Love Day

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Valentine’s Day was always a major holiday in my family. My mom would wake up extra early to make us a special breakfast, and she would usually make us little gift bags with either our favorite candy or a toy we wanted. She highlighted that no matter what our daily struggles as a family were, she loved us regardless. As we got older we started extending this same charity to our friends, boyfriends, and girlfriends. Now, I try to do some thing special for my family.

This year, it turns out we’re all sick. Sophie is the sickest and while thatwould typically make me the most sympathetic toward her, she is unusually sassy. I know it is most likely because she’s not feeling well, but for some reason my reactions don’t reflect that knowledge. Every time she snaps at me, I snap back. We’ve apologized to each other multiple times already, and I’m hoping Valentine’s day will be a good day for more love and reconciliation.

Some day I hope to explain to my kids that Catholicism behind Valentine’s day. St. Valentine was a martyr who was beheaded because of his Catholic faith. We recognize both his martyrdom, Jesus’ own suffering, and the love of all martyrs, who preferred to be killed rather than stop loving Jesus. Even though Valentine’s day gets a bad rep for being superficial, it actually does contain and preach the true meaning of love: suffering. However, I am dealing with a toddler and baby, so we will probably just stick to the Daniel Tiger-esque “Love Day” type of celebration (you know, “Ugga Mugga” and all that…)

Either way, I am excited and feeling the weight of my responsibility to teach my children how to love others. Hopefully my example will speak for itself! I hope you all take time to express love and gratitude for the people in your life who support you and are always there for you.

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[My mom still celebrates with us. She sent us a care package with the ingredients to make these adorable love themed cupcakes!] 

Favorite Thanksgiving Recipes

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Did you know Thanksgiving is only NINE days away?! Mamas are busy ladies, and it’s understandable that we end up unprepared during most of the holiday season. These important meals sneak up on you, and there’s panic when you realize you have no plan for what to bring.

I’ve only hosted Thanksgiving once, but since becoming a married woman, I feel it’s one of my responsibilities as a member of the family to bring something to Thanksgiving dinner. Growing up, you usually have 1-3 women who do ALL the cooking for 30 people. When you’re excuse is being a 10 year old kid, ok don’t pitch in, but once you have your own job and apartment, it’s time to bring some thing to Thanksgiving dinner. I felt I had even less of an excuse not to contribute when I was a newlywed, and all the women of the family had just spent hundreds of dollars on getting me kitchen supplies. It was time to put those handy tools and supplies to work!

Anyway, in light of the fast approaching holiday, I wanted to share my greatest Thanksgiving hits with you. It’s intimidating to share a recipe with family for the first time, especially during such an important meal. These recipes are pretty easy and don’t require too many ingredients. So, if you still don’t know what you’re bringing to Thanksgiving, hopefully some of these ideas will inspire you!

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Pumpkin Cupcakes – I brought these to my first Thanksgiving ever, with J’s family. If you’ve never brought anything to a Thanksgiving dinner before, you can’t go wrong with dessert! Since it was the first time I had ever spent Thanksgiving with a family other than my own, I wasn’t sure who typically brought what. I knew that in my family, certain members were known for certain dishes [everyone LOVES my Aunt Julie’s rolls, and Grandpa always did the gravy, etc.] so I didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes by attempting a traditional side-dish. This recipe is delicious and a great alternative to having too many pies.

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Sweet potato hash – My second year with J’s family, was our first Thanksgiving as Mr & Mrs. I felt more confident to bring a dish to go with dinner, so I brought this sweet potato hash. My first year, I noticed that his family only did the sweet potatoes with marshmallow on top, so I thought I’d bring a savory version too. It was a big hit! Not to mention, a healthy hit, too! This recipe is a vegetarian version, but you can swap out the veggie patties for sausage patties and it tastes GREAT.

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Spinach Salad with pear and cranberry – I have to admit, while I found this recipe on my own, I was attempting to imitate a salad my Aunt Julie would bring to either Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners. When I was younger I thought the only dressing that could go on a salad was ranch. In the name of trying new things, I picked up a scoop of her sweet, fruity salad and immediately fell in love. I knew that the first Thanksgiving dinner I hosted, this side would definitely have to be on the table. I was cooking for 20+ traditional Italians and I wasn’t sure how a salad without Italian dressing would do with J’s crowd. Luckily, everyone LOVED it! In fact, I completely ran out of salad as people were asking for second and third helpings.

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Cornbread stuffing – For the most part, I try to stick to a gluten free diet… but around the holidays that can get pretty tough! Once I found Martha Stewart’s cornbread stuffing, it was a total game changer. I LOVE this recipe, and so did the rest of the family. I was able to make it gluten free by making my own corn bread from scratch, but you can make it as easy or as difficult as you want depending on how much time you actually end up having.

Those are by far the best recipes I’ve ever brought to Thanksgiving dinners in the past. Like I said, if you have extra time or are feeling especially domestic, you can personalize these recipes as little or as much as you want to! For the salad, I make my own candied pecans to sprinkle on top and some times, I even make the dressing from scratch. Hopefully some of these recipes inspire you and take some of the stress out of planning for the big turkey dinner next Thursday! Good Luck!

Food of SoCal

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It’s no secret that I’m a foodie. The intention of this blog was to focus on the 2 things I love most, food and babies.

I lived in Southern California for 20 years before I moved permanently to Ohio to be with the love of my life, so I know the food scene pretty well. Our Mexican food is superior to any other state, that’s no secret, and I would love to debate anyone who says otherwise! [Not really] But there are a few other joints that might surprise you.

Any way, I wanted to do a round up of all my favorite places AND throw in a few extra foods that I think are ESSENTIAL for anyone to eat when they visit the golden state.

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First, what we ate on this trip: [don’t judge me, it’s a long list…]

IN N OUT – Burgers and fries done RIGHT.
Food Trucks – Ok, so in Huntington Beach, the food trucks all congregate in a parking lot once a week, and we got lucky enough to have come in on the day that this special foodie event happens. Justin got an amazing pork quesadilla, I had bacon wrapped dates and street tacos, my dad got tater tots smothered in cheese sauce and sloppy joe, then we all finished off with ice cream from Longboards.
Panera – This is a bigger chain that can be found all across the USA. Their salads are phenomenal, but if you’re up early [like, before 8 am] you can get a delicious breakfast souffle.
Mimi’s Cafe – J ordered some breakfast tacos that I seriously envied, but this little restaurant has a great specialty coffee drinks, desserts, and pastries. I had a breakfast sandwich, while my mom split her California omelette with Sophie. This is also a bigger chain though, I’ve never seen it outside of California.
Disneyland – Inside the park are some pretty classy restaurants! I usually just grab a hot dog or churro from a cart when I’m there, but since I was pregnant this time, and not running off to any rides, I asked if we could sit down to one of the park’s restaurants. I chose Cafe Orleans, mostly for their pumpkin beignets.
Mod Pizza – This just opened up across the street from my parents in Huntington Beach. It is basically the Chipotle of pizza. You choose your crust, toppings, cheese, etc. All the ingredients are high quality and the final product is delicious.
Old Town Mexican Cafe – This is exclusive to San Diego and it is[hands down] the best Mexican food. There are wonderful ladies making the tortillas from scratch at the front of the restaurant. We went during their Dia De Los Muertos celebration, which felt extra festive.
Whole Foods – Again, this is some thing that you can find in all 50 states [I think…] but we grabbed these little ham and swiss muffins from the bakery before going to the wedding and they were delicious!
Einstein Brothers – Another big chain, I know, but I live in a more rural part of Ohio so I still don’t get to eat this stuff that often. Aside from a New York deli, these are the best bagels! Plus their honey almond “shmere” is to die for.
Lazy Dog – This restaurant can be found in Huntington Beach or San Diego. They have the best sweet potato tots with jalepeno creama. I’ve gotten tacos from there, salads, and sandwiches… never had anything I didn’t love.
Roppongi – This is a little sushi place in La Jolla. Their sushi is pretty standard, but what blew me away were these short rib sliders they had! So delicious and unexpected from a place specializing in sushi!
Sprinkles – Yes, the first cupcake shop. I’m torn on whether or not I love them. I’ve had more consistency and better flavor from some smaller chains then from the original cupcake giant, but Sprinkles s’mores cupcake is definitely the best EVER.

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Rubio’s – Also a big chain, but I think it is pretty exclusive to the west coast. If you want good fish tacos but are on a low budget, Rubio’s is perfect! We used to get these fish tacos almost every Friday during Lent, when I lived at home. Rubio’s fish taco’s are what opened the gateway to me actually liking fish. If you are a sworn fish hater though, their street tacos are also surprisingly authentic!
Hash House A Go Go – A location in Vegas and in Hillcrest (Down town San Diego). The portion sizes are out of control, but they do fin twists on farm fresh food, My brother and I shared a platter of chicken and waffles, but their more savory scrambles are good too.

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California essential foods:

California Burrito – Roberto’s is a bigger chain that you can find throughout the bigger city of San Diego, but if you’re in East County, Estrada’s has the best California burritos!
Sweet potato fries – Most probably don’t think of sweet potato when they think of SoCal, but SHADES in Ocean Beach is the first restaurant I can recall to push the sweet potato fry craze. The Spot in La Jolla is another place that has fantastic fries (in fact, I’ve never had any better!)
any salad, anywhere – our seasonal produce is awesome. Order a salad at any restaurant and you can expect awesome produce that tastes in-season.
guacamole – I don’t have a location for this one either, but your trip tp California just isn’t complete unless you’ve had chips and guac from some where. Since avocados thrive in the SoCal sun, California guacamole isn’t really something you can “mess up,” it’s good anywhere
frozen yogurt – Yogurtland is a classic that can be found anywhere in CA, but if you’re in San Diego, the yogurt mill is an iconic place to get frozen yogurt. The portions are extremely generous though, so you may want to share!
fish – again, I don’t have a specific place to go, but if you don’t have a large budget, the Rubio’s baja grill I mentioned above has great fish tacos. If you have a more refined palate (and budget) definitely look into some of the nicer, sea-side restaurants up and down the coast. You won’t taste fish as fresh, anywhere else!
IN N OUT – I love this joint so much, it just has to be on both lists. This chain is a California landmark and is almost exclusively a CA chain [there is a location in Texas now, and one in Vegas]. The fries are the freshest potatoes you’ll ever have and the burgers are plain DELICIOUS. I always get mine with grilled onions, but if you’re feeling really adventurous, you can get your burger OR fries “animal style” which includes the grilled onions, secret sauce, and cheese.
Extraordinary Desserts – This is a small chain in San Diego with only a few locations. Whenever my family had a big party though, we’d get a fruit tart from here are they are divine! I’ve also made trips down there with friends for late night dessert runs. Their Bailey’s ice cream is also a fantastic treat. It’s on my list of must-go places for SOCal, mostly because its nostalgic for me.

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I know many other SoCal native who have completely different tastes than I do, so feel free to ad your CA-must-haves in the comments! Those are definitely my top picks though.

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