2.29.2012

Bike Club is having Triplets!

A member of my summer Bike Club, in which I am CEO and President-Elect Self-Imposed, is having TRIPLETS!   Three Boys.  Count 'em.  One, Two, Three.  This is a super serial situation. 

So, for her baby shower, I had to get something special.  I turned to Etsy, and found these: 




Aren't they so cute?  

They are from the Etsy shop 13 days, where the shop owner and embroiderer, Kristina, makes some pretty cute and unique baby gear.  As listed on her site, Kristina features one onesie with a red bike and blue print underneath.  But I emailed her and asked if she could customize it a bit for me with different colors since I needed three, and she did with no problems!  It was really a pleasure to work with Kristina...she answered my emails very quickly and had ideas of her own.  I am so happy with the final product and would highly  recommend that you check out her shop, 13 days, for any of your special customized baby needs. 

My little buddy CJ even helped me fold and package them...



 He's an excellent folder of clothes.  Maybe he takes after Alessandro?




OH YEAH...here's me and the mom-to-be : )  


Beautiful!  And amazing that there are 3 little buddies in there!  

In four years they can ride with us on the cut!

2.28.2012

My doctor told me today that my potassium level was a bit high...

On my way home from his office, I stopped at Rocky's in Eastern Market and ended up leaving with this...


If Banana Juice doesn't help lower my potassium, I don't know what will.

Maybe the coconut water?

2.27.2012

Team Alessandro needs your help!




Hey friends! 

Do you know what time of the year it is?  For Alessandro's friends and family, it is better-get-your-act-in-gear-and-fundraise-until-your-pockets-are-overflowing-time.  (Also known as the Walk MS 2012 event, which will take place this year on Saturday, May 12th, 2012 at Comerica Park)

This will be Team Alessandro's fourth year participating in Walk MS, and boy have we made an impact!  In the past three years, Team Alessandro has raised nearly $21,000!  Last year our team raised over $10,600 dollars and I alone raised over $3,000!  Those numbers are impressive if I do say so myself.  Do you know who else thought our efforts were impressive?  Members of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society who have told us that our stride to the Top 25 fundraising teams in Michigan (#24 to be exact) did not go unnoticed.  "Who is this Team Alessandro?"  "The only teams beating them are Team Ford and Team Comerica!"  Yeah, that's right people, we made ourselves known.
In November, Alessandro and I attended an honorary breakfast where our team was recognized with the other top teams of 2011 and let me tell you, it was powerful.  When introducing ourselves to people at our table, nearby workers of the Michigan Chapter said admirably, "So, you guys are Team Alessandro?!"  We were proud, and so should all of you for the part that you have played in our success.  I want to be invited to that breakfast again, everyone.  So I'm asking for your help. 

There are 2 different ways you can help:   

1.  Sponsor me in this year's Walk by making a donation in any amount at my personal page, found by clicking here, or at this link: http://main.nationalmssociety.org/goto/4 (Please also spread the word and send this link to your own friends, family or co-workers and ask them to donate to this great cause). 

UPDATE:   If you are so kind as to make a donation, please check here for a list of employers that match gift donations of employees!  Your donation can go even further!

2.  Join Team Alessandro by clicking "Join Team," here, or at this link: http://main.nationalmssociety.org/goto/TeamAlessandro and start fundraising on your own.  (It is not required that you be in town for the day of the walk, so out of towners can still join in on the fun).

UPDATE: If do join Team Alessandro and solicit sponsorships of your own, please be sure to forward this link to potential sponsors so that they too can check to see if their employers will match their gifts! 

Alessandro has been living with Multiple Sclerosis for over 4 years, and he has tried 4 different treatments, with the most recent being the first ever oral medication approved for the treatment of MS.  While his current medication seems to be working to keep him stable, we hold out hope that one day, sooner rather than later, there will be a treatment that will help him get better.  The money raised in this fundraiser goes directly to research for treating Multiple Sclerosis, so that is why this fundraising event is extremely important to us.

Your support means a lot to Alessandro and I, and we are thankful for whatever you can do.

Love, 




Marilena and Alessandro

Oh yeah, and does anyone else think it's amazing how much our team has grown and become more professional from 2009 to 2010 to 2011?  

Walk MS 2009

Walk MS 2010
Walk MS 2011

I cannot wait to see what 2012 can bring for us! 

P.S.  I know many of you have read my recent interview with Alessandro on living with MS, but just in case you missed it, here it is, or at this link:  http://movesincircles.blogspot.com/2012/01/interview-with-alessandro.html.  Please feel free to use the interview and his story in your fundraising efforts. 

2.24.2012

I've got a cupcake problem.

I don't even necessarily like cupcakes that much.  I rarely eat any that I bake.  But I love decorating and baking cupcakes.  

Alessandro's brother, Antonio, and his boo, Keely, bought me the cupcake book, "Hello Cupcake," for my birthday a couple of years ago.  I tried my hand first at making these two Halloween themed cupcakes back in 2010.



The bugs are made by melting chocolate candy wafers, tracing a bug outline under a piece of wax paper, and then layering them with M&M's.  They were pretty easy...and I got to thinking that I would try something more complicated, hence the werewolves.  

I didn't fail as badly as I thought I would...but they definitely don't look half as professional as what Hello Cupcake said they should look like. But after Googling some of the general population's epic fails with these, I'm thinking my final product actually looks pretty good.

The werewolf mouth is made from a cut marshmallow and covered with a piece of fruit by the foot cut to resemble a tongue/mouth.  The ears are also cut pieces of marshmallow and the whole cupcake is frosted using a Ziploc baggie as a piping bag, taping the tip of the bag with scotch tape and then cutting a "V" shape in the tip to create ridges of texture for the fur.  The eyes and nose are M&M's.  

Next, I made pumpkin cupcakes for Thanksgiving 2010, also from Hello Cupcake.


They're not that cool...but the best part is that they were pumpkin flavored, which I love.  CJ too.



Next, I tried cupcakes for Tiger's Opening Day.  After learning that you could trace just about anything with a proper template under a piece of wax paper, I tried my hand at some unique designs.  I'm still pretty embarrassed that I couldn't think of anything more clever/grown-up than "Inge Sucks," but it's true and maybe I'll think of something this year...


Next up were cupcakes for Maya's 2nd Birthday.  Maybe by this time I was worn out because I went with something very very simple...just covered in sprinkles to match her Beauty and the Beast theme. 


But that little sweetheart loved them if you can tell. 

A few months later, I baked cupcakes for Ava's 5th Birthday.  She was having a beach-themed party, and the shark cupcakes in the "Hello Cupcake" book looked slightly more ambitious than something I was ready to take on...

UPDATE:  My Aunt thought that I made these shark ones above, and has been telling people that.  But I did not make the sharks!   I made all of the cupcakes shown except for the sharks, which by the way are made out of Twinkies : ) 


So instead, I found these cupcakes online and made a version of these little beach buddies. 


The "sand" is food processed graham crackers, and the bears in the back on the sand cupcakes are lying on a towel made of fruit-by-the-foot.  The life preservers are gummy life savers and the beach balls are gumballs.  The bikinis and bear eyes are drawn on with an edible marker.

Since they were so kid focused, I wanted there to be something special for the adults.  So I made Martha Stewart's Buttercream frosting and dyed it blue with a few drops of food coloring.  This frosting was the best frosting I've ever had.  It was so so buttery and...Alessandro hates this word but I have to use it...decadent.Ava's Grandma Annie said that her family had been searching for a good buttercream frosting recipe for a while and this was one of her favorites.

If you plan on making this recipe, I would suggest cutting it in half or even in thirds.  I liberally covered 14 cupcakes, had a spoonful or two : ) and still had a large tupperware container left of delicious surplus frosting that eventually went to waste.

Recently, I was ready to take on something more challenging and made Hello Cupcake's baby cupcakes for my cousin and his girlfriend's baby shower.


Since I had to transport them a couple of miles to the baby shower, I decided only to make 6 babies and to decorate the rest in something less likely to topple over during the car ride.



I'm happy to report that the babies all survived the car ride and looked super cute for the shower!  A quick rundown on these bad boys:  The heads are mini cupcakes, which I poked a toothpick through to secure to the body.  (Hello Cupcake did not recommend this step, but since they were going for a drive, I thought it would be safer).  The frosting is vanilla tinted pink with some red food coloring.  The bonnet is made of mini marshmallows cut in half.  The bib is cut from a candy Airhead and decorated with edible shapes secured by frosting.  The eyes and belly button are piped chocolate frosting.  And the blue safety pin (yeah, that's what it is) is made from candy melts and topped with a cut mini pastel marshmallow.  

I went into making these baby cupcakes fully prepared to give up right away, but I stuck with it, and they actually were not that difficult.  They don't look perfect, but I was happy with them.

The next day, I prepared cupcakes for Victoria's 3rd Birthday party.  I used the same flowers I used as fillers for the baby shower cupcakes, but decorated them in softer colored sprinkles.  To make these flowers, I first enlisted Alessandro's help.  He cut the mini marshmallows in half on the diagonal and dropped them in bowls of decorating sugar.  Meanwhile, I melted candy melts and made a nickel-sized dollop on wax paper; then I stuck the sugar covered marshmallows on the melted chocolate circle and topped with a mini M&M in the center.


Watch this video where the Hello Cupcake people make it look a lot more simple (and much more neat) than it actually was.  They topped each cupcake with 5 flowers!  Which means you would have to make 120 flowers for a batch of 24 cupcakes!  I actually thought this was possible, but it would have taken probably 4 hours.  Instead, as you see, I had to settle for 1 - 2 flowers per cupcake and that took Al and I one hour.

Alessandro was such a great helper.  But I later found out he cursed Antonio and Keely for buying me that cupcake book : ) 

That's all folks.  I wanted to share my cupcake making history with you, so I hope you enjoyed.

2.22.2012

My Top 5 Favorite New Eats and Drinks

Let me share with you a few of my new favorite things that are making me way more excited about life than they should, if I may:

First, I recently discovered ellis island tropical tea


I was in love after my first sip.  And after reading about how the tea was an old recipe that the owner's great grandfather mastered and kept as a family secret "to be sold, not told," along with a sweet article highlighting the founder's journey to market her family recipe, made me a customer for life.  Oh yeah, forgot to say:  it's all natural, it's brewed in Detroit, the founder is a woman who grew up in the D, and the tea is so, so good! Can't get much better than that.  TRY IT PLEASE!  (Found at a Westborn Market near you, Honeybee, Avalon Bakery, Starters Bar and Grill and other select stores found here; if you can't make it to these stores, and want to try it, let me know and I'll pick some up for you!)

My second favorite thing this week is good ol' Coconut Water.


Honeybee had a sale this week - 5 cans for $5, and I bought a bag full.  Coconut water, strained and over ice is a real treat!  (Strained because it has coconut meat in it and I don't really like to chew when I drink).  Coconut water is a great source of potassium (one serving provides more than a banana) and it's a great way to change things up if your water intake is getting boring.   Not only is coconut water good by itself, but it is also the base for my next favorite thing...

Montel Williams' Daily Energy Smoothie.  Much thanks to my sis who alerted us that Montel was recently on Dr. Oz talking about how he deals with his MS.  We looked up a few clips online, and I think I'll be sharing some of them with you here in the future.  Aless and I both shed tears in watching him passionately share his struggles and everything he's overcome.  He is so knowledgeable about the history of the disease and development of treatment options, and is a great inspiration and spokesperson for the disease.  He shared with viewers this recipe for his daily energy smoothie.  I immediately made a batch for Alessandro for the week and it is great!  (I was hoping he would chug a glass, then get up and start running around the living room...but that didn't happen).  
The recipe says to blend the following to make enough for smoothies throughout the week:  2 pints of cut up pineapple, 2 pints of cut up watermelon, 2 quarts of coconut water, 1 bag of baby spinach, 1 bag of frozen blueberries and 2 green apples or 2 bananas.  I cut the recipe in half and it made four 16 oz. servings.  And since I don't measure in pints or quarts, here's the conversion for ya:  2 pints = 4 cups, 2 quarts = 8 cups or 64 oz. and for the spinach and blueberries, it's not an exact science, so I used a couple handfuls of spinach and a standard 16 oz. bag of frozen blueberries. Super delicious.  Super easy.  Super high hopes that it will increase Al's energy level.  (So far he's only had 2 of these bad boys, so not much to report). 

I'm done with drinks now, and am moving on to eats.  This egg sandwich is one of my new favorite things.

via A Cup of Jo

Made it.  Loved it.  Had to share it.  It's very very easy and fast!  Alessandro really liked it too.  It's super cheesy, so don't be tempted to add two pieces of cheese--one slice is plenty.  I love how it's crĂªpe-like.  It will be a staple in our home for years to come. 

I'm so bad and have no pics of either the energy smoothie or the egg sandwich because I froze and wrapped the smoothies before I remembered to snap a pic and we ate our egg sandwiches in haste right before walking out the door.  But I can tell you that my samich (that's how I say sandwich) did not look like the above pic.  It was definitely less perfect, but I'm sure not any less delicious.  

And lastly, Susie's Homemade Granola.  Again, I have no pics to share with you (lazy alert), but I assure you I followed her recipe exactly.  Alessandro and I have been eating parfaits for breakfast a lot lately.  He makes his own special berry compote, and so when I saw this granola recipe, I thought it would be a perfect accompaniment to our parfaits.  And I was right.  The granola smelled so good cooking and while it was cooling, I found Alessandro with a spoon digging in.  I recommend giving this granola recipe a try!  

(Oh yeah, Susie is Alessandro's friend from college, Luke's, little sister and Julie and Sara's sister-in-law).  Did you catch all that?  Grammatically, what is actually the proper way to write that sentence?  I think my comma and possessions may be off.  

What are you feeling this week?  Anything fun you have been itching to share?  I'd love to be shared with.


2.16.2012

Here's to another year in the D...




Al and I moved into our first home the day we took that first picture above.  It was purely accidental that we got the heart on the Blue Cross building in the background, but it was completely fitting since it was Valentine's Day.  

So, each year, around Valentine's Day, we take that same picture, and we make the same dinner--Chicken Scallopine (or Chicken Saltalamacchia as we like to call it for you baseball fans).  

Valentine's Day signifies to us the beginning of an important chapter of our lives together.  It's the anniversary of our first home and it will always remind us of that exciting time when we finally moved in together.  We often ask each other, "Remember when we didn't live together?"  And while we do remember, we can't actually imagine what it was like.  The torture!  There's nothing better than settling in with your person.

So here's to another year in our first home.  And another year of living with my best friend.  


2.07.2012

Detroit Weekend Happenings

Looking for something fun to do in the D this weekend?  You've got lots of options. Let me share four of them with you. 

The Motown Winter Blast opens on Friday!  It runs Friday, Feb. 10th through Sunday, February 12th.  Don't miss it!  There is snowshoeing, free ice skating! ($3 skate rental), good food, music, marshmallow roasting, dog sledding, carnival rides, puppet shows and much, much more!  Admission cost is a donation of a canned good or a book (or $1), which benefits Matrix Human Services. 

Did you know that the Winter Blast began in 2006 when Detroit hosted Super Bowl 40?  (Didn't feel like looking up Roman numerals, sorry).  I remember going that year and it was out of control!  It was bitter freezing cold, shuttles were running people back and forth from Wayne State and other areas to Campus Martius.  And it took over an hour on the shuttles for what normally would take ten minutes!  It was a hot mess.  (But still kinda cool since I had never seen that many people in the D).

Now a days, it is nothing like that.  It's a completely enjoyable family fun experience.  Here's proof from last year:

Ava & CJ taking a break from ice skating.

Ava and CJ about to take off down the ice slide.

My sister, Liana, had to take a turn of course!

Carnival rides! 

While you're downtown, why not stop and visit the Riverfront?  (From the Campus Martius area, take Jefferson East for about 2 minutes, make a right on Rivard and you're there.  Super fast and easy!)  Alessandro and I stopped by the river last Sunday (which happened to be Super Bowl 46...let's see if I can incorporate the Super Bowl a few more times into this post).  It was absolutely beautiful.









We're going to try to make it a point to get to the river more often.  It's so peaceful and beautiful and a great reminder about how wonderful of a City we have.

If being outside during what is expected to be a cold weekend doesn't sound that appealing to you, then you should first, try and get over it, and then if that's not possible...

How about checking out "The Exonerated," at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History?  "The Exonerated" is a play about the lives of six people convicted of crimes they did not commit, and the years they spent on Death Row before being exonerated.  Read more about the story here.  The play runs from Friday the 10th through Sunday the 12th; tickets are $17-$30.  Aless and I are going to try to make the Saturday night show.  (Let us know if you go and we could get drinks after!)

Also on Saturday the 11th from noon to 5pm, check out a Jewelry Trunk Show at the Detroit Artist Market.  The info for this event isn't on their website, but you can find info at the event's Facebook page.  One of the designers whose jewelry will be featured is Ericia Bartels, aka Detroit's Winegal aka Angelina Italian Bistro's Wine Night Host aka the coordinator of our wedding dinner aka a newly appointed Sommelier aka an awesomely talented person.  Can you tell I'm feeling me some Ericia Bartels?  I know you will too, so come and check it out!  There are tons of other designers and not to mention lots of art to be admired too.

That about does it.  See you in the D!


P.S.  Off topic, here's a super nice post Ericia wrote on her wonderful wine blog a while back mentioning Al and I if you'd like to read it.    




2.06.2012

This is how awesome Alessandro is...

Alessandro has had a really bad walking day today.  He's been struggling to get around (more than usual) since waking up this morning.  But, that didn't stop him from having such a productive day that it puts me to shame.  In the morning before work, which he started at 11am, he (1) made the bed, (2) did the dishes, (3) made a berry compote for our homemade parfaits, (4) ate breakfast (yay!), (5) packaged up some of his eBay sales, (6) and went to the post office to mail out said packages.  

But his day didn't stop there.  He worked a half a day then came home and started our dinner:  stew, since he had been craving it for weeks now.  I was not able to help at all because I had a volunteer church gig after work and didn't come home until after 7pm.  When I came home, he was in the final stages of dinner prep.  

It is worth noting that this stew required Alessandro to hand peel a bag of fresh pearl onions (since I couldn't find them pre-peeled and frozen in the grocery store).  He hand peeled about 50 pearl onions, and said he wouldn't wish that task upon his worst enemy.  He later divulged to me that at one point, he had to sit on the floor and slice vegetables using a stool as a table because he couldn't muster enough strength to get back up and make it to the table.  (I checked, and yes, he used a cutting board; thank goodness because that would not have been sanitary). 

And not only did he make dinner, but he did all of the dishes that were dirtied in the process, and he continued to wash all of the new dishes I piled into the sink from my lunch (which was a lot because I left Friday's tupperware at work over the weekend).  He kept going and going and going.  

When I walked through the door tonight, all I really wanted to do was finish the bottle of Pinot Noir that he used for the stew and go to bed.  But, seeing him inspired me to suck it up and power through.  (And when I say power through, all I mean is that I managed to take the garbage out and put away our clothes in the bedroom). I know, big whoop, right?  But, if it weren't for him, I wouldn't have done even that little.  Oh, and he also inspired me to upload my pictures and write this post so that I could share his awesomeness with you, and so that I can never forget it.  

As we finally sat down for dinner, Alessandro said something that I think must be a common thought for him each day:  "This damn stew better be good."  For all the effort he puts into each task he does, it sure better be worth it.  And I think he would tell you that each productive day he has, like the one he had today, is always worth it in the end.  

And so was the stew.  





This is his, "Hmm, this is pretty good," face.  

P.S.  He was in bed and sleeping by 9:45pm.  

2.01.2012

Ikea Finds: Frames, Frothers, FILUR and Feet

I roamed Ikea for 2.5 hours one recent Saturday morning and came home with some very fun purchases.

I wanted to share them with you if you are interested.

First, I purchased the ODBY frame, which was $9.99.  I immediately loved the rounded corners and chunkiness of the frame.  I filled it with a picture I took of graffiti art from The Dequindre Cut.


The frame is an 8x10, which is matted down for a 5x7 picture.  I love how this bright and edgy picture looks in this clean, slick frame.

Next up is this awesome little device:  a frother!  


Who doesn't need a frother?  I know I did.  Alessandro was completely skeptical of this purchase because he thought it would just be a piece of junk.  But I told him that it was only $2.99, so it was fine.  He hates when I justify purchases by saying, "It was only a dollar."  He sarcastically replied, "Yeah, so it's only $3 down the drain." 

But, I'm happy to say that the purchase was a success. 



Do you see all that wonderful froth?  The picture above does not really do it justice because the lighting was so poor, so I snapped another picture of a chai latte I frothed up last night.



Do you see all that bubbly goodness?  My chai latte drinking experience has been made so much more enjoyable...and all for only $2.99!  (I couldn't find the frother on the Ikea website, and Amazon is selling it for $6.50, so I'm really feeling like I got a good deal).

We also used the frother the other night to foam up our Mexican hot chocolate.  The possibilities are endless.  Alessandro is officially a believer in the frother.  

Next is the TOLSBY picture frame, which was .99 cents.  


I filled it with a piece of art made by Alessandro's Aunt Irene, which she sent to us on this year's Christmas card. Isn't it lovely?  And it perfectly pops out of that white frame.  It is currently living on the bookshelf in our bedroom.  Every time I look up at it, I smile.  It fits in perfectly and really makes that space.

  
There were also two storage/organization items I came home with.  The first was the FILUR bin, which was $12.99.  I bought this with the intention of using it to tame our recycling, which has been known to get a bit out of control.



I lined it with a garbage bag so that we can easily take the bag out to transport it to the suburbs whenever we visit our parents.  (Our building doesn't offer recycling and we still haven't gotten the hang of using the drop off sites offered in the D).

I love the easy lift up lid and so far it has made our life a bit easier and has been hiding the mess pretty well.

Lastly, I picked up the RETUR bin for $19.99, which is supposed to be a recycling bin.  But, I bought it for the purpose of taming our pile of shoes that tends to accumulate at the front door.  I got the idea for this from John and Sherry at Young House Love.

Here's what our front door looked like when I came home from Ikea:


Pretty gross.

And here it is post-RETUR:


Here's a shot of the inside:




I have to say that Alessandro was SO anti this purchase.  He thought I was crazy.  He thinks I read too many blogs.  He thought we would not use it and it would be a waste of money.  But, then the other day he said, "I think it's growing on me."  He loves the top shelf, which is just a bonus really.  It is great for incoming mail, wallets, cell phones and other things we need to remember to grab on the way out of the door.

I have also been sticking my mittens and hat in there after coming home from work.  This bad boy was a successful purchase!

If you're interested in how this is hung...I should have drilled a hole and used anchors and screws, but I didn't have a drill, anchors or screws.  (It came with only one screw for some reason.  And after re-reading John & Sherry's post, I see that theirs came with only one screw too.  Ikea oops).  So, I opted instead just to nail two nails into the wall and hang it up like a mirror or a picture frame.  It worked.  But, we definitely won't be putting anything too heavy on top because I don't want it to start drooping.

That's it!  Five Ikea purchases that made my life more colorful and less cluttered and made my after dinner drinks come alive!  (Wow, doesn't take much to get me excited).

Have you made any fun Ikea purchases lately?  I'm always looking for an excuse to go back...it's just so dang far!  And next time I visit, I'd like to eat at the cafe.  Any recommendations?