Halibut in Lemon Brodetto With Pea Puree

halibut pea puree

Okay, this sounds complicated right? I promise it’s not. I found myself wanting to make a recipe with a pea puree. What is pea puree you ask? (okay, you’re probably asking what brodetto is too, but that will have to be another post down the road) Good question and one I wanted an answer to recently. I’m addicted to watching “cooking shows” and it seems like somebody is always making a pea puree. (Remember the Top Chef scandal when Alex was accused of stealing Ed’s pea puree?) So I decided I was up for the challenge of making one. To my surprise there is nothing fancy or hard about making one.  Although there are many versions of pea puree, it is basically what the name implies, fresh or frozen peas and mint, then pureed (not mashed). Of course most recipes add a little more than that. Here is my recipe.

Tips:

-buy fresh halibut if possible

grow mint at home so you always have some on hand (easy/cheap to grow too)

-keep frozen pea bags stocked in your freezer then you will always be able to whip up a batch of pea puree when you’re looking for a quick side dish to make (without having to run to the grocery store for the 10th time this week)

Buon Appetito! I hope you enjoy this dish as much as I did…so fresh and clean!

 

 

 

How To Make A Light Box

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As promised from my article, The Easiest Way to Make Money, I am going to show you how to make a simple photography light box. Most people will find having a  light box useful for photographing items for eBay, blogging, taking stock of their personal inventory for insurance records or to enhance their photography hobby. For my son, who made me the light box, it was originally an assignment at school. I encourage you to find the items below in your home and re-use them. If you don’t have something on the list you can improvise. For example, instead of tissue paper, use an old thin sheet that isn’t useful for bedding anymore.

What you will need:

  • A large cardboard box (mine was approx 24″x 24″ x 22″)
  • Shipping or duct Tape
  • White tissue paper or white fabric (like an old sheet)
  • X-Acto knife (a.k.a. box cutter)
  • 2 Daylight bulbs —(see tips below for specifics)
  • 2 utility lamps w/ clamp bottoms
    (we bought lights like these)
  • matte poster board or something similar that is approx twice the length of your box (needs to be able to curve without creasing)
  • pen or pencil
  • right angle ruler or just a large ruler

supplies for a light box

 

The first thing you need to do is measure and mark a 2 inch border on the edges of 3 sides of the box.

light box directions

Proceed by cutting out the the marked sides with your box cutter. Be careful.

instructions for light box

Next cut off the box flaps.

box for light box

Cut your poster board to match the width of your box, but wait to cut the length. When you’re happy with the fit, insert poster board backdrop. It will stay in place due to the tight fit. If not, staple the poster board to the box. You will have a seamless background now. This sounds complicated and confusing but it’s not.

making a light box with poster board

Now tape the tissue paper to the outside of the 3 box openings. (trim to fit if needed)

tissue paper for light box

Next find some random household objects to attach your utility lights to. We used small ice buckets filled with random junk like sunblock that were laying around. Place one on each side of the box. If you happen to have a third light to use on the top of the box that would be great. It’s not necessary though. We just happened to have a ceiling one above our pool table where we set up. It worked out perfectly.

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You officially have a working light box!

diy light box

 

Tips:

  • You can use regular table lamps instead of utility lights as long as you change the bulbs out to be the right kind.Light bulbs will make all the difference with your light box color. You want clean white.  After 3 trips to Home Depot you might want to take our advice. we bought bulbs similar to these
  • Be sure the bottom surface of your objects is always clean.
  • You can change out the white poster board for black or other colors.
  • Use chairs to hold the utility lights.
  • You can move the lights closer and further to the box to adjust lightening.
  • Do not leave lights on unattended. The tissue paper can get hot!
Special thanks to my “Macgyver” son for making me this super cool light box!

How to Plan a Staycation

Make your room feel like a five star resort!

Make your room feel like a five star resort!



Whether you’re looking to lay low or you’ve had to cinch your financial belt,  a staycation is the perfect solution for you. What is a staycation? A vacation spent in one’s home country rather than abroad, or one spent at home and involving day trips to local attractions. I will be highlighting the latter. Just like you would spend time and energy researching hotels, airlines, etc…staycations require planning and budgeting as well. Here are my tried and true suggestions for having a successful and fun staycation:

  1. Plan and budget your itinerary  — Simple enough, plan a budget and stick to it. When you know what your funds are,  go get a guidebook from your local bookstore or find websites that share things to do in your area. I live in San Diego and Sunset magazine had a great article on top hiking spots. (relaxing and free) Go on a picnic. We did and loved it! We live just 45 minutes from one of the most famous beaches, Coronado. Do we ever go there? No! So of course, that went on our San Diego staycation itinerary. We live an hour from Disneyland. That didn’t make our list but it was an option to consider. Write out a list ahead so you aren’t trying to figure things out the week of your staycation. That will only make it stressful and less enjoyable.
  2. Treat your home like a hotel — This might be the most important rule to make your vacation feel real. If your budget allows, hire a housekeeper at the beginning and end of your staycation. This will help you resist temptation to clean on your staycation. Invest in new sheets or pillows, fancy soaps and crisp white towels. We put a mini fridge in our bedroom filled with waters and bubbly. On our dresser, we had fresh flowers, a coffee maker and snacks. Since we have a pool, I put out books, sunblock and towels. It’s these small details that are easy to implement that make it feel like you’re staying in a special hotel. Gather your local take out and delivery restaurant menus so they can be on hand. It’s as good as room service! Eat in your bed just like you would at the hotel.
  3. View it like a real vacation — This means get the time off from work and let friends and family know you will be on vacation. Mark your calendar no differently than if you had non-refundable plane tickets purchased. If you don’t do this, you risk treating it too casually and it may never take place. This might be hard, but resist doing any household chores. Remember you’re on vacation so limit your phone and computer use.
  4. Splurge — Since you’re saving so much by staying home for your vacation, splurge where you can. We went to a few local eateries that we had been wanting to try. I also stocked the house with a few bottles of wine that normally is out of our budget. This would have been a splurge but we happened to have gift cards to use. Go get a couples massage! That was a fabulous part of our staycation!
  5. Take photos — Whether you use your Smartphone or camera, take photos! We took pictures everywhere just like we would on a vacation far away. It makes you look at your local area with a whole new perspective, as well as capture priceless moments together. As an added bonus, create a mini photo album or slide show at the end.

BONUS TIPS:

  • If you have children,  hire a sitter and go out for a special dinner.
  • It’s all in the details…for instance add umbrellas to your drinks or fill your house with fresh flowers.
  • Have music playing throughout the house or in the yard. (Pandora is your friend here)
  • Hit local happy hours to save money while still getting to go out.
  • Take turns cooking a meal for each other and then make a meal together. My husband and I love making dinner together.
  • Use gift cards that have been piling up. We had Starbucks, a dinner certificate and massages that we cashed in!
  • Hit your local farmers market or swap meet to pick up fresh produce and staycation souvenirs.
For more  activity ideas check out my date night ideas post.


Date Night Ideas

 

Today I am sharing with you the dates I chose for my “dates for a year” gift. If you missed that post,  you can find it HERE.

  1. Train ride to San Juan Capistrano for Brunch at Ramos House Cafe’.
  2. Tickets to the Kings game.
  3. Walking tour in San Diego’s Little Italy with a gift certificate to Extraordinary desserts.
  4. Lunch at Lucha Libre. It’s this dive Mexican restaurant where you can reserve the “booth”. Funky and fun!
  5. Puzzle night at home. (this is something they like to do together)
  6. Art Splash Carlsbad where locals come together and paint the streets and showcase their art. (sent them to breakfast first)
  7. Cineopolis, the fancy movie theater where you can recline in your comfy chair and have a waitress bring you a martini, while you watch the latest James Bond flick!
  8. Go Cars in San Diego. Basically I sent them to be tourists in their own city. Cafe Chloe’ followed for lunch. (a San Diego must)
  9. Pottery painting at a local shop where they made each other a gift.
  10. Ice skating in La Jolla so they could bring back the teen romance in their life! haha
  11. Their last date was a gift card to Michaels Craft shop so they can assemble their scrapbook together with their “year of dates” photographs and memories…

 

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photo

These were the dates I chose for my sister and brother in-law. My ideas were truly endless, especially the longer I thought about it. Here is a little added bonus for you…

More date night ideas:
  • Picnic with all the trimmings. (candles, blankets, wine and even a laptop to watch a romantic movie)
  • Dinner at a restaurant, but at the “chefs table”. (this is the room or counter you eat at while watching your food being prepared)
  • Spa day for fabulous massages and facials. A mini date at your local pedicure place would be great too!
  • Be a tourist in your own city. I especially like using Groupons/Living Social coupons for this.
  • Whale watching or sunset dinner cruise.
  • Cooking class at a local restaurant or store, such as Sur La Table.
  • Amusement park such as Disneyland. Act like a kid again…even if for one day!
  • An unusual dinner out such as “eating in the dark” or try a new food. (Indian, sushi, vegan, etc…)
  • Museum or local art showing.
  • Music concert for an old favorite band.
  • Your local juice bar, followed by hitting the rock climbing gym. (fun even for beginners)
  • Plant an herb garden together.
  • Create a signature cocktail. Have fun experimenting with ingredients such as lavender, rosemary and mint. (look around on the internet for inspiration)


Date nights that are cheap or free:
  • Embrace the great outdoors by going on a hike or stroll along the beach, river, or local nature spot.
  • Wash each others cars together while blasting your favorite tunes. (if it’s warm enough, add a little water fight too!)
  • There is nothing more romantic than cooking a meal together. Do everything as a team,  from choosing the dinner, grocery shopping, prepping and cooking.
  • Pamper your significant other. Example: Let them watch their favorite t.v. , play video games, eat their favorite bad foods, GUILT FREE, while you make them food, always have a cold drink for them, do a few of their chores, give a little foot rub…you get the idea.
  • Garage sale or flea market date. Designate $10 and have fun searching for a gift for one another.
  • Follow a local food truck to have some gourmet grub on a budget.
  • Pay it forward together. This might be the most bonding date. (tidy your elderly neighbors yard, babysit for a single parent, deliver a surprise dinner to someone sick or depressed, have a fund raiser such as a garage sale for someone in need, volunteer locally such as a beach clean up, help friends have their emergency kits together, I could go on and on…)
  • Attend a free concert in the park or movie in your local community. (usually a summer activity)
  • DIY spa day. Create a spa atmosphere with soothing music, water with cucumbers and lemon, low lighting, favorite candle scent…and give each other scalp, hand, foot or neck massages. If you have a tub, draw a nice bubble bath for the other with a tray of a few of their favorite things. (book, bubbly, soaps) Throw a towel in the drier so it’s nice and warm for them when they get out.
  • Game night,  such as chess or scrabble.
  • Get some household chore done, such working in the yard. It might not be the most romantic date, but you will get something accomplished TOGETHER. Make it enjoyable by taking a break and having some cold beer and chips/salsa together.

 

I think these suggestions should keep you busy for a while. Please feel free to share your ideas in my comment section to share with everyone!! I’d really appreciate your creative input.

A Year Of Date Nights

 

I am going to show you how to put together an entire year of dates. This is a unique idea you can arrange for your significant other or as a gift for that couple who has everything. I came up with this idea for my sister’s 20th wedding anniversary. To get a quick idea of how this works, click here to read the letter they were given. Remember you can customize this idea to fit your needs. Perhaps a year is too ambitious or expensive for you. You can alter this idea for 3, 6 or 9 months very easily. I accomplished this by using a scrapbook that had “dates” in envelopes inside the pages. For their last date they would get to compile their “year of dates” memories and photos.

Items you will need to assemble your date scrapbook:

  • Scrapbook or photo album. (with enough pages for each date)
  • Shipping tags (2 3/4 x 1 3/8 is the size I used)
  • Large envelopes. (enough for one per date and an extra one for the memorabilia at the end of the book)
  • Tiny envelopes that will hold your “date topic”. (enough for one per date)
  • Printer and 8 1/2 X 11 paper.
  • Optional items: fun scissors for paper edges, stickers, etc… (see photos)

(click on photos to make them larger to see details)


 

What you need to do:

  1. Create a budget.
  2. Make a list of date ideas you have.  Ask yourself what their hobbies, likes and dislikes are. One date might be fancy and the next casual. (and even free) Think ahead and take seasons and weather into account when planning as well. You wouldn’t want to give them a date to snowboard in June or an outdoor picnic in December.
  3. Purchase the gift certificates, gather any “date” specific items you may need (ex: map to a secret picnic spot) and money envelope
  4. Write your “date night topics”  in WORD (or whatever program you use). Print them out, cut and stick them in the tiny envelopes. (see photo for example below)
  5. Print maps, directions, menus, etc… that you will need for the dates. You can provide suggestions in addition to the main date. For example, if they were going to the Kings Hockey game for their  date, you could give them a list of cool restaurants nearby with links to reviews, prices and menus. I took screen shots to help me provide more information and cool photos.
  6. Create the finishing touches for each date and put them in their individual envelopes. Be sure they are labeled.

You need to include a cover letter explaining the gift and how it works. Here is a sample of the letter I included for my sister’s gift of “dates for a year”. SAMPLE LETTER

 

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Extras:

  • This idea can be used for almost any recipient whether single or married.
  • Remember it’s the small details that make a difference. For example, I photo-shopped my sister’s face into the Date Night movie poster for the cover of the scrap book. This worked out perfectly and was very custom since it’s about date nights and my bro-in- law happens to look  like Steve Carell.
  • If you need to stretch the budget, add some no cost dates in the mix. It’s more about making them take the time to relax.

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 Stay tuned for my list of date night ideas…

In Case Of Emergency Break Glass

unique way to gift money

Here is my latest idea on how to gift money other than stuffing an envelope with a check or cash. My co-worker was moving away (sob, sob) and it wasn’t practical to burden her with more “stuff” to have to move. There was no doubt in my mind money would be the best gift. I like to add a little whimsy when gifting dough. Since my co-worker is a serious chocoholic and moving away to college, I came up with the shadow box idea.

 

Supplies you will need:

  • shadow box (can be found at most stores that carry frames such as Michaels, Target, etc…)
  • chocolate or choice of treat your recipient would like
  • small envelope to hold money
  • four coins (pennies matched my decore best)
  • paper to print “In Case Of Emergency Break Glass”
  • hammer
  • safety glasses (can be found at Home Depot for a few bucks)
  • glue gun

What to do:

  1. Hot glue your coins onto the envelope that you put your money in.
  2. Print out the “In Case Of Emergency Break Glass” onto your paper of choice, then cut it to fit the frame size.
  3. Hot glue your envelope and your chocolate bar onto the print out.
  4. Assemble inside the shadow box. From the back side I hot glued the frame shut so that she really would have to smash it open to get to the goods!
  5. Your done, wrap it up in a gift bag or box.


The Sweet Way to Give Money

Life is like a box of chocolates…

 


I’ve written a lot of posts on how to “gift money”. This is my latest idea with a sweet twist to it. Start by getting a box of See’s (or your favorite) chocolates. Go to a store like Cost Plus that has novelty candies. Find any money themed chocolates to add to your box. I purchased gold coins and chocolate dollar bars. As you can see how I did it in the above photo, randomly put the money chocolates with the See’s candies and then of course add the real money. This is a simple, but thoughtful way to gift money for all occasions. I created this one for a graduation celebration.

 

On the card you can add a fun quote like, “Life is like a box of chocolates…” finish the quote with something appropriate for the occasion.

The Perfect Lasagne

I’ve fallen in love with the quirky cooking show, Extra Virgin, starring Debi Mazar and her Italian native husband. I recently tried one of their mouth watering recipes, bolognese lasagne with a besciamella sauce. It is divine! I’m going to be upfront with you, it’s a simple yet time consuming recipe. However, one bite and you’ll know it was worth all the effort.  The main thing you’ll notice that sets this recipe apart from most, is the lack of cheese. Instead you use a besciamella sauce that is made from butter, flour and milk. It turns what would be an ordinary dish into an extraordinary one!

I followed the recipe as directed, except I omitted the nutmeg simply because I don’t like it. If you need a meal to impress, look no further… Serve it with a simple salad and rustic Italian bread. Of course, don’t forget the vino!

Recipe Here

(courtesy of Gabriele Corcos and Debi Mazar)

Unique Guest Book

Recently, my sister asked me to come up with a creative idea for guests to sign my nephew’s graduation party book. In addition, I was also in charge of the photo gallery. I thought the obvious thing to do was have everyone sign a guitar (the party theme was music / The Beatles), and also have a photo collage, but that just felt too predictable and lazy. It seems like when I have a deadline, ideas never come, but when I have nothing going on, the ideas flow endlessly.  Anyway, I was having a serious case of creativity block, and even looking at Pinterest while drinking wine wasn’t helping. Fortunately for me, my genius son (yes, I’m one of those moms) came up with a brilliant idea! He said to combine the photo album with the sign-in book using thought bubbles. How perfect! Not only did it meet my sisters criteria, but it was whimsical and fun! It ended up turning out great, and it was also a good way for the diverse guests to mingle with one another as they had fun reminiscing over old photos and trying to come up with clever comments. I’m happy to report it was a huge success!

 

Here are the basic steps:

  • Gather all the photos you want to use into an album on your computer (I personally use iPhoto)
  • Create thought and speech bubbles in Photoshop or similar program
  • Then place thought bubbles on your selected photos in Photoshop
  • Finally, I used Blurb to create my photo album (Blurb is more economical than iPhoto books, but a little more complicated if you’re a rookie)

In order to do it my way, you need to know how to use Photoshop or have access to someone who can help you. It’s very simple if you do. Otherwise, you can create the same type of album but you will either have to hand write the thought & speech bubbles, use a stencil or stickers.

Perfect for:

  • bridal showers
  • weddings
  • graduation parties
  • high school reunions
  • baby showers
  • special occasions

 

I left several pages at the end of the photo album for more autographs. I titled each page differently as you can see in the photos.

 

I couldn’t decide what should be on the back cover, if anything. Then it hit me, a photograph of the back of my nephew! Think outside the box…it’s fun!

 

I used a photograph of my nephews party invitation as the cover for the guest album. I also mixed in many photographs without thought or speech bubbles throughout the album. (as seen in photos at top of article) I will be honest, this isn’t a project you whip out in a few hours. It does take some careful planning when gathering photos, Photoshop work, and putting it all together. However, if you’re looking for a one of a kind unique gift or keepsake, this is a sure winner that anyone will appreciate for many years to come. I hope this guest book idea whets your appetite to create an unforgettable guest book for your next special occasion.

Music That Melts

Today I’m sharing my latest repurposing project that’s perfect for your next party! Take old records and melt them down to bowls. They not only look groovy, but are very functional. My sister made these for her son’s graduation party recently. His party theme was the Beatles, so these were the perfect accessory. The process to make them is very easy too!

INSTRUCTIONS HERE

 

How to get your groove on:

  • fill them with snacks and candy (be sure they’re wrapped food items for safety)
  • a great storage for t.v. remotes
  • loose change anyone?
  • “where did I put my keys?”…a thing of the past
  •  place your small gift or gift card (think iTunes) in the bowl and wrap with cellophane

If you don’t have any unwanted records laying around in your attic, you can pick them up for next to nothing at a garage sale or thrift store. Have fun and don’t forget to crank your tunes!



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