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Friday, July 27, 2012

Avocado Ranch Dip

Another wonderful dip recipe coming at ya... it's healthy, cool and perfect for summer. Anything involving avocados and I'm game!

Avocado Ranch Dip
adapted from Lavender&Lilies, serves 6 but easily changeable

3 avocados
Greek yogurt - I use Fage fat free found at walmart and grocery stores
Hidden Valley Ranch dip packet (powder packet)

Take the flesh out of the avocados into a bowl. Add a dollop of greek yogurt per avocado. Add the ranch like you are generously seasoning something. The original calls for the whole packet but as I tasted while mixing it did not need the whole packet. (To give you a better idea I have about used a whole packet now after going through 5 avocados). Taste it to see if it needs more as you are seasoning. Mash avocado mixture with fork and stir until creamy. This is best cold so chill until cold or speed it up by putting in the freezer for a bit.

Serve with chips or on tacos, etc. This is easily adapted for however many avocados you want to use. The best estimate I have found for using as an appetizer is 1/2 avocado per person.

Make sure to get some before it is all gone! This dip was gone in 15 minutes tops. Our friends could hardly wait until I was able to take pictures of it. It's that delicious.

I'm making this again tonight!Enjoy!

Linking up at these fun parties

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

LaForce Likes #18

Ohhhhh summer summer summer :)

One of the best things about warm weather is flip flops. This LaForce Likes is this simple sign. I think it would be easy enough to DIY in your color of choice or you can buy it off etsy. They used a nice birch but other woods could work just fine. I can see this as seasonal decor or something you have up all year to remind you of that wonderful feeling of flip flops on your feet.


Life really IS better in flip flops! Hubby will attest to this as he wears them pretty much all year long... must not be as affected by cold wearing them far into chillier weather.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Our niece turns 5

Our adorable niece Abby turned 5 at the end of May and we had a wonderful birthday weekend with her in Columbia.

Saturday morning we went out on the lake. The weather was really nice for a boat ride an lunch but the water was still too cold. Abby and Eric tested it out and were quickly back on the boat shivering.

After the lake, we spent a little time at the neighborhood pool. Abby loves bugs. She was fascinated by the rolly pollies and caterpillar type worms she found.

That evening before having burgers on the grill, Abby rode her bike. Pretty soon I bet those training wheels will be coming off.

We also played on her new swing set and played tag in the backyard.

Sunday was Abby's birthday at a place called Partyz Unlimited. It has a bunch of bounce house type things and slides and a kids rock wall. They had pizza and cake after playing. All the kids also get popcorn, snow cones and cotton candy supplied by the place. Then they are given back to their parents as sugar monsters. Here are a few pics from the party.

I made a pink and purple banner for Abby's birthday. Same way I did my summer mantle banner. Abby is definitely a girly girl and loves pink, purple, dresses, skirts, jewelry, etc. I can't blame her for liking those things :)

There were about 25 kids there total with most being around 5 like Abby and the rest were siblings of those kids or neighbors.

Abby had a cupcake cake in the shape of a heart. They were vanilla so there were also a few extra chocolate cupcakes for those that really wanted chocolate.

Abby picked out presents she wanted at Learning Express and they kept them in a bucket with her name on it kind of like a gift registry. We were able to go to a Learning Express in Charlotte and they took what we bought out of her bucket in Columbia. This was wonderful - I hope she continues to register there for birthdays in the future!

One very popular item at Learning Express is live frogs. There are 3 frogs in there that get fed once a week. Due to her fascination with bugs and such I am not surprised she wanted this. Move over pet fish, the new trend is frogs. (I did ask a couple weeks ago and the frogs are still kicking... whew!)

Happy 5th Birthday Little Miss Abby! You are growing up so fast!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

LaForce Likes #17

This week is this beautiful and fun chevron platter from Coton Colors. They have other colors but of course I love the purple one! How perfect is it paired with the orange polka dot dip cup and spreader for football season.


Like I really need another dish this size when I have a few Clemson ones but the nice thing is the platter could be used easily other times of the year (Easter, showers, etc.) and not just football season since it doesn't have any logos. Most Clemson serving pieces are orange so purple would be fabulous. And of course chevron is all the rage!

One of Eric's aunts said that Coton Colors is a local company in Tallahassee so lucky you if you live near there to attend any sale events. If for some crazy reason you aren't partial to purple and orange they do have many more colors to choose from.

I have not been paid to write about this product. It is just something I like and want to share.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Go Bold - Painting the Guest Room

Go bold or go home! (that was our self concocted guest room motto) We certainly went bold with color in our guest room and could not be happier. I will say it was a little nerve-wrecking but also exciting when those first strokes of dark bold paint covered up the builder white walls.

We chose between 3 colors and went with the richest, Maxi Teal by Sherwin Williams (far left). I was inspired to go bold by Young House Love's bold guest room (we have the same fun pillow shams!). Their room color is greener than ours but same concept.

Here are a few pics of the process. We moved a few pieces of furniture out of the room and the rest (like the bed) to the middle so we could work around them. We also took down the blinds.

We taped the baseboards and ceiling. In the past we didn't do the ceiling but it definitely helped. Eric rolled and I used the brush for cutting in along all the edges and places the roller wouldn't be good for.

It needed 2 really good coats. Then we pulled up the tape. Once everything was completely dry we moved the furniture back. I had already decided the room had too much furniture in it before so we trimmed it down by moving the wicker desk to another room which allowed for moving the bookshelf to the corner instead opposite the bed.

Now it looks so much better! I love the white contrast against the teal. I know I won't keep the wicker furniture forever in this room but I will still incorporate some white furniture since it looks so great in here!

All of our guests so far (Keith and Megan, my parents, my dear friend Brooke, Eric's mom and Abby) have loved the new color! I wouldn't say I would use a color like that in my living room. If you are a little leery of color here is my advice... it makes a lot of sense to go with a bold color in a room like a guest room that you aren't in all the time and it won't seem like too much.

I love that we aren't color shy so we can have some amazingly beautiful color in our home :)  It's funny that now I can't even picture the room the way it used to be... I wish we had done it even sooner!

Let me know what ya think!

Linking up at these fun parties

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Zucchini Lasagna

What have we been doing with the huge pile of zucchini picked from the garden? I'm so glad you asked....

I found this healthy recipe but tweaked it slightly and added in some tips I learned making it a couple of times to help you!

Zucchini Lasagna
From Dashing Dish, Serves 8-10
about 285 calories per serving when using 8

6 large zucchini cut lengthwise into 1/8-1/4 inch strips used as "noodles"
1.25 lbs lean ground turkey
1 large onion, diced
2 cups fresh or frozen broccoli, cut into small pieces
2 cups fresh or frozen cauliflower. cut into small pieces
25oz jar spaghetti sauce (or make your own)
1 clove garlic minced
Salt and pepper to taste
Italian seasoning to taste
16oz light ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 425. For the "noodles", spray cookie sheet and arrange zucchini slices seasoned with salt and pepper. Bake 5 min on each side and set aside. Lower oven to 375. For the meat, cook ground turkey until browned in large skillet. Add veggies (cut into small pieces - learned this makes it fit much better!), seasonings, and all spaghetti sauce. Simmer for 10 minutes or so.

For the cheese, mix ricotta and parmesan together. Now you are ready to assemble the lasagna. Spray two 9x9 baking dishes (you can use one 9x13 instead but I think the 9x9's work better). The first layer is meat, then zucchini slices, then cheese mixture. I believe I repeated 2 times so in total 3 layers of each. Then sprinkle mozzarella on top, cover with foil and bake at 375 for 1 hour. Remove foil and bake another 5-10 min to brown the top. I forgot the browning the first time so no worries if you skip it.

Cool for a few minutes and serve!

As you can see in the pictures this is a very juicy lasagna due to using all the veggies. If you want a little less juice you can pour some out after it has baked.  The original recipe uses spinach in the meat layer too so if you like spinach you can look at Dashing Dish's recipe but I preferred to leave it out. I like doing this recipe in the two 9x9 dishes so I can freeze one for several weeks later. We have done this each time we make it and it freezes wonderfully!

Hope you enjoy!

Linking up at these fun parties

Monday, July 9, 2012

Southern Caribbean Cruise: Day at Sea and San Juan

Feb 17th was our day at sea on the way back to San Juan.

We had a very relaxing day in the Solarium. It was the adults only pool area indoors but under a glass dome so you still got some warm sunshine but it wasn't as hot and it wasn't direct sun rays. The lounge chairs their had nice big cushions on them. We relaxed, read, ate lunch, and went on walks around the ship.

At 4pm we went to the bottom entrance of the Reflections dining room for a tour of the ship kitchen that our waiter had invited us to. This was not something published or announced so I believe the waiters were allowed to invite a certain number of people.

From what I could tell there were about 200 people there waiting and they took us back to the kitchen in groups of about 20 with a main chef as our guide.

We got to learn about the job of estimating enough supplies, coming up with the menus, preparing all the food, the industrial size appliances they had, and how fast some of this can be done.
now that's a mixer!

It is an extremely well organized process they execute each week under pressure and probably some chaos at times. They do a lot of cross training too. Something a project manager (and planner/organizer) like myself can really appreciate and enjoy hearing about... or maybe I'm just a nerd like that.

After that we got ready for our last dinner.

They had chocolate lava cake. finally. a little mound of heaven.

And then we went to the comedy show. It was actually quite funny and the routine was based around cruise stuff. The 10 stupidest real questions that the cruise director had ever been asked was especially hilarious (is there salt water or fresh water in the toilet? does this elevator go to the front or the back of the ship?). Great stuff.

We spent some time exploring the ship a little more and then it was time to pack up most of our stuff so we would be ready for debarkation in the morning.

On Feb 18th our flight wasn't until around 5pm so after getting off the ship we grabbed a taxi to Barrachina, a restaurant that also stores travellers luggage in a gated storage area. I heard all about this on cruisecritic from countless people that did it so we felt fine leaving our luggage there. It also has it on their website. They don't have prices for this but of course you tip. I think we gave them $20.

Then we walked to the first of two forts we would be seeing, Castillo San Felipe del Morro (El Morro). Along the way we saw many parks/squares and great architecture.

We bought a ticket at El Morro for $5 per person that was good for both forts. There was a decent walk from the road to the entrance.

This fort had many levels to walk around and great views.

Then we took a free trolley to get fairly close to the other fort. We probably could have walked but it was blazin out. We had lunch at a little restaurant with Puerto Rican food. They also had sandwiches and quesadillas and such. We didn't spend a ton of time deciding on a place because we were starving.

Then we spent time exploring Castillo de San Cristóbal (San Cristóbal Fort).

Then we leisurely made our way back to Barrachina's to get our luggage and catch a taxi to the airport.

We made it home with only a little bit of difficulty. Apparently they decided to change the plane for our flight and the new plane had a different layout of seats causing the need to move some people around however no one affected was told about this until they went to have their boarding pass scanned and were given a new one. No announcements were made and we were at the gate at least an hour before the flight. Eric and I were the last zone even though we were supposed to be on like row 12 (don't even get me started on how they do zones). We get our passes scanned and the scanner guy says "oh we had to move you". Then I had to inquire as to why we were being put in the last row of the plane and why none of this was announced ahead of time. Then he proceeds to give Eric and I both the same exact seat. So we realize that in the ramp area to get on the plane and have to trek back up so we can get a 2nd seat.

Honestly we have flown enough times that delays, cancellations, seat changes etc. are just a part of flying. Of course they suck but you just have to try to go with it or else it can ruin your day. What really irritated me in this case was the lack of communication. If you have to move our seats fine, but at least make an announcement to everyone or call up those affected to the desk or something! Thank you very much.

Any who... lots of turbulence (boy was I glad I still had that patch on) and one panic attack later (an older lady in front of us) and we were back in Charlotte after a wonderful week cruising around the Southern Caribbean! Cannot wait for the next big trip with our travel buddies!!

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