Category:About Me’

My Set, My One-Pot Quick and Healthy Chicken Stroganoff

 - by Sarah Lipoff

Have you ever wished you could customize a cookware set for the way you love to cook? Well now you can, with Your Set by Calphalon. I was lucky enough to receive two incredibly versatile pieces, and I used them for some of my favorite dishes.

See how I used the AccuCore Stainless Steel 3-quart Sauté Pan for My Set, My Healthy Chicken Stroganoff.

Click here to read my post and enter for a chance to win one of 16 prizes worth $8,500! You can win a $1,000 cash gift card or one of 15 $500 Your Set by Calphalon gift cards so that you can build your own perfect set!

Click here to start customizing Your Set right now!

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective, and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

There’s nothing like a one-pot dinner that’s also heathy — and seriously easy to make. With the help of a seriously amazing AccuCore Stainless Steel 3-quart Sauté Pan, I had dinner on the table in no time and in serious style. I’m always trying to find ways to put a healthy spin on dishes and experimented with a twist on the traditional stroganoff by using skinless boneless chicken thighs and swapping sour cream for yogurt.

-keep reading for how to win your own set of Calphalon pans and for my recipe!

Trick-or-treating with a toddler (for the first time)

 - by Sarah Lipoff

Yes, that’s right. We just took our tot trick-or-treating for the first time. She’s three, almost four, and we haven’t attempted the whole trick-or-treating-Halloween-pumpkin-carving thing at all. She had a bit more interest in the pumpkins at the grocery store this year, and had learned more about Halloween while at preschool, but had no desire to wear a costume at all.

Taking a toddler out for her first night of treat gathering is also a unique thing. My child was totally clueless. We attempted to prep her before the adventure, stressing to say, “trick or treat” when accepting goodies and offering a “thank you” once the candy was in hand.

Yeah. That didn’t happen.

Amazingly, after getting a bit of face paint, our tot jumped right into her Halloween outfit and was ready to head out. Our town turns main street into a trick-or-treater’s paradise and shop owners offer candies to tots as they walk by. It’s perfect for little kids and the street was packed. We walked up to the first spot to stop and my child seriously freaked. She hid behind me, wouldn’t move, didn’t talk, and literally tried to crawl me. I pulled her aside and we took a moment.

I got down to her level and asked her about what was going on. She didn’t seem to like all the attention being on her when walking up to a person with candy so I offered to say trick or treat with her. We cautiously walked up to the next spot and she hid again.

So, at this point, I pulled her aside again and talked it through again. The thing about little tots is that sometimes it just takes a bit more coaxing to open up. And, hey, I said if she wasn’t up for it, we could head back home.

Nope, she wanted to try again, which we did. This time she didn’t hide behind me, I held her basket for her, and she slowly walked forward for a treat.

Then she was hooked.

As we continued down the street she started speaking for herself and began offering a quiet “tanks” after receiving a treat. And as she became more comfortable I reminded her that taking a treat before being acknowledged wasn’t polite, not to grab, and that saying thank you was a must. While we walked through town, I loved seeing her opening up, feeling more comfortable, and understanding the give-and-take of the whole thing.

After making our way up and back I was exhausted, our tot had a glazed look in her eye, and we were all ready to go home and enjoy a few treats.

If you’re heading out for a night of trick-or-treating fun with your tot for the first time it’s a good idea to prep your child before the adventure so she has a basic idea of what’s going to happen. Reading a Halloween trick-or-treating book helps, as well as explaining that talking to strangers in this situation is okay. Along with begin lots of fun, trick-or-treating is actually a great way to encourage your child’s language and communication skills, and get a handle taking turns.

Understand that your tot may not be into it and don’t force it. We really wanted to have a great time trick-or-treating with our daughter, but we exchanged “that look” the second time she started freaking out, understanding that we might have to grab her and go if her behavior didn’t change. The last thing you want is for your tot to have unhappy memories about Halloween adventures.

Set limits before hand on how much candy your child gets to eat after trick-or-treating. Our tot wanted to sit down on the sidewalk and eat her candies the minute after they landed in her basket, but we reminded her we were going to keep walking, enjoying our Halloween adventure, and at home we’d have two of her trick or treat candies.

And, amazingly, we did.

Happy Halloween!

 

Homemade play table

 - by Sarah Lipoff

We have this spot at the top of the stairs on the side of our living room. It’s a “spot” we have no idea what to do with. It isn’t really part of the living room, not big enough to do much with, and has been the home to several different things, including a large plant, small bench, and mini pool table — all of which just sat there doing not much of anything.

I was getting really tired of just looking at that empty corner and watching it become home to a happy family of daddy-long-legs.

I was also getting a bit tired of the tot’s toys ALL OVER THE PLACE.

She needed a solution. I needed something. We talked about getting a toy chest (I had visions of pinched fingers), we dreamed of putting together a built-in bookshelf-slash-seating area (I had visions of power tool mishaps), and we chatted about buying furniture (and I had visions of lots and lots of fighting). So the corner sat deserted, the cat turned the mini-pool table into her new favorite lounging spot, and I kept vacuuming up the spiders.

While at O.S.H. picking up who knows what, I spied round cuts of plywood and knew I had to make a play table. But how to make it cool… Then we spied the big spools used for holding rope and I batted my eyes and inquired if we could have an old one. It was my lucky day and we headed home with the round and a spool.

After a nice sanding, and a coating of white stain, the husband took over and screwed the spool to the round and we had a table. I had plans for adding another round base to make the table sturdier, and to touch up the paint, but the tot had other plans. She got busy working the minute it was brought into the house.

Once she was tucked in for the night, I added a few other cute items around her area so she’d stay interested for more than a few days. On the other side of the play corner is our entry way buffet (that houses a bunch of the hub’s old CD’s) that will be cleared out for her toys so the area is comfortable for her to play and stay organized — and I’ll be able to slide the doors so they will magically disappear.

So for less than $20, we reinvented a spool into a fun play table that will hopefully be used for years and years.

 

 

Date night FAIL

 - by Sarah Lipoff

Last night the husband and I procured a babysitter, drove off to one of our favorite new spots in the area for dinner and a concert. The tot was happy sitting in front of a movie, our crazy-cool baby-sitter brought over her awesome rescue kitten to visit, and we were ready for a night out. We arrived at the restaurant, ordered drinks and dinner, and tried to decompress.

You know how it goes, right?

We found things to talk about, texted to let our sitter know we had arrived, didn’t freak because she didn’t text us back right away, ate, found something to talk about, texted our sitter again, and finished our drinks.

Did I mention this was the first time we were leaving the tot with anyone other than my parents (who don’t live in the area) at night? Yeah, we’ve left the tot with our sitter during the afternoons before to slip out for a movie or hitting the driving range, but this was a big first for us.

We were a bit nervous and twitchy.

So, after dinner, we headed into the concert. We were a handful of the first let in and secured front row spots, literally standing under where Chris Robinson would be rocking out in less than a half an hour.

I like Chris Robinson.

I got another drink for myself and one for the husband and we were feeling pretty good.

Then we got a text.

Sitter: Oh no there was an explosion and the power went out.

WHAT?

I frantically called the sitter. She was cheerfully trying to find candles, flashlights, matches, anything. I was trying to figure out if the explosion happened IN OUR HOUSE.

Nope. Someone had run into a pole just down the street knocking out power for pretty much all of our area.

We hung up and our neighbor called to see how we were doing. We told him we were out for a date night and asked him to check in on our sitter. He laughed.

I knew we had to leave.

But we held out for a couple more minutes while hoping and hoping the band would start so we could catch ONE song before leaving.

Nope.

As darkness fell upon the land, we headed out and started the commute home that should’ve taken only a few minutes.

After 45-minutes we arrived home to a very dark house streaked with flashlight beams, a laughing tot, and a smiling sitter.

And I went about lighting as many candles in the house as possible. Instead of spending a few hours rocking out 2-feet from Chris Robinson, the husband and I spent the next few hours talking and talking by candle light.

Not a total date night fail after all.

 

Are you ready for some sangria?!

 - by Sarah Lipoff

*I was not paid for this post, just provided with a bottle of sangria for tasting.

There’s no other way to say this — it’s been really hot here. We’re talking in the 90’s-can’t even go outside-don’t want to cook or do anything- kind of hot. I’ve been trying to stay cool in the yard with the tot and my laptop getting work done while she stumbles about in a swim suit spraying herself with the hose. So when this box showed up on my doorstep containing a vibrant bottle of sangria, I had a hard time waiting for the appropriate time of day to crack it open.

Just a reminder, I wasn’t paid for this post — just provided with a lovely bottle to taste test and then share my opinion. Eppa SuperFruit Sangria is a blend of real fruits, including blueberries, pomegranate, blood orange, and acai resulting in a wine that contains twice the amount of healthy antioxidants than a regular ol’ glass of red wine and only 120 per serving for about $12 a bottle.

And this sangria is certified organic.

The base is a Mendocino Cabernet and Syrah, made  just north of me, and creates the perfect compliment to the sweet fruits. As soon as I opened the bottle, I knew the wine was going to be tasty and wonderfully fruity. The bottle told me to pour over ice and enjoy with a slice of fresh fruit. Well, thanks, I will!

After my first sampling, the undercurrents of the wine was lovely with a fruity finish. Because the wine is combined with real, organic super fruit juice, the result is quite a treat, and definitely on the sweet side. I decided to use the sangria as the base for a lovely spritzer and topped my glass with a good shot of sparkling mineral water and a big slice of lemon.

Heavenly.

This sangria would be perfect at any picnic or gathering — or for a fun night hanging with the ladies. And it would also be a great base for making tasty cocktails any time of year. Here’s another cocktail suggestion from Shape. Wondering where to pick up a bottle? Whole Foods carries the wine, but if you don’t have one near you, check out their store locator to find a bottle near you.

Bribery (and a Dream Lite)

 - by Sarah Lipoff

Dream Light

First and foremost, I was not paid in any way, coerced, asked, suggested, or even chatted with about this post from anyone at Dream Lite. Nope. In fact, the last thing I would have ever imagined picking up for my tot this weekend WAS a Dream Lite. And it all started with a bit of bribery.

Yeah.

That’s right.

I bribed my tot.

There’s been a lot going on lately, between starting a new preschool, having a new schedule, me not having as much time for her lately, and my husband’s commute pretty much being THE WORST lately, I was starting to seriously twitch every night at bedtime when she tossed her regular nightly fit.

We try to stay away from watching the big TV. We catch Sesame Street in the morning, maybe a bit of Sprout in the afternoon, but not much else. So when my tot started asking for this so called “dream light” thing, I had no clue. I made up songs, hit her up with some imaginary play (still trying to figure it out) and then one afternoon I finally caught the commercial (after I had left Poppy Cat on too long…). Dreeeaaaam liiiiight, DREAAAAAAM light. You know it if you’ve seen it.

And then it got it.

This was a great opportunity to bribe my tot with a toy (which is something I really haven’t done before) and go with it. I was done with the hours of listening to the whining, the trying talking to my tot in the same tone of voice she was using, the yelling, the serious grey hairs that were popping.

So I did it.

I told her if she behaved herself at school like a big girl, was nice and quiet at bedtime, I’d pick her up a Dream Lite. Well, low and behold, the tot held up her part of the bargain, so the husband and I found ourselves searching around our non-box-store-allowed town for a crap-tastic Dream Lite. After picking the coveted thing up, we headed home, loaded the thing up with batteries, and then listed to the tot complain about how it didn’t work AT ALL.

Finally it got dark out and then the magic happened.

It worked.

She was amazed, in love, in awe. Honestly, we were too.

There’s no way you can share pictures (because taking pictures in the dark just doesn’t work) but all I know is that my tot LOVES going to sleep, falls asleep, and the husband and I sneak downstairs to check out the glowing stars too.

Thank you Dream Lites.

Thank you.

The fence

 - by Sarah Lipoff

I am not a fence builder. My dad and husband built the fence around our lot, but this situation was totally different. If you’re wondering why the need for a fence, here’s the back story. We weren’t so interested in making things super secure (basically we didn’t want to dig holes and pour cement) because we were paralleling the chain link fence. The plants that were still left from the butchering on our side of the fence were very happy, which meant we needed to build around or weave the fence through.

We had no idea what to do.

After digging holes and securing a few 6-foot redwood stakes, we started weaving thin redwood slates to create a horizontal organic fence. We are calling it a big trellis…

By the end of the first day we were feeling pretty good about how things were going. You can still see the (now bare) chain link fence and a bit of the football field, but at least now we can train the vines to grow on OUR FENCE.

Today we added the final few lengths, repositioned a few plants, and mourned the loss of quite a bit of one of our really mature grape vines. I think I’ll mourn it a bit more later with a glass of wine…

A plant tragedy

 - by Sarah Lipoff

This week got away from me. There was also a bit of plant tragedy, which left me a bawling fool yesterday. You see we’ve got a yard that sides with the high school football field. This is actually a good thing because it means we don’t have neighbors lurking behind us, things are pretty quiet for the most part, we have AMAZING views, and if kids decide to hang out late-night on the field and do things that teenagers do, we can always call the cops and complain (and they show up with this crazy-bright strobe light and do this hunt-and-chase thing with the kids that is kind of cool instead of just yelling at them or something).

For the last three years I have nurtured several plants along the fence line, weaving them into the fence, building a natural layer of privacy instead of putting up a big fence that would block the light and completely close us off from the field. Here and there are small holes for use to catch a glimpse of the soccer game on Sundays or the fall football games.

Here’s the picture I posted just the other day after we racked leaves.

See that nice, lush wall to the left of my tot? All the plants on my side of the fence are still there. Any parts of them that grew through or winded their way within that fence are gone.

It’s just chain link again.

I was in tears for most of the day yesterday.

Yes. I know that’s a bit pathetic, but I cried over the time I spent with those pants. I cried about how they were chopped and butchered with a seriously loud gasoline chainsaw. I even went and asked the school gardener yesterday though tears if he really needed to cut them, to which he responded that it was his job and that he is a gardener and knows what he is doing.

I couldn’t stop crying.

Today is a new day and I do realize I was a bit distraught over plants that will grow back in time, but still ache over what had been my happy plants. I’d post a picture but I haven’t been able to visit the yard without getting a bit teary-eyed.

Tomorrow we have plans for building a fence, which might end with the husband and I having a drop-down-drag-out fight or us happily sipping cocktails in our newly fenced yard by Sunday.

(And the fence building I will document. OH yes I will.)

 

Magic wand cat toy

 - by Sarah Lipoff

My tot woke up today and decided that we should pick up a baby at the store. She spent almost an hour telling me all about how we should go pick out just the right one and that she was ready to have a baby. She also told me she wanted to be a baby when she gets big and that she wasn’t ever a little baby. Nope. We needed to go to the store and get a baby.

I was a little surprised about this new turn. We hadn’t seen any babies lately or had any big discussions about little ones, so wasn’t sure where this was coming from. The hubs and I haven’t even been talking about babies around her. It’s like she picked up on my hormones or something and was freely sharing my hidden desires for popping out another babe.

(We haven’t had much luck and are kinda moving on with the whole “trying-for-a-second-child” thing…)

So, anyway, back to heading to the store to pick up our new baby — I loaded her up and strapped her in as we made our way to the store. Once we arrived she tossed a bit of a fit that I had taken her to the wrong store. We weren’t at the BABY store but the CRAP store (which is how she says “craft” at the moment. Cute but not so cute when said loudly while walking through the store. “Mommmy? Mommmy? I just LOVE this CRAP store. This CRAP is SO cooool. Can I buy this to make a CRAP? Please, mommy, PLEAAASE?!”).

I gathered the stuff I needed for the day and asked her if she’d like to pick out something for herself. She decided we should make a magic wand cat toy, which would be perfect for playing with the cat while simultaneously doing magic tricks.

All you need to make your own unique magic wand cat toy are a wooden dowel, a bit of bright and sparkly ribbon, and a really pretty flower. I cut the dowel to a one foot long length and gave it a gentle sanding before starting.

I cut a few strips of the ribbon, piled them together, and then tapped them into the dowel with a small nail.

Then I cut away the bottom of the red sparkly flower and used my trusty hot glue to stick it in place. I had to remove the middle of the flower to make it flat, so hot glued a purple puff ball to fill the space.

The finished creation was attacked by both tot and cat within minutes of completion.

And there wasn’t any more talk about picking up a baby at the store for the rest of the day.

*And, yeah. Probably not the safest cat toy, so don’t let your kitty cat hang out with it unattended. And not guaranteed to actually successfully do any magic either.

Dinner at Terrapin Crossroads

 - by Sarah Lipoff

So this place opened awhile ago and my husband is in love. Phil Lesh and an amazing team of people transformed what once was The Seafood Peddler into the new Terrapin Crossroads. Along with space for concerts, there’s a revamped bar, a new menu, and a nice and bright look in the restaurant. The hubs has been enjoying the shows (and I a few quiet nights to watch the movies that I want to watch) so it’s worked out pretty well. I’ll be honest — I kind of thought the place might be a big ol’ collection of Grateful Dead stuff with a loop of Terrapin Station playing over and over again.

Yeah.

I was wrong.

The husband offered to take the tot and I out for dinner the other night before he went to a show and I was blown away. The interior is just beautiful with a sweeping staircase and funky decor. A sitting area is right at the front with comfy couches and chairs along with a big collection of toys and stuff for the kids to play with. The bar was packed and the sun streamed through the glass back wall. Families were sitting in the oversized booths and others outside on the patio. We had a table overlooking the waterway and watched as boats lazily floated by.

Dreamy.

I ordered a glass of wine and we realized it was the first time we had gone out to dinner with the tot (at least that we could remember) and we were prepared for things to go down hill fast. But then we were brought a fun coloring sheet, a small package of crayons, and water in a plastic cup. The servers were totally on top of the kid-freindly thing and we put in her food order first so she would be occupied when ours arrived. The menu isn’t huge, but we picked a couple of things to try…..

The food was out of control. HUGE portions, amazing flavor, homemade and local or organic, and served by an amazing waiter.

We sat and leisurely enjoyed a dinner while the tot ate every last bite of her meal. It was awesome.

Terrapin Crossroads

Terrapin Crossroads

Terrapin Crossroads

Terrapin Crossroads

Terrapin Crossroads

Terrapin Crossroads

Terrapin Crossroads

Terrapin Crossroads

Terrapin Crossroads

*Wondering what we ate? We started with beet salad and stuffed squash blossoms and then had the roasted shrimp and a tasty burger. The tot had homemade cheese sticks and big bites of everything else.