Sunday, July 31, 2011

Bye bye July

I guess it's time to post something since I haven't done so in a while.

Things are pretty much back to normal for me. My mom said to me yesterday, "So I suppose you are back on your 'diet' again now that you are back". She thinks I'm perpetually on a "diet" and refuses to believe it's actually a lifestyle choice. And I told her that while it was nice to have a week to indulge and not worry about working out, I always feel better when I am on my normal routine. To which she replies, "Well, I just would like to see more meat on those bones." What is it with mothers from her era wanting to fatten up their children? Is there a witch somewhere she's trying to sell to?

Last night my husband and I went out on a date. We got a little dressed up and ate at Santa Lucia. They have the best Greek salad. I could have eaten a giant salad for my main course, it was that good. Usually I am not one to get excited about salads because they never really fill me up. This one did. And then I proceeded to eat canneloni al forno and felt like I could burst at any moment. WHY do I DO that???? What a cow.

The sky is clear and it is a beautiful morning. The only thing that could make it better is breakfast in bed. And obviously that won't happen since I'm already up.....and my husband is watching Meet the Press. I may never see him again.

Hanna went to spend the week with Uncle Jeff and the family in Wahpeton. How fun for her! I will miss her though.

I'm sort of in denial right now that it is the last day of July. How could this have happened? What happened to June? What happened to July? Soon my baby will be in school every day, ALL day and I will be a puddle in the corner, crying my eyes out. Why does time have to go so fast??? I want her to be 3 again. She was so sweet at 3. I guess that means I should get off the computer and spend some time with my family before another 5 years get away from me.

Hope everyone is having a splendid weekend!!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Time to say goodbye

My last day in New York. I was sad to pack up all my things this morning. It has been a marvelous 5 days. A whirlwind of adventures. Lots of sights to see, lots of calories to be eaten and lots of walking to be done (hopefully to burn off some of those calories) ... lol.

Yesterday, I did some exploring on my own while Sue was in meetings until 4:30. Then we went to Rockefeller center where we went to the top of the plaza building for amazing 360 views. I've got pictures on facebook for your viewing pleasure. While it is quite something in pictures, nothing can compare to the actual thing. And I have gotten to experience it for myself. Breathtaking.

After that, we ate dinner at a lovely outdoor restaurant and suddenly realized that we were actually sitting in the famous Rockefeller Center skating rink! That was pretty special.

On our way back to the hotel, we stopped by one last souvenir shop to make some final purchases and we walked our last walk on the streets of New York.

This morning, Sue is in meetings again until 1:00. Instead of exploring more, I have decided to just stay near the hotel to relax. I have to check out at noon and then I'll have an hour to kill before Sue is done. Our flight home doesn't leave until about 6:15 pm but I think we'll probably be spending the afternoon at the airport.

I am very lucky to have had this opportunity and very grateful to my husband for letting me go. Soon, it will be his turn. He and Emma will be flying home to Sweden next month and will be gone for 2 weeks. I don't know HOW I am going to handle being without them for that long. It was hard enough not getting to hug and kiss my baby for 5 days! I will miss them so much.

Good bye for now, NY. I'll be back!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Hello from Manhattan

I am laying on my hotel bed, typing to you from New York. I know you know this already, but I am still in awe at being here. This city is so exciting, I really don't want to go back home! Things in Fargo, ND are going to seem reeeeeeeally slow and dull after being here.

And I can honestly say that I am very surprised at how not scary it is to be here. I had these visions in my head about how paralyzed with fear I would be in such a busy crowded place but I have not been scared at all. And the people are very friendly, which probably surprised me the most. Our World Trade Center tour guide said that 10-15 years ago, New Yorkers weren't as nice. I am happy they are now!

There is something amazing to see around every corner and being on the streets with giant buildings towering above you is thrilling. You feel so small and unimportant. I also love to see all the people wandering around in their business suits with their phones to their ears, it makes me wish I had a big important job I needed to rush off to. Ok ok, it doesn't. But kinda.

So far we have been on the go go go. It's been super hot and humid. One of the first days we were here it was 100 degrees, and we were wandering out and about in it all day. I think I was very close to heat exhaustion because I all of a sudden got dizzy and felt faint. We had to get off the tour bus and take the subway back to the hotel to rehydrate. It was ok though because it was one of those hop on hop off tour buses anyway. And yesterday it rained in the afternoon and cooled off enough that I could wear jeans to wander the streets in the evening. It was nice to walk around without looking like a sweaty pig.

We've taken a short day cruise around the harbor, a long elegant dinner cruise in the evening (I highly recommend doing this), saw the statue of liberty, world trade center site, took a double decker bus tour where we drove past numerous landmarks and attractions. We've wandered around Times Square and learned how to get around via subway and bus. Today, I plan to venture to central park, Aquavit, St. Patrick's cathedral. Tonight, Sue and I will go to Rockefeller Center and do Top of the Rock - because I hear it's better than going to the top of the Empire State building.

I am having the time of my life here in New York City. I knew I would have a good time, but I am loving it even more than I expected. It's really awe inspiring. All the lights, all the's like nothing I've ever experienced. I've been to Europe and have walked through some big cities, but this city has truly captivated me.

It will be sad to leave tomorrow. But it's always nice to get home too. I miss my girls and my hubs. I even miss Lizzy. I video chatted with them last night and Lizzy was looking behind the wall trying to find me. 

See you soon, ND!

Friday, July 22, 2011

so long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye

Today is my last day

I started typing, then got up to get a glass of water, and came back to "Today is my last day..." and it kind of gave me the creeps. First of all, it's not like me to just get up and do something mid sentence like that. I'm sort of OCD when it comes to that kind of thing. Maybe that is why I can't sew anything elaborate like a quilt or anything I can't get done in one sitting. And second, because it made me think....what if today was my last day? As in, last day on earth. Creep E.

Especially because I'm flying tomorrow. I love flying, but I hate flying. I love flying because it's actually quite nice and it usually means you are going somewhere fun. I hate flying because I'm miles off the ground and in no control of the situation whatsoever. I've put my life in the hands of a complete stranger and hoping he's not a closet alcoholic.

But, had I finished that sentence, I would have said, today is my last day in my own house for 5 days. My new home will be here, the New York Helmsley Hotel. A block away from Grand Central Station and walking distance to just about everything: Times Square, Rockefeller Center, Central Park, etc.

I have completely planned out our trip over the next 5 days. I've got vouchers for popular attractions, I've determined what day and what time we will visit those attractions, I've familiarized myself with the city (thanks to bird's eye view on Bing maps) and looked at public transit routes to figure out the best way to get everywhere. If this isn't prepared, I don't know what is! But when you are a small town girl, you almost have to over prepare like this when going to a big city. Otherwise, I would not have had a clue what to do when we got there.

I'm bringing my camera and laptop so I will be able to [hopefully] post pictures daily. That is, if I'm not too exhausted by the time we are back at the hotel each evening. Our days will be so jam packed, we are going to be pretty exhausted, I have a feeling. But there is so much to see and do, and we wanted to get in as much as we could in the short time we will be there. I'm 36 and I've never been there, not sure how good the chances are that I'll get to go again. I know my husband wants to go so maybe at some point, we'll be able to go together.

Next time I blog, I will be in Manhattan!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Manhattan here I come!

It's official, I'm off to New York this Saturday!

I got my tickets and hotel booked and I'm off with my sister early Saturday morning.

I am still in shock and awe that I am going and with an extra 2 days than previously planned! We are both very excited. And also a little nervous. Two meek little mid western girls in the big city by will be an experience! But Andreas left me all alone to fend for myself in Copenhagen for a day while he went to work (before our hotel room was ready so I literally had to wander the city on my own for HOURS) and if I could do that, we can do this.

"if I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere....."


Saturday, July 16, 2011

Chez Charlot

I played 'real food' restaurant with the girls this morning. My restaurant was called Chez Charlot and I served french classics like boeuf bourguignon and crepes. And my speciality, Charlotte Russe au chocolat.

Of course, I wasn't serving any of this stuff, but it's fun to dream, right? And since no one in this house can speak or read French, I put whatever I wanted on the menu. And the pricing is probably unbearably laughable. But kids don't know the difference or care. It's all about the way the menu looked, and to them, I am the most creative person alive. I really don't want my kids to grow up and realize that my creativity is about as advanced as the average 10 year old.

I put fresh cut flowers from our garden on the table, lit some candles and served them chocolate milk in our "good" glasses. They ordered nachos and pancakes with fruit. Eden even left me a $1 tip. I must have been an awesome waitress.

I love playing with my kids.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

FABULOUS idea for low carb "spaghetti".

I love love love spaghetti. Actually, any type of pasta or Italian dish. I must have been Italian in a former life. The only down side to loving pasta so much is that it's very calorie dense.
Luckily, the pasta is just a vehicle for the flavorful sauce. And the sauce itself can easily be made quite healthy.
Although a true Italian probably doesn't drench their pasta in sauce the way we Americans do.
Anyway, I like to swap out the pasta for vegetables when I'm watching my calorie intake. You can get as creative as you want, a lot of things work. A popular choice is spaghetti squash because when you scoop it out with a fork, it looks just like angel hair spaghetti. And having that visual likeness makes you feel as though you aren't missing out.
Another thing I've tried are yellow squash and zucchini ribbons. You get thick flat pieces when you use a potato peeler. But last night I went one step further. I just used zucchini and I sliced them up with the mandolin on the julienne setting. Perfect!
I sauteed them in a little olive oil and Italian spices.

See how beautiful they look on the plate??!!

And the finished product after I top it with my delicious home made meat sauce.
My sauce is been something that I have perfected over the years. Kind of like my "pomeletes". I thought about sharing the "secret ingredient" with you today. But why would I want to do that? Cuz I'm awesome, that's why. And I like to share.
My husband is sort of kind of a finicky eater. If I mess with the good old basic recipes, chances are, he won't like it. And forget about trying to make it healthier. For instance, if I use ground turkey instead of ground beef, he turns up his nose. Although, most of the time I think it's all in his head. He puts up a mental block to any sort of healthy substitutes, even if you really can't taste the difference. I've learned NOT to make any mention of these substitutions until AFTER he's eaten it. Usually, I'll ask him "So how did you like it?" and he'll say it was good. Then I drop a bombshell like "well there was ground broccoli in the sauce" or "I used ground chicken". At that point, he'll say something like, "I thought the texture was weird". HAHA

Last night, I took a risk with my sauce. But after I tasted it (and melted into the floor) I knew I had a hit on my hands. Andreas took ONE bite and immediately raved about the sauce. I thought, should I tell him??? I waited until he was half way through his plate before I said, "Wanna know my secret ingredient?" And he looked at me with fear in his eyes and said, "There's something weird in here, isn't there" So, he started taking guesses....protein powder, turkey, and some others I can't remember. So I waited. He cleaned up two big helpings before I laid it on him.
To which he said, "I knew it was gonna be something gross!" He does NOT like anchovies. But he did like my sauce. Success! It sort of reminded him of store bought Puttanesca, which we both love.
I used to make my spaghetti sauce with cans of diced tomatoes and tomato sauce (no salt added, of course) but the kids never liked the chunks of tomatoes. So I finally caved and started using big cans of crushed tomatoes instead. I had to compromise on the salt issue because they don't sell any "no salt added" versions at our grocery store. But, to my surprise, I really do like the sauce better using crushed tomatoes. It gives it a more authentic feel.
So, without further ado, Charlotte's AWESOME spaghetti meat sauce recipe ;)
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 lb extra lean ground beef
1 oz anchovies
1/2 cup kalamata olives
garlic and herb spices
1/3 cup red wine
fresh chopped basil
fresh grated Parmesan (NOT the shaky cheese)
Sprinkle ground beef with garlic and herb spices and brown in a fry pan. Turn down heat and add the can of crushed tomatoes. Put kalamata olives and anchovies with a little of the juice in a small blender (I like my Magic Bullet for these small jobs) and blend until smooth paste. Add paste to the pan. Add the wine (use more or less than this recipe calls for, according to your taste). Simmer on low heat for at last 30 minutes to let the flavors blend together. Add chopped fresh basil and freshly grated Parmesan right before serving.
Total heaven!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Rock Pets: take two

The rock pets this time around have gotten considerably more creative. They have fur! I absolutely LOVE them! I think the kids have done an awesome job firing the creative side of their brains lately. My budding artists!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Rock Buddies

Rock pets the girls made today. It's no surprise that Spongebob Rockpants is my favorite.

Friday, July 8, 2011

furry spider

Never seen one of these guys before. But he was hanging out on our patio table for the longest time. I really dislike spiders. You have to click on the picture for a bigger view to really appreciate it in all it's furry bug-eyed glory.

The green color in the midst of all that black is pretty cool. Fun to photograph these little guys. Although I'm not too happy about sharing my patio furniture with them!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


Somebody's been sleeping in my bed...

All pretty

Going to the dog park

First time at the dog park

Checking out the dog that violated her. Repeatedly.

She was surprisingly mellow. There weren't many dogs there though, only 2 or 3.

Dinner at Island Park

This is why you shouldn't litter, people. We felt so sorry for this squirrel that had it's head and one front leg stuck in a dome for DQ ice cream container. We saw it limping from a distance and as we got closer to get a better look, Eden said, "LOOK! It wears the cone of shame!" Poor thing. It was still able to climb the tree, though.

On his Windows phone. Like always ;)

S'mores at home

Our garden might be overgrown and always in need of weeding, but it's still so very beautiful.

I've taken so many more pictures of the flowers but I'm going to wait to post them until after I've had my way with them in Photoshop ;) 


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

the 4th

It has been a fun filled 3 days. Lots of fun in the sun. Unfortunately we didn't get to see fireworks last night due to there being tornado warnings and severe thunderstorms in the area, but it was still a wonderful 4th of July. (fyi - we didn't get any wind damage this time)

We finally got the pool set up in the back yard and the kids were out there all afternoon splashing around. Even I took a couple leaps off the ladder into the cool water. It felt really nice after being outside all day. I actually got flowers put in my pots out front. Kind of funny that I waited until July to do it. Andreas got the raspberry bushes planted and now all that is left to plant are the grapes. It was such a productive day that at 4:00 pm, Andreas asked me "Did you eat anything for lunch?" and I said no. We had both been so busy that we forgot to eat and hadn't had anything since breakfast! That's pretty much unheard of, for me at least.

A friend of Andreas' from work came over to visit last night which was really cool. We rarely get visitors so it was kind of a treat. The dog did pretty well after the initial freak out over someone new in the house. We had dinner and dessert then went downstairs to play Halo. I have never sucked so bad at anything in my life. Not even kidding. If there were an award you could win for being the worst player on earth, I would get it, hands down. It was fun though. They giggle and laugh just like kids when they play. Then all of a sudden the tornado sirens went off and we were like "what??" completely oblivious.

It got pretty dark and scary looking. After watching the news and looking at the radar it appeared we would get pummeled but we didn't get much more than some rain and a little wind. Nothing major, thank goodness. I didn't like the idea of spending another fortune repairing our fence.

Today is the last day Andreas is home before everything returns back to normal. The weather looks gorgeous again today so I'm sure we'll be spending the day outside. Just the way I like it! Summer sun, keep on shining! (but take a day off once in a while so I can clean the house and do the laundry)

Pictures to come!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Iron Chef Arff Household

I totally want to be a professional food photographer. I need to work on my skills though. I don't know how to photograph food and make it look exciting. I think that is partly due to the fact that when I cook, I just slap stuff on a plate and call it good. There's no real presentation there. Something to work on I guess.

Bigs and I want to have our own little version of Iron Chef this weekend. We've actually been talking about it for a while now. Our favorite shows to watch together are Iron Chef, Chopped, & a plethora of other Food Network shows. Although we rarely watch them. It's kind of like House Hunters International on HGTV - love that show. But it's on at 6:00pm. So unless I have dinner on the table by 5:15, I don't get to watch it. Of course it's usually on again at like 9:30, but again, unless I'm feeling like staying up "late" I don't watch it.

Anyway, we thought it would be fun to let the girls pick the secret ingredient and then we could have a cook off and they could judge. And to be sure we wouldn't have to cook culinary masterpieces with hot dogs, we'll give them a list of 6 or so items to choose from, then they can decide. We would definitely have to give them a plate A & B though, instead of letting them know who cooked what, otherwise I'm thinking they would pick mine just because that's what they do. Mom's the best. At everything. All the time.

Doesn't that sound fun? Then maybe I can practice my food photography skills. For now, this is all I got:

coffee beans, cha cha cha