Summer Reading

Well this weekend flew! We literally spent ALL DAY at the pool today. Got there around 12:30, the kids had a blast playing with school/neighborhood friends who they haven’t seen all summer, and the next thing we knew it was 5:00. So fun! After a full day of sun we were all pretty beat, so we just did an easy pizza & movie night (which the kids had been begging for all weekend) with blankets on the floor. Did you know that The Wizard of Oz is on Amazon Prime Video?? I wasn’t sure it would hold their attention, but both kids were mesmerized.

I go through stages where I tear through books, and then I won’t read anything for a couple of months. In the past three weeks I’ve plowed through four books and started a 5th. Three of those were REALLY good, so if you’re looking for any summer reading suggestions, here you go:

1. Ginny Moon- I just finished this one and LOVED it. It’s about an autistic teenager within the foster system. She’s recently been adopted by her “forever mom and dad” but she won’t stop obsessing about a baby doll that she left at her biological mother’s house. It’s written from the teen’s perspective and so, so well done.

2. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo- This is actually our book club book for July. It follows a journalist who is tasked with writing the authorized biography of an Old Hollywood starlet, and each section details her relationship with one of her seven husbands. It’s a fun, quick read with some shocking twists.

3. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine- My friend Jill recommended that I follow Reese Witherspoon’s book club on Instagram (@rwbookclub), which is where I found this book. Word is that Reese is turning this into a movie, too. The main character, Eleanor, is a quirky and socially awkward single woman who keeps to a compulsively rigid schedule. As the book goes on she begrudgingly befriends a coworker and you start to discover more about her backstory. It’s so funny but also very sad- I couldn’t put it down.

Now I’m reading All the Ugly and Wonderful Things and so far it’s fantastic. I’ve also started The Wellness Project and The Secret Life of Violet Grant so I’ll keep you posted on those. Any other recommendations??

A quick recipe for you. It never fails that I buy that big jar of pesto at Costco and then have to toss it when it’s still almost full… so I’m always on the lookout for recipes that involve pesto. Last week I made the easiest dinner ever based on a few different recipes I found on Pinterest- pesto salmon foil packs.

I just tore 4 big sheets of foil, and on each one I made a bed of about 6 pieces of fresh asparagus. I drizzled the asparagus with olive oil, sprinkled with seasoned salt, then topped with a salmon filet. Then I arranged a few quartered artichoke hearts around the salmon and topped the filets with a dollop of pesto (spread around to coat the top of the fish). Sealed the foil packs and then placed them in the oven at 400 for about 15 minutes.

So good! This would have been excellent on top of pasta or couscous too.

ALSO- I just found this in my photos- these cauliflower tots are really good!! I tried to trick the kids into eating them and they weren’t fans, but I think they’re amazing. I did broil them for a few minutes at the end to get the tots extra crispy.

I really want to go read but unfortunately the never-ending laundry pile calls… hope everyone had a fun weekend!

Posted in July 2017 | 3 Comments

Catching Up

I still plan on writing a “Michigan Trip: Part 2″ (and maybe 3, 4…?), but I figured I would throw in a food post because it’s been basically forever. I’ve actually been cooking a lot since we got home. The combination of having 2 weeks off from cooking and eating ALL THE THINGS- fudge, ice cream, crepes, wine, my weight in saltwater taffy- made me pretty ready to get back on the healthy food wagon when we got home. Also Brian fixed our grill while we were gone so we’re excited to have that option again.

We did a big Costco trip on Saturday and I was super excited to finally find the pork tenderloin medallions again. I bought some Tuscan-seasoned pork medallions a couple of months ago, and they were amazing- but then the past few visits I’ve had zero luck tracking them down. But this weekend they had them in a bourbon glaze so we snatched up a package. Brian threw them on the grill and they turned out great!!

I think it was around $10 for all of that and we have a ton leftover. I put a little of this apple-bourbon jam on top. I bought the jar at a local market back in the fall and then forgot about it, but it’s perfect on grilled meat!

Made a batch of my favorite BBQ beans with kale to go with them:

Yesterday we went over to my parents’ house to swim and grill for the 4th. They sent us home with a bunch of burgers, so tonight I made Skinnytaste’s Cheeseburger Salad with the leftover burger patties. SO GOOD. The dressing is key so don’t skip it!! I had forgotten how much I love this salad. It’s not the prettiest but I promise you’ll like it!

Obviously I added extra pickles.

Catch y’all tomorrow!

Posted in July 2017 | 2 Comments

Michigan 2017: Part 1

We’re home! The kids and I actually flew in on Friday evening… aaaaaand I’m ready to go back to Michigan. Going from 70 degrees to 90+ is THE WORST. It was such an amazing vacation and the two weeks flew by. I just looked through my phone and realized I took literally 600 photos while we were there. I’ll do my best to not completely overwhelm you here… but needless to say, if you’re looking for the perfect summer vacation spot, Northern Michigan is my vote. The scenery is gorgeous and the weather is perfect. Aside from a few rainy days, the kids spent the entire visit playing outdoors – in the yard, at the beach, walking into town. That makes me so happy.

OK. So our trip started out a little bumpy. Our flight was delayed several times and we had three gate changes. The first change was within 5 minutes of our expected boarding time and the next one was literally 10 minutes later. We were hauling it through DFW… only to make it to our final gate and sit for 45 minutes. Sigh.

The kids were champs though…

We stayed in the same house in Charlevoix as last summer. It’s a 10 minute walk to the beach, 10 minute walk into town, has the best yard and most gorgeous view of Round Lake.

Front:

Back:

The owners live right next door and are basically celebs to my kids. They would use any excuse to go visit “Miss Sally and Captain Bob.” They left the kids little gifts and notes on the porch and were SO sweet to them.

Annie lived next door, too. Isla was a BIG Annie fan…

This is at Depot Beach, which is the closest beach to the house. It’s in front of an old train depot on Lake Charlevoix. There’s an awesome playground right in front of the water, so the kids split their time between that and wading into the lake (which is FREEZING, btw… those kids are crazy). Jack could spent hours searching for Petoskey stones in the water and actually scored quite a few this trip.

Ok I love that picture, but the front view just makes me laugh. Gia was NOT cool how high Baba was swinging Isla.

Sweet little Stevie on the swing…

On Monday we took the ferry to Mackinac Island. Sunday was our anniversary and Brian surprised me by booking us a room at the Grand Hotel on the island for Monday night. I’ve always wanted to check out the hotel (you have to pay a fee to even walk around the grounds), so actually getting to stay there was amazing. We spent the afternoon walking around the island with my family, then they caught the ferry back to Charlevoix and we headed to the hotel. One of the coolest things about Mackinac is that there are no cars allowed on the island- only horses and bikes. So even our luggage was taken from the ferry to the hotel by horse-drawn carriage.

On the ferry. Gia and Stevie stayed back in Charlevoix because Mackinac would not be the easiest trip for a baby. Also Jack is pouting here because we wouldn’t let him sit next to the edge.

Sooooo windy!

Fort Mackinac:

Isla was actually really into the fort. This lady talked to her for a while about crocheting, and she loved checking out the officers’ quarters and watching them shoot off the canon.

The Grand Hotel is absolutely gorgeous. I said that it was like stepping into a Wes Anderson movie- the decor is so colorful and the attention to detail is crazy. Literally every room in the hotel is decorated differently! Also there’s a dress code after 6pm- dresses for ladies and coat and tie for men. It feels like you’re stepping back in time. We ended up having dinner at another hotel on the island, but we had drinks at the Cupola Bar at the Grand after. That’s on the top level of the hotel and has the most amazing view of Lake Huron and the Mackinac Bridge. After that we walked back to town to the Pink Pony bar for live music. I walked SO MUCH in those 24 hours- I think my FitBit said 9 miles??

The largest front porch in the WORLD at 660 feet!

Also I loved the turquoise ceiling. See, DETAILS?!

A few pics from inside…

OK I think that’s all I have the energy for tonight!! Another post (or two…) coming with the rest of the trip.

Posted in July 2017 | Leave a comment

Summer Cut

I’m pretty pumped right now because we leave for vacation in about 36 hours. We’re going to Charlevoix, MI again, but this time the kids and I get to stay for TWO WEEKS!! Unfortunately Brian is only staying a week, thanks to that whole “work” thing… womp womp. We’re staying in the same house where we vacationed last year, along with my parents, Zach, Laura, Owen and Stevie. The kids are super excited, both to be going back to Michigan and to get to vacation with their cousins. Jack already has his bucket list ready: Mackinac Island, finding more Petoskey stones, and eating a lot of fudge & taffy.

This week has been crazy. I know I say that every week, but I expected summer to be so chill and laid-back, and so far it is NOT. We finished up swimming lessons today and both kids made huge strides over the past 2 weeks (Isla required a few bribes, but I’m not above that). I spent most of today attempting to pack and then running errands for the trip. I’m the worst packer ever and put it off until the last possible second. Luckily Brian took tomorrow off of work (funny story- he actually thought our flight was Friday, not Saturday) so I’ll have an extra pair of hands… or at least someone to keep me accountable when I start procrastinating.

Jack’s hair had gotten so out of control that he finally asked for a haircut, which never happens. The kid HATES change, and every time I take him to see Miss Ginger, he just tells her to do the tiniest trim possible. This time he requested a summer ‘do, and it’s the shortest I’ve ever seen his hair!!

But soooo cute. He looks older, which makes me sad… but now I can see those big green eyes. He was getting really annoyed with me snapping pics.

I’m going to try to post a few times while we’re gone. Brian remembers the house having wi-fi, but I honestly can’t remember. Anyway, I’ll try my best!

Wish me luck packing… I need some of this energy:

Posted in June 2016 | Leave a comment

Instant Pot Red Curry

You know what I’m loving about this summer? SLEEP. No staying up late working on homework or projects, no getting up early to get the kids dressed and fed before school. Last night Brian and I actually made it to bed before 11- that never happens- and that was after catching up on Orange is the New Black (is this entire season going to be the prison riot??). Anyway, yay sleep.

We’ve kind of fallen into somewhat of a schedule: head to the gym for my 9:00 class, swing by Starbucks (cold brew + protein shake for me, the kids split a croissant), swimming lessons from 10:30-11:30, home for lunch, then a little quiet/rest time. The kids were begging to go swimming at my parents’ this afternoon, so I told them that I would take them IF they picked up all of their toys downstairs and cleaned their rooms. We’re working on chores buuuuuut it’s a slow process.

Anyway, they finally got everything picked up, swam for a couple of hours, then we swung by Trader Joe’s for groceries on the way home. I hadn’t used the Instant Pot in a while, but it’s really perfect for summer- doesn’t heat up the house like the oven, and I don’t have to hang out over the hot stove. I ended up making an improvised red curry with chicken. It was so simple:

Instant Pot Red Curry Chicken

  • olive oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, sliced
  • 1 red pepper, sliced
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 can mushrooms
  • 1 lb chicken breast tenders, cut into chunks
  • 1 jar Trader Joe’s red curry sauce
  • 1 can light coconut milk

Directions:

1. Set Instant Pot to Saute and heat olive oil. Add onions, peppers and sweet potato and saute for about 5 minutes.

2. Add chicken, mushrooms, curry sauce, coconut milk, and a little salt to taste. Stir to combine.

3. Set Instant Pot to manual for 20 minutes and close/seal lid.

4. After 20 minutes, quick release. Remove lid and set to saute. Simmer about 10 minutes or so, stirring frequently, until sauce thickens.

5. Serve with rice or naan. I also like to squeeze lime juice in mine… and add cilantro if you have it!

These 2 are key:

Voila… with TJ’s frozen naan:

Brian just set up our old Wii and the kids are FREAKING OUT. I guess it’s better than watching Minecraft videos on YouTube??

Posted in June 2017 | Leave a comment

Happy Birthday Isla!

Isla turned 5 today! Does not seem possible. How do we have 2 school-age kids now??

This year was special because Isla had her birthday party ON her actual b-day. It was a crazy day, that’s for sure. Brian and I were up late working on party favors and getting all her presents ready:

Then sister jumped in our bed at 7am, SOOOO excited to go downstairs and open presents. She’s been waiting patiently since Wednesday to open her American Girl doll, and along with it she got: a Barbie with a dog that actually comes with fake dog poop and a pooper scooper (omg… she saw this at Target a month ago and couldn’t stop talking about it), a few of our staple summer H&M dresses ($5!!!), unicorn sunglasses, shrinky-dink jewelry kit, a big hula hoop/jump rope set. Jack gave her a new fidget spinner, some Lip Smackers and a bunch of stationery (so she’ll stop stealing all my envelopes, ha).

After presents she had her requested donut breakfast, then we spent the rest of the morning getting ready for her party. She had it at a local gymnastics place for the 2nd year in a row- girl knows what she likes!

And now for the photo dump…

After the party we came home to open gifts from my parents, then headed to Babe’s for dinner- her choice. I’m pretty sure she only ate biscuits and maybe one bite of chicken for dinner, but she loved having the staff sing to her and getting to wear the chicken hat.

On the way home she asked, “Is the day almost over? Because I don’t want it to be…” and then 5 minutes later was passed out in her carseat.

She definitely lives life to the fullest. Love that precious girl!!

Posted in June 2017 | 1 Comment

Big Girl Date

Tonight we took the kids to a movie night at the pool, which was so fun except for the fact that they can’t actually screen the movie until it’s dark… so after 9pm. The kids and I got to the pool around 5:30, they swam until 9 (with a short dinner break), then watched the first half of the movie. You know your kids are exhausted when they don’t even fight you about leaving in the middle of a movie. Jack actually apologized in the car, saying, “Sorry mom, but I don’t think I’m going to be able to stay awake the entire way home.”

Uhhh, mission accomplished?? You go right ahead, son.

(They both made it home awake though. Barely.)

Yesterday afternoon my dad took Jack down to the lake to go fishing. I was supposed to go to book club, but Brian and I decided to take advantage of the solo time with Isla to give her a little pre-birthday surprise (she turns 5 on Sunday… how???). I ran a few birthday errands with her, then we picked Brian up from work and took her to dinner at her favorite restaurant- Pie Five. Finally we drove her to the American Girl store and let her pick out a doll. She was in HEAVEN.

She ran around the store checking out literally every doll, cradling babies, chatting up other little girls. It was pretty precious.

In the end she picked out one of the the little Wellie Wisher dolls (those rain boots are CUTE). We told her that she would have to wait until her b-day on Sunday to open it, and she was actually fine with that… guess she’s growing up?? I still think she’s a little young for one of the big dolls. We’re going to see how she does with this one- meaning will it be naked and have a new haircut/tattoos by next week- and then maybe upgrade later.

Hope everyone has a fun weekend! We have a lot of birthday prep but that’s pretty much it.

Posted in June 2017 | 1 Comment

Costco Samples FTW

I think we crammed as much into today as humanly possible! Hit the gym at 9, then straight from there to swim lessons at 10:30. Sadly the kids aren’t in the same class this year, so we’re there for a whole hour while they each take their 30 minute lesson. After that it was home for lunch, then we headed to the pool for the first time this season. I feel like every year the pool gets more fun- first because their swimming skills improve (though I still feel like I spend 75% of our visit drowning at the bottom of the slides while I wait for the kids to come down), and because they run into more friends from school. They both had a blast and Isla was *thisclose* to passing out on the way home.

We took the kids to Costco on Sunday and they must have been starving, because both kids tried almost all of the samples. One guy was serving up these chile-lime marinated chicken breasts:

Jack was a fan, and I’m excited anytime they are willing to eat chicken that isn’t breaded. SO into the cart it went! We got a double package for around $16, which seemed high except when I realized that each package contained 6 big pieces. Tonight I baked one of the packages (375 for about 25-30 minutes):

That amount served 3 of us (Isla refused, shocker) with 2 big pieces leftover. Not bad! The flavor is great too- these would be really good cooked with peppers and onions for fajitas.

On the side we had roasted asparagus and this frozen mashed cauliflower from Trader Joe’s.

Weird little frozen nuggets…

It was our first time trying the cauliflower. Eh. It was ok but I wasn’t crazy about the texture- kind of watery and lumpy. More like grits than mashed potatoes. I’ve made mashed cauliflower several times in the food processor and it’s way better than this. I guess good in a pinch though.

So there’s our day! The kids both slept until almost 8 today, which was a huge win. Let’s hope they keep it up :)

Posted in June 2017 | 1 Comment

Meal Prep Sunday

I’m really starting to dig this summer break thing. Here it is Sunday night, and I’m not frantically tracking down school uniforms to wash, realizing at 9pm that we’re out of turkey for sandwiches, looking for library books to return… it’s pretty awesome. We had a great weekend, too. We did our usual Friday night tex-mex routine, then rushed home before it started pouring outside and caught up on Catastrophe and Scandal. Saturday was a little crazy- Isla had a swim party that morning and then we had another fun b-day party late Saturday afternoon. We ended up grabbing dinner with friends after the party (more tex-mex, ha).

Today was really productive, which was NEEDED after the past few weeks. Life has been so crazy with trips, my birthday and end of school year stuff- the house was a wreck. Also, in all the chaos I’d really fallen off the wagon with meal prep and eating healthy (see: Mexican food twice in one weekend). Luckily we managed to get the house pretty much cleaned up and did a big Costco trip too. I spent a little over an hour tonight prepping- which is nothing- and now I’m all set for breakfast, lunch and snacks for the week. Ahhhh…

Ok, so for breakfast I did my usual overnight oats: 1/3 cup oats, 1/3 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt, 1/3 cup skim milk, 1 Tbs chia seeds, handful of blueberries (from what we picked last weekend!). Shake up in a jar and store in the fridge. When it’s time to eat, top with honey, granola, nuts, etc.

For lunches I cut up a rotisserie chicken from Costco and divided the breast meat into 5 containers (3 oz of chicken each). I roasted a bunch of chopped asparagus (drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with seasoned salt) and divided that among the containers too. Finally I mixed up a couple of these quinoa, artichoke and roasted red pepper cups- also from Costco:

Then poured half the cup into each container.

At lunch I’ll just heat these up and maybe sprinkle with a little feta and balsamic.

Every day after I leave the gym, I stop at Starbucks on the way home and order a tall plain cold brew in a venti cup. Then I pour one of those chocolate Premier Protein shakes into the coffee and mix together. SO GOOD. It’s filling and the perfect little pick me up. I get a big box of the shakes at Costco (Brian does this with coffee too, but he likes the vanilla shakes better) and then grab one every morning before heading out.

And finally cut up some strawberries and limes for infused water. I already had watermelon and mint in the fridge for this too- it’s a great way to use up that fruit that’s starting to look a little sad… i.e., the stuff Isla would immediately demand that I remove from her plate. I also picked up a box of that Watermelon Lime Zinger tea from Target the other day. Not usually a tea person but it sounded good for summer, in case I need a La Croix break.

Sorry if this was a really boring post, but I’m the weirdo who gets excited about all those neat little containers lined up in the fridge. I *may* even search #mealprep hashtags on IG in my free time. This is 35, people. I could also do an entire post about collagen peptides and how I’m convinced they’re saving my old lady knee joints, but we’ll save that for another day. I don’t want to get y’all TOO excited…

Swim lessons start tomorrow. Pray for no rain!

Posted in June 2017 | 2 Comments

Summertime!

Well as of 9:15 this morning we are officially on SUMMER BREAK!! Woohoo! We hit the ground running, too. Jack had to go to school for a little over an hour this morning (for mass and then to pick up his report card), picked him up and headed to the gym, then after that both kids had a swim birthday party at 11. This week has felt all kinds of crazy and I’m really ready to just SLOW DOWN. Hopefully they’ll sleep in tomorrow… hahaha, yeah right. My kids are always up at the butt crack of dawn on weekends and holidays, but it’s impossible to drag them out of bed on school days. Why??

We ended up hanging out for a while after the party and didn’t get home until close to 3. By that time I was staaaaarving and desperately digging through the freezer for a lunch option. I came across a bag of frozen garlic naan from Trader Joe’s. I forget how good those are!! And they only need a few minutes in the oven. The bag says a minute and a half, but I left mine in there for closer to 5 minutes so it would be a tiny bit crispy.

The kids ate them plain as a snack, but I topped mine with hummus, chopped grilled chicken, chopped kalamata olives, feta and arugula. I also sprinkled with a little balsamic vinegar and lots of fresh pepper.

Omg, SO GOOD. This + watermelon made for the perfect lunch.

Happy start of summer!

Posted in June 2017 | Leave a comment