Thursday, April 30, 2015

Thankful Thursday - 4/30/15

It's "Thankful Thursday" again - a place for good news and inspiring stories. 

This week I'm thankful for our wonderful vet who was so kind in helping us over this past weekend with one of our dogs.  She couldn't have been more compassionate towards us AND him.  She put aside her mommy duties on a Sunday morning (she has three children - one of whom is a baby) to meet us at her office for our struggling pup.  She talked us through exactly what would happen and what we should expect.  She allowed us to grieve and take as much time as we wanted with him before saying our final goodbyes, and she offered comforting words in what was such a disconcerting time.

I am so thankful for people like her - people who give their service to animals and hold their importance to the highest.  Thank you to the vets and the caregivers around the world who help those who sometimes cannot help themselves.  Thank you to the pet owners who love their pets just as much (if not more) than they love people.  Thank you for the opportunity to have loved such a wonderful dog who wouldn't have even made it this far had it not been for our vet and others like her.

People who care for animals are special people.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Stuff I Wouldn't Be Mad to Get for Mother's Day

Since Mother's Day is just around the corner, it's only fitting that I peruse the Internet for some gift picks... you know, for all of you moms out there... or for me.  Whatever. 
Check out some of my gift picks below!
This necklace is a tad pricey, so I'd definitely wait for a good promo code or sale, but it's beautiful.  It would go with so many tops!  I love anything with the abalone shell look.
This necklace makes a statement for sure.  I love it!  I actually think it would go great over a printed tee or sleeveless tank for spring and summer.

The picture above is absolutely awful compared to how this necklace actually looks.  I saw it in-store and it looks waaaaaaay better in person!  Trust me.  It'd be great to accessorize a plain tee and jeans.

I love these monogram necklaces, and they're reasonably priced.  Plus, they'd go with so many other pieces of jewelry that you might already be wearing.
This is something I'd never purchase for myself but would love to receive as a gift.  QVC offers it in three different scents - fresh cream, lemon custard, and sweet vanilla fig - but the lemon custard would be my pick.  I love anything lemon! 

This top is so cute AND affordable.  It comes in a few colors, but I like the black/white one best.  It goes great with jeans, capris, or shorts.  Love it.

I love this tank, mostly because it's purple and printed, but also because it'd be great to wear with the capris below for a super cute look.  I would say I'd wear it to work out, but I haven't been working out as much as I had been.  Sometimes I just wear workout clothes because they're comfy and I think they'll motivate me to work out.  That hasn't happened yet, but I have a good feeling about it.  I do.


Seriously, though, wouldn't these be so cute with that last top?  I know the patterns don't exactly match, but that's what I like about it.

Hope I've given you (or at least my husband) some Mother's Day gift ideas!  In all reality, though, being a mom is the best gift.  I know that may sound corny, but it's true.  I can't imagine life without my son.  He makes my world and I love him to pieces.


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Life Lately - April 2015

With a five-year-old boy, there's a lot of playing that goes on at our house.  A LOT.  Between Ninja Turtles, Ninjago, Star Wars, trucks, Legos, puzzles, and coloring, there isn't much down time around here.
I swear my son has OCD tendencies with his toys.  If his trucks aren't in a specific alignment, he freaks out.  He'll ask us to play with him, and - if we grab one - he yells at us to "put it back in line."  I don't understand.
Now, you may think from this next picture that I'm completely wrong about the OCD thing.  I'm not.  Trust me.  Although this may look like just a big ol' pile of Ninja Turtles, there is a system in place here, people.  If you grab one - BEWARE.  Our little guy has a conniption because he sets up this pile JUST SO.  He places each one in a certain spot based on who they are and what their weapons are.  
Now on to Ninjagos.  Truth be told - a few weeks ago I had no idea what Ninjagos were... but apparently they're "all the rage" with preschoolers.  There's a show and everything.  (By the way, I can put up with a lot of kids' TV shows, but not Ninjago.  It's pretty bad.)
Our son D. knows all of their crazy names, what they do, who they interact with, what they say, how they move, etc.  He talks about them non-stop... ALL... DAY... LONG... like they are real people.  He gives us a play-by-play of each episode.  I pretend to listen and care.  (I assume that's what my husband does to me most of the time.)
Here is D. watching over his toys.  I love that his undies are sticking out from the back of his pants.  He's my little cutie patootie.
And here's our dog C.  He's been a little down since he lost his best buddy this past weekend.  But he likes to keep D. company when he plays.  It's the sweetest thing.
Otherwise, we're looking forward to getting outside over the next few days.  It's finally supposed to be a little warmer.  Thank goodness!  We've really been enjoying our local playgrounds when the weather allows it.
D. has his kindergarten "test" tomorrow morning since he'll be starting in the fall.  It's basically like an entrance exam to make sure he's ready.
I have a feeling he's going to be talking about Ninjagos.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Meal Monday - 4/27/15

Because I haven't been eating anything overly exciting these past few days, today I'm sharing one of my FAVORITE go-to recipes.  The spring weather here hasn't been exactly spring-like; in fact, it's been downright cold lately!  I just want to use our grill and sit outside for dinner, but I have a feeling that's still a little while off.  If it's still a bit chilly where you are and you want a quick, easy, and comforting meal, try this one.  It's delicious! 

(photo directly from

Just FYI: I've made it with both a chuck roast and an eye roast, and both work well.  I swear it comes out perfect every time!  We usually have it with mashed potatoes and glazed carrots.  My five-year-old LOVES it!  Next time I make it, I'll have to remember to take a picture.

Check out other recipes on that site, too.  There are so many I've used and loved!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Rainbow Bridge

Today is a sad day... we have to say goodbye to my in-laws' dog - a dog that we feel is just as much ours as he is theirs.  It has been a long battle for him and he has persevered through so much. 

I wish our pets could be with us forever.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Saturday Shopping - Hits & Misses

I am seriously one of the most indecisive people, and that especially comes in to play when I shop.  I LOVE shopping - I really do - but my indecision frustrates me to no end!  It's the weirdest thing... I'm aware of it and I hate being that way, but I can't change it. 
Because of this, I am a chronic "returner."  If I can't decide whether or not I like something, I buy it for fear it won't be there in a specific size/color if I go back.  Then I bring it home to try on, and oftentimes I end up returning it.  It's a bad habit, but it's also something that has saved me money.
How?  Well, it gives me time to consider if what I bought is worth the price - even though I barely ever, EVER buy anything that's not on sale or clearance.  And I even second guess the price of things on sale and clearance.  I don't like to pay a lot for stuff because it's just stuff.  (I've also been known to call customer service for a price adjustment if an item I've bought goes on sale even more within a week's time frame.  What can I say?  I'm cheap.) 
Another reason I prefer buying something right away is because then I don't regret not buying it, yet I still have the option to take it back.  It's essentially the opposite of buyer's regret and it works in your favor!  Do any of you do this?
Okay - on to the important stuff - the actual stuff.  One of my recent purchases is the Crest HD toothpaste.  I am a big, big coffee drinker and so I'm always looking for ways to whiten my teeth.  My husband saw an ad for this toothpaste set on TV and I decided to try it because the white strips, at least to me, are just kind of annoying.  (Do any of you use them?  Do you think they work?)
This is just a two-step toothpaste, so you're not really adding anything extra to your daily routine.  The package says your teeth can be up to six times whiter within a week, so we'll see.  I just started using it.  The set was $12.99 at Target, which is way more than I usually spend on toothpaste, but it's still a lot cheaper than the white strips.  I'll keep you posted about the results.
Speaking of keeping you posted, I've been using my Pond's night cream (that I mentioned back here) religiously since buying it.  It has been tingling a bit at night when I apply it, so I hope that means it's working!  So far, so good.
Next up - my Old Navy finds.  Let me first say that Old Navy is KILLING it this season.  I love so much of what they're offering, but I am trying to watch my spending because I am currently on a sabbatical from my teaching job (I return in August).  I love to try new trends, but I can't afford to try everything, so I have to be picky... and Old Navy is making that really hard right now! 
However, I do have a bone to pick with them.  The store specials and the online specials hardly EVER match.  Just the other day I picked up a few items from their store when I was out running errands, and, when I got home, checked out those same items online.  The items were 30% off, so I could have saved a lot!  Well, guess what I did.  I ordered the EXACT SAME ITEMS online and returned my purchases to the store.  It was a pain in the butt - but totally worth it.  (Remember - I'm cheap.)  I just don't understand why Old Navy does this.  No, I do understand.  It's a marketing scam, and I fell for it... but then I "unfell" for it. 
I win, Old Navy.  I win.  
Before I share some of my finds, I have to warn you - my pictures suck.  This blogging thing is new to me, and so is taking pictures for it.  I did not edit a thing, the lighting sucks, and the angles are not working in my favor.  Stick with me, people.  I'll work on it.  I just wanted to get this done so I could post about it today.
One other warning... you may want to grab a cup of coffee or tea before you continue reading.  This is a long post (if you haven't figured that out already)!
First up - palazzo pants.  Old Navy doesn't technically call them palazzo pants, but they are.  They feel like pajama pants but, unfortunately, I feel like they also look like pajama pants.  It's a shame, really, because they are seriously one of the most comfortable pairs of pants I've ever worn.  (They rival maternity pants, girls!)  They have an elastic waistband with ties in the front and the material is super silky and soft.  I'm wearing my usual size small from Old Navy and they run true to size, but I made the mistake of ordering them in tall.  I wanted to wear them with a pair of wedges, but, as you can tell from the picture, they are so super long - way too long even with heels.  Many of the reviews talk about this issue as well.  I'm 5'6" and sometimes Old Navy's regular length pants are just slightly too short, so I thought I'd take a chance with the longer length.  Fail.
So I'm definitely returning these.  I am considering trying them in the regular length, but I'm worried that it may look like I'm wearing my PJs out in public.  What do you think?  What should I do?  Do you like them?

The next item I picked up is this floral popover tunic.  It's a keeper - I already cut the tag off!  I saw this on a few other bloggers recently and just loved it.  Unfortunately, it was out of stock online, but they had it in the store!  The only thing I don't like about it is the fact that it needs to be ironed, but I love the print so much that I can look past that.  I also love that it's tunic length.  Can I get an amen?!  Tunic length rocks.  I think it'd look great with white jeans or pale pink jeans.  (By the way, I've been on the lookout for pale pink jeans that won't break the bank.  Any recommendations?) 
I don't have a picture of this shirt on me because it's still very wrinkled.  I wanted to iron it first.
I love wearing dresses in warmer weather because they make getting dressed so easy.  The less thinking I have to do in the morning, the better!  Old Navy has a lot of dress options, but it's always hit or miss for me.  Some work really well on me while others don't at all.  I love me a good maxi dress, but I get annoyed sometimes because the length of Old Navy maxis vary depending on the style, color, and material of their dresses.  It's so annoying. 
When I saw this one on the hanger, I didn't know how I felt about it.  It looked shapeless but I wanted to try it because I've learned that things definitely look different on a hanger than they do on the body.  (Please excuse the lower no make-up half of my face in this first pic.)

I know you may not be able to tell from my horrible picture, but it actually fit pretty well.  The length was perfect on me in the size small since I plan on wearing it with flip flops, and I think this would be a great dress to throw on for just about anything.  It'd be great with a cardigan or jean jacket.  It's definitely not fitted, but it doesn't look sloppy in person.  It has a cool, comfy, casual look to it. 
I remember my Aunt Deb always wearing long dresses when I was a little girl.  She was (and still is!) very stylish, and she had all of these long dresses in various colors from Lands' End.  She would belt them or add jewelry and look so put together.  This dress reminded me of something she would have worn (or would wear now).  This one's definitely a keeper.
Okay, one more dress.  This one is more of a T-shirt dress style, and I wish I had a picture of it from the front.  (It somehow disappeared and I didn't feel like taking another!). 
I don't know why I'm standing all weird - it looks like I'm sticking my butt out or something - but you can get a pretty good idea of the dress itself.  It's super comfy, but I've decided to return it because I just didn't love it.  I normally go gaga over stripes, but this just didn't do it for me.  I may try it in a different pattern.
Now on to shoes.  Can a girl ever have too many shoes?  (That is totally a rhetorical question because we all know the answer.)
Let me begin with my shoe philosophy.  When it comes to shoes, I will spend more than I will on any other piece of clothing because I want them to be good quality and comfortable, especially because I will be on my feet all day when I go back to work.  I normally never, ever, EVER buy shoes at Target because - let's face it - they're just not the highest quality, but they did have a lot of cute styles out this year... which convinced me to pick up three pairs to try.  Unfortunately, I plan on returning all three. 
This first pair is an espadrille that I got on clearance.  I love the look of espadrilles - they are so "boho chic," which is not how I would describe my personal style AT ALL - but I still love them.  (Weird, I know.  Hey, that's how I roll.)
I so wish that these were made better and felt better.  The stitching on the sides is already coming loose and I haven't worn them out of the house.  I usually always read reviews on an item before purchasing, but I didn't with these and I should have, because that's exactly what many of the reviewers said.  The insides don't do a thing for your feet and sort of made my toes a bit claustrophobic (if that is even a thing).  It's too bad because I still like the look of them.  They also come in a leopard print and a white option, but I tend to default to black. 

I then got a pair of these ballet flats.  They run true-to-size (unlike the espadrilles that I had to go up a 1/2 a size in), and they are offered in a few colors.  I grabbed the white because I don't own any white shoes, but I don't think I like them.  I hardly ever wear white because I am a klutz.  I do like the perforation detail on them, though, and they are actually pretty comfortable, so maybe I should reconsider.  What do you think of them?

The last item today are these leopard flats.  I am IN LOVE with the look of them, but they are really, really uncomfortable.  I had to go down a half size in them so they didn't slip off my feet, and I think they look adorable with jeans, but my toenails get squished down by the tops of them and it hurts!  I'm so upset because I love them so much.  Back they go.

Hits: 3
Misses: 5... unless you change my mind about any of them!

Well, we're off to my son's first soccer game today.  I'm sure I'll be one of those crazy sideline moms because I'm super competitive.  My husband has to keep reminding me that it's soccer for five-year-olds and the kids are just there to have fun.  (Riiiight.  He knows I can yell with the best of them!)

Whew!  That was a long post.  If you're still reading, thank you for your persistence.  I'd love your feedback about these items if you have a chance to leave a comment.

Have a great weekend!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Fallon Friday - 4/24/15

This week for Fallon Friday I have one of my favorite musical clips from his show for your viewing enjoyment -- Jimmy and Kelly Clarkson singing a medley of duets from over the decades. 
Can we talk about how awesome Kelly Clarkson is for a minute?  She was the first "American Idol" and she remains my favorite.  Her voice is out of this world and I love how she could care less about the media's criticism of her appearance.  I personally think she's a beautiful person inside and out.  I just think she'd be so much fun to hang out with - especially at a karaoke bar!
I hope you enjoy today's clip as much as I did.  I found myself bopping along to the songs right along with them.  (I embrace my dorkiness, people.)  Oh, and stay tuned because I'm working on a fun fashion post for tomorrow!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Thankful Thursday - 4/23/15

I hope to dedicate most Thursdays here on the blog to things for which I -- or we -- can be thankful.  I want it to be a place to share those things that enrich our lives and teach us something about ourselves and one another.

This week I am thankful to have heard about college basketball player Lauren Hill.  Tragically, Lauren passed away on April 10 at the age of 19 from brain cancer, but during the fight against her inoperable brain tumor, she started a nonprofit organization to raise money for cancer research and raised over $1.5 million. 

Not only was she a face for cancer research, but she also served as an advocate for cancer patients.  Lauren openly talked about her story, her struggle, and her hopes for the future.  She often spoke about how she realized she would not get to see the end of cancer but hoped for a future world without cancer.  Some people only do things for their own benefit, but Lauren did for the good of others.  She was given a platform that she did not ask for, yet she embraced it and used her "celebrity status" to help others.  (How many others would do this?)

Lauren was a hero for her determination and drive to truly live her life to the fullest and help others while doing it.  She touched so many people in her short time on earth. 

Here's more about this inspirational young lady:

Lauren was brave, passionate, and spirited.  How can someone with a terminal diagnosis remain so positive and driven?  I am impressed by her ability to live her life with a true purpose for helping others, while, at the same time, living life for herself.  I can't imagine how you go on living a normal life in her situation, but she tried her hardest to enjoy what time she had left by being part of her college basketball team, attending classes, and spending time with her friends and family.  I am in awe of her.  It's people like this who make the rest of us better people.

So now it's your turn.  What are you thankful for today?  I'd love to hear.  It can be anything - big or small - just something for which you are grateful.  Please share by leaving a comment below!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A Thank-You to the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills

I didn't like being around myself yesterday.  Do you ever have days like that?  Days when you can honestly say you can't stand yourself.  You just don't like the way you act -- and react -- to things.  Just things.  Everyday things.  Simple decisions.  Normal routines.  I've been having those days a lot lately... days I want to end so badly so I can go to bed and wake up and start over with a fresh cup of coffee and a new attitude.  I don't want to wish days away - believe me - but sometimes I just want another chance.

I've learned a lot about myself over the past few months, and with that has come the realization that there are a lot of things about me that I don't like.  That has been so, so difficult.  I mean, who wants to think about all of their faults?  Who wants to actually admit to themselves that there could be a lot of things wrong with them? 
Today I had just had it.  I should have known it was going to be one of those days when, after a night of horrible sleep (or lack of it - thanks to my dog who got sick inevitably from something he had eaten outside), I couldn't shake my morning migraine while trying to get myself back to sleep.  I finally got myself to that empty space where your brain shuts down right before entering that real, deep sleep, and then it happened:
"Mommy.  Mommy.  Mommy.  Mommy.  Mommy."  This went on until I opened my eyes and acknowledged him.

"Yes, honey?"

"Do you want to play Ninja Turtles?"

Do I want to play Ninja Turtles?  At 6:49am?  No, no, I do not.  No, but thank you.  I want to go back to sleep and make up for the four hours I lost last night so I can function like a normal person today.  I want to sleep off my migraine.  I want to wake up late, drink a cup of coffee without interruption, and ease into the day on my own time.  (Just for the record, I can't remember the last time that happened, and I have finally realized that it doesn't make me a bad mother to want that once in a while.  It makes me normal.  And while we're being honest, here, listen - I run anxious.  Anxious is my "normal," so craving some alone time is something I do because I know it helps me rejuvenate.  Now back to the Ninja Turtles.)
"Can you give Mommy five minutes?" I ask.
Before I know it, my five-year-old snuggles in next to me and it's the best feeling in the world. 
And then it happened.
"Nooooooow will you play Ninja Turtles with me?"
How could I not say yes to my best friend in the world? 
"Let Mommy take some medicine and I'll play with you." 
Done.  Suck it up, I tell myself.  He's a good kid; he just wants to play. 
Fast forward to about a half an hour before bedtime.  I lost it.  Like totally-can't-control-what-is-coming-out-of-my-mouth-everybody-get-away-from-me-and-hide-any-sharp-objects kind of lost it.  I started yelling at my son, at my husband, at the dog, at the living room full of Legos and swords and, of course, Ninja Turtles. 
As they should, my family got angry at me and left me to my maniacal mood swing alone (after my husband and I shared a few choice words).  It wasn't until after my son was tucked into bed, J. was downstairs in his man cave watching TV, and my dog was asleep on the loveseat that I finally calmed down and realized what a lunatic I had been.  And you know what gave me my much-needed epiphany?  The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. 
I had TiVo'd several episodes from a few days ago and finally had the chance to sit down and watch them.  (By the way, I love saying TiVo.  I feel very "2015.") 
Well, maybe that's not exactly how it happened.  My husband didn't want to be around me after my "episode" (can you blame him?), so that opened up about two hours of time for me to do something, and I was entirely too tired to do anything but plop my butt on the couch and veg.
Let me just say, if you haven't ever had the chance (or the desire, quite frankly) to watch any of the "Housewives" shows, I highly recommend it.  Not only does it improve your self-esteem, but it also makes you feel more normal than ever before.  Watching these women catfight and gossip and flip out and spend money like it's nothing is a fast trip back to reality.  However, this show also makes me realize that I may have a little bit of "housewife" in me.
And she came out today - with a vengeance.
When TiVo asked if I wanted to keep or delete my recently recorded "Housewives" episodes, you better believe that I couldn't hit "delete" fast enough.  Delete.  Delete.  Delete. 
And good riddance.  At least until next week.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

My $5 Walmart Find & a New Night Cream

I would not consider myself a Walmart shopper.  In fact, I used to hate Walmart with a passion.  (Now I just dislike it immensely for a whole slew of reasons, but that's a post for another day.)  I don't go there unless I absolutely have to, and this past Friday was one of those days.  I just had to grab a few small items and somehow I found myself browsing in their jewelry aisle. 
I know what you're thinking... jewelry?  At Walmart?  Yes, friends.  Jewelry at Walmart.  What can I say?  I gravitate towards any kind of jewelry.  I don't discriminate.  Plus, to me, cheap = better.

Those of you who know me know that I like big jewelry.  While I enjoy the smaller, delicate pieces of jewelry that have been making a comeback lately, I just can't stay away from the big (and sometimes even gaudy) stuff.  I am an accessories freak.  They truly can make or break an outfit.  One of my particular loves is a statement necklace because it, well, makes a statement.
And I found one at Walmart.  And I love it.  And it was five dollars.  WHAT?!?  Oh, yeah.  Five bucks. 

There were only two of these necklaces left, and I scooped up one of them. 

Believe me, folks, I was surprised to find such a cool piece at Walmart to add to my necklace collection, and the cheap price tag makes me love it even more.  I think it'd look great with a gray or black tee, but can you imagine it with coral or cobalt blue?  I'm excited just thinking about all of the great ways to style it. if Walmart didn't do enough for me already, I somehow ended up with a new beauty product find in my cart.  I swear it was a necessary one, though, and it was another fabulous deal!

See, I've known for a while now that I need to add a night cream to my skincare routine.  Right now, I just use my day moisturizer both morning and night, but now that I'm in my 30s, I've come to the realization that I need some preventative care for wrinkles.  Night creams can be VERY expensive, and - being as cheap as I am - I knew I wanted one that didn't break the bank.

Here is what I was looking for in a night cream:

1)  It has to produce results.

I know results don't happen overnight, but I wanted to see that it was helping in some way over the span of a few months.

2)  It has to be light and non-greasy.

I have combination skin that leans more towards the oily side, so I definitely didn't want something heavy that made me look greasy.  About a year ago, I had tried one from Oil of Olay since I like their day moisturizer (I talked about it back here), but I HATED it.  It was super thick and heavy, and I didn't like the scent because it lingered (which leads me to my next requirement...).

3)  It has to either be unscented or have a super light, refreshing smell.

Since my pregnancy, I have the nose of a dog.  Seriously.  My heightened sense of smell started in month 1 of my pregnancy and never went away.  I mean, my nose works so well that I can smell my husband's farts before they come out of his you-know-what.  (I'm not kidding.  It's become a point of contention in our marriage.)  Anyway, because I'm so sensitive to scents, I need a cream that isn't overpowering.

So began my hunt. 

My son was at preschool so I actually had time to read labels in the beauty aisle instead of just grabbing a bottle that he likes because it's blue.  (Seriously, though, I am reconsidering his method.  I had no clue how many different types of serums, lotions, and creams there could be in one aisle.  It's overwhelming, really.) 

After perusing the possibilities, I finally decided on one from Pond's.  This is the one I came home with:

It was a little less than nine dollars AND came with a free sample of a dark spot corrector.  Double bonus.  I figured it was worth a shot.  I haven't used any Pond's products in a really long time, but I don't remember why I stopped.  Plus, several other bloggers have recently mentioned their newfound love for this brand.
I've only used it for four days so far, but I like it.  I don't know if it's producing results yet, obviously, but it isn't greasy at all and it has a soft smell that doesn't linger... so 2 out of my 3 requirements are met, with 1 pending.
Do you have any other recommendations for a good night cream?  I'd love to hear!  Please leave a comment below if you do, and I'll keep you posted on my trial with this one.


Monday, April 20, 2015

Meal Monday - My Signature "Big Salad"

I'm always looking for meal inspiration.  I find myself getting into a cooking rut quite often, so I like to experiment with new recipes.  I've had my share of failures, of course, but I'm always open to trying new things.

When my husband J. and I were first dating, I was a terrible cook.  My mom is from a long line of Italians and she definitely inherited their culinary skills.  Me?  Not so much.  So I marathon-watched the cooking channel and took notes on Rachael Ray, Ina Garten, and Giada De Laurentiis' shows.  J. surprised me with a Rachael Ray cookbook that I had been eyeing, and I "Post-It noted" pages of recipes I intended to try.

My first attempt downright sucked.  I made this chicken dish with a pan sauce and it tasted like mush.  When I served it, I told J. not to judge it on its appearance, so he took a bite and I watched his face for his immediate reaction.  It didn't change.  Then he said, "It's...(long pause)...good," hesitantly.  So I took a bite -- and then I spit it out. 

"This is disgusting!!" I said. 

"Well, it's not awful.  I know you worked hard on it." 

I told him that I knew he was just being nice.  I told him he wouldn't hurt my feelings if he said it was bad because it really was terrible.  I told him we were throwing it out and ordering pizza.  And that's exactly what we did.

Then I got on a "George Foreman Grill" kick.  I used it for EVERYTHING: chicken, steak, veggies, sandwiches (which I later learned were called "paninis").  It took forever to make dinner, though, because I had a small version of the grill and I had to cook everything separately.  It was a pain in the butt, quite frankly, and I knew I had to learn to cook for real. 

So I kept watching the cooking channel and started small.  I asked friends and family for no-fail recipes and started with the easy stuff.  I've slowly become better and now cook just about every night for my family. 

Because of this, I'd like to dedicate Mondays on this blog to meals - either ones I've cooked or ones I'd like to try.  I'll include pictures because I feel like you NEED pictures when you're looking for recipes, especially when trying something new.

This week, I'm sharing with you my signature "big salad" (Seinfeld, anyone?).  I was at a get-together yesterday with some of my college roommates and this is what I brought.  It's sort of my "go to" side because it's healthy, yummy, and fast to make.

Here's my ingredient list:
  • Romaine lettuce and spring mix lettuce (I like to use a combo of both)
  • Cucumbers
  • Carrots
  • Tri-colored bell peppers
  • Sharp cheese
  • Grape tomatoes
  • Some sort of pasta (this time I used tri-colored rotini)
Here's the stuff I add that makes it extra yummy:
  • Dried cranberries & glazed walnuts
  • Mango salsa
  • McCormick's "Salad Supreme"
  • Poppyseeds
 Other items I'll add when I have them on hand:
  • Broccoli
  • Red onion
  • Blueberries
  • Blue cheese
  • Croutons
As far as the dressing goes, you really can use anything.  I usually use Good Seasons' Italian dressing mix (not the "zesty" version - just regular) and just follow the directions on the box.  I prefer to make it with balsamic vinegar, but any kind will work.

There are so many possibilities when it comes to salads, so use your imagination!  This just happens to be one of my favorites, but I love to experiment, too.

Have a great Monday!