Thursday, October 24, 2013

Chili Cook Off

Saturday our city had a Fall Fest and I entered the chili cook off. Preparation started a month ago as I began to formulate my recipe. First I went to one of my favorite chef, Rachael Ray and checked out her cookbooks at the library. I decided to go with chicken chorizo chili because my favorite meal is her chicken chorizo burritos that I've done a post on before here. I love that chorizo is a little bit spicy but most of all , I love the color; a deep rich red that when ground and cooked turns the whole dish that beautiful color.

Once I had my meats down, I scoured my other favorite go-to source for cooking; It had so many high rated chilies and I combined the best parts of all of them, which left me with a list of ingredients a page long:
 Once I had my recipe, it was on to the prep! I started 24 hours before the cook off with soaking my beans for 7 hours, and getting my chicken slow cooked in the crock pot for 4 hours. After combining them, I noticed it was sour tasting! Oh no, the cans of fire-roasted tomatoes tasted too much like  vinegar and were acidic adding a tang that I didn't like. I thought I was destined to lose until a quick google search rendered some great tips! By adding brown sugar and cinnamon, it brought back the flavors of smoky and added a yummy sweet to it! My chili was ready to go to the cook-off  booth.

After giving samples in Styrofoam bowls to each of the twelve judges, all the competitors sampled each other's and they were so good too!! The winners were announced shortly after that. First place went to a team of three gentlemen who I'm pretty sure were professional chefs since they had chef jackets on with labels from a winery? I'm not sure. Then a sweet lady who was a real gourmet-type food and home chef won second and I was third!
I was so happy to win a $75 gift card to Albertsons! I already used it for my groceries this week :)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Vegas Trip

Last week the boys and I tagged along with Tim on a business trip to Las Vegas for three days. Normally when he travels, it is just easier in a sense to go with him; no (beyond) long days at home starting at the crack of dawn with breakfast and ending in bathtime, pajamas and teeth brushing. Normally we hang out in the hotel during the day, the lobby at the usual hotel is non-smoking, provides breakfast and for lunch we can walk and get something or order a pizza. But this trip they put us up at the Excalibur hotel. You know, that castle looking one? With the casino that smells of vanilla cigarettes.
Tower I of the Excalibur; a special sort of hell.

Turns out Tim was doing an Expo for the car dealers and worked from the crack of dawn until after the night time routine; thereby negating that whole "at least having Daddy home after a normal work-day" benefit of traveling with him. He was at least still able to sleep at night with us, which is nice because when he is gone, I don't sleep as well.

So, we had three 12-hour days inside the Excalibur hotel. And, I can say we survived. For breakfast, lunch and dinner we had to go down the 19 floors to the casino restaurants like McD's, Baja Fresh and Krispy Kreme. And the rest of the time we spent just inside the room watching TV, playing with the toys I brought them. I was like glued to the hotel queen bed.

Love my boys but if you know me, I hate laying around, watching TV. I missed the gym, and going places, and my candles and was sad I couldn't work.

One time for an hour I took the boys down to the "fun dungeon" arcade to play some games, and Timmy won 500 tickets and got like 20 little toys.
There was pretty much no where else to go! The casino smelled too bad to be enjoyable.
The stressful night we ventured out:
We got to spend 20 minutes inside the Bellagio gardens with Daddy when he went to drop off the car for us since his Expo was also there on the strip.

Troy was already being a grump and we still had three more hours of "fun" on the strip.
 The Bellagio was pretty, and smelled decent!

It was all decked out for fall.

Tim took me to Paris...
...well, the patio of the Bellagio hotel where you could faintly see the Paris hotel, which I'm sure is just as good! I took the boys to dinner, then to frozen yogurt then was trying to stay out until Tim was off, which was hard because the boys were so tired and grumpy. It was a hot mess.

Finally, after 3 and a half days, Tim was done with his work in Vegas so we were FREEEEEEEEE!

Stinky, but free.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Pumpkin Patch

 I had been yearning for a pumpkin patch visit. Last fall, at our former apartment we went to the pumpkin patch down the street at the fair grounds so many times. It was $5 for 30 minutes of free play on all the inflatables, and since we went at night during the week, it was empty. It was so much fun and Timmy asks about it frequently. So Sunday night I planned on going, called ahead and made sure the boys were comfy and brought my big camera and we were on our way after dinner.

 It was a really beautiful, with the string lights and smell of fresh hay.

 We bought some tickets so the boys could go on the inflatables, and little rides. Troy loved driving the "cars" and of course Timmy went crazy on the huge slides.
It was a fun hour or so, and then it was time to get going home for baths and bedtime, but I was convinced (by the older boys) to stop in In-N-Out for a big Neopolitan shake to share.

Perfect night :)

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Fall Decor

 I finally pulled the fall decorations out of the garage, hanging this little leaf artwork Timmy and I made when he was the only child!
 My fall place-mats I sewed, atop a bright white tablecloth. A fall candle "sweater-weather" is burning...which I am learning that scents are really so personal. For some this particular fragrance with its hints of eucalyptus and juniper flower takes them to crisp walks outside, but being they are not indigenous plants here, I just like that it's soothing and pleasant.
 This tray I bought at a craft fair near old home in Costa Mesa, at the fair grounds. It reminded me of Timmy when I had just my one little boy.
 This pumpkin now joins the armoire display which is a good reminder; everything good that I have has been a gift,  so  far be it from me that I should boast in anything except Jesus.
 Apples and caramel dip...does it get much more fall than that?
And my little yarn wrapped wreath that started it all. I have made three since then, one to be auctioned, and one even featured on another local blog this year!

I think what is so fun about decorating for the fall is that it really gets you in the spirit of the holidays  and just makes me feel all  lit up inside. Also, they can bring back so many nostalgic memories of only this time of year, from years past.  Of warm tea in sample cups sipped, shopping bag on arm, browsing the aisles of homemade creations while talking with dear friends.  Or nighttime walks through the neighborhoods with busy streets to pumpkin patches with towering inflatable slides. Or spooky walks through the park at night with a breeze rustling.

How do you decorate for fall?

Monday, October 7, 2013

Santa Barbara Trip

 Thursday after Timmy's doctor appointment, Tim picked us up and we all headed up to Santa Barbara. Tim had a few appointments on the way up and we got to downtown around dinner time. We checked out a few shops and then ate sushi for dinner.
 Timmy had gotten car sick (forgot to give him dramamine!) so he was not into dinner...
 Troy shared edamame and my Rainbow Roll. It was his first time, but he liked it;  I was a little surprised, even though he is known to be quite the foodie.

 After  dinner we made our way through the mission-style shops with exposed beams, stucco and tile walkways.

 I loved all the architecture and special details that gives the city a distinct charm, and ambiance. I know if Timmy was feeling better we would have ran the grounds through the librarie's columned, wrap-around patios, and large, grassy yards, but alas, he really just wanted to get to the hotel!

 Really at that point,we were all excited for the hotel! And relieved to have refreshments from the lobby to perk Timmy back up. The room was so pretty, with space looking wall-paper and a little enclosed patio filled with the lush foliage so common there.
 We all went to bed very early that night (8 o'clock!), exhausted from lots of driving and a very long day.
 Poor Troy kept waking up at night as he came down with a fever! Tim went out for baby aspirin and brought back breakfast at 5 in the morning.
 After a couple hours resting, and Troy's temperature back to normal, I packed the boys up for a walk to the Santa Barbara Zoo. It was a mile-long or so; along a beach parallel path, full of people out for their morning exercise. We could hear the waves crashing on the shore, and smell the salty air.
 Santa Barbara is known for it's art, and had this beautiful piece enticing Timmy to touch all the colors! It seemed everyone we passed just was so  friendly with big smiles...
 Probably because they noticed this cute little guy asleep in his stroller :)
 We made it to the zoo to see all the animals, and enjoyed the beautiful location nestled in thick greenery and sprawling views and even fed a giraffe in his beach-front enclosure. There was also a great play area for the boys to climb and play in.
 A humming bird :)

 Troy loves turtles. He says it so cute.
 Timmy loved being able to run around in the shady respite of the over sized palms.
 My FAVORITE animal; the Fennec Fox! It's probably the only animal comparable in cuteness to our Sary-dog!

 After the train ride it was back to the playground until Daddy could pick us up. Troy loved running up and down this little bridge.

 And Timmy slid down this AstroTurf covered hill on pieces of cardboard left by well-versed moms who knew of this fun little activity!

Tim picked us up after his appointment and off we went back home! With a stop for Dramamine this time though.

And a special thank-you to our friend Jess who took care of our dog while we were gone and just went above and beyond being a helper for us!! We are so blessed by you!