Letters to Santa

Last week was crazy town and made me realize that I need to be more intentional about what I say “yes” to, especially during the holidays. I was gone literally every night except one- all FUN things, but I missed having down time, and Brian and I barely saw each other. I was basically just handing off the kids as soon as he walked in the door, and then he was usually asleep by the time I got home.  Sometimes it feels like we spend all of this time decorating the house for Christmas and then we’re never even home to enjoy it. SO… this week we sat down and decided what was important and what we could skip. We’ve had zero evening commitments this week which has been fabulous! It leaves more time for impromptu fun evenings like tonight…

Someone posted on Facebook about a house in Highland Park that had a “Letters for Santa” mailbox out front. If you leave a note for Santa (along with your return address), Santa will send a letter back to your kids! So this afternoon I made the kids get their homework done early and then helped them each compose their letter. Once Brian got home we told them to get in the car but didn’t give any clue to where we were headed.

First stop was their fave restaurant, Pie Five, for pizza.

Then we drove around looking at lights for a while. This was the first year that they both seemed really into it. In past years they’ve gotten bored fast, but this year they were both pointing out different houses and saying what they liked. My requisite Christmas light stop is Highland Park Village, which is a hot freaking mess right now. They’re doing a bunch of construction so it’s a huge pain to get through. But we checked out the trees and grabbed coffee (and a brownie for Jack/whoopie pie for Isla) at Royal Blue Grocery.

Next we headed over to Santa’s mailbox (if you’re in Dallas, it’s at the corner of Beverly and Byron). The kids were super excited to “mail” their letters, and they have no idea that they should expect one back.

So fun!

Have a great weekend!

Posted in December 2017 | Leave a comment

Soup Night

Y’all, I saw a sign at our ballet studio today that said “13 days ’til Christmas” and it kind of gave me a panic attack. LESS THAN TWO WEEKS?? And the kids have just over a week of school left… so. much. to. do.

Tuesdays are our crazy days but I managed to get dinner in the crock pot this morning. I made my favorite Skinnytaste turkey taco soup.

Instead of cooking it on the stove (which is actually pretty quick), I browned the turkey with the onions and peppers, dumped those in the crock pot, then added all of the other ingredients. Cooked on low for about 6 hours. Topped with Greek yogurt and cheese:

Off to address Christmas cards!

Posted in December 2017 | 2 Comments

Weekend Recap

We had such a fun weekend! Jack’s birthday party was on Saturday afternoon at local indoor sports training facility. It started out a little rocky- the place was just really disorganized and understaffed, and I honestly thought the boys were going to start an all-out Nerf war in the lobby- but once the party got going it was so much fun! It’s just a big indoor field and they’ll let you pretty much do whatever. Jack chose an obstacle course, indoor soccer and a Nerf battle. Boy heaven. They literally ran for an hour and a half straight.

Jack only stood still when it was time for pizza and cake. How is this boy 8?? He just gets sweeter every year and I can’t get enough of him!

SO CUTE.

On Sunday Isla and I went to see the Nutcracker with her bestie Molly. It was put on by Isla’s ballet studio and she loved getting to see friends and classmates onstage. They can audition in first grade and she’s already told me she wants to do it next year. She and Molly met Clara during intermission and were starstruck:

These Christmas activities just get more fun every year! We have a few more coming up this weekend and I can’t wait.

Last week was craaaaazy and I really didn’t cook at all. This week is a lot less busy, thank goodness. I actually sat down and made a meal plan today for the first time in who knows how long. For dinner tonight I baked some bacon-wrapped turkey filets from Aldi. I broiled them at the end to crisp up the bacon and basically just overcooked the hell out of the turkey (sorry Bri). But the veggies were really good!! I ended up roasting green beans and mushrooms (tossed in olive oil and balsamic first) and sprinkled them with parmesan. They were SO GOOD. We get in such a roasted broccoli or brussels sprout rut, but this is just as easy… and doesn’t make the house smell terrible for days. So that’s a nice bonus. I loosely followed this recipe but added more balsamic and cooked the beans for longer.

Catch y’all tomorrow!

Posted in December 2017 | Leave a comment

Cauliflower Stuffing!

We were up early to cheer Jack on as he gave the reading at the all-school mass this morning. I am so, so proud of him. He could barely see over the pulpit (and it was a long, tough reading) but he did GREAT.

Tonight is literally the only night this week that I don’t have something on the calendar soooo I felt like I should probably actually cook for a change. We get home late from ballet on Tuesdays, so I still needed a quick dinner option. I ended up making these spicy honey-brushed chicken thighs. The chicken cooks under the broiler and is done in about 15 minutes! And I had all of the ingredients on hand- just a bunch of spices, honey and apple cider vinegar. I left out the crushed red pepper to make it more kid-friendly.

On the side I made roasted brussels sprouts with Everything But The Bagel seasoning (obsessed), and finally tried this new cauliflower stuffing from Trader Joe’s:

The stuffing is actually really good! Loved the cranberries. Plain cauliflower rice can be so depressing… I’m all for flavored versions. Keep ‘em coming, TJ’s!

That’s all I’ve got- catch y’all tomorrow!

Posted in December 2017 | Leave a comment

Weekend o’ Birthdays

Well we’ve hit the ground running in December! It was a crazy weekend. Friday was Jack’s 8th birthday!! We planned on heading to my parents’ on Friday night for a birthday dinner, but then my dad was admitted to the hospital with fever and shortness of breath on Friday afternoon. Thankfully he was treated quickly and was released today, and he seems to be doing much better. Jack was bummed to miss out on Gia and Baba’s, but we came up with a quick plan B and took him to Mariano’s instead. Zach, Laura, Owen and Stevie met us too so he was excited to get some cousin time (and to wear the giant birthday sombrero… #lice)

We got Jack an Instax for his birthday and he’s OBSESSED. One of his gifts was the giant 80 pack of film from the Costco, and he blew through that in no time. We took the kids to run errands on Knox on Saturday and he was taking photos of every dog he saw. He also kept snapping pics of employees in stores and then giving them their photos. It was actually pretty sweet.

We grabbed lunch at the Highland Park Pharmacy. Jack explained his camera to the sweet owner and then took his portrait so he could give a copy to his grandson.

On Saturday night Isla had her first sleepover! She spent the night at her bestie Molly’s house. It was pretty hilarious- as soon as we got there she pulled Molly’s mom aside and let her know that, “At sleepovers, you sneak out to the kitchen in the middle of the night for snacks.” Apparently we can thank Peppa Pig for that one. But Molly’s mom left little PB&J sandwiches out on the counter for them so Isla was thrilled. She’s still talking about how much fun she had!

On Sunday we had a family get-together at my cousin’s house, then Isla’s end of season soccer party, and finally I went to a friend’s annual ornament exchange last night. Somewhere in there we decorated the Christmas tree, too. Saturday was my mom’s birthday so we did a belated family birthday dinner tonight. Jack is doing a (LONG!) reading at mass tomorrow so we’ll all be up and at ‘em for that.

Busy busy!

Posted in December 2017 | Leave a comment

Taco Wednesday

I had big plans for Taco Tuesday yesterday, but we ended up getting home from ballet late (almost 6:00) and I still needed a few ingredients from the store… SO Taco Wednesday instead. And tomorrow will be Leftover Thursday, which really needs a better name.

(Also, have I mentioned that Jack turns EIGHT on Friday? How is that possible??)

I didn’t do anything crazy, just browned some ground turkey with a diced onion, then added a can of drained/rinsed black beans and a pouch of Frontera taco sauce.

Served in crunchy shells with lettuce, diced tomatoes, avocado, salsa and Greek yogurt. It’s all about the toppings. PS- that pineapple salsa is from Aldi and it’s actually pretty darn good.

I’ve read rave reviews of the chimichurri rice from Trader Joe’s but had yet to try it. I finally remembered to pick up a bag the other day, so tonight we had that alongside the tacos. I just heated up a little olive oil in a skillet, then dumped in the (frozen) rice and cooked for about 5 minutes.

Not bad! It had a lot of flavor and was surprisingly spicy. I think too spicy for my kids. But this would be great alongside grilled chicken or steak!

Somehow it’s already after 10pm- not sure how that happened??

Posted in November 2017 | Leave a comment

Braised Beans and Greens

It’s been a hot minute since I’ve cooked anything, but I think I made up for it today. This morning I volunteered to help Isla’s class at our school book fair, and after that I hit up TWO grocery stores. The struggle… why can’t one store carry everything?? Target only sells boneless, skinless chicken (who knew?) so I had to make a Central Market stop for some bone-in, skin-on thighs. And sushi for lunch. #treatyourself

The past couple of weeks it’s been nonstop “eat all the things.” And by “things” I don’t mean vegetables… more like M&M’s and wine and Mexican food. So I spent the afternoon prepping a few healthy-ish meal options- a batch of my favorite pickled cabbage salad and a big pot of turkey-vegetable soup. I love just winging the soup and throwing in whatever veggies we have on hand. This time it was onions, peppers, mushrooms, carrots, celery, diced tomatoes and green beans. I brown the turkey in the Instant Pot, dump in all of the veggies (I do saute them for a few minutes), add chicken broth and spices and hit the “soup” button. Easy.

For dinner tonight I made this quick-braised chicken, greens and beans from The Kitchn. Ok, so it’s not actually that quick. The whole thing took me about an hour, which is way longer than I usually spend on dinner during the week. But it was really good and would be a perfect cold night meal. Plus there are leftovers!

Ingredients (I only used half of that kale):

I followed the recipe exactly, except that I deglazed the pan with white wine after browning the chicken thighs (before adding the onions and garlic). I also halved the amount of red pepper flakes to make it more kid-friendly. That ended up not being an issue- it took so long to cook that I ended up feeding the kids something else before it was ready. Oh and I added more beans because I love them.

Topped with grated parmesan and lemon juice, and served with crusty sourdough:

Catch y’all tomorrow!

Posted in November 2017 | Leave a comment

Thanksgiving 2017

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! We drove back from South Carolina yesterday (Saturday). It was a looooong 16+ hour drive, but the kids- & Chloe- did GREAT. They’re pretty amazing.

We had a great time in South Carolina. It was nice to see some fall colors and actually wear a sweater. I had to turn our AC on at home today. Sigh. But the kids had a blast hanging out with their cousins, grandparents, aunts, uncles and even their great-grandmother (she flew in from Albany). We did a lot of relaxing, explored downtown Greenville, went to see The Star, fed the geese at the pond in Brian’s parents’ neighborhood, and went on a mini-hike.

On the way- as we entered state #4 of 6:

Getting ready to feed the geese…

We stumbled upon a rock store downtown and Jack was in HEAVEN. They even got to pan for gemstones:

Also the day before we left, my in-law’s did a vow renewal ceremony. It was very sweet and Brian did a great job officiating:

We got home around 8 last night and spent all day today decorating the house for Christmas. Not the most relaxing return but it’s SO nice to have that done! We have a super busy couple of weeks coming up- including Jack’s birthday on Friday- so it felt like now or never. And now I just need to get Christmas cards ordered…

Catch y’all tomorrow!

Posted in November 2017 | Leave a comment

Thanksgiving Festivities

How is it almost Friday?? I can’t believe after tomorrow the kids have a WEEK off. Also does anyone else remember getting maybe a half day Wednesday, and Thursday/Friday off for Thanksgiving? None of this entire week business. Seriously. These kids have it good.

As I mentioned earlier, Isla was the Star of the Week in her kindergarten class. Today she got to bring someone for show and tell, and of course she chose Jack. He brought in a book to read to the class and then had a little question & answer session. It was SO STINKING CUTE. He was really nervous (he accidentally introduced himself to the class as “Isla’s little sister”- basically the best ice breaker because they all thought it was the funniest thing ever). But he did great and even came up with a knock-knock joke on the fly. I accidentally left my phone at home so I couldn’t get a photo of him up there reading, but it was awesome.

I have Isla’s Thanksgiving feast tomorrow (she signed up for apple slices, attagirl). Yesterday was Jack’s 2nd grade Thanksgiving program. The highlight was definitely the identical twins dressed as turkeys… doing the tango onstage. I can’t make this stuff up, it was GOLD. Jack was an Indian and nailed his speaking part.

So proud of him!

We leave this weekend for South Carolina and I’m not sure if or when I’ll be able to post while we’re there. So if I don’t post beforehand, Happy Thanksgiving!!

Posted in November 2017 | Leave a comment

Winner Dinner

I had another chill/productive day at home. All beds are made, all laundry is done (folded, NOT put away… don’t get crazy), and I sent out some emails that I’d been putting off. My neck is finally starting to feel better too, knock on wood. It’s definitely not in my nature to stay home all day but it does feel great to catch up on stuff here. Still haven’t tackled the toy situation though…

Dinner tonight was a keeper!! Someone posted this recipe for Italian mac and cheese on a meal planning Facebook page and said that it was a hit with their family. It sounded easy and right up Jack’s alley- pasta, italian sausage, cheese and sauce.

Ingredients:

I altered it a little by using an entire 14.5 oz box of pasta (Barilla ProteinPlus, my fave for the kids) instead of 10 oz. To compensate I upped the marinara sauce to 3 cups, added a 1/2 cup more mozzarella (so 1.5 cups total) and a splash more half and half. Oh and as usual I used turkey Italian sausage instead of pork.

It was SO GOOD. I mean, not the healthiest recipe, but it does have a decent amount of veggies… and I tried to make it a *little* better by using 2% cheese, along with the turkey sausage and high protein/high fiber pasta. Next time I might add mushrooms and maybe some diced carrots and celery.

Also it makes a ton. We have so much left over… Jack may be getting this for lunch tomorrow. And dinner on Thursday.

Posted in November 2017 | Leave a comment