Frohe Weihnachten!

As you know I have a passion (obsession?) for all things turquoise. So it probably doesn’t surprise you that our Christmas tree was decorated with lots ‘n’ lots of turquoise ornaments and beachy elements like starfish, dolphins and sand dollars.

This was also the first year, I had a lovely mantle to decorate. I was so thrilled to get brand-spanking-new stockings for Paul, his mom, me and even a tiny, cute one for our baby girl (due on December 25th). And I successfully completed a minor spray painting project.

But without further ado, I’ll be letting my photos speak for themselves.

Oh, Tannebaum, oh, Tannebaum, wie gruen sind deine Blaetter.

Silver and turquoise ornaments. No surprise with the color palette here, hey.

I drilled small holes into starfish and used raffia ribbon to hang it.

I re-purposed the sand dollars from my wedding decor to add more 'beach' to our Christmas tree. The turquoise satin ribbon was attached with a glue gun.

Beautiful silver ornaments we bought in Germany last year.

For the first time, I have a fireplace to decorate. Loved it!

Spray painted candle holders (brown before), spray painted stocking holders (cast iron before). The twigs are 'leftovers' from trimming the tree.

Oh, yeah, did I mention I decorated, spray painted, glue gunned all of this as I was counting down the last week of my pregnancy. What a festive way to keep me busy and my mind occupied. :-) Praises to my wonderful husband for buying, hauling and setting up our beautiful Noble Fir Weihnachtsbaum.

 

Dinner For Friends

Last weekend we hosted our dear friends Ryan and Regina at our house for an intimate dinner.

The occasion: We gave them the gift of a home-cooked dinner for their wedding. We liked the thought of honoring them with a delicious dinner and quality time with good friends (how selfless of us, hey).

Over two years later, we finally set a date to redeem our gift.

The challenge: Everything I was going to serve was supposed to be whipped up from scratch. No boxes, mixes or canned food items.

After spending a couple of days browsing through my collection of Martha Stewart Living, Coastal Living, Better Homes and Garden magazines, several cook books and the usual online recipe sites, I finally came up with this menu:

Appetizer:

Main Course:

Tyler's Bacon Wrapped Scallops

Martha's Red Curry Sweet Potatoes

Dessert:

White Chocolate Mousse with Organic Raspberries (Image by Mark O'Meara)

Drinks:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Sparkling Apple Pomegranate Cider
  • For the dessert: Hot Chocolate with Peppermint and Marshmallows (and a shot of rum for the boys)

I could have gone with a side of risotto or grilled asparagus for the scallops but I wanted to add a touch of Thanksgiving to the meal. So I searched for sweet potato recipes – probably one of my Holiday favorites. I knew, Martha wouldn’t let me down: She offered a delicious recipe that turned out to complement the saltiness of the bacon-wrapped scallops perfectly. The feedback was almost overwhelming and Ryan and Paul were close to licking the dish to make sure they wouldn’t leave anything behind.

Besides the White Chocolate Mousse (it just wouldn’t get mousse-y) everything worked out perfectly. I may have to give the mousse another try some other time.

Meanwhile, I will be making the Mashed Red Curry Sweet Potato dish again for this year’s Thanksgiving celebration. And since we will be with Ryan and Regina this year, they just have to deal and eat that dish again. So sorry, guys!

The McRib Returns

Photo from Flickr: theimpulsivebuy

“But the McRib never left!” you say, my dear German readers. Well, that may be true for you guys since Germany is the only country where the McRib is available year-round. (Add another item to the list of things I miss over here…)

But in the U.S., the McRib hasn’t been offered at McDonald’s restaurants for 16 (!) years. Teenagers these days may have never experienced the taste of a McRib. Tragic!

When I saw the TV commercial last night, my excitement over the re-launch of the McRib probably surpassed my excitement about the Giant’s victory. So I asked Paul if he could please get one of those disgustingly delicious sandwiches for me. He refused.

Despite serious warnings from caring friends to please not put Baby Thrasher at risk with the consumption of the pork (or is it?)-patty-slathered-with-barbecue-sauce burger, I just returned from my prenatal yoga class (how ironic) with a hot McRib in my hands.

And be sure that more trips to Mickey D will follow as the McRib shall disappear from the menu again by December 5, 2010.
 

Kill That Pig(gy Bank)!

There are the obvious expenses that come with the joyful blessings of being an expecting mom. Like those below:

  • Maternity clothes: Thankfully, my beautiful friend Ana had a stack of maternity clothes that I borrowed. But there were quite a couple of items missing in my preggo wardrobe that I really, really needed to feel comfortable AND pretty.
  • Nursing bras: They recommend to purchase nursing bras at around 36 weeks so I still have that on my to do list.
  • Childbirth class: We did a little bit of research on various classes all over the city and eventually ended up at the CPMC (where I’ll deliver). Kinda pricey and one can argue that a couple of DVDs could do the job but when Paul said he’d really like to take a class, I was thrilled about his excitement and that he wanted to learn alongside other expecting parents.
  • Clothing, gear, a stylish nursery including the perfect crib, and such for the baby
  • Likely a few medical bills

But then there are the more unexpected expenses that just keep creeping up on you. Here’s my list of pregnancy-related items that sucked some green out of our wallets (in order of appearance):

  • Fish oil capsules: Get the odorless ones and your burbs taste a little less like fish. I also figured out that it’s best to take them at night so the burping doesn’t bother you as much.
  • Pre-natal vitamins: So many options.
  • Stool softener (Sorry, was that too much information?)
  • Pre-natal yoga classes: I loved the classes at The Mindful Body. Especially, the instructor, Kari Marble, was terrific.
  • Super-sized body pillow: I borrowed a simple large body pillow (again, thanks, Ana!) not one of those fancy (and probably more comfortable) pregnancy body pillows.
  • Unforeseen cravings: Nothing crazy, no pickles and ice cream but still had to satisfy my cravings spontaneously. Spontaneity = convenience = food-to-go or lunching out = expensive.
  • Organic food: Switching from pesticide-infested groceries and meat to organic options was a long overdue change but certainly encouraged by the desire to do everything possible to grow a healthy human inside of me. Check out the Dirty Dozen – a list of fruits, vegetables and other foods with the highest pesticide residue.
  • Significant increase of toilet paper rolls: Really, five bathroom trips per night??

  • Higher water usage due to a) more sweating and b) to find relief for aching back, legs and head
  • Massage oil to rub on belly to avoid nasty stretch marks (successful, by the way): My cousin sent me this from Germany. I’m sure any other massage oil would have the same effect but, as you know, I am a sucker for cute things and fun packaging. Also, I think it’s kinda cool to have ‘foreign’ items in your house that show how cosmopolitan you are. ;-)
  • Pre-natal massages: Again, The Mindful Body seemed to offer the best deal. $66 for an hour massage. Make sure to ask for Sabrina. She was the best and massaged me while I was lying on my side. So relaxing, so worth it!
  • Infant CPR class: We’re in the process of setting up private CPR classes to keep the costs down and to be able to have a bunch of friends join us. I found the best value at this place, charging $35 per person if you book a private class and $50 if you take a community class (complimentary drinks and snacks provided) compared to American Red Cross ($60 per person), Kaiser ($55 for non-members) and other institutions.

I’m sure there will be more fun stuff coming our way. And I have to add a disclaimer that, thanks to my preggo brain, these lists are by no means complete. Would love to hear what unexpected expenses you had to tackle.

Leave a comment and tell me all about it.

Stand Mixer :: Home Decor

One day, I will have one of these in my kitchen. And then I will start baking.

KitchenAid Artisan Stand Mixer. In Buttercup Yellow. $300. Available here.

Salads Only :: Day 3

I thought Day Three requires a bit more creativity. Here’s what I came up with last night. Come on, Julie and Julia would have liked this one!

  • boiled potatoes (red and yellow)
  • boiled eggs
  • breaded chicken strips
  • salad greens (whatever Paul prefers)

I whipped up another mayonnaise-based dressing with honey mustard, lemon juice and a few herbs. Mixed the potatoes with the dressing. Served everything on a bed of greens with the chicken strips on the side.

It was yummy!

Salads Only :: Day 2

I hate migraines! Yesterday afternoon, one of those nasty migraines hit me again. As much as I wanted to just crawl into bed and try to fall asleep so I wouldn’t have to feel the pain, I adore, love and respect my husband so much that I wanted him to get a proper meal after working hard for his family all day. Could I get a pat on the shoulder, please?

To keep this post short – another migraine sucker seems to be on its way to my brain – I used some magic and the following ingredients for my salad creation for Day Two of Salads Only Week:

  • salad greens (whatever greens Paul prefers)
  • organic strawberries – sliced
  • tomatoes – sliced
  • steak – thinly sliced and marinated for 20 minutes in olive oil, garlic, pepper, salt and more garlic before grilling briefly in a skillet
  • freshly baked whole wheat bread (not the soft kind) – “toast” it in the skillet with the steak for 1 or 2 minutes. The bread will get crunchy and soak up the marinade from the steak – yum.

For the dressing I whipped up another creation of mine:

  • a few spoons of low fat mayonnaise
  • a splash of organic milk
  • a few spoons of lingonberry sauce from IKEA (any cranberry or raspberry preserve will do)
  • balsamic vinegar
  • pepper

Serve salad with the sizzling steak on top, drizzle dressing on top. And because we love shaved Parmesan, there’s always a bit of that cheesy garnish for (almost) every salad.

The best part: Since I grilled a bit too much steak, I used the leftover meat and dressing to make Paul a delicious sandwich for lunch today.

Salads Only :: Day 1

Paul and I decided to eat healthy this week. Ever since we found out that I am pregnant, we’ve been watching (well, I have been watching) what we’re eating. There are enough mysteries about growing this tiny human inside of you that I believe you shouldn’t add any extra excitement (read: risks) by eating food that is not good for your baby.

On that note. Who would have known that I wouldn’t miss alcohol at all? Sure, when Paul pops open a chilled bottle of delicious California microbrew, I do get a bit envious and there may be a bit of saliva exiting my mouth. But overall, I’m fine with my abstinence.

Soft, non-pasteurized cheeses, on the other hand, not so much. When I pass the cheese section at Whole Foods, I just want to cry. I love, I mean, LOVE soft-ripened, triple crème, buttery French cheeses that are very rich and mild and for best flavor, are served at room temperature. The smellier, the better. Please someone serve me a fancy cheese platter on my delivery bed!

But I digress.

Our recent and frequent consumption of fast food items caused Paul to pull the (fat) break and declare the Week Of Salad Only Dinners. They certainly won’t be all vegetarian but at least we’ll follow a few basic rules of healthy nutrition.

Grilled Nectarine (and Shrimp) Spinach Salad

Tonight, we’ll start with a Grilled Shrimp and Nectarine Spinach Salad
(with candied walnuts and shaved Parmesan).  Recipe by me.

Come back to see what’s cooking for tomorrow…

Beers And Brats :: A Dude’s Birthday Party

Back in the days when I had my own event design company Wishcraft Design, I crafted a few, lovely parties on behalf of my clients. This was my first event for my first official client.

A loving wife hired me to come up with an original idea to celebrate her fun, beer-loving 30-something husband. I designed an intimate setting for a Beers And Brats Birthday Party including details like cupcake toppers, chocolate bar wrappers and signage for the buffet crafted out of maps of San Francisco. (The couple was only in town for a quick visit but was planning to move to San Francisco a few months later.) Did I mention that my client and I planned and organized the whole event via a secret email address and while we were on opposite coasts? (Read her kind review of my services on Yelp here.)

‘Nuff said, here are a few photos.

The birthday boy’s name started with a ‘W’ and he turned 36.

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A selection of the finest brews.

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Lovingly crafted chocolate bar wraps made from San Francisco maps.

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Treat yourself!

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Cheers!