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Pizza and Dancing

July 8, 2014

My friend (and fellow blogger) Ashley has been writing a lot on her blog lately about appreciating the summer while it’s here—thinking about the things you want to do during the months of June, July and August…and actually doing them.  I think I spent the month of June feeling a little down about the summer—even though we took our trip to Georgia, and will be heading out west to Oregon in a little over a week, this summer has just felt a little more quiet than the summers of the past few years.  It’s not that we’re not having a great summer, because we are, but I think in the back of my head I’m thinking, “Man, we should have gone to Paris!  We should have rented a house in Costa Rica!  We should have…”

– you get the idea.

I did enough of that in June.  I’m making it my goal for July and August to appreciate this summer for what it is, and making an effort to do things that will make the days seem a little longer, a little fuller, a little more fun.  Exploring an art festival in a nearby town might not be as exciting as, say, jetting off to Europe.  But really—how much fun would that be with a two year-old anyway?  Winking smile 

Anyway, we’ve been making more of an effort to do things that we’ve said we’re going to do—but have never actually gotten around to doing.  Hence, the bikes.  We also talk a lot about wanting to take advantage of more of what Huntsville has to offer.  We’re pretty good about this in general, but it seems like in the summer there is always something fun going on here—outdoor concerts, fairs, festivals, races—and I want to make even more of an effort to do as much as we can while we still have the advantage of summer’s long days and open schedule.

Last night, we hit up Huntsville’s Concerts in Big Spring Park—during the summer, they have a rotating schedule of outdoor concerts on every Monday night.  The bands are good, you can bring your own food (and wine!), and it’s totally free!

Last night, we stopped at a local pizza joint to pick up dinner:

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…and then enjoyed a couple of hours with friends, listening to a fun brass band. 

Ryan and Lila got in a sweet daddy-daughter dance:

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…but someone (Lila’s friend Dean) decided to cut in!

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Dean was cracking me up—pretty bold move for a young guy!  He must have really wanted to dance with Lila. Winking smile 

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Last night was a fun reminder of all our town has to offer—hopefully we’ll be taking full advantage for what’s left of this summer!

A Few Good Meals

July 7, 2014

After the brouhaha of the fourth (name that movie?), we settled in for a pretty laid-back weekend.  On Saturday afternoon, we did something we’ve been meaning to do since…ohhhh, December?

Photo: Ryan and Lila both got sweet new rides today. #andfunshinebeartoo

For Christmas, my parents “gave” Ryan a new bike—but it took us until July to actually pick one out and buy it.  Christmas in July!  We got a trailer for Lila too, which she is super-excited about (for now).  There are a lot of places we go on our side of town that are easily within riding distance—the grocery store, many of the parks, a few restaurants, etc.  My bike that I got back in Pennsylvania was still in pretty good shape, so we’re ready to roll now!

We’re looking forward to using a more green method of transportation when we can—we already rode our bikes to grocery store twice, and also took Lila to a nearby park, where she schooled me in a game of checkers:

Photo: Checkers at the nature preserve. #shescheating

Our meals were pretty basic over the weekend.  On Saturday night we had big salads topped with veggies, tofu, and goat cheese:

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…and then on Sunday night we had grilled chicken and sautéed zucchini, onions, and tomatoes (again topped with goat cheese).  This was a kind of light dinner…but just before dinner, Ryan and I polished off some fries at the pool that he ordered “for Lila,” so, you know…it all evens out.

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Nothing much else to report.  We have one more full week here—next Wednesday, we’re headed to the west coast for some quality time with Ryan’s family. 

Have a great one!

Patriotic Potato Salad

July 5, 2014

Happy Saturday, blog readers.  Hope you had a wonderful fourth—we celebrated at the pool with friends by day, and outside at a cookout with friends by night.  It was a perfect laidback holiday—just what we wanted. 

For the cookout, we brought this potato salad to contribute to the potluck.  The combination of red, white and blue potatoes make this the perfect dish for a Fourth of July party—but really, it’s so delicious, I think it would be a welcome addition anywhere.  Smile 

Patriotic Potato Salad

Ingredients:

2 pounds small boiling potatoes (I used a combination of white, red, and blue)

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 tsp. garlic salt

1/4 cup minced red onion

2 tbsp. capers

1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced into halves

1 cup chopped herbs (I used Italian parsley, tarragon, and chives, but really I think you could use any herb here—whatever your taste is)

1 tbsp. whole grain dijon mustard

1 tbsp. lemon juice

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375.

Chop potatoes into halves and/or quarters, depending on their size.  In a large bowl, toss with olive oil and garlic salt.  Transfer to non-stick baking sheet and roast for 30-40 minutes, until potatoes are golden on the outside.

While potatoes are cooking, in the same bowl, toss the onion, capers, herbs, and tomatoes.

Once the potatoes are roasted, remove from oven and set aside, allowing to cool for 10-15 minutes.  Once slightly cooled, add to bowl.  Add mustard and lemon juice and toss well, until everything is appropriately combined.

Serve and enjoy!

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I love this salad because you can serve it at any temperature—warm, room, or chilled.  And, because it has no mayo, it’s perfect for a picnic or outdoor potluck.

Hope you had a great fourth!

Pretty Little Quiche

July 3, 2014

So, when Ryan was out of town a few weeks ago, I started watching Pretty Little Liars.

OH. MY. GOD.

I’m so addicted right now.  So many questions! Who is “A”? Will we ever know who killed Ali? Is Ali really dead?  Why are Aria’s earrings so big? Is this the first thing Chad Lowe has done since he did that made-for-tv John Denver movie in 2001? WILL WE GET TO SEE MORE OF JODY SAWYER AS THE SHOW GOES ON???

Please God let there be more Jody Sawyer.

Anyway.

This really has nothing to do with what we had for dinner last night; I just had to get those questions out into the universe.

Last night, I cooked up this easy quiche for dinner.  I have to say, it was tasty and pretty healthy too—lots of veggies and protein (turkey and eggs), plus I didn’t put cheese in it.  If you wanted to make it eve healthier, you could make it crust-free…but really, who wants to forgo pie crust in a quiche?

Turkey and Kale Quiche

Ingredients:

1 prepared pie crust, thawed

1/2 white onion, chopped

4-5 large kale leaves (stem removed), torn into smallish pieces

1 small zucchini, chopped

1 cup sliced white mushrooms

10 oz. (half a standard package) of ground turkey

5 eggs

1/2 cup milk (I used whole since it’s what we have for Lila)

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 350.

In a pan, heat 1 tbsp. olive oil.  Add onion and cook for 5 minutes.  Add kale, zucchini, and mushrooms (you can also season with salt here) and continue to cook until kale has wilted down and veggies are soft, about 15 minutes.  Remove from pan and set aside in a heat-safe bowl. 

Put pan back on heat and add turkey.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cook for 10-15 minutes, breaking into small pieces with the back of a wooden spoon, until turkey is browned.  Transfer to same bowl as the veggies.

In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and milk together well.

Allow the turkey and veggies to cool for 10-15 minutes, then transfer to the pie crust.  Pour eggs over the veggies.

Transfer to oven and cook until eggs are cooked and firm—it was about 40 minutes for our quiche, but cooking times might vary. 

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I hear Lila stirring—we’re going to the Space and Rocket Center today with some out of town guests, which I’m excited about.  I haven’t been in the entire time we’ve lived here—almost three full years now!?!  Crazy how fast time flies.

Hope you have a great Thursday and a happy holiday weekend!

More Corn

July 1, 2014

I know, I know—another corn salad? 

I think I could eat fresh corn every day in the summer.  It’s just so damn good. 

I come by it naturally—corn addiction, that is.  Here’s a funny little story.  When I was about to start grad school, my parents drove up to Indiana to help me move into my new house.  We went to the farmer’s market on their last day in town, and my parents bought a TON of corn to take back to their friends in Louisiana.  I guess corn is an appropriate gift to signify that you were in the Midwest?  Anyway, they got home, cooked a few ears for themselves, and realized that it was the best corn they’d ever tasted (seriously—my mom still talks about it, almost ten years later).  And so instead of giving the corn away to their friends as planned, they just ate it.  ALL of it. 

So yeah, we kind of like fresh corn in this family.

And anyway, this corn wasn’t even for us.  It’s been the summer of the baby over here—we have a LOT of friends that have recently had babies or will by the end of the summer.  We offered to bring dinner to our friends who just welcomed a new baby girl—so sweet.  We went over there last night to drop it off, and MAN, you just forget how small new babies are!  Especially when your own tiny baby has been replaced by a batshit crazy toddler:

Photo: #sbtb4life #imsoexcitedyall

Anyway, back to the food—pork tenderloin, roasted asparagus, and this corn salad.

Corn, Bacon and Tomato Summer Salad

Ingredients:

5 strips of bacon, cooked and crumbled (one tsp. grease reserved)

4 ears of corn, boiled 2-3 minutes and set aside to cool

1 pint fresh cherry tomatoes, halved

1 bunch green onions, chopped (use only the white and just-green part)

1 small red onion, minced

1 red bell pepper, chopped

2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

salt to taste

Directions:

In a frying pan, cook the bacon and set aside, reserving one teaspoon of the grease.  Boil the corn and set aside to cool.  Heat reserved grease and add onion and bell pepper, cooking for 5-10 minutes, until soft.  Transfer to a separate bowl and allow to cool for about ten minutes. Add green onions, tomatoes, and bacon.  Using a knife, remove the kernels from the corn ears and add to the bowl (I actually just do this directly in the bowl).  Add vinegar and salt and toss, mixing well.   Serve immediately or chill and serve cold.

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They’re just lucky we dropped it off instead of keeping it for ourselves. Winking smile 

Have a good one!

How to Dill

June 30, 2014

Sorry—it’s 6:15.  An obscure Mandy Moore movie reference just feels good right now.

Speaking of “right now”—how is it almost July?!?  When did that happen?  This summer is going by in a flash. 

We spent the weekend relaxing.  We took Lila on a hike:

Photo: 2+ years and 30+ pounds later, the Ergo is still going strong. #goodpurchase

…went over to our friends’ house for dinner, cleaned the house a bit…regular stuff.  I read once that time goes by more quickly if you’re going routine things, and that it seems to “slow” if you’re doing things that are new or unusual. 

Maybe we need to work on doing some new stuff this week so that the summer doesn’t feel like it’s slipping away.

Then again, the routine is nice too. Winking smile 

It’s actually good that we had an easy weekend, because this week is going to be rather busy—we’re moving offices up at school, we have out-of-town visitors coming in, plus—the fourth!

Last night for dinner, we did something else that has become pretty routine—grilling.  Ryan grilled grass-fed beef burgers, and I made this tasty side-dish to go along.  I was just kind of making it up on the fly, but it was really tasty. 

Creamy Dill Green Bean and Potato Salad

Ingredients:

1 lb. small potatoes (like new potatoes or little blues—I used little yellow potatoes)

2 cups green beans, trimmed

2 tbsp. olive oil, separated

1 tsp. garlic salt, separated

3 tbsp. lemon juice, separated

1/4 cup greek yogurt

1 tbsp. fresh dill, chopped

Directions:

Set oven at 375.

Toss potatoes and green beans each with 1 tbsp. olive oil and 1/2 tsp. garlic salt.  To the potatoes, also add 1 tbsp. lemon juice.

On separate baking sheets, bake the veggies.  The green beans should take 10-15 minutes; the potatoes should take 15-20 minutes.  Check them frequently to make sure they don’t burn.

Once roasted, allow beans and potatoes to cool.  In a small bowl, combine yogurt, remaining lemon juice, and dill.

Once cooled, combine beans, potatoes, and dressing.  Mix well to coat all of the veggies.  Serve chilled or at room temperature.

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We loved this.  Lila turned up her nose at it, but, sadly, that isn’t unusual these days.

Happy Monday!

Potty Training: Do’s and Don’ts

June 27, 2014

This is going to be a fun post, right?

We’re knee-deep in shit potty-training over here, and while we aren’t quite out of the woods yet, Lila has made a LOT of progress over the past month or so, so I figured I would share some of the tips and tricks that have gotten us here.  Plus, she’s sitting on the potty watching a two minute clip from Beauty and the Beast on repeat, so I have some time.

Do wait until your kid is ready.

Last winter, Lila started talking about the potty.  She was very interested in “bathroom time,” and she started expressing an interest in using the potty herself.  This is it, we thought!  We bought a potty, set it up in her bathroom, and waited for the magic to begin.  Soon, we thought, we’ll be diaper-free forever!

Lila promptly used it twice, and then refused to use it again.  Not only did she refuse to use it, but she became pretty aggravated when we would even *suggest* trying to sit on it.  She was all:

Soooooo, back to square one.

When we asked our pediatrician about potty-training, he said that the most important thing was not to push it—to wait until the child is really ready.  When she’s ready, he said, you’ll know.

Sure enough, after about three months of snubbing the potty, Lila started expressing interest again—much more interest than before.  Slowly, she started peeing in it again…but no interest in pooping, at first.  Which leads me to…

Don’t expect it to happen overnight.  Or in three days.  Or a week.

Look, I know we’ve all seen those claims that you can potty-train your child in three days.  Heck, some parents probably even manage to do it.  That must be nice.

For us, however—and I’m guessing for a lot of parents—it’s been a pretty lengthy process.  It took a while to get her peeing in the potty, but I’ll admit, she took to it pretty quickly.  She had a BIG accident on one of our first training days, and I think she hated it.  Not too surprising—I’m not a big fan of pissing myself either.

After a few days of close-calls and accidents, Lila was able to tell us when she needed to go and was happily peeing in the potty and keeping her big kid (princess) underpants dry.  We still had (and have) a few accidents here and there, but for the most part, the peeing part of potty training has been easy.

But the poop.

Ohhhhh, the poop.

During our first couple of days of potty training, she just had accidents.  Pee in the pants sucks, but apparently for Lila, wearing big-kid underpants full of your own feces is nbd.  Far preferable to pooping in the potty.  She would literally be walking around with underwear full of poop.  And we’d be:

…and she’d be:

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Pooping in the pants is fun because the statistical odds of you being able to remove those pants without getting poop everywhere is literally .0003%.  That’s a scientifically-proven fact.  A lot of our days were spent like this:

We thought that was bad enough, but after a few days, things got worse.  Lila has always been a very regular morning pooper…but suddenly, she wasn’t going during her normal time.  She was holding it.  We’d set her on the potty, knowing that she had to poop:

…to no avail.

She started pooping during naptime, which she has almost never done.   Well, I thought, this is it—we’re going to have to send her to college in diapers.  Sorry, world—you win.

But then…we learned the magic of bribery.  Which brings me to:

Do bribe your kid.

Seriously.  Use whatever it takes.  M&Ms. Stickers. Toy cars. Crack cocaine.  Figure out what their weakness is, and USE THAT AGAINST THEM.  For Lila, it was a combination of M&Ms, tiny marshmallows, and little plastic Disney princess dolls.  Finally—a winner!

Eventually, Lila’s desire for M&Ms and Aurora won out.  And once she pooped in the potty a few times and got the hang of it, she slowly returned back to her normal schedule of pooping in the morning after breakfast, which made things MUCH easier.  

We also tried to make it easier for her to relax—we’d give her our phone so that she could watch a video or look at pictures, shut the door, and allow her some privacy.  I’m not a fan of going number two while someone stands over me and stares, so I don’t know why I’d think she would want that either.  And who doesn’t like a little on-the-toilet entertainment?

 

Even so, we still have a ways to go.  She’s in diapers during naptime and overnight.  And I’m okay with that.  Don’t be afraid to take it in steps—whether that means pull-ups, a tiny potty, using underwear in the house but diapers outside of it—whatever!  Again, it’s a process.  Anyone who tells you that it happened quickly and easily is lying.  Or maybe they’re telling the truth.  Either way, you know what to say to them.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m pretty sure I have a bathroom to clean.

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