Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Not Your Normal Taco!

The Headlines:


It's Cinco De Mayo (soon).

Tired of the same ol' thing!?

Try this!




Hola!  I grew up in sunny Southern California, by the beach, no less.  Close to the Mexican border.  We never ate mexican food.  Everyone else did.  Like it was everyone's favorite.  But my mom hated it!    So, by association, I did too.

When I met BP (my husband), he changed my mind.  Drastically.  He loved all things Mexican food.  Plus, he was good at making things Mexican.  Really good!  He does theeeee best guacamole, he has this awesome place in San Diego where he buys (not makes) a carne asada that is so good there is absolutely no need to do our own - ever.  Then, his margarita's…. forget about it.  You know, I think I'll (re) post them this week.  I did them, separately, last summer when NO ONE was reading my blog.  I'm not even sure I had told anyone I was doing it.  Okay, maybe like 2 people.  But now I'm up to 10 and I want to re-share because those 10 people deserve to hear about this marg and guac - it's just THAT GOOD!  Totally Picky chick approved.

Anyhow, back to the post at hand.  Since BP was such a show off with his major Mexican food - I had to keep up… so… drum roll please… this is the new taco being served at Casa de Picky Chick!

The New Taco

You could consider it a hearty Mexican type appetizer or a starter course.  If it were me, I'd serve it as the first course of a Mexican dinner because my guess is the guests have never seen or tasted this at El Torito before!  Therefore, it needs to be highlighted!

Basically, it's a mushroom/spinach type of "taco" served with salsa & avocado… if you choose.  I added chips below too.  It takes, literally minutes to make, like most all my stuff and it packs a powerful punch.


Here's what you'll need:
flour tortillas  (I guess you could try corn but those would probably break apart too easy)
1 lb of cut mushrooms
6 oz spinach
almost a whole, chopped medium sized yellow onion
2 cups shredded pepperjack cheese
smidge of white wine (optional)
olive oil
salt and pepper
salsa
avocado
Tabasco
chips (optional)
*makes 12 muffin sized "taco's"

Here it goes: get a muffin tin and turn on your oven to 450.  Spray tin with olive oil in each of its cups.  Take your tortillas, heat them and rip them apart so they fit into the cups.  They'll look a little crude but it works.  I was using large tortillas and ripping them into 4's.


Heat about 2 tblspns of oil, over a medium flame, in a large saucepan and throw in the onions when it's ready.  When they're golden brown add all of your cut mushrooms.  Once the olive oil starts to get dry and you think they need more "juice" add a little white wine.   Or if you don't have a bottle handy.. use more oil.  You'll know when they mushrooms are fully sautéed, about 6 minutes, they'll be much smaller!  While that's happening, take a large bowl and place the spinach in the bowl.  Also, the shredded cheese.  Once the mushroom mix is finished… throw it on top of the spinach.  Stir.  Then add salt and pepper to taste.

The cheese melts and the spinach wilts and here's the weird part: you could stop here!!!  At this point, it's a really really good wilted, spinach salad.  You could totally use this as a starter salad with a steak dinner or something like that!  I honestly couldn't stop eating it!  But I made myself and pressed on.   For my purpose, on this day, I was making taco's!


Once fully mixed, take the vegetable mixture and put it in each cup.  Then, add a little extra shredded cheese on top!


Pop it into the oven and bake for about 5-7 minutes.  The "tacos" will be melty and a little brown on the very top.  Si si si!


Add a few drops of salsa, maybe some Tabasco. Cut some avocado… whatever you feel like doing.  
Serve!  They're great right out of the oven… and your guests will taste something unlike ever before this Cinco de Mayo (or any mexican themed dinner party you serve them at)!  Muy Bueno!







Monday, April 28, 2014

Decorating with Books!

The Headlines:

I like to decorate.

I don't like to decorate like everyone else.

Use books.



Do not get me wrong.  Decorating is completely individualistic.  There are so many styles and tastes in the world… that's what makes it fun.  Nothing is off limits.  Nothing is wrong.  Weeeeellllll….  maybe I shouldn't go that far but you know what I mean!  Personally, I like the "antiquey" shabby chic, cottage style mixed, subtlely, with the desert influences of where I live.   You may know I define my style as "Desert Cottage."  In fact I wrote a whole "page" and post on "Defining Your Style…"  you can check out the post  here … and/or go back to the home page to find the label on the toolbar marked "Define Your Style".

Back to the topic at hand: finding cool looks and decor items to put in your home is never easy.  I just can't hang with too many Pottery Barn type things in my house.  I use them… but sparingly.  So when I went to my friends house recently and saw her interesting decor choice with books - this picky chick was impressed.  Maybe even obsessed!  Now I will warn you some people may look at this and go… huh?  I don't get it.  Hello my father-in-law!  But others will totally get it.  It's this...

Yes, that is what it looks like… books with their covers ripped off.  Who knew it could look so cool with such a beachy, shabby chic vibe to it.  Call me crazy but I think it accomplishes so much.  I fell for it.  I ordered a bunch of books from the website Books by the Foot.

Click  BOOKSBYTHEFOOT  if you want to check out their website.  

They have books galore.  Sky is the limit - order one color (like a bookcase with all red or blue or white books) or a type of book, even books, literally, but the foot - hence the name!!  It's awesome.  Now, don't get me wrong, as my mother pointed out, I could have done this on my own.  You know, find old books and then rip off the covers.  But the leg work on that (barring me scouring the internet looking for a library going out of business) would be enormous and it was worth it to have these people do it for me!  It's not very expensive… but there's a catch... shipping will set you back as much as the product!

How did I use these books?  See, back in the 90's (possibly before and after too) here in Arizona, parts of California, New Mexico, Nevada, etc… home builders were putting cubbies galore all over new builds.  Homeowners were then left with the difficult task of what to do with them.  I have seen some lame cubby uses.  Fake bright green plants being the number one.  Then I have seen some ideas that are better than lame.  Now, many people have chosen to get rid of them all together opting for built ins.  We have not.  Ours have actually started to grow on us.  There's always the option to change them later but for now I will keep them.  This is what they looked like before the books.

Before Books
This is what they look like after the books.
After Cubbies
Total success!  Granted that whole big tv cubby space is a huge eye sore - which I need to figure out how to handle - but at least now the cubbies surrounding it look so much better.

I also had a few left over to put in a couple other places around our pad.  On the baker's rack which I don't really use for it's known purpose…


and also on the side table in the formal living room I'm working on finishing.


This picky chick is super happy with it.  I love the look, haven't seen it much, except at my friend's house who lives around the corner.  Heeee heeee.  You know what they say: imitation is the sincerest form of flattery!  Heck, that's what they whole blog is about - imitate away!






Friday, April 25, 2014

Kids are Parasites!

The Headlines:

I cracked my tooth.

The dentist said:  beware kids are parasites.

They are.  But that's okay.

I will be, mostly, selfless.



Last weekend I was eating a bagel and all of the sudden started chewing on something really hard!  Huh?  Last time I checked there was nothing crunchy about a bagel and cream cheese.  But wait.  I had actually cracked my tooth.  BP's (the husband) reaction was his usual… "really?  Something's wrong with your teeth again"!?  Yep.  He's been saying that for years so I started evaluating.  He was right.  In the last 7 years I've had one problem after another… with my mouth.  Cavities, caps, cracks… you name it - I've had it.  I mentioned this to my dentist and she said: once you have kids, let alone breast feed them, they literally suck everything from you.  They take all your good vitamins and minerals from your body and you're left half the person you once used to be!  Crazy, huh?  But it makes sense.

They are parasites!



The funny thing is… I'm okay with that.

When I was in my early 20's I remember wanting to be very selfish.  It was my motto actually.  I wanted to take it all in, do what I needed, go where I should, career away because I knew once I had kids - selfish was out.  Self-LESS was in.  And I had to be ready for that. Which is one reason I didn't have kids in my 20's.  That was ME time.  I had fun, bought lots of clothes, went on trips.  I got it out of my system and I'm glad I did.

I was ready to have kids when we eventually did.  I was ready to be, mostly, selfless.

Do you ever meet a woman who wasn't ready for the selfless thing?  It's so obvious to me.  Years ago I was at a multiple mom play date and one of the moms had her 1 year old daughter there.  The little girl wanted to be held by her mom.  The mom wanted nothing to do with it.  Like, was super annoyed that this little girl actually had the nerve to interrupt her "mom" talk time, wanting to be held.  It killed me because at the time I was trying, very hard, to have a second child.  I would have died to have held my baby.  This woman had even quit her job to raise her children.  I bet you can guess what she's doing now.  Yep, she went back to work.  Financial situation aside (which I know matters in decisions of going back to work) I think she's better off there.  She was not/is not ready to be, mostly, selfless.

I'm not saying all moms need to quit their jobs to be selfless, stay at home moms.  Hardly.  I am saying your children deserve you to think of them first… way before yourself.  Most of the time.  I'm also a huge advocate of:  mom nights out, weekend get-a-ways with husbands and a glass of wine during the week to steal a quick "moment"…  and of course I love spa days or shopping afternoons.  All of that is super necessary to maintain balance.  But at the top of your list has to be those little parasites.  For some, it's hard to understand.


I once shared a bathroom with another media person I worked with.  We'd do hair and make-up for the show together.  One day she asked me why I wasn't "into" my child the way other moms were that she knew.  I was confused.  She explained - it perplexed her that I went to the spa so much, on so many vacations and dinners with my husband.  Shouldn't I be with my daughter instead?  I explained.  My daughter is the center of my world.  She means everything to me.  But when you have a newborn, toddler, or even a young child of any kind - you need to balance your life as much as possible while remembering they are the priority.  If you completely lose yourself to them then who are you?  I went on to say "being the strongest woman, wife and mother is going to do nothing but help her during her growth journey."  She practically looked at me crossed eyed.  She did not get it.

In case you're wondering this person wasn't a mom at the time.  She since, has had kids, sometimes I wonder what she thinks today?  But only for a fleeting second since I have better things to think about.

Bottom line is…  yes kids are parasites and they will suck everything from you, if you let them.  And you should let them.  But only to a point.  

This is their time.  They will take it.  Plus more.  My children continue to take my dental health.  They spend most of my monthly budget (swim, dance, education, clothes, let alone food!!!).  I now have allergies.  Let's blame them for that too… yes, the list goes on… and I am completely okay with it.  As a mom I will be, mostly, selfless.  But I will not lose my self along the way.

They, and I, deserve it.




Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Spring Ice Cream Pie!

The Headlines:

I love ice cream cakes!!!

But they have to be cool looking & time-of-the-year appropriate.

This is a quick, easy one to produce.



This ice cream cake is yummy, simple to make and delicately beautiful.  Wouldn't you agree?  Great cause you're going to make it before Spring is over!


Ice cream cakes and I go way back.  I started eating them at a young age but really kicked my love up into high gear when I got married.  That's when I went to Carvel to ask them to make me an ice cream cake for all of my wedding guests!  It was different, unexpected and everyone loved it!  Of course, my "show" cake was more traditional, seen below, and boy was it pretty.  You can't tell but the frosting had delicate little dots in clusters of 3… very classic and wedding appropriate.  But no one got to taste it.


Because they ate the ice cream cake instead!

Have you ever noticed, when you're at a party and say - cake time - lots of people decline the treat.  Mention it's an ICE CREAM cake and those no's turn to yes'!  Everyone dives in!  Ironically, the beauty of an ice cream cake is that they really are so easy to make!  There are so many easy ways to do one.  When I was in college, I used to buy store made crusts in that pie tin, loaded up some ice cream into it, whipping cream on top, froze and serve.  People thought I was Sara Lee!  There's another way, the 31 Flavor way, where you actually make a cake, then pile ice cream of choice on top, frost and freeze.  And then there's this…

Spring Grasshopper Pie.


Sorry,  it's not on a fancy platter.  I just didn't have time.  I made it on Easter and I was glad to get it frozen and ready for the fam to eat!  But here's how I did it.

You need:
chocolate graham type cookies (depending on type, I used 50)
2 tablspns butter
vanilla ice cream
1 container 8 oz frozen light whipped cream
green food coloring
Peppermint extract
1 7 oz jar marshamallow creme
2 tblspns low fat milk
mint
chocolate syrup

First, crush the cookies into tiny little crumbs, melt butter and mix in a bowl.  Then press the mixture to bottom of a 9 inch Springform Pan. Put inside fridge.


Take your melted ice cream - about 6 cups worth - and drop one (or more depending upon how deep of green you want) drop of green food coloring plus 1 teaspoon of Peppermint extract and mix.  Spread on top of crust you just made.


It's at this point (which I didn't do)… that you could sprinkle more cookie crumbs to separate the layers.  I will definitely do this next time.  Easy additional step that makes a huge impact on looks and taste.   Whether you do that or not, the next step is to take entire marshmallow creme out of jar and add milk to a microwavable bowl, then stick it in for about 45 seconds.  Once done, mix with whipped creme and add another drop of food coloring (or don't if you want the contrast between the green layer and white layer)… plus 1 teaspoon of Peppermint extract.  Spread on top of ice cream layer.



**Note I actually forgot to add the whipped creme to that last mixture!  SO I came back later and put it separately on top, oops…. which is why the marshmallow creme layer seeped out of the pan when it was freezing.  It was too runny. But it was all good in the end.  Goes to show, you really can't screw up an ice cream cake!



Anyways, once you've spread that on… put in freezer for 6-8 hours.  The longer it can freeze up, the better.  When ready to eat, take chocolate syrup, decorate - cut and serve!


I can not explain how much your guests will love this treat!  It works perfectly for baby showers,  birthday, Spring holiday dinners (Mother's Day) or just a fun, early May BBQ!  Suits all occasions!  Enjoy!




Monday, April 21, 2014

Best Bathing Suit (under $5) EVER!

The Headlines:


UPDATE -  June 16th, 2015 - BEST SWIM SUITS ever still sold by Wal-mart (shhhhhhhh)

Swim season is here.

You have to buy this suit!

Inexpensive, classic beauty awaits!




Okay, first let me say that I by no means think I am a fashion maven.  I do not know major designers, I shop fairly infrequently and my favorite "go to" clothing stores are H&M, Forever 21 and Nordstrom.  I'm not ashamed to say I even get some items at Target now and then.  I also know that the purpose of this blog is not to be commenting and giving style tips.  But I have one that I simply can NOT hold in.

This…


For the ripe price of just under $5 - they went up from last year.

Let me back up a bit.  About 6 years ago I was in a Walmart at about 4:30 in the morning doing a live shot for our morning show about back to school supplies.  We had about an hour in between shots so I did what every hot blooded American woman would do… I browsed.  While doing that, I came upon these  cute, triangle top tie bikinis.  Bargain priced at


Can you see that?  If not, let me help you…. it says 

$4.66!!!!!!!!   

Seriously.  Per piece.  We're talking 10 bucks for a full suit!

I snatched up a few of them, which were hard to find since it was the end of the season.  But almost every year I go back to grab a couple more.  And here's the deal:  they are ADBORBS!!!  I get tons of compliments on them all the time because they're just a simple, classic, cool and cute beach/pool look that no matter what the bathing suit "fashion" that year… you can NOT go wrong!  They're made by OP and the colors change and evolve every year.  I have lavender, black, hot pink, yellow, neon… this year I bought white (top, white bottoms always frighten me a bit), green, a bright orange and a pale pink.  The best part is you mix and match them, check it out.







































Or go solid... super classic! 


The fit is great… but after a couple seasons they stretch out a bit.  I think this is the first year they started cutting a tad more off that behind area!  Why are we getting so small down there, I ask!????  Almost everyone I've told about them, has gone to buy one, and they're never disappointed! You just can't go wrong.    

Last thing, the sizing is smaller than usual.  In most clothing stores I'm usually a small.  Or between a 2-4.  In these suits I go medium which the label says is 7-9.   Ouch.  But they go up to XL.  And really, sizing is so subjective these days do not be alarmed! 

So I am serious… this is a tip you can not ignore, if you're comfortable with a 2 piece of course.  If not, they have 1 pieces, I just can't speak to them.  But if they're as good as these… buy many!  And hurry! 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Broccoli Pizza

The Headlines:


Quick kid meals rule.

But health matters.

Here's an idea kids will love (and parents will too!)



Here at our house Pizza is a major dinner staple.  I would go so far as to say it may be one of my favorite foods.  Which is why we have it once a week.  No more.  It's our weekly dinner treat. I know this is not a foreign routine to families all over America.  It works for many of us.

Now, I already shared with you my favorite frozen pizza of all time.  And if you didn't see it… just click here … now I'd like to let you in on another little (frozen) Pizza trick of mine.  It's my second favorite thing to do when it come to eating pizza at home.  I call it Broccoli Pizza.

Broccoli Pizza
Just look at that bright green, flowery broccoli.  Scary for most parents, right?  Kids will cower!  No way - it's on pizza - where anything goes!  Here's the best part, looks like a lot of work but you didn't make this pizza… you simply enhanced it!

First, grab your favorite frozen, cheese pizza. Heat up your oven according to their package instructions.  While that's warming, take (I use organic) broccoli florets and break them up quite a bit.  Put them in a bowl and then douse with olive oil and a tiny salt.  When the oven is ready the  "marinating" broccoli should be ready too.  The just place all the little broccoli pieces on top.


Cook and voila!  The broccoli shouldn't burn because the olive oil protects it and makes it super yummy when it comes out.  It's like cooked, not too much, but almost al dente like. 


My kids usually eat the broccoli first! 


You can put any and all toppings on a pizza like this… but this is my fav.  Makes it a little healthier... so I can eat more!



















Monday, April 14, 2014

Spray Paint ANYTHING

The Headlines:

Don't like something?

Spray paint it!





I love painting things.  It's easy and it brings a whole new life to something tired and old.  This I know.  But it's always nice to remind yourself of facts that may escape you.

Right now, my head is full of too many facts.  Here at the house we are in the middle of several decorating projects.  One of which is my closet "remodel."  Several weeks ago we put new wood floors in, painted it, bought all the same hangars and organized the clothes.  Now we have to stain the new rungs, find/install a chandelier and decorate it.

Here's what it used to look like

Before 

After 




































Here it is now.





































Improved, yes.  Finished, no.

I will do a whole "Closet Remodel" post when I'm finished.  But, as I was developing my closet decorating plan I was bursting at the seams to tell you this: spray paint (almost) anything.  Something I was reminded of by a friend - you can change the look of something in seconds when you SPRAY IT!

BAM!  This stuff works great if you go Silver.




We also decided to spray our toilet paper holders from brass to "chrome" instead of buying all new ones.  Did you know you could do that?  Just be careful, sometimes the paint scratches off a bit (especially at a toilet paper dispenser) still… it looks better

brass toilet paper holder
"chrome" toilet paper holder





















I'm painting the baskets I've had for a while and the boxes I just bought.

Old box vs. "New" box




Old basket vs. "New" basket



































See the difference?






SO much better.  The whole experience just reminded me:  when in doubt, don't throw it out - spray paint it instead!  In many cases, it could save you time (searching) and money (buying).  











Friday, April 11, 2014

Baby's Flower "Chandelier"

The Headlines:


Everyone loves to decorate for baby.

Here's a great idea (if u have a girl)!



Oh the joys of being pregnant.  I mean that sarcastically and seriously.  It is a special time in ones life.  But for some, it's also an incredibly tiring, painful, uncomfortable time as well!  I got tired.  But that was about it.  Lucky.  I actually worked right up to having the babies come out!  Getting up at Oh-dark thirty and being on live TV was no problem.  What was a problem, however, was decorating that upcoming babies room - just right.  I am, a picky person, as you know.

It is always some time during the last few months of being pregnant, if not before, the mama bear usually starts wanting to make sure that nursery is perfect for its new guest!  I think they call it nesting.  I just call it pricey, prepared and pregnant.  I loved putting my nursery together.  Recently, my friend had her baby.  She was talking with me about a couple of additions she wanted to put in the room and described something similar to what I used to do (in my old house) for Christmas.  It's a kind of Wreath/ Chandelier.  Search this blog for "Be a Wreath Freak" if you're interested in seeing it.  Anyways, since I had done one before, I told her I would help her with it and away we went!


It is so simple to do, I can not even begin to tell you.  Well, actually, I can.  And I will.  But the point is… it's such an easy task that provides a lot of "pay off"… when it's done.  You'll see what I mean!

Here's what it took:

  1. Go to a craft/hobby store and buy a large grapevine wreath.  
  2. Peruse the fake flower aisle for all the colors and types of flowers you want to put in/on it.
  3. Then get a cool ribbon that you won't mind looking at for, well,  years.  
  4. Grab some black thread from your sewing kit (if you have one of those).
  5.  Poke the flowers in the wreath where they fit. 
  6.  Once they're placed where you want them… take the black thread (which is basically invisible,  btw, can you see it below there?) and lace it through which basically anchors the flowers.  Hot glue was not needed.


The whole thing took, like, minutes.

What was harder was hanging it.  My friend has high, high ceilings in her nursery.  Once she found a tall enough ladder, she just "laced" 3 long ribbons through the wreath and affixed them to a hook hung on the ceiling, where you want the "chandelier" to hang.


She chose to hang it above her babies dresser.  It looks adorable.  Inexpensive, easy and impressive.


Another option might be to hang it above a crib and it can be a chandelier/mobile.  If you do that, however, you may want to hot glue for extra strength.  Wherever it goes… it will look spectacular and people will do a double take every time they see it.  This Picky Chick loves loves loves it.  Time for another baby?  Hmmmmmmm… that wreath in my house - might just make it worth it!  Wait...


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

My Grandma killed the Easter Bunny!

The Headlines:

I believed in the Easter Bunny.

Until my Grandmother changed everything.





When should you tell your kids the truth about... the Easter Bunny?  Maybe not as soon as you think. I say this from experience.


I was 5 and we were shopping.  Grandma and I had found a seat so we could catch a breath while my mom shopped on.  I guess we started talking about the upcoming holiday.  It was Easter.  I had no idea that the question I was about to pose, would basically, rip the Easter rug right from under me!  I remember it clear as day as I asked my Grandma, with all her wisdom, the question so many children ask this time of year:  "How did the Easter Bunny get inside our house?"

Without missing a beat, she replied, "through the window."  "Oh no," I said, " we never open the windows!"  Annoyed, she changed her story, "Well then, he gets in through the door…" "Ah, no he doesn't" I said, "Mom makes sure the doors are locked!"  Obviously irritated she tells me he comes down the chimney.  "Grandma, that's crazy, everyone knows that's how Santa gets in the house!"  Oh, well now that was IT!  "For goodness sakes child, there IS NO EASTER BUNNY,"  She says!

HUH?

I followed up, surprising, I know.  "Then what about Santa Claus?" I asked.  Nope.  "And the Tooth Fairy?"  Same story.  I was shocked, saddened and maybe a little angry.  My mom had come back around this time.  She was fuming.  I was in kindergarten and it was ruined.

Know what I did next?  What every good reporter would do with huge news.  I told people.  I went straight to school and started sharing the news.  It made kids cry.  It made them ticked off.  It made me a bad guy.  So, I stopped telling.

But my fun, my magic, my excitement and wonder was already ruined.  Far too young.

So it begs the question? When is the right time to "kill" the Easter Bunny?

I have a friend who told her kids the truth about all of this… from the beginning.  She says she wants the credit for those gifts, money and baskets, not some figment of the imagination.

Really?

I wonder what's so wrong with believing in something for a few years during a child's young life?  Perhaps it increases the strength of the imagination?  Or maybe it just pushes make believe into a stratosphere that we'll never be able to capture, as adults, again.  I see nothing wrong with that… growing up happens way too fast as it is.

These days, I see parents, companies, people in general… trying a little harder to keep the "magic" alive.  Maybe it's because their fun was also ruined too early in life.  I actually know some 4th graders who genuinely still believe.  I was shocked at first and now, as a parent, I get it.  Keep it as long as you can.   They'll be disappointed by so many people and in so many ways…soon enough.


There is no ONE right time to "kill" the Easter Bunny.  You, as a parent, will know when the time is right.  When my daughter looks into my eyes and asks me, specifically, what the real deal is  - I'll tell her.  Because she'll be ready to hear it.

At 5, when my Easter Bunny was killed, I was far from ready to hear that news.  In fact, I'm pretty sure a little part of myself, died that day too.  Way ahead of schedule.