Tag Archives: valentine’s

1D & TMNT ~ A Valentine’s Day Shoot

A couple weekends ago we ventured out to shoot some fun valentine photos. Jay actually rented a camera and a lens to try out for the weekend so it was perfect.

Trying our best to capture more pictures and videos of the kids because these days, weeks, months and years are going by way too fast for my taste.

We broke it up into two separate days at two different locations and managed to get some cute shots.

Here are some of our favorites…















{The sweet burlap heart banner can be purchased here. Your generosity will help Ali fund her mission trip to Haiti. I plan to keep mine up all year long….it adds a touch of “happy” to any space.}

The kids had “Formal Day” at school on February 13th since they had a 4-day weekend for President’s Weekend. They exchanged valentines and received HOARDS of candy ~ my friend, Leslie, dubbed it “Valoween” ~ appropriately so!



Well, Superbowl and Valentine’s Day are over…to me, those are the two big days that kind of kick off the first couple months of the new year.

Next up….Holden’s Birthday.

HOW is he going to be seven?

Creatively Cheap

Hi friends and Happy Friday!

Well, we’re already over half way into January and Twenty 13 has been great so far! I usually have a little bit of a hard time after the holidays and January, February and March are not my most favorite months. No offense if your birthday falls in these months…Holden’s birthday happens to be late February and I wouldn’t have it any other way, of course.

But if you really think about it, February has the Superbowl, Valentine’s Day and my little guys birthday, so there is lots to look forward to and we most certainly need January to prepare!

I always LOVE hitting the after Christmas sales at Target and everywhere for that matter. In the past I have overbought stuff just because it’s cheap and this year I really tried to reign in and be really particular with the goodies that I picked up. I am cheap and waited until the 90% off sign went up at Target ~ yes, things are picked over, but that makes it easier because it’s already been narrowed down for me! I picked up some sparkly pink and aqua tissue paper that I can certainly use for birthdays throughout the year for cents and found some adorable stuffed ornaments that aren’t Christmas-y at all that I can tie on packages year round ~ my new addiction!


{little Matryoshka from World Market ~ 50 cents}


{scooter from Target ~ 39 cents}

I am obsessed with cheap brown shipping/packaging paper & grosgrain ribbon {both from Dollar Tree} wrapping with a little attachment and the receiver’s name using my new alphabet stamps, a gift from my mama for Christmas.


I popped into World Market on Wednesday and all their holiday stuff was 90% off. Yes, there wasn’t much of it, but that was good because there wasn’t much for me to buy! Ha!

I could NOT pass up these little felt hedge hog baskets for Holden’s animal/safari party…


{World Market ~ 80 cents}

I also spotted this woodland creature paper that I plan on using as a backdrop for a little photo booth at Elliott’s “Glamping Sleepover” for her 8th birthday in May…


{World Market ~ 50 cents}


Then, on Wednesday afternoon while Elliott was at Religious Ed class, Holden and I went to Rite Aid for some dish soap. Of course, I had to survey the after Christmas pile and found some cute shoelaces with the stocking stuffers marked down 75%…


{Rite Aid ~ 25 cents a pair}


They had 5 pairs that were non-Christmas ~ hearts, stars and rainbow zebra print. Initially I grabbed those for a few of her friends as Valentine’s Day treats. They had several Christmas pairs, too, that I ended up going back for and will use later this year for their friends {the Christmas ones had more options for boys, too}. Sure I’ve seen these fun shoelaces at the dollar stores, but if I can get 4 times the amount for the same price, I’m on it!

I was on Pinterest scoping out non-candy Valentine’s treats and there are TONS of cute ones so I will have to come up with something for the whole class, but I thought the laces were too cute for her to hand out to a few of her “besties”.


So, with that, I will say that the year has started out well and I am not wallowing in the sadness of the post-Christmas crash as I usually do.

But all this creativity has certainly gotten in the way of me being more active and that’s not OK. I got in about 3 miles yesterday and plan to get out this weekend and log some more miles before the month is over.

Have a beautiful weekend, all!

We must use time creatively in the knowledge that the time is always right to do right. ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Shortcut Sushi

Happy day after V-day!

Weekdays are obviously hectic with homework and stuff, so I decided to keep dinner semi-simple, yet special last night.

Last week my cousin, Gia, posted something on Facebook about a sushi bake…I immediately commented that I needed the recipe ASAP.

When I was pregnant, I ate lots of baked rolls since everything is completely cooked. Before you get your sushi feathers ruffled, hear me out. Most serious sushi-ers would probably say that a {sushi bake} is NOT sushi…I agree that it is an extremely westernized version, but IT IS GOOOOOOD.

We’ve made sushi at home plenty of times {here too} and while it does save lots of cash, it isn’t the easiest thing to prepare and prep alone can take hours. So when I heard about this, I immediately thought it could become an easier week night way to enjoy this Japanese favorite.

It’s also a fantastic way to serve sushi at parties…instead of spending all your time rolling, you can set this out with quartered sheets of nori and let your guests help themselves. Instead of being in roll form, this is eaten more like a hand roll {in cone form}.

Here is the recipe from my cousin that I referred to. I did make some adjustments, however.

I used a 20 ounce package of imitation crab meat and mixed it with just 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp. mayo {the recipe called for 1 cup mayo AND 1 cup sour cream!!!} and this was plennnnty for the 20 ounces of crab! I also added A LOT of Sriracha sauce {like 4 big squiggly lines worth}, about 3 green onions {sliced} and just about 3 drops of toasted sesame oil. Mix that up and let it sit for an hour or so in the fridge while you make your sushi rice.

To make the sushi rice ~ 2 cups sushi rice rinsed WELL [until water runs clear] and drained. Add 2 cups water and let it sit for 30 minutes. After 30, turn burner on high and wait for it to come to a boil and let it boil for 1 {one} minute before turning it down to low. Put the lid on and leave on LOW for 20 minutes. After 20, turn off burner and move from hot burner and let it sit for another 10 minutes leaving the lid ON. After 10, you will want to add the warm rice to 1/4 cup rice vinegar, 2 tbsp. sugar and 1 tsp. salt {I put these 3 ingredients into my glass 9X13 Pyrex pan while the rice is sitting to let the sugar & salt dissolve a little before adding the rice}. Stir the rice around and get it coated in the vinegar mixture.

To assemble, use one 9X13 pan or two smaller oven safe dishes {as I did}. I made the heart shaped one and another one in an 8X8 dish…it makes A LOT! Just layer the rice first, followed by the crab mixture {you can also use shrimp, real crab, salmon, scallops, etc. just make sure the fish is fully cooked first} and then finally top it off with the furikake {seaweed & sesame seed seasoning}. The recipe called for 2 jars of this, but one was definitely enough! I picked up the furikake at Ralphs so no need to find an Asian market.

Bake in a 350* oven for 20 minutes.

I cut some thin slices of cucumber and avocado ~ some other recipes I referred to said that they added these things as a layer in the bake. I preferred to have them on the side, however.

Take either a half or quarter sheet of nori, add a couple cucumber and avocado slices, a scoop of the sushi bake, some highly wasabi-fied soy sauce, roll up and enjoy!

This was a hit with 75% of the family. Elliott was curious after she finished her Valentine’s Day dino chicken {ha!} and tried one. She loved it. It’s a great way to introduce sushi to the little ones and they will love assembling the roll themselves.

Don’t forget to grab some Sapporo or Kirin to go with your sushi bake!


And since I was into shortcuts yesterday, I decided to put a no-bake blueberry cheesecake mix to use that has been sitting in our pantry. I picked up some Keebler mini graham crackers crusts and followed the directions on the package, but decided to add some fresh lemon zest to brighten the flavor up a bit.

I don’t really know how I feel about no-bake cheesecakes, but these turned out pretty darn good and cute, too!

Last Valentine’s Day I made this cheesecake…no comparison. No comparison, at all!


Hope your day was filled with lots of LOVE…..and maybe a little something SWEET!



Leapin’ Lizards!

Where did January go?

February is here and we get one extra day this year…yay!

It may still be the shortest month of the year, but it’s already proving to be a busy one with the Superbowl {go Pats!}, after school enrichment classes, a visit from Gramma, Valentine’s Day, the 100th day of school, Holden’s 5th birthday, Art Night and who knows what else…

Following along with Erin and April this month and doing a photo-a-day the February way! Follow the fun prompts, snap a pic and share ~ it’ll be fun ~ won’t you join in with me? I must admit that I am stressin’ about #10….sun flare. Going to have to read up on how to capture that one ~ ha!

Here was my entry for today ~ RED:

{down to our last grounds of this stuff from the holidays…wah!}

I’ll be posting these daily on Instagram ~ come find me and follow along: aaspiras


Wednesdays are great days for bow ties, don’tcha think?

Followed this super duper easy tutorial over at The Vanilla Tulip!

So fun.

Here is a better idea of the fabric color….{along with a cheesy grin!}

{I had the green polka dot fabric from Christmas ~ was supposed to go atop mason jars filled with yellow pepper relish for the neighbors…oops! Sorry neighbors. Hope the New Year’s sugar cookie bars made up for it! XO}

I think a little green bow tie bunting for across the mantel mirror would be cute for St. Patrick’s Day ~ time to bust out several more of these cuties.

Would also make cute boy’s bow ties for Easter and matching girl’s hair clips.

Or clip onto the top of a birthday gift….

Thanks again for the inspiration, Ashley!


Today is also Day 1 of Valentine stocking stuffers…

{Valentine jammies all washed and ready to wear}

And by Valentine jammies, I mean girly “pirate” {skull & cross bones} ones for Elliott that have hearts for eyes ~ that’s Valentine’s enough for me. Picked them up recently at Target for 70% off. Picked up Holden’s from last year post-cupid at Old Navy for el cheapo, too. That’s how I roll.

They will not be getting {extravagant} goodies every day…maybe a simple fruit roll one day, a dollar store coloring book another day, etc. The new jams were just to kick off February and get into the Valentine’s spirit!


Hope your {leap} into February has been a good one!

What are you going to do with the extra day given to us this month?

The Stockings Were {Still} Hung…

I hated taking down the stockings from the fireplace after Christmas.

While I was out scouring the sales on holiday goodness, I thought about finding some red {or pink. or white.} stockings and transforming them into Valentine’s Day stockings.

I picked up a sparkly “E” ornament at Kohl’s and an equally, if not more sparkly, “H” pin at Target since I knew I wanted to include the kiddos’ initials.

While picking up some more paint chips at Home Depot, I spotted these felt stockings for 2 bucks a piece. I LOVED the scalloped detail on them, but needed the embroidered snowflakes to melt away. Enter Joann’s and a few Valentiney quarter yards of fabric and the flakes disappeared!

I adore the way they turned out…

Several red & pink hued paint chips and some twine and you have your V-day bunting…

I wasn’t very good with advent over the holidays so it’s my goal to make up for it and have a little something special tucked in these stockings from February 1st to the 14th ~ I also wanted to find a little Valentine Fairy of sorts and have her move around the house like our Elf on the Shelf, Ferb. They have been asking about him lately…..

Checking {the big P} for some ideas for fun classmate goodies.


Having a couple stockings and a wreath still gracing our mantel makes the absence of the holidays a little sweeter!

Happy Day!


Linking up over at What I Whipped Up Wednesday @ Sugar and Dots!

And come get some fantastic Valentine’s Day mantel inspiration by clicking on the button below…

Home Stories A2Z

Dear Monday

Dear Monday,

I {heart} you because…

you are the prelude to a new week filled with endless possibilities!


Found this darling FREE printable on Pinterest {of course!} and fell in love.

Grab an old 8X10 frame and print out this bad boy ~ looks fine on regular old printer paper, but I used photo paper.

I think it’ll be cute to place one in each of the kids’ rooms and one downstairs to remind the ones I love WHY I {heart} them.

{and a good way to reward good behavior for the little ones!}

Something fun leading up to Valentine’s Day…

…and everyday for that matter.

Here’s to a great week!


Community Cheesecake

When I first spotted this scrumptious cheesecake, I knew it had to go on {the list}. Um, it has Keebler Fudge Striped cookies. As. The. Crust. Enough said…

Would’ve probably made it sooner, but I didn’t have a spring form pan.

But, I do NOW….and I DID make this cheesecake for our Valentine’s Day dessert.

This was my first cheesecake, so I was a little nervous.

{before the whipped cream goodness}

{and after!}

I knew I could not have this cheesecake staring at me all week {AKA eating it for breakfast with my coffee!!} so I cut it in quarters and shared with our neighbor friends. However, when I cut into it the center collapsed….maybe I didn’t chill it long enough?

Despite the oozing mess, I did receive all sorts of positive feedback. Check out this sweet comment:

“I just wanted to thank you once again for the DELICIOUS cheesecake!  When I came home from work this afternoon, my mom (who was watching the boys) said, “Where did you get that to-die-for cheesecake that’s in your fridge?  I helped myself to some, and I don’t think I’ve ever tried anything so divine in my whole life.”  No joke, she literally talked about the cheesecake for 20 minutes!  My mom is a dessert fanatic, yet over the last three decades of my life, I don’t ever remember her praising any dessert quite like your cheesecake 🙂  So, thank you again!!  We all REALLY enjoyed it.  Still can’t believe it was your first attempt!  You must consider opening up your own catering/party business!”

Awww, thanks Alina and THANK YOU Meg @ Whatever for sharing and THANK YOU Pam for your endless hours in the kitchen perfecting this extraordinary dessert!

I’m going to call it the {traveling cheesecake} because whenever I make it, three quarters of it will find another home. It is very rich, but smooooooth and creamy.


One of Jay’s favorite meals is Chicken Marsala. We use Ty Flo’s recipe and every time we make it, I wonder “Why don’t we make this more often?”

Tyler Florence’s Chicken Marsala

I served with roasted asparagus with parmesan:

{just take a bunch of asparagus, cut about 2 inches off the ends, cut in thirds on an angle, drizzle with olive oil, salt & pepper & parmesan, toss, place on a baking sheet lined with foil for about 20 minutes @400*}

Easy peasy, right?


That was our Valentine’s dinner…complete with crooked table cloth adorned with spilled smoothie spots and colored Crayola markers! We skipped the {Wilson Creek} Almond Champagne and will enjoy that this weekend.

And, as I mentioned, Miss Elliott lost her first tooth Valentine’s evening.

It’s so true that when you have children you start to see things differently and enjoy them so much more. V-day has never been one of my favorite holidays, but this year I really enjoyed watching them address their little valentines to their friends and see their joy when showing off all their cards. Next year my goal is to come up with a homemade valentine ~ there are loads of darling ideas out there!

And next year, even though I loved our dinner at home, {you and I} are GOING OUT to dinner, babe!

Love you.


Happy Wednesday!


Don’t Cry Over Spilled Juice

Today Holden exchanged valentines at school.

The only red{ish} shirt that was clean was his plaid dress shirt. As I was ironing it this morning, Elliott pipes in, “You know how to do that, Mommy?”

Apparently she’s never seen me press anything…..uh, and maybe I haven’t pressed anything in the last 5 years and 9 months.

Yoga pants and tank tops don’t require an ironing board or spray starch, so yes, this would be part of my skill set that she has not yet witnessed.

{Thank you, Jay for doing your own ironing!}

At any rate, he looked beyond adorable in his {beautifully ironed} GAP shirt and spikey hairs…

LOVE this kid!

I asked him what his favorite part of school was today and he said…

“When I spilled my juice!”


Coming up tomorrow….father/daughter dance.

Precious. I can’t wait to see them off.

Now that will be something to cry over.

Kid Swap

My friend, Hollie, had a brilliant idea…

Take turns swapping the kids and celebrate Valentine’s Day sans midgets!

GREAT idea.

Jay and I celebrated last night and the Sullivan kiddos will come spend a few hours with us tonight.

We went to Saturday evening Mass and then came home to prepare a Pioneer Woman Valentine’s dinner:

Filet with onion and blue cheese sauce
Twice Baked Potatoes
Bread Pudding with Bailey’s Irish Cream sauce

Talk about a meat and potatoes meal. Veggies were NOWHERE to be found on this table tonight.

Personally I don’t like to prepare steaks at home…I always screw them up. I think cooking steaks is a science and it makes me WAY nervous. But we were trying to save some dough and decided to stay in. I substituted PW’s ribeye recipe with some filets. I told the butcher to say a prayer for me that I wouldn’t massacre them. They turned out OK, but the onion blue cheese sauce was simply out of this world and oh SO easy to make.

I’m telling you, the sauce was divine!

I’ve also not been able to successfully graduate from the school of bread pudding…not too sure why…it’s NOT that difficult.

I attempted PW’s sourdough bread pudding and substituted some almond extract for a portion of the vanilla and added sliced almonds on the top rather than the pecans she calls for. I also used Bailey’s Irish Creme Coffee liquor in place of the Jack Daniel’s for the sauce. Both substitutions worked out nicely and the pudding had a very distinct, but not overpowering, almond flavor.

We were so stuffed from our hearty, stick-to-your-ribs dinner that we just sampled the dessert, but are looking forward to enjoying it again this evening.

Happy Valentine’s Day!