Weeknight Baking: Double Chocolate Banana Bread

A day of endless rain - torrential downpour at times - made for a cozy afternoon indoors, baking.  With four brown spotting bananas calling out to me on the counter, I opted for banana bread when my daughter insisted, "chocolate banana bread!"  Upon the suggestion I shrugged, oh what the heck, who am I to withhold chocolate from our banana bread.  This recipe did not disappoint.  Truth be told, about 90% of it was eaten within a day.  Yum.

Dinner Last Night: Caramelized Pork Tacos with Pineapple Salsa

Add this one to your repertoire peeps!  This recipe takes pork loin to a whole new dimension - I am a fan, this will definitely be a repeat recipe in our home.  In addition, the pineapple, red onion, cilantro, cucumber salsa is light, crunchy, and refreshing, capped off with a zingy Sriracha mayo.  Holy yum!


2017 Goals Recap

Well, we're already about 1/4 of the way through 2018, it's about time I cobble together some goals for the current year, don't you think?  In the meantime, here's a recap of my 2017.  

throw kindness around like confetti
I think this went fairly well.  It is very easy to become consumed or absorbed in our little worlds, ignoring those around us that we interact with but do not inhabit our regular orbits.  I tried to go out of my way to make small talk with strangers, offering more than just a smile, and continuing the conversation were it fruitful.  I also tried to acknowledge and thank service people with more genuine thanks than I have before.  Going out to eat with two young kids is not always a cake walk, but when servers take the time to offer extra crayons or water with a straw and lid, it means a lot. On the whole, I feel like I achieved this goal.

try new things
Well, we did attend a symphony this year, which was positively lovely!  Plus, it's an annual benefit function, so we plan to make it an annual thing, and I'm glad we made that initial leap.  In terms of experiences, I tried more adventurous outings with my kids, ditching the stroller and being spontaneous, subscribing less and less to the rigidity of routines like nap time, which has allowed us some spur of the moment adventures.  

+ build an exercise habit 

Um...yeah, this not so much.  I tried, and I have been exercising, though I'm still far from calling it a "habit."

+ give back
I ended up giving back in unexpected ways.  I'm on the board of a local moms group and this year I was the philanthropy chair.  I helped organize an adopt-a-family at Christmas and we sponsored a student at one of our local elementary schools for the 2017-2018 school year.  Our club provided this student with a large donation of items each season (short sleeves for spring, winter coats for winter, you get the idea).  Also did a marble jar with my kids which we call "Kindness Marbles."  When they are caught being kind, a marble goes in the jar.  Upon filling the jar, we counted the marbles and assigned each marble the value of a dime.  Instead of spending this money, we talked about selecting organizations where we could put our kindness back into the world.  I had my kids pick who they wanted to give back to since collecting the kindness marbles had been their effort.  They selected "building houses for people" and "babies," which led us to give back to Habitat for Humanity and March of Dimes. 

+ bake something every week
Ha...also didn't happen.  I had some unexpected health things emerge this year, including gallbladder removal surgery.  This and some dietary changes made baking low on the priority list.

+ put away my phone
Yes, I think I've done better this year, but there is always room to improve in this area.

2018 goals coming soon...
                        Past goals for 201620152014201320122011201020092008

February & March Favorites

+ finally found an aluminum-free deodorant I love (bonus, it's also sold at Target!)

+ eating lots of roasted plantain chips from Trader Joe's - have you tried these yet?  soo good and healthy-ish as snacks go

+ finally jumped on the essential oils bandwagon and wondering why I waited so long - currently diffusing lemon, peppermint, and lavender in the diffuser - my house smells like a spa

+ watching this oldie but goodie series, freaks + geeks on netflix, fun to see a lot of now-famous actors making their screen debuts (Seth Rogan, Jason Segel, James Franco, Linda Cardellini, Busy Phillips, and Rashida Jones - just to name a few)

+ devouring and making on repeat this easy dairy-free ranch dressing (super simple too)

+ reading this lovely children's book explaining the meaning of foreign words that don't directly translate into English

+ listening to the Hamilton soundtrack (after seeing the show in mid February) - I am totally hooked, the hype is real!

+ enjoyed watching this quirky movie on amazon prime (a cute, albeit unusual love story)

+ loving this travel food show on netflix as well (the host is a goofy, lovable writer from everybody loves raymond)

+ just started listening to oprah's super soul conversations podcast - especially this episode

Quote of the Week

“God gave us the gift of life; it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well.” 
- Voltaire


Paint by Pencil

Have you seen these?  CJ Hendry draws portraits of paint with...wait for it...colored pencils!!  Isn't that wild?  Follow on instragram here - I find these absolutely mesmerizing!


Quote of the Week

"Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come."
- William Wordsworth, Imitations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood


Dinner Last Night: Tater Tot Hotdish

Ever since Molly Yeh's cookbook, Molly on the Range came out last year, I've been eyeing this tater tot hot dish recipe for a while.  For those of you (like me) who were unfamiliar with the term "hot dish," it's basically a cream based casserole - ideal for making in the dead of winter in inspire hygge and all the feelings of cozy comfort.  I mean, a casserole topped with tater tots?!  Sign me up!  Also seemed like a good gateway meal to coax my kids into eating casseroles as well.  

Since we've been trying to eat dairy-free in meals (notwithstanding my kids' obsession with Greek yogurt and whole milk) I subbed in the recommended 1 cup of whole milk with a cup of almond milk, and I think it turned out just fine.  

Turns out, tater tots hotdish is a crowd pleaser!


On a Lighter Note...

I love this graphic.


This week has been a powerful one in regards to the topic of gun control.  Since the tragic events at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the students of Parkland have fueled a movement that seems to be gathering more traction than those in the past.  I joined Moms Demand Action last October and feel more invested in this topic than ever before.  This week, I've been phone banking, writing to my state senators and district representatives, and spreading the word because #enoughisenough.

Wouldn't it be wonderful #neveragain were finally true!  I live in fear that this will be my kids someday.  Mass shootings and school shooting violence is a uniquely American problem- scratch that - epidemic, that no other country deals with.  Other countries that had tragic gun events like this in their history made significant immediate changes to ensure it didn't happen again!  Despite what the news tells you, change is possible - take the recent voting on ESB 5992 (bump stock ban) and SSB 5553 (suicide/voluntary fire arm waiver) that were just passed in the house in Washington state. 
For many states, it may feel like an uphill battle, but with is strength in numbers, it is possible to lobby, petition, and advocate for policies and legislation to change the gun culture we currently live in.  It is imperative for the safety of our kids, families, friends, and our the people of our citizens.

If you're wanting to get involved but not sure how, I encourage you to sign up your email for Moms Demand Action or Everytown (MDA is under the umbrella of Everytown).  Sign up, go to a meeting.  It's easy, nothing will be expected of you, you can just go to listen and learn.  Should you find yourself wanting to do more, there are endless volunteer opportunities, suggestions on what to say to legislative officials, town hall schedules, lobby days to attend, etc. etc.

In the meantime, here are some of the most meaningful articles about the gun debate I've read in the past two weeks.  I hope you take the time to read at least one if not more.

+ for those of us with family members who refuse to acknowledge how gun control could help our country and protect our kids - debunking gun myths at the dinner table

+ Rick Steves' take on gun control: The European perspective, so interesting, especially since "in a typical year, 15,000 Americans are killed by guns (not including suicides).  In Spain, though it's smaller than the US, they see fewer than 100 deaths by gun most years.

+ It's time to bring back the assault weapons ban

+ A gut wrenching reality about what really happens to human bodies after gunshot wounds by semi-automatic rifles.  This is truly awful.  I feel like every one who anti gun-control for whatever reason should read this just for perspective.

+ the "rules" the US subscribes to during gun debate

+ behind the #armmewith hashtag, how teachers feel about Trump's push for arming teachers

+ how Australia cracked down on gun laws

+ a previous president's take on this movement


The Greatest Showman

I don't see movies too often these days, but when I do, I try and save the movie-going experience for films that seem like they wouldn't quite be the same from the comforts of my couch.  The Greatest Showman is amazing!  The story is loosely based on the P.T. Barnum (of Barnum and Bailey Circus), and I found it a compelling, engaging story.  Even more so if you're a fan of musicals.  

The cinematography reminded me a little of Moulin Rouge, with it's vibrant colors woven in with song, the music is inviting, catchy, and emboldens you to want to jump up and dance (just ask my kids, we've had it blasting on repeat)!  Listening to the soundtrack the week before seeing the film and and then seeing the same songs come alive on the screen was magical. 

If you're skeptical, perhaps try listening to the soundtrack first, it's phenomenal, and I highly recommend seeing in the theatre for the full circus experience!


+ just finished listening to these two new episodes of The Rewatchables (one of my new favorite podcasts), anyone else love Good Will Hunting?

+ loving this peppermint tea from Harney & Sons

+ kids and I are loving the greatest showman soundtrack (and seeing the movie tonight!)

+ reading this new book, though admittedly, I'm having a hard time getting into it, but I'm persisting due to rave reviews

+ picking up these paleo pancakes at costco - anyone else try them? I'm intrigued...

+ my kids and I did this science experiment today and it was bright and fun


Dinner Last Night: Thai Chicken Meatballs & Roasted Cauliflower with Curry & Lime

Both of these recipes were delicious, relatively simple to put together, and the clincher - kid approved!! The dinner trifecta I strive for every night!  Cha-CHING!  I take my small victories where I can get them my friends....

In terms of prep and planning, I discovered I was missing cilantro, which wasn't missed a huge oversight, but likely would've upped up the flavor a notch.  In addition to the cauliflower, I also roasted carrots, and that tangy mayo-lime dressing at the end was delicious, I feel like I could've subsisted on this dish alone tonight!  We had kale in the fridge, so to add a little greenery, I also made kale chips (tossed with olive oil and tamari and roasted at 400 for 10 minutes).  All in all - a delicious meal and the icing on the cake was that my kids actually ate it all!!  Hooray! 

Friday Fun

This weekend is my birthday!  Woohoo!  Celebrating with my husband and kids, keeping it low key, and celebrating at a kareoke bar with my close knit crew next weekend.  What are you up to?

+ thinking about making this cake for my birthday weekend

+ did you know we average 23,040 breaths per day?  How many do you pay attention to?

+ just finished this book which I devoured in 36 hours, loved it minus the ending which I feel meh about

+ also just wrapped up this audiobook, highly recommend

+ I jumped on the essential oils bandwagon, and have recently been loving this and this

+ just started this workout program and it's kicking my butt (in a good way)

+ just checked this movie out from the library - I'm excited!

Have a good one!


10 Years of Blogging

Somehow I managed to let a major blogging milestone slip past me in the last two weeks...January 7 marked ten years of blogging for me.  TEN. YEARS.  Holy cow...  It's hard to summarize everything that happened in those ten years, but ultimately a lot has changed, and I do appreciate returning to this little corner I've created.  It's my muse, my yearbook of sorts, marking special occasions, milestones, pitfalls and highlights in my life. 

These days, though I aspire for more, posts are fewer and far between.  Many bloggers I followed in 2008 have since retired or taken hiatus, but I sincerely still love it.  I always loved writing, perhaps because it's just one of those things that just flows to me. And though this blogging community has evolved significantly from those early beginnings of the late 2000's, it's still a space I find delight in returning to, time and time again.  It's also exciting to see how some of my virtual friends have flourished.  For example, I began reading Cup of Jo when it bore its original bare bones template, and Joanna and I used to comment regularly on each other's blogs, and these days, she's a household name garnering millions of followers.   I've enjoyed this community of blog friends, maintaining virtual friendships, some which have even translated to real life (Ashlee and Vivian).

So here it is.  10 Years!  Happy Birthday little blog.  I'm glad you're here.


Dinner Last Night: Slow Cooker Creamy Lentil Soup with Dry-Rub Sweet Potato Steaks & Green Bean Slaw

In light of a New Year's detox, I opted to make this easy slow cooker creamy lentil soup.  Pretty easy, just dump the ingredients, let them marinate for 7 hours and then puree 1 can of chickpeas, lemon, and water for the "creamy" factor.  Delicious!  

I paired with a recipe from Deb Perelman's newest Smitten Kitchen cookbook, dry-rub sweet potato steaks with green bean slaw.  Never had sweet potatoes this way, and man oh man, were they good!  The "slaw" is made up of blanched green beans mixed with a tangy vinaigrette.  Would post the recipe if I could find a link online, but alas, there was none...


Quote of the Week

Thought this was a great quote to kick off 2018!