My Favorite Follows

Every now and again I go through un-following sprees, and the advent of another new year has brought on the urge to clean up my Instagram feed. Friends get to stay, but everyone else has the potential to be on the chopping block. Usually these clean-outs are based on whatever mood strikes me, but this time around, I asked myself a question: Does this feed add something to my life? Dear readers, these are the accounts for which I can wholeheartedly answer that question.

Click on the photos below to take you to each person’s feed.

If you want to know what to read:

17.3k Likes, 3,229 Comments - Reese’sBookClubxHelloSunshine (@reesesbookclubxhellosunshine) on Instagram: “Our latest pick is This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by #AnnPatchett! This collection of essays…”



Wednesday offerings.  Some books have been returned and are ready to head out again.  Tidied things up with a new shelf too.  Come by and take some books home! #littlefreelibraryeastbethesda #littlefreelibrary #littlefreelibraries #zenandtheartofmotorcyclemaintenance #littlegoldenbooks #holesmovie


If you want to know what to cook:

@abowlfulloflemons (stories)


If you want some good pep talks (mixed with a bunch of other content):

Good Life quotes by Becky Higgins


Less Is More  |  Emily Ley


If you like all things preppy:



If you want to keep your toddlers busy without plunking them in front of screens*:



*But really, no judgement if screen-plunking is your preferred method. It’s often mine.

On Formative Books

This little blog began as a way to share recipes, and log what I’ve been eating for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, many, many years ago. And over time, it’s come to showcase even more pieces of my life. A life which is not complete without reading.

I’m one of those people who has always been a reader. Always. Like, remembers attending preschool story times vividly. Remembers her first time sitting down with Brother and Sister Bear, with Ramona, The Grand High Witch, and oh, how I remember spending some 4th grade afternoons with Billy, Old Dan, and Little Ann.

Almost every job I in which I found myself over the years involved working with children in some capacity, and I was the luckiest because though they were written for children younger than me, I also got to meet Stanley Yelnats, Lina and Doon, Jack, Edward Tulane, and Hugo. (It goes without saying that you could find me at the front of the Borders line every summer for the latest Harry Potter installment, right?)

do good quote - do all the good you can in all the ways you can… I think I love this.. maybe because I'm a DG and a Methodist so this hits those both :D


And then, in 2012, a new book came out. A book about a boy named Auggie. And I kept hearing things about this book from people whose opinions I greatly respect. So I bought the book. I read it in a day. The chapters are short, and it is not hard at all to find yourself rooting for multiple characters in the story.


This is where I have to put the disclaimer that Wonder is not the most well-written children’s book of all time. Not even close. There are chapters that are superfluous, the dialog can get clunky, and the story goes on a tad too long.

But you should read it anyway.

The world is worth exploring. 🌎 Who’s excited for Wonder the movie?


It is written exactly the way ten and eleven year olds talk to each other. And it’s dead on in terms of how children handle themselves at school and at home. And while there is slang that won’t hold up over the years, the way kids treat each other will always be something worth looking at from multiple angles.

The movie comes out today. There was never going to be a movie, but of course, there is always a movie. The cast is certainly star-studded enough to do the book justice, and the previews I’ve seen have reduced me to tears on multiple occasions.

I can’t wait.

*Dear readers, I have to tell you, I’ve long had a soft spot for this, John Wesley’s rule, and though this image was the nicest I could find, the last line should read: as long as ever you can.

In Which I am Lame [smitten kitchen confetti cake]

It’s confession time, dear readers.

I don’t get funfetti.



I mean, I get it. Sprinkles in and cake and on a cake. What could be more festive?

But is it that big a deal to throw sprinkles in a cake? I guess it is because you can find funfetti versions of just about anything. But I never got into it.

Which is why when an old college friend asked if I’d made Smitten’s confetti cake, I answered no. I remember watching Deb’s Insta story this summer, when she deftly iced Muppets on her daughter’s second birthday cake (because of course she did), but I wasn’t overtaken with a need to replicate the cake itself. I signed up to bring birthday snacks at the end of every month to a group of women I love to hang out with, and right as the end of October rolled around, I got that question. I completely trust this friend’s foodie opinions, so there we go. Decision made. Confetti cake was on the menu.

Gooplet and I cranked the cupcakes out on Monday, iced them on Tuesday, and we served them on Wednesday. I used the little non-pareil rainbow sprinkles that no one really likes (Seriously, does anyone have a place for these in their heart?), and guess what? Still some seriously wonderful cupcakes. Deb will never leave you astray. I doubled the cake recipe and baked 20 cupcakes for 22 minutes. Double the frosting was plenty for icing them.

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.


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.

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.


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.


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.

If You Want it to be Spring Break, You Have to Make it Spring Break [Week in the Life, Monday]

Monday was the last day of our spring break. But not really spring break. I was just mom-ing away at home like I always do. The difference between spring break and regular life was that I declared it spring break. This meant laundry was neglected, I got lax about cleaning, I shirked some clean up duties to read on the porch every night, and we are all still fine.

One of the things I loved about being a teacher was that come June, the school year was over and done, and you could start fresh in the fall. Not so with mom-life. It’s on and on and on and on-going. And there’s never a good time to stop the madness and take a break from the daily routines. But sometimes, your friends are on spring break, and so you declare a little break of your own.

If you want it to be spring break, you have to make it spring break.

You decide that this is the week you’ll have a little more fun.

Here’s what Monday looked like.


He just lives to be outside. I enjoy being outside, but not as much as him. On good days, I’m accommodating.


He and I both share a love of the grocery store, thank goodness. He likes to bang on boxes in the front of the cart, and point and shout at balloons as we walk around. He loves saying hello to the butcher, and the check out ladies.


I am almost always my most productive during Monday morning naptime. Today was dinner in the slow cooker, laundry folded, dishes washed, smoothie finished, coffee poured, trash and recycling out, groceries put away.


We are in the car for something or another every day. Love seeing those chubby feet.


We love when we have an errand to run right near two of our besties. Met them at the grocery store and picked up a couple things at Home Goods (but not the things I needed).


He asked for TV when we got home, so 10 minutes of snuggles and Sesame Street (with Grover and Cookie Monster).


He loves to play with little figures. These two are fresh from the Easter basket.


We ventured off to see more friends (told you it was spring break). The grown ups had a glass of wine and spanikopita. He ran all over the place.


They did dinner together while I caught my breath.


We (3) did bath time with a super tired Gooplet.


We ate dinner together, but each did our own (phone) thing.


I ended the day the best way I know how. Reading (Small Admissions) on the porch. A couple nights away from home this week means this is probably not going to happen as much as I want it to.

Why so many photos in one day? It’s Week in the Life! Stay tuned for more shots from my week.

Questions? Ali invented it.

Past Weeks in my life? 2016//2015//Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday* Saturday Sunday 2011 (!!!!!)

*AGOMYR, you still reading? Be sure to click on Friday. xoxo


Wins of the Month, February 2017

Some months, I jot down wins as they happen, and others, it’s all I can do to look back at the calendar and wonder what happened. This month was the latter.


And I think, rather than a bulleted list, our biggest win was that we survived.  My husband started traveling more for work, I took on a big role in our church, and the entire month was spent with one of us either coming or going. And we’re still standing. On to March.


Cooking for Pops [fesenjan]

When we go to the beach, we take turns cooking.  Most of us make our staples.  Wooden Nickels is always good for mac and cheese, brussels sprouts, and spinach pizza.  My husband grills brats, and there’s always a burger night in there.  But Pops does his own thing every time.  He spends the morning culling AllRecipes* for something that’s just right.  His tastes tend toward the exotic, so we know when he’s cooking we’re not going to end up with another boring casserole.**


When Pops visited for a weekend, I combed my Pinterest boards to see if there was something worthy of serving him for dinner.  I came across this Persian chicken dish on one of the best food sites around, Simply Recipes, and I knew I was on to something good.  I love making something completely new and different, and while I don’t know whether or not this ended up tasting like a traditional Persian chicken with walnut stew, I do know that it was a great meal, and fun to make.  Because we’re always passing the Gooplet, we shared the responsibilities involved with preparing it, and all sat down to enjoy once he’d gone to bed.

*While at the beach this year, a friend pointed us toward their app, which has a great search tool you can use seriously, or for fun (Give me an appetizer that takes two hours to make, and involves Fruit Loops–ooh, now I want to play Chopped on our next rainy beach day.)
**I say that in jest, dear readers, as I am always, always good for another boring casserole.  They’re perfect at the beach because you prep them in the morning, and cook them in the evening, leaving you multiple hours to spend at the beach.