Well HI! Long time no talk! Seriously though, I never intended to take this long of a “hiatus” from the blog. I’ve been writing this since 2008 (TWELVE YEARS!!!) and have never taken more than a week or two off from posting. I was going to take a week off for spring break… and then Covid hit… and then we were homeschooling… and then trying to figure out this WEIRD summer with no camps, play dates, etc. Brian worked from home for a month, which was awesome- but then they were asked to go back into the office at the beginning of May.  Our school and teachers did an amazing job transitioning to e-learning, but I’m not going to lie- Isla and I butted heads daily (hourly?) and poor Jack was left to essentially teach himself 4th grade.

So. We were all pretty happy once school was over!

Despite all the changes, summer has been good! The kids are actually scheduled to go back on August 11th. Our school is allowing families to choose between either on-campus or e-learning, but if you choose e-learning then you’re locked into that option for the entire semester. At this point we’re planning on sending them. The school has a very comprehensive plan in place for safety protocols, so unless something crazy happens or the city shuts down again, those little angels will be back in class.

Other news:

We got a Peloton! I think we ordered it at the beginning of April, but it wasn’t delivered until mid-June. I LOVE it. Obviously we’re not going to be visiting gyms anytime soon, and it’s way too hot to exercise outside during the TX summer. It’s so nice to just be able to hop on whenever and the classes are so much fun! My profile is HeatherBakes (so original!) so add me if you’re on there.

Jack was supposed to go to sleepaway camp for the first time at the end of this month. Unfortunately like ALL camps I keep hearing about, this one had some campers and counselors test positive for Covid. The camp ended up cancelling all sessions for the remainder of the summer, which was the right move- but he’s still pretty bummed about it. Honestly, I’m relieved that the camp made that call so we didn’t have to.

We did make our annual Michigan trip this summer with my parents. Brian came home last Monday and the kids and I stayed until Thursday. We ended up flying AA from DFW, which was not great. DFW was a s— show. They only had one check in area open in the terminal and were funneling everyone there (meaning you had to leave the terminal and walk outside from B1 to B30). Also zero social distancing inside the airport, boarding, or on the plane itself. We all wore KN95 masks, sat together, and sanitized constantly. And I felt better flying home because the Traverse City airport is tiny and people were wayyyyy better about social distancing. I’ve heard that Love Field and Southwest are doing a much better job during all of this, so if you have a choice I would go that route.

Michigan was wonderful, as always. It’s pretty easy to social distance there, since we stay in a house together and spend 99% of the time outdoors. We did a day trip to Sleeping Bear Dunes and took the kids alpine sledding at Crystal Mountain. But mostly they played outside, walked to the beaches, walked to town to pick up crepes for breakfast, and just enjoyed the gorgeous weather.

Now we’re back and just trying to stay cool. The kids are definitely bored, and it’s a daily struggle to pull them off of screens (Minecraft 24/7 up in here). BUT everyone is safe and healthy, and I’m very very thankful for that.

So there’s the update! With all of the craziness I don’t know how regularly I’ll be posting but will do my best… I’ve missed being on here! And like everyone I’ve been cooking A TON, so lots to talk about. Hope everyone is keeping healthy and sane (as much as possible at least).

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Well That Escalated Quickly

Yeahhhhhh. So hey guys! What the actual heck is going on? I fully expected to be posting a spring break recap right now. We had planned on taking the kids down to Barton Creek in Austin last Saturday-Tuesday, but then canceled when things started to get crazy. The kids had an unexpected early release last Friday so that the teachers could get a head start on *potential* e-learning. We ended up heading to the lake on Saturday and basically just camped out there until Tuesday. We took walks, rode bikes, played board games, watched movies- pretty much like a normal lake trip, but with social distancing.

The golf course across the street is closed on Mondays, so we took advantage and let the kids ride the front 9 (while we followed in the golf cart, ha).

We got back to Dallas on Tuesday evening, and Brian received word that night that his office was transitioning to work from home. SO, we’ve all been hanging here since then! It hasn’t been too rough so far, though I wonder if that will change this week now that spring break is officially over. I’m going through all of our e-learning emails and trying to prepare for homeschooling. It. Is. A. LOT. Our school had the foresight to send the kids home with all of their books and materials before spring break, so we set up a little bookshelf in the dining room with everything we’ll need. It feels overwhelming right now getting all of these emails from different teachers with various logins and platforms, but hopefully we’ll get into the swing of things fairly quickly.

I’m trying not to think about the probability (strong likelihood?) that we won’t be going back to school this year. It makes me extremely sad, especially for Isla. Kinder and first were tough years for her, but 2nd grade has been HUGE in boosting her confidence. She officially began the program for dyslexia and has made some major strides in reading, and her grades have improved dramatically. Her class is also supposed to make their first communion in early May, and she has been looking forward to that all year. It just really sucks to think of what ALL these kids are missing out on. Thankfully they’ve handled everything really well so far- they’ve been FaceTiming with friends and staying busy. Isla is really excited about the whole homeschooling thing (for now at least!).

Anyway. Onward and upward, right? Hopefully everyone is complying with social distancing and staying home right now!!! Shelter-from-home officially starts for Dallas at midnight tomorrow, though we’ve basically been doing that already. We’ve been picking up a lot of takeout to support our local restaurants, but this week I plan to cook more (because we’ve got nothing but time, right?). Tonight I made a mixed bean soup in the slow cooker, and beer bread on the side:

(Paper plates… that’s how we roll right now)

For the soup I just soaked around 16 oz of dried beans overnight. Then this morning I chopped an onion, 3 carrots, 3 celery stalks, a red pepper and 2 garlic cloves. Threw those in the slow cooker, then added the beans, some chopped turkey kielbasa, a can of diced tomatoes, and about 6 cups of chicken broth. For seasoning I threw in 2 bay leaves and a handful of Italian seasoning. Cooked on high for about 5 hours, then seasoned to taste with Worcestershire, seasoned salt, and a splash of red wine vinegar.

Super good and the leftovers will be perfect for lunches this week!

Hope everyone is staying safe and healthy out there!

Posted in March 2020 | Leave a comment

Dutch Babies and Championships

We’re coming off of an exciting weekend! Isla’s basketball team played their first ever tournament- 2 games on Saturday and a championship game on Sunday. They played their little hearts out and brought home the win!

We also had our school auction on Saturday night. I literally took ONE picture the entire night… in the Uber on the way there.

But we had so much fun! Too much. I finally climbed into bed at 3:45am. Pretty sure I haven’t been out that late since college…? Luckily my parents took the kids to the lake after Isla’s games Saturday, so we were able to have a super lazy Sunday morning/afternoon.

Honestly, the most exciting thing I’ve cooked lately is this Dutch baby pancake:

I got the recipe from @triedandtruemoms on Instagram. The kids were out of school on Friday so we had time for a more “involved” breakfast. It’s super easy to make:

1. Put 4 Tbs butter in a cast iron skillet.

2. Put the skillet in the oven and preheat to 425 degrees.

3. While the oven is preheating, add the following ingredients to your blender: 6 eggs, 1 cup flour, 1 cup milk, 1/2 tsp vanilla, pinch of salt. Blend until well combined.

4. Once the oven is heated (the butter should be all melted at this point), pour the blended batter into the hot skillet. Place the skillet back into the oven for about 17-20 minutes.

Slice into wedges and serve with maple syrup, whipped cream & berries, or (my fave) lemon juice and powdered sugar:

Isla and I both loved it, Jack said he thought it tasted too much like almond milk- which is the only milk we had on hand. Can’t win ‘em all.

Books! Our March book club is tomorrow, and this month we read The Giver of Stars. I loved it! Honestly I’ve had a lucky streak of good books lately- before that I read American Predator, which was TERRIFYING but fascinating. Give it a look if you’re into true crime. I first heard about this case on a Crime Junkie podcast episode, and it is so crazy that this serial killer was not all over the news. I just started A Woman Is No Man, and I can’t put it down. It was a Book of the Month pick from last year and for some reason I never got around to reading it. It’s about 3 generations of Palestinian women who end up living in Brooklyn, and their lives, arranged marriages, and aspirations.

I had a little visitor at 3am (I-S-L-A) who proceeded to climb in and kick me all night long- so turning in early tonight!

Posted in March 2020 | Leave a comment

Date Nights and TJ’s Finds

Hey heyyyy. It’s been a minute! First up- this past weekend Brian and Isla headed to the daddy-daughter dance at her ballet studio. She had SO much fun!

Jack and I planned on a dinner date to Royal Thai, but after a hard basketball game (no subs so the boys played the entire time) followed by a birthday party, he requested a pizza & movie night instead. We were a little more casual than the other two… no complaints here.

New Trader Joe’s finds! I tracked this down today- it’s GOOD. Cheesy, spicy and lots of lime. I sprinkled it on popcorn today and am trying to think of other uses (other than corn, obviously).

I also picked up the new lemon alfredo sauce. I’m usually a tomato sauce girl, but the lemon part caught my eye. Tonight I threw together a quick shrimp and asparagus alfredo and we had that over cauliflower gnocchi.

I seasoned the thawed shrimp with lots of lemon pepper. Sauteed the asparagus until tender, then added 2 cloves of minced garlic and the shrimp. Once the shrimp was cooked through, I deglazed with some white wine, then added about half a jar of the lemon alfredo. Also added the zest and juice of 1/2 a lemon. Heated through and served over cauliflower gnocchi (cooked in the air fryer on 400 for about 10 minutes).

The sauce is really thick so you may want to thin it out. If you serve it with pasta (pappardelle would be amazing!), you could just stir in some of the starchy pasta water. But the flavor is great! A good one to keep on hand for quick dinners- we didn’t get home from ballet until 6:30 and dinner was ready by 7. Not bad!

Posted in February 2020 | Leave a comment

Girls’ Night

So the kids were really hoping for a snow day today, but sadly that did not happen. Just cold and rainy… meaning indoor recess and WILD children after school. Still hoping that *maybe* we’ll see a little snow before spring hits. It’s been 5 years since our last legitimate snow day, so surely we’re due??

This past Saturday Jack had a friend sleep over, so Isla and I headed to the mall for a girls’ night. We were shopping for a dress for her to wear to a Daddy-Daughter Dance later this month, but first we grabbed dinner at Nordstrom.

She was really impressed by the automatic blinds… too bad she’s so reserved…

She has some strong opinions on what she likes (Glitter! Sequins! Anything you would expect to see on the Real Housewives of New Jersey!) and dislikes (literally everything I suggested), so I was a little nervous. But! We ended up finding a CUTE dress at Kids Atelier, which happened to be shutting its doors so everything was 70% off! It’s totally not what I would have expected her to choose, but the dress is adorable and she loves it. I’ll wait and post pics when she’s all dressed up for her dance!

Our meals have been pretty boring this week. I made a big batch of Skinnytaste’s turkey taco soup, so we had that for dinner Monday and tonight. Topped with green onions and Greek yogurt:

Last night Jack had basketball, so I made Trader Joe’s orange chicken for the kids (they LOVE that stuff), and Brian and I had these:

Shiitake mushroom chicken and cauliflower fried rice. Just cooked them both (separately) on the stove- very easy but actually really good! I had forgotten how flavorful the cauli fried rice is. Usually cauliflower rice depresses me, but this is almost as good as the real deal.

I just started watching You this week and I AM HOOKED. So creepy good.

Posted in February 2020, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Observation Day

Today was observation day at Isla’s ballet studio. I’m always so amazed at how much they progress each year. This year it seems even more like “real” ballet because they’re at the barre for probably 75% of the class.

Can we just take a minute and appreciate this squishy adorableness?

That’s before her very first ballet class, at barely 2 years old. I miss those days…

And then today… she’s still sweet and adorable, but I do miss the elbow dimples.

Wednesdays are always a wild card for dinner. Most of the time the kids and I walk down to Subway after ballet for their dinner (I’ll take my Mom of the Year award anytime now) and then Brian and I make something easy/less kid-friendly at home. Tonight I threw together a super fast shrimp “pasta” using cauliflower gnocchi. I seasoned some raw, peeled shrimp and then sauteed them in olive oil. Once they were cooked, I removed them from the pan then deglazed the pan with white wine. Poured in a jar of vodka sauce (Aldi), about a cup of frozen peas, and a can of mushrooms. It was a little acidic, so I stirred in about 2 tbs of cream cheese and stirred until it melted. Once the sauce was heated through, I added the shrimp back to the pan.

I cooked the cauliflower gnocchi in the air fryer at 390 degrees for 10 minutes, then poured on the sauce and sprinkled with parm.

The whole thing took maybe 15 minutes. Pretty good! And way better than Subway (though Jack and Isla would fight you on that).

Posted in January 2020 | Leave a comment

Beef & Broccoli

Another short week! Since we didn’t have school on Monday, Isla hosted the 2nd grade girls at our house for their monthly book club (they read Ivy & Bean). I made a little charcuterie board for them (cheddar, sliced apples, almonds, pickles, hummus, pretzel thins, grapes, carrots), picked up a nugget tray from Chick Fil A, and set out some Uncrustables. After a *few* minutes of talking about the book, they spent the rest of the time running around the backyard, shooting baskets and jumping on the trampoline. Her class is tiny, which I LOVE. They’re super close, and it makes it so much easier to plan things like this when you’re talking 12 girls instead of 25.

Yesterday I picked up this new-to-me find from Trader Joe’s:

Shaved beef steak. I figured it would be good for a weeknight dinner since the shaved meat cooks so quickly. I found this recipe online for Instant Pot beef and broccoli, which was perfect because we had about half a big Costco-sized bag of broccoli in the fridge. And we’re never without TJ’s frozen jasmine rice. It’s so good.

The beef ended up being perfect for this! We had all of the sauce ingredients on hand, too, and the whole thing took maybe 30 minutes? Per the recipe, I steamed the broccoli in the microwave rather than cooking it in the Instant Pot, then just added it at the very end.

Brian and Jack both gave it a thumbs-up.

Today was cold and rainy, so I ended up just staying home and getting random stuff done while the kids were at school. I finally cleaned out the cabinets under our sink (I have a tumbler problem) and kitchen island, and this guy was just SO helpful…

Good thing he’s cute!!

Posted in January 2020 | Leave a comment

Sheet Pan Dinner

I’m rediscovering the greatness of the sheet pan dinner. You can’t beat it for a lazy meal- not to mention that it’s healthy, easy to prep/clean up, and versatile. The other night I made this roasted sweet potato, sausage and broccoli sheet pan meal for dinner. I followed the recipe but added an extra tbs of balsamic vinegar, and for the sausage I used turkey kielbasa. It’s very simple, but you do have to do a little babysitting since the components cook at different rates. My only complaint was that the sweet potatoes stuck to the baking sheet, so next time I might try it with red potatoes. But other than that it was great! We had it with sliced sourdough (from Aldi- it’s pretty decent sourdough and the kids LOVE it).

On Friday we got an email from the school principal telling us that Isla would be receiving the Christian Witness Award at mass on Tuesday. Every month they choose a different virtue and present the award to one child in each grade, and this month’s virtue was generosity. The kids have no idea that they’re getting the award, so Brian, my parents and I basically had to hide in the back row of the church to keep her from spotting us. She was SO excited and basically bounced up to the front when her name was called.

Super proud of her. School is not always easy for Isla, and I love that the teachers and staff build her up and recognize her strengths. It makes my mama heart happy.

Posted in January 2020 | Leave a comment

Back At It

Hellooooo! Long time no talk. The remainder of Christmas break was a little crazy. I ended up getting flu A and was stuck in bed for 3 days, which honestly really sucked, ha. I was hoping to do some fun stuff with the kids before they went back to school, but that went out the window. Luckily my parents picked them up last Monday (their last day of vacation) and took them to Dave & Busters- which they LOVED. I also had to miss our niece’s baptism last Sunday. I did get Tamiflu, which is supposed to knock a day off of recovery time. I had fever from Thursday night through Sunday night, plus chills/aches and lots of chest congestion. It was bad; 100% do not recommend.

Anyway, I’m pretty much back to normal- though still coughing a lot. Also really happy to be getting back into a routine! And actually cooking! We had a wild day on Friday. There were some strong storms predicted for late Friday afternoon so our school opted to close early. I think everyone is still so freaked out after those October tornadoes. I grabbed the kids at 1:00 and then we just camped out at home for the rest of the day. On a whim I ended up making a version of these flourless oatmeal chocolate chip cookies from the BakerMama. I altered it a little by using chunky peanut butter and throwing in some dried cherries, but left out the walnuts.

They were SO good! And gluten-free, if that’s an issue for you. I definitely did not miss the flour at all. And in case you’re wondering the storms turned out to be no big deal.

My friends and I were texting last week about dinner ideas, and someone suggested this one-pot BBQ chicken pasta from Damn Delicious. I made it for dinner tonight and it was a hit! I used Stubb’s BBQ sauce (of course) and more than was called for in the recipe. Also topped it with sliced green onions.

Jack liked it, and we have at least 2 servings leftover for lunches!

Hope everyone is having a healthy and happy 2020 so far!

Posted in January 2020 | Leave a comment

Christmas 2019 Wrap-Up

Merry Christmas, 2 days late! December just flew by: Jack’s birthday, Nutcracker, basketball, holiday programs at school, and now here we are on December 27th. Geez. I didn’t get a chance to post any Nutcracker pics! Here’s my little gingerbread at dress rehearsal.

And doing her bow/gingerbread salute.

That girl loves a stage!

Jack actually stayed home sick for the last couple of days of school. Just a cough and sore throat (no strep or flu, thank god), and I enjoyed having my little buddy around. He’s all better and back to normal now! We even managed to get our gingerbread house decorated. Usually I just buy the kit and throw it away after Christmas because we never got around to doing it.

This week was spent running a few last minute errands, grabbing some groceries, and baking. This year I tried out the smoky savory fire crackers from How Sweet Eats. My mom used to make ranch-seasoned oyster crackers every year, which I LOVED. These are a little different: saltines baked with a sweet and spicy glaze. Planning to pack them up and deliver to neighbors.

I also made 2 batches of my friend Kira’s cranberry bars. I’ve been making them every year for the past 9 years and they are SO GOOD. Perfect with coffee in the afternoon (or even for breakfast, no judgment here). Isla goes nuts over them- which says a lot.

We made it just under the wire with our annual downtown Neiman’s Santa visit. Though it seems the best-kept secret is out (we got there 15 minutes after opening and waited an hour), I still maintain he’s the real deal. The photographer there is also the best at coaxing genuine smiles from my kids. I forgot to snap a photo while they were up there, but we did get one after at the giant eyeball. Equally festive?

I had a root canal yesterday (MERRY CHRISTMAS!) so the past couple of days have been pretty low key. I’m currently trying to decide if I want to take all the decorations down this weekend or wait until New Year’s Day. My money is on Wednesday…

Hope everyone had a great Christmas!

Posted in December 2019, Uncategorized | Leave a comment