June 23, 2011

Gourmet Thursday

It's time for another recipe! Another favorite in our house, and really easy to make! Not many ingredients, colorful, flavorful and pretty quick.


1 pkg (20oz) cheese-filled tortellini (I like tri-color)
1pkg (6oz) fresh baby spinach leaves (Trader Joe's has really affordable bagged spinach)
1 8oz piece cooked ham steak
1 large red bell pepper
1/4 cup butter (do not substitute)

Bring salted water to a boil and cook tortellini according to package directions.
As tortellini cook, place spinach in large colander. Dice ham into bite size pieces. Finely dice pepper. 
Drain tortellini over spinach in colander (to wilt it).
Add butter to skillet. Heat over med heat 5-7 minutes, swirling occasionally, until butter is deep brown color. Immediately add pepper. Reduce heat to low; add ham, tortellini and spinach. Gently toss to coat.
Serve with black pepper if desired (and I recommend it).

My side note is that I don't pay too much attention to the size of the tortellini package, ham steak or pepper. I just buy what I can find and don't worry to much about exact proportions of ingredients. You can also easily double this recipe for a larger group. It usually serves about 5 or 6, depending on appetite size. The recipe also says that you can substitute ravioli for the tortellini or chicken for the ham, but I've never tried because we like the original so much!

June 21, 2011

Kid's stuff

We are hardly a cutting edge type of family, but any family with kids ends up trying new and old toys. We've gotten some new stuff lately that has been a big hit.

K really likes Angry Birds, the iPhone game. He's used his allowance money to buy more games, once he finished the first version. He's really good at it, too! They sell plush Angry Birds online and then I saw an add for Build-A-Bear that they now sell them. So, I decided to buy two as K's birthday practice. When we got to the store, though, the toys were a small version and they cost $12. Thankfully we had been to Toys R Us right before that and saw they had Angry Birds also. And they were cheaper! So I got one of the pigs (the "bad" guys) at Build-A-Bear with my coupon but then went back to Toys R Us to buy the birds. The toys are really fun, they even make the same noises from the game! K is quite pleased with them.

Last week, K had saved up enough of his allowance money to buy a new Angry Bird. We went back to Toys R Us only to find out they had run out-the problem with liking something so popular! In a place with so many toys and games, it was inevitable that he would find something else to spend his money on. And what he found ended up being pretty cool. It's called Aqua Sand. It comes in an odd shaped tube and the sand is brightly colored. You squeeze the tube into a bowl (clear so you can see it) and it stacked on itself to make cool shapes. It can even go from the bottom to the top of the water, and looks like a stalagmite.  The fun part is that the sand does not get wet. You scoop it out of the water with a special shovel and you can watch the water bead up on top of the sand. It's really cool! The only downside is that it takes a long time to put the sand back into the bottles. Especially since my kid wanted to empty out both full bottles of sand into the bowl at the same time!

You can buy a sort of playset for the Aqua Sand that wouldn't hold all the sand at the same time, so that might make it easier. And it would be nice to have something like that for K to set up and then play with, instead of seeing pouring out the sand as the only fun part. Maybe he'll save up for that part.

June 11, 2011

Dime in the bag

Jim and I celebrated our 10th anniversary this week. In some ways it's hard to believe we've been married for 10 years. In other ways I feel every moment of it, since it has been so eventful and so much has changed!

Some stats, in no particular order:

  • We've moved 8 times and lived in 3 different states.
  • Jim has had 8 different jobs, two different side/temporary jobs (that I can remember) and done some freelance stuff.
  • I've had 6 different jobs and two temporary jobs.
  • We've had two kids.
  • I went back to school and got my bachelor's degree.
  • We've been to 11 states to visit and gone through a few more on the way to those destinations, mostly by car.
  • We've been to concerts, the symphony, museums, lectures, weddings, graduations, national parks, mountains, lakes, oceans, parties, showers, baseball games (minor and major league), football games (NFL and college), and zoos, and gone horseback riding, site seeing, etc.
We would have loved to go on a nice trip together, preferably alone, but that wasn't in the cards for us. We aren't people who make a really big deal about most holidays-Valentine's Day, birthdays, etc. But we always try to make our anniversary special. Our marriage is very important to us and we want to celebrate it's inception.

This year, our festivities are all spread out, mostly due to our work schedules. On Tuesday we used a Groupon we bought a while back to go see a movie. My sister baby-sat the kids and we saw Bridesmaids. Very funny movie! It was our first date in over 5 months and it felt great to be out alone together. After the movie, we went to Baker's Square for an appetizer and some pie. And we relished the chance to talk uninterrupted by children.

Thursday the ninth was our actual anniversary. We both had to work that day. Thankfully, the kids were quieter that morning, so we got to cuddle and chill together before I went to work. When Jim got home that night, I had made some baked goods (Earl Grey Tea Cookies and Butterscotch Blondies, for those who are curious) for us to share and we gave each other our presents.

I had gotten the VHS of our wedding transferred to DVD for him. We watched it while we ate our treats. He got me a really beautiful print on a frame of a girl walking with Big Ben in the background and "London" written on the bottom. I LOVE it! We didn't spend much, but were both very pleased with our gifts.

Part three comes tomorrow. We found another baby-sitter and got another Groupon to go to a Peruvian restaurant downtown, in Wicker Park. We aren't sure what else we'll do, maybe go to the Art Institute for a while, since we've been in the mood to do that lately but haven't had the chance. I'll have to update that part later.

So, 10 years have passed quickly and slowly. I'm so glad I married the man I did, despite the frustrations that sometimes come with life and marriage. He's so good to me and loves me so much. I love him in a myriad of ways that form such a complicated web of connection that I don't think I could ever explain it or even fully understand it. Marriage is a wondrous thing! I hope and pray we have many decades left to perfect our relationship, support and love each other!

June 1, 2011

A pirate birthday

 Three weeks after S's party, it was K's turn! He asked for a pirate theme this year (last year was Cars). Since I had already decided on the nautical theme for S's party, I figured I could reuse a few things, and I did! It also was extremely helpful that pirates are REALLY in right now. I had no trouble finding things for the party. Even the dollar store had a great collection of pirate themed stuff!

This banner is from the Dollar Store.

I started with a treasure hunt, of course! I found paper treasure chests at the Dollar Store. I filled them with chocolate gold coins, ring pops, pirate pops I found at Toys R Us and a few other toys and candies. My mom found a few things at a garage sale (Jolly Roger bouncy balls and handkerchieves, etc) that we added. The Dollar Store also had an oversized pirate coloring book that came in handy. One of the pages was a treasure map, so K and I colored it and I gave it to him, rolled up and tied with ribbon, at the beginning of the party so the kids could "use" it to hunt. I also told them that the treasure hunt was their way to earn their status as pirates.

The boys with their treasure!

 This is what they earned: swords and eye patches (both from Target's pirate party favor collection) and paper hats (from the Dollar Store). K looks pretty pirate-y, right?

Can't have fun without a sword fight!

I reused the tin buckets from the nautical party for a decoration. I filled it with the blue paper strips and put a pirate ship toy that K has in it.

 I forgot to take a picture of the fence near the road, but I hung the red and white striped banner from S's party on the fence, along with a pirate flag banner from Target to show where the party was happening.

 We were able to have this party outside in our backyard. Our landlord has a picnic table and umbrella out there that the four apartments share and it is great! I got a pirate table cloth, cups, plates and napkins from Target. I just bought two of each and then mixed them with red and black plates, cups and napkins from the Dollar Store so I didn't have to spend as much.

K's cake request was very specific: a pirate ship and a pirate's face on the top, half chocolate, half yellow cake inside. I called around to price out the cake and it was $50 or higher! So I made the cake myself (and stayed up until 2am the night before the party because I was so busy and procrastinated so long!) and enlisted my artist husband to frost it. He came up with a great idea and had no trouble executing it, as you can see! We were all very pleased with it!

We played pin the eye patch on the pirate. I colored the picture (from that Dollar Store coloring book) and hung it on K's easel. Double stick tape on the back of the kids' eye patches made them stick to the paper for the "pinning". They enjoyed it so much they each went twice!

Happy birthday to my wonderful 5-year-old! He had a lot of fun at the party, and I think everyone else did, too. I was glad to give this to him, but I'm also really glad there are no more birthday parties for a long time!