Friday, March 28, 2014

BBF Anti-Bullying Blog Hop

We Bento Bloggers and Friends are coming together to bring you this Anti-Bullying Blog Hop in light of so many recent heart-breaking stories. Too many. In particular, there's Michael Morones, the 11 year old who attempted suicide after being bullied for his My Little Pony (MLP) passion (you can support his recovery at Go Fund Me's Michael Morones Fund) and Grayson Bruce, the 9 year old banned from carrying his MLP bag to school because kids were bullying him about it. This is just our own way of showing these brave little souls who dare to be different, our support.

My Epicurean Adventures: Anti-Bullying Blog Hop Lunch in #Easylunchboxes

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In this lunch:
  1. Heart-shaped Black beans, rice and cheese quesadillas on Trader Joe's Habanero Wraps topped with cilantro
  2. Muir Glen Organic Medium Salsa and Fage 2% plain vanilla yogurt (a great substitute for when you've run out of sour cream!)
  3. Seedless Red Grapes
  4. Organic Baby Cut Carrots
  5. Airhead Xtremes Sweetly Sour Candy - I know, they're just AWFUL, but taste oh so good and my girls love them so every once in a while, I'll let 'em have some. And they're RAINBOW!
It starts with you and me... to teach our children tolerance, acceptance and love instead of hate and ridicule, to be understanding of one another despite whatever our differences may be. You can't just teach it. You have to live it. Show it. Every day. Our school recently finished the dreaded Boosterthon Fun Run :) to raise funds for school, but despite all my grumblings about the program, I have to say that I love the values they try to teach kids in school. Here are the posters that have been hung up in the hallways, even though the drive is over now. I hope and hope that it's soaking into those kids' heads and hearts.


And just when you wanna just curl up and cry because of all the awful things that people can do to one another, you run across something like this and it reminds you that there is still hope. Lots of hope. In the little ones and the big ones, alike. This just put a big smile on my face and even brought tears to my eyes. Kid President's Open Letter to Babies on Their First Day on Earth


Now it's time to hop on over to Organized Bites to see what the incredibly talented Venia has put together for us. Click on the hyperlink or simply click on the button below.


Shout-outs:
EasyLunchBoxes - love my ELB's!!



My favorite Bento supplier @ All Things For Sale.  Just click on the pix to view/purchase now! :)

Bento Silicone Baking Food Cup - 12 Heart

Thanks so much for stopping by and please feel free to make my day by leaving me a comment, joining my blog in the top right corner or liking my on Facebook at MyEpicureanAdventures - the more the merrier! :)

Christine, aka happyvballgirl :)

Disclosure: Some affiliate links are used on this blog. :)

Here's Lunch #23: Sandwiches in our new Lunchbots Cinco

Littls Sis has been itchin' to use our new Lunchbots Cincos so today was finally the day! Heeeeeere's lunch! :)


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In this lunch:
  1. Applegate Cooked Ham and Applegate Genoa Salami with Trader Joe's Muenster Cheese on Whole Wheat Trader Joe's bread
  2. Smartfoods' White Cheddar Cheese Popcorn
  3. Organic Baby Cut Carrots
  4. Rice Krispy Treat
  5. Organic Strawberries
And I'm happy to report the lunch came back pretty much empty and Little Sis gave her new LunchBots Cinco a big thumbs up! Thanks for such great products, LunchBots!!


* "Here's Lunch" is a series of lunch posts for those days when I really don't have more to say than "Here's lunch". :)

Thanks so much for stopping by and please feel free to make my day by leaving me a comment, joining my blog in the top right corner or liking my on Facebook at MyEpicureanAdventures - the more the merrier! :)

Christine, aka happyvballgirl :)

This post has been shared at:

Here are some items used in this post. To see a full list of my favorite bento gear and such, just visit my "Products I Love" page! :) Any purchases made through these links earns me a little extra cash to support my bento habit, which my hubby would really appreciate. haha! So thank you!!! if you choose to use any of 'em! :)

My favorite Bento supplier @ All Things For Sale.  Just click on the pix to view/purchase now! :)

Japanese Bento Accessory Cute Food Pick Flower 24 pcs 



Disclosure: Some affiliate links are used on this blog. :)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Couscous Salad




I ran across the most delicious couscous salad I had ever had during one of our trips to France about 15 years ago. They called it Tabbouleh, but it was unlike any tabbouleh I'd ever had, so I just call it couscous salad. Oddly enough, it was at a gas station/rest stop along the French countryside where we decided to stop for a quick lunch. I don't remember where exactly it was nor where we were traveling to, but i do remember that it was one of the fanciest gas station/rest stops I'd ever seen with an amazing selection of pre-packaged, prepared food that was better than you'd see at some of the nicer grocery stores around here! IT was certainly love at first bite.

So of course, I came back home and to figure it out how to make it for myself and here is what I came up with. I've been making it ever since but it wasn't until last week that I actually bothered to measure everything out!


Couscous Salad by happyvballgirl
http://www.myepicureanadventures.com/2014/03/couscous-salad.html

1 10 oz box of plain couscous (prepared according to the box)
1 cup golden raisins
1 cucumber, diced
1 tomato, diced (or you can use a cup of grape tomatoes sliced up)
1/2 bunch fresh Italian parsley, diced (about 1/4 cup)
1 0.7 oz package good seasonings Italian dressing, prepared per box using balsamic vinegar and olive oil
    (or 8 oz of your favorite balsamic vinaigrette)

In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients and mix well. Refrigerate and enjoy cold.

Makes about 8 cups.



So fresh, light and delicious. 


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This salad goes so well with just about anything, but I'm particularly fond of serving it at cookouts along with hamburgers and hotdogs and the other standard sides. I'm sure this may turn some of you off, but I have a serious weakness for hotdogs! :)


Thanks so much for stopping by and please feel free to make my day by leaving me a comment, joining my blog in the top right corner or liking my on Facebook at MyEpicureanAdventures - the more the merrier! :)

Christine, aka happyvballgirl :)

This post has been shared at:
Homemade Mondays
Bento for Kidlet - Meatless Mondays
Tuesday's Table
Anyonita Nibbles' Tasty Tuesdays
Bento Lunch's What's For Lunch Wednesdays
Becoming a Bentoholic's Leftovers on Fridays

Disclosure: Some affiliate links are used on this blog. :)

Monday, March 3, 2014

Oh the Places You'll Go #3: NYC Part 2 - The Last Hurrah


It is with a heavy heart that I announce that Papa and Nana have decided to sell their condo located on the upper east side of Manhattan because their work no longer requires such a convenience. Waaaanh! This new development means that we will no longer be privy to quick, easy (and cheap) weekend getaways to the Big Apple, sniff sniff, poor us. lol. Sad indeed, which is why we decided to make one last hurrah trip up for the weekend while Nana and Papa took the girls up to Michigan to see and play in snow. Lots and lots of snow!

*Note, this post took me a really long time to put together, so these trips actually took place in January! :)


But the WONDERFUL news is that they are now on the market for a townhouse within 15 mins of us and I honestly will take this over a condo in Manhattan any day! Yayay!

Even though I really should have stayed home to use that kid-free time to do some much needed organizing in our bonus room/office/craft room, we just couldn't pass up the chance for one last good bye. Ok, I know I'm being a little over-dramatic here since I'm sure we'll be up there again sometime in a few years, but it just won't be the same... :(

So, what did we chose to do on our "last hurrah trip" you ask? Well, here we go...

Day 1:
This time (unlike last time as noted here: Oh the Places You'll Go #2 - NYC), in light of the cold and short amount of time we had, we decided to just hop a cab into the city - no messing with busses and and transfers and such. It took all of 20 minutes from the airport to the front of the apartment building. Given the 19 degree weather upon arrival, I'd say it was a good decision!

We had a tough time deciding on what we wanted for dinner tonight. We went back and forth between NY pizza, Thai or Indian. They all sounded so good but ultimately, I made the decision to go Indian at Chola NY. Although I love Indian food, I've only ever had butter chicken like 2 times before, and totally had that on the brain. So guess what I ordered? Yup, butter chicken with coconut rice and I have to say it was the most delicious Indian dish I have ever had - and that means a lot because I've actually enjoyed the delights of homemade Indian cuisine in INDIA of all places. Hubby got some goat dish that I really didn't like - too gamey, but that was no problem for me because I had plenty of butter chicken. Must add that the samosa appetizer and paneer spinach appetizer were incredible - so it was just a reallllllllllly wonderful meal (minus the goat dish - haha!). This food pic was taken by my hubby because my phone has been misbehaving an shutting off on me at the most inopportune times!
Sweetie's Yelp Review of Chola



After such a delicious meal, I HAD to walk around - like A LOT! if I was gonna make room for more treats later. So from there, we headed to Time Square to do some walking around, people watching and room-in-the-stomach making in the cold cold cold. 14 degrees, baby! Just love love love the cold! Luckily, I was prepared and wore my long johns, but poor sweetie decided not to wear his. Sorry! and you shoulda listened to me! ;)


After a lot of walking around, we ducked into a bar to warm up, both inside and out. While there, we watched some basketball on tv: LAC vs. da Bulls who weren't lookin' so good next to those giants and then plotted our next stop for some yummy baked goods.
Sweetie's Yelp Review of Brasserie-Athenee Review

Amy's Bread had lots of great reviews and was close by, so off we went. I was torn between a carrot cake cupcake and a double chocolate cheesecake-filled muffin and opted for the second. That, mixed with the decaf Americano was just heavenly! It was SO good that we are going to buy the coffee beans online (Fonte) and I plan on figuring out how to make that muffin! So good. Sweetie got the pain au chocolat which is one of his faves. Perfectly flaky and moist - even at 10pm. This place is a must-try. The guys that worked there were super nice and fun to chat with. I have to say that is one of my favorite things in life - yapping it up with random people I meet. :)
Sweetie's Yelp Review of Amy's Bread


And finally, we had to duck into Ray's Pizza, which we conveniently pass on our way back to the apartment, for a slice of NY's finest. Haha. I'm sure many people will laugh in my face for that comment, because there's like a Ray's Pizza on what seems like every block and it really doesn't look like anything special, their toppings aren't always fresh and it can be a bit greasy but I just LOVE their pizza! LOVE it! The crust is thin yet firm enough to hold its giant self up and it is so perfectly crispy and crunchy without being too hard or chewy, even when reheated which is how we usually end up getting it. Plus, they are like ALWAYS open, or so it seems. I will so miss this pizza and I have no doubt we will by stopping by there at least once more during this trip. AND, despite it's grungy exterior and interior, they have a sanitation grade of A (at least the one by us on 2nd Ave near 94th Street), so do feel safe to give 'em a try! :)
Sweetie's Yelp Review of Ray's Pizza



Day 2:
Woke up quite leisurely to a really good hair day, but I wrecked it by putting this hat on that I started crocheting on the plane ride over yesterday. I'm not usually a hat person, but tough times (it's really cold and snowy!) call for tough measures. I wore my Hurricanes hat last night, but today, I wanted to go for something a little more chic, after all, I AM in NYC! Hello! Do you like my hat?


The pattern I used: Lion Brand's Halsey St. Pompom Helmet is actually supposed to have flaps and pom poms but I didn't get that far. I'm thinking I may just leave it as is, though, because it served me just fine through another cold day, this time 10 degrees warmer, but with snow! Finally! I get to see snow! Oh yeah, check the end of this post to win a duplicate hat (and scarf) I made to giveaway. :)

As always, we started the day off right at Bagel Express with a coffee, banana and 7 grain bagel with lots of cream cheese. Until recently, I didn't consider breakfast to be breakfast without heavy eggs, bacon, cheese, toast - the works and stuffed full to misery, but now, I am actually OK with this kind of breakfast - and even sharing it w/ the hubby! I've FINALLY come around to his healthier ways. And I don't know what their secret is, but these bagels are just out-of-this-world. So perfectly crispy on the outside and soft in the inside without even a hint of chewiness. Is it too much to ask for SOMEONE to figure this out so I can eat bagels like these in NC? I think I'll need to start doing some major experimental bagel making when I get back.


After breakfast, we decided to head downtown to pop into the mega REI in soho we stopped in last time. Sweetie needed some new gloves. He keeps losing 1 glove - it's like his 3rd time doing that - while I've had these same mittens for over 20 years. YES! 23 years to be exact because I bought them my freshman year at Michigan, knowing full well I'd be needing them in winters-to-com. What was really nice was that it started to snow, lightly at first much to our delight.


But before REI, we happened upon Win Restaurant Supplies, Inc, which beckoned me inside. It was beautiful and brought tears to my eyes. Haha! I wish there was such a place closer to home so I could load up on goodies without having to figure out how I was going to carry it all on the plane! ;) I was able to get this chalk board (I literally gasped when I happened upon it because it was exactly what I've been looking for!!) and a hard-to-find frosting bag tip, but I sadly had to leave the The Lodge cast iron grill behind. sniff, sniff.


Then we headed to REI where sweetie found neither his gloves nor his long johns, but I'm happy to report that I found two really cute mini skirts in the kids' section with a price tag that just wouldn't let me leave them behind. You can find me wearing one of them towards the end of this post, on our last day here. :)

We ducked into couple more stores here and there, got a couple more things (ie 2 pretty out-there dresses at my hubby's behest). Well, sure, if you insist! :)

Finally, it was the moment we were both waiting for: lunch over at our favorite street: MacDougal. I've raved about it before and I'll rave about it again. Last time, my greed and pigginess got the best of me as I was not willing to share food, only to end up ridiculously full and uncomfortable, so this time, I was more than happy to share. First stop was The Creperie, which I wasn't able try to last time because I ate too much. We ordered a savory goat cheese and sun-dried tomato crepe. I was really neat to watch the crepe man do his thing making the crepes. Sweetie thought it had way too much sun-dried tomatoes, because yes, he just piled it on there, but I loved it just the same. What we really should have gotten was the Reeses Explosion crepe, filled with milk chocolate, peanut butter, Reese's peanut butter cups, but we hadn't eaten lunch #2 yet.
Sweetie's Yelp Review of The Creperie


Lunch #2 was at The Kati Roll Company where we enjoyed splitting an aloo masala paratha wrap which was just as delicious as last time. Just as I had snapped up a picture of Sweetie beneath the sign and started walking, I was heckled from behind by some jerk who kept repeating over and over, each time a little louder to ensure I heard him, "Oh, wow, gotta take that picture in front of a FAST FOOD restaurant!!" To which I responded, "Damn, straight! This FAST FOOD is f#*!ing good! I'm taking it for my blog. Do you mind if I take a picture of you? I need a random jerk photo, too!" Ok, ok. So that's not what I said to him - instead I just pretended not to hear him, but had this retort come to me at that moment, I TOTALLY would have said it! But alas, quick retorts are never so well-timed for me.

Finally, Lunch #3 was at Mamoun's where we shared a falafel and baklava which I didn't get chance to taste last time. This time I was determined to save room for it. Once again delish. Once again, the hot sauce was hot as hell and the baklava was ridiculously good. Couldn't finish it which means, I saved it for later!

After such a hearty, happy lunch (minus that jerkbutt incident), we passed by Rockefeller Center and headed over to American Girl to pick out a little something for the girls. In honor of them going skiing while in Michigan, we got their girls... SKIs! :) And look at the cool new display of all the previous dolls of the year. I couldn't help but think they were all in there begging me to set them free... lol.


On our way back to the apartment, I was able to behold this beautiful sight of NYC on a snowy day. This may just be one of my favorite pictures the city now.


When in NYC, one of our must-do's is hang out in Brooklyn with our buddy of over 15 years, Ron. Ron has a deep disdain of all things "hipster" yet he finds himself living right smack in the middle of "hipsterville". Pretty funny if you ask me. We met up in a "sports bar" in Williamsburg at our request because there was a huge Michigan - Michigan State basketball game to watch. I put sports bar in quotes because I've been told hipsters don't really do sports and the one place that was touted as a "sports bar" - Matt Torrey's, only had 1 TV despite it's very sports-bar-sounding name. It was a cool bar, though, nice and open bar area w/ a cool bartender but it came with 1 really annoying drunk hipster. Luckily, no one else was watching the ONE tv, so we were able watch the game and guess what?!?! We emerged victorious with a huge win over #3 Michigan State! Woo hoo! GO BLUE!!!! And of course I had to take a picture. ;)


Next we headed over to a steakhouse that Ron picked out: DeStefano's Steakhouse. This place ain't cheap, but the food was delicious and they got us to try and even LIKE brussel sprouts. The owner was this totally awesome Italian guy who could just chat with you all night long. FYI: you need a reservation to eat here, so when we just walked in without one, we had to wait for about 30 mins for a table - at 9:15pm! But a couple apertifs among friends made the time go that much quicker. :)

So, when in NYC we did as the city dwellers do and ended up eating dinner at around 10. Darned basketball game! But the incredible hospitality and warm, homey atmosphere and delicious food made it well worth the wait. We were all STUFFED after feasting on:

Mozzarella De Crustino Mushroom Duxelle (fresh mozzarella breaded & sautéed until tender served on top of sautéed), a Petit Filet Mignon (Seared and Roasted to perfection this “King of Steaks” is topped with our Chef’s Burgundy Shallot Sauce), along with sides of Sauteed Spinach in Garlic and Oil, Potato Croquettes and Brussel Sprouts with Pancetta.
Sweetie's Yelp Review of DeStefano's


After that, we slipped into one of our favorite dessert places: Fortunato Brothers Cafe and got some quick orders of Italian baked goods and scarfed them down and headed back.


Although we reallllly wanted to, we just couldn't fit in a slice of Ray's Pizza when we passed it by on our way back to the apartment. Oh well, tomorrow's another day. :)

Day 3:
Sweetie sometimes complains that I never have opinions or make the decisions in what we do and/or eat. I can't help it if I'm such an easy-going person! ;) Seriously though, I can empathize with him because sometimes my passivity can come off like I don't care, which I do, but don't, you know? Anyway, I was inspired and today was on me. :)

First on my list was NYC's famous mile-high deli sandwiches and my favorite of all, Mr. Reuben, was calling my name. We woke up at 10am this morning (we are never ones to get an early jump on the day, even when vacationing, or perhaps especially when we are traveling), so we decided to forgo our beloved Bagel Express breakfast for Mr. Reuben. There are so many delicious deli's around, it really makes it hard to decide on one, but I opted for one of NY's most famous: Carnegie Deli which I chose over Katz's because we had been there more recently. So off we went. It was about noon by the time we got there but I was happy to be seated right away. I wish I could have seen the look on my face when I saw where we were actually seated. One thing you gotta know about places like this is that they like to, NEED to cram you in like sardines. The majority of tables seat 8 and they will use up each and every seat. Our seat was right smack in the middle of a table with 2 parties of 5 people already seated and doing their thing - eating food. Sweetie and I just looked at each other and chuckled.

Once seated, we quickly struck up conversations with the folks on either side of us. They were all so nice and friendly, I was actually happy to be sitting shoulder to shoulder with them. The family on my left was from Houston, visiting their daughter/sister attending NYU. The couple to my right was coming in for a quick trip from Connecticut - to catch a musical and some good eats. Our Indian waiter was pretty awesome as well. Made for just a most fun and enjoyable meal with my new found friends.
Sweetie's Yelp Review of Carnegie's Deli

Here's our order of the open-faced Ruben, potato pancake and OF a slice of NY cheesecake.


And because the Reuben and cheesecake were SO amazing, they deserve a close up of their own. :)


We chatted with our new friends for quite sometime, talking about anything from marine biology, to kids, to traveling and even food allergies. But alas, it was finally time to pay the bill, say our goodbyes and head out for a walk through beautifully snowy Central Park. The walk followed the meal, by design. :)


After walking for quite a bit in the cold and snow, it was time to head inside to warm up. We happened up the charming French Bakery chain Le Pain Quotidien for a hot cup of joe and a little snack for me. :) Though I was still completely stuffed, I was intrigued by the Organic Quinoa Spelt Scone served with organic jam and fresh cream. Honestly, I was a bit skeptical with all that goodness mixed into it, but I was compelled to try it. After being reassured by our very sweet waitress that yes, it actually tastes good, I ordered one up. Sweetie was too cold and too full want any of it, so it was all up to me. I think I did pretty good, don't you?


Next it was time for Top of the Rock! In all of the many many many years (15 years or so) of coming up to NYC about once a year, we never got around to going up to the top of any tall buildings, so on our last hurrah, I declared "It must be done!" Originally, I wanted to go to the top of the Empire State Building, but after reading many reviews on it, the threat of long lines (even this time of year with all the cold and snow) or the high costs to avoid them (the no-wait tickets were going for $65), I agreed that the Top of the Rock would do. And do it did. The tickets were a mere $27 per adult and there was no wait whatsoever. Sweet! As most reviews will tell you, the best time to visit is around sunset so you can see the views during both daylight and night. Both are incredible, so we made our reservations for 4:20 with sunset at 5:06. :)


I thought it would be fun to capture the Empire State building as the sun set, so we camped out in a little corner we found and took these:


After hanging around there for a solid hour and a half, we headed back to the apartment, both still too full to eat. The game plan was to just go back and chill. But, first, a quick stop by Duane Reade's to pick up a Redbox movie and Crumbs Bake Shop for future sweet tooth cravings. Yes, it's a chain, but I love their cupcakes!


After about an hour of down time, we decided to grab a quick bite at Nick's Pizza Family Style Restaurant where we decided to split a family sized warm spinach salad and individual penne ala vodka.


After the perfect sized meal (ok, we still ate a little too much), we headed back to watch our movie: Meet the Millers - so wrong in so many ways but oh so funny nonetheless (or consequently). :)

Day 4:
It's our last morning here. Time to head home. We got up early (8:30!) to get in our last bagel. And it's a balmy 41 so I'm going in a skirt with no tights and no coat. Woo hoo! But even in NYC, I guess people thought that was crazy because I got a lotta looks... like I was nuts!


We grabbed our last delicious, toasted bagel from Bagel Express and the nice lady gave me a black and white cookie to go with it when I told her we were going to miss them very dearly. Bye bye, Bagel Express, we will miss you very much. sniff sniff.

We did some laundry, misc clean-up and packing back at the apartment and then went out for a quick lunch at Delizia's. We decided to do a pizza taste test once and for all. Delizia's is a cute little pizza place just a couple blocks away. They too have delicious pizza but the ambiance is wwaaaaay nicer than Ray's. Don't you think?


I got my favorite Margerita pizza and took a bite. Sweetie got his and then we compared notes. Though I really like Delizia's pizza, my favorite is still Ray's. Sweetie remarked that he just KNEW I'd choose Ray's whereas he prefers the better quality toppings or Delizia's. For me it's the crust. Ray's crust is PERFECT.

We made it back to the apartment to gather out things and take one last look around. Took some pictures for posterity. It's been a fun 15 years or so fun-filled trips! We'll miss you!!


Here's a parting shot of the building.


And our last cab hailed.


As always, when it comes to these visits to NYC, a big, huge thank you must go out to Papa and Nana - who give us so much - they let us use their apartment, they come down to take our kids and even fly them to other places, like this time and oh so much more. It's amazing all they do for us and each time, somehow make US feel like we are doing THEM the favor, when it's always the other way around, ten-fold. Love you guys so much and we are so excited you'll be closer (for at least some of the time)! :)

Finally, it's time to start crocheting again on the plane. I'm making another NYC hat and matching scarf for one of you fabulous readers! And might I add that this one turned out way better than mine did! ;)



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It's made from Bernat's Soft Boucle in Brown and Black hues which is 98% acrylic and 2% polyester and is machine washable and dryable. Enter to win this via Rafflecopter. Good luck!

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To read about more (non-touristy) NYC adventures or see the rest of Sweetie's Yelp Reviews, check out this post: Oh the Places You'll Go #2 - NYC

Thanks so much for stopping by and please feel free to make my day by leaving me a comment, joining my blog in the top right corner or liking my on Facebook at MyEpicureanAdventures - the more the merrier! :)

Christine, aka happyvballgirl :)

Disclosure: Some affiliate links are used on this blog. :)