Friday, August 28, 2015

Fun Finds & An Easy Meal

My mom's side of the family is Italian.  My great grandparents...Maw Maw & Paw Paw...are from Italy and the time spent with them growing up made for some of my most favorite childhood memories.  I was blessed enough to have them around until I was 21.  They were some of the most beautiful people.  My Maw-Maw started the tradition of Sunday pasta & zucca.  She made the pasta and the meatballs all from scratch.  She taught My grandma how to do the same and the tradition still lives on today.  Sunday Funday pasta & zucca with the family are my most favorite Sundays.  You've never had pasta, meatballs, and zucca until you've had my grandma's.  Best around, hands down (I know I'm biased ;)  

I still haven't mastered the art of making everything from scratch.  I won't attempt the pasta, but I'm getting better at the zucca.  Meatballs have always stumped me.  I can never make 'em quite like grandma.  And that's really a shame because they're amazingly delightful.  I did find this recipe recently and figured it was worth a shot.  How could I possibly screw up a baked version of grandma's fare?!  Luckily I didn't!!  Although they're nowhere near the same, they are just as delightful and delicious to boot!

BAKED MEATBALLS ALLA PARMIGIANA

1- 1 1/2 lbs. ground beef
2 TBSP. fresh parsley, chopped
3/4 C. grated parmesan cheese
1/2 C. all purpose flour
2 eggs
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. dried minced onion
1/4 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/2 C. warm water

Parmigiana Topping
Marinara sauce (I use Victoria brand Marinara - Old World Style)
Mozzarella cheese



This really is a quite simple dish to prep and bake.   I like to prep mine during the day or even the night before , refrigerate, and then bake before serving.  

Combine parsley, parmesan, flour, eggs, salt, dried onion, italian seasoning, and water.  Whisk together until well mixed and add in the ground beef.  Now take off your rings because your hands are about to get dirty.  You'll want to mix the beef and the liquid mixture together by hand until it's well combined.  

Then you'll form the mixture into meatballs about 2" around like this...



Once your meatballs are prepped (you might need two baking dishes for this), pour one tablespoon of marinara over each meatball.  Then place slices of mozzarella on top of each marinara covered meatball.  



Bake at 350 for about 25-30 minutes and voila...


baked meatballs alla parmigiana!!!

Y'all...these are SO good!!! I'm really partial to my grandma's meatballs and don't often eat them unless she's the chef.  However, this recipe has definitely become a family favorite.  My youngest loves grandma's meatballs and he says these are "even just as delicious, mom!!  But grandma's are still my favorite."  Sweet boy knows what he likes.  These are great served on their own with a side of mashed potatoes, but they're just as good served over pasta....minus the melted mozzarella. 

Now I want to share a few fun finds that made my closet and holiday collection smile :)  

First up, Halloween.  I KNOW it's too early to talk about it.  I know.  But I also know that Home Goods/Marshall's sell out of this stuff with a quickness, so I went ahead and got a head start on my holiday shopping so I wouldn't miss out.  It's all put away and stored right now, but I'm tempted to start my Halloween decorating when September hits (is Sept. 1st too early?!?!?  #kidding  #sortof)


Do y'all shop at Ross??  I LOVE Ross.  Their home decor is on point.  Not always, but often.  It's definitely a hit or miss, but goodness...when it's a hit it's a home run!!  I ran in the other day while I was in town and found these fantastic wire baskets with wooden handles for a whopping $3 on clearance!  SOLD!  I bought them all.  I have no idea what I'll do with all of them, but this one makes a cute little home for my flour and sugar containers.  



I think I've told y'all before how our nearest grocery store is about 25 minutes away.  Well...we do have one in town, but they're overpriced and never have anything I need.  It's a pretty tiny little grocery store.  About a year ago our little town got a Wal Mart.  Since they have pretty much everything I need, I typically do my grocery shopping there.  While I was walking to checkout the other day I noticed a display of fitness gear.  Y'all...they have some CUTE stuff!!  And it's pretty decent quality, too!  New gear always makes me excited to workout, so I picked this up.  The whole outfit cost me $17.  Not too shabby.  So if you're looking for inexpensive workout clothes, head on over to Wal Mart and check out what they have in stock.  



We won't be experiencing any cool weather anytime soon here, but I know that my favorite store will sell out of their Fall/Winter clothes pretty quickly, so I went ahead and picked up a few (inexpensive) things for the change in weather (whenever that happens).  Just wanted to share in case you're anything like me!!

I know this isn't a flattering angle, but this sweater is the cutest!!!  It looks great with skinny jeans and covers enough of the lower half to wear with leggings, too!  The material isn't too thick or too thin...just right for cooler temps.  And it's soft, too.  For $17.90, it's a STEAL!



I know I'm late to the feather vest party and this trend is probably out, but I love it.  I looked everywhere for one last season and couldn't find the right color.  This is exactly what I was looking for.  I know I won't wear this all the time, so the $33 price tag is perfect for this occasional accessory. 




Thursday, August 27, 2015

Orange You Glad It's {Almost} Friday?!

The first week of the new school year has started and I sort of feel like I'm back in a routine.  My boys started 2nd & 1st grade(s) on Monday and they are LOVING it so far.




I did a little news segment for a local station on Monday talking all about teacher gifts.  Just a few quick and easy ideas, but then I got to thinking that I forgot one so I wanted to chat about that here in case you need any ideas for the teachers in your life.  This would be a great one for any Friday of the school year :)

Let me just preface this by saying that teachers DO NOT expect gifts.  Ever.  When I was in the classroom I didn't expect anything from any of my kids.  And I'm being so very sincere when I say that my most favorite gifts were always hand drawn pictures and letters from my kids and letters from my parents.  No lie...I still have 13 years worth of cards, pictures, notes, and letters all saved in a big box from all my K-2 kids and families.
 #packrat #cantletgo

All that to be said, I do love treating my boys' teachers to little gifts and treats throughout the year.  I know they don't expect it.  I know they don't NEED it.  I just enjoy doing it.  It's nice to feel appreciated and I really love giving them little pick-me-ups to show our appreciation.

Now moving on...

   I know how hard and tiring that first week of school can be.  And to anyone who's ever taught before, you know EXACTLY what I'm talking about...



Can I get an amen?!

Needless to say, I really want the boys teachers to know how much I appreciate them and what they do for my kids.  I know the sacrifices they make.  The late nights.  The 18 hour days.  The missed dinners.  And bedtime prayers with the kids.  And the mind numbing exhaustion which doesn't seem to let up until sometime around June :)  I appreciate them more than they know.

I won't be sending little gift baskets to school every week.  I'm pretty sure I'm finished for a while.  But I will send them little things every now and then.  It's nice to feel appreciated and to know that what you do is acknowledged.  Especially that first week.  

After sending the teachers their survival kits on the first day, I decided to end the week with a small little basket of fun to wish them a happy weekend.  There's no better weekend than the weekend following the first week of school...especially when it's a 3-day weekend.  WELL DESERVED for sure!


This idea is nothing new.  I didn't create it.  I just borrowed it.  And you can find lots of them on Pinterest.  Here's my little take....





And here's what we put inside...



Orange basket, ribbon, and mini clip chalkboard were all found in the party section at Hobby Lobby.  
Of course, you could add your own perfect spin and put in anything orange you can find, too.  

I tucked all the goodies into a spare piece of burlap I had hanging around and then sent the boys off to school.  Uh...should've rethought that whole idea.  They had quite the time getting out of the car and carrying them inside.  Whoops!  



I went ahead and changed the printable to say "Have a great weekend!" instead of "Have a great 3-day weekend!" so that they can be used any time of the year :)  You can download a printable copy by clicking on the pic below.




TGI (almost) FRIDAY!!!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

What the Teacher Wore Wednesday

I think this goes without saying, but it's been HOT this summer.  As I'm typing right now, the rain is falling and the temps have cooled down considerably.  I'd say 90 feels like winter right about now.  Not that I'm complaining.  I LOVE the heat.  I'd much rather be hot than cold ANY day.  But Lawd...this tiny drop in degrees sure is nice.  

Lunch with a dear friend and a romper for the win last week.  I know I probably have ZERO business wearing something like this, but y'all...it's HOT.  And it still fits (which is more than I can say for some of my clothes. #iliketoeat


Romper:  Target, last summer
Wedges:  Guess - DSW 3 years ago


Spending the night hopping from place to place downtown for Adam's 40th called for white jeans and a flowy tank.  In case you weren't already aware, wedges are NOT a good choice when you're walking everywhere.  10 blocks in wedges makes for awfully sore feet the next morning.


Top:  Forever 21, 2 years ago
Jeans:  Gap Always Skinny


Woke up downtown on Sunday and dressed down for brunch at Danton's.  I'm in love with this puebla blouse and I'd wear it every day if I could get away with it.  The part that isn't embroidered is a crepe material...super flowy and soft.   I've been seeing these around in our local boutiques, but I've held back on purchasing because they're so darn expensive!!!  I know I'd get my money's worth, but it's still hard to justify the price tag.  I ended up finding this in a booth at a local trade days/flea market a few weeks ago and I couldn't have been MORE excited.  For $20 I was SOLD!



Top:  local trade days/flea market
Shorts:  American Eagle, 2ish years ago
Sandals: Steven Madden Comma Sandals
Jewelry:  Bead & Tassel Bracelets, Forever 21 last year;   Kendra Scott Sophee Drop Earrings in Gold


Threw this on for my youngest's Meet the Teacher last night.  I knew it would be warm in the building with all those bodies so I wanted something that would breathe.  These linen pants are some of my favorites!!!  Love the fit and the feel.  SO comfy.  Not flattering in the least, but I still think they're cute!  


Shoes:  Shoes:  BCBG Richmand Sandals (they're all sold out...BUT...these are a cute, inexpensive alternative)


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Grandma Approved

It's been a while since I hosted a little Home Tour Tuesday.  I'm sure it's absence hasn't been missed, but it will be a bit longer since I can post one again.  You see, we decided to have a bathroom built upstairs back in April.  That bathroom turned into bathroom AND bar/entertainment center.  We have one huge room upstairs with TONS of attic space and we plan on eventually adding a bedroom at some point as well.  Okay, so that was April.  

That same month we found a major problem in our master bath.  Like NO shower pan in the shower kind of problem.  The guys building the bathroom did some investigating for us and found huge leaks under the shower and we were close to termites starting to take residence in our bathroom.  Yikes.  An insurance adjuster came out and we decided that we would just remodel the whole bathroom.  It was on our list of "future to-do's" so we decided to get a head start on it since our shower and tub would have to be taken out and the groundwork and plumbing would have to be repaired.  They started on that in May.  MAY.

The estimated date of completion on that project was early June.  Uh....it's almost the end of August and we STILL have no shower or tub in our master bath.  No lights.  Shoddy tiling.  No faucets.  Uneven grout.  The list goes on.  Did I mention our contractor took our money and never came back??  Yeah. So, there's that.

We were hopeful.  He still hadn't finished some of the painting and electric upstairs.  All of his tools were left behind.  As well as his work truck.  So we were hopeful he'd finish because he'd have to come back and claim his belongings.  Multiple attempts at calling and texting...lots of calls avoided...and 2 months later, here we are. No bathroom.  However, we do have a new contractor and it looks like we'll have our bathroom back by September!!  YAY!!!  

I'm not angry or upset.  There's no use holding grudges.  I don't even want him to get the "what goes around comes around" he has coming to him.  I honestly just wanted to move on.   I'd just really like to shower in my room and start putting everything away.  The contents of our bathroom have been residing on our bedroom floor since May and I'm ready to have that space back. 
 #firstworldproblems
All that to be said, here's what we have so far....





I'll be so excited when it's finished!!!  Is there such a thing as a bathroom warming party?  Because I want to throw one when it's all said and done.  

If I really let it, thinking about it could make me pretty sour, so let's talk about something sweet.  
Like cake.  Who doesn't love cake?!  Well...my sister.  Not a fan.  I'm not sure we're actually related.  But I digress. ;)

I always love a delectable dessert and pineapple upside down cake is one of my favorites.  Reminds me of my grandma who...in my opinion...makes the best.  This recipe isn't grandma's, but it did meet her approval so I'm considering this a winner!!!  

PINEAPPLE UPSIDE DOWN CAKE

1/2 C. butter (unsalted)
3/4 C. light brown sugar (packed)
1 (20 oz.) can of pineapple slices
Maraschino cherries
1 C. all purpose flour
3/4 C. granulated sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 large egg
1/2 C. buttermilk
1/3 C. sour cream
3 TBSP. canola OR vegetable oil
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Just in case you need to SEE the ingredients...



Now go ahead and preheat your oven to 350 and start prepping your ingredients while the oven heats up.

Melt the butter and pour evenly into a 9-in springform cake pan.  You can use the melted butter to grease the sides of the cake pan as well.



Now sprinkle the brown sugar over the melted butter....



Bring out those pineapple slices and place an entire one in the center of the pan.  Cut the other slices in half and place them around the whole slice going all the way around the pan.  Make sure to place some of the halved slices around the edge of the pan as well.  Then place one maraschino cherry in the center of the whole pineapple and in between the halved slices as well.



After your pan is prepped and ready to go, combine the flour, sugar and baking powder in a large bowl with a whisk and set aside. 

You'll need to dirty another bowl, but make it a small one. Add to it the egg, buttermilk, sour cream, oil, and vanilla and whisk to combine.  Then pour this mixture into the large bowl with the dry ingredients.  Lightly mix to combine making sure not to overmix.  There will be some small lumps in the batter and that's A-OK!

Gently pour the batter into your prepared springform pan and make sure not to overfill.  

Place the pan on top of a cookie sheet (with edges) to catch anything that might spill over.  Bake at 350 for about 40ish minutes.

Remove when the cake is baked through and place on a wire rack and let cool for about 30 minutes before inverting.  I gave mine a couple of hours before inverting...of course, I did that mostly because I forgot about it, but it transferred beautifully.  #fortunateaccident


This version of my grandma's tried and true recipe is sinfully delectable.  I don't like the word "moist" {{{shudder}}}, but that's the only description that comes to mind at the moment.  It's all that and then some.  Melt-in-your-mouth delicious.  And it makes an absolutely satisfying breakfast paired with a strong cup of coffee :) This recipe is definitely a keeper!!  Grandma approved so you can't go wrong :)  

Monday, August 17, 2015

Monday Mash Up

It's Monday and I have a confession....




Before I get started, I need to wish Mr. Spouse the happiest of birthdays.  Today's the big 4-0 and we've been celebrating his 4th decade of life all weekend long.  Those are the best kind of celebrations.  My parents kept the boys this weekend and I took Adam downtown for a little surprise party. We stayed at one of our favorite hotels and some of our favorite friends surprised him at a great little sports bar & grill, Tejas, before we hit the town.  The Astros & the Texans were playing that night, so it turned out to be the perfect set-up.  #winning  We woke up yesterday and went to brunch at Danton's with our friends and then headed back to mom & dad's for Sunday Funday with the family (cake & ice cream included).  Now we're getting this ready around the house to celebrate our favorite 40-year-old when he gets home from work tonight.  Mercy!



I haven't quite decided what's on the menu this evening, but I can guarantee that cake will make an appearance.  I'm thinking of something along the lines of seafood.  It's definitely one of our favorite fares.  This summer we ate tons of it.  Lots of fish and shrimp and our favorite bottom feeders, crawfish :)  This salmon dish right here was one of our FAVORITES.  So full of flavor and easy to prep!  We paired it with roasted asparagus and a little lemon juice and we were in seafood heaven.  If you like salmon, you would LOVE this dish!

BAKED LEMON GARLIC HERB CRUSTED SALMON

3 oz. butter
1 tsp. salt
Zest of 1 lemon
1/2 TBSP. dried parsley
1 tsp. dried dill
2 cloves garlic, chopped
4 salmon filets


As I said earlier, this is a really simple meal to prep and bake!  And y'all...SO full of flavor!!!

First up, go ahead and preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Combine butter, salt, lemon zest, parsley, dill, and garlic in a small microwaveable bowl.  Heat in the microwave until the butter is melted, stir, and brush on the top of each salmon filet with a pastry brush. 

Bake at 400 for about 12ish minutes or until the salmon is cooked through.  

DELISH!!!



This was, by far, one of our most favorite recipes of the summer and now that I'm looking at these pictures I'm thinking this would be perfect for tonight's birthday dinner.  As for my two little boys, they'll have to settle for chicken nuggets and broccoli.
#notfansoftheseafood #acquiredtaste

Now I need your help.

I've been thinking about trying out some of those deliciously appetizing food box delivery services and I need to know what's the best.  I've been doing my research, but I'd love to hear what you like if you use them, too.  Since Mr. Spouse will only be home for dinner 3 nights a week, these food boxes would be perfect for us.  I love the idea of not having to meal plan.  And I love that the ingredients for each dish are already pre-measured (I have issues cooking for 2.  #Ialwaysovercook #leftoversfordays).  Another draw for me is finding new and different foods. I love the idea of trying things I normally wouldn't venture to try on my own for fear of not being able to find the ingredients at our little grocery store.  So far I've found Plated, Blue Apron, & Hello Fresh.  Am I missing anything???



Friday, August 14, 2015

A Pasta Salad with a Southwestern Flair

If you read my post on Tuesday, you know that I haven't really been home a whole lot this summer.  When we were home I tried to keep our meals simple.  Lots of grilling...a little take out...and too many "finger foods" :)  I realized that grocery shopping during the busy summer months isn't quite as organized as it is during the school year.  All that to be said, one thing that was easy to prep and lasted us a few days worth of meals was pasta salad.  

Oh sweet, sweet pasta salad.  I definitely have my favorites in this category.  My dear friend, Jill, gave me the most AMAZING tomato, basil, & feta pasta salad recipe years ago and it's one of my favorites to make and eat.  However, it doesn't last long at all.  I eat it like it's going out of style.  Mr. Spouse isn't a fan of eating the same thing over and over, so I had bring in a few new recipes that would satisfy his palate.  I'm pretty sure we hit a home run with this one!!!

SOUTHWESTERN CHICKEN PASTA SALAD
2 tbsp. olive oil
2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts - cubed & cooked
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 lb. box of tri colored rotini pasta
2 cans of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 CUPS frozen corn, thawed
1 can Rotel, drained
1/2 C. green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 C. red bell pepper, chopped
4 green onions, chopped
2 TBSP chopped cilantro

DRESSING
1/2 C. Mayo
2/3 C. plain Greek yogurt
1 TBSP. dry ranch dressing (Hidden Valley dressing)
1 TBSP. taco seasoning



Heat olive oil in a skillet and add chopped garlic.  Let garlic sautee for about 1-2 minutes and toss in the cubed chicken.  Heat until cooked through.  Remove and set aside.

Boil pasta according to package directions.  Drain, return to pot, and set aside.  

While the pasta & chicken are cooking, start chopping the bell peppers, green onion, and cilantro.

And go ahead and prep your dressing, too.  

Now add the chicken and veggies/cilantro to the pot of drained pasta.  Toss in the Rotel, black beans, and corn and stir to combine.  

Mix in the dressing one tablespoon at a time.  Just add until the consistency is to your preference. 

Transfer to a large bowl, serve, and enjoy!


This is a great salad served slightly warm or cold.  I love the creaminess!!  We've also tried this same recipe with Italian dressing instead of the one mentioned here.  Absolutely DELICIOUS.  Another great dressing to incorporate with these ingredients?!  Bolthouse Cilantro Avocado dressing.  YUM!   This has been a great side dish for us (without the chicken), but it's perfectly fitting for a full meal, too!!!  Now it's off to make some more!!  Summer's not over yet ;)

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Back To School Breakfast & Teacher Treats

Since the beginning of the school year is upon us, I thought today would be a great time to revisit a post I wrote last year....just in case you *might* need a few ideas, too :)

  Since last year was my first year out of the classroom, I was able to wake up early and surprise them with a back to school breakfast.   This was completely unnecessary and over the top.  Ridiculous and absurd.  {Insert your adjectives here}.  BUT...every now and then I like to do things that surprise even myself ;)  And it was an added bonus that I didn't have to buy ONE.DARN.THING for this little special back to school breakfast!  Being a teacher with lots of goodies on hand sure has it's perks ;)


Like I said, I had everything on hand.  I randomly collect globes, so yes...I had those, too.  The only thing I really had to do was print out those little subway prints and put them in a few extra frames I had in my closet.   I haven't done anything like this in forever and I forgot how much I really do enjoy it.  Lawd knows this may never happen again ;)






After breakfast it was time for our annual first day of school pics.  If you have kids going back to school this week or next, you can make these, too!  I created a little power point file with grades Pre-K - 5th and all you have to do is insert your info. 


Here's the fonts you'll need...

You can download the power point and insert all of your own info :)



  Because I love teachers so much, I REALLY love to treat the boys teachers to little unexpected goodies throughout the year. There are a MILLION of these floating around out there, but I went and recreated the wheel because these are the "favorites" I wanted to know from their teachers.  There are lots of other teacher questionnaires out there, but they didn't have all these exact "favorites" included.  If this is something you think you can use, just click the pic below to download your copy.  
This really came in handy this past year!!!  I loved treating the boy's teachers to little goodies throughout the year and love that I didn't have to keep asking for their favorites :)


Speaking of little treats, I made these for the teachers for their first day of school!


I LOVED putting this together!!  I got plain terra cotta pots {Michaels} and painted them with black acrylic paint.  They dry in about 2 minutes so this was a SUPER quick project.  Then I just took a white paint pen and wrote the teachers last names on the surface.  I found that great little leopard print burlap ribbon and Michaels and used that to tie around the rim.  I only needed one roll of the ribbon.  Our school colors are blue & white.  I found that polka dotted tissue paper in the party section at Target.  Then I just started piling all the goodies inside.

Here's what I included....


There are TONS of ideas for teacher survival kits on Pinterest if you're wanting to assemble your own!

I tied little tags around each item with a little "blurb" about what it was for.  I did this BEFORE I realized it would've been easier to just type up a little something to put in the basket.  



If you want to create a little survival kit for your child's teacher...or your teammates...just click on the pic below for your printable download.



Hope this helps with your back to school planning, too!!