Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Little Fall Tea

One Friday afternoon in October, Amanda Lily invited her neighbor friends, and cousin over for a Fall Tea. She made personalized invitations for each girl, and hand delivered them. Upon arrival, she served each of her friends blood orange tea with grilled cheese sandwiches that I cut into the shape of pumpkins. Fresh fruit and petit fours rounded out the fancy afternoon, and to Amanda Lily's great delight, an ice cream cake her Dad brought home for her to share with her friends. The girls each took home a caramel apple and mini pumpkin.

This little tea party was so easy and fun to prepare. George and I thoroughly enjoy entertaining, and making special memories with our children in our home. The girls' smiles made a little effort pay off in a big way. Amanda Lily has since decided to host seasonal tea parties. We are looking forward to helping her host a Winter Tea in January. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Who needs a Jackson Polluck?

When you have a class of 5th graders!
Jackson Polluck is a popular artist who approaches his work in the super fun way of "throwing." Steven's class made a HUGE canvas Jackson Polluck style to auction off at our schools annual fundraiser. The kids had fun throwing the paint by using all sorts of objects. We had each of them bring in an old Tshirt to wear over their uniforms. They used sticks, squirt bottles, turkey basters, paint brushes and kitchen whisks, all without ever touching the canvas. The end result was actually really neat looking, and it sold at the auction for over $500! Way to go 5th Grade!

How fun would this be to do at a kids birthday party? Or, even to do with the kids during break or a long weekend. I would use smaller canvases, and let them hang them in their rooms.

Brooke and Steven were the messiest "artists"

The end result was so cool! 

First Ever 5K Run

This Christmas season has been particularly busy, so G and I have not had as much time to keep up our running schedule. My number one resolution for 2013 is to get back into my routine of a nice run at least 3x's a week. I would also LOVE to get Steven involved. My plan is for G and me to run our 3 miles together on Mon Wed Fri, then run the couch to 5k app from the beginning with Steven on Tues and Thurs. Amanda Lily would love to run with us, but with as much dance as she does, I don't think it's a good idea. Those legs need a little rest between dance days! I may invite her to join us as she gets a little older, we will see.

Our first ever 5K run was back in October. We ran for our kids school's 5K benefiting Agape house, a Lake County charity that helps local people who have fallen on hard times. We got up early, and our "fan base" came out to cheer us on. They include our kids and our close friends Heather and Mia. Our kids have watched as we trained week in and week out, so they were super proud of we older Kountanis', as we crossed the finish line. Our friend Heather joined us in our running journey a few months earlier, and has been a dedicated runner ever since. So, she understood the magnitude of this day for us, and was such a sweet support to have with us on this day.

Being a novice 5K runner, I had no idea of the details. For instance, I had no idea that you are broken down into age groups, then awarded a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place medals in each division. I always just thought that whoever crossed the finish line 1st was the winner, and everyone else just came in whenever they could. I also had no idea that their is a such thing as a walk/run where people run, then take a break by walking. G and I had trained to run straight through with a motto of slow and steady wins the race. No walking allowed!

It was a brisk morning, but the adrenaline was pumping at the start line, so we were plenty warm. We got in a nice stride groove, and ran the entire race, never stopping. It took us just over 33 minutes to run the entire 3.1 miles. As we came around the corner and our kids and friends saw us, they cheered us across the finish line. I honestly get teary  even typing it because at the time, my body was pushed to the very limit and hearing their cheers made me so emotional. I am usually the cheerleader of this Kountanis family, and having the roles reversed was a new experience. To hear Amanda Lily's little voice yelling at the top of her lungs "GO MOMMY GO DADDY!!!" and Steven cheering "WOOOO HOOOO!" was almost too much for me. I literally almost hyperventilated because I was at the end of a 3 mile run, and I was trying not to cry. After we crossed the finish line, I felt proud of myself for the first time in many years. It was EXHILARATING!

The icing on the cake was that there was a medal ceremony of sorts after everyone finished the race. There were around 80 runners. Get this, I received 1st place in my age division (35-39) and G got 2nd in his (35-39). What?!?!?!?!? Woot! Woot! We had no idea we were even racing for medals, but we each left with one. I have since framed them and they are hanging in our living room. They are there as a reminder that we can do whatever we put our minds too......even at the ripe old age of 35.

Before the race.

Crossing the finish line.

We did it!

Fan club.

Principal of kids school giving me medal.

Embarrassed but proud!

G after being given medal with a kid on each arm.

My favorite picture.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Autumn Chopped Salad

I totally pulled off a last minute surprise party on hubs. His birthday was back in October, so we are moving right along on catching up the blog. I didn't get any pictures of the party because I was too busy trying to hostess. We had the dinner at home, and had around 25 people come for a relaxed evening of chili, corn bread, autumn salad, and fall beer. After dinner, we adults all gathered around the fire pit to chat, while the kids swam. The pool was rather chilly, but G turned on the heater in the jacuzzi for the ones who didn't brave the cooler water.

The fun of this party was the fact that he had NO IDEA! He thought we were going out to dinner with friends. It was a fun surprise to plan for my sweet love. A high note at the party was the autumnal salad. I found the base of this recipe on pinterest, and adapted it a bit. There are so many ways to make this salad your own. I've included some of the many ways I have tried in this recipe.  I've even chopped up chicken and added it to this salad to round it out as a meal. Always turns out delish!

Autumn Chopped Salad
7 cups chopped lettuce (romaine and bibb are favorites)
2 red pears (or Apples if you prefer)
1 cup dried cranberries (or dried cherries if it's that season)
1 cup chopped pecans (or walnuts if you prefer)
*8 slices of bacon cooked crisp and chopped (or not if you are vegetarian)
4 oz feta cheese crumbled (or blue cheese if you prefer)
1/2 cup Poppy Seed Salad Dressing
1/4 cup Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing
(You could even change the cups around on each of these to make the dressing more tangy, less sweet. Also, you could add a teaspoon of dijion mustard to the dressing for a bit more spice)

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Mix together two dressings, then pour slowly over salad, mixing with your hands until you get the right consistency of dressing to suit your taste. This is key because I have found that some lettuces absorb the dressing differently than others, and you may or may not use all of the dressing mixture. Turn out salad onto a large platter, and serve up to 10 people. This recipe is perfect to take to a pot luck dinner, just double the recipe if needed.

Happy Birthday Babe!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Run? Only if being chased.....

 That has been my answer if ever I was asked to run. So much has happened since my last blog entry. Honestly, the thought of catching up here is overwhelming, so I've just stayed away. Now that the Holidays are over, and most of the Christmas is put away, I have a little extra time to use on my little online diary. I have so many new recipes that I can't wait to post! They were either things I discovered by playing around in my kitchen, or working in a holiday kitchen with a friend.

My last post was back at the end of summer. Next up for we Kountanis' was football camp. Steven joined his same team from last year, the Bulldogs. Unfortunately, after putting in 4 long weeks of practice, he ended up injuring his achilles heel. Instead of playing with his team, he had to go to physical therapy 3 times a week for a month. Here he is with some of his friends/teammates at the first game of the season. He didn't get to play because of his injury, but he wanted to go to support them. The PT told us no football for him this year, so that was that.

George and Steven headed out the door, both all smiles! George was an assistant coach again this year.

I love this picture because I feel like it gives me a glimpse into the future. He looks so grown up in this one.

Now, back to the running thing. Even though he didn't get to play the season, one good thing did come of all those hours on the practice field. While sitting there watching practice in my fold out chair one afternoon, it dawned on me that I literally sat there on my butt for 3 hours, 3 or 4 evenings a week. It seemed like I could be doing something productive with all that time. George and Steven were on the field getting tons of exercise.....maybe I should walk the park area. After a few days, walking turned into jogging. A friend of mine mentioned the couch to 5k app, so I looked into it. I purchased the app, and dutifully followed the program. I was OUT OF SHAPE! Many times, I wanted to fall over in the grass on the field and quit. I AM NOT A RUNNER. However, I am someone who prides herself in being mentally tough. I am stubborn by nature, a girl who doesn't like to quit. This running stuff was a mental challenge, the first one I'd had in a long time. I set a goal of running a 5K, and in my mind, it was ON. 
With Steven's injury, George now had time on his hands, because he was no longer a coach. He decided to run with me. This only amplified my desire to reach my goal. Now we were a team. We ran together every other day, each of us pushing the other. I absolutely love running with G. We catch up on all the little things we have going on, and bounce things off of each other.  There were many times my body wanted to give up and stop, but I would literally rather throw up in the grass and keep running, than quit before it was time. He felt the same. 

We even ran in a tropical storm! G took this pic after our morning run during TS Isaac. The rain was very welcomed cause we were HOT.

This picture was taken at the end of our 5K training. It was the first time we had ever ran for 3.1 miles straight, without stopping. We were so happy to have completed the months of hard work. Now all we needed was a worthy cause to run for. That same week, this flyer came home in our kids back packs.....