Book Club and Brownies

***SO I definitely thought I posted this yesterday (Wednesday) but I apparently I never hit publish??? Anyway, here it is, a day late…***

Tonight is BOOK CLUB NIGHT! I’m super excited, considering that I missed last month (we were still in Michigan *sigh*), and I could really use a fun night out right now. Summer is wearing me down! I feel like all I do is referee sibling fights and prepare/clean up meals. Don’t even get me started on getting them to actually EAT the meals.

Here’s us at dinner last night. Isla is both refusing to eat her dinner and getting ready to kick Jack. #blessed

(Side note: if you’re local, Luna Grill on Walnut Hill has free kids meals on Tuesdays! Try the garlic sauce!)

This month we read Next Year in Havana, which was a perfect summer book- travel, love, suspense, history. All the things! I’m bringing a bottle of vinho verde (because it’s a million degrees out) and a batch of The Best Brownies in the World. I posted about these a while back. A friend passed along the recipe a couple of years ago, and I’ve probably made them 20 times since.

It’s a one bowl recipe- you melt butter and unsweetened chocolate on the stove, remove from heat, then stir in sugar, vanilla, eggs, flour, salt and chocolate chips. Pour into a parchment-lined pan and bake. The key is to use the best ingredients you can find- since there are so few, it makes a big difference. I use Guittard unsweetened chocolate, Nielsen-Massey vanilla bean paste (1 tsp) and Ghirardelli chocolate chips.

The best!

Posted in August 2018 | Leave a comment

Ranch Weekend

Last week before school starts!! I’m trying to make this week as fun as possible for the kids… though we still need to finish birthday thank you notes (Isla) and a summer reading project (Jack). Today I took them to see Hotel Transylvania 3, which honestly wasn’t terrible! Love it when that happens.

We had such a fun weekend! Isla’s bestie, Molly, and her family invited us down to their ranch near Glen Rose. It was my first time to that area and it was beautiful!

We packed a lot of good stuff into the weekend- took the kids swimming, went on a little hike, saw a movie at the Brazos drive-in, did some shopping, played on the slip and slide, pet the horses (Jack was OBSESSED), ate BBQ, played board games, and ate lots of great food. Also my car died at the drive-in, so all 8 of us had to pile into one car on the way home, and Brian and Scott had to go save the day/replace my battery on Saturday (thanks guys!).

LOTS of pics…

They spent pretty much the whole weekend like this. Jack loves him some Abby and just toted her around like a little koala:

Isla and Molly, less than impressed by the dinosaur tracks:

Horses! Jack was in love, Isla wasn’t so sure.

One of many performances by these two.

Little besties:

Don’t mess with this gang…

I think the kids would have just moved in- they had a blast. Such a great way to end the summer!

Posted in August 2018 | Leave a comment

Lemonade Stands and Lettuce Wraps

Busy week! Yesterday Isla and a few of the other first grade girls put on a lemonade stand. It was perfect because my kids have been begging to do a lemonade stand for basically years, but 1. our street barely has any traffic, and 2. I know that I’d work really hard to get the whole thing set up, and the kids would be over it in 5 minutes. Anyway, it went great! We had lots of customers, including 2 police officers and one of their kindergarten teachers, and they made close to $90- which they are planning to donate to the church on our first day of school. So cute!

Tonight we headed to the pool to meet up with some of the first and third grade families. The kids were SO excited to see their friends. I’m glad we still have a week+ of summer left, but I think they’re pumped to get back to their buddies (I’M not ready for the early wake-up though!!).

Last time I was at Costco they had these 3-packs of butter lettuce heads for a great price. I realized I hadn’t made the Damn Delicious chicken lettuce wraps in forever, so into the cart they went! It’s a super fast recipe- you brown ground chicken and add onion, diced water chestnuts, green onions and a sauce of hoisin sauce, soy sauce, rice vinegar and sriracha. The whole thing is ready in like 15 minutes.

Served with steamed jasmine rice and these cute little cherry-plum hybrids from Trader Joe’s (Sprouts had them too). I’m addicted- they are so good.

I’m trying to catch up on Orange Is The New Black- I know the new season came out but I’m still on episode 10 of season 5. These kids need to go back to school so I get my TV back!

Posted in August 2018 | Leave a comment

Art Class

Y’all, school starts TWO WEEKS from tomorrow. How is that possible?? Summer has flown by. I do think we’re all excited for school to start though (did I mention how the kids dumped an entire 32 oz water bottle between my car seats today?). I will miss them but it’s time

I was slow moving today. Brian and I stayed up until 1am cleaning out our huge but junked out front hall closet. It looks sooooo much better. Brian says he gives it 3 months before it’s destroyed again… but at least it looks good for now!

Anyway, I was so glad I remembered to go to Target last night to pick up the ingredients for tonight’s dinner. It’s a crock pot recipe that cooks for 8-10 hours (on high!) and there was no way I was dragging all of us to the store this AM. I’ve made this Andrea’s Pulled Pork recipe several times before. It’s super easy and makes a TON. You just throw a pork butt in the crock pot with a sliced onion (I quartered mine), pour 3 cups of Dr. Pepper on top, and cook on high for 8-10 hours. Then you remove the pork from the crock pot, drain the liquid and onions, add the meat back to the pot and shred with 2 forks. Mix with your favorite BBQ sauce and that’s it!

I usually use Stubb’s, but tonight I used half Stubb’s/half this mustard BBQ sauce that I found at Aldi:

I picked up some purple hull peas at a farm stand a couple of weeks ago, so I threw those in the Instant Pot (probably 2 cups of peas) with a smoked turkey leg (instead of a ham hock- Central Market sells them), 32 oz chicken broth, seasoned salt and pepper. Cooked on manual for 20 minutes and then let the pressure naturally release.

Also salad and Hawaiian rolls. I made Jack little sliders with the rolls and he LOVED them.

Oh and before I forget, if any of you are looking for ways to entertain your kids: check out the Art for Kids Hub channel on YouTube. It’s all of these cute little drawing tutorials. I kid you not, Isla spent 2.5 HOURS watching and drawing on Friday. By the end she had a giant stack of artwork, and she’s been begging to watch it again ever since.

Love that.

Catch y’all tomorrow!

Posted in July 2018 | Leave a comment

Getting Out Of Dodge

On Friday I packed up the kids and headed to the lake because it’s literally just too hot to function right now. This was my car when we left Costco last week:

It’s not like it’s cooler at the lake, but at least there’s a pool… and it’s a change of scenery from being cooped up in this house all week. Also I looked at the calendar and realized it would really be our last weekend to go before SCHOOL STARTS. How is that possible??

Brian came down there on Friday after work, and my parents got there Saturday afternoon. We planned on heading back Sunday evening, but the kids and I ended up staying until late this (Monday) afternoon. It was so nice! Just lots of swimming, eating and hanging out.

Speaking of eating- this was our super easy Friday night dinner. We went a little crazy at Trader Joe’s on Thursday: rosemary ham, honey goat cheese, unexpected cheddar (fave!), turkey summer sausage, cornichons, dried cherries (from Michigan), pickled brussels sprouts (also from MI), fresh cherries, truffle Italian cheese, some type of soft blue cheese that almost tasted like brie, candied pecans, grapes, pistachios, grainy mustard, crisp bread, crackers and baguette. And rose, obviously.

Can you say perfect summer dinner?? The kids had pizza (though Isla kept snagging pickles and bread), and we barely made a dent in this… so I’m predicting a repeat at some point this week. And I’m not mad about it.

By the time we got home from the lake, it was after 5:00- so once Brian got home from work we grabbed dinner at an Italian restaurant near our house. The place was basically empty so the kids decided to sit by themselves.

How cute are they? Three things: 1. we spent most of our meal eavesdropping on their conversation, 2. they act a million times better at a restaurant when we’re not sitting with them, and 3. Jack actually got Isla to try lasagna! And she LOVED it! So in conclusion we’re never eating together at a restaurant again.

Hope everyone had a great weekend!

Posted in July 2018 | 2 Comments

Nintendo and Sushi

I feel like this summer we’ve done a lot more hanging out at home than in past years. When the kids were little it just seemed easier to get them out of the house, so we were always heading to an “activity”- open gym at the rec center, story time, parks, play dates, etc. But now that they’re so much better at occupying themselves, it’s nice not to be on the go all the time.

(That said, I do get the “What fun thing are we doing today?” question EVERY. DANG. DAY.)

Anyway, we’ve been hunkered down at home pretty much since we got home from vacation- until today, which felt super busy. This morning Jack had his 8 year check-up (only 7+ months late!), then this afternoon we met friends at the skating rink. On the way home my car said that it was 106 degrees out. Honestly when it’s that hot, even with the AC running full blast we’re all a big sweaty mess. The car just won’t cool off. So we came home, collapsed on the couch for a hot minute, then met my friend Joy and her sweet baby Sam for dinner. Busy, fun day!

Oh, last night was exciting! Yesterday morning I got a text from Amazon saying that they had classic Nintendo systems on the Treasure Truck. By the time I got in touch with Brian to see if he wanted one, they were sold out. Womp womp. But then at around 5:30pm I randomly checked again and there was one available! So we headed to Whole Foods to pick it up at the Treasure Truck:

Not going to lie, I’m pretty excited about some old school Nintendo.

After that we ended up grabbing dinner at Sushi Fork, a new spot off of Greenville on SMU Blvd. The schtick is you build-your-own sushi rolls, and they have these giant chopstick/fork hybrids. I was excited to try it because 1. they have a kids menu (with corn dogs for Isla), and 2. it’s reasonably priced sushi.

I was boring and ended up with a cali roll, salmon avocado roll and miso soup. Brian was more adventurous and made his own roll with tuna, avocado, mushroom… and a crushed Funyun topping. Love those cute plates with built in spots for soy sauce/wasabi and ginger.

Not bad! They also have sushi burritos on the menu, if you’re into those. Excited to have a new dinner option that everyone seemed to like!

Posted in July 2018 | Leave a comment

Quiche, Round 2

We’re back! The kids and I actually got back to Dallas late Thursday night. I’m not going to lie, it’s kind of a drag and I’m ready to go right back to Michigan. I have about 45 loads of laundry to do, Brian’s working non-stop, it’s a billion degrees here… and the cherry on top? Poor old Chloe has a bladder infection, so I’m mopping up accidents 24/7 until the antibiotics kick in (48 hours, fingers crossed!).

Vacation was SO GREAT! I took a million pics and will get a post up ASAP! Unfortunately it’s already 10pm so that’s not happening tonight.

I did manage to make dinner tonight, so that’s something. A few weeks ago I made the three cheese quiche from the Magnolia Table cookbook, and we had a bunch of random cheese left over (and an extra pie crust in the freezer). So! I made it again.

Is quiche for dinner weird? Sometimes meat just doesn’t sound awesome in the summer (did I mention the forecast says 104-105 all week? ) and this just comes together so easily. This plus a salad = perfect summer dinner. I really need to try more recipes out of that cookbook!

I’ll get on that vacation post. Catch y’all tomorrow!

Posted in July 2018 | 1 Comment

Lots of Firsts

It’s been a busy couple of days! Last night Jack had his first sleepover and he was SO EXCITED. Jack is normally so chill and laid-back, so it’s really cute to see him get worked up and excited. They had a blast- played video games, jumped on the trampoline, traded Pokemon cards, had a Nerf battle, typical boy stuff. This is such a fun age!

I’ve been wanting to check out Daiso for a while- it’s a Japanese dollar store located about 20 minutes from us. Most items in the store cost $1.50, though I saw a few things around $5. I was hunting for some travel items (toiletry bottles, toys for the plane, etc.) so the kids and I headed out there this morning.

The kids LOVED it. Isla brought some birthday money and walked out with a bunch of random treasures: a toy bow and arrow, an hourglass, sunglasses, candy and a cat greeting card for her “boyfriend” JP. Jack ended up with a fidget spinner (ugh) and candy. I grabbed a couple of toothbrushes for the kids and this haul:

I totally get sucked in by all the tiny cuteness. Like those kids’ chopsticks?? That panda is a travel pill container, then there’s a bottle of makeup brush cleaner (I usually use baby shampoo, but it was only $1.50 so what the heck), blotting papers, cute little terry headband with a bow, unicorn pencil case/makeup bag (WHY???), and cooling headache patches that I’m actually pretty excited to try.

Anyway, fun little field trip. They have the cutest stationery and office supplies, and lots of neat kitchen gadgets, too.

Also very exciting: we grabbed lunch at Five Guys after and Isla tried her first cheeseburger!!

This was completely her idea. I fully expected to order her a hot dog (which she also likely wouldn’t eat) but she asked for a cheeseburger with pickles. If you’ve read this for a while you know what an extremely picky eater she is. She only ate maybe 1/4 of the burger but said she liked it- so I call it a win!

I spent most of the afternoon packing for our Michigan trip, then at 6:00 realized that I probably needed to feed everybody. Luckily we had pasta in the pantry and leftover bacon meatballs in the freezer! I’m at that pre-vacation stage where I’m trying to clean everything out. The kids had their spaghetti with Trader Joe’s garlic naan, brussels sprouts (for Jack) and watermelon (for Isla). I just had mine topped with fresh basil- it’s really struggling in our garden right now- and parmesan:

Thank goodness for leftovers. It’s too hot to cook!

Posted in June 2018 | Leave a comment

Bye Kids!

Brian and I took a little kid-free trip this weekend, which was much needed and SO FUN. The kids stayed with my parents from Friday night through Sunday evening. Brian worked late on Friday so I did a little shopping and packed, then we hit the road Saturday morning.

We stayed in New Braunfels but made a few pit stops along the way: Buc-ee’s (obviously), then Vitek’s Market in Waco for lunch. We briefly considered attempting to eat at Magnolia Table, then saw the line wrapped around the building. Vitek’s was great! I think they were featured on a Fixer Upper episode at some point. Their specialty in the gut pack: fritos topped with bbq beans, cheese, onions, chopped brisket, pickles and jalapenos. Brian and I split the half size:

Not so pretty, but tasted great!

We also stopped at the San Marcos outlet mall and wandered around for a while. The Pottery Barn/Williams-Sonoma outlet was impressive but other than that we were kind of underwhelmed. After that we checked into our hotel, changed and headed to Gruene for dinner.

We ended up having dinner at the Gruene Door, which is FABULOUS- but not walking distance from Gruene Hall. Don’t make the same mistake we did and walk a mile down the side of the highway when it’s 95 degrees out. Anyway the restaurant was amazing and so reasonable. I had the salmon with brown sugar glaze, polenta and flash-fried spinach.

THE SPINACH. Omg. It was kind of like a kale chip but a million times better. The salmon was fantastic, too. Brian ordered the smoked duck breast and said it was one of the best he’s ever had. Such a good meal.

After dinner we Ubered (thank god) back to Gruene Hall for the Old 97′s concert. I don’t even know how many of their shows we’ve seen- not to mention getting engaged at one at the 9:30 Club in DC- but they never disappoint. Gruene Hall is such a cool venue (Texas’ oldest dance hall!) and I was so excited when Brian surprised me with the tickets on Mother’s Day.

Also exciting- we got to see Joy and Chip! They drove up for the concert from San Antonio.

At a bar afterwards, pretending that we’re cool and not pushing 40.

Such a fun weekend! Saturday was a late night and I think I’m still recovering… 36 and I can’t hang anymore. We stopped at Guero’s Taco Bar for lunch on the way home. I had to order these La Guera tacos when I saw that they were topped with pickled cabbage. The chicken is marinated in orange juice and achiote- so good.

Sad that our trip is over BUT we leave for Michigan on Friday! Lots to do to get ready but we are all so excited to escape this heat and get to our favorite place.

Posted in June 2018 | Leave a comment

Mango Shrimp Salad

I have to say, I’m highly enjoying the 9-12 VBS schedule this week. This is basically our last planned activity for the summer (except for vacation) and it’s been nice having that little break in the mornings. The kids are having a blast, too- they’ve missed their friends (since school has been out for TWO WHOLE WEEKS).

We went swimming with friends yesterday afternoon and didn’t get home until late, so I needed something quick to throw together for dinner. Someone posted this combo on a “What’s For Dinner” Facebook page that I’m on, and thankfully I actually remembered to grab everything at Trader Joe’s the other day:

Tropical mango salad kit and frozen coconut shrimp. I’d tried the salad before and wasn’t a huge fan- I think the dressing has too much cilantro or something off-putting. But I decided to give it another shot with the shrimp.

The shrimp is great! It only takes 10 minutes in the oven and comes out super crispy. Love the coconut flavor, obviously. The salad wasn’t bad, but I think next time I’m going to try some kind of peanut dressing instead.

Any other quick summer meal ideas?? I’m all about simple these days- it’s already too hot to cook!

Posted in June 2018 | Leave a comment