Monday, November 30, 2015

Easy Appetizers, Weekly Meals & Weekend Fun (November 30)

We had a nice, relaxing long weekend despite the kid fighting a cold. Luckily, he got better quickly.

We were invited to our friends’ house for Thanksgiving and had a great time. We contributed a seven layer dip, cheese crackers, deviled eggs, salad, bread, Prosecco, wine, beer, & cider. Easy things to make & bring - it was perfect!  

My “cheesy crackers” are a super easy, assembly-only appetizer. They are so easy to make but always well received.

Unfortunately, I forgot to take a photo of the finished product - all I have is a picture with the crackers in the background...

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Double Cheese Crackers

  • Goat cheese
  • Shaved Parmesan cheese
  • Chives - I use 3/4 of a big bunch, but you can adjust the amount depending on much you like chives.
  • Salt & pepper
  • Crackers
  1. Mix the goat cheese with chopped chives, salt & pepper. 
  2. Spread the cheese mixture on crackers. 
  3. Top with shaved Parmesan cheese.
I also made a 7-layer dip. I hadn’t made a layered dip for years and just played around with the ingredients. It was well liked but probably a bit heavy for Thanksgiving…. I love layered dips because you can easily change it up by changing the layers. Plus, you could make this dip a whole lot healthier by cutting out the cream cheese, sour cream, & cheese (or at least some or most of it).

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7-Layer Dip


Layer the following in a class container:
  1. Cream cheese
  2. Bean dip (either store bought or make yourself; it’s really easy: process in the food processor: 1 can of black beans (or cook your own), 1 - 2 T vinegar, salt, pepper, garlic, & 1 T tomato paste)
  3. Guacamole (avocados, lemon juice, salt, pepper, hot pepper sauce)
  4. Salsa (I used store bought, but you could easily make your own)
  5. Sour cream
  6. Shredded cheese 
  7. Chopped green onions
On Friday, we were lucky to escape to Half Moon Bay for the day. It was a gorgeous day at the beach. We had a good time walking on the beach.  

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Half Moon Bay 1 

And then we decided to grab a late lunch at Sam’s Chowder House in Half Moon Bay. Sam’s Chowder House, including its food truck, is well known and liked in the Bay Area. It was our first time there, and we were not disappointed. The food was delicious and we were able to sit outside at the end of November - life was good (except for the fact that the kid had a sore throat at that point).  

Sam sChowderHouse 
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We started the meal with the ahi tuna poke appetizer. It was absolutely delicious.

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Then we shared the fish & chips and the clam chowder. Both were really good.
Unfortunately, the kid really didn’t feel well in the late afternoon, but we were very thankful for a wonderful day we got to spend at the beach.

Here are the meals for next week:

Meal 1: Spaghetti & meatballs & roasted veggies.
Meal 2: Salmon burgers & a salad.
Meal 3: Lentil soup.
Meal 4: Cabbage soup - I’m going to play with this one. I randomly remembered the cabbage soup from the cabbage soup diet that was popular about 15 years ago. It’s tomato/broth based and contains lots of veggies. I will also add beans. We’ll see how it turns out.

Questions: What was the highlight of your weekend? What’s on your menu this coming week? 

Be well,

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Holiday Outfit

I have several holiday events coming up for which I need to dress up. After looking in my closet, I realized that I needed to get some new pieces.

I had been thinking about getting some faux leather pants/leggings for a while and thought they would work well with a holiday/celebration outfit. Yet, they can also be worn on other occasions. After doing some research, I decided to give Loft’s faux leather leggings in tall a try. I ordered them online during a special “$20 off pants” event. Plus, I had gotten a $25 off coupon code via email because I hadn’t shopped at Loft for a while. Somehow these promotions tend to work on me… ;) I liked that the leggings are fabric in the back and only faux leather in the front - it sounded more comfortable. And I am not disappointed.

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I also ordered the tunic at Loft (it’s an online only item). I like that it is longer in the back than in the front - it really covers the behind - perfect for pairing with leggings. Plus, the color is beautiful and very much on trend right now. The tunic also comes in a very pretty, festive green as well as in black. I’m sort of keeping my eye on the green (and maybe black) one, in case Loft has a major sale, which they tend to have quite often, including “flash sales” where everything on the site is 50% off for 12 hours or so. 

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I chose a delicate, layered fringe necklace to complete the outfit. It was on major sale at Banana Republic but arrived as a tangled mess. I honestly suspect it left the warehouse a mess as the price tag was attached in a really weird way, around the tangled mess (maybe it had been returned that way???…From the price stickers, it looks like it its price was reduced five times). I almost returned it but then decided to invest 30 minutes to try to detangle it since it was such a good deal. And I think it was worth it. We’ll see how it survives my holiday travels…


Questions: Do you have any “dressier” holiday events to attend this year? If so, what are you going to wear? 

Linking up with: TurningHeads, iwillwearwhatilike, VisibleMonday, Throwback Thursday, Style Me Wednesday, A Labour of Life

Be well,

[Disclosure: Affiliate links in this post may generate commissions for]

Monday, November 23, 2015

Mini Turkey Pot Pies, Weekly Meal & Weekend Fun (November 23)

We had a low-key weekend with some time to catch up on work, housework, and life. My highlights were several neighborhood walks each day and throwing the football around at the park.

Plus, after years of wanting but not buying a DSLR, Andy finally broke down and bought one. He spent the better parts of Saturday and Sunday playing around with it. At one point, during our walk, he laid down on the sidewalk and said, “Stand on top of me,” which the kid took literally and stepped on him. Andy was so into taking photos from that perspective that he continued to take photos with the kid standing on him…

Here are some of his experiments and us goofing around: 

The kid wasn’t very much into “regular” photos.

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He soon refused to be in the pictures...

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But he thought standing on dad’s stomach was fun! 

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 He also agreed to a sunset shot...

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Since it’s Thanksgiving week, I don’t have many meals planned. I’ll make a big pot of butternut squash kale bean soup as well as a spicy white bean chili in the slow cooker (but I’ll play with the recipe a bit and also probably double it to make it last most of the week…). It’s another fun Tasty recipe video.

BTW, last week’s whole chicken in the slow cooker turned out well, but the meat was very, very soft after eight hours in the slow cooker. I think it was probably done after 6 or 7 hours… (My chicken was pretty small…). Also, I had recruited (or so I thought) Andy to handle the raw chicken but when it was time to get to work on Monday morning, he said he wasn’t ready and said “let’s do it tomorrow.” That was after I had already cut up all the veggies and put them in the slow cooker. So I ended up handling the chicken myself, which went actually better than I had thought.

After we ate the chicken, I put the chicken bones back in the slow cooker, added water, another onion, garlic, and celery and cooked the bones for another 20 hours or so on low to make chicken bone broth. I have been enjoying the broth all week.

We are invited to our friends’ house for Thanksgiving this year, so I won’t have leftover turkey and trimmings. I am not a huge turkey fan, but I do always enjoy turkey soup. I also like the mini turkey pot pies I usually make with the leftover turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, mushrooms and peas. 

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Mini Turkey Pot Pies with a Mashed Potato Crust

  • Leftover turkey, cut into small pieces
  • Mushrooms, sliced
  • Peas (frozen and thawed peas work very well)
  • A little half and half (or stock to make it lower calorie)
  • Leftover mashed potatoes (it’s also really tasty with smashed sweet potatoes)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
What To Do
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Sauté mushrooms in a little oil for a few minutes.
  3. Add frozen peas and turkey meat.
  4. Add a few tablespoons half and half (or stock).
  5. Season mixture with a little salt and pepper
  6. Fill small ramekins 3/4 with the turkey/mushroom/pea mixture.
  7. Top with mashed potatoes.
  8. Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 20 minutes, until the potatoes have a nice golden color. 

Questions:  Do you like turkey? Are you a “chicken” when it comes to handling raw chicken? What’s on your menu this week? What was the highlight of your weekend?

Be well,

Friday, November 20, 2015

That's It. Bars

Several weeks ago, I was contacted to see if we were interested in trying That’s it. bars. That’s it. bars are dried fruit bars.

That s It Bars

That’s it. bars contain only fruit and nothing else, and they are non GMO project verified. They are gluten free, kosher, vegan, and raw. Each bar contains 100 calories. Combinations are as follows:

  • Apple/strawberries (1 apple + 12 strawberries)
  • Apple/mango (1 apple + 1 mango)
  • Apple/blueberries (1 apple + 20 blueberries)
  • Apple/apricots (1 apple + 3 apricots)
  • Apple/banana (1 apple + 1 banana)
  • Apple/coconut (1 apple + 1/4 coconut)
  • Apple/pineapple (1 apple + 1/4 pineapple)
  • Apple/pear ( 1 apple + 1 pear)
  • Apple/cherries (1 apple + 10 cherries)

Since they are made from dried fruit, each bar contains around 20 grams of sugar per bar (some a bit more, some a bit less). I have been keeping some in my work bag and like to eat 1/3 to 1/2 bar at a time/per day as a little pick me up (I keep the bars in a little resealable plastic bag to keep them fresh.) We have also shared some bars on our weekend hikes.

We have been enjoying the different flavors and each have found our own favorites.

Questions: What’s your favorite fruit? Do you like dried fruit? Have you tried dried fruit bars? Have you tried That’s it. bars? If so, what did you think? 

Be well,

[Disclosure: I have been provided nine That's it. bars for free. As always, all opinions in this post are my own.]

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Necklace Love

If you read my What I Wore Wednesday posts and/or follow me on Instagram, you’ll have probably noticed that I love necklaces and scarves. I have collected necklaces and scarves for many years and some of my favorites are 15+ years old (and quite a few are hand-me downs from friends and my sister). I enjoy adding new necklaces and scarves to my collection as changing the necklace or scarf you pair with an outfit can change the whole look.

The other day, World Vision contacted me to see if I was interested in reviewing some of their products. World Vision is a charity organization that has a gift catalog with a wide range of products and price points, and the proceeds earned from the sale of the products helps improve the quality of life of children and families around the world.

When looking through the catalog, I noticed several necklaces and knew that I was going to pick two necklaces.

The first necklace is a Balinese multi-strand necklace. Since it is finally cold around here, I paired the necklace with a winter white cowl neck sweater. In warmer months, I can see it paired with a peasant blouse, flares, and funky shoes.

Balinese Necklace 1

Balinese Necklace 2
Balinese Necklace 3
Balinese Necklace 4

The second necklace is a multi-colored necklace, and it is unique in that it is open on the bottom. I really like the stones and that they are bound together with a thin leather band. I decided to wrap it around my neck and let the ends hang loose. I like the unique look. 

Mulitcolored Necklace 1

Mulitcolored Necklace 2

Mulitcolored Necklace 3

Both necklaces are very nice pieces that I know I will enjoy pairing with different outfits in years to come. You can find out more about World Vision’s mission on their website, their Facebook page, and by following them on Twitter.

Question: Which necklace do you like better? Do you like changing up the look of an outfit with necklaces or scarves? 

Be well,

[Disclosure: I was provided both necklaces free of charge. As always, all opinions are my own.]

Monday, November 16, 2015

Weekly Meals & Weekend Fun (November 16)

Our weekend was filled with lots of activity, but the highlight was Saturday evening. We went to the San Jose Bacon & Beer Classic, where Andy was a judge. He judged the IPAs as well as all the bacon dishes at the evening session.

It was cool to get to check out the San Jose Municipal Stadium when there wasn’t a game going on.


I didn’t have any beer but had a few sips of cider and mead as well as a few bacon samples. Here are some examples of the many bacon dishes.


Andy worked really hard taking copious notes and ranking the bacon dishes and the beers.


It was fun that we got to roam around on the field. We made sure to hunt down the San Jose Giants’ mascot, Gigante, and I made him take a photo with me.


Then the judges deliberated.


It was a fun - but quite cold - evening. We left a little before 10 p.m. and spent the next few hours trying to get warm.

Here are our meals for this week:

Meal 1: Whole Chicken in a Slow Cooker - I’m really curious to see how this turns out! This is a cool BuzzFeed recipe video - so fun to watch! On a side note, I am a wimp when it comes to whole raw chicken and already told Andy that he is in charge of cleaning and prepping the chicken and putting it into the slow cooker!
Meal 2: Vegetable bean soup.
Meal 3: Scallops with roasted vegetables.
Meal 4: Pizza with mushrooms & brie cheese and a salad.

Be well,

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Black, White, & Grey

I got the reversible wrap two years ago. It was very affordable, and, at the time, I wasn’t even really sure how or when I would wear it. I wore it a few times in the last two years when I quickly needed to “throw something on," but this year it’s become my go-to piece.  
Black WhiteWrap1
I find the neutral colors make it work with lots of outfits. I grab it when we go on our nightly family walk, out shopping, and I even wore it to work last Wednesday.

Black WhiteWrap2

I also wore my new Adam Lippes for Target flats. They didn’t have them in the store in my size when I went, but I found them online and read that they are quite big. I therefore ordered one-half size smaller than my usual size, and they fit perfectly. I love black and white and am really happy that I got the shoes as I’m always on the lookout for cute flats.


I also wore my black and white necklace that I got at Black House White Market many years ago. It’s a favorite I reach for often.

White BlackNecklace

Overall, I really liked the outfit, and it works well for my life as it works for teaching as well as the rest of my day. It feels really great not to change in the middle of the day!

Questions: Do you like to wear black & white? I love black and white and wear it quite often. Do you wear wraps? I now own two wraps; the one above and the one I got from Jacket Society. It’s REALLY tempting to add more as there are so many great wraps out there, but I’ll try to restrain myself! Have you ever bought any pieces from the Target designer collaborations? I bought several pieces from the Missoni for Target collaboration years ago; one cardigan I nearly wore to death (Andy’s words!) because I loved it so much. I also bought a dress from that Missoni for Target collaboration that hung in my closet for years but which I have recently rediscovered.

Be well,

Monday, November 9, 2015

Weekly Meals & Weekend Fun (November 9)

Andy and I are excited that we get to enjoy a long weekend. Unfortunately, it’s going by way too quickly…

We started the weekend early with a lunch date on Friday. We hadn’t really celebrated our anniversary in June as things were really hectic at the time. We therefore decided to go out for a nice lunch. I usually don’t like to splurge on expensive alcohol in a restaurant, but the rose sparkling wine was a nice treat. 

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And we got to go on another date on Saturday because the kid was at a sleepover. We went back to Yucca de Lac in Stanford Shopping Center. I couldn’t believe that the Christmas trees were already up! Yucca de Lac is a nice relaxing place, and I love that I can do a little shopping while we are there!

I actually got a nice winter coat on major sale at Banana Republic; it was originally $359 and with an extra 30% off the sale price it came to $89. I’m going to spend two weeks with my parents in Germany in December, so a truly warm coat (and not a “fake California coat”) is a must. Here is a shot of the back of the coat; Andy insisted on taking the photo in the middle of the store to prove to me that the coat was too big. But I didn’t think so. It’s roomy, but I’ll need some room to add extra layers; it's likely to be quite cold, and I get cold easily, so I'll have to have room for thick sweaters and multiple layers. Plus, the coat is a small and the sleeves of the extra small were too short. I’ll show you the front of the coat in a future post after I have a chance to take some photos.   


Here is what’s on the menu this week:

Meal 1: Spaghetti Squash Casserole.
Meal 2: Black bean burgers & roasted veggies.
Meal 3: Grilled salmon & a salad.
Meal 4: Leftovers - I’ll make extra food of all dishes for lunches as well as leftovers. There are also several portions of soups and stews in the freezer which we’ll have to eat soon.

Questions: What was the highlight of your weekend? What’s on your menu this week? 

Be well,

Friday, November 6, 2015

The Vitamix Cookbook Review

We drink a lot of green smoothies. For years, we had a pretty affordable blender that worked fine. I always said I didn’t need a Vitamix and that I couldn’t imagine spending that much money on a blender. But then our trusty blender broke one day, and we were in the market for a new blender. I did quite a bit of research and kept coming back to the Vitamix. After all, we use our blender almost every day for green smoothies and sometimes for pureed soups. And I read that there was a real difference in the texture of smoothies and soups made in a Vitamix. We therefore decided to bite the bullet and get Vitamix.

We got the more affordable model without all the bells and whistles, but it works great! It was an investment I never regretted as the smoothies and soups are just so much creamier. Plus, the Vitamix can handle all the ice and harder, frozen veggies & fruits you put in it. In the past, I had to always partially defrost most veggies and fruits; looking back that was quite a hassle. I am happy that I chose a quality product that will work for many years to come.

While I love our Vitamix, we have really only been using it for smoothies lately. I was therefore excited when I was contacted to see if I wanted to review The Vitamix Cookbook. The book is written by the president and CEO of Vitamix, Jodi Berg. It sounded like the perfect book to put the Vitamix to use more. And the book did not disappoint.

Berg starts the book with a little background on the fourth-generation family company, her family, as well as her food philosophy. She discusses why it’s important to choose whole foods and includes handy information like a list of the dirty dozen and the clean fifteen as well as conversion charts from Fahrenheit to Celsius and cups to milliliters.

Here is a look at the chapters in the book. As you can see, the recipes go far beyond green smoothies & pureed soups!


I looked through the book when I got it and was immediately drawn to a wide variety of recipes and the beautiful pictures that accompany some of the recipes (I wish every recipe came with a photo, but that would have probably made the book too long as it is already very substantial with 380 pages). And in the end, more recipes are more useful than more photos!


TheVitamixCookbook4 TheVitamixCookbook2

The kid and Andy also looked through the book on their own because I left it on the coffee table. Both told me a long list of recipes they wanted me to make. I also picked out some. Everything I have made so far has turned out great. In the next weeks, I will share one of our favorite recipes from the book with you.

Finally, I really like the index of The Vitamix Cookbook as it is organized by ingredients (but also by breakfast. entrees, etc.), something I wish all cookbooks would do as it is so convenient! For example, if I have way too many bananas on my counter, I can see what recipes in the book use bananas.


Questions: Do you have a blender? If so, how often, and for what recipes, do you use it? Do you have a Vitamix? If so, what do you use it for? 

Be well,

[Disclosures: 1. I was provided a free copy of The Vitamix Cookbook: 250 Delicious Whole Food Recipes to Make in Your Blender. No other compensation was provided for this post. As always, all opinions are my own. 2. Links in this post are affiliate links and may generate a commission for Andrea’s Wellness Notes if you make a purchase using them.]

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Casual and Comfortable Outfits: Alternatives to Yoga Pants (What I Wore Wednesday: November 4)

A lot of my work is done at home - grading, lesson planning, responding to emails. I’m really only on campus for teaching, office hours, and meetings, which is about fifteen hours a week. I therefore often change out of my “work clothes” around noon. If you follow me on Instagram or have read my What I Wore Wednesday posts, you may wonder why I change out of my “work clothes” as my outfits are pretty casual for the most part. And that’s true since I teach in a very laid back environment.

I guess the answer is that I like to be as comfortable as possible when I’m not on campus, and it’s also necessary as I am known to get colored ink over my clothes when I write feedback. I think I’m in such deep thought that I don’t realize what I’m doing. Well, that’s my excuse at least, and I’m sticking to it! All I really know is that I find lots of pink, green, and purple (my favorite pen colors for writing feedback) marks on my clothes.

When I change out of my “work clothes,” it’s very tempting to reach for too casual clothes like yoga pants and tees. I have lately made an effort to wear more “put together” casual clothes for the second part of my day.

I bought the flare jeans at the beginning of September but hadn’t worn them because the length works with my boots, for which it had been too warm. They are super soft; in fact, I read one negative review where someone complained that they are so soft they don’t feel like jeans. I think that’s great and why I love them! I paired them with a simple turtleneck and silver necklace. I felt great in the late morning/afternoon/evening, which was spent grading, picking up the kid, dropping off the kid at his afternoon activity, and running some errands.
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On Friday, I spent the day grading midterms and lesson planning. I was comfortable in dark skinny jeans, a long sleeve black and white tee, and a favorite necklace of mine. I really like the skinny jeans because they have a lot of stretch; they are as comfortable as yoga pants but look more put together. I got the tee years ago at White House Black Market, and I love the material. It’s super soft and comfortable. I need to get another one in the same material soon!

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Another super comfortable outfit were the dark skinny jeans paired with a striped Banana Republic shirt. It’s a super casual outfit but more put together than yoga pants and a tee shirt.

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But there are also days when my teaching clothes are so comfortable that I don’t feel the need to change when I get home. This was actually the case on Monday and yesterday.
The black and white dress and the leggings are super comfortable, so I wore them all day without ever even thinking about changing. It’s really a perfect outfit for my life as I feel it’s dressy enough for teaching yet comfortable enough to wear even if I don’t have to be dressed up.


And my new cashmere sweater is so soft that I didn’t want to take it off and wore it all day. I was extra careful not get ink on the sweater…


When I’m adding new pieces to my wardrobe, I will be looking for dressy(ier) pieces that are comfortable and easy to care for (or super cozy like the cashmere sweater!) so that I'll want to wear them all day.

Questions: What are your favorite comfortable outfits that are still somewhat “put together?"

Be well,