Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Tuesday Tunes-Paradise Lost

I am a metal girl at heart. I love heavy songs, deep voices, meaningful lyrics, and a good melody. I have so many bands that I consider my favorites that some may view it as kind of silly. But I am not the type of person that can pick one band and say that's my favorite. Because while they may have some amazing songs I feel it's a disservice to all of the other bands in the same genre. So I am a lover of many. But I can tell you some that I will listen to over and over and it will never get old. One of those bands is Paradise Lost.

My husband and I have always wanted to see them live but sadly they very rarely, if ever play in the states. So imagine my surprise when I found out last week I won tickets to a metal festival in Europe and one of the days Paradise Lost is playing! It was an insane moment for me realizing I get to have two dreams come true. Not only do we get to see a band play that's we've long waited to see BUT we also get to go to Europe for the first time. Insert Shana dancing around like a lunatic and giggling like a school girl. Oh yeah and Anthrax is playing as well as Exodus and Chimaira. Color me excited.

Sorry getting off track. I have been listening to Paradise Lost since I met my husband back in 1997. He introduced me to so many different bands and he used to quiz me on some of them back in the day. Ah fun times. So way back when, when I first listened to Paradise Lost I was instantly ohhh'ing and awww'ing in my head. Love at first listen. Corny maybe but I've mentioned before, I love music. Their sound has changed since they first started but they are like a fine wine, they only get better with age. And with that, I will leave you with two of my favorite songs by Paradise Lost.

Don't forget if you are participating in Tuesday Tunes to head on over to High Impact Mom and link up so we can all listen to each others tunes! Click here to be brought directly to the linky.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Make a Weeknight Meal Special Challenge

One of the best things about the cooler weather this time of the year is that it also means it's soup season! I love soup. I am a creamy girl at heart but knowing that's not always the healthiest route it's good to keep your options open and not discount vegetable based soups. 

Bertolli recently came out with a new line of frozen meals called Meal Soup. They offer four different varieties to choose from.
Chicken Minestrone, Roasted Chicken & Rotini Pasta, Tomato Florentine & Tortellini with Chicken and Tuscan-Style Beef with vegetable. 

Here are a few facts about Bertolli
·      Bertolli® Frozen Meal Soups are hearty and fresh-tasting with vegetables, meats, pasta and herbs individually flash frozen at the  peak of freshness.
·      Bertolli® Frozen Meal Soups are available in the frozen aisle, and can be prepared on your stovetop in minutes.
·      With robust flavors and rich textures, new Bertolli® Frozen Meal Soups are available in four varieties: Chicken Minestrone, Roasted Chicken & Rotini Pasta, Tomato Florentine & Tortellini with Chicken, and Tuscan-Style Beef with Vegetables.

Since this is a fairly new product and I live in a small town I was only able to locate one store out here that carried them, and was shocked to see that out of the shelf provided for the soups only one remained. I took that as a good sign that people are enjoying them. If you are worried that the soups aren't carried in your area click here and you can search for a local store that carries the soups. The one that was left on the shelf was the Tomato Florentine & Tortellini with Chicken. Quite honestly even if they had all four in stock I probably would have bought the same one because I am a sucker for tomato soup. I also thought that since it had the tortellini in it then the kids would be more willing to try it. 

I was challenged to make a special meal with Bertolli Soups and do so in under an hours time. One thing I love about doing soup for dinner is it goes with pretty much anything you can think of. The other night I made a chicken and pasta dish that fit right into the Italian theme and since I had plenty of leftovers I decided what better to pair the soup with then our left overs. And it saved me a lot of time just reheating the food as opposed to creating the whole meal.

Many people discount leftovers but they are great for many reasons. A lot of times the flavors become more intense because you've let everything sit together overnight. You can create a whole new dish with leftovers. And best of all, they save time!

Tips on keeping meal prep time down:

Growing up we always ate meals together as a family and I want that for my family. While not always possible since my husband works and attends school I try to get everyone together as often as I can. Some things that I have found that get the kids more excited is serving them in "grown up" dishes. We have three different sets of dishes. Plastic, Corel (glass but break proof glass) and our fancy set that my husband and I use. By serving the kids the Corel plates/bowls they feel more like big kids and what kid doesn't love to pretend like they're older so there is usually less of an issue in getting them all to sit down for dinner which saves me time in chasing them around.

Planning ahead is a BIG time saver when preparing a meal. Making sure you have all ingredients needed so if you find out you are missing one ingredient you wont have to make a mad dash to the store. If it's something that requires a lot of chopping you can pre chop what you need the night before or in the morning, put them in Tupperware and in the fridge until needed later.

Also choose one day a week for an easy meal. Whether it be soup, salad, sandwiches, pizza, wraps, even spaghetti can be started in the afternoon and simmered on low until you're ready for dinner. Just go for something that does not take a lot of prep time but is still tasty.

Now onto the good part, our meal. With my leftovers out and being reheated all I had to do was prepare the soup and dinner would be ready. Pay close attention because here's the difficult part.

1. Put the package in a pot
2. Add one cup of water (per package)
3. Bring to a boil

In five minutes you will end up with an amazing soup that will shock you at it's deliciousness. 

Being a soup lover my expectations were high. I tried to keep an open mind but as soon as the soup started to boil and the smell spread throughout the house I knew the soup would be good. To say I was pleasantly surprised would be an understatement. The spinach was perfect, no stems and it was all ripe so it tasted wonderfully. The chicken was tender and full of flavor and I loved that they were tiny little pieces. They were good size chunks and not a single piece of fat was on any of the pieces. The tortellini was amazing. Just the right amount of cheese filling that was nice and creamy. The pasta was slightly al dente which is a good thing because you don't want soggy pasta which leads to the filling leaking out. And of course the tomato bisque was pure perfection. Nice and creamy without being to heavy. It was full of flavor without being overwhelming. And it paired very well with our leftovers.

All in all this was an amazing soup. That is the first time I have ever said that about a store bought soup. I will admit, I can be very picky when it comes to soups but this one was a home run. Not only from the overall taste of the soup but the cooking time was very fast. Definitely will be keeping this on our favorites list. 

You can connect with Bertolli on Facebook at facebook.com/Bertolli or on Twitter at twitter.com/Bertolli and their Website at villabertolli.com

*I was compensated by Bertolli to participate in the Weeknight Meal Special Challenge. As always all thoughts & opinions stated are my own*

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Tuesday Tunes-Soul touching tunes

Do you have a song that no matter what your mood may be it always brings you to tears? You know those songs that reach down into your core and pull at your heart strings. There's nothing you can do to stop it, only give in and have a good cry. 

I have two.

The first time I heard Only Time by Enya I bawled. It's such a beautiful song. And after 9-11 they played it a lot. So not only did it make me cry because it's beautiful but from the emotions of 9-11. For a few years after 9-11 if I heard this song I always had a soul cleansing cry. Hearing it made me think of all the things that weren't going right, the negatives and then the tragedies of that fateful day and it would smack me in the face at how grateful I truly am for what I have. To this day it still makes me tear up and every once in a while I will put it on when I need some calming tunes to help me regain my wooosaaa.

Now for the second song. It all started during those good ole days of ER. You remember that show right? Remember when Dr Mark Greene spends his last days with his daughter on the beautiful island of Hawaii. Season 8 episode 21, you know you remember it. It is one of the most widely remembered episodes of the show, the one when he passes away. Peacefully. Insert full and complete breakdown with snot and tears flowing freely. Well does anyone remember the song that was playing during this scene? I do. It was Somewhere Over the Rainbow by Israel Kamakawiwo╩╗ole. I loved it the first time I heard it, and then I became a mom and it took on a whole new meaning for me. Every time I hear it I think of my children, from the time they were born until who they are now. And without fail it bring me to tears. Sometimes if I know I need a good cry I will put it on. Of course my kids look at me like I have five noses or something but it does the trick. 

So I have told you what two songs move me to tears and I am wondering if there are others out there that are emotional basket cases beings or if I am alone. Personally I think that everyone out there has at least one song that touches them so deeply they can't help but cry when listening to it. What say you? 

Don't forget if you are participating in Tuesday Tunes to head on over to High Impact Mom and link up so we can all listen to each others tunes! Click here to be brought directly to the linky.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sunset Sunday

I am having a bit of a freak out session over here. The other day while driving home I noticed the gorgeous sunset and when I got home I immediately went to go find my camera. Problem is I couldn't find it! So I start going back through my head trying to remember the last time I used it. Was it before I got back from my Cali trip or after? Did I bring it with me anywhere? Could my kids have gotten to it? Did my husband move it somewhere? I keep coming up with a big I DON'T KNOW. Ack.

So while I run around searching my house like a maniac for my camera I will leave you with these photos I shot on my phone (yay for cameras on phones, what would I do without my beloved iPhone). These are from Friday. After a long day of driving everywhere I got to experience this beautiful sight. Not the greatest quality but beautiful nonetheless.

Almost home

 Looking at the same area 15 minutes later

Craig from Stay Adventurous and I have teamed up to help spread the word on Sunset Sundays. We would love it if you would join us in sharing the simple joys of sunsets & the memories they bring back for you.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Tuesday Tunes-H.I.M. aka my addiction

The beautiful and all around amazing Amanda from High Impact Mom has started a new meme that I think is fantastic. Tuesday Tunes. Being a music lover myself what better way to share your love of music then to share it with others. So as long as I gets my days straight (I have a habit of confusing what day it is) I will be supporting Amanda in her new meme, Tuesday Tunes.
Ever heard of H.I.M.? No not him as in a person but H.I.M. as in the band from Finland. Think Gothic love rock. Ever since I first heard them a few years ago I became instantly obsessed. Okay maybe not obsessed but I do love their music. I am not sure what it is but if I need a pick me up, music to clean to, something to make me smile my go to band is H.I.M. It's the type of music that pulls you in, squeezes you and let's you go feeling as if all is right. And the lead singer isn't bad on the eyes so that may or may not have something to do with it.

Listening to HIM also brings me back memory wise. Now it may not have been that long ago when I started listening to them but that time in my life was full of so many different emotions that it's hard for it not to stir something inside of me. 

It's hard to pick just one because they have so many great songs so I am sharing two of my favorites today. When Love and Death Embrace and Join Me in Death.

Whenever I turn on H.I.M. it's never just to listen to one song. I simply can't do that. I listen to at least an entire albums worth at the very least. It's like an addiction that I just can't seem to give up. But that's totally fine by me. This is one addiction I will welcome with open arms.

Interested in participating in Tuesday Tunes? Just head on over to High Impact Mom and link up!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Best free photo apps for iPhone

Anyone who knows me knows that  I am a photo'holic. I take tons of pictures with my Nikon and with my iPhone. I just cleared off over 1,000 pictures from my phone two days ago and I already have almost 150 pictures on it. One of my favorite things about the iPhone is the plethora of photography apps available to you. And what's even better is there are tons of free one's to choose from also. I share a good portion of my photos via facebook and twitter and sometimes it's nice to add a simple edit to them. I wanted to share a few of my favorites with you all today.

I am sure if you have an iPhone you've already heard about Instagram. It's a free app that allows you to edit photos and share them by linking your account to various social services such as Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Tumblr, Foursquare, Posterous and via email. People can also comment and like your photos on Instagram if they too have an account. 

This app offers a wide variety of filters for you to choose from as well as borders and lighting that you can add to your photo. What I like is they don't have just your typical borders and textures that everyone else has. There are four steps to editing your photo. Upload, filter, lighting and frame. This app also allows you to share your finished project via various social sites. Out of all the editing apps out there this one ranks number 1 on my list simply because of how much they offer. They recently updated the app offering even more edits. There are too many to mention but each new set is only .99 cents which is still a great bargain.

Camera Plus offers anti-shake, automatic save of photos, filters, timer, cropping and of course sharing through social networks. I am not too familiar with Camera Plus. I do have it on my phone but when I had the iPhone3gs it didn't work as well as I had expected. Since upgrading to the iPhone4 I am hoping to play around with this app a little more to learn all that it offers. There is a free version and an upgraded version, Camera Plus Pro which sells for $1.99

This app is my newest obsession. I have been on the hunt for a good free collage app for about a year now.  I have download so many collage apps only to end up disappointed. As you can see there are currently nine different frame options. The app is very easy to use. Simply select your frame, and if you want a theme slide the bottom of the screen to choose from five different theme's or simply leave it at no theme which defaults as a white border. Tap to each section to choose your photo. If you double tap your photo you can choose to add an effect to your photo. Once you are satisfied with your collage you can change the border colors and add rounded corners. Frametastic also offers social sharing via email, twitter, facebook and more. 

Just to show you an example of the collage here are two collages that I recently made. 

There you have it. My top free photo editing apps. I use three out of the four apps I mentioned almost daily and don't have any complaints about them. With the way technology is constantly growing I am sure there are apps out there that I do not know about. If you have a favorite free photo editing app that's not listed above I would love to hear about it.

*For your convenience all the titles of the Apps are linked directly to the App store*

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sunset Sunday-Huntington Beach

Looking back at photos from our time spent in Huntington Beach always brings back good memories for me. We had friends and family close to us. In fact it was the one time we lived within driving distance from my brother and sister in law. We were able to have family around when my daughter was born, weekly bbq's. It was a very special time for us and wouldn't trade it for anything.

It was also really fun to go to the local festivities they held out there. Watching fireworks while sitting on the beach (seriously an amazing sight), the parades, the fair, the surfing competitions, etc.
I don't remember when exactly my husband captured this shot but looking at it always makes me smile and remember what a blessed time we had while we lived there.

This photo is straight from the camera. Only edit done was to add the rounded corners. I love how the sun is setting right over a rig and with the waves, the colors, Catalina in the distance, it's an amazing photo. Mad props to my husband for getting such a beautiful shot.

Craig from Stay Adventurous and I have teamed up to help spread the word on Sunset Sundays. We would love it if you would join us in sharing the simple joys of sunsets & the memories they bring back for you.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Matzo and Eggs

I was beyond excited to find Eggs & Onion Matzo, let alone Matzo at all at the store last week. I don't know what happened but about a year ago the stores where I used to live in Cali stopped carrying it and it's the only kind I eat. Well I should say the one I prefer, plain matzo is just that, plain. What do you do with matzo besides eat it like crackers? Why make matzo & eggs of course! Everyone has their own way of making them. I've even heard of people eating them with jelly on top. Slightly weird in my opinion, but hey, to each their own. My Grandpa used to make the absolute mest matzo & eggs. Not dry yet not runny, they were perfect. I haven't had matzos & eggs for well over a year now so naturally the first thing I did the next morning after buying the matzo & got everything needed to make some for the kids & I. Today I am sharing my version of matzos and eggs. 

Matzo & Eggs

3 eggs
2 pieces of matzo
Salt & pepper to taste

 Break up the matzo in a bowl
 Pour water into the bowl & let soak for a few minutes
 You don't want it totally soggy but not crunchy either
 Then drain
 Then put in your eggs & milk & mix
 Add salt & pepper to taste
 Cook on medium heat
Devour Enjoy & savor the flavors

There you have it, a simple recipe for matzo & eggs. I know this recipe isn't for everyone, my husband still can't get used to having "crackers" in his eggs but the kids love it as do I.

Have you had matzos & eggs before? Do you prepare them differently or have something special you eat them with? I'd love to hear about the different ways you've had matzo & eggs.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Wordless Wednesday-Sisters

Here I am late again for another Wordless Wednesday post. Seems to be coming a bit of a trend with me lately. I typically have a plethera of photos to choose from but I seem to be going through a dry spell with my camera. 

This is a picture I took of my sister and I during my visit to California last week. I don't have many pictures of us together so I was quite happy that this one came out pretty decent. 

For more inspiring photos be sure to check out:

Monday, January 9, 2012

iHeart faces Photo Challenge-Best Face Photo from 2011

It's been a while since I participated in one of iHeart Faces photo challenges. This weeks theme is "Best Face Photo from 2011" and while I have a ton of pictures from last year one stuck out in my mind. The shot I took on Christmas of all three kids. I swear it was like some mystic force came upon them and they all looked right at me and smiled. It was perfect! 

I love that you can see a bit of each kids personalities shining through. Baby girl, my spunky little thing. baby boy, always goofing off and my little man who is always the calm one. 

If you'd like to participate in iHeart Faces photo challenge simply click here and link up! 
I Heart Faces Photo Challenge & Photography Tutorials

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Sunset Sunday-Goodbye SFO

I know I have been a little lack on my Sunset Sunday posting and for that I apologize. Between the holidays and a surprise trip to California my mind has been on overdrive. I sat down this morning to search through some old photos when I remembered I had taken a few shots while in California and ended up finding two shots I took from the plane as we took off from San Francisco. Lucky for me they actually turned out. I wasn't expecting them to since I quickly turned on the camera, took the pictures and then right away turned it off. Sneaky, but I couldn't resist capturing the view.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Wordless Wednesday-Cali style

Happy Wordless Wednesday everyone. This week has been one chalked full of all kinds of emotions. Happy, sad, excited, a bit of anxiety and fun. I fly back home tomorrow and while I will miss my family I cannot wait to see my husband and babies. I miss them so much and I may or may not have cried a few times because I am just a sap like that. 
Here are a few pictures of what I have been up to while I've been here.

 Got a new purse big enough for my laptop, yay for sales and gift cards!

 My sister treated me to my very first manicure

 It's January and I am wearing capris...woohoo

Right after acting like little children with my sister and niece and 
we all cried from laughing so hard. Fun time right there.

Drinking coffee from the cup I gave my parents of the kids. I've used it every day since I've been here. This mama bear misses her babies.

For more inspiring photos be sure to check out: