Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Things that make me happy..

These are just a few of the things bringing a smile to my face right now:

1) Organization. I present, a little before-and-after that makes my heart sing (GAH cannot. stand. clutter):

Before: a messy slew of shoes every time I walk in the door, to trip over!
After: Ahhh so much better. 
2) Living near the Smithsonian Museums:

3) My aunt and uncle joining us for Thanksgiving, then taking us to the Building Museum:

Photo credit: My uncle

4) Creative holiday wrapping ideas, from Pinterest:

I'm the next Martha Stewart! Not really..
Yes, I'm that annoying neighbor who has all their Christmas decorations up this early, so I'll be sharing soon. 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Simple Sun Candles: Black Friday through Cyber Monday SALE!

I hope you enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving, with good food and great company!

Candy Cane 8 oz. Tumbler Candle

Just a quick post to announce my Simple Sun Candles shop Black Friday through Cyber Monday SALE! Take 15% off your entire order, all weekend long, with coupon code: HAPPYHOLIDAYS12
Coupon code is valid Friday 11/23 through Monday 11/26.

Christmas Cabin 24 oz. Jar Candle

I have added several festive holiday fragrances, so be sure to check out the new listings! If you don't see something specific you are looking for, there's always the You Choose the Scent  candles! 
Christmas Memories 8 oz. Mason Jar Candle

Wishing everybody some great deals during your Black Friday shopping!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

A few of my favorite things, November 2012

Celebrating the season of giving thanks, here are a few of my favorite things for November 2012.

Favorite things Nov 2012
Image sources: 123,  45#s

1) Why yes, I am a 27-year-old adult individual who plays laser tag on a somewhat-regular basis. However, laser tag presents a wonderful opportunity to take out all of your frustrations and aggressions on unsuspecting children that you don't know, which is perfectly healthy, no? As I get older, this game just gets more and more fun. As a family, we all enjoy it and thus it presents the perfect bonding opportunity. Or shoot-to-the-death competition between family members, whatever. ADDED BONUS: It's AWESOME cardio. You will leave the arena covered in sweat, if you are as competitive and serious about it as I am. Which everyone is, right?

2) So, I have talked before about how I find it peaceful and calming to maintain a clean home. Now that I have a job (current status: employed... woo-hoo!) I wanted to still clean but in much less time. This Eureka Enviro Hard-Surface Floor Steamer,313A is AWESOME in that rather than pull out the bucket and (dirty gross) mop, add cleaner, fill said bucket with hot water, sweep floors, mop, and then empty dirty water, you can simply fill up the steamer with water and it sanitizes your floor with steaming hot water! I LOVE that it uses no chemicals and therefore is eco-friendly, and is so easy to use. Just plug in, fill with water, let it heat up and mop. Again, I'm gushing over a mop (akin to gushing over a pair of stretchy skinny jeans) but here we are. Ahem.

3) My lips have been peeling away and in such a sad state since the weather turned cold. Despite using EVERY chapstick-type deal on the face of the planet, every five minutes throughout the day (okay, maybe I'm exaggerating), nothing alleviated my situation. Enter: Burt's Bees Ultra Moisturizing Lip Treatment with Kokum Butter, .25 oz. I use this once in the AM and once in the PM, and my lips are GOLDEN I tell you. Not literally golden golden. But they're good. I'm happy. And my lips no longer hurt and/or peel off at inopportune times throughout the day. AND they add a nice subtle glossy finish. Hurrah!

4) ZOMG. So, as a long-time Tiramisu lover, I introduced Dylan to this fantasmagoric dessert while summering in Saudia Arabia last year, at a Macaroni Grill (go figure, they have those there). He instantly fell in love, so when it was time to select his birthday dessert, he chose the Tiramisu Torte in the frozen foods section at Trader Joe's. We celebrated his birthday with this and all loved it. Simply remove from freezer and thaw for a few hours, and then die of happiness and Tiramisu overload. Repeat as needed.

5) We love all the Charlie Brown seasonal specials, and this one continues the tradition of teaching a meaningful lesson and being charmingly hilarious. A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (Remastered Deluxe Edition) features not only the 25-minute special where Charlie Brown is inundated by guests inviting themselves to his feast (BEEN THERE, DONE THAT CHUCK), but also a fantastically-done special on the pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock, the hardships they experienced traveling to America, the illness and difficulty they had finding land and settling once there, and why they continued to show faith and thanks and the wonderful teachings of Native Americans that helped them (okay, so not the whole story...). It's very touching, and according to my sources, historically accurate. Note: My sources are me assuming it is historically accurate.

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Friday, November 16, 2012

Black Bean & Corn Southwestern Quinoa

I am often intimidated by 'trendy' health foods, and slowly get my feet wet until I am able to start incorporating them into my cooking on a regular basis. For instance, coconut oil was something I thought was too expensive to use and would add a weird taste to my foods. I actually found it to be quite affordable at Trader Joe's, and started making my microwave popcorn with it (WHICH I HIGHLY RECOMMEND). Now, I'm using it in place of olive oil in almost everything, from stir fry to baking and loving it. Quinoa was similar (and equally scary) to me, until I started using this recipe. The wonderful thing about Quinoa is that it is a great source of protein in a seed, which gives us the benefits of protein without the fat and sodium found in meat dishes.

This recipe is one of the few in my mind that meets the criteria of being healthy, filling, delicious, and easy to make. It is another work-approved dish in that whenever leftovers are brought for lunch, people inevitably ask me for the recipe. It's great to 'doll up' with guacamole, salsa, sour cream, cheese.. whatever you put on your tacos will go well on this.

Heat a few teaspoons of vegetable oil (I use olive or coconut, both work well) in a pan and stir in one chopped onion and 3 cloves garlic (diced) until the onions are slightly browned and the garlic is fragrant. Add in 3/4 cup uncooked quinoa and stir into the mixture for a few moments.

Add in 1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth to cover the quinoa, in addition to 1 teaspoon ground cumin (side question: Is it pronounced coo-min or cue-min?), 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, and salt and pepper to taste. 

Bring the mixture to a boil, then cover the pan, reduce heat, and allow it to simmer for about 20 minutes (mine takes around 15-17 minutes).

Here it is, all fluffed up having absorbed the broth:

Now's the fun part: stir in 1 cup of frozen corn kernels, 2 15 oz. cans of black beans (drained and rinsed), 1 bell pepper, chopped (any color) and 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro (or frozen cilantro, if you're doing the whole pinterest-herb-ice-cube trick). Simmer on medium-low heat for about 5 minutes, or until the corn is warm. Serve with guacamole, salsa, sour cream, cheese, and any other toppings you like!

Black Bean & Corn Southwestern Quinoa
Recipe adapted from: 3LIONCUBS on Allrecipes.com
Serves: 6
Ready in: 45 minutes


1-2 teaspoons vegetable, olive, or coconut oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and diced
3/4 cup uncooked quinoa
1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup frozen corn kernels
1 bell pepper, chopped
2 15 oz. cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Guacamole, cheese, sour cream, and/or salsa, for serving

1) Heat the oil over medium-low heat in a large pan. Stir in the onion and garlic, and sautee until garlic is fragrant and onion is somewhat browned.

2) Add the quinoa into the same pan, stirring. After a few moments, add in the broth as needed, until the quinoa is covered. Add in cumin, cayenne pepper, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir, and bring the mixture to a boil. Cover pan and reduce heat to allow for it to simmer. Simmer for 15-20 minutes.

3) Once quinoa has absorbed the broth, stir in the frozen corn, pepper, black beans, and cilantro. Keep over medium-low heat for about 5 minutes, or until corn has warmed up.

4) Serve with toppings, and enjoy!

Linked to:


Or so she says

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Birthday recap: Dylan turns 9!

We had a blast celebrating Dylan's birthday this past weekend (his real birthdate is 11/9 but we keep the festivities goin', yo). On Friday when he arrived home from school, Dylan was absolutely delighted  that I had put up my birthday decorations for him (walking around to look at each, and he kept saying, "Oh wow! Thanks mom!"). These decorations include: a balloon wreath, a colorful flag banner, and banners from previous years' party themes (Mario and Pokemon) that say Happy Birthday Dylan (yay personalization!).

We had Dylan's choice of dinner, which to my delight was my signature lemon garlic shrimp pasta, with shirley temples to drink and a Tiramisu Torte from Trader Joe's for dessert (woo-hoo my kid has excellent taste!).

Some neighbors dropped in to play several rounds of Just Dance as well, and related incriminating photos were posted promptly by my mother to Facebook. Dylan opened presents and was SO. EXCITED. the whole time. I love that kid's joyful personality.

Monty is quite adept at photo-bombing.

On Saturday, with Nana in tow, we had Dylan's party party at a local Laser Tag joint.

The party theme was: Dylan's favorite things (Including Ugly Dolls, Pokemon, and Batman)

Our party 'hostess' did a card trick with Dylan.

Check out the suh-weet DYLAN candles!
Laser tag was super fun, and the adults even joined in which made it a blast. Dylan and his friends seemed to really enjoy it and were excitedly talking about the games for long afterwards, even despite the ex-marine who was intensely focused on being NUMBER ONE (yes, he was an adult). Side story: He was with his 4- or 5-year old daughter in pigtails, and when he discovered she had gotten last place (GO FIGURE) he began lecturing her, like, seriously, in the lobby about how "I expected that from you and all being your first time, however..." SERIOUSLY, it was like something out of SNL. Anyways, everyone also seemed to enjoy the Little Caesar's pizza which being native Michiganders, we had to introduce to the locals (it recently opened here).

Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear Dylan...

Opening presents!

Very cool card from a good friend.

All in all, it was a great celebratory weekend for Dylan's 9th. He is an amazing kid who makes me proud and teaches me every day. I am so happy to celebrate this birthday but it has gone by way too fast. Next year we're in the double digits! I can't think about it, yet. 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum, DC

First off... HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my little guy! I guess I can't call him that now that he's 9. I will be posting about the birthday festivities after they occur this weekend. 

Remember how we went to the other air and space museum? This weekend we were able to go to the DC version (I think the original one) and thoroughly enjoyed every moment. Spoiler alert: this is a picture-heavy post, so feel free to skip out if you're sick of ALL. THE. PHOTOS. of DC attractions.

Dylan was very interested in finding out...

More pictures after the jump...

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Giving thanks

One thing I like to do on a regular basis to stay try to be mentally healthy is to keep up a gratitude journal. This sums it up better than I ever could, but basically reflecting on the things we are thankful for keeps us happier, easier to get along with, less materialistic, and healthier in general.

Image found here.
I have struggled at times with this practice, sometimes being snarky (e.g., I am thankful for... hard liquor) but I agree with the above. It is interesting to look back and reflect on what I've been thankful for at different times over the past few years.. times when Justin was gone, I was struggling with working full-time and parenting on my own, times when other things have gone wrong in my life.

This is my Gratitude journal. I was using a plain ol' notebook until I found this in a little shop in Shirlington and was smitten.

Each page features a quote on gratitude. 
'We are the heroes of our own story.'

I am truly enjoying this practice but haven't been keeping up with it as much as I would like. I've also noticed that Dylan has been making more negative statements than usual, complaints about school or friends and so on. I wanted to infuse (if you will) some more gratitude into our lives and also teach him my practice. In the spirit of the season (Thanksgiving, that is), I decided to copy the idea that Young House Love featured a while back, and also what is sold at Wisteria (but for way too much money, IMHO) and create a gratitude jar.

I used the same technique as featured on the Young House Love link above, etching "Give Thanks" into the side of a ginormous mason jar I've had for awhile.

Side story: This jar was also used to catch five of the ten fish Dylan keeps in his aquarium at a trip to a local lake. I thought the fish would never make it, but here we are, months later and they're still kickin'. Go figure. I did clean the jar out after. Maybe.

I picked out some fall-ish scrapbooking paper and cut it into small pieces so we can all write what we are thankful for. Often, we will sit down together as a family and secretly record our response. We plan to read them all on Thanksgiving. However, I hope to keep this practice up for Dylan (and myself) long past the leftovers.

I can honestly say that I have an incredible amount to be thankful for. Without disclosing too much personal, sappy crap, things were a bit tough for me for awhile there, but have only been looking up lately. Things that I could have never dreamed of, not just moving to where we're living now (which HELL YES I am thankful for), but other things I could not have imagined this time last year, both family- and career-wise, are actually happening. Things are just, falling into place. I know my 'luck' may not always be so good but for now, I'm enjoying it.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Runnin' around this town, on the corner

So thanks to my brother, sister-in-law (Thanks Jenny!), and a few half-marathoner/triathaloner friends I have been inspired to start running jogging.. i.e., their running has inspired me to start jogging. I refuse to mar the good name of running by calling what I do, which is lifting my legs in the fashion of running but at a much. slower. pace, running (no, seriously, I will never ever post the time it takes me to jog a mile because you will sit there scratching your head and wondering why my jogging a mile takes longer than it does your toddler to walk a mile).

Anyhoo, with running comes listening to music. As I ever-so-gently put it to Justin when I was ranting about my iPod not working, when I don't have music to distract me, my brain screams at me: "Ahhh I'm DYING, WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO YOURSELF... GAH my LEGS! DYING!!"  I had a few songs in my 'Work it OUT' mix on iTunes, but it became repetitive listening to Michael Jackson over, and over.. and over as I jogged. Upon realizing that I do not jog at nearly a normal pace, I was able to add some music that features slower tempos and expand my repertoire. Hence, the following very-eclectic list of my favorite songs, in no particular order, that make me want to dance and thus encourage me as I'm panting through my 20-minute, 1-mile jog. I may or may not dance/jog along when I think I'm alone in the woods only to turn around and realize there's a 20-person field trip group visiting the nature center I jog at, staring at me. Awesome.

1. Some Nights (Explicit)- Fun
2. You Ain't Goin' Nowhere- Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova (I'm Not There Soundtrack)
3. This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody) (Remastered LP Version )- Talking Heads
4. The Good Life- Weezer
5. Mr. Blue Sky- ELO
6. Dog Days Are Over- Florence & the Machines
7. Sunday Bloody Sunday- U2
8. Lights- Elie Goulding
9. Crazy For You- Best Coast
10. Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough- Michael Jackson
11. Praise You- Fatboy Slim
12. Gold Dust Woman (LP Version)- Fleetwood Mac
13. Dancing With Myself (2001 Digital Remaster)- Billy Idol
14. The Galway Girl- Steve Earle
15. Too Close- Alex Clare
16. For Once In My Life- Stevie Wonder
17. I Wish- Another Stevie Wonder classic
18. Speed Of Sound- Coldplay
19. Giving Up The Gun- Vampire Weekend
20. Squeeze Box- The Who
21. Church On Sunday (Album Version)- Green Day
22. Fences- Phoenix
23. Paint It, Black- The Rolling Stones
24. September- Pomplamoose (cover)
25. Rock The Casbah- The Clash
26. Pretty Vacant (Album Version)- The Sex Pistols

For those who are curious, I'm following the Hal Higdon novice 5K training program. I would've gone with the very popular Couch-to-5K, but after finishing INSANITY: 60-Day Total Body Conditioning Workout DVD Program, I was able to run 1.5 miles (kinda sorta without dying) so I wanted to build from there.

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