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Monday, January 31

yum

I don't know where I first saw the recipe for the Cuban dish - Picadillo.
I remember watching this show on PBS called Cooking with Daisy eons ago.
A latin woman - Daisy Martinez and she would make the most awesome dishes,
but what struck me was her use of fruits in the cooking.  I love that combo.
I remember searching the internet for her recipes and not always having good luck.
Today - her recipes are more accessible.
So maybe she made it.

I do have a couple of Cooking Light Cookbooks which have recipes for
Picadillo.  Each one has some variation in it.  Different ingredients, spices.
So maybe it was there that I made my first attempt at this dish.

It was so good, anyway.  So hearty.  So easy.  And so simple to change up
depending on what ingredients you have laying around.  And I repeat myself,
I really enjoy cooking dishes where I can just throw stuff in the pan.

Then I was watching a Diners Drive In's and Dives episode a while back.
The details are kinda sketchy for me, but I am pretty sure it was Guy Fieri's sister?
Her restaurant possibly?  San Francisco area perhaps?
Anyhoo
She made a Plantain Picadillo Pie.
Same picadillo filling but layered with plantains and cheese.
I actually made that one.
I liked it - plantains were a little dry.  Kids didn't care for it.

I remember once too, making it Shepards Pie style.
Baked a cornbread topping onto it.  Now THAT was a good variation.

Anyway - anytime we have some extra ground beef laying around
from grilling cheeseburgers or whatever, I always think in the back of
my mind to make this dish with the remaining beef.
(you can use pork or veal or even turkey)

Go find yourself a good looking
take on Picadillo and make your own version.
There are a ton of recipes on foodnetwork dot com.
Last night I made it and here is my recipe...sort of.

Kind of a crazy mix here.  I started by browning the ground beef,
with onion and garlic.  Threw in some chopped peppers.
Once that was all browned I drained of the liquid and then added all this stuff:
I had about 2 1/2 pounds of ground beef so to that I added
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 Tablespoon of cumin
1/2 teaspoon each salt and mexican oregano.
Then I added 1 cup of raisins.
1 cup of spanish olives.
Big can of crushed tomatoes - not drained...because
I cooked rice RIGHT IN THE PAN and wanted the extra liquid.
  I added one cup uncooked rice
and an additional cup of water.  Almost like a paella.
Hey it's in my paella pan....

So I let that come up to a boil for a bunch of minutes and then set it on simmer,
and covered the bubbling mess with foil.

And there she sat for about 40 minutes.  Maybe 30.  Til the rice cooked.

I opened it and the smell was unbelievable!

Everything came together so nicely.
My idea of cooking the rice in
instead of cooking rice to serve it on,
worked.

Really awesome, actually.
CHECK IT:

So good.......if I do say so myself.

Sunday, January 30

Photo Challenge - my first ever!!

I stumbled upon this blog.  I don't even know how I got there but I did.

StumbledUpon.
You ever use that?
Another post for another day....

anyhoo.
The subject of the Challenge was
Buildings
and I'd remembered the photos I took of the building that Bill's office was in.
This was the photo I am selecting and submitting.

Well see what happens.
Go check out the website.
It's pretty cool.

Saturday, January 29

Paying money to get your way

I paid off Connor.
Ten bucks.
Best ten bucks I handed over.
I've bribed my kids with money before, admittedly.
And I'll probably do it again.......for something.
Kids like money.

So.

Anybody who's been to Scottsdale knows,
there are so many restaurants here,
you could probably eat at a different one every night
for like a year, and not have eaten at the same place twice.
It's awesome and overwhelming all at the same time.
Just like I like things....

So Bill and I had taken the kids out for a "celebration" kind of dinner
after their swim meet a couple weekends ago.
We ended up at this place called Big Daddy's BBQ.
We've driven by it about a hundred times and knew we wanted to stop
sooner or later.
While there and talking with the kids,
 we decided that one night a week,
we are going to go out to eat.
On rotation, we will each get a chance to pick a restaurant.
To try new places.

Sounds fun, doesn't it?
I think so - one less night for me to cook.
So we told Connor he could go first.

What does he pick?

OLIVE GARDEN

Well the weekend was approaching, and so was our highly
unappealing trip to Connor's choice.

We'd been on our way to or from the pool, I don't remember which,
 when I talked to him about his restaurant pick. 
I told him I'd give him ten dollars right then and there
if we didn't have to eat at Olive Garden.
Like seriously - I'd pull the car over.
And I did.  Whipped out the cash right there on the side of the road.
He took it and grinned and I'm sure mentally had it all spent in a matter of seconds.

And I was smart.  While I was at it and had his full attention,
and Hannah's for that matter,
I threw in a couple ground rules.
No chains.
No McDonalds, No Chipotle, No In & Out, No Cheesecake Factory...

ummm....wait.
Cheesecake Factory is ok.  No FAST FOOD chains.
'Cause no chains eliminates places like Brio, Maggianos....
you get me..

Well tonight we went to Connor's alternate choice.

(and it might even be a chain.....)
Not too bad.
Worth the price of dinner plus $10 bribe money!

Looking forward to trying more cool places.
Can't wait to see Connor's reaction to some of the places
Bill and I plan on picking.

I don't have to worry about Connor trying to pay US off.
The ten dollars is burning a big hole in his pocket.

Thursday, January 27

OMG!!!!!!!!!!!!

MY CAR WAS STOLEN!!!!!
 IT'S NOT IN THE DRIVEWAY!!!!!!


oh wait...
it's IN the garage.
it FITS in the garage.
Yes.  Another goal toward the big goal of organization by the end of January
as stated HERE

Looks like I better go turn off those outside lights....

Wednesday, January 26

Scottsdale, The gym, and Twitter

Random, right?
Well, here it is.  Actually the first two are relative.

Scottsdale is beautiful.
Not only the landscape but
part and parcel because of the amount of physically beautiful people here.
It is actually one of the first observations Bill and I made within the first week of being here.

While I think that there may be a chosen few who only feel the most important belief is-
"beauty lies within"
I believe that as well, but additionally I also feel the beauty on the outside
is a very recognizable part of our being.
It's right there.  Smack dab in our face.  Right there for everyone to see.
Out there to judge sometimes.  For me it's not judging but observing.

And what I am observing is there are a lot of really healthy people that live here.
Maybe it's the weather.  The mountains.  I don't know.
But on a daily basis, I am hard pressed to find someone who is not "fit" looking.
Even the elderly people here are fit.
There are people walking or running or biking or hiking EVERY.WHERE!
Everywhere.

So two things.  It motivates me.  To want to be healthy.  God knows I am not in
that category right now.  I've really let myself down and let myself go.
But that "smack dab in your face" thing - really helps.

Which brings me to the gym and my second thought. 
I hate the gym deep down - on my way there in the car.
Actually even before "on my way there".  I don't get warm and fuzzy inside,
just thinking about the awesome workout I am going to get on any given trip to the gym.
I don't dream about running or jogging or physically exerting myself in any fashion,
as a matter of fact.  I am one of those women who is waiting for the little pill
that someone is going to invent that will make me lose weight  (all the weight)
tomorrow.....  Then as I slowly slip back into reality, I know bottom line it's the same old
adage - calories in/calories out.

So while I am not a gym-lover I know I do like it.
After the fact.
Thank goodness.

My gym is great too.  Nothing glamorous.  Just lots of people of all sorts.
Working their asses off to accomplish their own individual goals.
And just because Grandma can totally kick my ass with the incline of the treadmill/
pace/and calories burned - I look forward every day to catching up to the bitch
nice lady. 

I'm thinking right now that I better type faster, so I can get my butt up off the couch,
and all the calories burned today are not in vain.....

So on to Twitter.
I have a Twitter.  I tweet or whatever it is that I do.
So here's why I like it.

I don't read many blogs anymore and I have found that Twitter is a really cool way to
stay connected to whatever is tickling my fancy lately.
I just searched on interesting subjects -
flowers
photography
Arizona
Scottsdale
swimming
cooking
freebies

whatever it may be.
So I follow and get notifications of cool stuff.
It links me to websites and blogs regarding things I like to read
or buy or try.  I like it.  So far.

And anyways - it takes me a little longer to get into something that is all the rage.
I'm so hip now.......yeah right....

Tuesday, January 25

I suck at baking.

Well.  Maybe I don't suck at baking, but I am not completely
comfortable baking.  Baking is so precise.

For example this past weekend we made homemade cupcakes
and frosting.  The frosting took two attempts.  The first one failed
miserably, the second was much better.
Not that I ate any of the cupcakes......alright I did.

So.  As a result....I do not bake very often.
But cooking a good meal??

THAT I can do with 99 percent success.

So I'd seen a recipe posted on The Pioneer Woman for

And because I am resistant to precision I made my own version.
Oh, and my food photographer didn't show up today so you'll have to look
at the crappy pictures that will follow.
So if you want a recipe - go buy a cookbook,
otherwise, hold on tight, and follow along....

So my ingredients.
*Large Tortillas since we eat large around here.
*I cooked some rice.  (sometimes I cook rice and beans, sometimes Spanish
rice, but tonight was just plain ol' white rice)
*Heated a can of mild enchilada sauce in a large fry pan.  One big enough to
float the tortillas in, one at a time, later.
*Browned up some turkey burger (I usually use ground beef)
and added Adobo seasoning, cumin, and mexican oregano.
(no I do not know how much....I sprinkled...)
*Opened up a can of pinto beans, drained and rinsed and set aside.
and here is what I swiped from Pioneer Woman....kind of.
*I used shredded Mexican cheese, sour cream and some cilantro,
mixed it all together to make a gooey mess.

All these I gathered in assembly-line fashion.
The second thing I "learned" from Pioneer Woman....
I dipped each tortilla into the enchilada sauce to start.
Laid it flat on the baking pan,
plopped on the sour cream/cheesey mixture,
rice, meat (ok, it's turkey),
some beans and rolled 'em up.
Poured on the leftover enchilada sauce,
and of course, added some more shredded cheese!

Baked them for about 20, 25 minutes at 375.
They got crispy outside, and gooey inside.
And this sucky picture doesn't even come close to how good it was.

So thanks to Pioneer Woman for giving me the idea,
and then changing it into something that really is nothing like her idea.............
Does that even make sense?

Monday, January 24

Dear Lucy.

Let me start off by saying I love you.
You are a good dog.
In fact, I think you are the best dog EVER.

But you are starting to really bug the crap outta me.
Seriously.

Ever since moving here ALL you want to do besides eat cheese,
is go for walks.

Now personally, I think we take you on plenty of walks.
Often.
But sometimes there are walks that I would like to go on that

1.  don't involve chasing birds
2.  allows me to keep a firm grip on my camera,
rather than you
3.  let's me see if I can actually WALK up a hill solo,
without the aid of you pulling me up.  Just for my own peace of mind...

Now, if you walked like the nice dogs do on Dog Whisperer,
instead of the need to always get your "hound" on:

I might not seem so crabby about this.

And one would think that after experiencing the wrath of the desert:
...you wouldn't REALLY wanna go back out again....

But you do.
Incessantly.
And it's driving me fricken nuts.

Love you though,
your owner Gini

Sunday, January 23

While I typically would prefer NOT..

to see the sunrise on either weekend morning,
the simple fact that I am usually driving someONE to some POOL
someWHERE....it makes it near impossible.

oh well

Friday, January 21

One of my favorite places

Bill and I snuck out last night, after our meeting at the Middle School,
for some Golden Spoon
and ended up at Barnes and Noble.

Haven't been to my little slice of heaven in quite a while,
and while I was thinking it would be a quick trip,
because I had an agenda,
we were there for an hour or so.

So remember me saying how much I love this book?

It's a sweet story with a deep message.  A message the kids may not
get right away, but a message that some adults need to hear.

I found this book last night:

A fantastically funny parody on The Giving Tree.
I
laughed
my
ass
off
reading it right there in the store.
And another AWESOME message directed toward adults.
Get it.
Read it.
Laugh.
Listen.

Anyhoo.
I do have plenty of books on my bookshelf that I've not read yet,
and
I really haven't read anything .period.
since we left Massachusetts.
But I bought a new book, to read anyway.
A challenge for me at 734 pages.
But I loved Wally Lamb and am looking forward to getting
my head into this one.  Hope it is as fantastic as I've heard.
As things get more and more organized around here,
I'm looking forward to having a little time to spend reading.

And...
This is what I went for:
The more hiking we do,
with my gargantuan camera hanging off of me...
and the more pictures I take of the area
and it's contents,
it is becoming increasingly hard to identify
pictures of birds I take.
Googling
"brown bird with spots in Arizona"
or
"grey bird with long tail and peach breast in Arizona"
(well you can imagine what peach breast brings up...)
is not always easy.
So this book should help Connor and I.
Connor is totally into this by the way.
You know......sports and birds....

Anyway.  Got a couple of unusual bird shots that I will get up on here someday.

And as far as reading goes.
All my worries of my kids never wanting to or enjoying reading?
Gone.  Hannah and Connor have really surprised me!

Wednesday, January 19

Now THAT was awkward

The choices we make as parents are sometimes difficult.
It was no surprise to us that Garrin has progressed with leaps and bounds with his speech.
And a quick little comment passed by his pre-K teacher,
got us seriously thinking about Garrin continuing in a special ed program
within the school district.  She told me that the speech teacher was having
difficulty finding areas to work on with Garrin...he is pretty much
age appropriate, I know.

So as I said in an earlier post, I got all my ducks in a row, enrolling
Garrin at our home school into their Preschool program for the beginning of February.
I was preparing for the news at today's IEP that Garrin would be exited..
bye bye.

Bill and I sat down with the teacher and the speech therapist.
As I signed off on Garrin's old IEP,
the teacher started to say that she was now going to explain how his
new IEP was going to be written.

HOLD ON A MINUTE.
A new IEP?
This, after the therapist was telling us that Garrin was "right there".
We were shocked that this was headed in the opposite direction
that we had thought.

So that's when I interjected and explained our plans.
What and where we saw Garrin heading.
And that is out of Special Ed and into a regular Preschool program.
Lord knows this kid doesn't have any social issues,
and since the speech is really not necessary any more.
The teacher was shocked, disappointed and visibly upset bordering on angry.

it
was
awkward

As the therapist sided with us, that Garrin would be best suited in a normal classroom,
we explained to the teacher that there was a time when Garrin desperately needed
services and we turned to the "system" to find a place for him.  We do NOT
want to have our child taking up a space where a needy child may need to be.  We were
those parents once.  But we no longer are.

On the way home, Bill and I tried to figure out where the attitude from the teacher
came from.  We certainly hope it wasn't because she was losing an "easy" special
ed kid to care for, with the possibility of getting one that needs more care.
'Cause that would suck.
We left there disappointed that she did not admit honestly that Garrin
shouldn't be there anymore.

So for now, Garrin is on vacation.
He starts his new school on February 3rd!!!
And he is super excited.  His classroom is in the same building as Connors!

Monday, January 17

Photos from the weekend

I always enjoy a swim meet so much more when the kids are having successful swims.
Means less photos though.
I can't hold the camera very well when I am screaming like a maniac.

Got a few good shots.









Glad to finally be home.
Naptime now.

Saturday, January 15

If Hannah wasn't swimming today..

she would surely be at some photo shoot modeling Maybellines
FALSIES mascara for sure.


Friday, January 14

Somebody..

had trouble waking up for school today..

And boy, oh boy.  Is he in for a shocker in a couple weeks.
The pre-school he is enrolled in right now is a 4 day a week, 1/2 day program.
We carried his IEP over from Massachusetts and got him into the Speech Program
here.  Trouble is - he is right there.  Right there in the sense that he doesn't
really need the services anymore.  But anyone on a current IEP knows -
you don't close that thing out unless you are 100 percent positive
you won't need it anymore.

So we have a meeting next week with the school to determine
if he will continue to qualify.  A gut feeling is telling me no.  So I
did a little homework and found out that Connor's school,
which will be Garrin's school for Kindergarten in August....,
has a preschool program there.

Now while Garrin's talents are surely not to be missed -
He has conquered the Master of The Element of Water,
AND the Master of The Element of Fire on Club Penguin...
he is still not reading very much.  This preschool is formatted more
toward Kindergarten readiness than the speech program.

And truly, I do not feel like I want my kid taking up a space
in a special ed program that could go to another one that would
REALLY need it.

So here is the kicker.  I was so excited about
ALL DAY KINDERGARTEN?
Well...this is ALL DAY FRICKEN PRESCHOOL.
Right up the street.
Right next to Connor's classroom.
There is no question that he is ready.

Oh, and he won't have to get up so early.
That's probably a good thing!

Wednesday, January 12

I'm happy

...when this kid is happy.

Being that he is my sensitive one, and wears his emotions right out there for all to see,
you can just tell he is.  Happy.

Now Garrin I don't worry about because he came out of my womb happy.
Wait, no.  That was me that was happy when he came out...I'd been laboring all day
and wasn't having very much fun.  But Garrin, you could take away his Club
Penguin account on the computer and he'd still be happy.  Bored.  But happy.

And Hannah.  As long as she can continue to add friends to her gi-nor-mous
Facebook friends list, she's happy.

But Connor it just takes more or longer or however I need to classify it.

OK - Hold up.  Let me talk about me now.
(I'm being funny.....)

Connor and I BOTH seem to be on the right track.

We both kind of turned the corner here.  (get it?  turned.the.corner.....?
Connor on his bike.  going.around.the.corner...?)

So much so that I have re-joined the crazy world of Facebook.
I think my head is in a better place and I am looking forward to
re-re-connecting (is that a word?) with my friends and family.
Having fun with it again.

I got myself a Twitter account too.
Gotta stay up with the latest trends right?
or is that an OLD trend by now?
Is Twitter even fun?  Who the hell knows,
but I'm going to try it.

Regardless.  I'm back.
On track.
I'm enjoying things now.
Things I've kinda let go.
I've found my sense of humor again
which is always a good thing.
Back into the swim team,
school,
preschool,
kindergarten,
decorating the house,
fixing things,
finding things,
cooking, cleaning,
caring about people and things I've neglected.
A coming out of hiding, of sorts.
I found 24 Hour Fitness.
Not only did I find it, I joined it.
THAT in itself too, feels good.
Taking care of myself.
Getting healthier physically.
Did it once, ok maybe a hundred times,
but I can do it again.
I am now (or finally, as you may) taking pride in watching
Bill work on making his
company successful.  Something I just
kind of took for granted this past year or so.
But he is off to Colorado,
and I feel so excited for him.
Because I know he needs this too.
This sense of rounding to corner to happiness.

Thanks for following us.

Tuesday, January 11

Well, hello there.

Look who crossed in front of my car
in the middle of the day
on a very busy, well traveled road.

I mean, seriously.
What was I supposed to do, other than pull over like a maniac
and take a picture of this cute puppy.....

Monday, January 10

First day....

AND he had a blast!

Saturday, January 8

Bad ending to a not so bad day

My boys lost tonight.
The Colts.
Lost to the Jets..dammit.
oh well.

One of those days though.
The kids swam in their first meet with the new team.
You take the good with the bad.

Kicked some ass at the meet.

Didn't kick ANY ass at the meet.
Love her anyway.
There is always next time, right!

Oh...except for the Colts this season.

Friday, January 7

I know God is shining a light on me

this morning.

Can you say -



all

day

kindergarten?

Today is Kindergarten Roundup at Connor's school,
for Garrin.

Thursday, January 6

I just wanted to see what it was like outside

Let's see...
a little cloudy.
chilly.
ahh....pretty cactus though..

OK - I feel like I've been holed up in the house for a few days..
takin' down Christmas.
Holy cow - what a process!  And I didn't even put out everything I
have, you know, because we moved in here at the same
time all the holiday stuff went up.

anyhoo

I did VERY well yesterday.  Seems all that is left is my Department 56 Village and
two trees.  The Village should take me, oh....about a week to disassemble....

But I did set myself an
EXTRAORDINARILY
realistic goal yesterday.
I planned on having ALL Christmas put away
AND
everything in this house organized the way only I like it
but the end of January.
All bedrooms, all closets, the pantry, the office, the garage,
the bookcases in alphabetical order, by author, size and color
and whatever else needs to be neat an tidy to not make me go
off the deep end...
I'm kidding, I am not THAT bad.
anyway
This will allow for everything else that pops up
that will require immediate attention...
swim meets,
driving to the pool,
grocery shopping,
and even a little "me" time.

Speaking of "me" time...
I have really been making a valiant effort each day,
you know - all three of them!!,
to get a little bit of exercise.
So I lied a little when I said I didn't get outside,
because yesterday I decided to take Lucy for a run.

Now before you get the visual on me actually running,
(omg I can't stop laughing just picturing that one, myself...)
Lucy ran.
I rode my bike.
Cesar Milan style.  (whom I love and watch his show incessantly)

Lucy FREAKED at first.
Probably something about spinning tires,
a large metal thing right next to her,
squeaking rusty chain noise...
I don't know - she was just kind of going nuts.
Til we got going a little.
Oh, and the fact that I lengthened the leash a bit too!!

So I was riding at a pretty decent pace,
and she was running.
Really running...her little "too-much-cheese" roly poly
sausage looking body keeping up with her cute little head.
Well, the too-much-cheese caught up to her after a while
and I decided to turn us around.  Started to head back
home at about the same pace, when she started choking and
yanking on the chain, until I realized we needed to just slow it down.
Then we were doing better.
Until she saw the family of quails pecking the ground around a tree,
making an awful lot of noise,
that she wanted to chase,
at which time she jerked me so hard I almost fell off my bike
in front of Hannah's school.
Now THAT would have been funny.

I was so excited to get back home, because I am thinking,
again - Cesar Milan style, that Lucy would be so tired out
that she would nap all day, and not bug me.

No such luck.

Well.  Off to do what I do.
Happy Thursday.

Wednesday, January 5

As big as Garrin

That's how big the Costco hotdog is.




Have you ever had one?  They are pretty good actually.
Buck fifty - hot dog AND a soda.
But that's Costco for you - Super Sized and Cheap!
Garrin was in heaven.

While we are on the subject of food, I was long overdue to make a frittata.

FRITTATA:  A frittata is a type of italian omelette, either simple or enriched with additional ingredients, such as meats, cheeses, vegetables and even pasta. It may be compared to a crust-less quiche or, in America, "scrambled eggs." A frittata is prepared in a frying pan like a traditional French omelet.

MY definition:  Whenever you have accumulated lots of stuff (leftovers) in your fridge,
and you've got a lot of eggs, it's time to throw it all in a pan together and cook it.
See, anyone can be Italian for a night!

So here is tonight's concoction.

Onions, mushrooms, these really cute mini sweet peppers and speck.
Speck is smoked prosciutto.  Regular prosciutto would have disappeared in this
frittata, but the speck has a much stronger flavor and was a perfect addition to this.
So seriously I just sauteed the ingredients together.....

yes, that IS a paella pan....the bigger the better, baby!

I'd cut up the speck so the pieces would get somewhat crispy and
still be bite-sized.

So while that was getting all yummy,
I just couldn't help myself and I prepared a little side dish.

Seriously my mouth waters for these.  My oven roasted brussel spouts.
Olive oil, salt and a dusting of breadcrumbs.

Popped those babies in the oven,
just as the frittata was ready to head in too.

Poured in the scrambled eggs, sprinkled with some shredded mozzarella I had
left over from Hannah and her friends homemade pizza party,
oh and a sprinkle of grating cheese.  I think it was some parmesan.

I typically let that cook on the stovetop for a good ten minutes or so, to get
a nice set bottom, and then I throw it in the oven at 375 for almost an hour.

Perfection,

from a whole bunch of crap I had in the fridge.
a frittata