Monday, November 30, 2009

A Glimpse of Santa

Camille over at Make It Work Mom gave me the heads up about a fantastic photo opportunity for the holidays, not only because it's sure to be the easiest, cutest way to get pics with Santa but also because it supports a worthy cause. A Glimpse of Santa is truly a gift that gives back!

I too have dealt with those oh-so-fun trips to the mall for a photo with Santa. It was a traumatic experience and like Camille, the end result was a photo of not only Santa and my dear daughter but also me (and I'm pretty sure I didn't have makeup on either). That's why I love the idea behind A Glimpse of Santa. Here's an intro, thanks to Make It Work Mom:

A friend of mine, Jennifer Eliason, is offering special photo sessions with your kids and Santa. Only this one has a twist. The Santa is YOU! How cool is that? "Santa’s" face won’t be in the picture, but your kids’ true, naturally excited expression will! So, instead of tucking away a picture taken by a mall employee of a bearded guy from off the street holding your screaming toddler, you walk away with a classy, quality candid of your little one that you’ll want to frame and display throughout the holiday and each year!

And if you book your session for DECEMBER 12, you’ll be helping out little Odette, a 1-yr-old who is battling leukemia because 100% of all Jen’s proceeds for that day will be donated to her fund.

Check out Jen’s blog for more details then contact Jen today to book your session!

You can also check out Camille's post over on Make It Work Mom. Her blog is definitely one you'll want to add to your blog reader!

Though we probably won't make the December 12th date as times are going quickly, I am hoping we can find another time early this season to catch our own glimpses of Santa, Christmas pj's and all! --Emily

RMMB: "Simplifying the Christmas Wish List"

Another Rocky Mountain Moms Blog post is live and this one is all about simplifying the holidays, namely the often dreaded wish list. The secret? Read on to find out!


Excerpt:
In the past we've often felt like Santa pretty much dumped the entire contents of his sleigh under our tree, especially when you added in the gifts from Grandma and Grandpa, aunts and uncles and friends. We would try to stick to a budget for each child, but I often shopped throughout the year and then forgot I had purchased half the items in my hidden Rubbermaid container so I went and purchased more. The insanity needed to end and last year a friend gave me a great way to put a stop to the madness that is Christmas morning..." {click here to read more}

So what are your tips and tricks for simplifying the holidays? I'd love to hear! Happy holidays! --Emily

Image by allereirau, shared via Flickr.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

better hold on tight, spider monkey

I admit it, I'm not an avid fan of the Twilight series. I read them all, yes, but groaned my way through New Moon and laughed my way through Breaking Dawn. I even waited until the Twilight movie was on DVD before watching it. That's why when I saw this video posted over on formerly phread I had to share it here. Enjoy!


Friday, November 27, 2009

Turkey Day, 2009

I was planning to take the week from posting like my friend Vanessa but my Wordless Wednesday pic begged to be posted and then Evonne, who had also vowed to take the week off (the proof is here), broke her vow and posted today (three posts to be exact). So I had no other choice but to also give thanks if only to remember what is truly important when your Thanksgiving Day was, I hate to say it, as lame as ours.

Here's what I 'm grateful for this Thanksgiving...sometimes it's the small and simple things that count:

  • Homemade rolls because when all else fails, including the turkey pot pie and mashed potatoes, homemade rolls make it all better
  • Rosy cheeks and pink noses because that means the kids are having a ball playing in the snow
  • A new cinnamon roll recipe because even though the first attempt didn't turn out, I know they're going to be fabulous on Christmas morning (as long as I put them in two pans and bake them thoroughly)
  • Organic frozen corn from Costco because it's easy and yummy, two important things for a holiday meal
  • A home theater because even G.I. Joe looks great on the big screen and in the comfort of your own home (popcorn optional but often included)
  • Pumpkin Pie from Marie Callender's because I don't make or eat pumpkin pie
  • A sister who loves to get up at 3am to hit the Black Friday sales because then I can email her a list the night before and let her do the shopping (thank you, Megan!)
  • Text messages from friends letting me know they're grateful for me (hard to believe but it's true)
  • Enough wonderful, loving, lovable, kind, caring good friends to make texting them all an Olympic event
  • A family who loves me even when Thanksgiving Day is boring and the dinner sucks

Next year we will definitely be spending Thanksgiving with more than just our own family, not that my little family isn't wonderful but there's something to be said for spending time--and turkey--with in-laws, cousins, grandparents, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles...you get my drift.

Happy Thanksgiving! I'm off to start putting up Christmas decorations while singing a few Christmas tunes. Then it's pizza and breadsticks for dinner, brownies and ice cream for dessert and maybe even some quality time with the kids. Today is shaping up to be better than yesterday...I'm becoming queen of the do-over holidays. --Emily

Image by food_in_mouth, shared via Flickr.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: The "Grammy"


Anyone else have a grandmother who goes in once a week to get her hair styled? That is what my latest "do" reminds me of...and this picture doesn't even do it justice. You can't tell just how flat it is smashed against my head and the true spikiness of it all. It's almost poetic. No, I am not suing my stylist--I adore her. This anomaly is due to my not feeling well and being in bed for about three days straight. Think I'll start a new trend? Yeah, didn't think so. --Emily

Monday, November 23, 2009

Happy Turkey Day!

I have decided Thanksgiving week is the perfect excuse to step away from the computer and get down on the floor with my kids. We'll be taking it easy, playing games, writing out Christmas wish lists, doing a little baking and enjoying some tryptophan on Thanksgiving Day. I hope you all do the same!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Tangy slow cooker pork roast

The other day I made the yummiest pork roast in the slow cooker and I just had to share. Not only did the husband and daughter rave about it but it was super easy and the leftovers have been scrumptious. I should know since I've been eating them for the past two days!

I found the original recipe on AllRecipes.com and tweaked it according to a view reviewers suggestions. The final result was super tasty. Here's the recipe with my changes. (You can find the original Tangy Slow Cooker Pork Roast recipe here.)

Tangy Slow Cooker Pork Roast
1 large onion, sliced
2 1/2 pounds boneless pork loin roast
1 1/2 cups hot water
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons ketchup
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 dashes hot pepper sauce, or to taste

Arrange onion slices evenly over the bottom of the slow cooker and place the roast on top of the onion. In a bowl mix together water, brown sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, ketchup, black pepper, salt, minced garlic and hot sauce; pour over roast. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours or on high for 3 to 4 hours.

We enjoyed it that night as is and then shredded the leftovers for pork tacos, which I have been eating incessantly since yesterday. My fave is to put a small tortilla on a plate, top with shredded pork, heat in the microwave for 30 seconds and then top with shredded cheese and a little ranch.


What would be even better is some creamy cilantro-type ranch dressing from Cafe Rio or Bajio! Can you say "party in my tummy?" --Emily

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Boutique Cafe: "Are you ready for your closeup?"

Sometimes posting on multiple sites can get a bit crazy but on days like today I am super glad I do. It means if I was up super late working on client press releases and a Boutique Cafe post the night before and didn't get a post ready for freshly baked, I can easily type up a quick blurb like this one and link you to my recap of Startup Princess' recent Image & Media Academy. And that's exactly what I'm going to do:



Thanks to Seth Jenks (@SethJenks) from APX Alarm I was able to attend part of this fabulous event and joined 20 or so other women at a cabin in Sunday for a night of inspiration, renewal and serious note taking. You can read all about it on BoutiqueCafe.com.

I'll be back tomorrow with a recipe for this super tasty tangy pork roast I cooked the other night. It was a hit and the leftovers? Yummy! --Emily

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Thinking inside the box





Who needs Disneyland when you have a box and some super cool battery-operated light thingies from Walmart?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Mama's Holiday Wish List Meme

TodaysMama and Provo Craft are giving away a sleighful of gifts this holiday season and to enter I’m sharing this meme with you.

1. What 5 items are on your holiday wish list this year?

  • Canon Rebel 10.1 megapixel camera
  • Road bike so I can train for a sprint triathlon next year
  • Great pair of heels
  • Massage
  • Pedicure
2. What is your favorite handmade gift you have received?
  • A necklace made by my BFF
3. What handmade gift have you always wanted to tackle?
  • A super cute apron
4. What was the best Christmas gift you received as a child?
  • I remember totally loving this awesome pink winter coat!
5. What items are on your kid’s wish list this year?
  • We haven't had a chance to make those yet but usually you'll find a Nintendo DS or Wii game
6. What is your favorite holiday food?
  • Spinach dip in a sourdough bowl, soups on Christmas Eve and peppermint hot chocolate from Starbucks
7. What will you be hand-crafting for the holidays?
  • Hand-crafting? What's that? Do cookies for the neighbors count?
8. What is your favorite holiday movie?
9. Favorite holiday song?
  • "Let It Snow" and "Ave Maria" by Harry Connick Jr., the entire Barenaked for the Holidays CD and of course anything that reminds me of Christmas mornings as a child.
10. Favorite holiday pastime?
  • Enjoying a real fire in the fireplace at my parents' home with the entire family there, hitting Temple Square in Salt Lake City to see the ginormous number of lights and opening new PJ's on Christmas Eve.
It's your turn! If you want to enter you can read the details on TodaysMama. Now it's time to tag a few friends (who weren't already tagged by Rachael's Meme post):

Jennifer
Lindy
Kelly
Daria
Kami
Stephanie
Lauren
Evonne

Ready, set, meme! --Emily

Monday, November 16, 2009

RMMB: "It's a schedule, not a chore chart"

Sometimes it really is all in how you say it. My latest post is up on Rocky Mountain Moms Blog and it details our latest attempt to get our girls to "happily" chip in around the house so Mom doesn't have to nag 24/7. (It's actually more like 14/6 if you don't count the hours the kids are asleep and Sundays.) The idea for a "schedule" rather than a "chore chart" came from Nathan and I must give credit where credit is due since he rarely gets any credit. He's a smart man, don't get me wrong, but I'm really the brains behind this operation we call a family. (Totally kidding--couldn't do it without you, babe!)


Excerpt:
We've tried so-called chore charts in the past and even The Chore Board, a board-game version of a chore chart, but no matter chart or game, the newness wears off quickly. As a mom with a long to-do list I can totally sympathize with my kids when they whine and complain about vacuuming or doing laundry or heck, even making their beds. I constantly remind them Mom is the only one who gets to have a bad attitude around the house so they better change theirs and change it quickly! Click here to read more...

I'd love for you to click on over and read the post on Rocky Mountain Moms Blog. And of course I'd love you to comment over there as well if you feel so inclined. Share with us what works for you or hasn't worked for you. Who knows? This schedule thing may just fizzle and we'll need a new idea! --Emily

Friday, November 13, 2009

Shark cupcakes even Spielberg would love

This post is about three weeks overdue but that's about my speed right now--three weeks behind everything including laundry and sleep. I've been anxious to post about the super nifty shark and life preserver cupcakes I made for George's birthday because they were not only easy (don't confuse easy with quick) but really, really fun AND I received compliments from complete strangers when they saw them adorning the party table at Jungle Jim's.

Like I said, don't confuse easy with quick as these babies did take time but it was worth it. We did have some cupcake malfunctions; I will share those with you so you can learn from my mistakes. Maybe then your sharks won't take a nosedive onto the cupcake tray.

What you'll need:

  • 2 dozen baked and cooled cupcakes
  • 1-2 cans vanilla or cream cheese frosting
  • Blue sugar sprinkles
  • 1 can white decorating icing (the kind that is pressurized and comes with a few different tips) * this is optional if you want to use a piping bag and #4 icing tip
  • 12 Twinkies
  • 24 Mini chocolate chips (or more since we like to nibble as we bake)
  • 3+ Oreo cookies (the plus is because you'll break a few and eat a few)
  • Red fruit leather
  • Small tube of black decorating gel
  • 12 Gummy LifeSavers or peach rings
  • Black and blue food coloring

How you'll do it:

First, make sure you only use Twinkies without any splits on the sides or tops. Notice in the photo below the one on the left has filling bustin' out the side. Trust me, you want to eat this rather than use it.


To created the shark's body lay the Twinkie on its side and trim a good inch or two (at an angle) off the bottom so the shark's body angles out of the cupcake.

Possible cupcake malfunction: DO NOT make this angle too steep or the shark WILL fall over. If you want it at more of an angle then I suggest propping it up with a hidden gumdrop or something once you press it into the cupcake's frosting. Either that or slather on a ton more frosting than I did so it has a good support system. And of course don't let them sit too long before eating. Those sharks do get tired!


After all your sharks are lined up in a row you'll want to trim a very small "V" shape where the shark's jaws will go.


Now it's time to make the fins. Twist, pull, pray...whatever you have to do to get the Oreos apart so you can scrape off the filling. I found Pampered Chef's Quikut paring knife* (I own like five of these handy, super sharp little things--they're only $1.75!) perfect for this job and for cutting the cookies in half, which you need to do so you have your fins. After you've eaten the broken cookies and had a swig of your ginormous Diet Coke (pictured at the top of photo below and a must for any cupcake adventure like this), cut a slit in your Twinkie and oh so gently slide that fin into place.

Possible cupcake malfunction #2: If you have a shorter shark body you'll need much smaller fins so cut the cookies in half and then shave off a little more cookie. Otherwise you'll either have to cut the slit so big it goes right off the Twinkie's back edge and your Oreo won't stay put (trust me on this one) OR simply make a bigger shark body so you can have whatever size fin you'd like.

If you're going to use a pastry bag to pipe the teeth, set aside a spoonful or two of icing. If you're going with my quick-and-dirty method of those pressurized frosting cans complete with tip, ignore the previous sentence.

Divide the icing and tint half of it whatever blue you'd like (can of frosting on left, below) for the ocean water and the other half gray.

Possible cupcake malfunction #3: If you don't have black food coloring (usually as a gel) leave immediately and buy some. Otherwise you will try making gray with a little neon purple mixed with whatever colors you have on hand just hoping you'll get gray. You'll then realize it's still very purple (bowl of frosting in the middle, above) and bust open a very old bottle of black food coloring gel, scrape out what you can using a toothpick and then use that to achieve a nice, sharky gray (can of frosting on right, above). Sounds much easier to just buy the black gel, doesn't it? Yeah, I quickly learned that too.

Ice the cupcakes using the blue frosting. Use whatever technique you'd like to make it appear frothy and wavy. I used the back side of my mini spreading knife and patted it up and down randomly on the top of the cupcake.

Then for an extra fun step we sprinkled the top with blue sugar. This was when George got to jump in and have a little fun. (I rarely let my kids get involved when I do their birthday cakes and cupcakes but I made an exception this time. Yes, he's spoiled.) If you want to avoid sprinkles all over the counter and floor, try using a large bowl to catch them. You'll be amazed how many sprinkles you end up recycling!


Now you get to nestle your Twinkies into the frosting and then freeze them for at least 20 minutes. (Refer to possible cupcake malfunction #1 for tips on shark placement and projection.)


Now you can quickly work on the life preservers. Simply place on Gummy LifeSaver or peach ring off center on each cupcake then pipe three small lines with white frosting. Okay, so these were quick AND easy!


While your sharks are freezing their little fins off, trim your fruit leather in a sort of curved rectangle or oval about 1 1/2" long and set aside. (Um, setting aside fruit leather is easier said than done. That stuff sticks like crazy so good luck!)

Now, the original recipe suggested warming the icing until smooth and then brushing it on with a silicone brush. I removed the cupcakes from the freezer, tried this and immediately decided this was so not going to work. So I simply took one of my other favorite Pampered Chef products, the Small Spreader, and used that to get the frosting well lathered over the shark's body. I found it much easier, much less frustrating and requiring far less swigs on that Diet Coke. By the way, I have no photos at this point because my hands are covered in fruit leather and there was a snowball's chance I was going to be able to take photos while frosting those sharks!

Before the frosting dries, apply your bloody red fruit leather mouth to the front of the shark and a little black gel for gills. Then press in the mini chocolate chips so the shark can see just what it's biting. Note to self: make sure all sharks have two sets of gills.


And for the grand finale, pipe white teeth around the fruit leather. Might I suggest investing in one of these fab cupcake carriers if you're going to bake-and-take cupcakes more than once a year. I don't have the top on it this time since those sharks were just too dang tall, but I love this thing! Mine is from The Cupcake Courier but I think you can find them elsewhere as well.


Whew! We made it to Jungle Jim's Playland in time and only lost one shark on the way. Actually, it kind of made that shark look like it had battle wounds so I just told my kids it looked more lifelike that way. The best compliment should've been from George, who loved his cupcakes but it came from one of the helpers at Jungle Jim's. She basically said those were the coolest cupcakes she had ever seen...and she'd seen a LOT of cupcakes!



Disclaimer: I don't sell Pampered Chef and have hosted only one party—but it was a really fun party!

Note: I found the original recipe on The Celebration Shoppe and simply tweaked it a bit.


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Treasures & tidbits from Yo Gabba Gabba!

I didn't use to be a fan of Yo Gabba Gabba! It ranked right up there with Teletubbies and Boobah for near-creepy shows for toddlers. But over the past week or so my youngest has become obsessed with the show (obsessed as in I've seen the four Yo Gabba Gabba! episodes currently on DVR about a thousand times each) and as much as I hate to say it, the show has started to grow on me.

Okay, so I still think some of those 3-second shorts between scenes are a little strange and the whole thing a little psychedelic BUT I have fallen in love with a couple catchy tunes. No, not "Try It, You'll Like It," though that does come in handy at dinnertime, or "Party in My Tummy"--okay that one just makes me laugh. I'm talking about some of the little treasures below. (The first two aren't anywhere near high def but you'll get the idea.)

The Little Ones singing "Hey, Won't Somebody Come and Play":



And The Postmarks singing "Balloons":



Which led me to watch their "Let Go" video also on YouTube:



Then you have one of my latest favorite tidbits, "I Found Love" performed by Trembling Blue Stars. Sorry about the overlap on this one but without it you wouldn't be able to push the play button!



(I found this little video here.)

So I am absolutely loving Yo Gabba Gabba! if for no other reason than introducing me to some pretty cool, previously obscure bands. I've gone on to check out more of their songs and videos and that may eventually lead to buying their CDs. So thanks, YGG, for promoting indie artists! --Emily

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Do I need to pencil you in?

Do you think my two-year-old is trying to tell me something? Perhaps asking where she fits in my schedule?

Note my super gourmet meals of chicken fingers and pasta with alfredo sauce--hey, at least I planned something! Oh, and did you catch The Pioneer Woman Cooks book signing scheduled on the 4th; now THAT was a good time! You can read my post along with a handful of other recaps here. If you're curious about my fabulous planner (it really is fabulous when not covered in chocolate) it's from momAgenda. Their desktop planners rock!

By the way, the next page in my planner is covered in blue ballpoint pen. Yes, the "artist" struck again...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

He did NOT just say that!

Whenever my kids say something funny I vow to write it down so I won't forget it...and then I don't write it down and of course forget it. But my husband just walked in and told me something I had to share so I wrote it down immediately because even though I was going to post about it within mere minutes, this mommy brain of mine tends to lose things rather quickly. This one's a keeper:

The setting
Dad, 12-year-old daughter and four-year-old son sitting on LoveSacs watching Samurai Jack.


Some bad guy on Samurai Jack: "Get me Samurai Jack. I want his essence."
Daughter: "What's 'his essence?'"

Son: "It means he wants his soul." {did you catch the part about his being four?}

Two minutes later husband walks into the office and replays the recent conversation for his wife.

Wife, after husband tells her what their son just said: "Seriously?!?!"
Husband: "Where did THAT come from?"

Wife: "Holy cow."
Husband: "Yeah."

I am still wondering what just happened... --Emily


Monday, November 9, 2009

Rachael Herrscher's take on the FTC's new guidelines

Whether you've been blogging for a short while or forever you've probably heard of the FTC's new disclosure policies for bloggers. If you haven't then I'd like to know where you've been on vacation and can I go next time? Many of us feel the FTC is taking it too far in what they deem necessary to keep blogs, especially those doing product reviews and/or endorsements, on the up and up.

I love this post from Rachael Herrscher, friend and woman behind TodaysMama, which you can find on Entrepreneur.com today:


I couldn't agree with her more, especially on the whole Darwinism feel at the end. And her disclosure statement? Fabulous.

If you have a few minutes--or even if you don't--take the time to read Rachael's post and comment if you feel so inclined. I find it interesting to hear everyone's opinions on the FTC's new policy, especially those who feel it's a step in the right direction. All I can say to those select few is, "Really?!" (Perhaps Seth & Amy should do a bit on this for SNL's next Weekend Update...)

Quinn Curtis & CreatedByChicks.com

Today I wanted to feature one of my favorite mompreneurs, Quinn Curtis of CreatedByChicks.com. Quinn is also the woman behind CreatedByMom.com, a fantastic site featuring products created by, you guessed it, moms. She is also the woman behind the Moms Who Make It Conference that took place this past summer here in Utah. She is all about empowering creativity in women and her new site, CreatedByChicks.com, features women who are successful at channeling this creativity.

Throughout the week Quinn features creative "chicks" on her site. She's had everyone from Etsy shop owners to women bloggers to moms who've turned a great idea into a real business. (And no, I don't just love her new site because she had georgie tees on there in a past post!) Every woman she's featured has been an interesting read and I think I've "hearted" every Etsy shop mentioned on CreatedByChicks.com. I've also loved getting to know some of my friends a little better, including Carina of The Jet Set (@Jet_Set). I knew she was pretty amazing but had no idea how über talented she is!

Speaking of talented Quinn also is a freakin' powerhouse of talent when it comes to blog and site design. She is finally offering her design services to the public and I couldn't be more excited. She is currently in the process of designing my new blog, from header to buttons, and helping me incorporate it into a WordPress theme. I gave her an idea of what I wanted and she took off running, pretty much hitting it spot-on the first try.

What I really, really love about Quinn's design services is the extensive list of options. You can have her do everything from total and complete blog design to a simple button or Etsy shop header. She also has a lot of à la carte choices for those who need add-ons to her current packages. From what I hear her schedule is filling up quickly so if you're on the lookout for a new header, button, business card, baby shower invite or some other creative work I'd get in touch with her soon or your New Year's resolutions may include "get on Quinn Curtis' design schedule before 2011."

You can find a link to Quinn's design services on CreatedByChicks.com or over on her new Etsy shop. Don't forget to subscribe to CreatedByChicks.com or you'll miss out on some truly creative women, fabulous Etsy shops and great ideas for gift giving this holiday season. --Emily

P.S. If you visit her Etsy shop do me a favor and "heart" it while there. I'm all about spreading the love, Etsy style!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Saturday's Secret: Rice Krispies Treats

I don't know if this will become a regular feature on this blog or my new one, but I feel compelled to make a confession: Sometimes when I head to our basement to retrieve something from the cold storage I snag one of those packaged Kellogg's Rice Krispies Treats and eat it on the way upstairs, finishing it before anyone can discover me. No, they aren't as good as homemade and yes, I prefer chocolate. But for some reason it makes me feel like a kid...perhaps because in our last home I would find candy wrappers in random places in the basement and no one knew who had taken and eaten the candy—and then hidden the wrapper behind all the candy jars. Right.

There, I feel better. Of course there are still a few treats left in the box so I may need to hit confession again soon. What can I say? I'm not perfect. --Emily

Image by timbrauhn, shared via Flickr.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Z'Tejas: Triple-threat salsa & some serious skillet cornbread

My husband and I love to go on dates and we love to eat and we combine the two whenever possible. Of course paying for a sitter and dinner for two can really add up so it was a real treat when Z'Tejas invited me to review their restaurant for freshly baked. It was like the ol' dine-and-dash but only all above board. I guess you'd say it was a "Flip, photograph, dine, interview, dash and review." Whatever you call it I was excited to do it.


Z'Tejas is located at the south end of The Gateway Mall in downtown Salt Lake City right across from Happy Sumo and next door to Häagen Dazs. It has been there since The Gateway first opened and is a favorite for many locals. Inside you'll find the lights turned low and a super cozy atmosphereperfect for a date night or night out with friends. The restaurant features a lot of south-of-the-border food mixed with some great southwestern dishes. With all those yummy dishes on the menu it was hard to decide. Here we are studying the menu (okay, I was striking a pose but Nathan really was studying). We probably asked the waitress four times to give us five more minutes!



Nathan decided on the
Wild Mushroom Enchiladas and I decided to try one of their specials, the Green Chile Pulled Pork Chile Relleno. (Say that quickly ten times!) To start us off our waitress brought us their Bottomless Basket of Chips & Three Salsas, one of which is a house picante and then two other salsa chosen by the chef. Here they are—and we are—in action:



Those salsas were so yummy and the cornbread? I had three slices and Nathan had one—and he was lucky I even let him have one!

Our main dishes arrived and we couldn't wait to dive in, and if I were Quinn from Limelight Food Photography you'd have photos that look as good online as the food looks in person but I'm not so you'll have to settle for the best I could do that night...and scaled down so they look even better:



Want to eavesdrop on our dinner conversation and catch us talking with our mouths full? Here you go!



I will say my chile relleno could've been a bit warmer but that coleslaw? SO totally yuummy! I've been craving it ever since! Nathan's wild mushroom enchiladas were good but since he was hesitant to share (hey, that's what I usually do!) I can't give them a full review.

Believe it or not we had room for dessert so we tried their hot apple cobbler baked in a skillet and topped with vanilla bean ice cream. I don't have video of that—we inhaled it and it wasn't pretty! Let me clarify: the dessert was pretty but watching us wolf it down was not.

After our meal I took a few minutes to talk with the manager about Z'Tejas. I found out the most popular dish on the menu (you'll have to watch to find out), what customers remember most about the restaurant (hint: it is comes in a skillet with a side of honey butter) and just how long this Ivan guy's been the manager (who says you can't work your way up the ranks?).



Craving Z'Tejas cornbread or dying to try their salsas? You're in luck!
Z'Tejas is giving away a $40 gift certificate to one of our readers!

Here's how to enter. You can do as many of these as you'd like. Each one is worth one entry into our giveaway:
  • Check out Z'Tejas' lunch or dinner menu and leave a comment telling us which dish you can't wait to order.
  • Become a friend of Z'Tejas Restaurants on Facebook and leave a comment telling us you joined.
  • Follow Z'Tejas on Twitter and leave a comment telling is you’re their newest follower.
  • Tweet about this giveaway and leave a comment with the URL of your tweet.
  • Blog about this giveaway and leave a comment with the URL to your blog post.

Include a valid email address for our drawing. We'll draw the winner from the comments and contact her via email. Deadline: November 13, 2009 (midnight). The winner will have 24 hours to claim her prize or a new winner will be chosen. Good luck! --Emily

P.S. I was just sent a tweet from Z'Tejas with a link to some of their popular recipes, so here you go! Enjoy! (I'll be making the cornbread within the week!)

** Congratulations to Sell...Party of 3, who won our Z'Tejas drawing! Thanks to all who visited and commented!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Pioneer Woman, a ticket shortage & a great idea

So last night was a girls' night out we had planned ever since we heard The Pioneer Woman (aka Ree Drummond) would be in Salt Lake City as part of her The Pioneer Woman Cooks book tour. Vanessa (@inevergrewup) and I had our books in hand and were ready to head up there for the 7pm book signing. Just before we left Vanessa read the super fine print and discovered we would need tickets in order to get our books signed. Yikes! So we rushed to The King's English Bookshop in east Salt Lake, making our way down car-lined streets. Were all those cars here for Ree? Yes, yes they were.

We finally found a spot about two blocks away, parked and made our way to the store...only to overhear someone say they were out of tickets and weren't letting anyone else in. In where? The gallery a couple doors down where Ree would chat for a few minutes before she put permanent marker in hand and geared up for adoring fans. Standing outside the gallery, Vanessa and I hoped we might be able to simply wait until all the ticket holders had gone through the line and then they'd let us bring up the rear. And then we heard they had given out 360 tickets. People were there at 1pm just waiting for their golden ticket to see Ree face to face. (Yes, they really were a golden yellow color--how appropriate!)

Fortunately I hang with some truly amazing and inspired women, and by "hang" I mean they recognize me and are nice enough to let me hang out with them. Janet (@newspapergrl), Joanie (@JoanieAtwater) and April (@sweetlifeinthe) were there with a plan--and a gift basket. The three had put together some local Utah goodies complete with card we could all sign in hopes it would help us wade our way through the Hollywood-like sea of adoring fans to meet Ree. Yes, I absolutely love these girls! The gang was joined by Carol (@cherishbound), her friend Jeanette and Becky, who had picked up cupcakes and cake bites (pure heaven) from The Sweet Tooth Fairy.

After Ree moved from the gallery to the very-cool-yet-oh-so-tiny bookstore, we gathered as a group behind the shop hoping our gift basket bearing local goodies including cupcakes from The Sweet Tooth Fairy, would buy our way into a photo op with Ree before the wee hours of the morning. And the wait was well worth it as we made our way from the alley way into the toasty bookshop (ignoring the looks of death from those "legally" waiting in line) and caught our first glimpse of The Pioneer Woman in all her fabulous glory. Okay, maybe not glory since that's not what she's all about, but she was fabulous and kind and wonderful and very "real." Hopefully she saw past our scheming and took it for a group of Utah bloggers who are also huge fans.

Back, from left to right: Vanessa, Becky, April, Ree, Joanie, Carol, me
Front: Janet

While there we also met up with Allison (@petit_elefant), Marie (@makeandtakes) and Carina (@Jet_Set) who didn't sneak go in with us but did have just as much fun chatting with Dooce (yes, THAT Dooce), Marlboro Man's mother-in-law and Ree's sister-in-law Missy. I even had a chance to chat with Missy while inside the bookstore and she was just as genuine as could be. I think I'm in love with that whole family!

The night ended with a group of us hitting The Pie Pizzeria for the state's tastiest pizza in the coolest location (basement restaurant complete with graffiti on the walls and real candles on the table) and my losing my voice due to good conversation, good food and standing in a cold alley wondering if I too would have my own golden ticket. It's a night I won't soon forget. Thanks, gals! --Emily

P.S. You can read Janet's take on the night here:
Me, The Pioneer Woman, Dooce & Jason Gough

P.P.S. Here's what my carpool buddy Vanessa had to say about meeting Ree--and receiving an extra "heart" in her book: Best Girl's Night Out of All Time

P.P.P.S.
And in true Allison style (a style which I LOVE), you can read her post about the book signing here: pioneer woman book signing.

P.P.P.S. These just in: Carina's post (grab a tissue; you'll laugh so hard you'll cry); Becky's post (if you love cupcakes you'll LOVE this blog); Maria's post (subscribe to Two Peas and Their Pod NOW!) and even The Sweet Tooth Fairy's post. Love you all!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Looking for a sign

Today's Wordless Wednesday post is basically our recent vacation in signs. Enjoy!

This was the sign we noticed while waiting for our luggage at the San Juano airport. Who knew clipart could be so graphic?



And this was a store we discovered along Condado Street. Unfortunately it was closed. (If you can't make out the bottom, it reads "lingerie & booty parlor.")




A popular store in Old San Juan. No explanation needed.



Like I always tell my kids, write it in pencil first to make sure you have enough room!




We snapped this one while driving to the famous drive-in volcano on St. Lucia. Good to know I have a friend in my time of need...




I truly love this one. A humble confession booth for a very humble people. This was taken inside a very old, very beautiful church in St. Kitts.


What crazy signs have you seen while on vacation? Do share! --Emily

Monday, November 2, 2009

Some blogging tidbits

With my new blog in design phase I've been doing a lot more thinking about how I can make my next blog a successful one, and by success I mean more than 50 visitors a day. I'm not all about the stats or the ad revenue but I do want to reach as large an audience as possible for those rare occasions I have something to say.

If you're always on the lookout for some new tips and tricks for your blog then here are a few posts I found super nifty. I plan to reread them a
nd apply them when I'm finally ready to unveil my new site. If you have any other helpful posts/advice/sites you think are perfect for the beginning or even experienced blogger, do share!

Easy SEO Tips to Optimize Your Blog
A very short and simple post from MomDot with so
me easy tips. This is probably a really good one for beginning bloggers but even more experienced bloggers may have forgotten the importance of a good blog post title.

Get Friendly With Google: Five Easy SEO Tips
BlogCoach is one of my most favorite blogs of all time and their "Grow Your Blog" series is a must-read for any level blogger. This post features five easy tips for helping with your blog's SEO.

Media Kit Template for Mom Bloggers
Sometimes it's nice not to start from s
cratch when it comes to creating press materials. This is a handy little media kit tweaked for mom bloggers. You can download it from Scribd, and because it's a Word document, you can do your own tweaking! You know often it's really and truly all about your media kit.


What's Technorati and How Does It Help Me as a Blogger?
This post from a mom blogger I met while participating in MomDot's "America's Next Top Blogger" does a really great job explaining Technorati and how it relates to your blog. I'm still a little fuzzy on this one and so I appreciate a post written so even I can understand it! (While reading this one check out Life Starring the Kids & Me's other fun posts!)

Did I miss a recent helpful post on blogging? If so feel free to link to it in the comments below! --Emily