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Friday, November 30, 2012

oh, christmas tree.

i am definitely not one of those people who starts to get all geared up for christmas before thanksgiving even rolls around.  i like my holidays separate, not all crammed together.  i like them to be able to breathe a little before we go rushing on to the next holiday.  so, after thanksgiving i like to finish off all of the leftovers before i even consider digging the christmas decorations out of the basement.

now that thanksgiving is officially behind us (and the leftovers have been demolished) i think i'm ready to get started on the next holiday.

bring it on, christmas.

earlier this week ryan and i pulled our trusty christmas tree out of it's hibernation in the basement and dragged it up to the living room.  after assembling it and giving it a good dusting off, we decorated it with our ornaments.

we weren't too sure how leko would react to the christmas tree since it has been a whole year since he has seen it last, but as we predicted, he quickly rediscovered his love for climbing the tree.

the poor tree.  i feel so sorry for it.  it is 6.5 feet tall, but it sure is skinny and scrawny, and it can barely support the weight of our 12 pound furry baby as he shimmies his way up the trunk of the tree each day.  it's sad to watch the branches bow under his body weight.

needless to say, i made sure to secure the ornaments on the tree very tightly this year, wrapping the ornament hooks around the branches numerous times.  however, between the shaking of the tree and the batting at the ornaments, i 'm not sure if our tree and our ornaments even stand a fighting chance this year.

for some reason our christmas tree skirt can't seem to stay in place around the base of the tree either.  let's just blame it on the wind . . . a blur of orange furry wind, that is.

we hung our stockings on the back of our front door (that's what you do when you don't have a traditional fireplace or a staircase banister, right?) and we put all of our christmas decorations around the house too.  of course, we had a helper when we tried to put the christmas table cloth on the dining room table, and we have saved the dining room table centerpieces from several close calls already too many times this week.

our next task is to hang the christmas lights outside.  i'm pretty sure when we are ready to put up the lights, we will have a helper directing us from inside the window as to where we should put each strand of lights.

we sure do love our silly little kitten!

have a wonderful weekend!
love, laurie

Thursday, November 29, 2012

olive garden's pasta e fagioli soup

now that it's cold outside, it is the perfect weather for soup.  typically, i am not a fan of soups at most restaurants since they tend to be overly salty.  however, i do enjoy having soup, salad, and bread sticks at olive garden from time to time.  so, i was excited when i found a copy cat recipe for olive garden's pasta e fagioli soup.

this copy cat recipe is super easy to make, and it is pretty close to the real deal.  except of course, it is less expensive, far less salty, and healthier than the original.  you could substitute ground turkey or even ground sausage for the ground beef.  you could also make this soup vegetarian by simply omitting the ground beef and substituting vegetable broth for the beef broth.

this soup is a meal all by itself.  we took it to work for lunch, and it sure did fill us up.  this soup is hearty, and it warms you from the inside out.  it is absolutely the perfect soup for a cold day.  i recommend serving it with some freshly grated parmesan cheese on top, and a french baguette or a slice of italian bread on the side.

olive garden's pasta e fagioli soup
prep time: 10-15 minutes
cooking time: 40-45 minutes
yields: 6 servings
adapted from cooking classy

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
4 medium carrots, sliced
4 celery stalks, sliced
2 small yellow onions, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
3 cups low-sodium beef broth
2 (8 oz.) cans low-sodium tomato sauce
1 (15 oz.) can low-sodium diced tomatoes
1 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1 (15oz.) can dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15oz.) can white cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 cup ditalini pasta, dry

in a large pot, over medium heat, saute the carrots, celery, and onions in the olive oil until tender (about 5 minutes).  add the garlic and saute for another minute.  reduce the heat to low, and add the beef broth, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, water, and spices.  bring the soup to a simmer, stirring often.

meanwhile, in a large pan over medium heat, cook the ground beef until completely cooked throughout.  drain any fat from the beef.  add the cooked beef to the soup and the beans to the soup.  prepare the pasta according to the directions on the package.  once cooked, add the pasta to the soup.  allow the soup to cook with all of the ingredients (about 5 minutes).

season with salt and pepper to taste.  serve hot with freshly grated parmesan cheese and a baguette.

love, laurie

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

product review: firmoo eye glasses

did you know that i wear contacts?  it's true, i do.  unfortunately my vision is less than stellar, so i have been wearing eye glasses since third grade and contacts since ninth grade.  ever since i made the switch to contacts, my glasses have been neglected, to say the least.  i often let my glasses prescription go for several years without changing it since i only really wear my glasses for a little bit in the morning when i wake up and for a little bit at night before bed.  whenever i do get around to buying a new pair of glasses, i usually opt for the least expensive pair possible, since i wear them so infrequently.

recently, i was contacted by the team at to see if i was interested in doing a product review for their eye glasses.  i'm telling you, they could not have contacted me at a better time!  for a while now, i have been telling ryan that i desperately need a new pair of glasses since the prescription in my current glasses is over four years old!  (i'm slightly embarrassed by this.)  so, i was super excited to see what firmoo had to offer.

when i went to firmoo's website, i was amazed at how many options they had to choose from: different colors, materials, shapes, sizes, and styles.  i was able to use their tool bar to narrow down my search in order to find the perfect glasses for me.  after sorting through all of the available options, my two favorite frames were #SD2249 in amber and #SD2267 in tortoise.  i was even able to upload a picture of myself and use their virtual try-on feature in order to see what each pair of frames would look like on me.  after asking ryan's opintion, i finally chose #SD2267 in tortoise as the frames that i would get.

after i placed my order, i was surprised at how fast my glasses shipped and i had them even earlier than i expected.  i loved that i was able to pick out my frames without ever having to leave my house, and it was really easy to use the firmoo website.  my glasses came with a hard storage case, a soft storage bag, a microfiber cleaning cloth, and even a repair kit too.

even though i only wear my glasses for a little bit of time each day, i have been loving my new frames so far.  they are a lot bigger than my old frames, but they fit perfectly and they are a great quality.  the only thing that i was disappointed with was the fact that there were a few small scratches on the right arm of the frames.  other than that, they look great.

i definitely would recommend firmoo to anyone who is looking for a new pair of eye glasses, sun glasses, or even safety glasses.  if you don't need to wear glasses (lucky you!) but you like the look of glasses, firmoo has non-prescription fashion frames to choose from as well.

right now firmoo is offering the first pair of glasses free for new customers.  all you have to do is pay shipping.  you can even get a refund or an exchange if you are not completely satisfied with your frames.  you can find out more information about firmoo's "first pair free" offer here.

let me know if you decide to try out a pair of glasses from firmoo, i would love to see your new frames!

love, laurie 

. . .

*please note: this is a sponsored post.  firmoo sent me a free pair of glasses in exchange for a product review post.  however, the content of this post is based solely on my own personal opinion and experience.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

carrot walnut pancakes

sundays are made for lazy mornings in your pajamas.  sundays are also made for pancakes.  these pancakes are the perfect way to start a sunday morning . . . especially when you are still in your favorite cozy pajamas and you aren't quite awake yet.  they're reminiscent of carrot cake, without being as sweet as carrot cake.  the addition of the chopped walnuts in them provides just the right amount of crunch too.

so go ahead and start your morning off with some carrot walnut pancakes, you know you want to :-)

carrot walnut pancakes
prep time: 5-10 minutes
cooking time: 10-15 minutes
yields: 10 medium pancakes
adapted from joy the baker cookbook

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 large egg
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups carrots, finely grated
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

in a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, egg, sugar, milk, and vanilla extract until well combined.  stir in the carrots and the walnuts.

heat a lightly buttered griddle or frying pan on medium heat.  pour 2-3 tablespoon of batter onto the griddle for medium-size pancakes.  flip the pancakes when they start to bubble.  cook until each side is golden brown and the pancakes are cooked throughout.  serve hot with maple syrup and dusted with powdered sugar.

love, laurie

Monday, November 26, 2012

a surprise 98th birthday party

over the weekend, we took a break from stuffing our faces with thanksgiving leftovers to celebrate my great-great aunt's 98th birthday.

my great-great aunt lives in florida, but she is currently up north visiting family for the holidays.  since saturday was my great-great aunt's 98th birthday, her daughter threw her a surprise birthday party.  so, on saturday, we took a trip to east rutherford, new jersey with my parents for her surprise birthday party.  we really enjoyed seeing my great-great aunt and celebrating this milestone with her.  we also met several family members who we had never met before too.

hope everyone had a great weekend!
love, laurie

Friday, November 23, 2012

giving thanks

{our cute turkey table favors}

after work on wednesday, we headed down to my parents' house to help my mom prepare for thanksgiving.  we took leko with us, and he had a blast spending the last two days with us at "grandma and grandpa's house."

we enjoyed cooking, baking, spending time with family, and of course eating way too much.  we had a wonderful thanksgiving celebrating with the ones we love.  today we will be at home, staying far away from the craziness of black friday.  we sure are looking forward to polishing off thanksgiving left overs all weekend long too!

{rolling out the pie crusts}

{making the pumpkin pie filling}

{pumpkin pies ready to go into the oven}

{a very busy oven}

{a little relaxation and watching the macy's thanksgiving day parade}

{the table all set and ready for dinner}

{a turkey at each place setting}

{carving the turkey}

{kitten licking his lips}

{just a few of the many side dishes}

{gathered around the table}

{dinner time}

{my amazing parents}

{a very full dinner plate}

{sweet potato pie, apple pie, and pumpkin pie}

{enjoying the whipped cream}

{a very spoiled kitten}

. . . 

hope your thanksgiving was lovely too!
love, laurie

Thursday, November 22, 2012

happy thanksgiving!

image source
i have so many things to be thankful for, and i love that we have a day set aside each year to reflect on what we are grateful for in our own lives.

today i am looking forward to cooking thanksgiving dinner with my mom and ryan, spending time with the people i love, and of course eating way too much.

have a wonderful thanksgiving!
love, laurie

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

make your own pumpkin pie spice

thanksgiving is right around the corner, which means it is prime time for pumpkin recipes.  so many pumpkin recipes call for pumpkin pie spice, however, there really is no point to buying a separate container of pumpkin pie spice at the grocery store when you can simply mix your own to have on hand in your kitchen whenever you like.  every time i make a recipe with pumpkin, i always use the same five spices to jazz up the flavor of the pumpkin: cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice . . . and these are the five spices that make up pumpkin pie spice.

you can use this pumpkin pie spice in pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin oatmeal, pumpkin cookiespumpkin cupcakes, and pumpkin pie, among so many other things.  so go ahead and mix up some pumpkin pie spice for your next fall baking project.  by the way, if you mix up a few batches of this spice and put it in cute containers, it would make great fall gifts for the bakers in your life too!

pumpkin pie spice
prep time: 5 minutes
yields: 4 tablespoons of pumpkin pie spice

2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
1 1/2 teaspoons ground allspice

whisk together all of the spices until well combined.  store in an air-tight container.

love, laurie

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

nyc: the american museum of natural history

while we were in nyc over the weekend, we visited the american museum of natural history.  ryan had never been to the museum before, and the last time i was at the museum was in november of 2002 for a high school trip.  (i can hardly believe that was exactly ten years ago!)  since it was a bit cool outside, we thought that it would be the perfect opportunity to spend some time in the museum.

we took our sweet time and leisurely explored each floor of the museum, making sure to see all that there was to see in every nook and cranny.  we saw the planetarium show and we also saw the imax film too.  it was both a fun and an educational trip!

love, laurie