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Let’s see…

Here are the haps from the past few days in my life.

I’m running again. It feels as good as running can feel. I kind of loathe running. Some people love it.

I am not one of those people.

I do it.

And then I’m glad I did it.

But I pretty much hate every dang second.

However, I do enjoy listening to music cranked up loud while I torture myself.

Here’s what is motivating each stupid step lately:

The Gossip

I heart Beth Ditto. A beautiful voice, a great sound… a little punky. Loves.

Brit Brit

An old favorite. I love manufactured music. I am not ashamed.

Written by Kesha. Performed by Britney. Makes me hate myself for loving to move to this song so much.

Foster the People

Added them to the mix today. Brad knows the bassist- more on that in the next few days- and I feel like I kind of love this song.

I may become obsessed with it.

We’ll see.

Wednesday, all the Clarke gals got together for lunch and dinner and the spa in between.

It was glorious for all of the right reasons.

1. The spa- Duh.

2. The food- NorthStar Cafe with a Chicken and Avocado Sandwich for lunch and Piada (basically, an Italian Chipotle) for dinner. I left stuffed, but not feeling gross. And can I add we had Orange Leaf yogurt for dessert? Good Stuff People.

Oh gosh. In searching for the links to the restaurants, I just discovered that there is an Orange Leaf less than 5 miles from my house. I. Am. In. Trouble. 

3. The company.

Sisters are great.

These gals are my absolute dearest friends in the whole world.

Want to know what I love most?

Well, everything.

But I love how much fun we have together.

I love that there is no jealousy or competition in our sisterhood- only support, pride, love.  I think that says my parents did something right.

So, I feel incredibly grateful for Jessica, Stephanie and Emily.

Then, my brother went and married the greatest girl ever. So, our sisterhood now also includes my sister-in-law, Jana.

Oh, and my mom came too. She is the original Clarke gal. It was so fun to have her with us for our day out. Plus, she watched Henry allowing me a few glorious hours of focused “me” time. God Bless her.

While spaaaaa-ing it up, I was coerced by two of my sisters into trying the shellac manicure. The shellac manicure gives your painted nails a little more stability, but it doesn’t ruin your nails like acrylic or gel nails do. And the shellac manicure lasts up to three weeks.

I think I love it. My nails look awesome (if I do say so myself). You leave the salon with totally dry nails that you don’t have to worry about smudging or chipping or messing up in any way. I have done dishes, changed diapers, and cleaned the bathroom… and have not had the tiniest of flaws appear in my manicure.

Miracle.

The shellac nails get my stamp of approval. My shellac manicure cost $30. Totally worth it, if ya ask me.

Polished nails, polished lady.

Wow. That picture makes my pinky finger look rather crooked.

I choose to love my crooky little pinky anyhow.

Finally, I have a new favorite salad.

It is as simple as can be. Summery and bright.

This salad comes from Ina Garten. That Ina. She knows how to make good food.

I was eating by myself (sniff, sniff), so this recipe is for uno.

Here is what you need:

Spicy Rocket aka Arugula

Some chopped up Watermelon

Parmesan Cheese

1/2 lemon

(Also a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper)

Pop the arugula, watermelon and parm in a bowl.

Give that salad a squeeze of lemon.

And a drizzle of olive oil.

Give it a sprinkle of salt with your fancy pants shellac nails.

Smile at how pretty they are.

Finish off the salad with black pepper.

I still haven’t figured out how to take a picture of me grinding pepper.

But I’m sure you can imagine it.

So, I won’t worry about it.

Much.

And that’s all I’ve got for ya today.

I’ll leave you with a pic of the Clarke gals after facials, massages and pampering… that is why we all look like shiny grease balls.

Have a great Friday!

XO,

Leah

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OK, peeps.

Hang with me here.

I’m about to blow your mind with this pizza.

Even if you are a non-adventurous meat-eatin’ man (I’m talkin’ to you Uncle Doug), I  guarantee you will like this pizza.

And if you don’t, then I’ll tell you that you’re crazy.

I drool over the gorgeous food pictures on FoodGawker nearly every day.

You’ll never see my food on there because I have no clue what I’m doing with a camera. Food and flavor are my focus. Not so much the pics.

But the FoodGawker food is absolutely irresistible, and I seriously want to try a handful of recipes every dang day.

So yesterday, I saw a picture of this pizza and I knew I had to try it.

It was fate because I had all of the ingredients on hand.

This recipe is courtesy of Chris over at The Café Sucré Farine.

It made my eyes pop wide open when I took the first bite.

Drool worthy.

So, this is a pizza that is topped with bacon, chicken, cheese, a balsamic/strawberry glaze, fresh strawberries and cilantro.

Sounds crazy, I know.

But. You. Will. Not. Regret. Making. This.

It has been a while since we have talked about my love affair with bacon. Do not fear.

My love has not waned.

I still love it more than ever.

However, I did try a new brand of Applewood Smoked Bacon from Whole Foods. This bacon is made from non-industrial farmed pigs. So, before these pigs gave their life for us (I know it’s morbid, but c’mon- it’s meat) they lived a happy life on a farm with room to roam. Then, they were killed humanely.

Again, I know that not everyone cares about the things I care about. And that is fine by me.

I’m just sharing my choices and experience.

So, don’t get all high on the hog (ha- get it? hog? bacon? har!) and whateverish with me.

Back to cooking.

Fry your bacon.

Then, drain off some of that fat on paper towels.

Then, eat approximately 4 pieces to make sure the flavor it acceptable.

Yes, it takes at least 4 slices before you can know for sure.

Now, lets make our glaze.

Get out some balsamic vinegar.

And add a quarter cup to a small sauce pan.

Boil that vinegar, then reduce the heat and simmer until the vinegar has reduced by half.

Reducing the vinegar causes some of the liquid to evaporate, and the liquid left in the pan gets a little thicker and syrupy. Yum.

Bust out some strawberry jam or preserves.

Or jelly.

I’m sure jelly would work fine.

Plop a 1/2 c. of the strawberry goodness into your balsamic reduction.

And now, a surprise ingredient.

Some Sriracha!

A little spicy spiciness.

If you don’t have Sriracha, I’m sure any hot sauce would suffice.

Add 1 teaspoon of the hotness to your sauce.

Stir it up until it is all combined.

Set that sauce aside until you need it again.

Now, lets cook some chicken.

If you are a good multi-tasker in the kitchen, you can cook the above sauce and your chicken at the same time.

To cook normal sized chicken breasts, place your pan over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the breasts fairly generously with salt and pepper.

Cook on each side for approximately 4 minutes.

So, back to my new commitment to responsible eating. If you have a Whole Foods near you, they have a mega pack of chicken breasts that are organic/free range/cold washed. If you buy the bulk package, the price is not that much more than the conventional chicken at other grocery stores.

Ok, lets get our pizza dough ready.

Preheat your oven to 450.

I made my own dough from the recipe on the back of the new Fleischmann’s Pizza Dough yeast packet.

Kroger used to carry these super thin pizza crusts, but they didn’t have them. Boo Kroger!

Trader Joes also carries an uncooked pizza dough for $1.29 that I really like. However, I wasn’t going to run out for one measly pizza dough.

So, I love this next idea. Again, I’m totally stealing this from Chris’s recipe.

She recommends using parchment paper to roll out your pizza dough.

Put down a little cornmeal.

And roll out your pizza dough.

The parchment makes the transfer to the pizza stone so dang easy. I can’t believe I have never done this before.

It made the whole process easier and cleaner.

Yay for parchment paper!

I like to season the dough a bit and cook it a bit before piling on the toppings.

I spread a little olive oil, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.

Place it on your pizza pan or stone and cook the crust for 4-5 minutes.

While that dough is par-cooking, chop either one large or 2 small chicken breasts.

Chop up 6 slices of bacon.

Chop up 1/4 of a large yellow onion.

Top your chicken with a tablespoon or 2 of the balsamic strawberry glaze.

And use your hands to mix the sauce into the chicken.

Pop a piece into your mouth.

Savor the goodness.

Practice restraint by not downing the chicken before it ever makes it onto the pizza.

Pull your dough out of the oven.

Spread the remaining glaze around the crust.

Spread a cup of shredded Italian cheese across the pizza.

I normally don’t like or use the pre-shredded stuff but I was aiming for ease!

Pile on your chicken, bacon, and onions.

Finish it off with another cup of the shredded cheese. Throw that bad boy into the oven until the cheese is all ooey-gooey-melty.

About 7-8 minutes.

It comes out looking like this.

I could have eaten it just like this.

It smelled so heavenly.

But I wanted the full delightful experience.

So, I sliced up some strawberries and threw them on top. DO NOT skip this step. I promise. It is so so freaking good.

Then, I chopped some green onion and tossed that on top.

The actual recipe calls for cilantro (not green onion), and I was quite sad to discover that I had no cilantro. It would have been perfection.

But the green onion was a perfectly delicious substitute.

I served the pizza with Ina Garten’s Lemon Fusilli with Arugula. So good!

For Ina’s recipe, I used half of the amount of cream and lemon and pasta. And I used double the amount of vegetables.

I’m not big on a super pasta-y pasta salad. Does that make any sense whatsoever?

Anyhow, it was a perfect meal on a perfect Ohio evening enjoyed on the patio.

We ate while Henry soaked in the fresh air in his bouncy seat.

The two ding dongs ran around arguing over the same stick.

A pretty perfect meal, and a pretty perfect evening.

Life is good,

Leah

P.S. Want to see the coolest, most darling gift I received yesterday? My friend, Jess, oozes creativity. And she made this for Henry’s room. I died. It is perfection, and it will be so perfect for his nursery. Thanks Jess!

Sorry, it is an iPhone pic- I’ll share a better pic when it makes it onto the wall.

Vacation Rental By Owner.

For six nights on the Big Island, we stayed at the loveliest place that I found on www.vrbo.com.

I highly recommend using this site if you are planning a trip any time soon.

For less than the price of a hotel room per night, we stayed in a 2 bedroom/2 1/2 bath brand new beachfront house.

It was amazeballs.

Seriously, I dare you to start looking at the site. They have homes for rent all over the world. I am currently obsessed with the houses in Tuscany.

I think I shall become Diane Lane and go live Under the Tuscan Sun.

We arrived into the Hilo airport around 7 pm on our second day in Hawaii.

That is 1 am Ohio time.

My dear auntys met us at the airport with the most beautiful leis.

You know, TV and movies make you feel like when you step off of your Delta flight in Hawaii some lovely Hula dancer in a grass skirt will be there to kiss you and adorn you with flowers.

I’ve got news for you… doesn’t happen.

Brad mentioned he was disappointed that he didn’t get leid when arriving in Hawaii.

But I knew the fam-a-lam wouldn’t let him down.

The auntys also bought us breakfast for the first morning.

The house we rented also provided fruit and juice.

Those unidentifiable objects on our breakfast platter were the MOST.DELICIOUS.PASTRIES.EVER. One was chocolate filled and the other one was passion fruit filled, and it changed my life. Forever.

We took our coffee and breakfast outside to eat, sip, and enjoy the sunrise.

After all, we were up at 5 am (11 am our time)!

Once the sun was hanging in the sky, we turned to go back into the house.

Isn’t it lovely?

I shall now take you on a tour.

From the front door, you walk into the great room. The shoji doors are all over the house. Please note the view. Wowzer.

Off of the main room was the kitchen with every amenity a girl could ask for.

Stove, oven, microwave, dishwasher, coffee pot, blender, cooler… you name it, the house had it.

Another view of the great room…

The hallway to the right led to our bedroom.

Great lanais (patios) with seating- and views!

This was our bedroom.

This bed was amazing.

I started researching feather tops for mattresses as soon as we got home.

I seriously don’t think I have ever slept better.

And the waves crashing against the cliffs in the background were the loveliest sleeping sound track ever.

Master bath off of the bedroom.

View from Brad’s soak in the tub.

Please note the Speedy Gonzales cocktail glass.

Class act, Brad. Class act.

View from the shower.

It was a private lot. So, you could shower with all of the doors open looking right out into the ocean.

Let me tell ya… you haven’t lived until you have showered with an ocean view.

Second bedroom.

Second bathroom.

Neither of these rooms got much use, but I’m sure they would have been lovely.

And, if we would have traveled with another couple, it would have made staying in this house even more stinking affordable.

This next picture is seriously one of my favorite parts of the house.

The laundry room.

With detergent and dryer sheets provided.

It was awesome to leave the Big Island with all of our clothes clean!

I’m a laundry nerd, and I’m ok with it.

Clean clothes brought me more joy than they should have.

The best part of the house was the size of it.

If we would have stayed in a hotel room, we would not have been able to have the entire family gather with us to hang out and eat. The house provided that space and a grill for Steve to cook us the most amazing dinner.

Oh, and as a bonus…

Let me show you the happy hour show that occurred.

We’d grab a drink after a long day of sightseeing and head to the cliffs to watch the waves crash.

And these little buddies would be swimming all over the place and feeding on the algae near the cliffs.

They were ginormous!

I have a new found obsession with honu (sea turtles).

One final note on VRBO:

The site carefully screens the homes and the owners so that you don’t get bamboozled out of money. There are protections built in when renting from them.

So, check out the site, and then plan a fabulous trip.

You won’t regret it.

Happy Hump Day,
Leah

I do believe Waipio Valley was my favorite site to see and place to visit during our trip.

It is a slice of solitude and heaven and waves and black sand and gloriousness.

Waipio Valley is on the Big Island. The area has quite a history (according to our tour book). Wapio was once known as the most fertile land in all of Hawaii, and in the 1700s the area boasted somewhere between 4,000-10,000 residents. It was at that time referred to as the Valley of the Kings because many of the Hawaiian royals lived there. That all changed in 1946 when a tsunami tragically wiped out the entire area.

Around 1970, however, small amounts of people started moving back into the valley- mainly vets and hippies looking for the opportunity to essentially live off of the grid and away from society. Soon, some farmers followed to live in near seclusion and farm taro in the valley.

How do these farmers manage to maintain their seclusion?

I’ll show ya.

See that beach down there? That is where we were headed. It was a treacherous drive that requires 4-Wheel drive (seriously there is a guy at the top of the hill that will not let you proceed without 4WD), and the road grade is at 25%. It is only a mile long road, but it takes over 30 minutes to make it down.

Once down there, there is no electricity, cell service, TV reception, etc.

Also, the state police pretty much leave the area alone. There are stories of houses being torched as a part of the locals being responsible for the law and justice down in the valley.

So yeah, not many people are looking to travel down there. And fewer still are hankering to move to the valley.

While I won’t plan on packing up to live with the folks in the valley, I am so so glad we risked our lives to drive down.

Side note: on the way down, there are several mangled car bodies that fell off of the crazy steep road. It is too treacherous to retrieve the cars so they leave them. They do retrieve the bodies.

For a Nervous Nelly like me, you can imagine that the drive down and up was not super enjoyable! I’m sure glad to have done it though.

When we arrived at the top entrance to drive down to the valley, we took in the view. And I only wish that I could take pictures that would do the sight even the smallest amount of justice.

We were extremely grateful for our personal tour guides!

Side note: It was exceptionally fun to see the sights with a nearly 14 year old young man. Everything looks a little different through his eyes. We stand on the hill overlooking Waipio Valley taking pictures admiring the sheer magnitude and beauty, and Pono does this…

Boys are great.

So, after a few obligatory somersaults and pictures at the top, we started our trip down.

Again, I would like to state  my thanks to the Lord for the 4-Wheel drive vehicle. This type of trip is what those SUVs are actually made for.

Those going down must yield to those coming up. And this road is not wide. Yikes.

Once at the bottom, we went on the bumpiest drive ever through the farmers’ land.

It looked like heaven meets Jurassic Park meets Lost meets Blue Lagoon.

One of the nicer homes in the valley.

Again, check out the terrain- the water was a little more than a foot deep here.

Crossing the stream, this is what we saw to the left and the right.

Wow.

Most of the houses looked like this guy. A little more weathered and lived in.

When we arrived to the secluded black sand beach, this wild horse was there to meet us.

He was the friendliest beauty. He came to say hello, share in a bit of our picnic, and pose for a photo opp.

While we picnicked and frolicked in the waves, our wild buddy crossed the stream.

I mean, seriously.

Who sees this in real life?

I don’t really know what else to say about this place.

If you want to feel unplugged from the world, Waipio is the place to go.

If you want to feel small, go to Waipio.

If you want to feel how big God is, I suggest you stop by Waipio.

If you want to marvel in the simple things, here’s an idea… visit Waipio.

I’ll let you just see the rest of our time in Waipio Valley.

It was a perfect, perfect, perfect day.

Have a good one my friends!

XO,
Leah

Brad’s cousin posted a link to the most amazing pictures on his blog.

It is a collection of color photographs from the years 1939-1943.

Check out these ladies backstage at the “girlie” show at a fair in Virginia in 1941.

Aren’t they fancy?

Brad says that the color photos somehow make this time in history feel more personal, and I think he is right.

I love this next one.

These women are on a lunch break from their job as wipers at the roundhouse. From what I gather from the rest of the photos, these women spent their days wiping down and washing locomotives.

Finally, this one. These kiddos are dog tired and tuckered out during a square dance in Oklahoma.

These kids are probably now in their mid 70s now. Crazy, right?

Check out the whole collection here. Fascinating. So cool.

Talk to you soon,

Leah

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