Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Books! Books! Books!

My GOODNESS, y'all came through with amazing book recommendations on my recent book request post! I literally requested EVERY single one of them from the library and am anywhere between #6 and #191 on the wait list line for ALL of them! However, since I'm impatient, I primed a handful of the books with the longest wait list. Also, I decided to compile and share the list of books that were recommended because they are ALL in the thriller/suspense/can't-turn-the-page-fast-enough category and those of you who left suggestions would probably like the others too!
BOOKS!
My Husbands Wife

*recommended more than once

The books en route to me are The Woman in Cabin 10, The Kind Worth Killing, Luckiest Girl Alive, The Husbands Secret, My Husaband's Wife, The Good Daughter, The Chemist and The Couple Next Door. I purchased all of them used on Amazon anywhere between .93 - $6 for hardbacks in excellent condition! I can't wait to report back with a review!

Happy reading, friends! 

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Florida!

First Florida trip of the year in the books! We took advantage of the long MLK weekend and flew home for a few days. It was a quicker trip than normal but still SO great. Dad is feeling (and obviously looking fantastic) which is just such a blessing. In fact, Hospice is re-evaluating him to see if he's still a fit for their program. It's pretty unusual to get kicked out of Hospice but you know those insane stories of patients given up to 3 months to live...and living years? I'm hoping that's us. I am so thankful for every extra day we have!

Now for a few of my favorite pictures from the weekend (all from the same day -- church & lunch).
 
Before my Grandpa (one of my favorite people of all time) passed away, he would eat lunch every single day at his favorite restaurant, Grills Seafood Deck & Tiki Bar in Cocoa Beach. I can't tell you how many times we've eaten there. In fact, we surprised him on his 80th birthday when he walked in for his usual lunch and we were all there screaming SURPRISE! The waitresses knew him SO well and loved him fiercely. So you can imagine how special it was for us when Grills opened an Orlando location!!! It opened earlier this week so after church on Sunday we went for lunch and the mahi mahi is just as amazing as I always remembered it to be. 
Cheers to a great weekend!

Monday, January 15, 2018

Meal Plan Monday: Whole30

We just completed week 2 of Whole30 and have never felt better.

Also, I cannot thank you all enough for the insane amount of emails I received with amazing recipes and tips. If you haven't already, I highly suggest peeking at my Whole30 pin board as I've tried to collect all of the recipes that have been shared with me there.

Before I dive in to our week 3 meal plan I wanted to answer the number one question I received last week from many of you...

How do you have time to plan, shop and prep for such a complicated diet as a full time working mama?

Meal Planning: Planning our meals out usually takes me somewhere between 30 minutes to an hour depending on how focused I am on the task (ahem, Netflix binge). I typically meal plan during the kids' naps on the weekends or in bed at night. My first step in the planning process is reviewing the weekly Harris Teeter grocery ad to see which meats, veggies, fruits, etc. are on sale. Once I know what type of meats I'm working with I'll turn to my pin board to select my meals and start a grocery list. I always purchase enough of each meat to make one recipe last for at least two meals (dinner + leftovers for lunch).

Grocery Shopping: Since I don't have time during the work week to grocery shop, we are limited to the weekends to tackle it -- usually on Saturday mornings. Before Whole30 we could knock everything out at Harris Teeter and visit Trader Joes every few weekends. However, we must shop at both stores to get everything we need at the prices I'm willing to pay (sorry Harris Teeter, I can't pay $19 for Almond flour or $3 per Larabar). This usually takes us about 2 hours as a family to tackle.

Meal Prepping: This definitely takes the longest time but is totally worth it. Let me explain. I usually use nap time on Sundays to prep everything. I make a breakfast casserole for the entire week of breakfasts, I boil tons of eggs, bake tons of bacon, prep all the snacks, prepare a few lunches and chop up as many ingredients as possible for the week. This takes me 3 hours. It's a LOT of time. But you know what? It's really not. On a normal night it takes me somewhere between 30 minutes and an hour to get dinner on the table. But with all the prep done, it takes me somewhere between 5 minutes and 20 minutes. I also try to ensure at least 1-2 meals are done in the crock pot. So meal prep is actually totally worth it to me.

What About the Kids? The kids are eating what we're eating and are happy about it for the most part. Some recipes I have to hand pick every damn tomato out of for Caroline or every carrot out of for Thomas so they'll eat it. But overall, they have really appreciated the break from frozen chicken nuggets and lunchables.

Biggest Challenge: This week presented challenges with planning meals around my several days of work travel as well as our trip home for the long weekend. Thankfully my mom was suuuuuper supportive and cooked compliant meals for us. As for travel, I ate a lot of RX bars and salads with balsamic vinegar.

On to the meal plans! Sorry for the redundancy but I think it's helpful to see all the previous meals in one place so I'm including week 1 and week 2 meals...

WEEK 1
MONDAY
TUESDAY:
B: Scrambled eggs over roasted sweet potatoes
D: Baked Pesto Salmon with Kale Chips
 
WEDNESDAY:
B: Scrambled eggs over roasted sweet potatoes
THURSDAY:
B: Scrambled eggs over roasted sweet potatoes
L: Leftover Avocado Chicken Salad
FRIDAY: 
B: Scrambled eggs over roasted sweet potatoes
SATURDAY: 
L: Salad
D: Oven Baked Ribs w/ Roasted Green Beans
SNACKS: celery or apples with almond butter, plantain chips and hard boiled eggs

WEEK 2

SUNDAY
B: Banana Pancakes
L: Eggroll in a Bowl (this wasn't our favorite, but the kids ate it) 
D: Slow Cooker White Chicken Chili
MONDAY

TUESDAY
D: Leftover Paleo Carnitas

WEDNESDAY

THURSDAY

FRIDAY
L: Salad
D: Roasted chicken with green beans

SATURDAY
B: Scrambled eggs, bacon & fruit
L: Salad
D: Steak, sweet potato & salad

 **Favorite recipe of the week: Breakfast Casserole!!!! Oh my goodness, it is SO good. Runner up was Paleo Carnitas
WEEK 3

MONDAY

TUESDAY
D: Rotisserie Chicken

WEDNESDAY
L: Salad with leftover rotisserie chicken

THURSDAY

FRIDAY
D: Tilapia with Avocado Salsa

SATURDAY/SUNDAY: Vacation. Off diet, for sure.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Three on Friday!

We are en route to Florida today -- thankfully FLYING this time! Dad is doing really well and we want to spend as much time with him as possible while he's feeling great! That being said, things are a little chaotic this morning as we pack our bags and wrestle the kiddos out the door for the airport. So today I've only got time for 3 things! Happy Friday, friends!

one. For Christmas Matt surprised me with some work dresses and this one is my favorite! It's a dress I would have never picked out for myself, in a color I never think looks good on me and at a store I rarely shop at and I LOVE IT. I even wore it twice this week (perks of traveling to different offices).

two. While uploading all my iPhone pictures to Dropbox I found some pictures from a recent date night at one of our favorite restaurants, Good Food on Montford! This place is so delicious that there's always a line outside the door before they even open for dinner. It's that good...especially the steamed bun. omg.
2017 | 2015
three. I need some book recommendations! So the last time I actually sat down and read a book (that wasn't self-help or a devotional) was during our Jamaica vacation. The last two books I read were The Good Girl and The Girl on the Train sooooo I'm sure I've missed a ton of amazing books since those two came out forever ago. I really like twisty-turny suspense thrillers and really don't like chick-flicks or sad books.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Hall of Fame

Y'all! Matt won Business North Carolina's 2018 Legal Elite Young Guns award. I can't describe how impressive this is. I've worked for big law and now a mid-size firm and getting our attorneys recognized in this publication is a really huge deal. For most of you who aren't familiar with this award, each year BNC honors lawyers across the state in business-related categories. Winners are chosen by the state’s lawyers and the top vote-getter in each category becomes a member of Business North Carolina’s Legal Elite Hall of Fame. So when Matt told me he won Young Guns this year I was SO proud. I mean, he's done a lot of amazing things and won a lot of impressive awards and been featured in a lot of cool places (let's not forget his TV commercial!) but this is especially huge because they picked him to be FEATURED ON THE MAGAZINE COVER OF THEIR JANUARY EDITION!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I seriously cannot get over the fact that my very cute husband's face is on the cover of Business North Carolina this month. So proud! SO SO SO PROUD!
 
Here's the excerpt with his interview:
 And now I'm off to buy one million copies. Go, Matt! You're a rock star!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Cauliflower Soup

A few weeks ago I made a batch of Cauliflower Soup and just realized I never blogged about it! And this recipe is definitely blog worthy. So here ya go...
Cauliflower Soup

Ingredients
    1 stick Butter, Divided
    1/2 whole Onion, Finely Diced
    1 whole Carrot Finely Diced
    1 stalk Celery, Finely Diced
    1 whole (to 2 Whole) Cauliflower Heads, Roughly Chopped
    2 Tablespoons Fresh Or Dried Parsley, Chopped
    2 quarts Low-sodium Chicken Broth Or Stock
    6 Tablespoons All-purpose Flour
    2 cups Whole Milk
    1 cup Half-and-half
    2 teaspoons To 4 Teaspoons Salt, To Taste
    1 cup (heaping) Sour Cream, Room Temperature

Instructions
In a large soup pot or dutch oven, melt 4 tablespoons butter. Add the onion and cook for a few minutes, or until it starts to turn brown.

Add the carrots and celery and cook an additional couple of minutes. Add cauliflower and parsley and stir to combine.

Cover and cook over very low heat for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, pour in chicken stock or broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and allow to simmer.

In a medium saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons butter. Mix the flour with the milk and whisk to combine. Add flour-milk mixture slowly to the butter, whisking constantly.

Remove from heat and stir in 1 cup half-and-half. Add mixture to the simmering soup. Allow to simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Check seasoning and add more salt or pepper if necessary.

Just before serving, place the sour cream in a serving bowl or soup tureen. Add two to three ladles of hot soup into the tureen and stir to combine with the sour cream. Pour in remaining soup and stir.

Serve immediately.
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Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Custom Home Letterpress with Minted

This post is sponsored by my friends at Minted. All opinions are my own.

Our latest home project has been our dining room! Over the past few months we've very slowly been tackling this room and although we still have a ways to go before it's finished I am loving the progress so far. I know exactly how I want the room to look...with the exception of the walls. Why are walls always the hardest? I am so picky when it comes to hammering nails into walls. I can never find something perfect enough for my space so most of the walls in our home are bare. However, I did know I wanted to incorporate a portrait of our last home somewhere in our new home.

In comes Minted!
While browsing through Christmas cards I stumbled upon Custom House Letterpress Portrait Art and knew I needed to have one made for our dining room. The process was quick and easy. I submitted a picture of our house and after a few emails back and forth with my talented designer we had perfected the portrait and it arrived a few days later. And it is beautiful. Of course, now I want to have a second portrait made of our first home to add to this wall!

I am loving seeing this room come together one piece at a time!
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Monday, January 8, 2018

Meal Plan Monday: Whole30

If you're not doing Whole30, you may want to skip this post (even though these recipes are amazing even if you're not doing Whole30). I literally scour the internet for HOURS to meal plan each week on this diet and have found posts like this extremely helpful. So today I'm sharing the meals we ate last week as well as the meals we are planning to eat this week. After one week, Matt and I are SO obsessed with this diet and have never been happier with our food intake. We feel SO good on this diet and are excited to keep going. My sister and BIL are on this diet too so it's really fun to share recipes and keep each other accountable when we really want to grab a handful of candy!

Also, do me a favor, if you are doing Whole30, drop your favorite recipe in the comments pretty please!
 
 Sweet Potato Breakfast Stacks 
 
WEEK 1
 
MONDAY
TUESDAY:
B: Scrambled eggs over roasted sweet potatoes
D: Baked Pesto Salmon with Kale Chips
 
WEDNESDAY:
B: Scrambled eggs over roasted sweet potatoes
THURSDAY:
B: Scrambled eggs over roasted sweet potatoes
FRIDAY: 
B: Scrambled eggs over roasted sweet potatoes
 
SATURDAY: 
L: Salad
D: Oven Baked Ribs w/ Roasted Green Beans
 
SNACKS: celery or apples with almond butter, plantain chips and hard boiled eggs

 Here's what's on deck for this week:
 
WEEK 2

SUNDAY
B: Banana Pancakes
L: Eggroll in a Bowl (this wasn't our favorite, but the kids ate it) 
D: Slow Cooker White Chicken Chili

MONDAY
D: Paleo Carnitas with avocado on romaine

TUESDAY
D: Leftover Paleo Carnitas with avocado on romaine

WEDNESDAY

THURSDAY
D: Seared Tilapia with Avocado Salsa (modified with cauliflower rice and omitting beans + corn)

FRIDAY
L: Salad
D: TBD (traveling)
 
Now tell me what you're eating on Whole30!

Friday, January 5, 2018

Five on Friday!

Yay for the first 5 on Friday of the year! I can't believe we have been hosting this link-up for more than 3 years now. I think this is my 158th Five on Friday post! I always look forward to writing these posts and I hope you still love them too! 

one. We recently added two perfect little plant stands to the corner of our dining room and I am obsessed. They were custom made locally by Sweet Southern Sawdust and stained to match our floor. I cannot believe how gorgeous they turned out. If you're local, I highly recommend checking Kristen's shop out (Facebook | Instagram)! She has so much more in her shop too. Also, I'd like to give myself a round of applause for keeping this fiddle leaf fig (gifted by my bestie Laura) alive!
 

two. Matt and I took the kiddos to see their first movie -- Coco! It was the best idea and the worst idea ever. Caroline was in absolute heaven. She was glued to the movie the entire time and LOVED every single minute. Thomas on the other hand was a disaster. He sat through one bag of popcorn and all the previews, but once the movie started and his popcorn ran out he was ALL over the place and had to be escorted out of the theater almost immediately. So yeah, Caroline and I had a blast while Thomas and Matt walked around South Park for two hours.
three. I found a life changing pair of leggings. I've been wanting a nice pair of Spanx leggings for awhile now but could never bring myself to splurge on a pair. And then something magical happened...Spanx came out with an Assets line that is sold at Target!!!! I bought a pair of tights and a pair of leggings. The leggings get an A+++++++ and are hands down the best leggings I've ever owned. They suck you in but are still comfortable and are extremely soft. The tights on the other hand were a fail for me but according to the reviews I'm in the minority.
four. Remember when we thought Caroline would never grow hair? Well girlfriend is now rocking one heck of a pony tail. She looks so much older and it KILLS me.
five A. Matt and I started Whole 30 Light this week. I'm calling it the "Light" version because we are following all the rules...but allowing alcohol on the weekends. I know that is completely against the entire point of the diet, but we are dieting for weight loss and not necessarily the reset cleanse. And although it's only been a week we have seen tremendous results in our energy. I also haven't missed any food because all of our meals have been RIDICULOUS so far. For example, my usual breakfast would be an egg sandwich, but on Whole 30 Light we're eating THIS for breakfast...
This recipe is straight out of the Whole30 cookbook but I added tomatoes and avocado. 

Sweet Potato Breakfast Stacks

Ingredients

2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into ½" rounds (I buy the pre-diced potatoes)
sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste
4 slices of bacon
2 tsp rice wine vinegar
4 large eggs
2 cloves of garlic, minced
4 cups of baby spinach
1/2 cup diced cherry tomatoes
1 avocado

Instructions
1. Add the olive oil to a non stick skillet. Season the sweet potato rounds with salt and pepper and.cook them until they are fork tender - about 3-4 minutes on each side. Set aside and cover with foil while you prepare the toppings.
2. Place the bacon in a non stick skillet and cook until it is crispy.
3. Add the rice wine vinegar to a pot of boiling water. Break the eggs into a small bowl and gently add them to the boiling water. Remove from the heat and cover. 
4. While the eggs are cooking, remove most of the bacon grease from the pan and add the garlic and cook for about a minute. Add the tomatoes and cook for 3 minutes. Add spinach to the pan and allow it to wilt.
5. Place the sweet potatoes on serving plates and top with a slice of bacon, spinach, tomatoes, avocado and one soft boiled egg.

five B. I know a lot of you are also doing Whole30 so I thought I'd share our other meals from this week because I am obsessed with reading these types of posts right now. For breakfast each morning we've been eating a simplified version of the recipe above (sweet potatoes topped with scrambled eggs and bacon) -- made in bulk and prepped for the entire week. Whole30 is a TON of cooking so I try to prep as much as possible at once. For lunch we eat leftovers from the previous night's dinner.
week 1 dinners:
Monday: Slow Cooker Sweet Potato Chili
Tuesday: Baked Pesto Salmon with Kale Chips
Wednesday: Avocado Chicken Salad
Thursday: Ground Turkey Taco Bowls with Spanish Cauliflower Rice
Friday: Trader Joes Chili Lime Burgers with veggies


Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Ringing in 2018!

We rang in the new year with three of our best friend couples! The night was perfect and I couldn't have imagined kicking off 2018 any other way. As soon as we got the kids down for bed (and blasted their powerful sound machines), we got the party started. Thomas slept soundly through the festivities and Caroline woke up once to tell us to quiet down.
For dinner I served traditional New Year's foods for luck, prosperity, gold, progress and love in 2018!

A breakdown of the meaning behind the foods:

PORK. The tradition of eating pork on New Year's Day is based on the idea that pigs symbolize progress. The animal pushes forward, rooting itself in the ground before moving. This moving forward is seen as a symbol of moving forward in the New Year. 

BLACK EYED PEA SALAD: Legumes including beans, peas, and lentils are also symbolic of good luck. I also incorporated tomatoes as  as a symbol of love!

KALE SALAD: Cooked greens such as cabbage, collards, kale, turnips, etc. symbolize wealth, prosperity and good fortune because their green leaves look like folded money. It's widely believed that the more greens you eat, the more prosperous you will become during the year ahead. I picked up this pre-made salad from Harris Teeter.

CORN BREAD: Corn bread, which symbolizes gold, completes the traditional Southern meal.
Wyn, Lisa and John all have birthdays on and around New Year's Eve so for dessert I had a birthday cake made!
We had various beverage stations stocked with wines, beer, prosecco, etc, but what stole the show was the champagne punch! It was SO (dangerously) good. The jello shots were also a big hit among the entire crowd and were the first to clear out.



Inside the girls were busy popping bubbly, clinking glasses and dancing! Lots and lots of dancing.
 

In preparation for the night Matt built a "man tent" for all of the guys outside. He left one side open and built a fire just outside the tent to give them some warmth in the 27 degree temps.
Game time. I love these people!
 3-2-1!
 Happiest New Year!


 -- RECIPES --

Carolina Style Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

Ingredients:
4-6 lb pork shoulder
2 white onions, diced
4 cups of apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon liquid smoke
1.5 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon paprika
2 tablespoon brown sugar
BBQ sauce {optional}

Directions:
Place onions in the bottom of crock pot. Blend together salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, paprika, garlic powder and sugar; Rub over roast and place in crock pot. In a small bowl combine apple cider, apple juice and liquid smoke. Pour half of the mixture over the roast. Set the timer to cook on low for approximately 8-10 hours. The roast should be ready to fall apart when you stick a fork in it. Remove meat and onions. Discard onions and shred the pork. Pour remaining juice mixture over meat before serving. Serve alone or on a bun.

Black-Eyed Pea Salad
Ingredients
2 cans black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
1 large tomato, diced
1/2 large red onion, diced
1 large bell pepper, diced
6 green onions, sliced
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 tsp. organic cane sugar
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions
1. Toss to combine black-eyed peas, tomato, red onion, pepper, jalapeno, and green onion in a large bowl. 2. In a small bowl, dissolve sugar in vinegar. Whisk in oil. Season with salt and pepper. 3. Pour dressing over bean mixture. Toss to coat. Stir in cilantro and season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to serve (the longer it sits the better the flavor will be).

Corn Bread Mini Muffins

Ingredients
2 Boxes Jiffy Cornbread
2 Eggs
1 Can Creamed Corn
2 Tbsp Sugar

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients until combined in a medium bowl. Scrape mixture into a mini muffin pan that has been sprayed well with cooking spray. Bake for 20 minutes or until center is just done.

Champagne Punch
In a large pitcher mix together:
1 cup St Germain
3 bottles Champagne
2 cups Vodka
3/4 cup Lemon Juice; fresh
2 cups Pom Juice
Garnish with fresh rosemary sprigs and fresh Pomegranate Seeds. I also used a muffin tin to make  large ice cubes with lemons for the punch.

Champagne Jello Shots

Ingredients:
2 4 oz. boxes of pineapple Jello
1½ cups boiling water
2½ cups champagne
1 cup sliced strawberries
20 2 oz. clear plastic shot glasses

Directions:
Mix your pineapple jello and boiling water in a medium sized bowl, stirring until jello powder has all dissolved. Refrigerate for 15 minutes. Stir in champagne and refrigerate for another 30 minutes or until jello has just slightly thickened.  Set aside about 3/4 cup of your jello and champagne mixture for creating the foam top and put it back in the refrigerator. Pour jello and champagne mixture into your shot glasses, then drop a few sliced berries in each glass. Refrigerate overnight. Before serving, whip {with a high speed hand mixer} your 3/4 cup left over jello until it becomes white and fluffy and resembles foam. Spoon "foam" on top and serve.

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