Thursday, March 31, 2011

Joy of Luck - Who is a Blessing

Who am I lucky to have in my life? Easiest question you could ever ask of me. They drive me crazy everyday. They make me laugh. They make me cry. I cannot imagine life without them! The three most amazing miracles in my life are pictured above! Who are you blessed to have in your life?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Joy of Luck - What Brings Me Luck

What Brings Me Luck? My Faith. I may not be a church-goer. I may not practice my religion as I should. But I am a praying-woman. I teach my children about God and his son. I teach them to be thankful to God for all that we have and all that we are. It is not about guessing, "Will God hear my prayer?" It is about believing that if you turn to Him, he will help you find the answer. I have the plaque in the photo above hanging in my kitchen. That phrase is what brings me luck and good fortune in life.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Joy of Luck - 7 Favorite Material Things

Yes, we are living in a material world and I am a material girl. Today's prompt was to capture with my lens the seven material things that I LOVE. So, if you look above you will see:

  1. My Kindle. I am a book-loving girl. Give it to me in paperback, hardcover, magazine, electronic. I don't care. I read non-stop and love-love-love it! I also love the word games on my Kindle! It will be so fun to bring it with on our spring break trip!

  2. My camera. I am so fortunate to not have only one. I have a point and shoot and a digital slr, and I have time to use them! I love my cameras!

  3. My phone. is the greatest modern convenience of our time, isn't it? I don't care that mine is not smart, takes awful pics and has teeny tiny buttons for connects me with whomever I choose!

  4. My laptop...see number 3 above and add Facebook to that. How else could I stay in touch with all of my former colleagues, students, friends, family members from around the globe??

  5. Jewelry. I don't have fancy, expensive jewelry. Jack hates to buy it for me. But he has bought me some very special pieces that mean the world to me. These earrings have symbolic birthstones and I love them!

  6. My scrapbook supplies! They are my relaxation, my craft, my escape with art!

  7. My bed! I love my bed! It's comfy. It's cozy! It's my other escape!

What material things make you feel lucky?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Orange Beef and Asparagus

This super yummy meal is Asian-inspired, but comes together quickly. I deconstructed it for the kids (They ate the beef and aspargus with rice, but didn't like the carrots or oranges. Weird!)
But Jack and I ate it all together!

Orange Beef and Asparagus

2/3 cup beef stock

1/3 cup orange juice

1/4 cup soy sauce

1 Tbsp cornstarch

1/4 tsp crushed red pepper (optional)

1/4 cup EVOO or veg oil

1 lb sirloin steak, thinly sliced

1/2 lb fresh asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces

1/2 cup thinly sliced carrots (I just threw in whole baby carrots - I'm too busy for cutting carrots)

1 Tbsp thinly sliced garlic (I put in a large spoonful of jarred minced garlic)

4 thin orange slices, halved

4 cups cooked rice

1. In a small bowl, whisk together stock, OJ, soy sauce, cornstarch, and red pepper

2. In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over med-high heat. Add beef, and cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove from skillet. Add to skillet: asparagus, carrot and garlic. Cook stirring constantly for 3 minutes, or until crisp tender. Stir stock-mixture and add to skillet. Cook for 1 minute or until thick and bubbly. Stir beef back in and add orange slices. Cook another minute or until warm. Serve over rice.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Jackie and Kenny are tying the knot


Joy of Luck - Lucky Symbols

This challenge was to search my house for a lucky symbol. I know this one is a bit cliche and it was quite difficult for me. But...there ya have it...a lucky penny. I certainly don't like to walk by one without picking it up. I do usually hesitate to think about the germs on it, but nonetheless I really do believe that it might bring me some good fortune. What brings you luck?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Happy Birthday Daddy Dearest

Happy birthday to one of my creators (literally) dad!

He is...
  • the biggest sports fan I have ever met... in my life! Seriously!
  • the person who taught me to ride a bike
  • the man who used to sing to me, "You are so beautiful to me," by Joe Cocker. And that was the song we danced to at my wedding.
  • the grandpa who took Matt to a special grandparent/grandson White Sox game!
  • the grandfather who took Lily to get her very first (and ONLY) American Girl doll at the American Girl Doll store!
  • 63!

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Engagement Pics

My sister and her fiancee came in from Wisconsin last weekend and asked if I would do a photo shoot for their Save-the-date cards for their upcoming wedding! So, we headed over to downtown Tinley where the backdrops were really fun and playful. You can see we hung around the train station a bit, walked across the street to some fun brick buildings and a few other spots around the area. There were so many good ones, I couldn't choose just one to share, so I created two collages with my top 18 faves! Which ones do you like the best?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Baked Chicken Alfredo

Baked Chicken Alfredo

32 oz chicken broth or stock
3 qts water
1 pound uncooked spaghetti
2 Tbsp Panko breadcrumbs
1 Tbsp butter
8 oz sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup shredded carrot
4 cups cooked chicken ( I used leftover crockpot chicken, but rotisserie would work well too)
2 (15 oz) jars of alfredo sauce
2 tsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese

1. Preheat over to 350*. Spray a 13x9 in. baking sheet and a sheet of aluminum foil with non-stick cooking spray.
2. Cook spaghetti as directed in 3 qts water and chicken stock. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking stock liquid. Drain spaghetti.
3. In medium skillet melt butter over medium high heat. Add mushrooms and carrots. Saute for 5 minutes or until soft.
4. In large bowl, combine spaghetti, reserved liquid, mushroom mixture, chicken, Alfredo sauce, italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Stir well. Spoon into baking dish and cover with foil (sprayed side down). Bake 25 minutes.
5. In small bowl combine panko and cheese. Uncover pasta, sprinkle cheese mixture on top. Bake 5 more minutes.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Joy of Luck - Green

Green is symbolically the color for newness, new beginnings, spring and life. When I looked around my house today for something green that represents newness and life, I walked into my sunroom, which is filled with plants.

This peace lily was sprouting out of the plant this morning and really caught my eye! It's really neat that this lush green plant sprouts out these beautiful white and green lilies every few months. The more I thought about it, the more this plant is so representative of life. This plant requires more water than the others. Every other day the leaves start to droop and it "guilts" me into watering it. How could I look at droopy leaves every time I walk past? But minutes after I water it, the green leaves stand up on end and the plant looks "happy." It's kind of like tending to our own soul. When we take time to take care of ourselves, it shows in our mood, in our health and on our face. When we are run down it shows as well! This peace lily reminds me my blessings. I have the opportunity to stay home with my baby and take care of me: mentally, physically, emotionally. I am lucky!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Gift - My Joy of Luck

What is something that you take for granted on a daily basis? What would someone who is not as fortunate as you say about your "luck" to have such a thing in your life? When I think about my blessings, there are so many to choose from. Of course, my family was the first thing that came to mind, but we were instructed to choose an inanimate object for this first challenge. For this photography challenge over on the Willette website, I decided to photograph my house. Especially with what is going on in the world today, over in Japan, where mass devastation from the Earthquake, Tsunami and after shocks have destroyed so many homes and lives, I am so blessed and thankful for this beautiful home that keeps me warm, cools me down and fills my heart with so many blessings and love. This gift is what I am most thankful for and lucky to have!

Thursday, March 17, 2011


Today you:
  • put gel in your hair to make a mohawk. This is becoming a trend for you.
  • refuse to get your hair cut. I guess it's related to the above comment.
  • play "Need for Speed" on the Wii.
  • like Math better than any other subject.
  • sleep with two stuffed animals (Bluebeary and KitKat) and one real animal (Cleo).
  • rollerblade around the house.
  • enjoy reading joke books.
Today you:
  • are obsessed with the Disney movie Tangled. You saw it twice at the theater, watch clips of it on You-tube, dress up as Rapunzel while singing songs from the soundtrack.
  • can't wait for your birthday party at the roller rink next month.
  • enjoy reading Dr. Seuss books.
  • prefer sleeping on the bottom bunk.
  • don't own any denim.
  • want to be a singer when you grow up.
  • crave sweets!
Today you:
  • love McDonald's "hangers" (a.ka. hamburgers).
  • eat yogurt everyday.
  • like to quiz me on how my face changes with my feelings. (Show me happy, sad, angry, sleepy, surprised etc...).
  • play with Lily's DS.
  • enjoy "Look and Find" books.
  • brush your teeth more than 3 times a day.
  • like to draw and label pentagons, octagons, circles and hearts on the MagnaDoodle.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Yesterday the world lost an amazing man. My grandfather was the first artist I knew. He painted these amazing pictures that hung in his home. Some were a little creepy (those heads that he wrapped up for Christmas gifts last year), but the landscapes were amazing. I remember being little and learning how to draw the Looney Toon and Disney characters from him. He should have been a cartoonist because his pictures looked exactly like they were supposed to. He used to watch that weird painter on channel 11 with the big afro. You know who I'm talking about, but I can't remember his name. Bob something-or-another.

I used to sleep over at his house when I was little and would wake up in the morning to my grandma's home made breakfasts and would watch cartoons with my grandpa. He would make this figures out of seashells that he collected on his many fishing trips to Florida. I loved those seashell creatures. We would put together jigsaw puzzles that had thousands of pieces. It amazed me.

He was such a fine sportsman. He bowled and skeet-shooted and fished. He had so many trophies displayed in his house. I would be in awe as I sat in his old dining room, looking at the hutch containing his (and my grandma's) many awards.

He was a model husband. He met my grandma at the movies, told us the story a thousand times of how they met (and how my grandma robbed the cradle by marrying a much younger man). He loved my grandma so much. He loved her until the end of her battle with Alzheimers and beyond. It was so touching to see how much he missed her after she passed away.

He was a fantastic father. My mom and aunts have lots of cute stories about him in his younger years. He had the patience of a saint (and needed it when raising four rambunctous girls).

He was a sweet grandfather and great-grandfather. When he was around my kids he would light up and giggle at their silly kid-like antics. He loved to play with them and make jokes and smiled at them! You know how kids are usually scared of old people? My kids were never like that with Grandpa Fries. He had this really warm smile and demeanor that drew kids to him. I found that fascinating about him. The picture above was the from the last time I saw him. It was last year around this time. We visited him at his apartment in Florida. Even though we woke him up way past his bedtime to visit for a short time, he was still sweet and kind and so welcoming. He showed Matt the picture in his bedroom from when he was in the army and told Matt about it. He still played with Lily and joked with her about her face painting that was done earlier in the day at Animal Kingdom. He looked at sweet baby Zoey alseep in the stroller and commented about how small and sweet and peaceful she was.

He will be missed dearly by so many people. He was a wonderful man. I loved him very much.

God Bless you, Grandpa.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Right now

For Matt's birthday he got a pair of roller blades, which he loves! He has been skating around the house on the hardwood floors everyday before and after school (because it is too cold to be outside). So, when Lily recently was given the opportunity to choose a reward, she chose a new pair of skates. Of course with Matt and Lily both skating around the house, Little Miss Zuzu was feeling left out, so we dug up Lily's old skates (which are several sizes too big for Z, but we let her use them anyway)! So, the kids have been having a blast making the house into some sort of roller derby. As you can see by the pics above, Zuzu is having a little bit of trouble standing on the skates, but it makes for some really cute pictures!!! :)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Some new layouts

Some new layouts... nine
sugar and spice

snow angel


cha cha cha ooh la la

you are so beautiful


daddy's little girl

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Saturday, March 12, 2011

I love St. Patty's day. Even though I'm only a teeny-tiny bit Irish. The kids and I decorated the house with all of my old classroom decorations. I am dying to have some corned beef and cabbage and beer (as soon as this medical thing is resolved and I can eat solid food again!)

I also thought this St. Patty's day craft was a cute one for kids. Tell me what you are doing for St. Patty's Day.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Egg Salad Sandwiches with Roasted Red Potatoes and Artichokes

Egg Salad Sandwiches:

one half red pepper, seeded and diced
4 hard boiled eggs, diced
1 stalk of celery, diced
1/3 cup plain, fat free yogurt
1/4 cup fat free mayo
salt, pepper and paprika

Mix all ingredients together and serve open faced on bread or between two slices of bread. Enjoy!

Roasted Red Potatoes and Artichoke side salad:

5-6 red potatoes, cut into 1 inch chunks
2 large cloves of garlic, unpeeled (I used a few spoonfuls of minced garlic)
1 can artichoke hearts, drained
2 Tbsp white wine vinegar (I only had red wine vinegar)
2 tsp EVOO
1 tsp non fat mayo
1 can black olives, chopped

Optional add-ins: 1/2 cup sliced scallions, 2 chopped hard boiled eggs, 4 cups torn romaine (to make into a green salad)

Preheat the oven to 500*. Line a baking sheet with foil.
1. Arrange potatoes and garlic on baking sheet; spray with non-stick cooking spray. Roast for 10 minutes. (The roasting really makes a big difference, rather than boiling the potatoes. The flavor is really complex and it adds a great texture!)
2. In a bowl combine cooled potatoes, artichokes and black olives.
3. To prepare dressing combine garlic (mashed to a paste), vinegar, oil, mayo, salt and pepper. Pour over the potatoes. If making a salad, toss with lettuce.

Shout Out to God

I'd just like to take this opportunity to give a Shout to God thanking Him for all of my blessings. Sometimes when you start thinking of all the "why me's?" and you start feeling down about all the crap that is happening in your own life, you catch a glimpse of someone who has it much worse and it makes you realize that what you are dealing with is just NOT that bad. Thank You, God, for my family, my friends, my beautiful house that keeps me warm, the clothes on our backs, the food in my fridge, and my so-called health. It can always be worse. Thank You for teaching me, the hard way, what it means to be a good parent. Thank You.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Update on Me & Some Broccoli Alfredo

If you haven't heard via facebook,, or my mouth, you know I'm having some issues with my body lately. For the past few weeks I've been having some pretty severe abdominal pains whenever I eat. My doc sent me for a CT Scan and blood work, which showed that I am *ahem* normal. Keep your jokes to yourself, Jack. LOL

So, then she sent me to a specialist. Yesterday he performed an endoscopy and a biopsy on my inflamed esophagus and stomach. He said he thinks that the build-up of inflammation is a result of my bile duct not doing its job, which is common in people who have no gallbladder. That darn gallbladder has caused me more trouble than anything else. And it's still causing me trouble 9 years after it was thrown in the trash! Geesh! So, I have to wait 5-10 days for the results to come back from the biopsy. They will tell us whether or not I need to have surgery on my bile duct to open it up more so the acid can drain. Argh!!!

In the meantime, I have been having a lot of trouble eating solids. The doc prescribed a pain med that works really well on the pain, but it makes me loopy (again, Jack...keep the jokes to yourself!) So, the doctor suggested that I eat a no-fat or low fat diet to minimize the pain for the next few weeks.

I dug out my old Weight Watchers "Cut the Fat" cookbook to look for some low or no fat meals. I modified this one, because I didn't have all of the ingredients, so this is my version of Broccoli Alfredo.

Makes 4 servings
Minced Garlic (several cloves)
1 Tbsp flour
1 cup skim milk (I used rice milk)
1/4 cup (about 2 oz) NONfat cream cheese
1/2 cup low fat Parmesan cheese, grated
1 cup broccoli florets
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cup thinly sliced carrots
4 cups cooked whole wheat linguini
Salt and pepper

Cook pasta according to directions on box.
In a work, stir fry a couple cloves of garlic, the broccoli, carrots and onion.
In a separate saucepan over med heat add oil and 1 clove garlic, cook 30 seconds. Add flour and milk, stirring 2 minutes. Whisk in cheeses and cook 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and cover to keep warm.
Combine drained pasta, veggies and sauce. Season to taste.


Saturday, March 5, 2011

Joy of Love - the Future

What do I think the future holds? Can I capture that feeling on a digital print? I don't think so. Life has been and will continue to be unpredictable. But I am certain about one element of our future...they will learn to SIT still and SMILE for a group photo! And THAT is what I love about them! Thanks for joining me for this photographic journey of my life and those I love! I look forward to the one week March challenge called the Joy of Luck! Won't you consider taking the challenge with me?

Friday, March 4, 2011

Joy of Love - What they SAY

This challenge was to capture something that my loved one SAYS. I chose Zoey for this one. When she is hungry she asks me, "Mommy, do you like CHALK-O-WET?" Since I do not eat chocolate my usual response is, "No, Mommy doesn't like chocolate." To which she screams, "Do you like CHALK-O-WET?!?!?!?!" Obviously she isn't asking me whether or not I like it, she wants to know if I can give it to her. But she's only 2 and just learning the ropes around here, so I, of course, oblige with a hershey's kiss. She will inevitably ask me the question about 10 more times each day. LOL It's what she SAYS and it's what I LOVE about her.

Stay tuned...tomorrow is the final installment of my Joy of Love challenge pics!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

New Layouts

Just wanted to drop off a few of my newest layouts. Click on them for a larger view. Thanks for looking! @ 38


It Doesn't Get Any Better Than This

Laugh Out Loud

{My Boys

Daddy's Little Girl

I Love You

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Cali Burgers and Sweet Potato Fries

Shel's homemade burger recipe:
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 egg
a palm full of seasoned bread crumbs
about 2 Tbsp of Worcestershire sauce
a shake or two of steak seasoning

Mix together and form into patties. Bobby Flay taught me that once you put the patties on the grill, you press your thumb into the center to make a little "well" for the grease to pool. Then, flip the burger and the juices wont escape. They will stay under that little "well" and your burgers will be juicier.

Sweet potato fries:
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced into long strips, like french fries
Spread sweet potatoes onto a baking pan. Drizzle with a couple tablespoons of EVOO and season generously. Shake to spread salt and oil over all fries. Broil for about 5-10 minutes (Check often so you don't burn them like I did in the bottom picture).

I topped my burgers with cheese, thousand island dressing, pickles, avocado, and ketchup. Apparently that is what makes them "Cali" burgers, but my friends Jakki and Louisa, from California, will probably disagree.

Coming soon: The last two days of the Joy of Love Challenge


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