Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween everyone! We used to get pretty decked out for the occasion. My mom always made our costumes…pretty fancy! I’m the butterfly, my brother is the ninja and my sister is the 50’s girl 🙂 I don’t know who the apple is…
Hope everyone has a safe and fun Halloween 🙂


Happy Birthday to me!

Luke and I celebrated my birthday this weekend! We headed out for an early dinner downtown Naples at Pazzo’s. The weather was perfect and we enjoyed a table outside on 5th Avenue.
Whenever I go out to eat I love to go somewhere that doesn’t just offer gluten free options (meat, potatoes, veggies) but has food that wouldn’t otherwise be gluten free….like pasta! Naples is awesome for gluten free options and they have tons of authentically Italian restaurants. Pazzo’s is rated the number 1 Italian restaurant in Naples and it lived up to it!

They had a separate gluten free menu with lots of options. They had four pasta dishes that could be made gluten free by substituting the regular noodles with your choice of gluten free penne or spaghetti.

I had the tomato soup (so good!) and Pappardelle Ragu Alla Bolognese: Noodles tossed with slow roasted ground veal and beef, arugula, peeled cherry tomatoes, crushed red pepper, pine nuts and freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Luke had bruschetta and Linguini e Crabe: Jumbo lump blue crab, king crab and linguini tossed in a spiced marinara with jalapeño and fresh basil Topped with toasted ciabatta bread crumb.

Both our meals were incredibly yummy! They also gave us a complimentary drink afterwards. It was a combination of chocolate and red wine 🙂After dinner we walked around downtown for a little bit before stopping into Grace and Shelly’s for some gluten free cupcakes and then over to The Brick where Luke had some coffee.It was such a fun night! We thought about going out somewhere to dance but I felt pretty tuckered out at the late hour of 7:45 pm 😉 So we headed home and snuggled up to a movie instead.

Oh! I should also mention…Luke did AWESOME on my birthday presents! First he got me a gift card to Gap so I could get some much needed shorts! (Shorts are year round in Florida :)) Then he totally surprised me and got me the most beautiful drapes for our bedroom!! They are gorgeous! I had registered for drapes when we were married in January but didn’t receive them and it wasn’t something I felt comfortable spending our money on since we didn’t really need them. Every now and I again I would think about how nice they would look but figured we could get them in our next move (in a few years). When I opened his gift I was so surprised! Drapes weren’t even on my radar anymore! Plus they are even more beautiful then the ones I had originally registered for (that were no longer available) so it worked out perfectly! I have the best husband ever…just sayin’ 🙂

Pizza Margherita

This was SO good!! Luke said it was the best pizza he has ever had! I think he was flattering me but…it really was super delicious 🙂The recipe can be found here: Pizza Margherita. The only change I made was to add more basil. It calls for 3-4 large basil leaves cut into strips. We love basil so I used about 9 to make sure I could cover the whole pizza. This is definitely going to be a regular for us 🙂

For those of you who are gluten free…we use Chebe Bread Pizza Crust Mix. It is really yummy!

Chicken & Vegetable Spaghetti

This is quick, easy and delicious…my favorite combination! My mom tore this out of a Better Homes and Gardens magazine last year and I am just now getting around to trying it out. So glad I did! The original recipe calls for broccolini but we used one of our favorite veggies, asparagus. We threw it on the grill first and then added it to the pasta. We also substituted grape tomatoes for cherry tomatoes and it was super yum!Chicken and Vegetable Spaghetti

Serves 4
Start to Finish: 35 minutes

2 cups pearl onions
12 oz dried spaghetti (I like Tinkyada gluten free spaghetti noodles)
8 oz. skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, cut in bite-size pieces
8 oz. asparagus, trimmed and cut into bite-size pieces
1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
1 1/2 cups grape tomatoes
2 cups chicken broth (I use 2 cups water and 2 tsp. Better than Bouillon Chicken Base)

In a large pot of water (enough to cook noodles) cook the onions for 3 minutes. Remove the onions with a slotted spoon and set aside. In the same water cook the pasta according to package directions. While pasta cooks, in a 12-inch skillet cook chicken in a tablespoon of hot oil over medium-high heat for 3 to 4 minutes until white all over. Add asparagus and onions. Sprinkle with parsley, salt and red pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, 2 cups broth and spaghetti. Cover, simmer about 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

Notes: Substitute broccolini, broccoli, green beans, peas or zucchini for the asparagus. Substitute yellow or red cherry tomatoes for grape tomatoes.

We grilled our asparagus for a couple of minutes before adding it to the pasta. Just drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and grill on high heat for about three minutes. Remove from grill and cut into bite-size pieces before adding to the pasta.

Nature All Around Us

Luke called me on his way to work this evening to tell me he had seen a beautiful bald eagle on a lamp post outside of our neighborhood. I quickly grabbed my shoes and went out to try and snap a picture before the he flew away. Just as Luke had described, there he was, sitting atop a lamp post. As I got closer and closer to him he began to stare me down. I must admit I became slightly frightened and wondered if bald eagles were dangerous to humans. Did he think my camera was a gun? What have I gotten myself into!? That’s the city girl in me 🙂 Thankfully I escaped and have these pictures to tell my story 😉I must say, there is quite a lot of nature around us here in south Florida. From alligators to bears, panthers, snakes, scorpions, black widows to name a few. I’m not sure how I’ve survived as long as I have!

Happy Fall!

I love October! I am trying my very best to bring Fall to Florida through some holiday decorations 🙂 I had planned on making my own wreath but I ended up getting an awesome deal at World Market and picked up this wreath for only $10 bucks after coupons! You can’t get much better than that!
Below you can see our little veggie garden. Our tomatoes are doing really well despite all of the rain we’ve had lately. The wheels on the planter have made it really easy to wheel out of the rain and then back into the sunshine. You might also notice our garlic (in the green pot) really taking off!Luke and I recently pruned our hanging impatiens. It had become very long and leggy, as impatiens do, if you let them. I was nervous to prune it back, as I haven’t had much experience in the past. Luke assured me this wouldn’t hurt the plant. Boy, was he right! Two weeks later and the impatiens have never looked better! Look at those blooms! Best decision I ever made (besides marrying Luke 😉 )Pruning the impatiens reminded me of some words of wisdom that were shared with me at my bridal shower (see below). Not only is pruning essential to bear fruit among plants, it is essential in our own lives. Without pruning we can grow out of control.

“Treat your marriage as a new vine in a vineyard. We must tend our relationship carefully. Our ‘vine’ requires sunshine and warmth; these are the times of joy and peace in our lives. Other times our vine needs rain, but it too has a purpose of making our vine grow strong and produce fruit. Sometimes we notice that we are not satisfied with the fruit on our vine, so we give our vine special nourishment, ‘fertilizer’ if you will. Occasionally, we need to ‘prune’ things so that we will produce more fruit. Then there are times when the fruit of our vine is taken and crushed, these are the hard times, yet these are the times that produce the ‘sweet’ juice that becomes the wine we share with our beloved.”

“Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit” John 15:2

Give Thanks Banner – Free Printable

We are getting into the fall spirit over here! How ’bout you guys? I thought I would share this Give Thanks banner I made with everyone. I happened to have all of the supplies on hand so the banner was absolutely free!! Those are my favorite kind of decorations…the free ones 🙂Download the banner hereGive Thanks Banner Printable

Card Stock
X-Acto Knife
Cutting Board

I suggest using card stock to print the banner so the letters aren’t so flimsy. After printing, grab an x-acto knife and a cutting board and use the crop marks as a guide to cut out the squares. If you don’t have an x-acto knife, you can use scissors but it will be much harder to get a clean line. Next grab some ribbon, whatever you think looks nice. I used some ribbon I had saved from our wedding gifts back in January. Next you are going to cut slits into each letter block. You will want to measure the width of your ribbon to know how large of a slit to cut. You can measure where each slit goes or you can just eye ball it (See below for a detailed picture). After you have cut all of the slits, string the ribbon through the banner. That’s it! I used small pins to hang the banner so I wouldn’t damage the wall. Mine hangs above my desk but I think it would look even better hanging on a fire place mantel.

Let me know if you have any questions 🙂 If anyone ends up making this, I’d love to see how it looks in your home! Link to it in the comments below! Also, if there is interest in color variations, leave a comment below…I might make some different colors.

Beef Stew

This may be my all time favorite meal ever!! Seriously tender stewed meat over creamy mashed potatoes…yes please! This is my mama’s recipe and it does not disappoint 🙂This recipe can be made on the stove or in the crock pot. My personal preference is to get it going in the morning and cook it all day in the crock pot. It will make your home smell delicious! I will include directions for both below 🙂

Beef Stew

Serves 4
Prep: 20 minutes Cooking: 2 hours and 10 minutes to all day

1 1/2 lbs beef stew meat (I like bite size pieces of meat, so I often cut the stew meat up into smaller pieces)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
3 cups beef broth (I like Better Than Bouillon Beef Base)
1 Tablespoon (plus a little more) Worcestershire Sauce
2 teaspoons minced garlic
3 bay leaves
1 medium onion diced
1 teaspoon white or brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
2 good pinches of ground cloves
1 pinch allspice
3 large carrots or a couple handfuls of baby carrots, sliced
3 ribs celery, diced
2 Tablespoons cornstarch

In a large pot or dutch oven, brown the meat in olive oil over medium-low heat, for about 10 minutes. Add the onion and cook together with the meat until tender, about 5 more minutes. Next, add 2 cups of beef broth (reserve 1 cup for later), worcestershire sauce, garlic, bay leaves, sugar, pepper, paprika, cloves and allspice. Cover and simmer on low for an hour and a half. After an hour and half, remove the 3 bay leaves. Add the carrots and the celery. Cover and cook an additional 40 minutes. Combine 1/4 cup water with 2 Tablespoons cornstarch and mix until the cornstarch has dissolved. Add the cornstarch mixture to the remaining 1 cup beef broth. Pour the combined mixture into the stew. Cook and stir occasionally until bubbly.
Crock pot:
In a medium pan, brown the meat in olive oil over medium-low heat, for about 10 minutes. Add the onion and cook together with the meat until tender, about 5 more minutes. Next, pour the meat and onion mixture into the crock pot. Add 2 cups of beef broth (reserve 1 cup for later), worcestershire sauce, garlic, bay leaves, sugar, pepper, paprika, cloves and allspice. Cover and cook on low for 3 hours. After 3 hours in the crock pot, remove the 3 bay leaves. Add the carrots and the celery. Cover and cook until 30 minutes out from dinner time (this would be the same time I would start boiling my potatoes) Combine 1/4 cup water with 2 Tablespoons cornstarch and mix until the cornstarch has dissolved. Add the cornstarch mixture to the remaining 1 cup beef broth. Pour the combined mixture into the stew. Cover and cook about 30 minutes.

Enjoy over mashed potatoes! Yummy delicious! 🙂

Baby Damien

This weekend I had the opportunity to photograph a friend’s new baby boy. He was 7 days old and an absolute treat to photograph! This little guy was a champ at sleeping. We moved him all around and he didn’t fuss at all! I am expecting this is exactly how it is going to be when Luke and I are blessed with a baby…right?? 😉
This was my second chance to photograph a newborn and I really enjoyed it! I see lots of ways I can improve so I’m looking forward to more opportunities. Thankfully we live in a community where babies abound…so I see many more opportunities in my future 🙂Don’t babies just make you smile? 🙂 Hope everyone had a wonderful weekend!