Blissfully Delicious

flour choc cupcakes 2My son tuned TWO years old yesterday! Yes, two whole years old. Everyone always tells me that when it comes about parenting, or raising kids, the days are long, but the years are short. And boy, this weekend, as I frosted these chocolate cupcakes for his birthday, I couldn’t agree more. For the past several months, I have noticed a huge difference in how much he talks and rambles off his colors, shapes, numbers, and animals, he also strongly voices his preferences, showing his independence, and he plays pretty hard with his almost five-year old sister. One of the disadvantages of having families who live far away, our birthday parties are small, and intimate, and they are often combined with visit. On the other hand, I get absolutely no pressure of throwing parties where extended families expect an invite of an elaborate birthday parties. Since my folks were coming to visit for this upcoming holiday weekend, I thought that we can just push back his birthday celebration to next weekend; so I can bake a nice layered cake, and have him open all of the gifts at the same. My husband and I also took Friday off  to do some major de-cluttering in our garage and basement, so we were pretty pooped.
flour choc cupcakes But get this, as most moms can relate, as I laid down on my bed (on Friday night) thinking about his upcoming birthday on Sunday, I decided that while yes, he’s only two years old, and I’m not sure even sure if he would care or even remember. I thought, I would celebrate it on the actual day. Even if it’s a small-ish one, with balloons, cupcakes, and a gift that he can open. After all, this wasn’t only a celebration for him, it is a celebration for all of us in the family, a tradition in our family that I hope that both kids remember. My daughter is convinced that she recalls her two-year old birthday, when she cried as soon as she saw her Elmo-shaped cake. So maybe he will remember anyhow, who knows! So at the last minute, I decided to make cupcakes, and my daughter thought that chocolate sounds good. She’s pretty convinced that her little brother loves chocolate cupcakes. I had been eyeing this new chocolate cupcake recipe that I thought sound so fantastic. And if the frosting has magic in its name, it’s got to be good, right? I told my husband that we absolutely should do something to celebrate him on his actual birthday. And I am so glad that we did.
Liams bday kissHe woke us up bright and early yesterday, and we wished him a happy birthday. He kept on saying that he was two years now (see, I think he gets it!). We fed the kids a quick breakfast, and we all went to get balloons, which he gladly picked out himself. Then I hung a Happy Birthday banner on our fireplace mantle, his balloons, and a gift bag nearby,  smack in the middle of our living room. We told him that I was baking him birthday cupcakes. He waited pretty patiently, for a two-year old. He couldn’t keep his eyes off his gift bag the whole time. When we finally finished the cupcakes, along with the ah-mazing frosting, my daughter led us to a chorus of Happy Birthday, then she blew his candle for him, gave him a huge kiss, and helped herself to a cupcake as he was tearing up the gift bag. And oh, let’s talk about the cupcake. The chocolate cupcake was probably the best one yet that I have tasted. And trust me, I made and ate a lot of chocolate cupcakes. I also love that it has simple ingredients that I normally keep around the house, and no coffee (I really don’t need my kids to stay up any longer than they already do!) But that frosting! I have now declared that frosting to be the birthday frosting at our household. Yes, THAT good. It’s not very sweet, but it literally melts in your mouth. This meringue frosting reminds me of this version that I made a long time ago, but this one tasted better than I recall, and felt a lot sturdier and much more stable (great for piping), much more satiny, and feels more delicate. Either way, I will surely be making this frosting again for another birthday in the near future.

Chicken fajita
We’re officially in the first full week of May, and I am so excited that we’re one step closer to summer!  This winter has been a long one for us: we had some ridiculously cold days, crappy snow storms, and a snow blower that decided to quit in the middle of it all. As you can see, I’m happy to not have to worry about all of that for a while. The weather has been warming up pretty nicely, too, which means that I get to send the kids outside as soon as we get home to occupy them until dinner time. Then of course, the end of the year activities. This weekend was full of all kinds of activities: dance recital pictures for my oldest daughter, which sounds so simple and easy, but it took almost entire morning of our Saturday.  Then my little man had a fever. Not sure if he has just colds, since the weather change is usually pretty hard on the kids. He seemed to be in a pretty good mood through all of it, and I surely hope it will go away. Sick kids is definitely something that every working parent dreads.

Chicken fajita 2

And then, a big and very personal milestone for me was that I had decided to start practicing yoga again. I was scrambling to find all of my work out clothes, and my yoga mat. But I made a point to practice twice last week. One of them was a hot yoga. It was my first time trying it out, and it was fabulous; and I think my body, while it was pretty much out of practice, still remembers the routines.  I started practicing yoga religiously, about six times a week, when I graduated from college. It was an incredible experience, as I learned my ways through eating mindfully, cooking to fuel my body, learning how to balance exercise and respecting my body for what it was capable of doing. I managed to continue my practice all through my first pregnancy. As soon as my daughter was born, almost five years ago, I fell out of practice.  The daily caring of a newborn who didn’t sleep through the night until she was 18 months old wore me out. Years of almost daily yoga practice and gym routines helped me through two healthy pregnancies and labor and I was grateful for that. I knew that I was ready to go back to it. So I did. I felt like everything and everyone around me is going through some sort of changes, myself included. Good changes, I would say. And it has really inspired me to rejuvenate myself; as well as the dishes that’s been prepared in my kitchen lately. This simple chicken dish has a burst of flavors, loaded with vegetables, and you can make it as healthy or indulgence as you want it to be.  I hope you enjoy it, and it’s so perfectly timed for a Cinco de Mayo celebration! Have a great week!

pizza 1
In the middle of scheduling a meeting for this week, my jaw dropped when I realized that I was putting meeting placeholders for the third full week of April already. What? Yesterday was the third full week since I have transitioned to my new role at work. I have been on the road more the past four weeks than I have been for the past five years; and I was out of sync. I was lucked out that I didn’t really need to travel much in my previous two jobs, so that’s about a total of five years. No matter how long my work days were, I always went home to see my babies at the end of my day, and to me that was a fair compromise. And trust me, there were too many long days than what I care to remember. Juggling a few work trips here and there have was something that I have had to relearn in the past several weeks. I’ve been meeting lots of new people, and learning at a tremendous pace about the business which I absolutely love. On top of that, I have gotten been able to reconnect with a couple of old friends that I don’t get to see on a regular basis.

pizza 2 All in all, the experience has been good, and I really needed the change. One thing that surprised me the most is that I missed the normalcy of cooking at home. Often times I get so bogged down with the idea of cooking dinners every single day that the novelty wears off.  Cooking can feel like a chore, especially after a long day of work, and knowing that your little customers sometime will turn their nose up at the fruit of your hard-labored cooking. Fortunately to me, I was missing some solitude time in the kitchen. My husband is always willing to occupy the kids. Then I get to chop some veggies to make these salads, this particular one I was craving terribly while I was on the road. And I kept on dreaming about these fudgey homemade brownies as I was driving home.

pizza
One of the things that my husband volunteered to do, being helpful and all, was to take care of dinner recently. And what did he have in mind? Homemade pizza. The thing is, I used to love pizza. Well, let’s use the term “love” loosely now. You don’t love pizza unconditionally until you agree to still eat pizza after eating way too many take out pizzas topped with black olives, pepperoni, and cheeses since your toddler won’t eat anything else for dinner. Like that, yes. I groaned and told my husband that I wanted a little fancier topping; like shredded artichoke, a fried egg (like they do it in Rome!), anchovies, and bring on the smelly cheese. Wbat I should have known, was that making it homemade, while it takes a little extra time and more planning ahead (especially since this dough needs to rest overnight), made all of the difference! Homemade dough my friend; if you haven’t ventured out to homemade pizza, you won’t care what the toppings are, because it’s good enough. The flavors are subtle, yet prominent enough like how you imagine a pizza should be: a little crusty layer and chewy bites. And shred your own cheeses. Get the big chunks of cheeses, and slice them or shred them yourself to your heart content. And add basil leaves, since it will make you feel like an adult.

veggies lasagna

We enjoyed our first week back at home after an attempt of spring break in Disney World that turned out to be less than stellar (thanks to the flu/virus). Both kids dragged their feet the first day back to school,  but they fell back into their routine uneventfully. I was really glad that I took an extra day off to catch up on errands at home (hello, spring cleaning?) but I was secretly glad that things were back to normal. I don’t care how much laundry and picking up that I had to do, I would really rather be tired picking up from rowdy healthy kids than from sick kids. The first night  I was back sleeping on my own bed, I felt like million bucks and was ready to conquer the world.

veggies lasagna 2

Work wise, I took a day trip to spend some time with my project team, which is about 2.5 hrs away from where I live. When I accepted this job, I wasn’t required to relocate for the role, but I was asked to visit the rest of my team probably once or twice a month for some face-time. My jaws literally dropped when I saw the building that everyone was located. It’s an open-space concept so nobody was assigned a cube, but every employee  is able to electronically “check-out” a location to work at for the day.  The building was new so naturally, we can argue that it’s nicer; but it was designed so chic and trendy that it didn’t feel like I work for the same company. While not a casual day, but everyone was able to wear jeans. They offer free Starbucks coffee, teas, and Dove Hot chocolate in their break area, full of comfy coaches, and fancy seating area. Double score. This weekend, I was glad to be back baking and cooking in my kitchen. I made this vegetable lasagna, as I was craving for that comfort-food since we’re still in that wintry spring weather. Layered of roasted vegetables with noodles, cheese and tomato sauce was really good for my stomach and soul. Have a great week!

croutons

I just came back from a spring break, that was quite, well stressful. We were invited to go to Orlando for a week, and we graciously accepted (lodging would be free). It was going to be a pretty short trip, four nights and five days, so we thought, what the heck, we would check out Disneyland while we’re there -and sort of wing the rest. Our son was a little under the weather last weekend when we were scheduled to leave, but we thought that we’d power through, and went anyways.  As my son recovered, my daughter got the bug that my son must have had to, shortly after we arrived. So we both were busy tending sick kids, while watching the glorious weather from inside the rented house.

croutons3

 We managed to venture out to Animal Kingdom for one day, and spent a couple of hours in the actual Magic Kingdom, then it was time to go home. On top of all of the craziness last week, we even got a flat tire on the way to Magic Kingdom. I have been renting cars for over 15 years, and this was the first time that I ever had a flat tire!! We’re all back home now, back to the grind and both kids are back in full-health, and I can’t be happier. While it was disappointing to have not been able to spend more time exploring the themed parks, we were all ready to be home. I celebrated us being home with this glorious lunch of Roasted Winter Vegetables Salad,  and topped them with these homemade croutons. It’s so good to be home!