Freckles in April

Monday, June 29, 2015

Defining My Personal Style

A couple weeks ago Merrick wrote a post about finding your personal style. As I read through I was like, "Whoa, I REALLY needed this!" Picking out my top 10 items was super eye-opening.

(You: Wait! That's only 9 items!  Me: Number 10 is my moccs, may they rest in peace. I'll get another pair when they become available again in the fall.)

Apparently I like black, gray and an occasional splash of red. I have a thing for pieces that are either menswear-inspired (boyfriend shorts, moto jacket, track tee) or actual menswear (plaid button down). I like things that are loose around my midsection (I'm a middle figure so that's where I gain and carry weight) but highlight my thinner arms and legs. I love a little bit of edgy hardware, like the exposed zippers on the moto jacket and black tank.

Honestly, looking at those 9 items makes me go, "Yup, I could live with just those." That right there is my comfort zone.

Merrick also talks about picking things that work for your lifestyle and where you live. I used to LOVE heels but now I couldn't tell you the last time I wore a pair. They were fun when I only left my house on occasion but now I'm totally the taxi driver mom carting kids from A to B to C to... and I just want to wear flats and sandals. They're practical for where I'm at in my life!

Also, I own a strangely winter-friendly wardrobe considering Mesa's winter lasts for 30 seconds. I need more tank tops and tees and I should probably stop buying jackets.

Have you assessed YOUR style lately? How would you define it? What are your top 10 items?


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Friday, June 26, 2015

Cashew Chicken | A 20 Minute Meal

When Aaron and I first got married I didn't know how to cook. all. The 3 cookbooks I got for our wedding and a handful of hand-me-down recipes from my mom were all I had to plan our meals.

It's mind-boggling how different the internet is now versus ten years ago. Cooking blogs weren't really a thing when I first got married. In fact, I hardly used the internet at all (except to e-mail Janssen). Now Google is practically an extension of my body and almost ALL my recipes are from cooking blogs.

Except for this one. There are very few recipes that I made in our first year of marriage that I still make today and this is one of them. It's quick, easily doubles, and reheats beautifully. My kids eat it, Aaron often requests it, and we've served it to company on more than one occasion. It's solid and I'm sure we'll still be eating it in another 10 years!

Cashew Chicken

Serves 2-4

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 t cornstarch
1/4 c white cooking wine (you can use chicken broth but I don't think the finished flavor is as good)
5 green onions
1 3/4in piece fresh ginger
2/3 c cashews
1/4 c vegetable oil
3-4 T soy sauce

Cut chicken into 3/4 inch cubes. Stir cornstarch into 2 tablespoons white cooking wine and mix well with chicken cubes. Set aside.

Remove root ends any wilty parts from the green onions. Rinse and slice into 1/8 inch pieces. Peel ginger, slice thinly and then slice into matchsticks. Break up or chop cashews (I throw them into my small food processor and pulse a few times).

Heat oil in a wok or pan, add cashews and stir-fry for 1-2 minutes until golden (watch them closely so they don't burn!). Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add chicken to the pan and stir-fry for a couple minutes until most of the pink is gone. Add onions and ginger and stir-fry for one minute. Combine remaining soy sauce, white cooking wine and about 1/3 cup water and add to chicken. Cook until chicken is no longer pink. Add cashews back in.

If it's too watery (mine is occasionally), mix a little cornstarch in water and stir in to thicken.

Serve over hot cooked rice.

Looking for more quick and easy recipes? Check out this balsamic chicken with pasta and fresh cheese or  these Santa Fe veggie wraps (no heat required)!

See more of my favorite recipes on Pinterest!

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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Fortune Favors the unBirthday Girl

For my 30th birthday I decided I wanted to go to Disneyland without kids. I love those little monsters but I really needed a break. The timing didn't work out for me to go until this past weekend so it was a rather belated birthday gift to myself.

I left Thursday evening. My friend Elisa teaches elementary school in Alaska but she's visiting her mom in Phoenix for the summer so I picked her up on my way over to California. My uncle lives in LA but was going to be out of town so he offered his place for us to crash for the 3 nights we were there.

Fortunate occurrence number 1: During the drive I warned Elisa that the parking situation around my uncle's apartment is abysmal and we would probably end up getting in after midnight and then having to park 17 blocks away and hike over. When we arrived at almost 1am, however, there was a spot about 20 steps from his door. We kept reading the signs to make sure my van wouldn't get towed but, sure enough, it was legal to park there.

The next night that EXACT SAME SPOT was open at midnight as we rolled in after our first day at Disney. Even on the third night we only had to park around the corner. We've been visiting my uncle in that same apartment for YEARS and that has literally never happened.

Fortunate occurrence number 2: Since we went on a summer weekend the parks were predictably crowded. We decided to do the single rider line for Indiana Jones to avoid waiting 50+ minutes. We got through in under 10 minutes and somehow still managed to sit together.

These cost $23. I'll let you figure out whether or not I bought them.

Fortunate occurrence number 3: Day two was a Saturday and we could tell just from the traffic getting into the parking garage that it was going to be crazy. The lines to get on the shuttle were long. The lines to get through security were insane. When we finally got through to the park gates I opened my backpack to get my wallet...and it wasn't there.

That morning I had pulled some souvenirs for my kids out of my backpack and I realized I must have pulled my wallet out as well and not put it back in. I was devastated. Katie had flown in the evening before and I was having visions of sending her and Elisa in to start their day while I drove the hour back to Hollywood, then an hour back to Disneyland, then back through all those massive lines...

Elisa suggested we file a lost and found report, just in case. And maybe, since we had been there the day before, they would have my information on file and could issue me a new ticket. I felt silly filing a report for something I suspected was on the dresser in my uncle's room but I did it. The lost and found guy was fantastic. He took the report and issued me a new ticket so I could at least get in to the parks. Elisa said she'd spot me any money I needed and very quickly our day was back on track.

Less than two hours later I had a voicemail from Disneyland. THEY FOUND MY WALLET. I somehow managed to lose it at Disneyland the previous evening and someone turned it in.

We went back to the lost and found office and I did a quick check- everything was still there. Not a single thing was missing.

A very merry (un)birthday to me!


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Monday, June 22, 2015

If You Take a Girl to Dinner

If you take a girl to dinner,

she's probably going to ask for a glass of water.

When you give her the water,

she'll likely request a pitcher of water for the table because she's the thirsty type.

When she's finished with dinner, she'll go to the bathroom.

Then she'll jump in the back seat of the car with her friend to chat for the 35 minute drive home.

About 20 minutes in, she might realize she needs to pee again.

She'll think she can hold it for 15 more minutes.

When she realizes she can't because baby number 3 decimated her bladder, she'll awkwardly ask you to pull over.

She'll run off into the desert.

She'll pee in the desert before God, the moon and some very understanding friends.

When she's mid-pee she may realize that she's stepping on a cactus.

While extricating herself she'll accidentally pee a little on her favorite moccasins.

When she gets back to the car she might realize that her shoes are also covered in cactus spines.

She'll take off her pee and cactus encrusted moccasins only to discover that her foot has some cactus spines as well.

Which means she'll need


She'll probably ask you to just take her home.

When she gets home and removes all the cactus spines she'll feel much better.

The next morning she'll take a closer look at her favorite moccasins and realize they are ruined but she can't bear to throw them away.

She'll stick them on the back patio and feel sad.

Because you love her, you'll get her a glass of water.

And to soothe her battered pride,

you should probably take her to dinner.

(She'll have to wear different shoes, though).


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Friday, June 19, 2015

DIY Paneled Pencil Skirt

I've done very little sewing for myself over the past couple years. Between pregnancy, moving, and having a tiny baby around I just haven't had the motivation! Life (and my waistline) finally seem to be settling though so when I found this kelly green linen at SAS I knew something for myself was in order. It had been a while since I used my favorite pencil skirt pattern* so I dug it up and got cutting (and then re-cutting when I realized my hips are like 2 inches wider than they were a few years ago. Ahem).

The whole thing came together beautifully. If I were to do it again I probably wouldn't use linen (it's a little too wrinkle-prone for a skirt with this kind of detail) but it was sure nice to sew with. I used white satin as my lining, which I always love for the slippy-slidey factor.

I spent over an hour trying to make a pretty Illustrator graphic for how to make this skirt front but came away hating everything and thinking that Illustrator is the stupidest program ever. Then I spent 10 minutes drawing you this diagram using pencil and paper.

Old school forever.

You'll need a pencil skirt pattern of some sort. I'd imagine this would also work fairly well with jersey, if you're wanting more of a stretchy tube skirt kind of deal (aaand now that I've typed that, I really want to make one). You'll just be messing with the front pattern piece.

Click to enlarge any of these. I know my writing can be hard to read! Also, on the last bit I forgot to explain that you repeat with each panel- sandwich a folded strip between the center piece and a side panel piece, stitch, then open and press. Start with the lower panels and then do the uppers.

Once your front piece is all assembled you can finish the skirt assembly according to your pattern. I totally recommend this tutorial for inserting a zipper with a facing or lining!

I had a gold zipper in mind but all I had on hand was this turquoise one. I don't hate it. Thanks to Photography Hill for capturing my backside in such a lovely fashion.

*I just clicked over to the original tutorial for the first time in yeeears and apparently it's no longer there. This tutorial looks promising, however. You can always use a store-bought pattern or try Googling "pencil skirt block" and see what you find. To make a lining I use the same pattern in my lining fabric (minus any embellishments). Basically, you're making the same skirt twice then putting them together at the waistline and zipper then hemming them together.


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