Sunday, December 9, 2012

A big announcement (updates)!

The news is out! I'm growing an itty-bitty-teeny-weeny human being in my belly! It's been so hard to keep the news in, but we finally spread the word to friends and family, and now I get to tell you! This is part of why I haven't been blogging much lately - I have been exhausted at the end of the day. Other than that though, I am feeling great, and we can't wait to meet the newest member of our family next July!

PS: Isn't that shirt just the cutest!? The lovely Linda from Flirty Diva Tees sent it to me. I'm planning on wearing it for all of my monthly belly growth pictures (well, for at least as long as I can squeeze into it!).

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Saturday, December 1, 2012

Christmas Traditions Around the Globe (Guest post).

Good morning! Today I'd like to introduce you to Izzy, who's going to take us around the globe for a look at Christmas traditions in other countries. Here in San Diego, we're getting ready to put up our tree and bake some Christmas cookies. Hope you are all enjoying the holiday season as much as we are! 
- Monica

Christmas is probably the most celebrated, as well as the favorite, holiday of people all around the globe. Whether it is in Europe, America, Asia or Africa, Christmas is highly anticipated by all members of the family, who get together in order to rejoice in the birth of Jesus Christ. It is a time to be merry and there definitely is a special vibe in the air, the so-called Christmas Spirit. Even though people all over the world enjoy Christmas, different nations mark the holiday in a different way, with their own unique traditions and customs. So, here is how folks around the globe celebrate the world's favorite family holiday:


The nation of Brazil is a mixture of people from different ethnic groups, and since it is a former Portuguese colony, many of the Christmas customs in Brazil are from the Portuguese heritage. The equivalent of Santa Claus in Brazil is Papai Noel.
According to the legend, he comes to Brazil wearing silk clothes because of the heat. People tend to recreate the birth of Christ which they call Presépio. The scene is put on display both at homes and in churches. Christmas festivities continue until January 6th, known as Three Kings Day. It is the day when the Three Wise Men visited Jesus in order to bring him gifts. In Brazil people greet each other by saying 'Feliz Natal'.

vacation homes around the world


In Greenland different families tend to visit each other and indulge in drinking coffee and eating cakes. Presents that are given are mostly things that could come in handy – sealskin mitts, a pair of tusks or a sledge. After the cake and coffee, people give to each other Mattak, which is basically a strip of whale skin with blubber. The taste resembles that of a coconut. However, it is too tough to chew, so it’s usually just swallowed. Another famous Christmas food is Kiviak which is pretty much decomposed auk meat. It is the only night when men wait for their wives to come back home, instead of the other way round.


Christmas in Ireland lasts eleven days – from Christmas Eve up until January 6
th when the Epiphany feast takes place. The last day of Christmas is called Little Christmas. Women in Ireland tend to bake each member of the family a seed cake. Also baked are three puddings – one for each day of Epiphany. A day almost as important as Christmas is the day after it – St Stephen's Day. Plenty of meetings and football matches happen on that day. Leaving a bottle of Guiness beer and a mince pie for Santa is a tradition in Ireland. 'Merry Christmas' in Irish is 'Nollaig Shona Dhuit'.

Czech Republic

Celebrations over there begin on the 6
th of December when St. Nicholas visits. In the Czech Republic he is referred to as Svaty Mikalas. He is believed to climb down from heaven on a rope made of gold, along with a whip-carrying devil and an angel. Christmas time over there is peaceful and quiet. The Christmas dinner usually consists of a baked carp. To the good children, St. Nicholas brings presents whereas the bad ones are whipped by the whip-carrying devil. At midnight families go to Pasterka (Holy Mass). The celebrations continue for three days. The Christmas wish in Czech Republic is 'Prejeme Vam Vesele Vanoce a stastny Novy Rok'.


In Iran, Christmas is referred to as Little Feast. There is a fast in the first twenty five days of December during which no animal products (meat, milk, eggs) are consumed. It is a time for humility, a time for church going. The fast ends on the 25
th of December and the Christmas dinner consists of plenty of meat. People are granted the permission to break fast when they attend Mass in order to receive Communion. Children in Iran have never heard of Santa Claus and exchange no presents. However, they do receive presents, mostly in the form of new clothes. A traditional Christmas meal in Iran is a type of chicken stew. In Iran, you greet with 'Merry Christmas' by saying 'Kerismas Mobārak'.


In Japan only 1% of the population believes in Christ. However, most people decorate their homes and stores with evergreens. The other part of Christmas they celebrate is exchanging gifts. The person that acts like Santa Claus is a Buddhist monk; he is called Hotei-osho. Children believe that Hotei-osho has eyes on the back of his head, and therefore they do their best to behave whenever he is around. The little Christian families in Japan spend the day helping those in need, for example, by visiting hospitals. In Japanese, 'Merry Christmas' is 'Shinnen

Christmas is basically celebrated all over the globe. Even in countries where Christianity is not the official religion, people respect the holiday and share it with those who do celebrate it.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A treasury bonanza (treasury Tuesday).

Hello! It's been a while so I wanted to pop in to say "Hi," and to let y'all know I'm still alive and kicking over here. Life's been pretty busy recently, and I just haven't had the time or energy to blog. With the holidays coming up December's guaranteed to be another busy month as well. I'm hoping to get back to blogging regularly in the new year. For now, enjoy these lovely treasuries that I've been featured in this month.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Healthy recipe substitutions (guest post by Bridget Sanderford).

Today I'd like to introduce you to Bridget Sanderford. She is a freelance writer for, which is an excellent resource for anyone who is thinking of attending a culinary art school. She's sharing some of her best tips and tricks to make healthy substitutions in your recipes with us (I added the photos). Take it away Bridget!

Healthy Recipe Substitutions
Cakes and cookies are delicious treats, but they aren't necessarily the best foods for you to eat. Some of our favorite foods are often loaded with too much fat and sugar, making them unhealthy indulgences. However, that doesn't mean we have to avoid these treats completely or only enjoy them once in a blue moon.

Lighten these cuties up!

There are many healthy substitutions you can use to make your recipes healthier so you can enjoy your favorites more often and without guilt. Here are a few common substitutions you can try to make your recipes healthier:

Refined sugars plague a number of dishes, especially baked goods. However, you can use natural sweeteners to make these dishes just as sweet while also improving their nutrient profile. Here are a few ideas:
  • Unsweetened applesauce. Substitute one-to-one in place of sugar.
  • Vanilla. Use half the sugar and add a teaspoon of vanilla to enhance flavor while reducing overall sugar.
  • Cacao. Chocolate starts as cacao and then lots of sugar and milk is added. Cacao gives you the flavor without all the extras.
Some other substitutions include:
  • Stevia (a natural herb with zero calories)
  • Raw honey
  • Dates
  • Fruit

You will have to experiment with these ingredients to determine the amounts to substitute to make up for the same sweetness as sugar. 

Butter, oils, and cream are in so many dishes, both sweet and savory. Fortunately, there are many healthy recipe swaps you can make so that these dishes aren't as fatty. Here are a few ideas:
  • Cooking spray. Use this to line your pans or skillets instead of butter or oil.
  • Egg whites. Use two egg whites instead of a whole egg.
  • Greek yogurt. Use in place of sour cream for less fat and far more nutrients.
  • Evaporated skim milk. Use one-to-one in place of cream.
Some other possible substitutions include:
  • Broth
  • Avocado
  • Prunes
  • Bananas
  • Applesauce

Many of these can be substituted in place of butter or oil. You must experiment with your particular recipe to find out what ratios work best to preserve flavor.
Of course, there are also many fat-free or reduced-fat versions of foods such as meats and dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, and cheeses. Opting for lower-fat versions is an easy way to cut the fat without making substitutions or sacrificing flavor.

Image source

You don't have to give up on your favorites dishes because they are loaded with unhealthy ingredients such as fat and sugar. You can try some of these substitutions to make healthier versions of those dishes so  you can enjoy them whenever you want.

What are your favorite recipe substitutions to make your dishes healthier? Share your tips in the comments!

Bridget Sandorford is a freelance writer and researcher for, where recently she’s been researching pastry chef degrees and top culinary art schools. In her spare time, she enjoys biking, painting, and working on her first cookbook.

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Friday, October 5, 2012

Removing jar labels (testing Pinterest).

If you're anything like me, you have about a gazillion things pinned that you want to try out "someday." Well, last week I decided that "someday" had finally come for a few of those pins. The first one I tested was this pin from Don't Waste the Crumbs on removing stubborn jar labels.

Jars make simple and sweet vases when they are all cleaned up.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Mini rum cake (recipe).

This rum cake recipe is one of my go-to desserts to make. It always gets a fabulous reception, and there's never any leftovers (and easy to make too!). In fact, I've already shared this recipe once as a bundt cake. The other day, I decided to try making mini versions using muffin tins, so that I could bring some to a few friends, and keep some for myself. I quickly whipped up the batter, portioned it out, put it in the oven, then thought to myself "Wow, this cake is so easy to make!" Then I noticed the box of vanilla pudding that was still sitting on the counter... oops!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Crazy things we tell kids (silly stuff).

The other day, I happened upon this comment thread about the crazy things that our mothers told us, and that we tell our children. I was cracking up reading it, and it made me think of some of the crazy things my mom used to tell me too (let's just say wild imaginations run in my family). Now some of these are just plain silly, some of them are borderline genius, and a few of them are almost mean, but they all amused me. 
Since reading through the entire comment thread is slightly time consuming (I think I giggled at least an hour of time away), I decided to condense it into a list. Most of these are adapted from the Reddit thread, and a few are sprinkled in from my childhood (see if you can guess which ones).

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Peanut butter and apple sweethearts (Get your chef on).

It's time for the third Get Your Chef On challenge, and this edition is all about peanut butter! To be honest, time sort of snuck up on me. I had grand illusions of baking, but the weather never cooled down enough to turn on the oven, so this is sort of an un-recipe (but pretty darn cute if you ask me). 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Transfer attempt (a craft fail).

The fabulous ladies from Four Marrs and One Venus and Nellie Bellie are hosting a Stinky Linky Party for those crafting, cooking, and DIY projects that don't quite go as planned. I'm sure we all have a few big fails (at least I know I do), and normally they would never see the light of the internet. This linky party gives us bloggers a chance to let it all hang out, and to see that everyone goofs sometimes (which can be easy to forget when we only show off our best work). Make sure to check out the other stinkers, and don't be afraid to show off yours too!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Double decker eggs in a basket (recipe).

It's been hot here lately. Too hot to turn on the oven. Too hot to spend much time "slaving over a hot stove." Too hot to eat a big heavy meal anyways*. Honestly, we've been ordering a lot of pizza, but even pizza gets boring after a while. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Lemonade meltaway cookies (recipe).

When I saw the Itty Bitty Kitchen's recipe for Lemon Melting Moments, I knew I was going to have to try them.  Nothing says summer to me quite like a big, cold glass of lemonade, and the idea of putting that flavor in a cookie is fantastic.

I didn't do much to change the recipe, but instead of making sandwiches I made frosted cookies. I figure this way I get to eat twice as many ;) Right? The cookies themselves are very tasty, but the real star is the frosting. I think I could happily just eat a bowl of this lemon frosting with a spoon.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

I have a blog button (updates)!

Creating a blog button is something that has been on my to-do list for quite some time now. Last week I finally did it. You can now grab a button from the sidebar by copying the text underneath the picture!

The catalyst for getting it done was that I won ad space on two of my favorite blogs, plus one new (to me) blog, last week! Do you remember the birthday giveaway I helped sponsor last week for Dawn at Addicted to Recipes? Well, it must have been my lucky week because I won a prize four out of the five days (there were about five prizes offered a day - it was a birthday extravaganza!).

Head over to White Lights on Wednesdays and Crazy for Crust to see the button in action (and to be inspired by the awesome ladies who run these blogs). I also won an ad spot at Live.Laugh.Rowe., but it  isn't up quite yet (but don't let that stop you from clicking over, Kelly's blog is great). Finally, I won a $20 wally-world gift card from Quick Asian Recipes (a blog full of mouthwatering Indian food). Woo-hoo!

If you missed out on Dawn's birthday giveaways, don't worry. September 16th is Julie's one year blogiversary for White Lights on Wednesday, and she's hosting a pretty fantastic giveaway party to celebrate. There will be eight sponsors providing phenomenal prizes, so be sure not to miss it! I'll be giving away one of my decoupaged Christmas ornaments (winner's choice of book page, sheet music, or map decoupage).

Christmas ornaments from MdoubleM on Etsy

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Buffalo pulled chicken (slow cooker recipe).

I found this fabulous recipe for Buffalo Chicken Sliders over at Theresa'a Mixed Nuts, and I knew I had to make it. This chicken was honestly the easiest slow cooker recipe I have ever made; there are only 5 ingredients, and one of them is water! I had everything I needed to make the meat, so I tossed it into the crock pot as soon as I finished reading the recipe. I didn't have rolls to make sliders with, so we piled the chicken on top of some criss-cut french fries - Delicious!

It was just the two of us eating that night, so I made two chicken breasts, and we had some left over for lunch the next day. This can easily be doubled (or even tripled) if your cooking for a crowd though!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

An Irish blessing.

Just a little something I whipped up in Photoshop. Hope you are having a beautiful Sunday!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

A birthday card for the kiddos (printable).

I love to give handmade or semi-handmade cards when I have the time, and I try to encourage the children I care for to do the same thing. A few weeks ago, the boys' cousin turned four, and I had them color these cards for him. They had a blast making their cards their own, and the birthday boy thought they were pretty cool too.

Click on the picture to see it full size. Then save it to your desktop, and print it so that the image fills one sheet of card stock (makes 2 cards).
I used a dotted font for the words, so that the boys could practice tracing the letters. You can add the birthday girl's or boy's name to the front using your computer, or by hand after printing. Give your child age appropriate supplies that they will have fun decorating with. We used markers and stickers (the 3 year old opted for mostly markers, and did a nice job tracing the letters and writing his name inside; the 2 year old colored a little, then went crazy with the stickers).

I hope you enjoy these as much as we did :) I link up to these parties.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Where has the summer gone (update)?

Egads! I can't believe summer vacation is almost over! Matt starts classes again tomorrow, and the boys that I tutor go back to school next week. I've been so busy, I just don't know where the time has gone (confession: I still haven't fully unpacked my suitcase from when we went to Colorado back in June). I'm hoping that I will have more free time for blogging and Etsy in the fall, but I'm not sure where it will come from ;)

Now, don't get me wrong, it has been an absolutely fabulous summer, and I've been loving every minute of it (which is probably why it has gone by so fast). We got to spend a lot of wonderful time with family, did a little traveling, and spent lots of time outside in the sun. This month, I've been to the beach almost every day with the kids I nanny, and when we're not there we have the slip and slide out in the yard (I know, I know, it's a rough life, lol).

Matt's mom drove down from LA this weekend, and we got all dressed up and went out to dinner last night at Donovan's Steakhouse (it was seriously the best steak I've ever had!).
With all this fun, I have been seriously neglecting my computer, but there are a few things to note. I'm very excited to be sponsoring a giveaway over on Addicted to Recipes hosted by Dawn in honor of her birthday (did you notice the button in the sidebar?). She'll be hosting multiple giveaways each day all week! Be sure to check it out, I know I'll be entering all the other giveaways!

I bought my domain name ( a few weeks ago. In all honesty, it has been sort of an up and down experience. I was ecstatic at first, and I thought I had set up the blog forwarding, but then I realized the links weren't working (a huge "Thank you!" to Jen from Four Marrs and One Venus testing it out for me). I played around trying to fix it, and just made the problems worse and worse, so I gave up and tried to put it back to normal for the time being. Instead I completely "broke" my blog, and didn't realize it for four days, d'oh! I did finally get it back to normal (as you can see), and for now I'm leaving it like this. It's inexpensive to register a domain name, and at least I know that I have my address and nobody else can use it for the time being (but if I had to do it again, I think I would use GoDaddy, based on what I've heard from other bloggers). Some day when I'm feeling patient, I'll sit down with my laptop and work it all out. For now, I'm happy with how it is. 

What have you been up to this summer? Are you ready for autumn, or do you wish that summer could last for ever?

Friday, August 10, 2012

I bought my blog domain!

I'm so excited to announce that I just bought my domain name! You can now type in to get to my blog :) Don't worry though, you can still find me at too.

this is me right now

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Lemon jalapeño shrimp skewers (recipe).

I made these shrimp skewers when my brother-in-law and his fiance were here last month, and they were a huge hit. They were also fast and easy to make (the hardest part is cleaning the shrimp). This is another recipe from Cook's Country (I am absolutely loving my subscription. Thank you again Grandma!). 

These are supposed to be made on the grill, but we were so busy chatting and hanging out that it was dark out by the time I got around to making dinner. To make life easier, I cooked them on our little George Foreman grill inside. They were delicious done this way, but I suspect they'd be even better done over real fire to get that nice caramelized browning. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Baked chicken imperial (recipe).

This is another recipe from Cook's Country that I made recently, and it was another winner. Seriously, everything I've ever made from this magazine has turned out fabulous! This dish has a fancy feel to it, but it's very easy to make, and can even all be done in one pan. I made these for Matt and I, so we saved two of the chicken breasts for the next night, and I must say they make delicious leftovers.

I served these with some simple sautéed zucchini, and fresh bread to soak up the sauce. Fantastic! Go make some for dinner tonight - while your busy, I'll be here trying to figure out where the heck July went to!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A day at the beach (update).

It's been busy around here lately! The family I nanny for just had another baby, so I have been working A LOT. Additionally, my brother-in-law and his fiance visited southern California for a few weeks; they came down to San Diego a few times and stayed with us, and we drove up to LA one weekend to see them. What this all adds up to is that I haven't had much time to get stuff done (or to sleep, but that's what coffee is for).

Last Saturday was the first day in a long time that I didn't have to do anything or go anywhere. I took one quick look at my to-do list, and said "screw it, let's go to the beach!" It was the right choice.

At the top of the trail with two cliffs between us and the beach

We were planning on going to Torey Pines so that we could hike and go to the beach, but the parking lot was full. We decided to make an adventure of it, and went in search of a new beach that we'd never been before. I looked at my GPS, said "let's try here," and we did. We had no idea what to expect, but it was fantastic. We still got to hike a little bit, and the beach was almost deserted. The trail wasn't too difficult, but enough to give the day a sense of adventure (it's not somewhere I'd try to take children, that's certain). 

Time for a refreshing swim after the trek
The waves were the perfect size for swimming, and the water wasn't too cold. The sand was soft and fine, and we had lots of space to ourselves. After a few hours of frolicking and relaxing we were ready to head back to civilization. We stopped at Cozymel's on the way home for a late lunch (and a few margaritas of course). I woke up Sunday feeling more refreshed than I have in a long time!

Climbing back up the steps that have been carved into the stone

I'm still going to be very busy for the foreseeable future, but at least my batteries are recharged. I have some awesome new recipes to share, such as Lemon Jalapeno Shrimp Skewers. I'll post as regularly as I can, but no promises ;) Thanks for understanding!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Coconut toffee bark (recipe).

The Get Your Chef On (GYCO) challenge is back for round two, and this time the secret ingredient is coconut! I was so excited to see that Julie and Jen chose coconut this go around, because it is one of my favorite sweet treats. I'm excited to collect some new wonderful coconut recipes from my fellow participants. You can also check out the lemon souffle I made for the last GYCO challenge.

I was scrolling through my Pinterest boards looking for inspiration for a new coconut recipe when I found Red Couch Recipes' recipe for Grandma Utahna Felix's English Toffee. I love toffee (maybe even more than coconut - blasphemy, I know), so I knew I had to give this a try. I substituted toasted coconut for the toasted pecans, and dark chocolate for the milk chocolate. I didn't change the toffee itself at all though.

My first attempt at this was less than successful. I poured the hot toffee over the coconut (as you would with the nuts), and the mixture did not set up at all. I think this was a combination of the sugar on the coconut causing the mixture to sugar and crystalize, and of me not cooking the mixture for long enough. I went back to the kitchen and started a second batch; this time I layered the chocolate in between the toffee and the coconut, and all was well again.

Making candy can be intimidating (at least it is to me), and this was my first time making toffee. I was surprised at how quick it was to make this (not counting the cooling time). It is a recipe that requires some finesse and a great deal of attention while the toffee is cooking, but it is not nearly as difficult as I thought it would be.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Paper star garland (DIY).

Well, I finally got around to taking down the heart garland above my kitchen sink, and I needed something summery to replace it. I love this happy little star garland that took its place.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Easy risotto for two (recipe).

A few weeks ago, I had the honor of guest posting over at White Lights on Wednesdays. Just in case you missed it, here's my post in all it's glory. If you haven't checked out White Lights on Wednesdays yet, you definitely should. Julie is so creative and organized (and I imagine busy!). I can't wait to try her recipe for stuffed pork chops with dijon butter sauce; I can't get them out of my head since I saw them, and I know the hubby would love them too!

The inspiration for this recipe belongs to my mom and grandma. I love risotto, but rarely make it because of the intense amount of stirring that's required. Recently, my mom has gotten really into making risotto (I think she's been making it the last three times I talked to her on the phone!), and she's been making me crave that creamy goodness. My grandmother recently sent me a subscription to Cook's Country magazine (which is my favorite cooking magazine ever - it's put out by the same folks who make America's Test Kitchen and Cook's Illustrated). Imagine my excitement when I was flipping through and found a recipe for risotto to serve two that called for less than ten minutes of stirring!

Friday, July 6, 2012

June photo-a-day challenge (week four).

June is over, and so is the photo-a-day challenge. I had a lot of fun doing this, but I have to admit I fell pretty far behind at the end. In fact, there are a few pictures that I just never got around to doing. I might do another one of these challenges sometime soonish, but I definitely need at least a few months before I do it.

Of course, I'm still hooked on Instagram, and I'll still be sharing lots of pictures there. You can see my pics @mdoublemcrafts, and if you follow me, I will follow back :)

24. On your mind (I can't get enough of this beautiful fence)

25. Something cute

26. Where you shop

27. Bathroom

28. On the shelf

30. A friend