Saturday, December 29, 2012

christmas this year.

some snaps of the holidays this year with my family.

such good people.

good times.

and of course, good food.


mama & heidi


roasted carrot soup. (:


sometimes i worry my dad is too serious...


everyone's favorite cone-kitty, mr. charlie

i hope your holidays were filled with family and warm memories.

wishing you the best for 2013

love, jordan & steph


my husband is downstairs playing the piano

there are some sweet potatoes roasting in the oven.

i have my bunny slippers on.

life is good.

a little peek at christmas at our house

Sunday, December 9, 2012


so it's been about a month since we arrived home from our fabulous trip to spain...and already i find myself dreaming of our next adventure.

i am so pumped for all of the trips we have ahead of us.  being dreamers and travelers {but mainly dreamers}, jordan and i talk constantly about new places to visit, people to meet, and {of course} food to try. 

we have collected a little wishlist of trips for the years ahead...i know they are a while off, but it never hurts to start getting excited early (:

top on our list:
a wedding next summer in lake tahoe {woop woop!  yay jonathan and claire!}
a family trip with my parents in 2015 {destination: surprise!}
a family trip with our little ones across the US {i did this when i was younger and we moved from CA to FL ...it was awesome}
southeast asia...a MUST

like i said, we're dreamers. 

where are you going next?  where have you been?  where should we consider? 

happy wandering, friends!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

veggie mac + cheese

this is hands down one of the most favorite meals in this house.

we don't make it too often, since it's not exactly good for you {however i feel that the veggies and whole wheat pasta help a little, right?  right? } anyway, when we do make it, it's a real treat.

hope you enjoy!

1 pound whole wheat pasta {we like penne}
2 bell peppers, any color
1 medium sweet onion
2 zucchini squash
6-8 crimini mushrooms
3 cups marinara {homemade or store-bought}
about 1 1/2 cups cheese: any combination of fontina, gruyere, comte or mozz works well
herbs of your choice
salt & pepper
olive oil

*1/2 cup parm
*1 cup breadcrumbs
*1-2 tablespoons butter

*optional ingredients in case you choose to make the breadcrumb topping...we usually leave it off, but it sure is good (:  



*breadcrumbs: melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat; stir the breadcrumbs in to coat with the butter.  stir in the parm, and set aside, off of the heat.

put a large pot of salted water on the stove and start bringing it to a boil. 

next, grate your cheeses and set them aside.

start by washing and then chopping all of your veggies to about the same size: one to one and a half inches is good.  when you cut the onions, make sure you slice them "pole to pole"...this way they won't be stringy as they cook.  

do you know how to wash mushrooms?  i think they're a pain to wipe off with a wet paper towel, but i was always told that you should not soak them, etc...however i found this note that seems to indicate that as long as the dirt is gone, the method used doesn't really matter.  do what you like (:  

arrange the veggies on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and add a little salt and herbs.  i like herbes de provence, however simply adding salt and pepper would be great.  

put the vegetables in a 300 degree oven to roast for about 20 minutes, checking and stirring once in a while...you don't want them to be too brown, just softened a bit.

while the vegetables are roasting, your water should be close to a boil...add your pasta, but only cook for 6-7 minutes {it will cook more while it bakes}. when the pasta has cooked, strain it and place into a {very} large bowl...or you might use two bowls.

when the veggies are roasted, add these to the bowl{s} of pasta.  next, add the cheese and marinara.  mix it up! you want to distribute the cheese evenly over all of the other ingredients.

when everything is mixed, divvy the deliciousness into either one 9x13 baking dish or two smaller baking dishes.
{we use 2 smaller dishes and save one for another day's dinner!}

*if you want to add the breadcrumb topping, top the pasta mixture with the crumbs now and pat lightly.

cover the dishes with foil and bake at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes {ovens vary}...we rotate the dishes while they cook.  when you have about 10 minutes to go, take the foil off to let things brown up a bit.  the crumbs are a good indicator here: when they are golden, you're good to go (:

serve immediately and enjoy!

{if you made two dishes, let the second pan cool, then cover again with foil and pop that in the fridge for another day.  reheat covered at 350.  they keep well for up to 2 days in the fridge}

happy eating!!


Monday, December 3, 2012

spain: practically.

having taken a handful of trips {both together and solo}, j and i consider ourselves more or less seasoned...you know, like a good cast iron skillet.

we certainly don't know everything and lord knows we've made some mistakes {remind me to tell you sometime about trying to fly on a friend's ticket: not recommended}, but over the years we have developed some tips and tricks that seem to make travel work for us.

as always, take this with a grain of salt: what we do might not be your cup of tea...and also, please let me know if you have any specific tips of your own, or if you have any questions!



the destination or destinations {lucky duck} are what is set about your trip.  
*for this post, i'm focusing on spain, however a more comprehensive travel post is in the works!


this part can get a little tricky.  most places you will visit will have a "high season", a "low" or "off season", and something that for whatever reason is called a "shoulder season".  unless you're going somewhere like paris which only knows the high season, ha.  the trick is figuring out when the seasons "change" for your destination.  generally speaking {for europe} november through april is the off season, october and may are the shoulders.  june through september are hopping, and note: europe as a whole just about closes down in august, so keep that in mind.

we have made a point to travel within the shoulder/off seasons for our past few trips.  true: not all of the shops will be open, but you also won't have to fight for space with a million other people.  it's more manageable, and in a lot of cases, cheaper.  we got about a 20% discount off of our apartments since we got there after 1-november.   not bad.


unless you're taking a cruise, getting to spain involves some type of air travel.   skyscanner has been my go-to for finding the cheapest flights, and this is what i used to find our tickets for spain.  other good sites which i belong to are kayak and airfarewatchdog.  both of these sites send you updates throughout the week, and you can receive alerts when a saved route goes on sale.

skyscanner offers domestic and international flights, is very easy to use, and you do not have to purchase through them to receive the advertised price.   

NOTE: flights go quickly on this site and that "too good to be true" price probably is, so after i search, i go to the website of the host carrier and order directly from them.  this way should anything happen with my flight, i won't have the hassle of working through a third party.  

i also do recommend travel insurance.  this is something i scoffed at when i was in college {mainly b/c who could afford it?}, but now it gives me that extra feeling of security.  i know, i'm getting so old!

how else?

what else do you plan to do in spain?   

spain has one of the best run train systems i've used.  the trains are on time, extremely clean, and ticket purchasing is very straightforward.  also, the rail company of spain {renfe} offers a special promo for non-spanish citizens...the Spain Pass!  passes can be purchased at the stations {the online purchase did not work for me}...just know that once you have your pass, you will still need to "reserve" your place on the train of your choice.  you will of course not pay for a this reservation {you've already paid for the pass (: }, but seats are assigned, so you will need a record of your place on the intended train.  again, this is easy and there are plenty of signs in the stations to direct you to the proper ticket counter.

NOTE: if you're thinking about seeing more of europe, easyjet and ryanair are great for cheap inter-european travel, however be advised: these are seriously no-frill airlines. 


i briefly mentioned way to stay in a previous post.

 this site offers apartment rentals in major european cities, and we loved it.  we decided to get an apartment since there were 5 of us traveling, and we wanted the option of more space, a kitchen, and the best part: a washing machine.  yes! we brought half of the amount of clothes we usually would since we knew we would be able to wash clothes while we were over there.   we booked both of our apartments through waytostay {barcelona & madrid} and were very happy with the accommodations both times.

NOTE: spain does have an energy crisis, and thus does not have clothes dryers, however most every place that offers a washer has a drying rack.  

 little extras

cell phones: j and i have our phones from when we lived abroad, so for us it was as easy as buying a new sim card {20 euro} and plugging it in.  however, if you don't have a phone no worries.  you can usually find a kiosk in the larger rail stations {i would advise not to buy from the lady hawking them at the airports}, or otherwise cell phone stores are plentiful on the streets.  if you don't want or need a cell phone, definitely get a skype account- it's always good to stay connected. 

metro systems: use them.  often, it's very easy and economical to buy a 10-pass ticket, for example.  you can usually share this between people, and the cost works out to be less than 10 individual tickets.  win-win. 

anything else?

yes, i'm sure i've overlooked something interesting, but bear with me, i still have medicine-head (:

please let me know your feedback or any question you have.

i am happy to help!

happy travels! 


Sunday, December 2, 2012

sick day.

sorry for the delay in my spain posting...we have been a little under the weather at this house.

hopefully we feel like going out today however, since i feel like a christmas tree is just what we need to perk up the mood! (:

what are you up to this weekend??

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

barcelona, spain.

well, barcelona you did not disappoint.

you were everything i remembered, and as always, you're full of surprises. 

please sit back and enjoy a photo tour of a day in the life of some very lucky wanderers.

olive trees everywhere...in this case, right outside the store where i bought some shoes.

the boqueria market, full of ham - that is one happy husband

well hello little bar that popped out of nowhere. don't mind if we do!

always lovely, i'd never seen parc guell at dusk.  we had a lively hike up to the park...it may or may not have had to do with our directional abilities, but we got there- just in time, and it was a hit.

this had to be the greatest surprise/ recommendation ever.  our friend ben likes to eat & drink as much as we do, and he was right on the money recommending can paixano.  a tiny narrow bar, down by the water, with cheap tapas and 5 euro bottles of cava.  yes.

stay tuned for a practical take on spain, coming up later this week!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

spain, we love you.

we are now in madrid and despite the rain, we're having a great time.  fun fact: rain is a great excuse to check out those indoor tours that always seem to take a backseat to sitting on our bums in a park.  that being said, we spent a few hours in the royal palace of madrid today.  

here are a few snaps from our time in barcelona {and a day trip to girona} this past week.  so much fun.

also, i have to say how happy i am with our apartments during this vacation: we found them through way to stay and we've been so pleased with the apartments themselves, but also with the people running this operation.  if you're headed to europe anytime soon, check them out.

nighttime view from our apartment, sagrada familia down the block

fruit stand at the boqueria market

walking the city wall in girona

can it get any better?

we are looking forward to the next few days here in madrid, hopefully heading to toledo tomorrow and segovia on saturday.

life is so good.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

an admission

so  i don't know if you've heard, but there is a very large, very inconvenient storm progressing up the east coast of the US as we sit.

and, if you remember from my constant reminders, we have a trip to europe to take.

i'm not liking the combination here.

i spent the majority of today checking noaa and the weather channel, and then being grumpy about what i read.  not cool.

i have spent soooo much time planning this trip, it's one week away! and then a somewhat-major hurricane?  not ok.

and you know: i'm not happy with how i'm dealing with things.  jordan is all "we don't know which way the storm will turn", and my mom says "stephanie: the airline will re-route you and everything will be ok"...and i'm still here, wearing my sassy pants and my sad hat thinking that somehow, because of a little rain, our trip is ruined.

ok, but here is where i get it together and grow up.

i am starting to notice an interesting pattern to our trips.

exhibit A:  february, 2010.  a little trip to lake tahoe to visit one of jordan's bff's.  to say that got off to a rocky start is being kind: our flight was cancelled because of too much snow/ ice on the runway and the plane itself {yes, in va we only have one de-icer at the airport...another issue for another day}...anyhoo on our way home from the airport, we hit some ice on the highway and totaled j's jeep.  not a good day.  so we came home, ordered papa john's, and re-booked our flights for the next week.  and?  it was the best.  the snow was perfect, we didn't break any bones skiing, we were able to hang with some really great friends, eat great food {note: lake tahoe has some banging breakfast places!  try them.  do it.}, and not once did it matter that we were there one week after we were "supposed to".  ah.  it was great.  so that was luck, right?

enter our honeymoon.  with me now?  and this too turned out to be marvelous.  and i tell you what: i am a prize packer now after that ordeal: i am carrying on 90% of what i need for this next trip {mainly to save room in my bag for all that spanish wine!  shhh, don't tell customs...}  this can't be a coincidence.

ok, so now with sandy bearing down on us, i kind of wonder: could we be so lucky?  3 times with trouble at the start only to lead to great results.  i don't know, and i won't know until next week, but having thought more about our history, i have a little bit better outlook about how next week might play out.

stay tuned! (:

Saturday, October 13, 2012

you know it's fall when...

the drop in temperature, the crunch of a leaf, pumpkins being spotted everywhere, and at least in our house, the oven becoming almost entirely used for making chex mix.  i don't know if you feel this way too, but for whatever reason, chex mix doesn't hold much appeal to me at any other time of the year, but come october i cannot get enough.  yes, it is fall.

well, you guys...chex mix got even better for me this year.  i know, it's a classic...and i had no qualms with the original recipe ...until i ran out of onion powder.  {ever start a recipe thinking you have everything until get to the part where you need what you actually don't have?  busted.}

enter penzeys to save the day.  remember my love affair with this company?  still going strong.  this salt combo hadn't seen much use in our kitchen other than a sprinkle on some popcorn, but figuring that garlic powder alone wouldn't do the trick, i added some 4/S {spicy!} to the batch and crossed my fingers.

you guys!  this. is. awesome!  i am so happy with how it turned out, i think this is my 'new original'.

here's how i made my mix...sorry these are not all accurate measurements, i don't really feel that chex mix is one of those things that needs to be all that precise.  {if you want more accuracy, the original recipe is always on the box (: }

chex mix remix

heat oven to 250 degrees

melt between 6-8 tablespoons of butter {use the real stuff} in a roasting pan in the oven...no problem if you don't have a roaster, you can use a disposable foil baking pan

when the butter is melted {about 5 minutes...keep an eye on it}, take the pan out of the oven and add a good few splashes of worcestershire sauce to the pan {about 3 tablespoons}

add a total of about 7-8 cups of: corn chex, rice chex, wheat chex, pretzels, nuts, goldfish, etc...{whatever you are into, and in whatever ratio you desire}...stir until this is pretty well coated with the butter-worcestershire combo

lightly sprinkle garlic powder over the entire pan, then follow with a light sprinkle of 4/S.  stir this up again and pop in the oven {still @ 250} for 1 hour, pulling the pan out every 15 minutes to stir...this is important to prevent the top layer from burning

i like chex mix to be extra-flavorful, so sometimes when i pull the pan out for a stir, i add a little extra dash of worcestershire sauce and a quick sprinkle of spices, but this is up to you (:

hope you like it, and happy eating!!

Sunday, October 7, 2012


hey there!

it's getting down to the wire for our trip to spain...we leave in 24 days -woop- !

i'm working on our itinerary and i want to know if there are any don't-miss places you've been to in spain...or any travel tips in general?  i know i'm always looking for a way to make travel more smooth and comfortable. let me know your thoughts!!

in the meantime, i'll leave you with some pictures from my very first trip to barcelona {2004- yikes!}


barcelona harbor, view from a rock pier


parc guell

{all taken on my Nikon 35mm...my first photography love}

Saturday, October 6, 2012

on manners

 on our trip to new england last weekend, we stopped in ny to visit with j's cousin and his sweet family.

these kids are the cutest.
jake & pig

while we were catching up, liz jumped on a teachable moment with jake when the issue of manners came up.

"jake, what are manners?"

"manners are when you're nice to other people."
sweet elsa

i couldn't sum it up better myself, and this tiny episode stuck with me.  manners are crucial to life.  respect, care, consideration, love: in my mind, all of these are key to becoming a well rounded person.

i know we all slip, and for those to whom manners are important, we try to regain our footing and try again.  and again.  b/c we're human.  we're not perfect.  but we have more chances.

however, this doesn't mean that we don't all need reminding.  personally, i have two sisters who rarely miss an opportunity to tell me when i'm off base: being rude, judgemental, jealous, etc.  for that and many other reasons, i am immensely grateful to have been one of three.  but i know that not everyone is so lucky, and truth be told, i know we're not always open to hearing about our own failings. 

so here are a few gentle reminders i've gathered...take them for what they're worth, and at the end of the day, remember jake's analysis and just be nice.  we will be a happier planet for it.

the basics

'please' & 'thank you' are never out of place

respect: your elders, your family, your neighbors, yourself

learn to disagree graciously

you are not always right.  be open to suggestion

actions speak volumes: be mindful of what exactly you are 'saying' 

a smile never hurts a situation   

we can all use a reminder (:  happy weekend, friends!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


so back to that to-do list i made a while ago...happy to say i actually did stuff!

this is a project which has been on my mind for some time, but i knew i wanted to to it "right" aka not spend big bucks and make it unique, so it's taken me some time.

i had to hunt down the materials first, and i scored big with a yard sale 2 saturdays ago.  done.  then i needed a quick run to home depot which is quickly becoming one of my favorite spots {they seriously have everything...} and i was good to go!

so here you are: my chalkboard menu!

what you will need:
DSC_0113the actual "menu"- any smooth surface will work, so i wasn't necessarily looking for a mirror - an old window or a large picture frame {glass still in} would work just as well...or you could paint a wall, but that wasn't the look we were going for

a can of chalkboard spray paint {i did not use a primer, and i'm happy with the results, but that's up to you}

mask for fumes

sandpaper {if your surface is really super glossy or needs a little smoothing}

how to:

prep your surface with sandpaper if necessary.  following the instructions on the can of paint, apply slowly and evenly to your surface, covering entirely.  let this dry for 1 hour.

{while my first coat was drying i made this little bag for chalk}

after 1 hour, come back and spray the whole surface again.  let this dry for at least another hour before touching, but preferably 24 hours.  now, if you're like me and sought a cheap-o option, your mirror probably doesn't have hooks on it.  no problem {especially if your husband is as handy as mine (: }  go pick up some mirror clips and you're in business.   make sure everything is anchored properly, screwed in tight, etc and here you have it!


ah.  i'm really happy with how it turned out...and also happy that tonight is black beans & rice night!!

*note: my spray paint said to rub the side of chalk over the whole board once dry then erase before use...i did not like this suggestion b/c the board was so nice and black before i did that, and now it's a little cloudy.  oh well, it would've ended up like that anyway, but fyi in case you try this!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

wednesday...feels like a friday

good morning friends!

today feels like a friday mainly because it's our last full day of work this week - yessssss.

tomorrow mid-day we're heading up to connecticut for my cousin's wedding, which is an event all in and of itself, except we've also managed to schedule...some morning golf, hopefully a quick trip into hartford, a rendezvous with another cousin and their cute family in NY, a fun night in DC with an old friend and a little sister, some seriously good food {duh}.  oh yeah, we like to pack it in.

anyhoo- i hope your week is moving right along...or staying put...however you like it to be, that's my wish for you.

and finally, a shout out this morning to our sweet niece ESTHER!

this babydoll is one year old today...seems like forever ago when i snapped this shot...

also {we were just sent a video to prove it} this little lady is walking as of today or late last night!
yay esther!  {but really, don't you think you're growing up a little bit too fast?  let's talk this over sometime}

Friday, September 14, 2012

to do.

as inspired by ali, i've decided to be intentional & hopefully maintain some accountability for some tasks which have spent a little too much time on the back burner recently.

here's my mini-to-do...hopefully most of this can be accomplished this weekend...we shall see! (:

- find supplies and complete a DIY for our kitchen {this will require a yard sale date...who's interested!?}

- finish cleaning out our closet.  we have moths.  gross.  and our room looks like a disaster area while i've been cleaning things out. 

- get a haircut.  trim, actually.  but i need it.  badly.

-cook something delicious.

totally doable right??  time to hop on it!

happy friday, friends! 

random snap from croatia...plitvice national park
always makes me calm and happy to remember this place
one of nature's beauties for sure

Thursday, September 13, 2012

do something scary.

tonight i did something scary.

i spoke to our waiter.  i know, right?  no, wait for it.  so we went to a new mexi place after work, and after feeling really stupid for not making conversation earlier in the evening i started things up. in spanish.  i don't usually do that, despite jordan's constant prodding "why don't you say something to them?  you know how to talk to them and they obviously speak spanish..." nevermind the fact that i've been speaking spanish for almost 22 years.  yes. crazy.  i can't tell you why, but i guess for some reason i am shy about it?  who knows. 

i do know however that i've been trying almost daily to work up the courage to be more outgoing about making conversation en espanol.  i worry though: what if i mess up...what if i can't understand what they're saying...what if they think i'm a joke.  

so really at no special moment, i just started up.  the look on our waiter's {jesus} face was amazing: what is this little white girl trying to do here?...  but i kept it up.  asked about the restaurant, the name {green parrots}, how he came to be here {his sister married the owner's son}...and we just chatted.  it was casual, it was comfortable, and it was fun.  and it was also a big step.  after jesus left the table, jordan gave me a little nudge and smirked. 

i did it.  i didn't even really realize i had done it until it was over.  and i'm really happy about it.  also, i think i might have to keep an eye on myself that i don't let my newfound confidence become super annoying.  it's a fine line, i'm aware.

but for now, this is my something scary for today.  so take it for what it's worth, and go do something that scares you.  who knows: you might be all the better for it.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

what we've been eating lately...

here are a few things making our house smell good these days...

 cheese pizza with bell peppers and basil

bruschetta, one of our faves
seriously, all you need to put this together is what you see below, plus basil and olive oil.
chop some tomatoes {sometimes we add a red bell pepper}, red onion, garlic if you like {not necessary}, add some s&p.  toast thin slices of baguette brushed with olive oil, spread some goat cheese on the toastettes and top with your tomatoes.  you can pop this back in the oven for a sec if you'd like, but it's just as good at room temp.  serve with basil and a drizzle of olive oil.


as always, happy eating!

Friday, September 7, 2012


hey there!

i won't lie to you: this was a long short-week.  i'm so glad it's the weekend.  we have family in town, a good dinner in the works, and we're hopefully looking at a few beach-worthy hours tomorrow morning.  cross your fingers. 

anyhoo- right now i'm focusing on tonight {although my focus is slightly off, thank you mr. martini}...spending a little time on pinterest, soaking up the reality that i don't have to be up at 5:30 tomorrow morning, and generally enjoying myself.   it's not always fancy, but it's life.

hope you're up to something fun...and if so, tell me about it.  i love suggestions.

happy weekend, folks.

a little peek into our livingroom
playing with the effects on our camera (:

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

food lust

so i'm scrolling through our pics from past trips and it dawns on me just how many pictures i take of food.  i really can't help myself.

here's a little bit of what's making me happy & hungry tonight.




mid-bite (:

best cherry ice cream yet.

ham, cheese & tomato baguette.  yes.




happy wednesday, friends

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


this post goes out to my favorite middle sister emily, woop!

oh hey there

i didn't want to share anything before she gave the green light, but em has been going through some really tough times.  seeing however that she has started her own blog chronicling life and what's going on in it, i feel it's a good a time as any to send a little blog lovin her way.

so, next time you're 'surfboarding the internets' as my father in law believes all young people do, swing by sweetninnymuggins for an update.  you might wet your pants however, b/c one thing that this illness hasn't been able to touch is em's sense of humor. 

love you, em.