Currently

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Enjoying a slower schedule – for about 6 months I kept thinking, things will slow down next month, and that kept not happening. Now it’s happening and I’m loving it.

Reading only the lightest and fluffiest material now that summer is here. The one upside to my husband bringing home buckets of work every night is that it leaves me plenty of time with my books.

Donating more clothes, books, and toys to unsuspecting thrift stores, libraries and consignment shops everywhere. I never got the nesting urge while I was pregnant, but man, has it hit me now.

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Inviting friends for dinner each Sunday evening. You’ll hear more about this fast-favorite tradition soon.

Transferring the stuff of life into my new planner. I splurged on The Simplified Planner this year, dear readers, and I can’t wait to dive into it on August 1.

Dreaming about some kind of fall getaway. We’ve got a wedding in New Jersey in October and I’m tempted to keep driving somewhere after we leave.

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Thinking about how much more I accomplish when I have a deadline. I have a couple of not-super-important things I want to do, but haven’t done yet, and they’re not getting done because a) I need to break them down into smaller chunks, and b) there’s no real rush to finish them.

Finishing Parks and Rec. I’ve tried watching it straight through a couple of times, but something about this go-round stuck, and my husband and I are almost done. We’ve got Master of None, season 2 on the list to go next, and by the time this post goes up, the new season of Orange is the New Black will be live! It takes place over 72 hours which is super-intriguing to me.

Planning a couple of adventures for the summer months that will make Gooplet’s and my days a little more exciting than usual. If you want it to be spring break, you have to make it spring break. The same is true for summer.

Summer Reading, 2017

Dear readers, today I’m linking to my favorite summer reading guides, and highlighting a couple of titles from each. But what I really want to know is which books you’ve moved to the top of your list this summer. What should I be reading?

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Modern Mrs. Darcy

Every Wild Heart because it’s inspired by Delilah. Yes, soft-rock radio station nighttime host Delilah!

Windfall just came in for me at the library and I’m loving it so far. Frothy YA is just right for the start of summer.

When Dimple Met Rishi has popped up on a couple lists I’ve seen, and I like the premise.

Hello Sunshine, because I liked Eight Hundred Grapes.

Anything is Possible I read My Name is Lucy Barton so fast, I wonder if I’ll even pick up on the characters who carry over from that story? Should I reread Lucy Barton first?

Everyday Reading

Walkable City It seems like there are a whole host of books about urban design out there, and that this has Janssen’s stamp of approval means a lot to me.

A Mother’s Reckoning because I read Columbine, and everyone is talking about this one.I think it will be a great follow-up.

Dark Matter because I started it but got carried away with other things, and had to return it, but I liked the start.

Moon Over Manifest because it’s been on my list to read forever (I own a copy!), and it’s about time I get around to reading it.

Cheese Day Saturday [tater tot breakfast skillet]

A while ago, The (Not So) New Girl introduced me (virtually) to her pseudo-cousin, someone who she said had a passion for all things cooking and cookbooks, and reminded her a lot of yours truly. Many a recipe-link/pin/email later, my foodie pen pal and I finally met up last weekend! We went to have brunch with The (Not So) New Girl, and wasn’t it a surprise when we discovered that each of us brought something with cheese.

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My contribution was a riff on How Sweet Eats’ tater tot breakfast skillet, but we all know these days I can’t be bothered to follow a recipe to the letter. Here’s what I did (and did again when I made this approximately 8 days later, yes it is that good):

Preheated the oven to 375.

Sauteed chopped onions, mushrooms, and a red pepper till soft, then added 3 minced cloves of garlic for the last minute or two. Put that mixture in the bottom of a well-greased baking dish.

Cracked 8 eggs, and added 2/3 C whole milk. Poured the mixture on top of the veggies.

Sprinkled 8 oz. of grated extra sharp cheddar on top of that.

Layered a bag of frozen tots all over the top.

Baked it for 45 minutes, and then ate way more than anyone ever should.

Wins of the Month – May, 2017

Oh man, does it ever feel like I’m coming off a month where the biggest win is that we survived. Looking forward to a laid-back summer.

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  • mailed birthday cards
  • ordered a ton of new art for the walls
  • moved some furniture to change the layout of our first floor
  • painted the screened porch ceiling blue
  • got an estimate for finishing the basement
  • cleared more clutter out of the house
  • spent tons of time outdoors
  • got a pedicure and my hair done
  • found a new brewery we love

To the Window, to the Wall

Yep. I went there. And I did what Gretchen Rubin told me to do in The Happiness Project and I indulged in a modest splurge.

PB Teen Katie Daisy "Sunshine + Salt Water" Watercolor Surf Art at... ($129) ❤ liked on Polyvore featuring home, home decor, wall art, multi, sea home decor, sun wall art, wood wall art, surf home decor and wooden wall art:

My absolute most favorite tip to give anyone trying to make a house a home is to put art or photos on the walls.

"How about Jupiter?" - Limited Edition Art Print by Maja Cunningham in beautiful frame options and a variety of sizes.

You could be living in a sea of milk crate furniture and those damned IKEA pegs that help you line up shelves, or you could be dreaming of the zillion dollar curtains you’ll have some day on your naked windows, but if you can pull it together enough to hang art, things will start to feel homier.

mother embrace by Kate Ahn at minted.com:

The beginning of June marks 2 years since we moved into our house. 2 years! And funny enough, we’ve just made a couple of changes to the layout in terms of where we want furniture and how best to use our space.

Wanna know where we got something, or what paint color we have on the walls? Browse each room in our house with shoppable links to get the look yourself.:

Mid-summertime Limited Edition Art Print by Emily Jeffords | Minted 30" x 40" $325.:

So I’m looking at our first floor with fresh eyes, and stalking the mailbox every day to see these pieces arrive. I’ve got a couple more personal items on the way from Framebridge, and then I’ll bust out my hammer.

Flamingos – Signed Acrylic Painting Print by CatCoq. Artwork Printed on 8.5"x11" High-Quality Archival Paper. Tropical Flamingo Wall Art

*Clicking on these items should take you right to the sources.

The Internet is My Favorite

Dear readers, let’s come fresh off of a great run of posts on meal planning and soak up some of the best internet out there, shall we?

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This salad is a very loose interpretation of one from Love and Olive Oil. The mini tortellini is a favorite purchase from Trader Joes (in the pasta aisle, not refrigerated section).

You should probably drop whatever you’re doing right now and listen to Katie Couric interview Ina. (Spoiler alert: Ina says shit twice! It feels so saucy!)

Cup of Jo linked to this before the last long weekend, and it (got a little long, but) reminded me of one of my favorite parts of one of my most recent reads. I didn’t know there was a name for all those administrative tasks I was managing in our family. Related – I freaking love administrative tasks.

**Update** Design Mom posted about this yesterday too. When there’s so much energy behind a post right away, you know someone has struck a nerve.

This Frito pie chili biscuit skillet is not something I’d usually make, but ever since I saw it, I’ve kind of been dreaming about it.

I love what Tsh writes about a chill-but-orderly summer. That’s the exact kind of pacing I like. (A reminder that if you have tiny people in your home all the time, if you want it to be summer, you have to make it summer.)

I had no idea you could buy so many Kit Kat flavorsKit Kat flavors in Japan. I’m intrigued.

Do you have any Little Free Libraries in your neighborhood? I adore them, and have a couple I check frequently.

I love everything Inslee draws, but I also adore what she writes. Happy to see a new blog post from her. Always cheering for new moms.

And while we’re on the subject of moms, Design Mom linked to this, which led me to this Instagram account, which is a wonderful reminder that every single person on this planet is the most beautiful.

Never thought about it this way – interest vs. attention span.

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Meal Planning – For a Week

Oh, how I hope you enjoyed hearing from Cari Faye and The (Not So) New Girl and #ChefJon. If you’re just checking in on things for the first time in a little while, we’re talking about meal planning, and I’ve walked you through my thought process while planning a week of meals, twice.  Here are a few final thoughts, and a huge round up of meal ideas for you.


After taking a look at our family’s calendar for the week, my meal planning has a lot to do with types of meals. When I notice what our level of activity looks like, I pick a meal based on how much time I have to devote to prep, and leftovers are almost always an option. Here are my main categories, and our favorites from each. 


But first! Before we started this whole series, I had a lot of commenters tell me they ended up with nothing for dinner by the end of the week. And CV(D) mentioned she sometimes doesn’t know exactly how much food she needs to cook on any given day. So you’ll see a * by any recipe that’s easily doubled and/or frozen. For those of you who run out of food, cook a double batch of these dishes whenever you make them, and freeze them. That way when you realize you’re in a pinch in a week or two, you can take something out of the freezer and you’re all set. I have a lot of these options waiting for the same emergency right now. And CV(D), these are the ones I’d recommend for you, too. Instead of making one giant casserole in case of 20 people, make 4 in those 8×8 baking tins you can easily grab in the baking aisle of the grocery store. Twenty people show up? Great! They’re fed! Just the usual 3? Eat one and freeze the rest for when those other 17 show up, or for you again another week. 


Make aheads: easy meatball stroganoff*, baked pesto rigatoni*, baked beans with hot dogs, Outlaw Plantation barbecue chicken, eggplant parmesan, sausage and kale stuffed shells*,

Slow cooker meals: Mississippi roast*, carnitas tacos*, Italian chicken, gnocchi with pork sauce*, Buffalo chicken sandwiches

Easy, on-the-spot dinners: mediterranean chicken with couscous*, meatball subs, baking sheet macaroni and cheese, chicken piccata, pesto risotto, frittata,

Dinners on heavy rotation: spaghetti pie*, slow cooker white chicken chili*, beef chili*, Parmesan ranch chicken, apricot glazed chicken, wings, rich people meat, macaroni and cheese*, Jamie Oliver’s chicken in milk,

 

 

May Reads

This month was shaping up to be a total dud. I had two weeks with the craziest schedule of commitments, and when all was said and done (plus a couple days of more Netflix than I’m comfortable admitting), I am so glad my New Year’s resolution is to read every day. My life felt out-of-whack, and I couldn’t figure out why my calendar had more wiggle room, but I still felt stressed and confused.

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I wasn’t reading.

Just Read:

How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids, by Jancee Dunn – This is the book that brought me out of that spell. I hate the title, and I don’t use that term lightly. I think a lot of people will glance at this book and think, “I don’t hate my husband and I have kids, so this isn’t the book for me.” And it IS! Or, it might be! For a lot more people than the small amount who would go so far as to use the word hate to describe their feelings for their spouse.

Confessions of a Slacker Wife, by Muffy Mead Ferro – This book had been lingering on my to-read list for years until I found a used copy and decided to pick it up just the other day. I assumed it was a novel, but no. A delightful collection of essays from a Wyoming-based writer. I love anyone who makes their ordinary life sound beautiful.

Also, this, this, this, and this, all largely forgettable.

Reading:

Confession of a Slacker Mom, by Muffy Mead Ferro – The volume I read is actually her second book, so I’m backtracking here to read the first.

Maeve’s Times, by Maeve Binchy – Wooden Nickels introduced me to Circle of Friends years and years and years ago, and oh, how I fell head over heels for Maeve. She writes these cozy novels, usually set in small towns in Ireland, and delightful is an apt description of almost all of them. If you read enough, you’ll find some of the same characters pop up here and there in other novels, which is like meeting old friends again. This is a collection of columns she wrote for the Irish Times, compiled over about 40 years. I’m reading them here and there when I have short bits of time.

Want to Read:

Pretty much anything frothy and light* for summer, especially this and this.

*It should be noted I have both Americanah and Cutting for Stone on loan from readers I respect and admire, but they might be on hold until our beach trip, during which I hope to have at least a couple of stretches of more than 30 minutes in which to fit my reading.

Meal Planning – For a Couple Days

Welcome back to my series on meal planning, dear readers. No need to have been following along from the beginning, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least point you toward my original meal planning post, if you’re so inclined.

I plan out meals a week at a time, because that’s what works for me. But that’s certainly not the only way.  Last week, you heard from Cari Faye who plans about a month at a time. Today, we’re checking in with The (Not So) New Girl and her husband #ChefJon who have a much looser planning system, and who share kitchen responsibilities pretty evenly between them.

Our only weekly planning is, what meat do you want this week?, and remembering to take it out of the freezer. If that doesn’t happen, we resort to vegetarian or sausages since they can be chopped and cooked from frozen.

We usually consider how many nights we need to make dinner before going to the grocery. Then we just buy x number of veggies, 1-2 more veggies than nights. Whoever is shopping gets the pick of the litter. Grocery/Costco almost exclusively only happen on the weekends. We’re not particular about our meats, oh hey, hormones, so we bulk up on meat at Costco about once a month and keep it in the freezer. It’s usually a variety of chicken, salmon, and sausages. Recently we’ve been trying to get more red meat in the house.

#ChefJon is the brain behind cooking and loves to look at  whatever we have, google some combination of ingredients, and then still put his own spin/modification on whatever he comes up with.  Once a week or so I’ll find a recipe I want to try or mention something I’m craving. The best nights are when we can actually manage to get in the kitchen together, #ChefJon and his #souschef.

It all works for us bc #ChefJon enjoys cooking and creating. The rare nights he’s not up for cooking I sometimes get stressed bc we didn’t “plan” on that. Those nights we usually end up with brinner* bc I am the queen of brin.

Outside of dinner, I make vats of oatmeal once a week for me, and an extra or so for our son. I Tupperware them all with necessary ingredients and usually eat at work. On the weeekends we eat cereal or eggs. And then we do lunch-making nightly. Usually turkey sandwiches** or leftovers. Whoever isn’t on cleanup duty takes care of lunches so neither of us is stranded in the kitchen.
Some of our staples, repeats, and go-to’s, which sometimes get their own spin are cauliflower bites, brinner (eggs over a veggie/meat/potato hash), eggplant Parmesan, winter soups/stews/chilis, stir fry or curry typically once a week (versatile because you can use any meat and veggie you have with a simple sauce), kale salads with combo of meat and veggies, veggie pasta with a different sauce typically canned tomato based, and homemade pizza on Trader Joe’s crust.

* aka, breakfast for dinner

** Part of the reason my husband likes The (Not So) New Girl so much is because she takes sandwich-making very seriously, just like he does.

Meal Planning – for a Month (ish)

Dear readers,

Dear readers!

I am SO SO SO SO excited about today. We’re still talking all things meal planning, but today it’s not me rambling at you, it’s CARI FAYE! Cari Faye, of not-cooking fame! She’s sharing some insight on her own meal planning process, which is vastly different from mine. Because, again, say it with me now, there is no right way to meal plan! I plan every week. Cari Faye plans by the month.

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As someone who is a picky eater (scratch that – I have a discriminating palate), meal planning is an easy task.  There are only so many things I’m willing to eat, and  even fewer things I’m willing to spend time in the kitchen preparing/cooking/etc.  Our weeks usually go as follows – Sunday night through Wednesday night is home cooked meals.  Thursday night is some grab bag assortment of stuff from the freezer (I’m talking frozen ravioli, bagel bites, chicken nuggets – total kid food) and the Friday night and Saturday night are reserved for carry out.  Home cooked meals for 4 nights equates to 2 different meals with leftovers for 2 nights.  As someone who finds cooking to be a total chore, this makes it more manageable by only cooking every other night.

2 different meals = 1 meal of chicken and 1 meal of beef.  My beef recipes include meatloaf and meatballs.  My chicken recipes include gourmet things like shake and bake and corn flake chicken.  There’s 2 weeks worth of dinners right there.  The third week is usually baked ziti week – a meal that lasts for 3 nights instead of 2 (score!!) and my husband’s favorite.  That week we have an extra night of carry out (my favorite).  And then we start back over again in week 4.

In the summer, we get to rotate in things like hamburgers and grilled chicken, which I love because it’s tasty AND I don’t do the grilling (although this means I’m the one cleaning dishes; everything in life is a trade off). In the winter, the slow cooker is used ALL. THE. TIME.  BBQ chicken, coke chicken, any chicken recipe I can find.  Yes, the only thing I cook in my slow cooker is chicken (told you I had a discriminating palate).

After giving birth to our daughter and going back to work full time, I decided I really did not even want to spend 2 nights a week cooking dinner.  I now take 1 weekend a month and spend a day preparing enough meals to put in the freezer to last for a month.  This seems to be working well.  While defrosting meatballs and microwaving them isn’t quite as tasty as the freshly cooked version, it’s so much easier for us right now.  And easy = winning.

Don’t even ask me about sides.  I suck at those.  For many reasons, but the main one being I only eat foods that are beige.  So we rotate between tater tots, mashed potatoes, rice and macaroni and cheese as our sides. No joke.  In the summer, we eat corn on the cob!  And sometimes I’m feeling adventurous and will heat up some string beans out of the can, because those are the only vegetable I like.
Lessons you can take away from this?
1. Being a picky eater makes meal planning so much easier
2. As long as you don’t mind eating the same 6-8 meals on repeat, meal planning is a win
3. Tell your husband whenever you go out to eat to order the thing on the menu he loves but you will never cook for him.  this way he still gets to eat what he likes too! (For my husband, this ends up being a lot of pork and seafood.)