Gratitude is one of the key paths towards an overall satisfaction with life.  I think a great way to stay grateful about the life you live is to really try to appreciate and savor the things around you.  I think blogging helps a lot of us to do that...maybe that's why bloggers just seem happier.  :) I think a great tool for appreciation is to look at the familiar places in your life and look at them as you would if you were seeing them for the first time.

That's what I did on an impromptu trip with my aunt and sister to get gelato at Laguna Beach.  I've been to Laguna Beach dozens of times, but this time I really appreciated it for what it was.

 My aunt refuses to take a picture
 Can you spy the butterfly?

 As close as it comes to Italy


Tucker Goes to the Vet

Yesterday we had to take Tucker to an animal eye care specialist for his "non-healing corneal ulcer."  When we got there the vet explained that because of his age (he is 12 now!) he had developed a film in his eye that kept his wound from healing.  They performed a pretty quick procedure that should clear it up but we have to wait and see.

This is one of Tucker's favorite activities, he'll scratch at the window until we put it down for him to stick his head out

In the vet's office he jumped up on our seats and sat behind us trying to hide, needless to say he hates going to the vet 

After the procedure, "I just wanna get out of here!"

"What is this stupid thing on my head, hum..."


Happy Birthday Mom

Happy Birthday Mom

Yesterday was my Mom's Birthday, which meant I spent the day on her beck and call as a good daughter should.

So we started the day with pedicures.  But first, matching iced lattes from Starbucks.

Mother enjoying her pedicure.

Pretty finished toes, I got french tips and Mom got hot pink.

Next it was lunch at the new Hawaiian Grill in our neighborhood.

Then an afternoon with me as Mom's personal shopper.  Followed by Margaritas and dinner with about 8 of our various family members.

Don't we look alike? :)
It was a great feeling to spend the day with Mom on her birthday.  For the past four years school and work up at Santa Barbara has gotten in the way of me being able to really celebrate her birthday with her.  I was glad I was there to help make her feel special since she is so special to me.


Eggplant Parmesan from a Real Italian

My aunt it 100% Italian, both her parents were born and raised in Italy.  Living up to her stereotype she is a great cook, loves doing it, cooks way too much food and is always trying to feed anyone who is over at her house including me.  It has always been my secret goal to cook with her and steal some of those authentic Italian recipes she's always making.  Because I mean, is there anything better than great homemade Italian food??  I always secretly dreamed of winning over the heart of my husband with an authentic homemade sauce and spaghetti.  

Anyway Thursday was the start to my secret collection of her recipes...but much to my disappointment she doesn't necessarily have a recipe for anything...she just has ingredients and knowledge for what things "should" taste like.  We spent all day making Eggplant Parmesan and it turned out great but I'm not sure if I'll be able to repeat it on my own because she didn't give me any measurements...just approximations.  But still, it turned out to be The Best Eggplant Parmesan I've ever had, so I'm going to try post what we did with some pictures but good luck to you and to me in repeating it without my master chef aunt for help.

Eggplant Parmesan
Italian breadcrumbs
granulated garlic
grated pecorino romano cheese
Vegetable oil (for frying)

(this is her "cheat sauce" she uses when the sauce isn't really the main focus of the dish)
Bertolli Three Cheese Jar sauce
red wine
grated pecorino romano cheese
olive oil
tomato paste (optional, for if the sauce turns out too thin)
granulated garlic

1. Peal and slice the eggplant lengthwise into pretty much as thin as you can get slices
2. Line a baking sheet with paper towels and lay the slices on, sprinkle with salt
3.  Lay paper towels over this layer, and continue layering
4. After you're done layering place something heavy on top to help squeeze out the moisture

5.  Add oil to a large sauce pan and heat on medium
6.  Chop onions & garlic and add to the pan
7.  When they are browned, add the jar sauce, but be careful because the sauce on the hot oil will cause it to pop
8.  Add the rest of the ingredients to the sauce to taste

 9.  Add a little breadcrumbs to a lot of flower onto a pie tin
10.  Beat a bowl of eggs
11. Heat up a frying pan of oil on medium
12.  Dip the slices of eggplant first in the flower, then the eggs and then into the oil until brown

 13.  Now we layer the fried slices of eggplant, first sauce, then eggplant, then mozarrella and grated cheese and then granulated garlic

 14.  Try to make sure the whole pan is covered with eggplant...no spaces

15.  Now bake it in the oven at 350, it will be done when the eggplant is very soft (using a fork to test)

This is done!

Mm posting this makes me want the leftovers, yum!


I amsterdam

Amsterdam.  I look back on this city with slightly more fondness than the others.  Amsterdam had a quiet familiarity for me with its bike traffic and temperate weather.    Any city that uses bikes as one of its main forms of transports automatically strikes a chord in my heart. With beautiful picturesque views over arched bridges and potted flowers it was easy to stroll along and fall in love with this city.  Joining the younger crowd in "Coffeshops," I watch groups of young people share stories over herbal teas, hot chocolates and grey smoke. But also it was a city with an attitude that said "look kid, we've seen it all here."  There was a sense of individualistic freedom and an overall acceptance of the entirely strange.  My only negative for this city other than the red glow and outrageousness of the Red Light District was the weather.  In the middle of July, I was cold in pants and a jacket---just a little too cold for my liking.

Heinekens on our boat cruise.


A Typical Orange County Day

After living in Santa Barbara for school the last 4 years, I now find I lack the excitement and fondness I once had for Orange County.  "It's so hot here!" you'll here me repeatedly complain.  Or "everyone here  is so superficial."  I now find the place to lack character or personality.

This being said, with a day like yesterday I find myself slowly warming up to it.  Jon and I went to Laguna Beach (yes the same as the MTV show Laguna Beach).  It was hot, but the water was wonderfully cold and refreshing.

 Rainbow Sandals are an Orange County must

 We ended the beach with lunch at Chipotle, I'm not sure where Chipotle started but Orange Countians have truly embraced this restaurant as part of their culture.

All in all, how can you not fall a little bit more in love with a place after a day like that?