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Happy Weekend!

It seems so wrong to be doing two cocktail posts in a row, but why not?

We've had these specialty ice cube trays sort of piling up, so I finally decided to use them.  I'm still trying to think of the perfect drinks for these enormous square cubes, but Friday night seemed like the perfect time to make a watermelon margarita full of hearts.

Happy weekend everyone.  See you next week.


Cocktail Hour

As much as I enjoy going out for a drink during Happy Hour, there is something really satisfying about being able to mix your favorite cocktail at home.  Especially when you get the perfect measurements down, you can become your favorite bartender knowing that you like more Aperol than prosecco in your spritz.  In the spring, we were all about the Pimm's cup, but on the 4th, Aperol spritz were the order of the day.  It did seem a little unusual to be drinking such a bright orange drink that day, but I guess there really aren't any red, white, or blue drinks that are traditional to the day.  So why not orange especially when it's so refreshing.


Positive Thinking and the Law of Attraction

It really can't hurt, can it?

When I start to get discouraged, I find it really helpful to pick up a book where I can read a page or two and remember that I'm in control of my life, and I only have myself to figure out where I want to go.  These have helped me get back on track during tough times.  These might not be for everyone, but I do recommend finding something to help you focus and find calm.  I always think more clearly when I'm calm.  


A Year at Disneyland

That's my story, and I'm sticking with it.
These pictures start in the fall of 2012 and aren't of every visit we made to Disneyland or California Adventure, but do give a pretty good representation of what our days there are like.  We are very thankful to be able to have annual passes to the parks, which we've had for over 10 years.  Every year when it's time to renew, we debate not doing it, but we always have such a good time, we give it and do another year.  You can really see how Ariana matured this year if you look at these pictures then scroll down to the bottom to see her on our two most recent visits.  And these girls?  It's proof that you're never too old to get your face painted.
We do prefer the food options in California Adventure (plus there are cocktails), so we usually eat in that park.
The view from the terrace of the Carthay Circle and inside the dining room.
We had skipped Mickey's Halloween Party for a few years, but we went back this year because the kids said they wanted to go.  They all dressed up (maybe it was forced upon the boys), and look at all that loot.
Appropriate scariness.

As much as I enjoy Halloween, Christmas isn't too bad either.  We might have made the excuse of having to escape the crowds to sit down for a cocktail a little too often for it to be believable.

We went out a few weeks ago in the middle of a heat wave.  It was a great time to go because the park was almost empty.  The water rides were our friends that day, and I kept getting the most soaked out of all of us.  Natalie is the undisputed champion at Toy Story Midway Mania.  Maybe it's the hat.


What to Buy That Soon to be Not a Teenager Anymore Boy er Man in Your Life

We have two soon to be 20-year-olds, and I always seem to have a more difficult time choosing gifts for men than I do for women.  I know that at this age, a gift of cash is always appreciated, but who doesn't want something to open on that special day?

Although they aren't out on their own yet, I think they are starting to discover their sense of style and design.  It can't hurt to give them some pieces that will transfer from their rooms to their first apartment, and these vintage Hungarian street signs remind me of them and their love of European sports.  When they are little boys, they can't wait to shave.  Then they have to do it everyday, and it becomes a pain.  I try to buy their father products that fill like a luxury to make the chore a little less painful.  And what guy doesn't need an old-fashioned shaving brush?  I guess it's not cool to wear a jacket...ever.  To keep the cold away, maybe they'll agree to wear a pullover like this one from Banana Republic.  We are all about family game night.  We have a pretty good mix of games that we are each really good at (I am the undisputed Trivial Pursuit master).  Dominoes is still relatively new to the kids, and this set makes it a little more challenging.  Instead of matching spots, you have to match words that rhyme.  I'm noticing more and more people wearing watches again.  It might just be for a fashion statement, but I'm all for it regardless of the reason.  This Michael Kors watch is a good first step to a mature style.  



Have I mentioned that I'm at the beginning of a 14-day weight loss challenge.  I'm at the end of day 3, and starting to think about all of the things I want to eat.  The first two days were pretty easy, but now, I'm starting to miss things

Most weeks, the husband and I escape er, em, get away for a few hours alone together midweek and go  somewhere for Happy Hour or a quick bite.  We tend to love snacks, and being able to sit with a glass of wine and discuss the day is something that's really special to us.

One of our favorite places to hang out is Vertical Wine Bistro in Old Town.  I think they have the best cheese service in town, and that's a big draw for me.

I'm really missing our mini date this week.  11 days and counting.


Homemade Liquid Soap

If you're like me, you have a liquid soap dispenser in every bathroom and on your kitchen sink.  During the summer I love to make easy crafts with A while she is on summer vacation.  I read recently that you can make your own liquid soap by melting down old soap bars, so today we thought we'd try it out.

We started out gathering up all the old hotel soaps we had gathered around the house.  We tried to only use soaps that had a mild fragrance.

We chopped up about six mini soaps to total one cup of pieces.

After chopping, we put the pieces into the food processor to grind it down to a coarse meal texture.

There was a lot of soap dust so make sure you don't inhale and choke.

We put it into a small saucepan over high heat and added 1 1/2 cups of hot water.

We were in one of those moods today where we didn't want to leave the house, so we used some room scent oils that we already had.  It would probably be better to use pure essential oils, but this doesn't seem to be too harsh.

It sort of resembled oatmeal as we waited for it to come to a boil.

We lowered the heat to a simmer, and after it had dissolved a bit, we added the oil, about half a bottle.  We did make something of a mess.  It took about 10 minutes for everything to dissolve, and I still had to strain a few large lumps out.

We recycled an empty from Bath and Body Works.

This mixture actually filled a bottle and a half, and it will thicken as it cools, so if it starts to congeal too much, add a bit more water.  We are very happy with the finished product after our first attempt.  It's actually very moisturizing and has a good consistency and scent.



I grew up in a household devoted to See's candy.  Since there is a store in the same shopping center as the grocery store, it's still too convenient to pop in there on occasion.  Everyone in the family has their favorite pieces, so we usually handpick our favorites together.  As good as See's is, in college I discovered Godiva.  I love dark chocolate the most, and to me, Godiva's dark has a little bit more of a darker, bitter note than See's, which I prefer.  I was actually going to go the Godiva store in the mall, pick up a few of my favorites, and take pictures for the blog, but since today was the first day of a 14-day weight loss challenge I'm working on, it seemed like a good idea to stay away from the chocolates.

I've spent the evening trolling the Godiva website drooling over my favorites.  In the past year, I've become a huge fan of bark.  It actually started with the peppermint bark from Williams Sonoma and continued with Godiva's Salted Cashew Caramel.  Now Godiva has Birthday Cake bark that taste exactly like a slice of cake covered in chocolate.  Love...



I've had the same chairs in my living room for at least 10 years.  I love them.  They are broken in, soft and comfortable.  But now they are a little too broken in.  With three small dogs in the house now, these chairs have become the favorite resting spot during the day probably because of the fact that they are soft and comfortable.  It's time to move on, and my husband is requesting a replacement that is not so...well, floral.  I'm looking at chairs in interesting shapes that will be easy to slipcover but aren't so expensive if the dogs do sit on them uncovered.  We have reached no consensus as of yet, but these were in the first round.


Toasted Cheese

What is it about putting some cheese on top of bread and various other ingredients and then placing that concoction under the broiler until the cheese is melty, gooey, toasted, crunchy edged goodness that makes something so small so satisfying?

I've always preferred a toasted cheese to a grilled cheese (although there aren't very many of those that I've ever said no to either).  Maybe it reminds me of a little mini pizza, which is another item I love it all it's varieties and forms.  The version above was a simple piece of a whole wheat baguette, some honey ham, Dijon mustard, and mozzarella.  I was quite delighted by the outcome.  I make food like this when I'm by myself and feel like it's not worth the effort to make a full meal.  The funny thing is that the family would probably enjoy it if I made things like this for their dinner every once and awhile, too.


Beach Reads

Since I don't go to the beach unless it's to grab a meal, the concept of a beach read is completely lost on me.  But I do like having a quick, light read that isn't too taxing from time to time.  At a loss for a category - quick reads, easy reads, light reads - that accurately sums them up, I still call them beach reads because everyone seems to get what that means.

I like solving puzzles, so one of the first genres I reach for when I need a read like this is a cozy mystery.  Some involve food, unique occupations for the main characters, housewives, small towns, DIY, etc.  They remind me of first picking up Agatha Christie when I was an early teen and the fun of trying to figure out whodunnit.

This year I'm reading the Lucy Stone series by Leslie Meier.  The series is set in a small town in Maine, and each book is centered around a time of the year rather than always on specific holidays.  The next one I'm picking up is set in the fall (Back to School Murder), while the one I just finished was set around Halloween (Trick or Treat Murder).  Lucy is a wife and mother.  She's doing her best to raise her kids (and keep them out of trouble), help her husband with his business, earn some extra money for the household with part-time jobs, keep her house clean, and try to feed her family healthy meals they will actually eat while losing those last 10 pounds herself.  Sounds a lot like real life right?  Except Lucy keeps stumbling across dead bodies or involving herself in investigating when one turns up.  You definitely have to suspend your disbelief that this small town in Maine has this many people actually killing the rest of the town, but if you can do that, it's a good pleasant ride.


My Ballerina

We hit the end of the dance season, and I think we were all ready for it to end this year.  It was a transition year for my dancer; she was deciding where she wants to focus but had made commitments to compete in another style.  She made significant advancements this year in ballet, and next year when she's more focused, she'll probably go even further.

This picture is from last year's recital.  She's changed so much since this picture was taken, and last week she turned 14.  How did that happen?