French Dips | Cooking Through Construction

I moved all our kitchen things to the basement last weekend so I had to start my basement cooking early.  Jeff didn’t really understand why I wasn’t using the kitchen for my cooking, but I explained to him that I had all my cooking accoutrement downstairs already plus I was eager to see how difficult the whole process would be.

I decided to make an Instant Pot meal, which turned out really well!  I even made some of my Crispy Parmesan Zucchini to go along with it.  Yum!

I wasn’t sure how easy it would be to cook in the basement, but it was really no trouble at all!  I just thought of it like camping…with all my necessities of home.  The only thing I’m missing downstairs aside form an oven is my sink, but I’ve made do so far.  I have a plastic bucket I keep downstairs with me and I throw all my dirty dishes in it while I cook.  Then, after dinner, I take the bin upstairs and hand wash everything and let them dry.  In the morning, I take everything back downstairs and put all of it away.  Organization, people.  That’s the key.

My whole goal throughout this blog post series is to give you guys a list of recipes you can make without an oven.  I figured this would be good to know if you’re ever in this situation or, say, camping at a campsite that has electricity.  Sure, I know the whole novelty of camping is cooking over an open fire, but sometimes you’re too hungry to wait for the fire to get hot enough!  Let’s face it.  It’s also just a great way to share the recipes I’ve had success with in my Instant Pot because that’s what 90% of my meals are going to be!

These sandwiches were very yummy.  The key is choosing the right cut of meat.  I made a similar dish the night before and chose poorly.  Learning from my mistake, I paid closer attention to the recipe and looked for that particular cut of meat this time.  Yay!  It worked!


Does anyone else have this guy’s voice running through you’re head when you make a good decision?  No?  Just me?  Ok then…

French Dip Subs
(adapted from this recipe)

  • 2.5 pound chuck roast
  • 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons of kosher salt
  • freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1/2 cup of red wine
  • 1 14 oz can of low-sodium beef broth
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 6 soft rolls
  • 3 tablespoons of butter, melted
  • 1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • 6 slices of provolone cheese

Turn your Instant Pot on to saute and add your vegetable oil.  While the pot heats up, season your chuck roast with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  Brown the roast evenly on all sides and remove from the pot.

Add your onion to the pot and, if needed, a touch more oil.  Cook on saute for a few minutes until the onions are soft.  Next, add your red wine and cook until it reduces by half.  After that, you’ll want to add your beef broth and bay leaf.

e116506f-e73c-443d-a128-9a082b526fe8_1-a55483223214ff9d9a02b8e3af2c2045I have been loving Better Than Bouillon lately!  I never even knew about this product, but it’s awesome!  It’s basically broth that has been condensed all the way down to a paste.  When you’re ready to use it, you just mix it with boiling water.  I was lazy and used room temperature water, which worked just fine.  Telling you, people, you make due with what you have!  And, bonus, it comes in lots of flavors and is a fraction of the broth in the box!  I also happen to love those broth boxes too, but seriously this stuff is awesome.

After you add your broth and the bay leaf to the pot, hit Warm/Cancel to cancel the Saute.  Then put the lid on, making sure the pressure valve is set to sealing.  I sometimes forget this step!  Then hit the Meat/Stew button and let the pot do it’s thing for 100 minutes.  You’ll want the pot to let the pressure release naturally for about 25 minutes before you open the lid.  I was famished at this point and could barely wait for the pot to beep, let along the pressure to release on it’s own.  But I did it!  And then proceeded to eat about ¼ of the roast while I was preparing dinner!  It was soooo good.

Remove your roast from the pot CAREFULLY because it falls apart that easily.  Shred the beef with a couple forks.  Then strain the liquid in your pot to get all the onions, etc, out of the broth.  This is your au jus you’ll want for dipping.  At this point, I varied from the recipe I used a bit.  I put the beef back in the sauce to get the beef all juicy.

Meanwhile, I split the rolls (I got to bolillo rolls from Kroger, which we LOVE) and toasted them in the toaster.  When they were nice and golden, I spread the toast with a little butter, topped them with the beef, and finally with provolone.  I let the heat of the roast melt the cheese and served!  They were seriously delicious.

The boys enjoyed the sandwiches while watching a traditional February movie favorite…The Polar Express. 

According to Jake, not quite as delicious as the meal I made last night, but still.  Stay tuned to see the first pictures of kitchen demo.  Coming soon!!


It’s Like We’re Moving

Once I got the date for our kitchen renovation, things got real, fast.  Jeff got the call that the other fan and the light fixtures were in at the light store, so he picked those up Saturday morning.  Also Saturday morning, my new baby arrived!oven

I took Saturday off to get to work on the rest of the kitchen.  I spent most of the day cleaning out the remaining cabinets and organizing our workspace in the basement.  I can already tell it’s going to be an interesting few weeks!  I’m going to get a lot of stair credit on my Apple Watch, I’ll tell you that!

The first, and probably most important part, we tackled was the pantry.  I started by removing all of the food and organizing it into what I knew I’d need (oils, sauces, etc) and what I might not (waffle mix, lemon curd…you know…those non-everyday items).foodNo, this is nowhere near all of it.

Jake was a HUGE help!  He removed the items he could reach and put them on the counter for me.  Then I went through and organized things.  Eventually we switched and he started “organizing”.jake1I had tons of plastic bins from over the years (I told you I liked containers!), so I organized things into bins where I could.  Jake loves thing organized (unless it’s his toys), so he really enjoyed helping! jake2Once we had everything pulled out of the pantry and organized, it was time to haul the stuff downstairs to set up.  I have a bunch of these shelving units in the basement with bins of things on them, so I was able to clear off and stack the bins and move one of the shelves over to my work area to act as a pantry.jake3I have had “overstock” (yep…you can tell I work retail) in my basement for years (on the lefthand shelves).  When I see a good deal on something, I stock up.  So adding another shelving unit of food just seemed the right thing to do!

I will be cooking in a “make shift” kitchen throughout the process.  My personal challenge is to only eat out once a week.  The boys might eat out twice because I work one night a week, but other than that, we are STAYING IN!  The more money we save, the sooner we can take on the next project!

cooking-setupI’m pretty proud of my little “kitchen”.  I can’t really have the fridge items downstairs with me, which is the only thing I’m really not looking forward to, but I’m pretty sure I have everything else I need!

toasterI love my toaster oven.  It’s good size and I can cook a small pan of lasagna or stuff shells in it.  I’m pretty sure I won’t have to use it nearly as much as I would have before I got my Instant Pot though!  It would be pictured, but I’m making Mississippi Pot Roast for dinner, so it’s up in the kitchen currently.

olive-oilMy “workspace” has my most used items within arms reach.  My olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, and DLM spice rub is right there as well as some small mixing bowls and measuring cups.

cooking-itemsThe rest of my utensils and important accoutrement are in the stacked drawers that sit on the table. Ignore the labels…these were from my very brief days of scrapbooking.  I was too lazy to remove them.  The bottom drawer has various baking things in it.  The next two drawers are filled with my spices…I told you I was addicted!  The second to top drawer has measuring cups and spoons, whisks, spatulas, mixing spoons, etc in it.  And finally all the tall bottles are at the top.  You never know.  I might actually like this set up!  I won’t have to bustle around the kitchen quite as much!

coffeeOf course I couldn’t forget my coffee maker!  I’m not really looking forward to going downstairs for my morning cup of joe, but we all must make sacrifices.  Maybe it will get me in the habit of exercising first thing in the morning!  (Wow…I sound lazy!)under-tableUnder the table, I have some larger mixing bowls and other kitchen items on the left, my big bin of baking things in the middle, and all the plastic wrap, bags, etc on the right.

jacobAt this point, I had spent a good few hours in the kitchen and basement.  Jake was tired of helping so he decided to drive his truck around and pout, waiting for me to play with him.  I should have sent him to his buddy’s house so he wasn’t so bored!

Finally the kitchen was cleaned out and our basement kitchen was assembled.  Here is our final look at the kitchen I’ve been cooking in (and wishing to update) for over 7 years:

ceilingThis is the main space I’m in when I’m in the kitchen.  I spend most of my time cutting and prepping my food on both of these counters.  One thing I love about our house is the tall ceilings.  Our new kitchen is going to have cabinets that go all the way up to the crown molding above our fridge.kitchenThis is the opposite side of our kitchen.  You can’t tell in this picture, but the space between these counters and the previous counters is too great.  It was too small for an island and felt bigger than necessary.  Our new kitchen will be straightening out the counter and removing pretty much everything thats not attached to the counter.  Our upper cabinet (complete with its crooked door) and pantry will be gone and the counter will be turned into an island.  I’ll be very excited to get rid of the “bar height” counter. No one could ever use it because the builders made it way too high.barThis will all be gone!  So long, ugly bar stools!sinkGod, I hate our white cabinets and blue counters.  So dang ugly!  We are going to have a medium brown cabinets and grey/black counters.  It’s hard for me to describe the color, but it’s very pretty.  We love it.  We will also have creamish colored tile on the floor and the same color subway tile as our backsplash.fanYou can baaaaarely see our cabinets and counters on the left side of this picture.  In the new kitchen we will be extending the cabinets by TWO pantries!  The cabinets will go nearly all the way to the windows!  And there’s another one of those ugly fans!  Good riddance!  We will also be parting with our kitchen table.  Jeff got this table when he was in college so it’s a good 15 years old!  It’s a nice table but won’t really go with our new “look”.

So that was my Saturday.  I feel accomplished and excited, though I am a little apprehensive to see how this whole cooking in the basement thing goes.  It’s kind of like camping!  Wish us luck!  Now to go see Fifty Shades Darker.  😛




T-4 days until the renovation starts.  I’m overwhelmingly excited and nervous at the same time.  I’m trying to imagine what a month (or more) of cooking is going to look like.  Not only do I cook at least 6 nights a week, but I also make breakfasts and lunches at home too.  Especially with us trying to save as much as possible and not going out to eat hardly at all, this renovation is going to be a challenge.  In truth, I’m kind of looking forward to the challenge…I think.

This past week with emphasis on the weekends that bookended it, Jeff and I (but mostly Jeff) have spent countless hours looking at fans and light fixtures.  Apparently most lighting companies don’t bother to create fans and light fixtures that coordinate because it’s rare to have a fan and a chandelier in the same room.  Since we are having an open concept kitchen with both in the same room, we wanted them to look like they went together.  Even if we just got the same color fan blades and the same color metal, we wanted them to coordinate at least somewhat.  He seriously spent all day Sunday scouring the internet for the perfect fixtures.  Every time we would think we landed on a decision, something would change our minds.  They were too expensive, one of us didn’t like the design, maybe it’s not the right color, it’s not big enough, it’s too big.  On and on and on.

Jeff had President’s Day off and wound up at a local shop to discuss our dilemma.  We had decided we liked one brand in particular,  Kichler, which apparently is quite popular.  The local store had a whole catalog of Kichler products and, turns out, they make coordinating pieces!  Score!  Within a couple hours, Jeff had decided on a couple options and sent them to me for the final decision.  We were finally done!  Signed, sealed, delivered.  Well, at least one was delivered Wednesday night.  And we couldn’t wait to install it!

But first, we had to remove this gaudy monstrosity: fanUgh.  Vomit.  I apologize to anyone who has fans like this is your house.  You do you.  This is not me.  It took Jeff and I three hours to remove this fan and replace it with the new one, but it’s up!  And I love it!  fan2And yes I helped in more ways than reading the instructions and handing Jeff screws.

Since I am off Thursday mornings, it was my goal to get as much of the kitchen packed up as possible.  I decided to turn on This Is Us while I worked.  (Side note: isn’t that show amazing?!  I had missed the last five episodes so over the last few days I decided to catch up on it.  What a tearjerker!!)

Slowly but surely I made my way around the kitchen going through cabinets and drawers, systematically packing things up, throwing things away, and saving things for use until our renovations start.  I have discovered a couple things about myself through this process:

I enjoy spices.  I mean really enjoy spices.  I remember my friend, Chrissy, came over to get some tips on how to make a lasagna and she was saying how she had to go buy some spices like garlic and onion powders.  I chuckled and opened my spice cabinet (yes I have an entire cabinet devoted to spices) to pour some of mine into little baggies for her.  When she saw my spice cabinet, she about fainted.  She could not believe how many I had!  What’s funny is that was several years ago and I think my spices had babies since then because the collection has at least doubled.spices3I couldn’t bear to part with them quite yet and i couldn’t decide which ones I was going to need next month.  So my solution is to look for a box at work tonight that allows me to keep the spices together and easily reachable next month.  Until then, they live here now.

plasticI have a soft spot for plastic containers.  This is in no way a surprise to Jeff.  He actually complains about this on an almost daily basis.  He says I have too many, but we always have leftovers that I want to keep.  I also take my lunch to work and it’s normally not something I can put in a baggie.  Whatever.  He likes them.

I like gadgets.  This isn’t even all of them.  I got rid of several a while back.  By “got rid of”, I mean I moved them from the kitchen to a plastic container in the basement in case I ever needed it again.  I mean, when does one “need” an avocado slicer?  Isn’t that just called a knife?

As I was going through the kitchen, I was reminded just how many shortcuts they made when building!!  Jeff had a door guy over to look at our patio door and he commented quite a few times on how they shortcutted a ton.  I really do love my house, but I have noticed things ever since day one that they could have done differently.  Our windows in the kitchen look like they were put in by a kindergartener.  It’s just sloppy work.  Hopefully this company we hired is much more professional.  I can tell you right now if they aren’t Jeff will raise holy hell about it.

After about three hours of work, my kitchen is at least 75% packed.  I didn’t touch the food in the pantry (mainly because I’m still trying to decide what I’m going to do with everything) and I still have some dishes we will use between now and Monday.  But the rest of it sits in boxes on my kitchen table.

I decided to take a well deserved break after to relax and write this blog post.  Now I have to convince myself to move those boxes to the basement so the boys have a place to eat dinner tonight!  Maybe this can count as my cardio…


Crispy Parmesan Zucchini

img_9050I have this love/hate relationship with vegetables.  Most of the time, if I’m being honest with myself, I hate them.  At least most of them.  I’m looking at you, broccoli.  I blame my mom and her weekly chicken broccoli casserole for that one.  😉 Love you, mom!

But…when I find a way I love them…I really love them!  I already wrote about my Zucchini Crisps, but since then I have found a new, better, easier way to make zucchini.  A way in which I could eat them every day and not get tired of them!  There are but two ingredients (four if you count salt and pepper) in my little love affair food.

Zucchini and parmesan.  That’s it!  Guys, it’s seriously so good.  And so EASY!  It’s perfect for those busy weeknights when you have to throw a side dish together quickly.

img_9052Crispy Parmesan Zucchini

1 medium zucchini
¼ cup parmesan (give or take)
Salt and pepper
Optional:  other seasonings to give different flavors to the zucchini.  My favorites are Sunny Paris and Sweet Curry from Penzeys

Preheat oven to 400°.  Cut zucchini into ¼-⅛” rounds depending on your preference.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and optional seasoning if you desire.

Place rounds on a nonstick cookie sheet.  Sprinkle each round with a generous pinch of parmesan cheese.  Full disclosure, I don’t ever measure so it may or may not be ¼ cup.  I like a small mound of cheese on my zucchini so it melts down and gets all crispy when it cools.

Bake for 10-15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the zucchini is tender.  I have cooked it for 10 minutes and the zucchini is still a little chewy as well as the 15 minutes, which makes the bottom of the zucchini somewhat more caramelized and crispy.  Either way, it’s a winner!




Hiking Adventures

I’ve been trying my hardest to get healthy in 2017.  I wasn’t terribly unhealthy in the past, but I definitely let go of my healthy habits recently.  It’s resulted in a nearly 40 pound weight gain from my ideal weight from 2010.


Aren’t we cute?  😛

Part of my motivation for losing weight and getting healthy in addition to living longer and being able to keep up with my son is the fact that I’m matron of honor in my best friend’s wedding on April 8th.


The dress I ordered is just a leeeeeetle too snug so I’d like to tone up just a bit and lose just a smidge of weight between now and then.  My goal is to stay under my calories and to move 30 minutes extra every day.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what kinds of exercises I want to focus on.  I’ve tried a few things in the past and my two favorites are Zumba and walking.  I’m not a runner.  I’m just not.  I hate it.  But walking is awesome!  I love putting my headphones in and pounding the pavement.  I do some of my best thinking while I walk!

Then I started thinking about how I could get Jake involved more.  We’ve introduced him to the world of video games which is a little scary to be honest.  I love me some Zelda and Mario and want him to have fun with me while we play, but I want to avoid him becoming so digitally dependent to have fun.

We don’t get outside enough in my opinion.  Our options are limited right now with the cold Ohio winter but, when it gets warmer, I want him to want to choose to go outside instead of stay indoors.

img_8962editedThis weekend was 60º on Saturday so we went hiking at our local arboretum!  We had been to another park once last year and he only lasted about ¼ mile before asking to be carried.  He’s 40 pounds now…I can carry him but only for short distances so that’s not really an option.  Part of me was hesitant to take him with me, but I figured I can’t not try, right?

img_8967editedAt our arboretum there are three paths:  the RED one is .6 miles, the BLUE is 1.1, and the YELLOW is 1.8.  I asked Jake which one he wanted to start with, explaining the differences. He chose the red (with my persuasion) to “see how things go”.

We started down the red path and I explained how to tell which trail to take based on the markers.  I think it became a game to him to find the red dots.  Every time we came to a fork, I asked him which way to go and he would shout “Mommy! It’s that way!”

img_8964editedA couple times we came across a muddy section and he would start to whine about getting dirty.  I would say “You’re a boy! You’re supposed to get dirty!”  Then I started thinking about it…why is it OK for boys to get dirty, but not girls?  So I changed it to “You’re a kid! You’re supposed to get dirty!”  Once I had to pick him up and carry him over a particularly deep muddy section, but other than that he was a trooper!  He even started splashing in the “muddy puddles” (thank you, Peppa) towards the end.

img_8970editedWe got to the end of the red path and I asked if he wanted to go back to the car or keep hiking.  He wanted to keep hiking!  So I asked which path…if he wanted to go on the red one again or try another one…and he picked the blue path.  I kept asking if he was sure and double checking that he wasn’t tired, but he was a trooper and insisted he was up for it.

love the blue path.  It goes down a little hill and past a babbling brook.  We even saw a deer on this hike!

img_8992editedI think we took a wrong turn eventually (this path isn’t as clearly marked) because we ended up only walking about 1.7 miles including the walk to and from the parking lot, but that’s OK.  I was still proud of my little buddy for completing it!

img_8965editedThe best part?  He keeps asking when we can go hiking again!  I can’t wait to check out some other parks near us…I hear there’s great hiking all over Ohio!


Cooking Through Construction

We are ½ of the way through February.  Can you believe it?  I certainly can’t.  But I also can’t wait for March because…my kitchen is getting renovated!  Not just new paint and cleaning out a couple cabinets.  I’m talking removing walls, y’all!  I’m beyond excited!  Here’s what we’re working with right now:


Ugh.  Ugly.  I hate it.  It doesn’t look terrible in the picture, but what you can’t see is all the scratches on the countertop lip, the “paint” coming off the cabinets, the crappy quality of the product, the cabinets not staying screwed into the frames, and basically just the general disfuctionality of the kitchen.  My house was one of those development houses where they were just trying to get the work done in as quick of a time frame with the cheapest stuff they could find.  Not anymore!


Like I said, we are taking down walls, adding cabinets, getting a new oven (EEEKKK!!!), painting, new countertops, new sink, new backsplash, EVEN MORE counter space and cabinet space, raising the height of the cabinets, new floors, the works!!!

Basically everything in this picture will be gone or moved:


The one thing about this whole process I’m not really looking forward to is the whole being without a kitchen to cook in thing.  I cook dinner at least 6 nights a week, but most of the time I cook every night.  Even on the nights I’m not going to be home, I try to leave my boys with something they can heat up.

I’m combatting that by making a dinner plan for the month of March (they think our reno will take about 4 weeks) which will include a LOT of freezer meals and Instant Pot recipes.  I’m planning on starting a new series on here called “Cooking Through Construction” which will focus these oven-free foods.  Follow along with me while I experience this adventure!

Step one?  Replacing our couch.  I know what you’re thinking…how is the couch part of the kitchen renovation?  We are basically redoing our main living space.  Our house is open concept already and, with the removal of the wall separating the kitchen from the living room, that openness is going to be even more vast.

Our old couch was in sad, sad shape and we were looking for more “adult” furniture.


So we upgraded to this beauty:


She’s so comfy! We are still working on side tables, lamps, fans, decor, etc for the space, but step one is complete!

couch1Stay tuned for step two! (Ugh…we have so much work to do!)

If anyone is great at decorating, let me know.  I suck at it.

What’s New

Confession:  I have probably 15 blog post topics just sitting in my WordPress desktop waiting for me to type them out.  I have an additional 4 or 5 sets of pictures on my iPhone waiting to be loaded into WordPress.  Most of them are recipes, which makes them easy to postpone, as I’m going to do today.

See, I was going to share with you my chili recipe as it’s Super Bowl time.  In fact, as I type this I can taste remnants of the chili on my tongue as I sit watching the Super Bowl commercials and waiting for Lada Gaga.  I would LOVE to be one of those people who live for the game but I’m not.  Never have been.  Turn on some Kentucky Wildcats basketball and we’ve got another story.  But football?  Yeah, no.img_8398

Speaking of basketball, did I mention my little guy is playing?  He had his last game two weekends ago.  He and his buddy, Anderson, had so much fun!img_8816

But this post is not about sports.  It’s about what’s new at the grocery store!  At least what’s new that I saw today.  There are tons of things I missed I’m sure.  In fact, I wasn’t even looking for these items!  But man I’m glad I found them.

Chobani Meze Dip

I have been looking for this dip for a while now.  I really didn’t know anything about it other than it’s Chobani, one of my favorite companies.  I have tried all sorts of Greek yogurt brands in the past and I always come back to Chobani.  For a while I was a Fage fan, but recently I’ve decided the filling is too sweet.  I love Chobani black cherry in particular.  So when I saw these dips on Ibotta (a money saving app), I wanted to try them.  I picked up the Smoked Onion Parmesan flavor today. They also have Roasted Red Pepper, Three Pepper Salsa, and Chili Lime.

I saw all the delicious flavors and then I saw something that REALLY caught my eye.  TWENTY FIVE CALORIES IN TWO TABLESPOONS.  Seriously?  No.  No, seriously?  I am in my best friend’s wedding in two months and my bridesmaid’s dress is just a smidge too tight, so I’m trying to loose a few pounds.  When I saw a creamy, flavorful dip for only 25 calories per serving, I had to try it.  And you know what?  It’s amazing!  So delicious!  I can’t wait to try the other flavors!  I can definitely see myself having this product on hand at all times.  I had it on crackers but mini bell peppers and carrots would be great too.

Stonefire Naan Crisps
I have been increasingly interested in trying Indian food lately.  I’ve had a little here and there, but I’ve never been to an Indian restaurant.  I keep trying to convince my Indian pharmacy manager to take me to a local restaurant so I can get an education with my meal, but our schedules never really mesh up.  One of these days…

So, instead, I keep finding Indian-inspired items to tide me over.  Take these crisps for example.  I love naan…I still haven’t tried making my own, though I have a recipe in my Pinterest file that I’m excited to try.  Maybe after the kitchen renovation is over.  These naan crisps are light, flavorful, and the perfect vehicle for the Chobani dip!  The Tandoori spice ones are particularly delicious.  They are dangerous though.  I could kill a bag in about 10 minutes (or less).  The food scale and portion control are my friends lately.

Snack Factory Dessert Thins

I can’t say enough good things about Snack Factory.  They started it all with the Original Pretzel Crisps, which are delicious by themselves.  Then they started adding flavors.  Everything, Honey Mustard and Onion, Garlic Parmesan.  All the flavors are good.  Not to mention that time they dipped the pretzels in peanut butter and chocolate.  Talk about killing a bag in one sitting!

Now, they have introduced Dessert Thins.  These cookie-like crackers are sweet and delicious.  You get four 2×2 squares for 130 calories and they come in the yummy flavors of brownie, chocolate chip, or, my personal favorite, lemon tart.  The lemon ones would be awesome topped with raspberry jam and some candied lemon rind!

Damn.  Now I can’t stop thinking about those peanut butter coated pretzels.  😐

halo-top16365-2500pxHalo Top Ice Cream
OK, so Halo Top isn’t new per se, but I know there are still some of you who haven’t heard of it.  Basically it’s high protein, low calorie ice cream.  I know what you’re thinking…uh…gross!  But it’s a good alternative to the high calorie stuff when you’re trying to eat better and lose weight.  You can have an entire pint of ice cream for less than 300ish calories!  Though, take my advice and split the pint in half.  Due to the high protein content, this ice cream can be extremely filling!  They have some really yummy flavors, but my favorite is the…wait for it…peanut butter cup.  I know.  Shocker.


What have you discovered at the grocery lately that you’re in love with?  Not like I need any more deliciousness in my house…

Hoops and Dreams

Little kids playing sports.  Is there anything cuter?  Ever since Jake was young, we have had him playing sports.  In fact, most of the time he is doing at least two activities outside the house weekly.  Not only does this get out some of that little boy energy, it teaches him great life skills like teamwork, following directions, and bonding.

img_7364The first thing we enrolled him in was swimming.  There is nothing cuter than his little boy body dressed in swim trunks looking at me with a goofy smiling while wearing his goggles on his face.

img_7528Oh gosh…I could just squeeze that little kid to pieces!

During his first swim lesson, he cried bloody murder most of the class!  It took everything in me not to go in to the pool area and scoop him up.  Jeff tells me I baby him too much sometimes, but HE’S MY BABY!  It’s hard for a parent to let their kid cry, especially when he hasn’t done anything wrong!

img_7518I moved my seat to the opposite side of the pool and continued to watch him struggle through the first class.  He actually swam quite well, but he was still sniffling and whimpering throughout.  Luckily, every class after that was a breeze.  He really took to swimming and was able to swim without “floatuses” (as we call them in our house…thank you “Simpsons”) last summer!  Thankfully, he’ll be taller this summer too, so I won’t worry about him being in the shallow end as much.

img_0209editedAfter trying swimming, we wanted to see how he did with some other sports.  At daycare, they had a program called Soccer Shots, which came in once a week and introduced the kids to various parts of soccer.  There were no games…it was really just fundamentals…but Jake seemed to take to it, so we signed him up for YMCA soccer.  img_0288editedimg_9608editedHe, along with three of his buddies, played soccer during the spring of 2015.  Three-year-olds don’t really pay that good of attention to the coach during practice and I think they’d rather pick wildflowers during the game than actually “play”, but dang are they cute!

img_3228editedSince he didn’t really seem to care if he was playing soccer or not, we didn’t sign him up for the fall season that year.  But the following spring, some of his buddies were playing again, so we asked if he wanted to and he said yes.

img_3363editedCan I just say the difference between three-year-old and four-year-old soccer is pretty substantial?  The first week or two they were still in la la land for the most part, but finally things started clicking and they actually seemed to get the concept!  By the end of the season, the kids were actually playing like they knew what they were doing!

img_7450editedJake actually asked when he could play again during the summer last year, so when some of my girlfriends asked if I was signing Jake up for fall soccer, I agreed.  This time, the boys (and girl!) would play in a different league.  It was a little more organized and a little more polished.  The games were in the middle of a heat wave, but who can help that?  Best of all, Jake got to wear a jersey with his name AND his daddy’s old number on it!

screen-shot-2017-01-29-at-6-23-47-amJust last week, he asked when soccer started again.  I guess he’s missing it!

We’ve been trying to keep him in a sport (in addition to swimming) pretty much the whole calendar year, so after soccer was over last fall, we started thinking about what we wanted to get him in.  We landed on two options:  basketball and ice skating (with hopes of it leading into hockey at some point).  So, being the overachievers we are, we enrolled him in both!  Luckily Daddy likes taking him to practice a lot because Mommy has to work more in December than any other month of the year.

img_8027For skating, his cousin joined him on the ice.  In the first few classes, they learn how to get up from the ice and how to walk on it in their skates.  By the end of the first “season”, which was a series of six classes I believe, Jake was pretty decent at gliding short distances.  He seemed to have pretty good balance and wasn’t scared of falling at all.  He’s just started his next set of classes, so hopefully he will continue to improve.

img_8143editedBasketball at the Y was with one of his good buddies, Anderson.  These two boys are little pistols when they are together!  They are sooo goofy, but seriously the sweetest boys ever.  Unfortunately, between working nearly every Saturday in December and having to travel a lot during January, I was only able to see one of his basketball games, but he really seemed to like it.  We even put a basketball goal in the basement for his birthday!

img_8154editedOne of my favorite things about sports for kids is that it helps them get all of their energy out in a constructive way.  It also teaches them some life lessons along the way.  I’m glad Jake inherited his daddy’s sports talent because Mommy is lacking…  I was more of a gymnastics/piano girl growing up.  img_7410editedEither way, this kid looks cute in sports gear!

Top Ten Drugstore Beauty Items

You may or may not know I manage a drug store.

You also may or may not know I have a slight makeup addiction.
screen-shot-2017-01-16-at-9-04-56-pmFinally you may or may not know that January at the drug store means one thing:  NEW MAKEUP!!!!  We just got our planograms last week for the resets…my favorite time of the year!

In the spirit of getting new items in for our cosmetic wall, I thought I’d review my top 10 must haves from the beauty department at Walgreens.

21559671.  CoverGirl LashBlast Volume Mascara  This is my go to mascara!  I have tried so many mascaras in the past and this is hands down my favorite.  I just can’t make myself spend the money on high end mascaras when there are so many great ones at the drug store.  This mascara volumizes and lengthens at the same time.  It’s really quite awesome.

d15d2f-760901570_1_6402.  Coty Airspun Powder Yes, I know my mom and my grandma and maybe even my great grandma used this powder, but you know what?  It WORKS!  It’s got a very distinctive smell to it and it reminds me a little of old lady, but it’s finely milled and doesn’t sink into cracks and crevices like some of the other powders I’ve tried do.

3.  CoverGirl Brow & Eye Makers Pencil
 Most people will tell you to avoid using brow pencils on your brows, but I’ve been using them for at least a decade and I think my brows look pretty good if I do say so myself.  I’ve tried to use the Anastasia Brow Wiz, but honestly I feel like I can do just as good a job with my pencil as I can with theirs.  And it’s about a tenth the price!  Sold.

1834310-bmp4.  Maybelline Fit Me Concealer  I love watching YouTube videos, especially when it comes to makeup tutorials.  I have several subscriptions to makeup gurus who review products and let me know what’s amazing and what’s a dud.  Nearly everyone I’ve watched has RAVED about this concealer.  Naturally I had to try some.  I believe I’m on my second or third tube of the stuff now.  It’s awesome!  It’s got amazing coverage and blends beautifully.

22656075.  Real Techniques Makeup Sponge  Speaking of blending, these makeup sponges are seriously magically.  In my opinion they are just as good if not better than the beauty blender and…here’s the best part.  A beauty blender costs you $20.  These sponges?  Five bucks.  5!  Yeah…sorry beauty blender.  You are the weakest link.

img_47856.  Loreal La Palette Nude 1 & 2  When the Naked Palettes by Urban Decay came out, of course I had to get them.  I wear browns on my eyes about 98.5% of the time.  I LOVED the naked palettes.  Then Loreal decided to up the stakes.  They came out with dupes (duplicates for those of you who aren’t on the up and up) for the Naked Palettes at ⅓ the price!  I picked a couple up one day and started playing.  I never looked back.  That’s one thing I love about drugstore brands.  Sometimes it takes them a year or so, but they almost always come out with a dupe for the fan favorites.

shc1683_ct_410indiglow_btl-wcaplogo7.  Sally Hansen Color Therapy Nail Polish  New this year, but very similar to the Complete Salon Manicure, which I love as well.  This polish is infused with Argan Oil (the buzz word of the 21st century), but it keeps the polish on at least twice as long as other polishes.  I still haven’t ventured into the gel nail world (mostly because I’m lazy), but this is a cheap alternative to it in my opinion.  This color, Indiglow, has been my winter go to color since early January.

dp1023201417014837m-tifWant to know my non-drug store go to summer color?  It’s Oh Cabana Boy by Orly.  I’m a sucker for hot pink!

22063428.  Maybelline Line Stiletto Liquid Liner  When I first started putting on liquid liner, I picked this one up.  I’ve tried several, but I find the felt tip applicator very easy to control and the color pay off is tremendous.  I have since found a high end liner I prefer more, but for years and years this was the only liner I would use.  If you’re just starting out with liner or have a hard time controlling those liners where the brush goes all over the place, I recommend trying this one.

22033029.  Neutrogena Night Calming Cleansing Towlettes  So this isn’t really “makeup” per se, but it’s definitely a necessity when you need to take off your makeup.  I keep a pack in my nightstand and on the nights when I’m just too tired to go wash my face, I at least take off what I can with these wipes.  They’re quick, easy and convenient!

227562910.  CoverGirl Professional Natural Lash Mascara in Clear…but not for your eyes!  One of the things they don’t tell you when you become pregnant is that you’re going to lose your hair after you give birth.  OK, they might tell you that part, but they don’t tell you that growing that hair back is a pain.  And it leaves you with a lot of flyaways!  Sometimes, hairspray just doesn’t cut it.  On those days, I break out the clear mascara and paint my flyaways down!  Just a quick coat on the hairs will help keep those pesky things in place.  A word of caution though…don’t use too much or it will make your hair look greasy!

You may have noticed that I don’t have any lip items on this list.  Well…I’m really not a lip girl!  I would rather go without lip products than with them most days.  Sometimes I get a wild hair and decide to try something.  Remember that note about hot pink?  I do, in fact, have hot pink lipstick!  My husband tells me I look ridiculous though…

What are your go to drugstore products?  Would you guys like to hear about my go to high end products?



Pizza Bites

img_8783I have been reading Damn Delicious for a few years now.  Her food is…well…damn delicious!  She’s also a wonderful photographer and has a great sense of humor.  While I was groggily flipping through Instagram the week of Christmas, I stumbled upon this recipe for Cheesy Pizza Bread.  I immediately pinned it onto one of my Pinterest boards and within a week or so, I had made it twice.  Jake tried it the first night and demanded it the next night for dinner again.  It’s super quick and easy to whip up on a busy weeknight, though it’s not exactly figure friendly.  Since I made this recipe the first time, I have made it at least three or four other times.  It’s definitely a keeper in our house!


Pizza Bread 
(adapted from this recipe on

1 16 oz tube biscuits, cut into quarters
¼ stick butter, melted
2 tbsp parmesan cheese
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
¾ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp oregano
¼ tsp salt
1 cup pizza sauce
½ cup pepperoni chunks (I get a roll of pepperoni and chop it into small cubes)
1 ½ cups shredded mozzarella or several slices of fresh mozzarella

Preheat oven to 400º.  In a small cake pan sprayed with cooking spray, arrange your biscuit pieces in an even layer.  In a small bowl, mix butter, parmesan cheese, parsley, garlic powder, oregano, and salt.  Combine well, then spread evenly over the biscuits.  I like using a pastry brush for this part.  Next, top the garlic buttered biscuits with the pizza sauce, pepperoni, and mozzarella cheese.  Bake for 14-16 minutes or until cheese is melted and biscuits are cooked.

Confession: I could eat an entire pan of these myself.  I won’t…but I could.  I don’t think I won’t anyhow…