Christmas 2018

Well the kids head back to school tomorrow. This break FLEW by!! I’m sad to send them off in the morning (and back to homework, ew), but also really excited to get back into a routine AND get my house in some kind of order. We left on the 29th to drive to South Carolina and didn’t get home until late on the 5th, so allllll the Christmas stuff is still piled everywhere. It’s giving me major anxiety… plus I’ve been watching that Marie Kondo show on Netflix and want to throw away everything we own.

Christmas was fun! Brian had to work most of the day on Christmas Eve, but we headed to my parents’ house that evening for their annual family party. The kids had fun with all of their cousins (missing a few here!):

Christmas Day Santa haul:

See this giant LOL Surprise?

Here’s what it looked like 5 minutes later. OMG. And I’m pretty sure she still hasn’t finished opening it…

We headed to South Carolina a few days after Christmas to visit Brian’s family. It’s such a long drive (16 hours!!) but the kids- and Chloe- were total champs. They had fun hanging out with everyone, ringing in the New Year, visiting downtown Greenville, and playing with their cousin Samantha.

It was super rainy while we were there so they played a LOT of games (both board and video games). There were many Just Dance tournaments happening:

Panning for gold at Jack’s favorite store (rocks!) in Greenville:

Downtown just before it started pouring:

Matching PJs!

We took the kids to a jumping/climbing place on Friday. Jack and Samantha freaking me out:

So back to reality tomorrow! I actually cooked tonight for the first time in forever- I missed it! We’ll see how long that lasts, ha.

Hope everyone had a great Christmas break!

Posted in January 2019 | Leave a comment

ALL The Christmas Things

One week until Christmas!! The kids have no spelling tests this week (YASSSSS), practices are cancelled, and it’s looking like we’ll have minimal-to-no homework. Not too shabby! To celebrate we’re having a family movie night and watching The Christmas Chronicles on Netflix.

We had such a fun weekend! The four of us headed to our friends’ annual Christmas party on Friday night. Saturday was pretty low key, though we did grab Tex-Mex and drove around looking at lights. On Sunday we took the kids to Neiman’s downtown to see Santa:

Then on Sunday afternoon my parents took us to The Gift of Christmas at Prestonwood Baptist Church. It’s this amazing Christmas program with singing, dancing, and a live nativity at the end. There are literally 1000 people in the cast, and they bring zebras, camels, peacocks (!!), donkeys, sheep, etc., onstage. Such a fun tradition and the kids LOVED it!

(Why are my children incapable of normal smiles in photos??)

There were a lot of people flying around in the air lol.

It was a good soup day today (but really, when is it not?) so I made a big pot of my standby favorite turkey taco soup. I know y’all are probably so sick of me posting about this one! Sorry not sorry… it’s that good.

Ingredients:

I ended up using 1 Tbs of taco seasoning and 1 Tbs powdered ranch dressing mix instead of the full packet of taco seasoning.

Topped with sour cream and cheese, and also a squeeze of lime:

I know what I’ll be eating for lunch all week! And not mad about it at all.

Posted in December 2018 | Leave a comment

Winner Winner Easy Dinner

My goal tonight was to park it on the couch with a crappy/amazing Hallmark movie and address Christmas cards. Buuuuut despite paying for guaranteed rush delivery, the cards aren’t here (yet said they were “out for delivery” earlier today). You’re killing me, Shutterfly.

I found a new Instant Pot recipe this week! And it was a hit with 3:4 of us… the best odds I can hope for! It’s this really simple Instant Pot Goulash. It literally cooks for FOUR minutes in the IP, other than browning the meat and allowing the pot to come to pressure (so maybe 30 minutes total).

Also, it would be so easy to keep all of these ingredients on hand:

It’s a great weeknight dinner. I made it on Tuesday before basketball practice and then just kept it on warm until we were ready to eat. This is about the level of dinner difficulty I can handle right now… #lessthan2weekstilChristmas.

You brown the ground beef, garlic and onions, then pour in the remaining ingredients (diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, soy sauce, spices and pasta). Set to “manual” for 4 minutes, then quick release the pressure.

Served with parmesan:

It makes a ton. I’ve been eating the leftovers for lunch all week!

We have a fun weekend ahead- Christmas party tomorrow night, Prestonwood Christmas program on Sunday, then ornament exchange party that night. Saturday looks pretty low-key though, which is GREAT! Catch y’all Monday!

Posted in December 2018 | 2 Comments

Nutcracker 2018

Sorry for the silence around here but Wednesday-Sunday was all about the Nutcracker for me and Isla. Tech rehearsal Wednesday, dress rehearsal Thursday, performances Friday, Saturday and Sunday. But it was SO FUN! It’s an amazing production. I sat through the rehearsals and all three performances and honestly never got bored (which says a lot because 1. Isla was on stage for 30 seconds out of two+ hours, and 2. musicals/ballets are not my thing). She played Clara’s attendant and loved every second of it. She was a little nervous before the rehearsals, but by the time Friday rolled around she was super excited to perform. If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook you’re probably tired of all of my pics… but I can’t not post them here! Plus IG limited me to 10 aaaaand I have about 10x that many. So, sorry.

We were only allowed to take pics and video during the dress rehearsal, so here she is on stage with Clara and the Nutcracker:

After the first performance with her bestie Molly. They look WIPED.

This is her sweet, sweet ballet teacher, Ms. Libby. She teaches Isla’s weekly ballet class and happened to be her Nutcracker teacher, too- so we lucked out big time (she’s in costume as a party guest):

They allowed them to come out in costume after the Saturday night performance. Here she is with her friends-since-birth, Luna and Belle. They were in last week’s production and came to watch this weekend!

More “fans”- Gia and Baba, Nana and Papa, and of course Mom, Dad and Jack.

With Clara and the Nutcracker. These older kids were incredibly kind to Isla, and I am so grateful for them. They made her feel so special and important, and what great role models for her! I love that she was able to witness how hard they worked and how seriously they took this performance.

I MEAN… how sweet is this?? Isla is smitten.

Her last performance was Sunday afternoon. Both my Aunt Kathy and Aunt Maureen came to watch, along with my cousin’s daughter Ellie.

Zach, Laura, Owen and Stevie came too but had to leave before Isla was finished changing out of her costume. So thankful for everyone who came to watch!

We didn’t get home until close to 11 on Friday and Saturday, so Isla was exhausted but recovered like a champ (not so much for this old lady). She’s already talking about next year!!

Posted in December 2018, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Big Birthday Weekend

I spent the day playing catch-up after a WILD weekend. Jack turned nine on Saturday, which doesn’t even seem possible. NINE. His last year of single digits. On one hand I hate how fast he’s growing up, but on the other I really love this age. He’s just so sweet and fun.

We were up early on Saturday for our school’s Jingle Bell Run, then home to open presents. Jack had a birthday party to attend that afternoon, and Isla was invited to a sleepover Saturday night. It actually worked out great because Jack had a few boys over to spend the night for his b-day… so no little sister inserting herself into the fray!

The kids both had basketball games on Sunday. Those first grade girls were SO FUNNY. Isla kept grabbing the ball and just running down the court without even attempting to dribble (or pass, for that matter). I was dying. And of course they have to hug each other after every basket.

Tonight is literally the only night this week without an activity. Jack has basketball practice tomorrow, Isla has her Nutcracker tech rehearsal Wednesday, dress rehearsal Thursday, and performances Friday, Saturday and Sunday. She is SO excited but I have a feeling we’re going to have an exhausted girl on our hands come Sunday night.

Anyway, given that I actually had time on my hands tonight, I figured I should probably make dinner. Sigh. Wasn’t feeling chicken but wanted to make something semi-healthy, and I found this recipe for Garlic and Rosemary Balsamic Roasted Pork Tenderloin. It sounds (and looks) fancy but was actually super simple… AND I had everything but the pork on hand. My basil is long dead but our rosemary bush is still hanging on!

You make a “paste” of olive oil, balsamic, lots of rosemary, LOTS of garlic, salt and pepper. Then you rub most of it all over a pork tenderloin. The pork roasts over high heat in the oven for about 15 minutes, then you reduce the temp and throw in some quartered red potatoes (tossed in the remaining balsamic sauce). Put all of that back in the oven for about 50 minutes.

So good! Next time I’ll use a bigger roasting pan because some of the potatoes weren’t cooked through- I think I crowded the pan. Oh well.

Also, it makes the house smell amazing! Love those high impact/low-effort recipes, right?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Cleaning It Up

So, we ate out/overindulged wayyyyy too much over Thanksgiving break. It was just SO MUCH FUN. And now that Thanksgiving break is an entire week instead of 2 days (when did this happen??), it’s just that much worse. Womp womp. So this week I’ve been attempting to rein it in. More veggies, more water, more home-cooked meals.

I ended up making a giant pot of soup for dinner on Monday. I’ve actually never tried Chick Fil A’s chicken tortilla soup, but this post on the BakerMama caught my eye. Now I want to go order a bowl to see how this compares! Lord knows we’re at CFA all. the. time.

(Brian definitely made fun of me for wanting to recreate fast food, but then he ate 2 bowls of it so joke’s on him.)

Okay, so first of all the recipe involves LOTS OF CANS.

To be fair, it called for rotisserie chicken- but we had a bunch of canned chicken from Costco in the pantry and I actually think it’s pretty good in a pinch!

The soup is super easy. I was a little creeped out that you don’t drain any of the beans (the liquid in the soup is purely from the cans, no chicken broth added), but it was not nearly as salty as I feared. The most complicated part is pureeing a couple cans of cannellini beans and then adding to the soup to give it a creamy texture. I also used 2 tsp of taco seasoning instead of the cumin, and added extra lime juice because I looooove lime.

Topped mine with tortilla strips and sour cream:

It’s really good!! Not at all spicy (I used mild Ro-Tel- use the regular if you like more heat), and even better for lunch the next day! The beans make it really filling and hearty.

Also ridiculously good? These peppermint Greek yogurt bars that I found at Target.

Getcha some.

Posted in November 2018 | 2 Comments

Pie in a Bag

Well it’s back to the grind around here. I’m actually really sad that the kids are back in school! We had so much fun over the break and I was shocked at how fast the week flew by.

I’m not really a pie maker, but I saw this apple pie on Haute & Humid’s Instagram story and had to try it. It’s a simple recipe (you use Pillsbury pie dough) and you bake it in the oven IN A PAPER BAG. Crazy, right? I had serious concerns (as did Brian…) but it was so good! I used mostly granny smith apples with a few golden delicious thrown in. Definitely follow her instructions to really pile those apple slices in there because they cook down quite a bit.

(See??? I suck at pie crusts. Even the store-bought kind.)

Loved the streusel topping! Isla helped me decorate the top with little dough leaves (using these punches) cut from the second crust. It looked super fancy with basically zero effort.

About to go in the oven…

After baking in the bag for an hour, you cut a big circle in the top so the crust can brown a little. One tip is to be sure to put the bag on a baking sheet! I had it directly on the oven rack at first and it started to smell a little burned.

All done!

Definitely saving this recipe for next year- it’s a keeper.

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving weekend!

Posted in November 2018 | 2 Comments

The Trains at Northpark

Happy Thanksgiving Eve! We braved both Costco and Target today to stock up on Thanksgiving supplies. They actually weren’t too crowded, though when we left Target around 4 it was starting to get crazy.

Still loving having the kids out of school. It’s so nice to just sleep in and relax. Both kids slept until after 9 this AM! We have had some fun outings, too. Met up with friends at the trampoline park yesterday and took them to an arcade birthday party last night. Today we met Brian for lunch at Haystack Burger.

On Monday the kids and I had the opportunity to check out one of our favorite local holiday events: The Trains at NorthPark. We’ve been taking the kids to this since Jack was a baby. Here he is mesmerized by the trains as a (barely) 2-year-old.

(Somebody hold me. I miss that sweet baby!)

The Trains at NorthPark benefits the Ronald McDonald House of Dallas, and the display has raised more than 13 million dollars for RMHD since it first began 20 years ago! There are over 750 railcars on 1600 feet of track. The kids loved identifying local landmarks along the route, like the Perot Museum and the State Fair of Texas fairgrounds. They also got really excited about all of the interactive buttons along the bottom of the display (each button would turn on lights, open gates, move cars, activate a tug-of-war game, etc.).

It was really cute and such a fun holiday activity for all ages! You can find more info such as hours, ticket prices and even how to volunteer on their website here.

Happy Thanksgiving!! Hope everyone has a cozy, relaxing day with their family and friends!

Posted in November 2018 | Leave a comment

Perfect Combo

Well it’s officially Christmas in the Baker house. Decorations are UP, tree is assembled (though ornament-less), and I have approximately 1 dozen peppermint flavored snacks and beverages on hand- candy cane coffee, peppermint mini meringues (from TJ’s- SO GOOD), peppermint mocha Nutpods, candy cane Joe-Joe’s, peppermint mini marshmallows for the kids’ (peppermint) hot chocolate…

Between Thanksgiving, Jack’s birthday, Nutcracker, etc., life is going to be crazy over the next few weeks. I wanted to get the house decorated so I could actually enjoy it for a minute and not be stressing next week. Isla was a big help with the decorating this year, so that was fun too.

I decided to make grilled cheese and tomato soup for dinner, because honestly soup is all I crave this time of year. Well that and peppermint, apparently. I took the kids to Central Market today and let them pick out the bread (sourdough) and cheese (sharp cheddar and white American).

For the soup I made this Instant Pot Tomato Basil Soup from Skinnytaste. Brian walked in from work while the soup was cooking and yanked the lid off the Instant Pot. I almost had a heart attack, but thank god it hadn’t come to pressure yet (and hopefully if it HAD he wouldn’t have been able to remove the lid). I tweaked the recipe a little by adding a couple cloves of minced garlic to the veggie mixture. Also, after pureeing the soup I ended up adding about a tablespoon of sugar and a *little* half and half.

Ingredients:

Side note- I’m obsessed with those Rubbermaid Brilliance containers. I bought 2 packs from Costco when they were on sale a while back and tossed all of our crappy Snapware containers. These are AMAZING. They don’t stain at all, keep veggies fresh forever (you can hear the air being pushed out when you close the lid), and they look really pretty in the fridge. Love love love.

With my little grilled cheese dippers:

Ok, so Brian loved the soup but I wished it were a little more tomato-y. It was good, though! Next time I may add a can of tomato sauce.

Hope everyone is enjoying their Thanksgiving week!

Posted in November 2018 | 1 Comment

‘Tis the Season!

So tomorrow is Colonial Day for Isla’s class, which means all the moms get to dress up like pilgrims and help the first graders make things like corn husk dolls and candles. Isla is SUPER excited.

I’m super excited that we’re one day from a week of no school, no early wakeups, no homework!

We’ve had a fun week. My mom and I shopped the big Chi Omega Christmas Market tonight. We go every year and this year did not disappoint! So many cute clothes, jewelry, kids’ outfits, etc.

I had book club last night. This month we read The Hate U Give. It was a great though-provoking book, and now I’m dying to see the movie.

On Tuesday night we were invited to attend the tree lighting- Dallas’ first of the season!- and 12 Days of Christmas display at the Dallas Arboretum. It was so fun! We love the Arboretum, and they do it up big for both fall and Christmas. It was really cold, but we bundled up and let the kids loose on the hot chocolate bar (Mama had mulled wine, SO GOOD). The kids loved running around and figuring out where to find each “day.”

Partridge in a pear tree…

Four calling birds…

Nine ladies dancing (my fave!):

And one cutie decked out in ALL the winter accessories…

If you get a chance to check it out, I highly recommend doing so! I love pretty much all holiday activities, but this one is particularly great because it’s fun for any age and so interactive (and wore the kids out, lol).

Busy weekend ahead- Friendsgiving, 2 Nutcracker rehearsals, soccer, basketball and *hopefully* decorating for Christmas!

Posted in November 2018 | Leave a comment