It’s All In The Details

I love going to weddings! As a lover-of-crafts, I immensely enjoy looking at all the details. Most of the time, these things just get overlooked. Not I. I look for the tiniest details because I know that the bride actually thought about these things (yes, from experience).

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of going to my friend Joe and Rachel’s wedding in Fairfax, California. It was an outdoors ceremony and reception, all held at Deer Park Villa. I’m definitely a fan of outdoor weddings – I had one myself! I love the fresh air, the shrubbery, and I especially love to see how the bride and groom put the garden theme together.

Me & my eyelashesReady for the wedding! I never get dolled up anymore, therefore a selfie was a must. Plus, I usually suck at putting on eyelashes, but I did it right this time, so I’m showing them off!

Redwood GroveThis is the ceremony and reception site – Redwood Grove. Beautiful!

Wedding CeremonyThis is the backdrop for the bride and groom. I love the romantic feel. I also adore those white buckets that hold the aisle flowers.

BackdropClose-up of the backdrop. So pretty!

Names
I really like the candle holders that we scattered around the venue.

Smores
An SF favorite! This was actually my first time having an It’s-It (ice cream sandwiched between two oatmeal cookies then dipped in dark chocolate) How come I haven’t had this amazingness before?

TablesThe centerpieces were lovely. I noticed that some of the flowers were even sprayed with gold! 

Glassware
I think that glassware, with candlelight during nighttime is stunning. Am I the only one?

SmoresIn addition to the wedding cake, there were make your own smores. It was getting a bit chilly at night so this was perfect.

Photobooth
And of course, MG and I utilized the photo booth.

On another note:  I’m cat-sitting my sister-in-law’s cats! 3 cats in one household is definitely a cat lady’s dream! Look at these cuties.

Cat WeekendYou obviously know the first one. It’s Chubs! Then meet Lily (she’s sitting so pretty). Finally, meet Olive (Chubs and her get along so well).

What did you do this weekend?
Jay

  

Homemade Vanilla Extract

It’s Fall, which means we’re heading towards the season of food, food, and more food! I’m ready for the pumpkin, the cinnamon, and the peppermint! Baked goods galore!

Fall-2012

If you bake at home you know that many, actually more than many, recipes call for vanilla. Did you know that the vanilla extract you buy at stores is watered down with simple syrup? I think paying $5 at the grocery store for a 2 ounce bottle of watered down extract is so expensive!

So I want to let you in on a little secret. Vanilla extract is extremely easy to make at home. It takes a bit of time for it to sit, but after you’ve made the extract, it will last you up to 5 years!

Ingredients:

Instructions:

1. Cut one vanilla bean lengthwise, leaving about an inch intact on the ends. Do the same for the other two beans.
2. Place all three beans into a mason jar, and fill the jar with vodka until the beans are submerged.
3. Close the lid tightly, and let the jar sit in a dark area for 2 months (mine are in a cabinet under the sink). Shake the jar about once a week.
4. Once two months are up, it’s ready for use! Every time the extract is used, pour more vodka into the jar to ensure that the beans are always submerged.

Homemade Vanilla

The second picture looks like I got some weird pets right? Ha!

Tips:

  • Use cheap vodka! I tested Smirnoff vs. Kettle One, and it does not make a difference.
  • Different beans have different flavors. Madagascar, also known as Bourbon vanilla, has a strong flavor and it’s very fragrant (this is what I bought). Mexican vanilla has a bit of a richer taste.
  • Use a permanent marker and write down the date of when you made the vanilla on the lid so that you know when 2 months have passed. Plus, it’ll be helpful for when your 5 years is up.

It’s perfect timing to make the extract now because in two month it will be November! Primetime for sweets! Another reason to make the extract? No more going to the grocery store for vanilla for 5 years.

Are you going to try this? What are some of your favorite recipes that require vanilla extract?

Secrets, secrets are no fun,
Jay

  

A Different Kind of Slider & Fries

MG and I are still going strong on our healthy eating (healthier living post), granted it’s only been a week. We are loving the foods that we consume, and the best part is that we don’t hate ourselves after a meal. Speaking of meals, I have created a variation of your typical slider and fries, Quinoa Sliders and Eggplant Fries with a Side of Garlic Aioli. It sounds a bit crazy, I know. But it’s scrumptious! Here’s the recipe for the quinoa patties:

Quinoa patties
Quinoa from my Trade as One subscription!

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup of quinoa
  • 1/2 cup of chicken broth
  • 1 can of black beans (rinse, drained, and mashed with a fork)
  • 1/2 cup of bread crumbs
  • Half and onion, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic (minced)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of hot sauce
  • 1 egg (beaten)
  • Olive oil for cooking

Quinoa patties cooking

Directions:
1. Boil the quinoa and chicken broth in a pot. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover the pot, and simmer until the broth has been absorbed and the quinoa is as tender (about 15 minutes). If you want the quinoa to be more tender, add some more broth and continue to cook until broth is absorbed.
2. Mix the cooked quinoa, mashed black beans, egg, bread crumbs, onion, garlic, salt, hot sauce, and cumin together. I like to use my hands!
3. Form patties by scooping up the mixture in a 1/4 measuring cup.
4. Heat up the olive oil in a large skillet, and place the patties onto the pan. Squish the patties with your fingers just a bit to thin them out.
5. Cook the patties thoroughly (about 2.5 minutes on each side).

Quinoa sliders!

With the quinoa patties, I made sliders by using sweet Hawaiian Bread. The sliders are low-carb because I’m using half of the bread roll. Spread mayo, ketchup, and mustard on the bun, add some spinach then the patty, and finally sprinkle some cheese on top. Mmmm Mmmm Mmmm!

Of course with sliders, you have to have fries! I came across a recipe for eggplant fries, and I had an eggplant laying around. How perfect is that? I tweaked the original recipe a bit because I only had dried herbs. These things are so good, I want to make them for snacking!

Eggplant Fries

Ingredients for eggplant fries:

  • Medium-sized eggplant
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • Salt and pepper
  • Oil for frying

Garlic aioli (1/2 cup): Mix all ingredients below and chill for 30 minutes before serving.

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup and 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Instructions for eggplant fries:
1. Peel eggplant and slice it into sticks. Salt the eggplant sticks generously and let them sit for about 30 minutes. This osmosis process helps take out the bitterness of eggplants. Afterwards, rinse the eggplant with cold water and dry them with a paper towel.
2. Combine the flour and all the seasonings.
3. Then cover each eggplant stick with the flour mixture.
4. Heat oil over medium heat in a deep pot, and fry the eggplant in small batches until golden (about 2 minutes).
5. Remove the sticks from the oil, and place them onto a paper towel. Sprinkle with some pepper, and serve hot with garlic aioli.

If you make this for a dinner party, I bet you they will be surprised that it’s so healthy! I know my guests were!

Enjoy your meal,
Jay
—–
Original eggplant fries recipe
Original aioli recipe

  

Flaming Cake & Revamped Goodies

Not every weekend needs to be an epic one. Sometimes, one needs to stay home to rest and buy groceries/run errands (basically my entire Saturday afternoon) and do some house things (basically my Sunday).

Three very serious and awesome things happened this weekend.

One:  this cake.

Baked Alaska
Coffee ice cream, fudge brownie, torched/flaming meringue, and bittersweet chocolate. Get it! Get it!

I went to Vault 164 in San Mateo with some friends on Friday night for dinner and drinks. The restaurant has a really scrumptious menu and fun cocktails, also very reasonable prices. I’d recommend you check it out if you’re ever in the area.

DIY projects are usually posted on Wednesdays, but I have a special treat right now. Since I am thrilled to show you some of my projects that I worked on over the weekend, I’ll be posting a DIY today!

Back on track… second very serious and awesome thing: I painted my storage unit for the bathroom! Do you remember what it looked like before? Since Chubs now owns the cabinet under the sink (his litter box is there), we had no place to put extra toilet paper. That could be a very awkward situation for guests, so you’re welcome everyone that comes over!

Bathroom Unit

Third and best thing that happened: I finally revamped that bench I bought at Salvation Army! Remember this bench that had so much potential? Remember how I paid only $15 for it? I’ve finally repainted and reupholstered it!

Bench - Before

Bench Top - BeforeIt’s so old! Look at those stains…

I’m excited to reveal this! Drumroll please!

DSC01785

What do you think? I’ll be putting this downstairs in our foyer. Can’t wait for people to walk in and see this beautiful piece!

Here’s a tutorial on how I revamped this baby. It’s an easy DIY, and the end product is well worth the effort!

Bench revamp tutorial

Bench revamp materials

Chubs
This happened during the process. Chubs approves of the fabric!

Do you like my revamps? Are you thinking about thrifting for a bench now?

What did you do this weekend?
Jay
——
Grey Wolf Satin Acrylic Paint by Martha Stewart from Michael’s (I use this for pretty much everything!)

  

Healthier Living

Produce

After the retreat (retreat post here), MG and I felt like we needed to change our eating habits. Why after retreat? Probably because we scarfed down sandwiches, extra bowls of soup, ramen, popcorn, and other junk food like it’s no one’s business because we felt deprived of our snacks at home. We weighed ourselves after the weekend, and it wasn’t a pretty sight.

A friend of ours has changed his own life to consume more raw foods (he dropped weight and looks awesome). What spurred his change were food documentaries like Hungry for Change, Food Matters, and Fat, Sick, & Nearly Dead. MG and I decided to check these films out, and it’s turned our worlds upside down. Now we are trying to eat healthier and add more fruits and veggies into our diets.

Just a few facts from the documentaries:

1. When you stress, your body automatically goes into “famine mode.” As a result, you continually crave food and your body goes into survival mode even though a famine will never actually happen. It always wants more and more. That’s the main reason why many people overeat.
2. You don’t necessarily need to eat less and diet. Instead add healthier foods to your daily intake right now. Eventually you’ll feel so good about yourself and your body becomes nourished that you’ll snack less on unhealthy foods. Ultimately, you’ll push away most of the “bad” foods. It’s a lifestyle, not a diet.
3. A person needs to consume 5-6 servings of fruits and vegetables per day (more veggies because fruits have high sugar levels). This means approximately 20lbs of fruits and vegetables a week per person.
4. It’s pretty difficult to eat the suggested fruits and vegetable servings, which is why juicing has recently become so popular. I can easily juice 5lbs in a day and drink it in the morning. Buy organic so that you do not have a high intake of pesticides.
5. Aloe Vera and Chia seeds help detox your body and clean out your intestines. Add these to your drinks for detoxification.

I really encourage you to check out these documentaries to help kickstart a healthier lifestyle.

Invest in a good juicer. Some are cheaply made, which won’t last long. Some are difficult to clean. And some do not extract juice well so you’re throwing money away when there are still good nutrients left.

Juicer
I own the Breville juicer from Macy’s, and it does a great job extracting all the juice. There are some other great selections at Macy’s, but I really like the Breville brand.

If you’re going to juice, here are some suggested produce to purchase that will last you the full week (based on one glass of juice a day).

  • 1 head of romaine lettuce
  • 2 heads of kale
  • 4 cucumbers
  • 6 apples
  • 2 lemons
  • 5lb bag of carrots
  • Celery
  • Parsley
  • Cilantro

Few tips: Cucumbers and apples provide a lot of juice. Apples and carrots help sweeten juice. Lemons help take some of that “raw vegetable” taste away. Kale is rich in antioxidants. Lastly, parsley and cilantro help with body odor.

Chia seeds can be added to your juice for extra health benefits. The seeds provide a range of advantages: high in omega-3 fats, calcium, fiber, manganese, phosphorus, and protein, and chia helps stabilize blood pressure. Once you soak them into liquids, they become slimy and gooey. Makes for a fun drink, more importantly, you’ll have amazing poos! For all you pet parents, chia seeds can also be given to your pet children. I’ve been adding 1/4 teaspoon of chia seeds to water and mixing it until it forms a gel. Then I add it into Chubs’ dry food. Since chia has no taste or smell, it is not invasive, and kitty eats it all up.

Chia seeds

Here are delicious and fun recipes that you can try. Maybe this will get you excited to eat healthier.

Strawberries

Strawberry Chia Jam
Makes 5 servings, lasts up to 7 days (more like 2 since it’s so delicious)

What you need:
1.5 cup of ripe strawberries, chopped into small pieces
1/8 cup agave nectar
1/8 cup chia seeds
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:
1. Combine the strawberries and agave into a saucepan and cook over medium heat until berries soften (about 5 minutes). Then smoosh up the berries.
2. Add chia seeds to the mixture and cook for another 15 minutes, stirring often. Mixture will thicken to a jam.
3. Remove from heat and mix in the vanilla extract.

Strawberry Chia Jam

Strawberry chia jam on crackers
So yummy with some multigrain crackers!

Here’s a juice recipe (it’s sweet!):

Sweet Green Juice
3 full glasses

What you need:
6 kale leaves
3 carrots
2 apples
1 pear (can be substituted with an apple)
1 cucumber
4 ribs of celery
Handful of spinach
Handful of cilantro
1/4 of lemon

Directions:
1. Juice all ingredients except for lemon.
2. Hand squeeze lemon juice into the mixture (don’t juice the lemon because the rind and white spongey layer, called the pith, are bitter).
3. Add chia seeds and mix them into the juice.
4. Pour and enjoy!

Juice

Juice with chia
Crazy green color right?

Here’s a 5-minute breakfast you can try. It doesn’t look like a lot of food, but I guarantee you’ll be full.

Breakfast

5-minute breakfast of champions!
Cut half a grapefruit, cut half a pear, and half an avocado. Stuff some cooked chorizo into the avocado to use as flavoring. Pair with a glass of sweet green juice. Yum, yum, yum! The chorizo avocado is so good, I want it for the next 3 meals.

My body feels more energized based on the past three days. I’m trying to eat like this for at least a month. Keep me accountable!

Have I enticed you yet? What are your thoughts about juicing, organics, and ooey, gooey chia seeds? Which recipe are you excited to try?

Happy (healthy) eating, Jay

  

Updated Frames from JCP

I’ve been obsessed with JCPenney for the past 6 months, obsessed! Yup, you read right, JCPenney. They have been updating their inventory and now carry really great home items. Because they are currently revamping their image, there are some excellent clearance finds from previous inventory and earlier collections, so go to your nearby JCP and check it out.

Some things that I’ve purchased are sofa pillows, frames, lamps, towels, dishes, plates, and sheets. There is also a wide selection of clothing for men. MG has basically updated his entire wardrobe – red pants, slim jeans, a black suit (suit jacket for $23, whoa!), t-shirts, briefs, and button-ups. I’ve found a few swoon-worthy pieces for myself too. I love the Joe Fresh brand (cute tops) and adore MNG by Mango (scored a pair of grey jeans with ankle zippers for only $20!). Some of the updated JCPs also have a Sephora in the store. I was able to find a blush brush and foundation brush for $8 each. I know you’re jealous!

Tips from me: Look for coupons in the mail or online. Most of the time there are extra discounts ($10 off $50, $15 off $75, and $20 off $100). Online prices are higher than in-store prices too, so go to your nearby JCP.

photo-2
I got a few of these long receipts. See? Obsessed.

One of the best finds that I’ve come across are these amazing frames for $10 each! At Michael’s, frames like these cost $30 each, with another $5-10 for a picture mat. I saw potential in these frames and immediately picked them up.

JCP Frames

Here’s what I did with them:

Updated Frames

With a fresh coat of paint to match my decor and a new picture put in, it’s now perfect for my home!

JCP Frames

What do you think of the frames? Do you ever go to JCP? Are you thinking about going now?

JCP advocate, Jay
——-
Grey Wolf Satin Acrylic Paint by Martha Stewart from Michael’s
Prints from Costco

  

From Roots to Fruits

Personal Devos

From Friday evening up until Sunday afternoon, I was at my church’s annual retreat (I attend Living Stones Christian Church). This year the theme was “From Roots to Fruits,” and it was primarily about Evangelism. The last few retreats that I’ve been to weren’t that memorable for me. The retreat sites were nice, but other than that I didn’t get much more out of it. I prepared my heart and my mind the week leading up to this year’s retreat, trying to be positive and focus on the subject of evangelism. And I truly believe that your mindset has everything to do with how much you learn because this year, the messages resonated with me.

My key takeaway was how I could share my own personal good news to people around me. Maybe you’re wondering, “what does that mean?”

It means that I’ve truly come to accept Jesus as my Savior. I know this is true because when I struggle with life’s challenges and I put pressure on myself to perform my best, it becomes unbearable and too much for me to manage. I could never climb out of this pit that I put myself in. The day I asked God to take rein of my life was the day where my burdens were lifted, and I no longer had to climb a neverending ladder myself. I have someone who loves me so much that I could rely on Him to watch over me and guide me down life’s journey.

Worship

Do you have times where you feel like life is too hard? What is your savior in moments of vulnerability?

It’s a heavy thought, one that requires you to really look into your past. But I encourage you to dig deep to find answers because it truly has some implications on what you define as the meaning to life.

Here are some pictures from this retreat at Camp Koinonia.

KoinoniaCampground view – surrounded by beautiful redwoods. No phone reception & limited wifi means a perfect weekend.

Practice
Worship practice

Girls NightAnnual spa night with the girls – face masks and nail painting sessions, not to mention unfiltered conversations! Next time I need to bring a tip jar for all the nails I painted (10+ girls!). Heh!

Sliding
Sliding down the huge slide with a burlap bag. I bruised my butt, ouch!

R2F 2013
These weirdos… (xoxo)

Love!I love my KP and creepy Leo

Hot Pants
Hot pants reunion!

Union City Small GroupSome of the members of my small group. I love these people.

What did you do this weekend?
Jay

  

Chubs Overload: His Story & The Adoption

Chubs

As you already know, I’m a cat lady! I wanted to share my story about adopting Chubs with you because it’s pretty interesting (maybe I’m biased, ha!).

Let’s rewind to the very beginning. MG has never had a pet… the idea of having an animal in the house that roams free is a bit terrifying for him. But for me, I’ve always had some sort of animal in the household. I will admit that I cannot handle the responsibility of a dog at this moment in my life right now, also I don’t have a backyard, so I knew ultimately I wanted a cat.

Then the next decision was – adoption or breeder? Adoption is a really scary subject for me because of all the psychological horror stories you hear (obviously, only the worst stories are spread around so you rarely hear of the good things). I’ve grown up thinking that adoption should always be the last straw. But things have changed since I became a believer in Christ – the idea of me being adopted into God’s Kingdom changed my perception. In the end, we decided to adopt a pet because hopefully it will give us a small understanding of the process and love needed to one day adopt a child.

We visited a few different shelters in the East Bay, the first one being the Hayward Animal Shelter. The first cat we ever saw was Chubs, wearing a cone with stitches on his eyelids. Adopting was a new process already, adopting a handicapped pet? Nope, moving on. We shopped around for at least 2 months, never finding the “right one” and sadly enough, no one wanted that handicapped cat either…

After one of the visit at the Hayward shelter, I found out they were hosting a fundraiser. I wanted to support the local shelter so I made MG and our neighbor, Jon, come with me. We saw a K-9 unit in action, we saw a hot dog bobbing contest, and a dog dress up contest as well. And we saw “that” cat, Chubs, again, this time no cone, no stitches, and he was on the front page of the “All Fur Love” shelter newsletter. He was hiding under a blanket because the wind and loud noises were scaring him, so cute and so clever!

We read his story in the newsletter and found out that 2 cats were abandoned by their owners and left at the shelter in a box. One of the cats was adopted in 9 days, the other had a more unfortunate story and his name was Chubs. He was born with a birth defect that left him with no eyelids causing him a lot of discomfort. Though he had a medical condition, he was the sweetest cat and all the volunteers fell in love with him. He became known as the “sweetheart” cat. Many members of the shelter staff approached management to see if there was a way to save him, and after lots of thought and also knowing how much this cat was loved, management sent a proposal to the Volunteer Board to sponsor a corrective procedure. Fortunately, the proposal was approved. He had reconstructive surgery, where lower eye skin was moved to the top to form eyelids. Everyone thought this was the end of his issues, but three weeks later, the staff found out his surgery was only partially successful. His eyelashes were growing into his eyeballs, which left him with discomfort still, and he had to go through another surgery. After the corrective surgery, lots of eyedrops, and eye lubrication, Chubs was in the best shape yet.

Chubs' surgery

At the fundraiser, the volunteers let us know that he was off all medications, he was available for adoption, and they gave us adoption papers to fill out. I fell in love with Chubs’ story, but I still was not going to adopt a cat that might possible cost me lots of money for vet visits. So MG, Jon, and I went home, with no pet.

In our car ride back, Chubs really left an imprint on my heart. I asked MG and Jon what they thought. Jon instigated and said “I will only play with Chubs. If you get another cat, don’t expect me to play with it.” Then MG put into realization that any cat we adopt could have potential medical conditions, but with Chubs, at least we would know upfront. Then I pulled up my checklist:

1. I wanted a cat with a personality that was already set (with kittens you can get a range of personalities). I wanted a sweet and cuddly cat – all the staff members said he was the most lovable cat and you could really tell the staff was sincere
2. I wanted a grey kitty – check
3. I wanted to support the local animal shelter – check
4. He had a story – this made him very unique
5. His name is Chubs – if you knew MG and I at all, you would know this is the perfect pet name

We pulled into the driveway, and for some reason within the 10 minute drive home, my heart had changed. I wanted Chubs. I had to have Chubs. MG filled out the papers at home, and we drove back to the shelter all in the span of 20 minutes. The staff immediately recognized us. They looked over our papers and told us once they did a background check, we could probably take Chubs home in an hour. In no time, the staff members were saying goodbye to Chubs, one by one in the visitation room. I saw one volunteer with a tear in her eye. MG and I took this as a sign that his personality must be worthy of the love he received by the staff. We adopted Chubs on 5/18.

Adoption day
Poor guy has a pink crate, but it’s free!

We’ve had him for 4 months now, and I can honestly say that I wouldn’t have wanted another pet. He has so many mannerisms that are his and his alone, and it makes him so much more special.

  • He does a little dance when you scratch his back near his tail
  • He tries to tag you when you walk by – he’ll reach his paw out to touch you
  • When his ear itches badly, he wakes me up at night so that I can be his saving grace
  • He gives head cuddles and kisses
  • He scratches the carpet when he’s excited and wants you to pick him up
  • He comes to you every morning when you wake up and yell “baby cat”
  • When you pull into the garage, he stands at the top of the stairs to greet you
  • He even fetches
  • He loves to eat spinach and arugula
  • He cleans his paws after using the litter box by wiping it on the curtain (see his litter box set up below)
  • When you scratch his back, he licks the air
  • He talks a lot! Meows every morning to wake you up at 10am or at night, just for a chat

Cuddles
MG was able to capture a picture of us sleeping. He also crawled into MG’s chest during movie night.

ChubsI think his head gets heavy? Haha!

Nurses
Eden Pet Hospital did the reconstructive surgery. When I brought Chubs in for a check up, they took him to the back to take a picture with him. The nurses love him!

Mama & Chubs
My mama loves Chubs too! Look at his whiskers!

Chubs' curtain
I hated the idea of having our guests stare at the litter box every time they use the guest bathroom. So instead, I took off the cabinet doors, hemmed some fabric to make a curtain and put it up to hide the box. Chubs actually loves the privacy and cleans his paws on the curtain after using the box.

I seriously encourage adoption. Think about the hundreds of animals out there that do not have a forever home, ones that have been abandoned or worse, abused. Many pets get euthanized because there are not enough adopters out there. More importantly, adopt because it helps you to understand how much love can be given to a stranger. If I can love a pet so much, there has to be so much more love I can provide to a child. Then think about how much love God gives you because you’ve been adopted by Him.

I’m interested in hearing your thoughts about adoption. Have you considered it for an animal or a child?

GQ ChubsIsn’t he a handsome one?

In His Love,
Jay

  

Light & Creamy Pasta Recipe

It’s September, which means it’s summertime in the Bay Area!

Cook a light meal, finish dinner early, and enjoy those warm nights while they last. This Light & Creamy Pasta is the perfect dish, and it takes less than 30 minutes to whip up.

The lemon zest makes it taste light. The parsley makes it taste fresh. The heavy cream makes it saucy but not heavy like cheese. Yum!

Light and Creamy Pasta

Recipe Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • Spinach (Half a 5 oz. bag)
  • Parsley (Only a handfull, finely chopped)
  • Zest of a lemon (Grate only the yellow, not the white spongey layer)
  • 2 pieces of chicken breasts (cut into 5 pieces for easier cooking)
  • 2.5 cups of Heavy Cream
  • Half a box of pasta (I like Angel Hair)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Oil for cooking

Directions:

1. Fill a large pot of water. Add salt (salt it until it’s like the ocean), and turn the stove on to high. While the water is coming to a boil, let’s work on the other ingredients.
2. Salt and pepper the chicken breast meats. Add 2 tablespoons of oil to your pan and let it heat up. Then add the chicken. Cook for 3 minutes on each side, until the chicken is cooked thoroughly (make sure the inside is NOT pink and white throughout).
3. Once the chicken is cooked, let it cool down and shred up the pieces. I like to use my fingers to shred the meat (hence the cool down).
4. At this point, the water should have come to a boil. Add the pasta and let it cook while we finish the rest of the meal.
5. Using the same pan that you cooked the chicken with, add the spinach. Once the spinach has condensed, add the lemon zest.
6. Pour the heavy cream onto the spinach and lemon zest, and let it reduce so that the sauce becomes thicker.
7. Add the chicken meat to the creamy mixture and the chopped parsley.
8. Drain the pasta, and toss it into the creamy sauce.
9. Plate the light and creamy pasta onto serving plates, and NOMs!

Shredded Chicken
I like to snack on the shredded chicken. Kitty likes snacking on the meat too!

Light and Creamy

Are you hungry yet?

Try the recipe and let me know how you like it,
Jay

  

Camping at Mt. Diablo

This past weekend I went camping at Mt. Diablo, northeast of Danville. It’s only a 40 minute drive from my house, and it’s a great way to relax and getaway from the city (close enough that we still had phone reception, whew!). Our friends stayed for Friday night, and then MG and I had a nice romantic night to ourselves on Saturday.

Our CampsiteOur campsite

Me

We stayed at the Juniper campgrounds, and though there were showers and clean toilets, I do not recommend this campsite for September. Why? Because it was very hot and dry! The afternoon temperatures range from mid 80’s to mid 90’s, so you’re stuck in the shade (some campsites are shadeless so get there early to reserve a spot with a big tree). When you’re in the shade, be prepared to get attacked by flies, swarming around your face, crawling on your arms and legs, and trying to get into your shorts… Ugh… Basically it’s so hot you’re stuck in your tent to avoid flies. Once you embrace the flies and let them have their way (not in your shorts), then you’re really able to enjoy camping.

In the morning, it was cool enough to go hiking. So I put on my cat socks, and then we hiked!

Cat socks
Thanks for the socks mommy!

Hiking trail
Look at this uphill climb!

Hiking View
Hiking View

Handsome
My handsome husband

Summit
At the summit of Mt. Diablo

And obviously, if you go camping with me, there will always be a good meal planned.

Cooking

Food

Yum!

Camping food!

The gang

At dawn, the animals all come out. You decide whether it’s a good or bad thing after I tell you about the wildlife.

We saw a coyote and a fox. We also saw a bat flying around the camp. And we made friends with this little guy, who was creeping about 1 foot away from me and stole my Wavy Ranch chips. He then told his raccoon friends to come over to our camp to feast…

Racoon

And then this:

TarantulasDo you see it?

TARANTULAS! A ranger let us know that there is a tarantula migration going on at Mt. Diablo… As you drive towards the camp grounds, they are crossing the road. It’s really cool to see these guys out in the wild, but after seeing these creepy crawlies, paranoia overcomes you. Which is scarier? Having one crawl onto you at night or stepping on one and hearing all it’s crunchiness… Thankfully none of this happened but you can’t help but wonder things like this when you see these big boys! So all the wildlife, what do you think, good or bad?

Once it gets dark, one of my favorite things about camping happens – the campfire!

CampfireWe had to use Duraflame log so it wasn’t as good as a real campfire. Since the mountain was so dry, wood fires were banned for the weekend so this had to do.

And yes, roasting marshmallows are on the top of the camping favorites list too!

Roasting marshmallows

On Saturday, MG and I played Monopoly Deal all day. We didn’t know what else to do… What do people usually do during the day while camping? Any suggestions?

In the evening, we watched the sun set across the Bay Area, and it was beautiful!

Sunset

Married

Shadows

As you can see, this was a memorable camping trip. I especially loved the evening when it cooled down to the 70s, and the bugs are gone. At night, it’s warm enough if you have a tent with a mesh top, that’s all you need, no outer shell. With the mesh, you’re able to fall asleep with trees and stars as your view, and that alone makes this campsite worth it, just maybe not in September.

What did you do this weekend?
Jay

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Reserve a campsite at Mt. Diablo here