Tomorrow I'm jumping on a plane and heading back to the east coast for the first time in a year! I can't believe how long it's been since I've been home and seen my family...and, it's been even longer since I've seen some of my closest friends.

This lovely lady, Beverly, is the cause for my little cross country excursion. I met her my Freshman year in college and we soon become great friends and decided to room with one another for the next three years. I couldn't be more excited to see her this upcoming weekend as she walks down the aisle to get married! MARRIED, I say! 
I am so thrilled to be a part of her big day! To top it off, another good friend of ours from college, who happened to be one of my roommates as well as my wedding photographer, will be there also to photograph her wedding! (You need to check out Bridget's photography site. This girl has some amazing talent!) [you're welcome for the plug, B] ;)
I will be able to see some other great friends from college as well as my oldest friend from childhood while visiting as well! Other than that, I hope to soak up as much time with my parents as possible. A year is too long to go without being surrounding by those you love!! 

To friendship, family, and good times! 
I'll see you in a week ;)


Zucchini Lasagna

The best thing about changing my eating habits has been experimenting with new foods. I never understand how versatile most vegetables can be --substituting cauliflower for rice, spaghetti squash for noodles, and now replacing lasagna noodles with zucchini!! Veggies are kinda cool, huh? And low and behold they taste good, too! ;)
The original recipe can be found at Skinnytaste. My recipe and directions are altered slightly from hers. To make this dish a little healthier I used ground turkey instead of beef and left out the parmesan cheese.

 - 1 lb ground turkey
 - 3 cloves garlic
 - 1/2 onion
 - 1 tsp olive oil
 - salt and pepper
 - 5 zucchinis, sliced lengthwise (depending on size. ours were a little small so I had to do 5)
 - 15 oz ricotta cheese
 - 1 log mozzarella cheese, sliced thin (or buy shredded) 
 - 1 can of your favorite spaghetti sauce

In a medium sauce pan, brown meat and season with salt. When thoroughly cooked, drain and set    aside. Add olive oil to pan and sauté garlic and onions for about 2 minutes. Add meat. Simmer on low for about 20 minutes. 

Meanwhile, slice zucchini lengthwise. (I used a mandolin to do this, which gave me thin, even slices) Lightly salt and set aside for 10 minutes. The salt helps take some of the moisture out of the zucchini. After 10 minutes, blot excess moisture with a paper towel.

Next, if you have a grill, follow the original recipes instructions for grilling the zucchini. If you're poor like me (jk..) and don't own a grill, you can broil your zucchini on high for about 4 minutes or until cooked. I placed the zucchini on a wired cooling rack and placed a cookie sheet under it (not a flat one, it needs to have sides) to catch any excess moisture.

Preheat the over the 375 degrees.

In a 9x12 casserole dish, spread some sauce on the bottom and layer the zucchini to cover. Then place some of the meat mixture on top, followed by ricotta, mozzarella, and more sauce. Repeat the process until all your ingredients are used up. Top with sauce and more mozzarella if you wish.

Cover the dish with tin foil and bake for 45 minutes. Then uncover and bake for another 15 minutes.
Trust me, you won't miss the noodles one bit!! This tasty, gluten free alternative to lasagna is a healthier option without compromising the taste. Now get cooking!! And enjoy...


Our Best Friend

My favorite part of every evening is when I pull up to our gate and see this little guy's smiling face and wagging tail. It's hard to come home in a bad mood when he's there to greet you with such excitement he can hardly stand still. But while he's dancing from foot to foot out of pure joy that his best friend's home, I feel a pang of guilt.
The truth is, Huck has it waaaaaay better than most dogs, yet I still feel horrible leaving him alone for 8 hours 5 days a week (well, 4 days a week. He still attends daycare on wednesdays). He has a safe and secure one acre lot to run around in with full access to a 3 car garage that has nothing in it but his bed, his toys, and a carpet for him to chew on. He even has a heat lamp to keep him extra toasty in the colder, rainy months here in Seattle. He's a pretty spoiled pup. And I think he knows it.
Because I feel a lot of guilt for leaving him during the work day, I pretty much take him everywhere with Steven and I whenever I can. He attends all our friends BBQs, is our constant walking buddy and fishing companion, and even goes on Home Depot runs with us from time to time. I make up for my absents during the work day by having him glued to my side on evening and weekends.
And if we have a day that isn't full of exciting adventures for Huck, I make sure to bribe him into still loving me by giving him lots of yummy treats. Like I said...he's spoiled.
I got thinking about all of this while I was taking Huck to daycare today. It's kind of ridiculous that Steven and I pay for him to attend daycare every Wednesday at MaryEllen's. Lord knows it isn't exactly cheap and Huck is already so spoiled anyway... I thought maybe this is something we can cut from our budget to help us save a little dough, you know? It's not like he's crated all day while we're at work, he has plenty of opportunity to stretch his legs all week long....and, and, and...

And I can't do it, because I realized I take Huck to daycare more for my sake than his own. When Huck is happy, well socialized, tired, and content it directly affects me. I take him to daycare because it brings me joy to see him run and play (MaryEllen sends me photo updates all throughout the day while he's there), I spoil him by taking him on all our adventures because I just love when he's by my side. He's a part of our family.

Steven and I obtain endless pleasure from Huck. Sure, I'll admit it more readily than him, but this spoiled pup has kinda changed our lives. And we just love him dearly.

And all this makes me think, "Oh man, am I screwed when we have kids..." Ha! 


Cat Naps, Firefighters, & More

My poor fancy camera is experiencing some severe neglect. This weekend I even took it everywhere with me (I had good intentions), but then never took it out to use it. I think I'm having trust issues ever since it decided to act up during our Cabo trip.

Anyways, aside from my lack of picture taking (which is very un-blogger of me, I know), we had a really great weekend! Friday was as perfect as a Friday can be since it started with me working from home. It simply can't get any better than that!
Although I realized that Herschel is probably the laziest living animal on the face of the planet. This guy was either napping in my lap while I was trying to work or sunbathing on the front porch steps all. day. long. He needs to start doing kitty yoga or something. He's gonna get chunky.

That evening we went to another BBQ at a friend's house. We decided to end the night with a bonfire, but the shenanigans ended early when the volunteer fire department showed up to put it out!! Our fire wasn't out of control at all, but apparently there is a burn ban in Washington (you know, because we don't get enough rain here or something...har. har. har.). Silly firefighters. Why do you have to ruin all the fun?
But most importantly, I decided not to shower, fix my hair, or put on a stitch of makeup on Friday (because seriously, who does when they don't have to go into work? or is that just me?), and I still felt pretty. Pretty. That is a rare, but lovely, feeling. All of us ladies should feel it more often I think.
The rest of the weekend was filled with running errands and working on projects around the house. I love that no matter where I am or what I'm doing while at home, Huck is always beside me. I went outside to do some painting and Huckleberry settled down right underneath my project and stayed there until I finished. I just love that sweet cuddle butt so much! And I love how much he loves me!
Of course, home improvement can work up quite the appetite, so lots of yummy food was eaten this weekend as well. Like those homemade, gluten free nachos above that Steven whipped up. They pretty much blew my mind and made me fall more in love with my hubby. I kid you not. But you know what they say, "the way to a man's Danielle's heart is through their her stomach."

And speaking of good food, I managed to squeeze in some food prepping this week! Tonight we're having one of my favorites: my yeast free Cauliflower Stir Fry. And later in the week I'm trying a new recipe: Zucchini Lasagna. Can't wait to share the results with you!

Hope you had a great weekend full of lots of shenanigans as well! Minus the firefighters.
Sami's Shenanigans


Live Life With No Regrets

Live life with no regrets. Easier said then done, right? At only 24, I could tell you numerous regrets I already have in this life --people I needlessly hurt, decisions I hastily made, words I have spoken far too quickly. I've learned that it is impossible to live life with no regrets. And those who say they have are either a) lying or b) have not experienced much growth. Because the truth is, as you grow and mature and reflect back on your life, you will find regrets. We all will. Some big, some small, but they're there.

One of my biggest regrets in life has been taking my family for granted. I've always had a great relationship with my parents and brothers, but once I was college bound, I simply couldn't wait to get away. Although my hometown was only a 3 hour (and very easy) drive from campus, I chose to only go  home on Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks. I stayed at school in the summer --worked and took a few classes here and there -- and rarely went home to visit my parents. When I was home, my evening were either filled with plans to hang out with my old high school friends, or I simply locked myself away in my room and buried my nose in a book.

I loved my parents so much, and, of course, I still do, but I took their proximity for granted. Now, living 3,000 miles away, I grimace when I remember how I sought time away from them. Time to "grow into my own." Whatever that means...

If there is one thing I've learned in these past two years while living in Washington, it's that you always need your parents. Always. You never outgrow them. You never reach an age where you are too old for their advice, you always find courage in their encouragement, pride in their support, and comfort in their hugs.

Or maybe my situation is just unique. I truly do have amazing parents, and I hope that you reading this can boast of that too.  My prayer is that I can be as influential over my children as my parents have been on me. Family is so important and I hope to live more conscious of mine, and never allow them to fall into the "regrets" category again.



life's little moment captured on my iphone.

I know I sound like a broken record, but work is BUSY, BUSY!! I haven't had time to whip out my camera since we've been back from vacation! But that's the beauty of cell phones, they are always handy for taking those random snapshots you might otherwise miss out on and forget about! 
 Like the first bloom of these beautiful tiger lilies and our outrageous arbor with the overgrowth of grapes vines.
 The newest addition to our neighborhood, Jessie, and Huckleberry making one of his many silly faces.
 The biggest bonfire I've ever been to and the boys who were responsible for the monstrosity. 
And the latest home improvement project from our never ending to do list. Right now we are trying to decide on a paint color for the garage. At first we were thinking we'd like it to match the cedar siding that's on our house, but that's not going to happen. I'm thinking a contrasting color will probably be best.

This week, I finally started to feel settled back in since returning home from Cabo. Work is just so busy that I'm enjoying the slower pace of life at home after the hectic work hours. There's been lots of Law and Order watching and ice cream eating in the evenings. You know, the important things in life. 


Take Me Out to the Ball Game

Lately, our weekends have been full of softball games, BBQ's, and bonfires.
Work is pretty insane this time of year, so we live for these weekends.
Oftentimes, I find myself wishing I was still in school, 
so I could have these glorious summer months off
 and eat fresh watermelons and peaches,
till my heart's content.
But really, it is already.
My heart.

I still find myself wishing anyway.
Summertime is just too good.


Cabo Recap

I believe I have gotten all the photos I'm going to from my SD card. Turns out, my boss had a few tricks up his sleeve and was able to help me recover some. The others....ehhh, I just don't feel like it's worth the money to take it in when I can't even remember what the photos may be of. 

But in the end, our Cabo trip was a success. It was a fun, relaxing adventure and I feel so blessed for all the quality time I was able to spend with Steven distraction free! 
The resort was truly breathtaking. We had amazing views on every side with bright blue skies in the morning and pretty pink ones at night. Every restaurant we went to had beautiful views as well, which was nice, to never feel as though you were boxed in while in such a beautiful location.
Our resort had four restaurants and a couple pool bars where we could get nachos or some other quick snacks for lunch. The food was usually hit or miss. Sometimes we were salivating for seconds, and other times I could take it or leave it --the food presentation though was always spectacular! Funny how eating pretty food is more fun. ;)
Some nights, certain restaurants would have theme nights (like this Mexican theme night pictured below) where they would have a buffet setup instead of the usual menu and lots of dancing, music, and other entertainment. Unfortunately, on this particular night I was selected to get up on that little makeshift stage a show off my dance moves.... I was pretty mortified. Ha!
July 4th was the only day we left the resort. We heading towards downtown San Jose Cabo to go on a snorkeling adventure! It was so much fun!! The boat ride to the bay where we were going to go snorkeling was overflowing with yummy drinks and loud music. And the sights we saw along the way (like the Lover's Arch below) were so beautiful! I was so happy we decided to venture off the resort for a day so that I could take in some more incredible views. 

After we all jumped off the boat and went snorkeling, we heading back to the boat to eat some of the best tacos I've ever had in my life! No joke, that meal was by far my favorite from the entire trip!
The best part about vacation though was simply unplugging. It felt good not to check my work email, and not stress about blog states and instagram likes. Just being in the moment and spending all those moments with this guy were really what made the vacation a memorable one. I hope every year for our anniversary we'll be lucky enough to slip away, just the two of us, and unplugged once again. It is so worth it!
Cabo, you will be missed!

To see more pretty photos from our Cabo escape, go here!


An Update on Life: Bear With Me

One of the photos I was able to recover from my Cabo trip.

I haven't given up on blogging, truly I haven't. Things have just been nonstop ever since we made it home from our little Cabo excursion. We've entered into busy season at work, which means late nights, early mornings, and some tears. (Those would be shed by me...I really hate early mornings.)

Thanks for all the advice on how to recover photos from my SD card. I really have no clue what happened. It's sad that it happened on our very. last. day. But luckily, I was able to recover a few. They're just photos, right? We still have the memories and that's what's important. Or at least that's what I keep repeating to myself when I feel the panic creeping in. Funny how we can become so devastated over something so seemingly insignificant. You'd think I left a limb behind in Cabo, not just a few snapshots of our day. 

Remember before I left I mentioned Steven got a softball to the face recently? Well, it turned out to be a bigger deal than I let on. A few of his teeth were knocked loose, and, a few weeks later, started to change color. He went to the dentist this morning and was informed he needs a root canal on both his front teeth! My poor hubby.... jaw surgery, braces, and two root canals all in about a year's time. But you know what? That man has the best attitude and never complains about it. It would do me good to take some notes. 

Since we've gotten back, I've felt an overwhelming compulsion to simply get stuff done. House projects here and there I've been dragging my feet on, organizing and decluttering all those nooks and crannies that seem to pile up higher and higher every time I blink my eyes, tending to the garden and exercising my green thumb...I just need to get things done. And it feels so good to be doing, you know?

Huckleberry and Herschel say hi. They survived our weeklong absence. I never doubted they would. Those two boys are tough despite being ridiculously spoiled. I think Herschel was a little starved for attention, and Huck was absolutely worn out from running around with his friends all day at daycare for 7 days straight, but they are good now. Very good. I love those cuddly fur babies. 

Lastly, if you made it to the end of these ramblings, I consider you a good friend. 


What Happens in Cabo...

Stays in Cabo. Including most of the pictures I took.

Unfortunately, I'm having some issues with my DSLR. On the last day we asked a nice couple walking the beach to snap a few photos of us, and since then I haven't been able to access any of the photos I took on that camera. No worries, I took plenty of snapshots on the handy dandy iphone for your viewing pleasure. And in the meantime, I'm going to search google like a crazy lady until I figure out how to recover those photos!
Oh yeah. I'm Backkkkk!! (Miss me?)  And it feels surprisingly good.

There's no place like home....there's no place like home...