Photo Collage Fun!

I have always seen photo collages on other blogs and never knew how to do them. Today, I learned how to do it! And it’s SUPER easy! I downloaded Picasa for free on my mac, it automatically uploaded all the photos on my computer, I chose a folder, and clicked create collage. I am now obsessed and will probably use this for every single blog post from here out. Here is the first one I made from a mix of photos from my honeymoon in Kauai and my last trip to Oahu a few months ago. Some were taken from my point and shoot and some from my new DSLR. Can you tell which is which?

Carmel Beach

One of my favorite places in the world is Carmel Beach. I have been going there since I was a little girl and not much makes me happier than this spot. This particular day was very foggy and overcast, but it was still a beautiful day for a walk on the beach!

Monterey Flowers

Here are some photos of the gorgeous flowers I saw while visiting family in Monterey, CA.


Photo of The Week, Week 6

There were so many beautiful flowers in Monterey, but this one was my favorite!

What’s In a Name?

I got married last September and when I said “I do” to my husband,  I also said “I don’t” to changing my last name. Before the wedding I did go back and forth a little on the idea of having two last names. I remember thinking, “Well I want people to know we’re married,” and “Wouldn’t it be easier if we had the same last name?”  Ultimately I decided I didn’t care if people thought we were married, because we knew we were married. And having two last names on top of my already long middle name was just too much.

Photography by John the Photographer

Most people I tell this to don’t understand my reasoning. Some people (mostly older women) are shocked and even offended that I didn’t make the “full commitment” to my husband and take his name. Yes, that has actually been said to me before. Other people think I did it because I’m lazy and didn’t want to go to the DMV (this one could be partially true), and a “friend” recently told me in front of all her friends that I only did it because my mom didn’t change her name when she got married, therefore it must be a tradition. Cause you know, I can’t think or make decisions for myself.

So here’s why I didn’t do it-  It wasn’t because I am already established in my career with my maiden name and don’t want to confuse people, it wasn’t because I felt like it was something I had to do, or I had pressure from my family. I kept it for me, and me only. It is my name after all. My name is a part of me, and it always has been. I have had it since I was born, so why change it now? I also have a sort of love/hate relationship with my name. It isn’t the most beautiful sounding name or the easiest to spell, and I often get sick of people misplacing the ‘h’ or mispronouncing it all together, but once again, it is mine. It reminds me of that side of my family who although they’re kind of crazy, I absolutely love and wouldn’t trade for anything. I like being a part of that group, I like the connection we have by having the same name that was given to all of us as newborns.  My name also reminds me of my heritage. It is a Jewish name that has been shortened over the years, but I know where it came from.

Now, as much as I love my husband (and his last name isn’t too shabby either) I didn’t feel right losing my independent identity just because I married him. Because he is the kind of man he is, he didn’t care either way. When I was discussing it with him before we got married he even once said “Why change your name? Who cares? We’re still going to be married. If you don’t want to change it, don’t.” This is one of the many reasons why I know I married the right guy.

So, when we walked down the aisle after we said our vows, the officiant announced us and said “Amanda and Troy as husband and wife!” instead of “Mr. and Mrs. Troy____” I loved this announcement. That is what we were—husband and wife. I was not just the “Mrs” version of my husband, I was a part of a marriage and a commitment, but I didn’t need to lose myself to be in that commitment. I have always hated when women agree to be announced or even addressed as “Mrs. John Smith.” “Mrs. Smith” is one thing if you decide to change your name, but why in the world is it okay for your FIRST name to be replaced by your husband’s? As if you are no longer your own entity, and only his first name is important enough to be announced to all your friends and family.

* Disclaimer-  I am not saying every woman should keep her last name. That is a choice each woman needs to make for herself. It wasn’t right for me, but I don’t judge anyone who follows the tradition of taking on her spouse’s name. But why don’t the men take our names? Okay, okay, even I know that would never fly, but then why should we be judged if we don’t take theirs?

Grillin’

So I know I’ve been posting about food a ton lately..but hey, I like to eat! After visiting the market yesterday I had so many veggies that we decided to put all of them on the grill! And even a little fruit! That is one of my favorite things about summer, cooking outside makes everything taste better. We tried a few new things on the BBQ this time. We grilled apples and watermelon, which we’ve never had before. I loved the apples, but I’m not sure I’ll do the watermelon again. I found a recipe online that said to rub honey on the watermelon before grilling and I didn’t really love the flavor combination.

What is your favorite thing to grill?

 

Another Farmer’s Market Wednesday

Today I visited the farmer’s market twice. Once around 10:30 to beat the crowd and buy my fruit and veggies, and the again when I met my husband for lunch and we walked around to enjoy the weather and music. There is usually some sort of music playing at lunch time in the park on Wednesday’s and today it was especially good. I walked around listening to the man playing the sax and after a few seconds of wondering “why does this sound so familiar?” I realized he was playing a Michael Jackson song. I’d never heard a saxophone rendition of any Michael Jackson songs, but it was good! Gotta love Wednesdays!

Giant heirlooms. I wish mine grew like this!

The flowers at the market are so cheap!

The bundles were only $6 and the larger ones are just $10!

Bru-ske-tta

If you read my  Tomatoes Tomatoes Tomatoes post…you know that I have a garden full of tomatoes and in the summer, I eat them just about everyday.

I am always trying to think of new ways recipes and ways to eat them. This one is definitely not new, but I think I have perfected it over the years. I love this recipe because it is so simple. You only use fresh, light ingredients, most of which I can find in my backyard, it’s quick, and so tasty! I learned how to make bruschetta (pronounced bru-ske-tta, not bru-she-tta like most people say here) when I was living in Northern Italy. I had always loved bruschetta at home and thought it would be fairly similar.

When I sat down in my cooking class, which was held in a little Italian woman’s living room, I was surprised by the way she taught us how to make this old favorite. She baked the bread until it was lightly toasted, just like at home. Then she peeled a clove of garlic and cut it in half. She did the same with a large tomato. Next she rubbed the garlic on the bread and then the tomato, she poured a little olive oil, sprinkled a little salt, added a fresh piece of basil  and said “va bene.”

I looked at her confused. Where where the chopped up tomatoes? Where was the balsamic vinegar? I was skeptical of this thing she called bruschetta..but of course, it was delicious. It was so flavorful despite the fact that there was nothing actually on it. This was her speedy version of bruschetta and I thought it was genius. I now use this recipe when I am tired and don’t feel like doing much cooking or prep work, or I’m just in a hurry to make a good party appetizer. Although I love this fast, easy, Italian version of bruschetta, I still don’t think you can compare it to having fresh tomatoes and basil spill over your toasted bread as you take a bite. So here is my version of bruschetta. I make it “speedy” by recruiting my husband to do most of the chopping.

Here is what you’ll need:

Tomatoes of course!(diced)I like to mix up the variety here. Yellow pear tomatoes and red cherry tomatoes are my favorite. I like to add an heirloom in the mix if I have one.

Green onions – I like to use green because they are more mild than regular onions, thinly chopped

Fresh Basil (the key here is FRESH), torn apart

One sourdough baguette, sliced

Balsamic Vinegar

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Slice bread into small pieces. Place on baking sheet and brush with Olive Oil. Broil for 3-5 minutes until bread is crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. Place diced tomatoes, onion, and basil in a bowl. Mix together with a little salt and pepper.

Tomatoes mixed with onions and basil

Spoon tomato mixture on top of bread slices. Drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar over the bread.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper and enjoy! I promise you’ll love this!

Va Bene!

Photo of The Week, Week 5

Crazy flower from my backyard.

How to: Make Delicious Chicken Tortilla Soup

I work a 9-5 Monday through Friday and eat lunch out way too often. When I don’t bring my own lunch I end up spending too much money on unhealthy food and regretting it later. So, this weekend I decided to make an easy meal that I could take to work for a few days during the week. I wanted something easy that I could just throw together in my slow cooker, but I wanted it to be healthy as well. So I pulled out my old slow cooker recipe book and found this one. Tortilla Soup! Notice my handy-dandy cookbook stand? This was a wedding gift that I absolutely love. You can still find it at Crate and Barrel.

Here is what you will need:

4 boneless skinless chicken thighs (I use organic)

4 large fresh tomatoes, diced

1 yellow onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 can green chilies

1 cup chicken broth (I use organic)

4 Thai chillies finely chopped (use one-two jalapenos if you have them)

1 Avocado, sliced

2 tablespoons fresh cilantro

4 corn tortillas, sliced into ¼ inch strips

1 teaspoon cumin

Salt and pepper to taste

*The recipe in the book called for canned tomatoes, but I really prefer fresh ingredients. Everything listed above I either picked from my garden, or bought from my local farmer’s market.

Place the chicken in the slow cooker. Mix broth, cumin, onions, garlic, chillies, salt, pepper, and tomatoes in a large bowl. Pour over chicken and cook on high for 3 hours (or slow for 6 hours). Take chicken out once cooked all the way through and shred into pieces. Return shredded chicken to slow cooker. Before serving add sliced tortillas and cilantro and stir. Serve with sliced avocado and garnish with fresh cilantro. This recipe was so easy and delicious! And very easy to transport to work. Enjoy!

Mixture of tomatoes, onions, garlic, and chillies

Gotta go organic!

All the ingredients in the slow cooker. The chicken is underneath.

These are the thai chillies I used because our jalapeno plant didn't make it this year.

Topped with sliced avocado and fresh cilantro

The finished product.