bar

Whew! I told you this was going to be a long post. After all is said and done, Ozzie's 1st birthday party was a success but I do have a few regrets. I'm sure if you actually read everything I wrote you noticed the common theme of "we forgot". Here's the problem with throwing a big party, you spend all of your time running around trying to get all the food and decorations up that you spend zero time with your guests all while forgetting everything you are supposed to do.

Sadly, the pictures you see here of Ozzie are literally the only pictures we got of his big day. My friends all showed up with their little ones and I didn't get one shot of all the adorable babies running around or of everyone who came to celebrate Ozzie. We didn't even get a picture of the birthday boy with Mommy & Daddy. In fact, the food wasn't ready when most of my guests arrived so Oscar spent the entire party in front of the grill.

So as fun as it was to plan and throw my little guy a big 1st birthday bash, the lesson learned here is go small! Small birthday parties from now on! At least that is what I say until I see the new fun trends floating around on the blogs next year, then we'll see...

Happy 1st Birthday Ozzie!

August 20, 2009

Melon Agua Fresca

Don't these look refreshingly delicious right now?

I just saw this post at Smitten Kitchen and am wishing I had a cantaloupe or honeydew melon within 5 feet so I could hop into the kitchen and whip these up.

Agua fresca, aka fresh water, are drinks made from any combination of fruits or herbs, water and sugar. Sounds perfect for a hot summer day like today.

SK shares her canteloupe and honeydew versions here; and offers links for pineapple-ginger, strawberry-watermelon and cucumber-mint found around the web. Which one will you try first?

photo courtesy Smitten Kitchen


I'm usually a day late and a dollar short on these things so if you have already heard of Goop by Gweneth Paltrow move along nothing left to read here. But if you haven't heard of it {don't feel bad I just found it literally 5 minutes ago} Goop is a website with articles and newsletters written by Gweneth. Her subjects span from travel to motherhood, fashion to cooking and everything else in between that most moms find interesting.

Normally I wouldn't be interested in a celebrity website. I gave up following celebrity gossip years ago and life has been much more peaceful since. In fact, I still remember the night at our local dive bar where my friends told me that Brad and Jen were breaking up. Admittedly I did buy the magazine where Jen spilled her beans but that's the last time I got sucked back in. Sadly I don't have to watch those crazy Hollywood shows to know what's happening, these days celebs make the national news shows.

But I digress. Like I said normally I wouldn't be interested but after looking through her site I am intrigued. Naturally her posts on food, books and child friendly restaurants had me hooked since I, as most moms do, love these topics. But I also really liked the simplicity of the her website. In the days of pop ups, unnecessary background music and blinking/scrolling text, it's nice to visit a clean and simple site.

Goop also offers newsletters via email if you don't have an extra 10 minutes in your day to check out the website. Let's face it, some days I don't have an extra 10 minutes to brush my teeth so I appreciate the email option. I may already be hooked.

August 19, 2009

Lemon Fusilli with Arugula

Warm days like today call for a cold pasta salad for dinner if you ask me.

Recently I tried Ina's Lemon Fusilli and Arugula recipe. As usual, she doesn't disappoint. In fact I liked this recipe so much that I made a double batch for Ozzie's 1st birthday party.

Her recipe actually calls for the salad to be served warm or room temperature but I think it's equally delicious cold.

Before making the salad, I read a lot of reviews to omit the lemon zest because the salad is lemony enough without it. I'm glad I followed that advice because the salad was very lemony and I am thinking the lemon zest would have been too much. So if you give this salad a try, leave out the lemon zest unless of course you love the taste of lemons.

Lemon Fusilli with Arugula from Barefoot Contessa

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic (2 cloves)
2 cups heavy cream
3 lemons
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch broccoli
1 pound dried fusilli pasta
1/2 pound baby arugula (or 2 bunches of common arugula, leaves cut in thirds)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved

Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the garlic, and cook for 60 seconds.

Add the cream, ,the juice of 2 lemons, 2 teaspoons of salt, and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until it starts to thicken.

Meanwhile, cut the broccoli in florets and discard the stem. Cook the florets in a pot of boiling salted water for 3 to 5 minutes, until tender but still firm. Drain the broccoli and run under cold water to stop the cooking. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add 1 tablespoon of salt and the pasta, and cook according to the directions on the package, about 12 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain the pasta in a colander and place it back into the pot.

Immediately add the cream mixture and cook it over medium-low heat for 3 minutes, until most of the sauce has been absorbed in the pasta. Pour the hot pasta into a large bowl, add the arugula, Parmesan, tomatoes, and cooked broccoli.

Cut the last lemon in half lengthwise, slice it 1/4-inch thick crosswise, and add it to the pasta. Toss well, season to taste, and serve hot.

If I make this again, I'd also omit the lemon slices. The pasta really does not need it.

If you are serving the cold left overs the next day try adding chicken slices, shrimp or smoked salmon. We added smoked salmon for Ozzie's birthday party and it was truly delicious. Yet another knock out Ina recipe for the recipe binder. Enjoy!

Chew On This

As I've mentioned before I decided to grow my own herbs and vegetables this summer after reading Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. I have really enjoyed it and am already planning what will be in my garden next summer.

When I saw this chart from ,which helps unseasoned {pun intended} cooks like me learn the best parts of the herb and how each herb can add life to food, I knew I had to have it. The reverse side also offers preservation and storage tips as well as a few recipes. I am going to pick one up to help me decide on new herbs to add to next year's garden. I think it's a must have for every household.

*photo courtesy

August 18, 2009

Beautiful Boxes

I saw these lovely storage boxes in the September issue of Martha Stewart Living and thought they would make perfect storage boxes for Ozzie's photos and soon to come art work.

I love that the boxes are not your basic black. The aqua and red would add a nice bit of color to my drab home office. In fact, aqua and red are one of my favorite color combinations this year. Remember the bloody Father's Day card that I made Oscar? Obviously I was going for a this look when I paired the aqua and red versus the bloody hand print I ended up with. Hey, I've always said that I am an amateur crafter at best.

Martha offers labels to personalize the boxes on her website. Click here to download them for free! The boxes are available at

These boxes would make an excellent gift for me or you!

August 17, 2009

Let the Sun Shine

The sun is making it's way back to Seattle this week. Unfortunately for us Seattelites, the sun likes to disappear for a few days {or weeks} during the summer but most of the time it comes back. That is until mid to late September when it goes away for good until next year.

Most of us appreciate the short break from the sun and welcome the rain for our lawns and gardens. We are, after all, the evergreen state. Though after a few weeks, we get antsy and want the sun back. Luckily this year summer is not over yet! The local forecast says this week will even hit the high 80's.

I think Oscar and Ozzie are ready! Here are some pictures of Ozzie and Oscar playing with their sunglasses on two different mornings. I think they both crack themselves up. Like father like son...

August 16, 2009

Posole with Garnishes

While reading through the blogs that I follow, I was intrigued by this post at Over Cocktails. I've tried of few of Colleen's recipes before and have really enjoyed them. So when I saw this one I wanted to give it a try since I am always trying to find new recipes to keep the family out of a food rut. Also I knew Oscar would enjoy this since he is Hispanic. He loves it when I try new Mexican dishes especially something he has grown up eating from his Mom's kitchen. This is probably the reason I don't cook a lot of Mexican dishes. The comparison is like night and day.

The recipe is originally from my favorite, Ms. Martha, click here for her version.

I pretty much followed Martha's recipe but made a few changes. Below is my version.

1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium-size yellow onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, diced
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon kosher salt
One 20 ounce can hominy, drained
1 small jalapeno pepper, diced
1 pound tomatillos, diced (about 3 cups)
1 bunch Kale, coarsely chopped
5 - 6 cups chicken stock
2 bay leaves
1 whole chicken, cooked and shredded

1 bunch radishes, very thinly sliced
2 jalapeno peppers, very thinly sliced
1 small avocado halved, pitted, and thinly sliced
1/2 yellow onion finely diced with 1 teaspoon dry oregano sprinkled on top
2 limes, quartered
Fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped

Heat the olive oil over medium heat and cook onions for 5 minutes.
Add garlic and cook 1 to 2 minutes
Add cumin and salt and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds
Add hominy, jalapenos and tomatillos, stirring for 1 minute
Add Kale, chicken stock, bay leaves and shredded chicken
Cover and cook until Kale is tender, stirring occasionally, about 25 minutes
Remove bay leaves and ladle into bowls
Garnish each with onion, cilantro, avocado, limes and jalapeno to taste

I chose kale over Swiss chard because Oscar and I prefer kale. I omitted the sour cream and added the dried oregano over the onions to make the dish a little more authentic. Also the avocado tastes better sliced on the side than diced and added to the warm soup. Something about the texture of warm avocado screams, "NO!" to me.

Oscar loved it but said it didn't taste anything like authentic Posole. He said it definitely tastes Latin but more like Tortilla Chicken Soup than Posole. He did give me a thumbs up for adding it to the recipe binder so I know it was good.

Ironically I made it on the first warm and sunny day in a few weeks around Seattle but I know it will warm our cold bones this fall and winter.

Below is the Posole with and with out garnishes.

If you haven't checked out Colleen's blog, give her a look. She offers quite a few recipes that both Oscar and I have liked. Enjoy!

August 14, 2009

And Speaking of Ozzie

Now that he is one he has graduated to a forward facing car seat. Can you tell I am a first time mother who celebrates every little milestone with a blog post?

I combined Ozzie's Christmas money from his great grandparents and his grandparents and bought him the highly recommended {and can I just add ridiculously expensive? thanks goodness for grandparents and great grandparents} Britax Marathon Convertible Car Seat. The good thing is that it holds children up to 65 lbs. so as long as Ozzie doesn't object I'm keeping him in it and getting my moneys worth!

We actually ordered it back in April and have been patiently awaiting his 1st birthday in order to make the car seat switcheroo. Ozzie could care less about the car seat but LOVED the box it came in. He could have played with that box all afternoon. Like I said I ordered the car seat a few months ago so these pictures are a little dated but he's having such a blast in the box I wanted to share them anyway.

Ozzie just loves to smile for the camera.

This is my favorite. The expression on his face looks like he should be shouting, "Ahoy there matey!"

The darn box was taller than him!

Check out those bangs! This was obviously pre-big boy haircut. I don't know why I spend any money on toys when all the kid wants to play with is the TV remote control, tupperware, boxes and the pots and pans.

Speaking of Martha

She also offered two great after school snacks with apples that I immediately added to the recipe binder. On a side note, why is everyone already in back to school mode? It's only August 14th people, our summers are short enough in Seattle. Can't we just enjoy the rest of August?

Now back to the snacks. The first is an english muffin topped with apple slices and cheddar cheese. Yum! Click here for the directions from Martha. You could also use tomatoes and any variation of your favorite cheese.

The second was an apple filled with chicken salad. I actually could not find this on her website after watching the video On Demand. It's really simple though. She cut the top off an apple and scooped out the middle with a melon baller then filled it with premade chicken salad. Sounds delicious.

Lately I have had a craving for a crisp and tart apple. Luckily Washington apple season is just around the corner. Come January I will be sick of apples and dreaming of fresh berries so I must make these treats now while apples are on my mind. Enjoy!