Laugh Smile Love

A few photographs of my nieces while we were cutting down a Christmas tree last weekend.

Follow your Heart

Laugh Smile Love

Farewell to Fall

I took these photos on Thanksgiving in my parent’s neighborhood to try to capture the end of fall. I will be sad to see these amazing colors go as we head into winter!

Lights

Just playing with the focus on my  Canon T3i. The photos are pretty grainy but it was so dark in my living room I’m not sure I could have avoided it.

This is our tree. I usually do an all blue and silver tree and this year I stuck to just white, silver, and clear. I love the monochromatic, simple look of it.

Photo of the Week – Morning Dew

 

Run to Feed the Hungry

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving (obviously) and I have been looking forward to this day for a few months now. Partly because of time with family and , but also because it is the annual Run to Feed the Hungry in my hometown. I have done this run every year that I have been in town since 2004 (which has only been 3 or 4 years) and I always used to struggle just to run the whole 5k. I always ended up run/walking it, but regardless, it was always a great time and raised money for a great cause. They expect 27,000 participants this year. It really is an amazing event.

This year I have been so excited because I knew running the 5k would be a piece of cake (or a piece of pumpkin pie I should say) and running the 10k wouldn’t be so bad either since I recently ran 13.1 miles straight.

Today I picked up my race packet and my super sweet dry-fit shirt to get ready for the run tomorrow. The only problem…I’ve been sick for 10 days with no end in sight. I feel fine except for a horrible cough that won’t go away and I am starting to think the 10k isn’t in the cards for me. This is so disappointing because I’ve been looking forward to this run as a personal goal. Every year that I have done this race in the past I have looked at all the people running the 6.2 miles and thought, “Wow. That’s impressive.” I have always been so exhausted after the 3 mile run that I could never even imagine how people were STILL running when I was done with my 5k. How are these people STILL going when I am exhausted and huffing and puffing? After completing a 1/2 marathon and finally thinking of myself as a runner I was so looking forward to being one of those people who were still going.

This photo is from a past year’s Run to Feed the Hungry.

Photo Cred.

So, at the very least I am going to run the 5k and maybe, just maybe, in the morning if I am feeling good enough I will run the 10k. I guess there’s always next year, right?

Butter Bean, Sun-dried Tomato and Pesto Soup

I have been sick with a nasty cold for over a week now and all I have been wanting to eat is delicious, warm soup. This past weekend I made two soups and this one was the easiest and the most tasty. I have had this cook book for a few years now and never made anything from it until this soup. Everything in the book only requires 3-4 ingredients. How easy is that?

All you need is 4 cups chicken broth, 4 tbsp. sun-dried tomato paste, 4 tbsp. pesto, and 2 cans white lima beans (or butter beans). I also added some sautéed onions to the soup because I already had them on hand from the other soup I was making.

First you add the butter beans to the broth in a large pot and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and slowly ladle the beans and broth mixture into a food processor. Mix until creamy and transfer back into the pot. Then blend the sun-dried tomatoes into a paste in the food processor (or blender). Add that to the bean and broth mixture along with the pesto and onions.

Let simmer for 15 minutes and serve. I added a little cayenne pepper to the mix and topped the soup off with a little Tapatio because I like everything a little spicy. This soup was hearty and delicious and was so easy and fast to make. I think this will be a recipe I make every winter!

How to: Throw a Fall Wine Tasting Party at Home

For my 26th birthday this year I decided to throw a wine tasting party at my house. I invited about 20 of my closest friends and bought some wine. Well, a lot of wine.

I headed to the nearest Marshalls and bought about 30 red and white inexpensive wine glasses and placed them on a fall table runner that I already had.

I also bought little paper name cards for the wine glasses so people wouldn’t misplace their glasses.

I bought inexpensive wine pourers for each bottle at Cost Plus.

And I placed floating candles (left-overs from my wedding) into small vases and glasses I already had with water and gold/orange beads.

My sister-in-law gave us three wine barrels that we were going to use for planters in our backyard. Before cutting them in half we realized they would be perfect for the party! I cleaned them up a little, covered them with fabric fall leaves, and placed snacks and wine on them in different places throughout the house.

We filled a decanter and placed it by the front door with some candles.

I had one more vase to fill so I put floating candles and beads in it with a few leaves and some water.

For food we had nuts (in large wine glasses), pretzels with macadamia nut mustard, salami and crackers, olives, bread with jalapeno olive oil and pomegranate balsamic vinegar, brie with pesto wrapped in baked  dough with crackers and lots of grapes!

I used more floating candles, beads, and wine corks for decor.

I also made a few little tasting note cards to place with the wine so people knew what to look for.

We played a blind wine tasting game that a friend gave me a few years back. We placed 10 bottles of wine in numbered bags and everyone wrote down tasting notes and tried to guess what they were drinking. This game way much harder than I imagined, but super fun!

For dessert we had port with lemon and red velvet cake pops (not homemade, I bought them here and they were delicious!) We also had brownie bites and chocolate pirouettes (from Costco).

The last photo is my husband and me enjoying the party. Don’t you just love his bowtie?

We set up a tri-pod with my camera on a timer so people could take their own photos, like our own little photo booth.

Would You Like a Beer with Your Run?

Last night my friend at work and I did the Fleet Feet Fun Run in Sacramento. We started at the Fleet Feet downtown and did a three-mile run ending at the Golden Bear. Fleet Feet passed out free drink tickets for the Bear and we just couldn’t resist. A cold beer sounded pretty tasty after a good run. Usually these runs only have about 20-30 attendees but this week’s was huge! I think there were close to 100 people last night (probably because of the free booze). After the run they had a raffle back at the bar and I even won a free dry-fit shirt. The name that was pulled after mine won a free pair of new Saucony running shoes! I was so close! Oh well, maybe next time. My friend and I plan on running these little fun-runs every week. I love to run outside, but never feel safe on my own in the dark. Now that daylight savings has passed it is too dark to run alone after work, so this is the perfect alternative. There are enough people in the group that I feel totally safe to run at night and it is much more motivating with a large group of people to keep going. Looking forward to next week! If you don’t have a fleet feet in your area, you can find running groups to join here.

Stuffed Bell Peppers

Last night I made stuffed bell peppers with chicken sausage, brown rice, and some veggies. It was an easy, delicious dish that you could also make vegetarian by taking out the sausage.

Here is what you’ll need:

– 1 cup cooked brown rice

– 1/2 red onion, chopped

– 2 stalks of celery, chopped

– 1 clove garlic, minced

– 1 large tomato, chopped (or 1/2 cup chopped cherry tomatoes, which is what I used)

– 2 large bell peppers (I used one yellow and one red)

– 2 tbsp. olive oil

– 2 chicken sausage links, chopped (I used Adele’s mango and jalapeno sausage)

– 1 jalapeno, diced (you can leave this out if you don’t like spicy food)

– 1 glass of red wine (for drinking, not for cooking)

Directions:

Pre-heat your over to 350 degrees. Saute onions, garlic, jalapeno, and celery in olive oil until soft, about 5 minutes. Add in chopped sausage until warm (this sausage is pre-cooked, and just needs to be heated through). Once sausage is warm, add chopped tomatoes and cooked brown rice. Cut off the tops of the bell peppers and clean out insides. Add rice and sausage mixture to bell peppers and place in oven on a baking dish. Bake for 20 minutes or until peppers are soft. Sprinkle with a little paprika and serve warm.

Creamy Butternut Squash Pasta Sauce

Now that the weather is finally starting to cool down and it’s actually looking a little like fall outside, I have been craving a rich, creamy fall pasta. So, I decided to make a butternut squash sauce.
I wanted this to be quick and easy, so I picked up a package of cubed butternut squash from whole foods.

Here is what you’ll need:

– 1 medium yellow onion, diced

-1 clove garlic, minced

– 1 1/2 cups butternut squash, cubed

– 1 tbsp. olive oil

– Fresh parsley, torn

– Fresh Basil, torn

– 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper (or other red pepper)

– 1/4 cup butter

-1/2 white wine

– 1/2- 3/4 cup chicken or vegetable stock

– salt and pepper to taste

– pasta of your choice

Directions:

Cook onions and garlic in olive oil until they start to turn clear. Then add wine and broth and bring to a boil. Add squash and lower heat. Throw in parsley, salt and pepper, and cayenne pepper and cover. Let cook until squash is tender, about 10-15 minutes. While the squash is cooking, start your pasta. When the squash is ready mash with a fork or potato masher to make a thick consistency. Add water or broth to thin out the sauce at this point if necessary. Add butter and stir. Serve over freshly cooked pasta of your choice and top with torn basil and a little red pepper. The buttery sauce goes great with a glass of nice chardonnay.