Friday Wrap: Spring Break Here We Come!

Today’s edition of Friday Wrap is dedicated to the next 9 glorious days of Spring Break!!

Here are the five things I’m most looking forward to on our little family adventure to the beach – in no particular order. It’s all good.

{ONE} Eating as much shrimp as my heart desires.

I’m a little obsessed with shrimp. So the thought of spending this much time near the source of this beautiful and delicious culinary treat is nearly enough to make me cry. I plan to eat shrimp for every meal, and I don’t even care if it turns my skin shades of pink. Get in my belly.

{TWO} Finally reading my next book club book.

My fabulous book club (that mostly drinks wine and sometimes reads books) selected Cuckoo’s Calling. It’s by J.K. Rowling, but written under her new pen name of Robert Galbraith. That brings up lots of discussion for another time. Anyway, the book is our next read. It’s “due” the first week of April, so I need to get crackin’ on my literary consumption. Although, you have no idea how happy I am at the thought of camping out in a beach chair with a good book in hand – and maybe a drink in the other. Bring it.

{THREE} Stopping at random attractions.

We actually do this sort of thing when we can. At times Brandon has to grin and bear it, though, as the kids and I run up to things like life-sized peanuts, cement dinosaurs and Thunderbirds to take pictures. You gotta stop every now and then and make memories along the way. Maybe we’ll catch Stan the Muffler Man or The World’s Largest Office Chair on this adventure? #cheese

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{FOUR} Quality time with my people.

Need I say more? I love my little family, and I can’t wait to put the phone down already and just sit among these amazing humans. <3

family road trip

{Avery is tucked in the back with Mr. Fluffers}

{FIVE} Soaking up these views.

Just a single picture of the beach makes me feel relaxed (and maybe a little hungry for shrimp.) This was a picture taken on our last trip to Seaside. We’ll be close to the same spot, so I’m hoping for a sequel that’s just as good or better than the original. We’ve never been in the spring, so I assume it will be cooler with a splash of rain here and there. I really don’t mind, though. Just look at reasons number 1-4.

seaside florida

Have a wonderful week and I’ll see you after Easter, which is next weekend already! That happened fast.

XOXO

-Kate

Fiveonfriday

The Diary of a Real Housewife

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Fridge Makeover Update

Organized fridge

This is my fridge today! My “before” pic would have frightened you.

Okay, a quick update on my fridge makeover. It’s only been a week since I posted about my endeavor, but I am LOVING this. The picture above is how things look – even after days of pilfering children and constant replenishment. It has been surprisingly easy to maintain.

My favorite thing is that our family has been digging into bags of grapes and apples instead of whatever snack foods are left the pantry at this point. The kids haven’t complained about the new situation, either. In fact, they said they feel healthy eating this way. No one has paid them to say this – that I’m aware of.

We’ve been drinking lots of water, too!

On our infused water chart, the strawberry, kiwi and cucumber concoction is our favorite so far.

Infused water

This infused water has strawberries, kiwi and cucumber. It’s said to help with blood sugar support and digestion.

We drink this and say, “Oh, my blood sugar feels very supported.” LOL. We’re so weird.

The only downside I’ve discovered so far with the fridge is figuring out a spot for leftovers. We don’t usually have tons of food left over, but I didn’t plan very well for these items. I might need to empty one of the snack bins. I’m sure I’ll have a few willing participants to help.

Overall, what I do know is that when our healthy snacks are prepped and within reach, it’s way easier for guilt-free noshing. Goal accomplished in that regard.

My next feat is to tackle menu planning. I offered a link in my post last week, and then I saw another great option on my friend’s blog. A Blonde Ambition featured free printables – including an awesome menu planner via The Creative Blog.

meal planner

Here’s to easy, peasy meal planning with these free printables!

Can I just say how excited I am? Well, I am! I’m hoping this will be the non-artificial cherry on top of my better eating habits.

I hope you enjoy these printables and have a seriously healthy day!

-Kate

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Organize Your Way to Better Eating

IMG_5256Every January as I pack up the holiday stuff, I think about what else I’ve packed away this season. I’m talking cookies, cakes and cupcakes – all of the dangerously delicious “c” words. It leaves me feeling like I need a food overhaul, or at least a sugar detox.

To top it off, I recently read that weight loss is generally 75 percent diet and 25 percent exercise. If that isn’t motivation to eat better, I don’t know what is. So where to begin? There are too many diets and fads to count, and I’ve honestly been feeling overwhelmed and frustrated.

Here’s how I’m going to approach this whole thing: be more organized.

More specifically, I’m going to:

  1. Plan better grocery lists (as in, don’t buy gross food)
  2. Makeover my fridge (to keep fresh food handy)

Let’s break it down.

{ONE}

The first step to plan better lists sounds easy. It relies on better meal planning with fresh foods (I’m thinking rainbow colors) vs. processed goods (usually shades of brown).

It also means sticking to my grocery list when shopping. There’s the rub. I usually have one (or all) of the kids with me when I shop. I’ve never enjoyed going to the store alone, and my kids are at an age where they can help pull items from the shelf while we chat and act silly.

Girls Shopping

Who wouldn’t want these goofballs along when shopping? This is us shopping at Walmart. We get distracted by everything – including bike helmets. #shoppingtakesforever

The downside is tossing items in the cart that are “off menu,” such as Pringles or chocolate-covered anything. The problem is those become the snacks we eat while the strawberries rot in the fridge. There’s definitely room for improvement here. I think I’ll add some treats (like yogurt-covered anything), but then I’m sticking to my list!

{TWO}

Next is having good, fresh food easy to access. For my family, this means having more refrigerated snacks vs. pantry snacks. Our pantry items tend to be packaged sugary or salty stuff. So eating from the fridge should already give us a head start. Here are some tricks I’m going to try:

  • Wash, process and snack-bag our fruits and veggies as soon as I get home from the store.
  • Create bins with healthy, go-to snacks for the kids that include string cheese, grapes, strawberries, blueberries, Greek yogurt, carrots, celery with peanut butter or hummus, and hard-boiled eggs.
    snack bins

    You can get these clear bins from BB&B so good food is in clear view. Image source: Four Generations One Roof

  • Organize the shelves so the good snacks are eye-level. Put the butter, jellies and other sweets in a drawer so they’re out of sight, and out of mind.
  • Have fresh water available. I actually keep a pitcher of water in the fridge at all times. It reminds me to stay hydrated. I have this infuse pitcher and like to add fresh oranges, lemons, cucumber or mint to flavor the water.
    Infuse Pitcher

    I like how this pitcher also comes with a tea infuser. Source: BB&B

    If you want interesting ideas on infused water combinations, here’s a helpful chart!

    Infused water chart

    Image source: Kasia Organic Salon

  • The last thing I’m doing is posting a healthy baking substitution chart on the outside of the fridge for a handy reference. I would have never thought of these. So smart.
    baking substitutions

    Image source: Picklee

If you’d like to join me in the food/fridge makeover, let me know! I’d love to see pictures of your before and afters – whether it’s the fridge or yourself! #noshame #weareinthistogether

Here’s to better eating and feeling better!

-Kate

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Pumpkin Seeds Three Ways

Halloween Week Banner2Happy almost Halloween! For my family, the most exciting part of this week (other than Halloween night itself) is carving our jack-o-lanterns. We’ve had one too many squirrels demolish our creations, so we learned to wait it out. The all-you-can-eat pumpkin buffet can open after Halloween!

Speaking of carving, did you know it’s easier to carve from the bottom? I had NO idea until I recently stumbled across this carving video from Better Homes & Gardens. I’m a huge sucker for a good tip like this.

Once the excitement of carving our ghoulish grins is over, we love playing with the seeds. Well, once they’re clean. Funny how the kids suddenly have something terribly important to do when it comes time to desliming the seeds. Thanks, guys.

Since pumpkin seeds are pretty much a once-a-year treat for us, I love finding new ways to use them. Here are three of my favorites!

  1. Bake them. The basic salt-and-oil roast like this from SimplyRecipes is classically delicious. If you want to mix it up a bit, try a batch of Sweet and Salty seeds from Real Simple.
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Sweet & Salty Pumpkin Seeds, Real Simple

  1. Grow them. Why spend lots of money on pumpkins next year when you have a handful of free seeds this year? Once your seeds are washed and dried, store them in an envelope. Pumpkin seed envelopeThe best place to keep them is somewhere cool and dry. I like to use the refrigerator in my garage. Label the envelope with the date and name so you remember what’s inside! When to plant? In cooler parts of the country, the best time to plant pumpkin seeds is late May. In warmer parts of the country, you can wait until mid July to plant pumpkins in time for Halloween.
  1. Craft them. Seeds are way underrated in crafting, IMO. Look at this pretty ornament I whipped up. I’ll have a full DIY on these beauties Thursday. Be sure to check back!
Pumpkin seed ornament_finished

Pumpkin seed ornament. Watch for DIY instructions Thursday!

In the meantime, what’s your favorite way to serve up some seeds? Do share!

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Give Parsley a Chance

Parsley

Freshly picked parsley

Parsley is one of those herbs that’s usually tossed aside. And I mean that literally. In restaurants you’ll see it perched on the edge of a pretty plate – and that’s where it stays. It’s not the star player in many recipes, and it doesn’t have an elegant fragrance like basil, oregano or thyme. So what’s it good for?

To be honest, I was pretty nonchalant about parsley until I started planting it in my garden for my pet rabbit, Rosie. She looooves parsley, but only when it’s fresh. She’s a bit of a princess that way. So I always include a little patch in my garden for her.

Rosie the Rabbit

Meet Rosie the Rabbit! Pets deserve an organized and creative life, too. So you’ll see Rosie featured in posts from time-to-time.

Get creative in the kitchen

One day I casually tossed a few springs of parsley in my salad and loved its punch. It has such a fresh taste with hints of lemon and pepper. The next thing I knew, I was sneaking it into soups and stews. It’s native to the Mediterranean, but can be used in all kinds of dishes.

Here are some recipe ideas from beautiful Sunset Magazine. This article features 11 ways to cook with fresh parsley.

parsley-ravioli-with-brown-butter-sauce

Parsley Ravioli with Brown Butter Sauce from Sunset Magazine. A plateful of yum.

Get healthy

Come to find out, parsley is really good for you. It’s rich in all kind of vitamins: A, B1, B3, C, and K. That’s a nice portion of the vitamin alphabet. It also keeps your immune system strong and encourages digestion. No wonder so many chefs nudge it onto our plates.

Some people even use it for medicinal purposes. A few of the more interesting options I’ve read include:

  • Reducing hair loss by massaging parsley essential oil into the scalp.
  • Relieving joint pain by eating parsley daily.
  • Treating insect bites with the juices squeezed from the leaves.

Grow your own

If I’ve piqued your interest, why not grow your own? It’s a cool-weather-lovin’ kind of herb, so right now is a great time to plant. Here’s a helpful guide from Gardening Know How.

As a tip, flat leaf parsley has a little better flavor for cooking than its curly cousin. You’ll want to keep that in mind when buying seeds or plants from the nursery. By the way, I’m a huge fan of nurseries that carry the Monrovia brand. They always have quality plants.

I hope you’ll give parsley a chance. Comment below or email me your favorite way to enjoy this healthy herb!

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A Happy Halloween Meal

Halloween MenuThe formula for concocting a perfect Halloween dinner is “simple + delicious.” For this reason, using your crockpot is a must. Just fill it with tasty treasures before you head out to work, and you’ll come home to a magically finished meal.

This is especially helpful when you have a house full of eager trick-or-treaters who want to eat, dress and run. Everyone can have a good meal before they head out. When they return, second helpings are warm and ready!

I also like recipes I can prepare ahead of time, so this post is full of ideas for the simplest, happiest Halloween meal.

The Line Up

  • Spooky Taco Soup
  • Ghoulicious Guac with Bat Chips
  • Pumpkin Veggie Dippers
  • Sopapilla Pumpkin Cheesecake
  • Fanta-lanterns

Quick tip: To add seasonal flair, take everyday recipes and get creative with their names – like Spooky Taco Soup. It’s taco soup with a cute name and served in bowls that look like little ghosts for instant Halloween cred.

Speaking of bowls, I’m a huge fan of paper plates and other disposables on nights like Halloween. Who wants to spend this special night hovering over the kitchen sink? I’ll give you some easy and creative serving ideas with each recipe below.

Spooky Taco Soup (click for recipe)

This version from Allrecipes.com is a good one. I also like how their site allows you to adjust the servings so you can easily scale the recipe.

Spooky Bowl

Ready for my soup now.

To make the soup “spooky”, hot-glue googly eyes to the sides of paper or plastic soup bowls.

Ghoulicious Guac (click for recipe)

Homemade guacamole is the perfect partner for a cup of taco soup. I don’t know many variations of guac, so you might already have your own go-to recipe. If not, here’s a great one from SimplyRecipes. You’ll want to prepare this right before serving so it’s fresh and delicious.

Now, to make the dip Ghoulicious (see what I did there?), serve it with Bat Chips!

Bat Chips

A fresh batch of bats ready for the oven!

All you need is a bat-shaped cookie cutter, a package of flour tortillas, olive oil, Kosher salt and black pepper.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Cut each tortilla with your cookie cutter. Place your bats in a single layer on a sheet pan and sprinkle lightly with olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake for about 10 minutes, until crisp, turning once. You can make these a day or two ahead of Halloween and store them in an airtight container.

Pumpkin Veggie Dippers (click for recipe)

pumpkin platter

Such a happy pumpkin.

This is a basic veggie platter featuring carrots, sliced cucumbers, broccoli and Ranch dip. Simply arrange the vegetables in the form of a pumpkin on a large platter. Serve the Ranch dressing in small bowls or ramekins to create the eyes and nose. It’s super easy and kid friendly.

Sopapilla Pumpkin Cheesecake (click for recipe)

Why not top off the night with a slice of this decadent dessert? When I saw this recipe, I was like, “You had me at sopapilla. And pumpkin. And cheesecake.” I love this recipe from Six Sisters’ Stuff. They have tons of great recipes. Be sure to check them out!

You can cut these into squares and serve on a pretty orange or black platter. Or eat straight from the pan. That’s how I roll with these beauties.

Fanta-lanterns

Fanta-lantern

Cheers!

This is a cute way to dress up your drinks. I made silly jack-o-lantern patterns out of black construction paper, cut them out and used double-sided tape to adhere to the sides of clear plastic cups. Serve fizzy, orange Fanta in these adorable cups for instant Halloween cheers.

Planning Checklist: Day(s) Before

  • Grocery store run. Here’s A Happy Halloween Meal Grocery List you can download.
  • Create the soup bowls and cups
  • Bake the bat chips
  • Make the cheesecake
  • Prep the vegetable platter
  • Brown the meat for the soup

Planning Checklist: The Day of

  • Fill your crockpot in the morning
  • Make the guac just before serving
  • Set out your food and serving pieces
  • Enjoy the night

Happy Halloweeating!

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