Saturday, December 31, 2011

Croque Monsieur... Finally, and It's not Complicated!

Have you ever seen a recipe featured in a film that you couldn't wait to
try at home? Well, that's the story behind my burning desire to
create Croque Monsieur after seeing, It's Complicated...
I admit, my burning desire has been simmering for quite a while... I mean,
the film debuted two years ago this month! Maybe it's because the disk
lives in my blueray player and I just happen to be watching it again for
the 37th time, right now... But I hardly feel I'm as late to this party as I
obviously am. Most other bloggers that loved the movie as much as
I did, (still do!) who couldn't wait to blog their adventure in Croque
Monsieur have been there and already did that a long, long time ago!
But you know me... I'm no follower. I will
make my Béchamel sauce only in my own time!
And, not a moment sooner! So for this last
chance to make dinner in 2011, I decided it's time!
Just for the record... It's not the story-line of a divorced couple committing adultery
between Streep and Baldwin, or the reaction to their affair by their three, barely
adult children who can't decide whether they actually remember the divorce or
should blame it for their seemingly constant fragile emotional states that has
me in love with this film. No... It's first the house and second, the food!
Although the story goes that Streep is eager to remodel it, the kitchen
in her movie-home is to die for! I find myself watching in slow-motion
and rewinding, (often!) just to get a better look at the serving pieces,
dishes and accessories used to decorate the dining and kitchen sets!
So if you haven't seen the movie or if you haven't already made your
own Croque Monsieur, I'm recommending you do both! There are lots of
recipe variations, all basically the same, so I suggest you do a little research
and pick one that suits you best. In the film, Streep's Croque Monsieur appears
open-faced, but I didn't go that route. In most recipes, the cheese covering
the Black Forest ham is sliced Gruyère, but I didn't go that route either!
The important thing to remember, regardless of the recipe you choose, is to
use only the absolute best quality ingredients you can buy. It makes a huge
difference, and if you just slap lunch meat on bread and cover it in cheese,
you're going to miss the luxury that is Croque Monsieur done properly!
One thing I did do like they did in the movie
is cover my baking sheet with parchment!
After all, this is one of the baking sheets I use to make my sugar
cookies, so we can't have it mussed up with baked-on cheese!
And, there will be cheesey spillage this evening...
Lots of it!
Trust me when I tell you that men love this dish!
Maybe it's because they appreciate simple things. Or maybe it's because
men are simple... I can't be sure. But what I am sure of is that my Croque
Monsieur received rave reviews and an immediate request for an encore!
I said, I can do that!
Tomatoes on top after the broiler or tomatoes under the cheese before you
broil... You decide. But do use a beautiful, very ripe heirloom tomato!
And, do top with a sprinkle of extra Parmesan!
You'll be happy you did!
Remember I said there were numerous ways to get to
a great Croque Monsieur? Well, this is my way...
Finished with plenty of California avocado!
I think I'll call it Le Croque Monsieur Monterey!

New Year's Eve Bird Watching!

 The last day of 2011 delivered blue skies and 60 degrees...
And, plenty of happy morning bird watching...
From the kitchen window!
Happy New Year!

Tropicana Trop50 True Resolutions, and a Giveaway!

Happy New Year!
2012 is just around the corner, have you picked your resolution yet?
I've already decided on my resolutions for 2012, and shared one of them with
you here... Which brings me to why I agreed to tell you about Tropicana's Trop50
juice beverage when I was asked. You see, this isn't just juice, Trop50 is a juice
beverage offering all the goodness of juice with 50% less calories and sugar. And...
Very best of all, Trop50 is artificial sweetener free! See, I love fruit drinks
but avoid them because of all the extra calories and sugar they add to my
diet. And, because I am terribly sensitive to artificial sweeteners, sugar-free
foods/drinks have always been off-limits. But Trop50 delivers everything I
want... Great fruit taste, 50% less sugar and calories and... Zero side effects!
Trop50 can deliver for you during this season of resolutions and new beginnings
too! Just enjoy all the guilt-free juice you want, in a variety of flavors you'll crave
without the worry of extra sugar and calories... For me, nothing refreshes after a
spin class like Trop50 Raspberry Lemonade. I put it in my blender with a handful of
frozen berries and blend it into my own frozen lemo-berry concoction! It's a whole
bunch better for me, and far less expensive than the smoothies sold at my gym!
Another way Trop50 can deliver for you is through their True Resolutions
program via facebook! Trop50 True Resolutions is all about celebrating
the true reasons for what motivates us to make the positive changes we seek!
Trop50 wants you to share your resolution and more importantly, your true
motivation for the changes you're making! Just visit the Trop50 Facebook page
right here for the opportunity to share your resolution, earn a coupon plus more
for up to 50 of your friends, and then enter to win one of four, $1,000 gift cards!
If you want to share your resolution and true motivation for it incognito,
that's fine too! But whether or not you share a resolution, you can still
enter to win one of four $1,000 gift cards. It's your resolution, it's
your brand new year, and it's your chance to win with Trop50!

The good people at Trop50 sent me a coupon for a Free bottle of Trop50;
however, since my refrigerator is already stocked, I'm mailing it to the
first person to comment on this post. Additionally, Trop50 has provided
me the opportunity to giveaway a $25 Visa gift card and coupons for three
free bottles of Trop50 - A $12 value. All you have to do is pop on over to the
Trop50 facebook page, like them, enter to win and let me know you did!
Earn extra entries by linking this giveaway to your own blog, facebook page,
or by tweeting, using the @TropicanaOJ handle and hash tag, #Trop50

Winner will be announced on January 9th,
which just happens to be my birthday!

The legal stuff: In exchange for my review, Trop50 provided me with one coupon for a free bottle of Trop50. Since I was a fan of this product before I was contacted, I am giving away the coupon. All of the opinions expressed in this post are my own. Furthermore, Trop50 didn't ask me to let you know about all the good work they do with Dress for Success through their charitable program, Girlfriends Giving Goodness. To learn more about this wonderful program click here. And, for valuable information about balanced and healthy living from our friends at Tropicana, click here.

Happy Birthday to Me, and Congratulations #1
Contact me with your mailing address at!

Friday, December 30, 2011

A couple of Finds and getting back to Basics with CLEAN!

Before I tell you about one of my resolutions for the New Year, I must show
you one of my last finds during our run-away from for Christmas trip
this past week... I couldn't believe my luck when I found this beautiful
Infant Jesus of Prague statue in an antique shop in Warrenton,
Va. Usually when I find them, these statues are in poor condition so
to find one this pretty, and with the fingers intact is especially rare!
Fortunately, I have just the spot for it!
 There are no visible signs of Christmas left in the rest of the house...
But I am not yet ready to dismantle and put away these things
on the console so I'm going to enjoy them a little while longer!
Another of my last finds during our tour through
Northern Virginia's antique shops is this jelly fish!
I need another paperweight like I want to raise another teenager;
but this reminds me just slightly of the Richard Satava moon
jellyfish piece I have always wanted... So I brought it home!
And, I'm glad I did!
 You know what they say... You rarely regret what you buy, only the things you
don't buy. Had I not taken it home, I would be thinking about it right now!
Okay... Usually I don't make resolutions but since I have resolved to get back
to basics with CLEAN and the new year is less than 48-hours away, I'm calling
this a New Year's resolution! Truth is... I've strayed far off the balance I found
a year and a half ago when I first discovered CLEAN and frankly, I feel exactly
like the garbage I've been eating. Fortunately, CLEAN is extremely easy to get
back to so the minute after I unpacked, I readied my latest CLEN shipment
for take off. Then, I spent a little time getting to know CLEAN again!
I find dumping my Nourish and Move shake powders into larger containers makes
it quicker and easier for me to scoop them when I'm pressed for time in the
morning and still have to whip up my CLEAN shake. A scoop of Nourish, a scoop
of Move and a handful of frozen blueberries is all I need to power through my day!  
What's your New Year's resolution, and what is motivating you to bring about
change in your life for 2012? Whatever it is, I am wishing you a New Year
that delivers perfect Health, Happiness and Success in all you love to do!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Run Away for Christmas... Day Two!

Run away from for Christmas day two took us to Middleburg, Virginia
When Army dad was growing up in Arlington, Virginia he said Middleburg was
where all the poor people lived. Now, Middleburg is prime horse-country! I've
never seen so many taxidermy foxes, antique polo mallets, and riding tack in my
life! There's a realtor on every corner and Middleburg's turned into the Carmel of
Northern Virginia where Washington DC and Hollywood money comes to buy
sprawling country estates. And, who could blame them? It's beautiful out here!
Many of Army dad's ancestors are buried right here in Middleburg... You can't
walk through the Middleburg cemetery without seeing all the familiar names. But
all that family history in this area aside, I love all the cute shops in Middleburg!
You can't help but feel like you've stepped right back into a simpler time here
in Middleburg. And, you can't help but wish the walls of its taverns could talk!
After we explored every antique shop in Middleburg, we stopped in Aldie at
Bella Villa (see here!) where we met owner Rosanna, a fellow former Californian,
who recommended that we also visit Wally, the owner of the Aldie Peddler wine
and antique shop next door to hers. Wally is the former mayor of Aldie, Virginia
and a descendant of one of the men that served with John S. Mosby, commander
of Mosby's Rangers. And, since Army Dad also has a relative that served as a Ranger
with John S. Mosby, they had quite a lot to chat about. While they chatted, I did a bit
of shopping, and picked up several things I couldn't live without. Speaking of things
I couldn't live without... During my cleaning spree on Monday I moved my poor
Rumtopf a little too close to the edge of the refrigerator door... So, when I swung
the door open to grab a stick of butter, my Rumtopf crashed down onto my face!
That's why I am currently sporting a huge black eye! Have you ever had a black
eye? This is my first. And, I find it's not only painful, but awkward too. People
stare, and you can see they really want to ask... And, me... I feel like I have
to tell them that I am not prone to bar brawls, nor have I been abused!
Then there's the loss of my Rumtopf! I bought it at an antique shop in Monterey
just before we left California and I loved it! I never imagined I'd find another
one like it. I mean, you don't see German Rumtopfs in many stores. But today,
while browsing through an antique shop in Haymarket, Virginia of all places...
I found my Rumtopf!
And, it only cost me twice what I originally paid for it! Now, as
soon as I lose this shiner, it'll be like none of this ever happened!
Remember my collection of antique
covered display cases and cloche bells?
It would have been so easy to add to them today. But I didn't... I resisted!
Totally came home empty handed in this department! The three I found in this
shop were amazing too. Extremely old, and extremely expensive. The large one in
the middle of the table was marked $550 and the one to its left was $375. It was
so easy to pass them up at those prices! This one below caught my eye because of
the shape, and its $1,500 price tag. What could possibly warrant that kind of price?
Well, as it turns out, this is a memorial piece from Edwin Booth and
his daughter, Edwina to honor his beloved wife and Edwina's mother,
Mary Devlin-Booth who died in 1863 at the age of twenty-two. Who is
Edwin Booth? Well, he was none other than the brother of one John
Wilkes Booth, whom we all know as President Lincoln's assassin!

And that's why we enjoy exploring these little shops...
You just never know what you're going to see or learn!