Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Much to be thankful for

There was no time for blogging with all the preparations and planning that came my way in the past two weeks. With the birthday party and Thanksgiving I ended up hosting two big events in less than one week! I still don't know how I pulled it off... Either way, both events turned out great. You can read about my daughter's birthday party from my previous post.

Out of all holidays we celebrate Thanksgiving has become my most favorite. It is so important to take time to count your blessings, think of all the things you can and should be thankful for. This is how one comes to realize that there are so many reasons to be happy. And if you think of it, what is happiness if not the ability to appreciate what you have?

A grateful heart is a happy heart. It is amazing what these two simple words can do. If you think you could use some positive changes in your relationships, try showing people how grateful you are, say 'Thank you' more often. Things will change, you'll see.

What else is great about Thanksgiving? Oh, the food! Gatherings like this are always around good food. The dinner table - that's where the conversation flows best. There are so many wonderful recipes to work with for this occasion and the variety is amazing. Since I love to cook nothing makes me happier than cooking up a big meal and then watching people enjoy it.

A few years ago I cooked my first traditional Thanksgiving dinner for our extended family and the event turned out so great that I definitely wanted to do it again. The whole family seems to enjoy these dinners so who's to say we won't turn this into a family tradition? It seems like a great opportunity to get together and enjoy each other's company. Now that most of us are married and have their own families we don't get  to spend time together like that very often.

So in this year's menu I decided to go with a lot of vegetables as side dishes. We had roasted butternut squash, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, asparagus. All these were of course in addition to the traditional Thanksgiving staples like turkey, mashed potatoes and green bean casserole. All dishes turned out extra delicious and I was very excited to see that there was plenty of leftovers! This really is the best time of the year.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Have a cupcake party second to none!

Time goes by so fast. I cannot believe my little girl is already one year old. It seems just a few days ago I held her in my arms, this tiny helpless creature crying for attention and food every two hours. And now she's about to start walking. I guess, we never realize how precious some moments in life are until they are gone. The time passes by so quickly and soon all we have left is memories. Sometimes I think that one of the reasons we have kids is to remind us about that, make us think and cherish those life moments.
Anyhow, sad and philosophical thoughts aside, we have celebrated our girl's first birthday and the party turned out to be a blast! At least I thought so :) Looks like this post is going to be more of a photo report of the event. Since a picture is worth a thousand words I'm including lots of pictures and I sure hope you find this is the case.
When I was planning the party I wanted to have some kind of fun gifts for kids. We did have 10 kids attending with their parents and I wanted to make this event fun for them too. It always seems like they are so bummed out that this one birthday child is getting all the presents! I didn't want to just give them candy, it's too cliche and too unhealthy :)

So I what came up with was something they could make themselves while having fun. We all know how much kids love stickers, not sure why... maybe it's the sticky part, or maybe the fact that you can affix those little pieces to almost anything and make it hard for mommy to take them off later :) wooden frames and stickers to decorate them. Each kid got one of these and they can be as creative as they want. We also took pictures of the birthday girl with each kid and I am going to mail these pictures to them to put into their frames.
All the kids wore special cone hats and seemed to like them :) And so did the birthday girl. She didn't even try to take it off which was quite a surprise to me because whenever I put a hat or some kind of hear piece on her she loves the challenge of taking it off as soon as she possibly can!
She got lots of presents. A lot of them were toys. It looks like it will be a while till I will have to buy her any new ones. I decided to put some away and give them to her later to avoid new toy overload syndrome. That is not a real disorder, of course, you get the sarcasm. But really how much stuff does a child really need? Sometimes I notice she would pick one thing and carry it around with her all day while all other toys are just laying on the floor. Every day she just seems to have this dig-through-the-basket-till-you-find-the-toy-of-the-day kind of game. I wonder if all kids do that.

I'm not sure how much she really understands and they say the first birthday is more for parents than for the kid, but the fact that somehow all that stuff was for her seemed to have come through just fine. She really had fun opening, or I should say helping me open her presents.

And this is what picture time looks like with a bunch of little ones. Some kept running away, some kept moving and turning. Out of some 20 shots this is the best one we got! Unbelievable!
When it comes to parties, let's be honest, it's ALWAYS about FOOD! I mean, really, would you be happily going to a 'party' knowing there will be no food? Who does that?

The fact that any gathering of people with the purpose of having fun needs to be accompanied by food is widely accepted. It is in our human nature I suppose. Good hosts always try to honor their guests with good food. So did I.

What was on the menu you'll ask. This time I went with the finger food buffet style. So here's the list: a cheese platter with english cheddar, baby brie and stilton with apricots, a veggie platter with creme fraiche dip, sausage and bacon quiche, spinach artichoke dip and a selection of mini sandwiches (barbecue chicken, mascarpone bacon, baba ganoush, salmon & egg, wasabi crab meat). Everything was home made and delicious. I did most of the cooking myself and of course I got lots of help from the closest family, that's what they are for, right?

So all in all the party came out great and even though planning and preparing for it took much time and effort it was all worth it in the end. So, there, happy birthday, my sweet Amelia!
A few people asked me how we got our daughter to show her age with her finger. Oh, I had a good laugh. There is no having her do anything you want, btw, unless she wants to do it. I don't think she knew what she was doing with that finger though :) She likes to point at things, that's her recent thing. It turned out pretty smart though in this picture, I like it. So there she is, our little cupcake.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Conquering the Cold

It has not exactly been snowing in LA but we did get a share of rain storms in the past few days. Some people may not believe it but it does get rather cold in California. It is almost winter, after all. Last night I was quite terrified to see the bright lightening flashes and to hear the thunder roars hitting so close around us. The temperature went down to low 40-s last night and it was barely in the 50-s this morning.

Our northern neighbors got their snow already. So did most of the east coast. Last weekend my friend from Connecticut called with a strange request... She asked me to look up a phone number for her car insurance company. Turned out that they got over 15 inches of snow over one weekend, electricity was cut off in the whole neighborhood, so they had no heat, water or internet for that matter. Then to top it off a tree fell over onto one of their cars. How is that for a disaster? They got their electricity and heat back on only four days later. Poor things had to stay at their friends house those few days.

Speaking of disasters, we have been having our own challenges. The heating system in the house we are renting broke down. Again. This time for good. Last year an electrician came out an fixed it even though he wasn't quite supposed to. Thing is that the actual heater unit has been recalled 15 years ago and the company that made those went bankrupt a long time ago too. The problem with those heaters was that there was some manufacturing defect that made them break often and there was some kind of ignition issue that posed serious fire hazard so that is why all of those units were recalled. Since the one in this house seemed to operate no one bothered to replace it. Well, now that the winter is approaching promptly, as luck would have it, the heater broke. Same thing happened last year with the only difference that the kind electrician mentioned above gave it one last chance. And it seemed to have worked... Until a year later, almost exactly to the date!

Our landlord is going through some decision making times and there are a few issues about this property that have been unresolved and up in the air indefinitely. Because of this situation he is unwilling to invest a solid chunk of funds to replace the heating system. And so we are the ones to suffer the consequences. Another option would be to find another house but it is not that easy to find a suitable place for our needs in a short period of time. Besides, moving right before holidays does not necessarily sound appealing either. So we are sort of stuck. At least for the next few months.

We did come up with a temporary solution - portable electric heaters, well, in each room. They seem to do the job quite well. The only problem is... electrical. It is rather an old house and the wiring is not made for a number of powerful appliances all working at the same time. So, if we have the heater on, no tea kettle or dryer or washer can be used, otherwise it blows the fuse. When I need blow-dry my hair, I must make sure the heater is off, otherwise it blows the fuse. If I crank up the heater in the baby's room,  yes, you guessed it - it BLOWS the stinking FUSE!

So it looks like this would be a fun challenge for the winter. I just pray that the weather takes it easy this year. If anyone has any creative ideas as to how we could conquer the cold in our home this year let's hear them! Given the situation I am open to pretty much anything :)