Minecraft Party, part 1

Minecraft is everywhere. Just about every kid I know plays it, and just about every parent I know knows about it. It’s like Legos, but online, and each block has different properties. So of course, my oldest, a fervent fan of the game, decided he wanted a Minecraft party for his 8th birthday. Being the craft-crazy parents that we are, we happily obliged.

Can you tell I went overboard with the square/block theme?

I totally stole the popcorn baggy idea and creeper background idea from Puerta Bella. The popcorn baggies were a hit, every kid (and some adults) grabbed a baggy each and went on their merry way, eating popcorn. I loved that there were no hands grabbing popcorn from a big bowl, that each person could get their own popcorn. The Red Vines TNT idea was shamelessly stolen from Seaside Interiors, and I used some square candle holders I already had, the kids loved it!

I decided to make mini sandwiches, cut to look like blocks, of course. We had Chicken Pesto, made very easily by mixing cooked chicken and mixing it with some of the pesto I made last week; Peanut Butter and Jelly; and Tuna Salad.

My mother in law baked the yummy cakes and my husband decorated them. We had one creeper and two “dirt blocks”:

Aren’t those candles fun? My husband saw them at the store and grabbed them, I’d never seen them before. The sides of the dirt blocks are a mix of oreos and graham crackers. We also had block candies and starburst to complete the “block food” theme.

On Friday, I’ll tell you all about the awesome piñata my husband made!

The Chopped Project results

I am incredibly happy with the results of my little Chopped-inspired experiment. On Friday I shared the plan – to use the following ingredients during the week: rolled oats, au gratin potatoes, Moroccan spice, Italian style bread crumbs, mango nectar, quinoa, tikka masala spice mix, and lentils. I’ll bold the challenge ingredients below:

Monday started with Baked Mac N Cheese from Chloe Coscarelli’s cookbook. My oldest, a mac ‘n cheese snob, ate the whole thing, so score one for mama. Dinner for the boys was chicken bites in a light coating of bread crumbs, and Moroccan spiced chicken with couscous for the grown ups. Win-win. I loved that the Moroccan spice mix was full of flavor, but only the tiniest hint of heat. Due to my GERD I cannot do hot spicy foods so this was something I could enjoy.

On Tuesday, I made a lentil and spinach dish, served over quinoa. Tuesday was the day that it hailed in our little neighborhood, so something comforting was needed. Yeah, we’re wimpy out here in California, but it was really cold.

Wednesday saw me trying a new cookie recipe – now, I am the worst baker ever, I can’t bake anything from scratch, but I used the recipe on the back of the Trader Joe’s Rolled Oats bag.

The kids had a couple of friends over and the only one who didn’t like the cookies was my youngest. The lumpy look of them put him off, but the three other kids loved the oatmeal, peanut butter, and chocolate chip cookies. So did my husband and I, and I used up all of the rolled oats. That evening I made chicken tikka masala and rice for my husband, and since the chicken was too spicy for me, I ate rice and the rest of the lentils from Tuesday dinner.

On Sunday, we had my son’s birthday party and made some mango margaritas using the mango nectar:

In the end, I couldn’t use the au gratin potatoes. It’s something we don’t really eat, I don’t even remember why I bought them, and every time I would try to make them I would just think “yuck” so I guess I failed my little challenge in that I did not use every ingredient. However, we ate some new meals and I had fun trying to use up my challenge items. This is definitely something I want to try again.

I’ll tell you all about my son’s Minecraft-themed party in a couple of days!

The “Chopped” Project

I love competitive cooking shows. My favorite is MasterChef; it is one of the few shows my husband and I make a point to watch together, but sometimes I’ll catch a few episodes of Chopped. If you haven’t watched it, the premise is that you compete by making the best use out of a mystery box of ingredients. I decided to have my own little Chopped project, competing against no one but myself, in order to use up some ingredients in my pantry.

The list included: Rolled oats, au gratin potatoes, quinoa, lentils, Italian style bread crumbs, tikka masala curry sauce, mango nectar, and Moroccan spice mix (ras el hanout). Nothing earth-shattering, but I wanted to use some things that had been sitting in the pantry for a few weeks and add some variety to my usual meal rotation.

Next week I will share the meals I made to use up my ingredients – I hope your weekend is a wonderful one!

Weekend Bloggy Reading

Pesto / Pistou / Green Stuff!

Today I am sharing with you my mom’s easy-peasy, yummy-in-your-tummy, pesto recipe.

Just like her rice pudding recipe, which I shared a couple of weeks ago, her pesto recipe is super easy to make.


1/2 cup water
2 bunches spinach, stems removed
1 bunch basil, stems removed
1 cup olive oil
1 round queso fresco, in a medium dice
salt to taste

How to:

The main issue I used to find was that the spinach and basil would end up a compact little puck at the bottom of the blender, so now I add the water first, then half a bunch of spinach, and blend. Once that is blended, add the other half of the bunch, and blend. Add half of the oil, add the bunch of basil, and blend. Add the rest of the oil, half of the remaining spinach, and blend. Finally, add the diced queso fresco, the rest of the spinach, and blend. Taste and add salt as needed. Queso fresco is salty on its own so I wait until I’ve added it before I add any salt. And you’re done!

I like to freeze my pesto in baggies since this makes enough for about 3-4 meals. I like the spinach in this sauce not only for the nutritional content, but also because basil alone ends up tasting really medicine-y to me.

You can use this sauce on your favorite pasta, like a pesto sauce, or as the French use their pistou, in a soup. In Peru we add it to a hearty soup and call it menestron. Sound familiar? It is derived from the Italian “minestrone al pesto”, proving once again that in the world of cooking, cultures influence each other endlessly.

I hope you enjoy this recipe – it is simple and quick to make and so delicious!

Playing in Petaluma

After nearly two weeks of being sick with the plague, and with the weather warming up the days a bit, we decided to take a little drive up north to the lovely town of Petaluma. We stopped by the seed store — closed on a Saturday?? boo! — and had some yummy pizza, but it was the stop in between that was my boys’ favorite.

Powell’s Sweet Shoppe is a kid’s dream come true. All sorts of candy line the walls, fill drawers in the armoires, and stand ready to fill plastic bags for you to take home.

My little man looks a little overwhelmed, doesn’t he?

I might get this when they start their US History lessons ;D

Love all the old-fashioned sodas!

This is where my husband and I stopped – the truffles were so good!

I had the Milk Chocolate, Chocolate Decandence, and Chocolate on Chocolate – yum!

And look, they had LEGO versions of my Niners!

The boys stocked up on gummies and some other goodies before deciding it was time for lunch. After our pizza, we drove home and started working on cleaning up the backyard. We continued on Sunday and things are looking much nicer although my hamstrings are killing me!

And for the record — no spoilers — but this is where I drew the line for Downton Abbey when I found out a couple of months ago. It was bad enough that they killed off my favorite female character a few eps back, but really? According to writer Julian Fellowes, he had no choice but to do what was done in last night’s episode. Sorry, Jule, you are a WRITER, you should be able to come up with better ideas than that. I think Mr. Fellowes is brilliant at writing things like Gosford Park, where it’s a couple of hours and he can weave his magic, but he fails miserably at long-term character development and plot pacing, two key elements in a series. Another one that is on the verge of losing me is Once Upon a Time, but that’s best left for another day – hope your week is a wonderful one!

The Chair Affair

A few months ago we got rid of the red walls in our dining room/kitchen — this time, we got rid of the red fabric on our dining room chairs.

It’s not the we don’t like red. Instead, now we keep an eye out for red accents for our dining and cooking areas. You see, beforehand, a red vase or red flowers either disappeared against the red walls, or clashed completely. Now, we have a neutral background for red, or olive green, or whatever other color we choose to accent the room with.

In the case of the chairs, it was also a case of eager kitties sharpening their claws, and our poor chairs were looking so much worse for wear. Happily, a new fabric gave us a clean, fresh slate AND brightened up the look of our dining room:

I like that it has a cream background and a bold print and still keeps it all neutral. I could put a red tablecloth on the table, or a green one, or warm yellow, and it would not compete or clash. LOVE that.

Now that we have recovered from the plague (knock on wood!!!) we hope to have a fun weekend and wish you a super happy and healthy one as well!

Glitter Map Art a la YHL

When I saw this super easy, super cute project in the Young House Love book, I knew I had to make it — especially because I had all the materials already.

I decided to honor my country of birth, my beloved Peru, and make a bit of glittery goodness 😀

I used an 8×10 canvas I had, a fat quarter and a piece of green glitter cardstock.
It is along the coast of Peru where my two favorite cities are located: Lima, the capital, where I was born and raised, and Chiclayo, the City of Friendship, where my family is from.

It has been far too long since I was last in my homeland, I long to have my boys get to know their relatives back in Peru. For now, this little piece will get a place of honor in my home.

Have you tried any of the projects in the YHL book yet?

The Plague

I had planned a cute craft to show you today but we have been struck by the plague. All four of us. Happily we are at different stages, so the kiddos are on their way back up. Unhappily the adults are still at the bottom of the cesspool of death. I keep thinking “today’s the worst day of this” only to wake up the next morning feeling even worse.

Wishing all those in Nemo’s path a safe weekend, and the rest of y’all, may you stay healthy!!!

And I’m hooked!

It’s been a long time since I picked up a crochet or a pair of knitting needles, but with my mom visiting and her constant crocheting, I could not resist the temptation.

I ended up purchasing this yarn

And ended up making this scarf

I found the pattern online and it is super easy, which was what I wanted for my first project after so many years.

And now I can’t stop crocheting things. I have a ton of beanies, so I’m thinking I might try my hand at a beret. Wish me luck!

Meeting the YHL peeps

A few days ago I was thrilled to go to the Young House Love book signing in Palo Alto, California. My sweet friend J went with me and was not only lovely company but also at times, was my “stuff holder” and “photo taker”.

Having worked at a bookstore long ago and being a voracious reader, I have seen my share of book signings and I have to say, this one was very well put together. First, and most importantly, people in line were fed. It was 90 minutes or so we waited in line so let me say that this was super important:

J holding some cookies for her psycho friend to photograph.

These were so YUMMY, although J was more taken by the adorable little cups. I snuck around while J held my place in line to take some pics of John & Sherry – can I say she has the most perfect skin?

I also caught sight of these STACKABLE little bottles. Aren’t they perfect?

Ninety minutes later, it was my turn. I’ve tweeted John & Sherry before to say I think that I think Sherry looks just like Emilia Clarke, the actress who plays Daenerys on Game of Thrones – yay or nay?

Sherry agreed and John mentioned she’s playing Holly Golightly on Broadway, which I didn’t know.

I also brought a little something for Miss Clara:

Got my book signed and then hit up a Chinese restaurant for lunch with J. Then we wrapped up the afternoon by going to IKEA ;D A fabulous day with a wonderful friend and lots of yummy goodness!