>Ahhh, family dinner…

>Sundays are awesome days around here.  I love starting them off by getting all my shopping done.  We pick up our CSA share on Friday, so by Sunday, I know what I still need for the week.  I then like to come home, put it all away, and start cooking!

This weekend we had lots to do because Nonna and Beppo were coming home on Monday night.  Cleaning the house, the porch, yard decorating for fall (read: replacing the mums I let die while they were away and making it look that much better so they might not notice) and the normal Sunday evening routine.  At least the yard looked nice, and pumpkins are the latest in sparkly accessories, if you ask the girls.

While Sunday family dinner is not the same without everyone home, I like to keep it going when Nonna and Beppo are traveling!  This week, Sean and Jessica came over for some Moroccan Lamb Stew with Israeli Couscous.

This made the house smell soooooo good.  This may have to be on the menu at least every other week.  But the lamb was kinda pricey…
Here is my recipe:
2.5-3 lbs lamb shoulder, trimmed and cut into 2″ chunks
2t cumin
1/2t turmeric
1/2t chili powder
t cinnamon
3T extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
32 oz low sodium vegetable broth
6 medium carrots
2 medium parsnips
1 15oz can no salt added diced tomatoes
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1C dried apricots, halved
1/2C dried cranberries
T freshly grated ginger
Combine 4 spices in a big ziploc bag, add lamb chunks, and shake to coat.  Let sit for 20 minutes.
Prep veggies by peeling an cutting into chunks.
Heat olive oil in dutch oven, then add lamb.  Cook until browned on all sides.  Remove from pan.
Add onion and garlic, and cook until lightly browned.
Add vegetables, and cook for 4 minutes.  Add broth, tomatoes, chick peas, and ginger.
Bring to a boil.
Turn down to a simmer and cook for 3 hours.
Add apricots and cranberries.
Let simmer 20-30 minutes, or until you’re ready to eat.
For dessert, it was homemade Apple Pie. 
Well, it was semi-homemade. 
I am intimidated by crusts…so if Beppo’s not around, I buy them.
Does anyone know where I can find a healthy, maybe even organic, refrigerated and rolled pie crust?

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>Where exactly do fairytales come true?

>I’m going to venture that, while we had a great time for the most part, its not at Storyland.  To quote Jason, “Its like if Disney had Carnies.”  However, it could be somewhere along the Kangamangas Highway.  Saturday was a beautiful day for an adventure with the girls.

So, while Emma and I checked out the facilities at the White Mtn. State Park, Daddy took a few photos. When I came out, I took some too.  Clearly, we liked the same tree…
Despite the gorgeous scenery, the best sights up there were still the ones I get to see every day!
Then we got to Storyland.  Anywhere a clown greets you…you should be wary.
Its almost like they knew how ill the twirly ride made me…silly glockenspiel. I now feel so badly for torturing Mary Beth and my dad on the Tilt-a-whirl at Whalom Park…mea culpa.
Waiting to drive!!!
“Look, Mom!  I can really reach the pedals….” 10 seconds later.  “That’s hard.  Can you get the pedal? I’ll still drive.”
Poor Daddy, crammed into that antique car.  Clearly, back in Henry Ford’s day, men weren’t 6’7″.
This little girl idolizes Cinderella.  Even the “fake” one at Storyland.
Thank God its a while before they’ll be off to prom.  But I still think a pumpkin coach would be inexpensive and creative 🙂
Apparently, the wind from the slow moving carosel was enough to mess up her do.  
Overall, we did have a great day, but after having been to Disney World, it can be challenging to see the charm.  Although I will say, it wasn’t that crowded for a gorgeous fall day, and the lines moved…so that was good.
On the way home, we made a detour by the Linderhof to take a photo for Nonna and Beppo.  Legend has it that the bar there was the infamous location that Beppo picked up Nonna…off the bar room floor.  Who really knows how it happened, but 35 years later, its still working 🙂
What’s the best fall road trip/adventure you’ve taken (or plan to take this year)???

>Perfect in Portland

>

Last Friday, at the end of a very long week, Jason and I packed the girls in the car and headed up to Portland, ME.  We met up with my mother-in-law, Kathy, on Commercial Street to do the car/kid swap. Yes, we traded our minivan with 2 kids and Murphy for her quiet, clean, Honda CR-V. Awesome!
So then, even though because of a long day and traffic we were an hour late for our dinner reservations, we headed over to Fore Street.  Jason picked the restaurant knowing that I would love that its fresh local food.  If you don’t get it by the end of the blog – we loved it.  You HAVE to check it out!
Since we were late, we had to wait a bit for “our” table to open up.  We sat in some comfy chairs in the bar area next to the windows.  I loved the wood and dark cozy feel to the nook-ish area.  A glass of malbec started us off…
When we were still there after 35-40 minutes totally enjoying each other’s company, and that of a sweet couple from North Carolina celebrating their 25th anniversary, we decided to order a bottle of wine to have with dinner.  Listening to the recommendations of the waitress and the bartender, we picked this 2001 Rioja Grand Riserva.  So good…
Our table was soon ready, so we headed up a few stairs to our quasi-balcony seating.  It was perfect – overlooking the symphony of action in the kitchen.
I was suddenly in love with the Veggie Humidor!  Check out the fresh produce behind the hostess stand!  Gorgeous and practical… I love it.
The atmosphere was so rustic and relaxed, and you knew you were in an amazing restaurant.  Everyone around us was enjoying their meals and more apparent was the time and conversation with their friends and loved ones.
So, to start, we ordered a roasted tomato and herbed goat cheese tart.  I have never tasted such flavor as in the freshly roasted tomatoes and the creamy goat cheese.  It was challenging to split it fairly…
For dinner, I ordered blue fish with black rice.  It had just the right amount of kick…but a little too much salt.  I think that’s because I take my job very seriously and have really cut out any additional salt…so even a little tastes like a lot to me now 🙂
Jason had the rib eye – and of course I stole a bite.  I think it literally melted in my mouth!
Then the decision – to dessert or not to dessert…HAH!
I love that they have a bite sized dessert on the menu…and we got the last one of the night!!!  Pear cobbler with vanilla bean ice cream.  Another one that was hard to split nicely, but so so so worth the sugar and calories.
See???
We ended the night with 2 espressos…I can almost taste it again!
The food was so phenomenal that we didn’t even get through our wine – which we loved!  Luckily, Maine also has that cork and go law!
I would be remiss if I didn’t give a shout out to Neeny and Papa (Kathy and Steve – Jason’s parents) for making the night possible!  What an awesome 24 hours…we missed the girls, but it was awesome to put the craziness of life aside for some time to connect over an amazing dinner.
Breakfast the next morning was at Hot Suppa!  I am already looking forward to going back…they have a killer bloody mary!!!
Where should we go next?
What is your favorite destination restaurant???  

>My Parents Went to Italy, and all I got…

>…was a photo to remind me how good the food is.

And its also a gentle reminder that I still have my work cut out for me when it comes to getting everyone in this house to eat better…so we can splurge on things like delicious foccacia with olives on it.  Oh my mouth is watering…but my arteries are feeling a bit sluggish just looking at it.  However longingly…

Thanks, Dad, for sending this for the Perfectionista!  I now have an international flare!!!

>Three’s Company

>Last night we had our friends’ son, Jacoby, overnight while they went to a wedding.  He is absolutely adorable – big beautiful eyes, gorgeous blonde hair, and a smile that would melt an ice princess!

Seriously…look at him!!!  The biggest love, ever!!!
The kids vegged…
they swung…
checked out gators…
strolled…
had story time with big daddy Jason…
All in all, what a great afternoon/night!  Coby, you were delightful and can stay here anytime!!!
Now, its time to make the grocery list.  Nonna and Beppo are off on vacation tomorrow, so its Caitlin and the Websters for 2 weeks!!!  Clean eating is back in full force…and hopefully some sort of routine that includes sleep, school, making lunches, cleaning, running, yoga, cooking, and oh yeah, work.
Stay tuned…this could be veeeeeery interesting…

>Routine Schmoutine…

>

So, the Perfectionista has an admission…
Trying to find a routine that works for the school year is not going as perfectly as I imagined.  But, we’re getting there, and I have managed to make a healthy lunch and snack for Maddy every day.  I am super proud that Maddy actually said yesterday that I was the best lunch making mom.  So, even though I almost didn’t make it back from one drop off to bus pick up one morning, I guess its going well enough.  We’ll get there…

Tuesday…too early?
Emma’s first day…she is not accepting Maddy’s attitude for the day…she was psyched!
FINALLY – a smile.  It took this…
“Maddy, you can’t get on the bus and see Brian until you smile for me.”
No, Kristen, I’m not kidding!
By Thursday, we were ok!
And hopefully, the next 174-ish days are all smiles too!
Here is the question…and I need some suggestions!!!
What should I make her for lunch this coming week?  

>Family, friends, fun…

>I love long weekends!!!

Before this school week began, we had a great long weekend!  With a politically entrenched family, Labor Day itself is always a packed day.  It involves a parade…

That’s my big little girl (and Mary Beth, Mary Angela, Auntie Bridget, Nonna, and Beppo (his hand anyway)) marching with Congressman Jim McGovern (black polo on the right!)
She is my girl – no doubt!
With the parade comes good times with friends from near and far…
And good food…
healthier cupcake recipe, organic ice cream cone, store bought frosting…ok, they look cute.  They were NOT my favorite…
These on the other hand…
Allyson Perron’s famous lemon daisy cupcakes.  Those are marshmallows cut with wet scissors so they curl, a chocolate chip, and yellow sugar crystals.  OK – not healthy, but they were for a Labor Day cookout.  And I was short on time…and my assignment was cupcakes.  And I hated the taste of the first ones so much…
We ended the day with our friends from Japan.  It had been 4 years since Kaori had visited us…we were so lucky to have some time to catch up.  Jason sent his latest beer home with them…its become a tradition!
Hopefully, we’ll plan a visit to Japan in the next few years! 

>And she’s off…

>

My big little girl…or little big girl.  Either way…there she goes.
I can’t wait for 3:30…
But I didn’t cry!!!
yet.
Daddy made her favorite breakfast before he left for work – oatmeal banana chocolate chip pancakes.
YUM!
She was dressed and ready, downstairs, at 6:45.  
The bus came at 8:45.
Someone was very excited…
…her little sister…to rule the roost for the day 🙂

>Mommy’s First School Lunch

>

Yes, I just packed Maddy’s first school lunch.
Yes, I’m having a hard time with it…
But probably not as hard as tomorrow morning when I put her on the bus by her little 5 year old self!
There will be more then, but for now, here is what she’ll be eating tomorrow:
Heart shaped turkey and cheese on organic whole wheat (hopefully she won’t get beaten up in kindergarten for that!), Oikos strawberry greek yogurt because they were all out of the Chobani kids, green grapes, and for afternoon snack, Annie’s cheddar bunnies! 
Now that all of the school paperwork is filled out, I need to get to bed.  Tomorrow’s going to be a rough one…for me.  She’s so excited, she’ll be up at 4 wanting to get on that bus!