In a Dark, Dark Wood

Ohhhhhh boy oh boy oh boy. If you love a good mystery/thriller, then this is a DEFINITE read for you. It’s been on my reading wish list for a couple of years now, and I finally got a chance to read it. I have to admit that I read it in less than THREE DAYS! It’s a definite page turner. 
I ironically related very well to the main character. She’s got a lot of baggage and finds herself loving her small apartment and running out her stress on the pavement. The novel’s basic plot is that she gets invited to a “hen party” [bachelorette] for a friend she hasn’t spoken to or seen in ten years. She’s confused about the invite, but goes anyway. 
As you might guess, the party takes place deep in the woods. The characters she meets at the party are like something from the Clue game. They’ve each got something mysteriously “off” about them. The twisted plot finally ends in a way that you really can’t see coming. You’re not going to be able to put this one down until you find out who the “bad guy” is! Trust me! It’s a perfect book for the beach or a summer trip. 

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German Potatoes + A Great Week with the Big Guy

Now that everyone is healthy, we’ve been spending as much time as possible outdoors before things get too hot and steamy in Houston. He was born to be outside, I’m convinced. I’ve found some great things at Dollar Tree and Target for him to play with that are durable [and cheap]. I’ll post about those later on. For now… #demcheekies.

We took a trip to the car wash [and actually braved getting him out of the car]. It was great! He loved watching the cars and trucks get their “bath” as he says. 

It was time for our shaggy dog to get groomed, so we dropped her off at Petco and walked around a bit. We saw so many *cough* fun things *cough* like snakes, hamsters, lizards, and ferrets. Corey had fun checking out all the critters. Then we came upon the fish. And my inner six year old went crazy. My parents must have bought us 8 of these guys growing up (apologies to each of those unlucky fish). I thought it would be a fun thing for Corey (okay, mostly me) to get to see one each day, so I bought the kit, the fish, and a fun little deco for the tank!

Meet Bernard the Butterfly Betta!
[check out that Spongebob shout out]

Had to get the Texans shirt for this Houstonian doggie.

These two. I find them like this all the time. Melts my heart.

I started a new book this week, and I’m in love! It’s called Fish in a Tree, and it’s already speaking to my heart. The foreword alone got me:

We also had Corey’s 18 month doctor appointment this week, and he’s growing like a weed to say the least. At least he’s on charts this time [yupp… he was literally off the charts a few check ups]. He’s already cutting his two year molars, and I’m dying. Poor guy is in pain. I hope they come through quickly! I did a little googling and thought I’d share the charts I found for tooth development:

click here for source

click here for source

My dad made this side dish more times than I can count when we were growing up, so for the life of me, I have no idea why I haven’t ever made it for Jon. These potatoes are easy, soooo scrumptious, and really not that bad for you when you consider how much flavor they pack. This recipe makes about 4 good sized servings at around 250 calories per serving. I crave these potatoes in a way that’s really kinda crazy. Just think: crispy potato + savory bacon + zippy flavor. YUM!

I do have to say that after we finished eating, I felt like crying. It’s amazing how food memories can take you back to some good childhood moments. 

Cheers to the Weekend!

German Potatoes
3 tbs. EVOO
2 lbs. yellow potatoes (peel on or off – your choice), cut into just over bite-sized pieces
1 yellow onion, diced
2 tbs. bacon bits (can sub 2 strips real bacon, diced*)
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, minced
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste (I use a lot!)
Splash red wine vinegar
In a large Dutch oven or skillet, heat the olive oil until shimmering over medium-high heat. Add the potatoes and onions. Sauté until onions are tender and potatoes have begun to crisp, stirring occasionally and scraping the bottom of the pan (about 10 minutes). Reduce heat to medium-low. Add the bacon bits, parsley, salt, and pepper; stir to combine. Be sure to continue to scrape the bottom of the pan to get all the yummy brown bits. Cook an additional 15-20 minutes, partially covered, stirring occasionally. Add the splash of red vinegar towards the end when the potatoes are crisp on the outside and tender on the inside. Cook an additional minute. Garnish with parsley. 
*If you use real bacon, subtract about half the olive oil and toss the bacon in with the onions and potatoes. 

Turkey Stuffed Bell Peppers

You’ve gotta love the incredibly versatile little bell pepper. He sure is a handy guy in the kitchen. You can stuff him with just about any kind of flavor and he just compliments it so well. 
My sister-in-law gave me this recipe a while back, and we’ve both tweaked it in our own ways since then. She leaves out the rice and adds more bell diced bell pepper and beans to hers. I added the oregano, diced tomatoes, and cheese to mine. I like having the rice because it expands this into enough for 6 good sized servings [that freeze well, too if I might add]. That’s the great thing about this recipe though – you can add or subtract whatever your little heart desires.
Each pepper is about 215 calories each according to this recipe, so it fits well with any good healthy meal. We served ours with some simply-seasoned black beans for a yummy and filling weeknight meal. I made three peppers for myself and Jon (one was for lunch the next day for muah). I froze the remaining 3 servings [labeled it, too, otherwise I forget what they hey it is]. 
Another great win about this recipe is that you could make the filling [brown meat + add goodies] earlier in the day or even the day before. Just refrigerate until ready to stuff the peppers.

Turkey Stuffed Peppers
1 tbs. EVOO
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 lb. ground turkey
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. ground oregano
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
1 cup cooked rice
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
1 oz. Cotija cheese, crumbled
Large bell peppers, tops, membranes, and seeds removed (save & chop the bits you can from the top)
Preheat oven to 400. 
Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté the onion until translucent, stirring occasionally (about 5 minutes). Add garlic, turkey, cumin, oregano, any diced bell pepper from the tops, and S&P to taste. Stir to crumble and combine. Cook until turkey is browned and cook through, stirring occasionally (about 8 minutes). Add tomato sauce and diced tomatoes. Stir and cook an additional 5 minutes. 
Remove from heat. Add rice, cilantro, and Cotija. Stir well to combine then spoon mixture into bell peppers, stuffing as full as you can without them overflowing. Place in a glass baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake at 400 for about 25 minutes or until peppers are tender. 
Garnish with cilantro. 
This recipe makes enough for about 6 stuffed bell peppers. Freeze the remaining filling if you have any leftover. Just thaw in the fridge the night before serving, spoon into bell peppers, and bake as above. 

Roasted Chicken with Goat Cheese + Lemon

This is a SUPER easy and healthy weeknight fave of ours. I saw this on a blog I follow and love [Designer Bags + Dirty Diapers], and it’s become a major staple in our house. I crave this one now, and I don’t feel one bit bad about it! It’s less than 250 calories for a good portion of this yummy chicken. 

All you do is layer on the goodness: EVOO + thyme sprigs + chicken with S&P + goat cheese + lemon slices. Boom. Chicka. Boom. Boom. 

I have to say that my favorite things to eat and cook are the ones that highlight good quality, fresh ingredients. Here, the lemon and thyme are such a nice tangy highlight to compliment the sinfully delicious goat cheese. 

We had ours with German Potatoes because I felt like having some bold flavors that night. The meal came in at less than 500 calories, but you’d have thought it was at least double that for the flavor it packed.

Roasted Chicken with Goat Cheese + Lemon

2 tbs. EVOO
6 fresh thyme sprigs
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I usually do two large and that’s enough for Jon and I plus leftovers for Corey)
2 oz. goat cheese
1 lemon, sliced

Preheat the oven to 375.

Pour the EVOO into the bottom of a 13×9 Pyrex or a Dutch oven. Make a “bed” for the chicken using thyme sprigs. Generously season both sides of the chicken with salt and pepper. Lay the chicken on the thyme, then crumble the goat cheese on top. Try to keep as much cheese on the chicken as possible. Sandwich it all together with the lemon slices on top.

Bake, uncovered, at 375 for 25-35 minutes (depending on thickness of the chicken), until chicken is cooked through. For an added touch, turn the broiler on the last couple of minutes to char the lemon and cheese.

Scenes from the Weekend

We had a very low key weekend since we’re all still recovering from being sick. It started with a very chill Friday morning, as you can see by Penny’s and Corey’s relaxed attitudes…

We finalized decorating the little awning in our living room. I wanted something that was a little “natural” and still went with the tones in our living area and kitchen. I’m in love with the results! 

We busted out our new inflatable pool we got at HEB (only $20!!) and had a little party in the backyard. Penny, of course, had to have her bubbles. 

Corey wasn’t too sure about the pool at first. After a few minutes of adjusting and finding the toys (boats and balls), he was in heaven. We played for about an hour and a half before it was time for lunch and a good nap (for both of us). 

While we were outside playing, I was able to snap a couple of pictures of the hibiscus I’d planted a couple of weeks ago. They’re doing pretty good, if I do say so myself!

I’d been craving spaghetti for a while, and since we’re trying to stick to good diets, pasta is a rarity in our house. I just made good ole ground beef + good pasta sauce from a jar with some well-seasoned pasta. I wanted to use some of the basil I’ve got growing on our porch, so I made a quick caprese salad. Sooooo yummy! Tasted like summer!

I’ve found a new fave red wine, too. I actually won this at a sweet friend’s baby shower a couple of months ago. She knows her wines, so I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed. And oohhhhh I surely wasn’t! This Pinot Noir goes down very smoothly. It’s a perfect red for the summertime!

Now that our second floor is back to normal (whatever that really means), I’ve been able to throw up a few new pieces of deco on the walls. I love this piece from Joss & Main! I’m going for an “adventurous” theme for the upstairs/kid area, so these cute arrows matched perfectly. 

Happy Sunday, friends! Cheers to a great week ahead!

A Family Trip + New Deco

This past weekend, my mom and I went to New Mexico to celebrate my sweet cousin’s high school graduation. It was so great to see family and spend time at one of our favorite places in the world – the Hyatt Tamaya resort.

The flight in was so surreal for me. I can’t remember the last time I flew alone. There’s a lot of freedom in traveling alone, let me tell you. Especially after always having little man around. I have to admit, I loved the alone time, but I missed my chunky monkey two minutes after I’d left.

The view from the Tamaya patio bar.

The Rio Grande was so high! It was a great sight to see after years of drought. This particular spot is the absolute most special place to me on earth. Lots of personal memories here.

Every time we come to the resort, we get as many of these lovelies as we can. Fried green chile strips. So unbelievably amazing.

Another fave of mine – pomegranate margarita!

After arriving Thursday and seeing family, I went to bed feeling still a little puny. I’ve had a cold for seriously four weeks now. Turns out, I’ve got a lot of allergies here in Houston. I ended up going to the Minute Clinic Saturday after spending alllll day Friday cooped up in the hotel room. I missed my cousin’s graduation and her celebratory lunch at an amazing restaurant. Not. Cool. After getting some meds Saturday, we ventured up to Santa Fe for a birthday party for my other cousin.

They had the cutest flamingo themed party! “Be a flamingo in a flock of pigeons.”

My sweet aunt, two cousins, and my Momma.

 I was soooo happy to come back to these sweet faces [and Jon’s, too, of course]!

Jon and I tried this new drink from HEB and it is yuuuuummmy! Tastes like a premade vodka (with less bite) and lime. Only 100 calories, too!

As of Tuesday after the trip, I STILL had a horrible cough, sore throat, and couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t get an appointment until Thursday (today), so this was my mood until then. I’m super grateful to finally get meds (a mere THREE prescriptions)!

I’ve been doing a little spring/summer decorating now that our house is all repaired and put back together! It was two weeks of dust, contractors, and having all our stuff all over the place. Thankfully our upstairs floors are fixed and life is back to normal!

I’m a major Van Gogh fan, so when I saw this print on Amazon (only $50), I had to jump on it! I was going for a mix of natural colors and a little gold.

I can’t believe this sweet man is already 18 months old. Time is flying faster than I can imagine. He gets smarter, sweeter, and sassier every day. I can’t wait to see who he’ll become and what he’ll do, but I’m going to miss these days so much it hurts already.

Happy Friday Eve!

Summer Finds: Swimsuits + Wish List

It’s been a hot minute since I’ve done bikini shopping. Maternity swimsuit + mommy one piece shopping, yes. But the bikini thing… eh…
So I decided to order no less than an insane amount of swimsuits from Nordstrom because hey… free shipping and free returns, ‘m I right? Then I had the luxury of trying them on without that harsh lighting in the store and without that toddler thing of mine screaming for another “nnaaa”!
Oh the beauty of online shopping. I’m even so lazy that I had the returns picked up from our front door (all four boxes of them) for free!
Anywho… here are the ones I loooooved plus a few other lovelies!
The colors on this bikini are to die for and bonus – it’s reversible! The fabric is very soft, and I don’t ever feel like it’s cutting into my skin. The bottoms are especially comfortable and don’t leave me feeling like I’ve got love handles (although I probably do). 
I actually bought the bottoms to match this tankini, but I didn’t fall in love with them. Plus, I have about 3 black bottoms from Target that will do the job. This top makes me feel like a million bucks though. Some tankinis are a little tooooo close to maternity situations to pass for the “somewhat sexy mom” level. This one though is perfect for a day when I’d like to perhaps have a beer on the beach and not worry about my tummy. Also, the whole one-piece and going to the bathroom thing. Boo.
This one is my absolute fave find! Ohhhhhh this fabric. I can’t even. But I can, because I kept it. It’s so soft and somehow makes me feel like I look like a million bucks. It comes in multiple colors, too, if the military color isn’t your thing. If you’re a busty lady, you won’t feel over-exposed in this top. It keeps everything where it should be… even when you throw a toddler in the mix.
I bought this one last year when I had (to put it nicely) just a few more pounds to lose of my maternity weight. It tucks you in in all the right places and makes your ladies up top feel supported. La Blanca has to be one of my favorite swimsuit brands I’ve ever found. Their pieces are subtly sexy while making you feel comfortable. Not an easy thing to do, ladies.
Now for my Wish List for the summer… (fingers crossed the hubs is reading this)

Lafonn Classic Halo Ring
(also comes in a square shape)

I would live in this little number all summer! So cute and comfy.

Sundry Ruffle Off the Shoulder Dress

I’m still obsessing over this perfume. Divine.

Jo Malone London ‘Peony & Blush Suede’ Cologne

These are super fun and flirty, and plus I think they’d actually stay on my feet even if little man trips me.

Steve Madden Jupiter Lace Up Sandal

That does it! Whew. Time for the pool!

Grilled Stuffed Jalapeños + Scenes from the Weekend

We had such a great weekend at home with family and friends. I’m sure like you, it’s a rare thing for us to have a weekend with ZERO plans. It was nothing short of amazing. 
Jon had to work late Friday, so we ate leftovers and were passed out by 11:00 [which, sadly, is late for us]. On Saturday, we all got up, ate breakfast, adults had coffee, little man had milk, and we were lazy until about mid morning. 
Then we decided to venture out to our local farmer’s market where we bought a TON of organic veggies for less than $20! They also had great meats, jellies, decorations, etc. I can’t wait to go back! Near the farmer’s market was an adorable [dangerous] boutique that I can’t wait to go to again. If you live in the Tomball/Cypress/Spring area, I’d highly recommend Vickie B’s on Main. I got the most adorable cover-up and a great top – bonus the top was on sale so I got it for $12! I’ll post pics later. 
I had to share these memes. I’ve been feeling lots of #momlife vibes lately. 

But really. This is perfect. And it applies to daddies, too. 

Gotta love the $4 bunches at HEB. Nothing makes me happier than seeing fresh cut flowers on the table. The cheaper ones usually last longest, too. 

We scored a majorly adorable hat at Target the other day. Best thing is that C will actually leave it on his head for longer than two seconds! 

We also scored some awesome Crocs that match his daddy’s from Academy the other day. 

I’m not sure there’s ever been anything cuter than this chubby man wearing those stinkin’ crocs toddling around the house in his diaper. He’s constantly asking for his new “sshhhoooossss”. 

On Friday during Corey’s nap time, I managed to do some much needed gardening. I actually planted our first flower bed in the new casa! Here’s the before and after:

Hopefully these little lovelies will last despite my very non-green thumb. 

I have a new wine rec for the summer. This delicious little number is very light, has slightly fruity hints, and goes down super smooth. I love me some chardonnay, but in the summer, I really like the rosé-type lighter wines. This gem was only about $12, too!

Saturday night it was all about food, family, and fun. We had some delicious grilled sausage from Chappell Hill [best ever] along with sautéed veggies from the farmer’s market and these yummified grilled jalapeños. I have to say that they are on of the things I look forward to most in the summer. They’re wayyyyy better than the premade ones you buy at the store. They don’t take much effort either.

Beware of the spicy jalapeño fingers. They burn. Make sure you wash your hands before, during, and after with antibacterial soap. That seems to take a lot of heat away. Also make sure you remove the membranes and seeds from the jalapeños because that’s where the really spicy heat is. Or leave them in if you’re that much of a rebel. You do you. 

This is one of the few recipes that I’ve never really measured anything. I go by looks and tastes. I love a lot of bacon bits, cilantro, and green onion. By all means add or subtract anything you love or hate from this recipe. Definitely make sure your cream cheese is at room temp though before you start mixing. Otherwise, you’ll end up with huge goops of cream cheese with no other lovely flavors. Sad.

Grilled Stuffed Jalapeños
Cream cheese, room temperature*
Shredded cheddar or colby jack cheese
Cilantro leaves, chopped
Green onions, chopped
Bacon bits
Splash lime juice
Freshly ground black pepper
Jalapeños, tops, seeds, and membranes removed, cut in half lengthwise

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients minus the jalapeños using a fork. Mash everything together until it’s a pretty homogenous mixture. Stuff each jalapeño half. Grill over medium heat on a bed of foil for about ten minutes or until the jalapeños are tender but still have crunch.

Garnish with cilantro.

*I use about 1 oz. cream cheese for each whole jalapeño. The rest is really to taste. I don’t add anymore salt though because the bacon bits have plenty in them. 

The Good Girl by Mary Kubica

If you liked Gone Girl, then you have to read this one! My sister-in-law gave it to me once she heard I loved GG. It’s a suspenseful thriller about a girl who grows up under her oppressive and selfish judge of a father. Her sister is perfect in every way in his eyes. Her mom can do nothing right, however. And then there’s the good girl. She does everything wrong and receives nothing but negative in return. 
Her bad luck in life doesn’t end with her family. She ends up being kidnapped after being stood up by her boyfriend at a bar. The story flashes back and forth from before she’s abducted by a stranger and after she’s rescued. You hear from different view points (none of which are the girl’s). Your viewpoint of the characters will continue to change right up until the very last page. I love a good book that really focuses on character analysis (yes, I’m a nerd). The plot moves quickly as well, so you’re not stuck reading about the seventy shades of brown of the inside of a cabin. 
You’ll love reading this one by the pool this summer! I finished it in no less than two days, my friend. You won’t be able to put it down. 

Life Lately

I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that we just can’t seem to catch a break these days. We’ve got totally “first world problems” as they’d say, but lemme tell you somethin’… they start to wear on you. Corey and I have had a cold (yes, just a cold… already went to the dr) for seriously three weeks now. It just won’t quit. I’m thinking we’re just getting used to all the Houston allergies and germs and things like that. It will pass. 
On top of that, we’re having to have our upstairs floors refloated (again). That means movers (again) and keeping Corey sequestered to only about half the first floor or outside. Seems like no biggie, except that he’s A TODDLER! My in-laws have all been so gracious about letting us hang with them. I’m less than thrilled about having to unpack and redecorate everything (again) when all of this mess is over. I’m really ready to have some even floors though. Walking on literal hills every time I’m upstairs has been enough to put me in the looney bin. 

Anywho – whining over. 
I’m gearing up for summer on our porch and at the pool! We’ve already been grilling a ton thanks to Houston’s great weather so far (remind me I said that in August). I’m on the hunt for new swim suits, too. I did find a couple of great cover ups I’m loving already though. 
I found this one at Francesca’s the other day:
[I can’t find the link, but go to the store anyways. You’ll have more fun!]

And I have this one from Nordstrom that I bought last year:

My dad’s old Suburban, Juanita, just hit a big milestone! I love driving around in his truck because it feels a little comforting. I still have all his parking stickers from work, my brother’s “I’m Proud of My Eagle Scout” sticker, and even Daddy’s sunglasses still hanging. Hopefully ole Juanita lasts another 100k for us!

I’m going to give this little uBiome project a shot. If you haven’t heard of it, you’re going to be either completely disgusted or intrigued. My grandpa and my dad both had colon cancer, so to say that our family is obsessed with poop would be an understatement. The uBiome project is basically compiling samples (yes, those kinds of samples) from folks around the world. You provide your family history, and they were very interested in mine considering what I’ve mentioned, then send in your sample. They analyze everything and send data back to you. They also keep you information as part of the research they’re doing. Pretty cool! Plus, it’s all free!

[click here to read more]

ZAC FREAKING BROWN BAND! They have a new album, so we of course had to snatch it. Jon loves Amazon Music, and I’m a diehard iTunes person. We now have two copies of the album because we both refuse to switch to the other platform. This song really hit me for some reason. It’s been on repeat like crazy. It’s funny because ZBB’s albums have coincided with our lives so much since we got married. This one is no different.

Lots of feels on this one. Being sick makes me a little more “emo” I guess, but this quote really struck me. Nothing will make you appreciate your blessings like losing some of them.

And to end on a lighter note…

But really the toilet paper. There’s only one right way.

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