I recently just got back from vacation in Oregon and it was really great to see my family and Charlie my dog.  When I moved to Chicago I decided to leave him in Oregon, which was a really hard decision for me to make.  He is a farm dog though, and I knew he would be miserable going from a big house and big yard, to a tiny apartment and being indoors all day. So he stays with my parents in Oregon and I know it’s the right decision because he is so happy.  And has become a bit of a grandma’s boy.  Look at that blanket baby.

While I was home I took him for a few country drives and you can just look at the picture below and see that he is one happy dog.  Who wouldn’t be happy with a daily view like that?

Serenity my friends.

While I was home I also went wedding dress shopping…with my dad! My poor mother was recovering from knee replacement surgery and regrettably couldn’t go with us.  I was so surprised that my dad was as good of a sport as he was.  He helped me in and out of wedding gowns, and made very thoughtful and insightful comments as to what looked good (and what didn’t).  I found not only one gown, but 2!  My parents got me my dream dresses and I couldn’t be happier, or more thankful.  I got to see friends, my lovely nieces, eat at my favorite hometown restaurant, Kwong’s cafe, and my grandmother gave me a very special keepsake.  She gave me a pearl ring that my grandfather had given her.  It will be my “something old” on my wedding day.  My dad also made me his french toast, which I love.  It was a yummy brunch.

I also love granola for breakfast.  It’s one of those things that is super easy (and much cheaper) to make than buy in the store.  Not to mention it just tastes a whole lot better.  The store bought granola is often too hard.  Like teeth-shatteringly-crunchy.  We all know I love crunch, but I’d also love to not be in pain after eating breakfast or a snack.

I’ve made lots of variations to my general granola recipe.  Sometimes adding dried fruit, different types of nuts and seeds, or peanut butter and white chocolate.  All combos are good in my opinion.  Granola is delicious on top of fruit, ice cream or yogurt, mixed in a parfait, cut into bars for an easy snack on the go, or just by the handful.

Chocolate Mocha Granola

2 cups old-fashioned oats

1 cup coconut

1 cup slivered almonds

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil

1/4 cup honey

1 Tbs instant espresso/coffee powder

2 Tbs cocoa powder

2 tsp vanilla

1/4 tsp salt

Mix oats, coconut, almonds and brown sugar in a bowl and set aside.  In a smaller bowl combine oil, honey, coffee powder, cocoa, vanilla and salt.  Mix well then pour over oat mixture.  Stir everything to combine and coat all of the oats and nuts with the chocolate mixture.

Spread evenly onto a cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.  Stir every 5 minutes.  Your house should smell amazing at this point.  After 15 or so minutes, take the granola out of the oven and allow to cool before storing in an air tight container.

I think I’ll have breakfast for dinner tonight.

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