Category Archives: Food

Fourth of July Weekend

Much to my surprise we had a four day weekend at home together. I had no idea Alex had Monday off until late last week. After having a few busy weekends in a row it was nice to have a low-key weekend just the three of us. The icing on the cake was the weather – it was basically perfect all weekend long.

4th of July

My weekend kicked off a day early – Ben and I had a really fun Friday hanging out in Madison Park, the neighborhood just north of us. It has a much bigger downtown than our neighborhood and it’s got a great beach and a really nice park. Ben and I started at the beach, stopped at the swings and then grabbed a bite to eat at the deli.

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Not surprisingly, Ben loved the beach! He loved playing in the sand and sitting in the water, feeling the waves crash on his little legs. He was all smiles! ūüôā

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We had a laid-back day on Saturday and somehow Alex and I managed to make it to yoga at the gym. It was so nice to start the weekend with a relaxing yoga class! Alex took Ben to the pool afterwards, too, so they had some fun in the water together.

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Lately we have been loving taking Ben up to the park in our neighborhood and setting out the picnic blanket and just hanging out. He has been practicing standing on his own and for some reason seems to be more comfortable in the grass. While we were at the park over the weekend he stood up from a seated position all on his own without holding onto anything! Since then we’ve seen him do it several more times but it seems like he’s still realizing that he can do it.

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Since I had so much fun taking Ben to the beach on Friday we decided go together over the weekend too. Ben was practicing standing on the picnic blanket at the beach too and is really getting the hang of it. He had so much fun!

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We¬†made an impromptu trip over the mountains to Leavenworth on Monday. It was super spontaneous and last minute and we had a great time. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky which made for a spectacular drive over the mountain pass. We are so fortunate to live in such a beautiful state!

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One of our favorite things to do with Ben is to share foods that we love with him. Thankfully he has similar tastes to us so usually he enjoys them. While we were in Leavenworth we stopped at one of our favorite sausage shops and got some sausages and a pretzel. Since it was 90 degrees and a fun, bonus day we treated ourselves to some gelato before we made the drive back home.

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All weekend long we had been looking forward to our plans for the fourth – we headed up to our friends’ Carrie and Patrick’s new house on Camano Island. Camano Island is located a little over an hour northwest of Seattle and is an island, connected by a bridge, out in Puget Sound. Carrie and Patrick moved into their new house two weeks ago and we couldn’t wait to see their new place.

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Our friends Ryan and Mary joined us up north with their 19 month-old twin boys, August and Oliver, and Carrie and Patrick have a 14 month-old daughter named Roslyn. It was so fun to have all four babies together for the day. We loved Carrie and Patrick’s new house and hope to spend a lot of time up there with all of our kiddos.

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It was sad to see such a nice long weekend come to an end, but we’ve got a short work week and another weekend at home coming up. I love July – it seems like such a nice, relaxing family month. This year anyway!

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California Trip!

Alex and I recently returned home from a long weekend getaway to northern California. Before we ventured down the road to parenthood we said that once we have kids we want to make sure we’re prioritizing our marriage and taking time for the two of us. Now in our second year of parenthood I think we’re doing pretty well with that – most weeks we go out for a date night and we¬†now have our first big trip under our belts.

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Our trip included a very full itinerary Рwe spent the first day exploring San Francisco, a town neither one of us had ever been to.

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We quickly came to adore San Francisco – we loved the architecture, the culture and what an urban city it felt like.

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Our hotel was in Nob Hill/Union Square, right on the cable car line. Once we got settled we hopped on the cable car and headed for Ghiradelli Square, where we a nice, relaxing lunch by the water.

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We timed our stop over at the Golden Gate Bridge viewing point aptly – not 10 minutes after we arrived the fog rolled in on what was otherwise a perfectly clear, sunny day. The fog came in so quick and thick that you couldn’t even see across the bay.

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That evening we checked out Tonga, a tiki bar in the Fairmont Hotel, before heading up to the 19th floor and enjoying a light meal {and expansive views} at Top of the Mark.

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We were sad to only have such limited time in SF and have added it to our “must return” list. We can’t wait to come back to explore the neighborhoods and the food scene.

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After our half day in SF we packed up, hopped in our cute BMW convertible that we rented and headed north for Napa! We opted to stay in Sonoma County, as we had heard that it was more low-key and laid back, which is typically our style. Even so, we wanted a taste of Napa while we were there.

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Napa and Sonoma counties are so overwhelming and contain SO many wineries that never having visited it was a difficult trip. Thankfully, our friend and wine bar owner, Henri, offered us some suggestions. Boy were we glad we took him up on them!

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As we were approaching Napa both Alex and I were pointing out all of the beautiful houses and the cute shops on the street. I was surprised to find so many similarities to Batavia and Geneva, Illinois, where Alex’s parents live. I think the river running through the towns make them feel really similar.

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After our quick stop off in Napa at Oxbow Market {aka paradise} we headed a little farther north to Yountville. We did our first tasting of the trip at Jessup Cellars. Our host was a hoot – she gave us some really fun tastes of different cab sauvs and an incredible old cab franc. Our trip was off to a good start!

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We took a quick jaunt through the adorable, quaint town of Yountville before our divine lunch at Bouchon.¬†Since we couldn’t get a reservation at The French Laundry we figured another Thomas Keller restaurant would suffice. Holy cow were we right.

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Bouchon was truly a sensational meal. The ambiance was delightful – I loved the cute red and white bistro chairs out on the terrace. Our server was spot-on with his recommendations and professionalism. And the food, oh, the food! There was nothing to be desired at the end of our meal. Alex even suggested that his meal, a brown butter pork schnitzel with mashed potatoes and capers, was the best thing he’d ever eaten. It was fantastic. I’d love to learn how to replicate it!

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Of course after Bouchon we had to stop at Bouchon Bakery for some coffee and macarons for our drive west to Healdsburg, where we were staying. The drive took quite a while, as it was through the mountains and some heavy traffic. I swear we made 100 hairpin turns as we came up and over the mountain. It was a gorgeous drive and it was SO fun to be driving in a cute BMW convertible.

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Healdsburg was our home base for the next two nights. We stayed at Hotel Les Mars, a Relais and Chateaux hotel, which according to the 20 year-old receptionist, should have been on our bucket list {I guess now we can check it off!}. Aside from the snooty and inexperienced service at the hotel we loved our experience – it is a beautiful property and our room was lovely.

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Saturday morning brought sunshine, coffee and wine! We were surprised to find out that our hotel included a room service continental breakfast – we happily ordered some coffee, yogurt and croissants.I could really get used to breakfast in bed!

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We had two wine tasting appointments lined up for Saturday. Our first was at Jordan Winery. Our tasting included their signature chardonnay and cabernet sauvignons and were paired with some cheese and caviar. The wine was wonderful and we really enjoyed the pairings. The winery has a very big and captivating story behind it and in the 41 years they have been making wine they have had the same winemaker. We learned that while money can’t buy you happiness, it can buy you everything you need to make world-class¬†wine.

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The second tasting was at Gary Farrell. Their tasting space is under construction so they created a “woodland tasting” experience where they build glamping-style tents for their private tastings. It was a fun experience, though the view left much to be desired. We were paired with a rowdy group and really enjoyed them. The wines we tasted were chardonnay and pinot noir. Alex and I really enjoyed the pinots but were not feeling the chardonnay.

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On our last day we opted to head over to the coast and take Highway 1 south back to SFO. Our drive was much different than we expected – we both had imagined the coast highway to boast big, bright blue skies and seas, like what you see on TV. We expected cute little beach towns and lots of obvious places to stop along the way. None of that was really true – it looked so similar to the Oregon and Washington coasts, with gray skies, fog and giant rock features protruding out of the beaches.

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Our time in California wine country was wonderful. We soaked up the sun and enjoyed incredible wine and hospitality {and not-so-good hospitality!}. When all was said and done, we preferred our experience over on the Napa side. We received significantly better service and loved the style a bit more. We absolutely loved San Francisco, too, and really hope to be back one day soon.

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The trip was really meaningful, though we missed Ben tremendously. We knew he was in good hands with his grandparents, but we still missed him. It didn’t help that there were little tots roaming around wine country everywhere we turned. We were so happy to be home and reunited with our little boy.

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Food!

 

The amount of time I’m spending in the kitchen either feeding Ben or preparing food for him in advance is on the rise. We’ve been trying to give him new foods as often as possible, which has been really fun! So far there really doesn’t seem to be anything he doesn’t like, though he does have favorites.

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Here are some foods he’s tried so far:

  • Fruits: banana, apple, mango, raspberry, lime, strawberry
  • Vegetables: sweet potatoes, carrots, cucumber, mashed potatoes, spinach
  • Dairy: yogurt, butter (on/in things), eggs, cottage cheese
  • Meat: beef, pork, turkey
  • Other: oatmeal, peanut butter {hurrah! no allergy!}, toast, polenta, quinoa
{One day recently Ben and I had the same thing for breakfast! That was a really cool morning for us and kick started some fun new foods.}

{One day recently Ben and I had the same thing for breakfast! That was a really cool morning for us and kick started some fun new foods.}

Since Ben has been eating more solid foods he has been eating slightly less breast milk. He’s now averaging around 27-30 ounces of milk per day and around 4-8 ounces of solid food. It’s going to be more difficult to measure the solid food once he’s eating more finger foods, which he is really starting to.

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Ben is very inquisitive and quite independent already – he is really in favor of feeding himself. In the last couple days he’s had meatballs {turkey w/ quinoa and onions!}, cucumber sticks, carrot sticks, frittata slices and a small slice of pizza. It is SO fun watching him feed himself.

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{Ben got a new high chair too! This one is SO much better than our original.}

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I recently purchased a kit to make my own “pouches” which can contain either a puree or a smoothie-like meal for Ben. These are super handy and are far less messy than spoon feeding. As Ben gets a little older he’ll be able to hold the pouch totally on his own. I have even heard of preschool-age kids loving these pouches too, and they’re great for travel, hiking and on-the-go snacks. I’ve had a great time coming up with some different combinations of food to put in them.

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{Some combos Ben seems to love are: yogurt, banana, mango, spinach; strawberry, banana, yogurt, spinach, oats; mango, sweet potato, quinoa.}

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As far as adult food goes, here are some of our favorite things we’ve been eating lately:

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I’ve got a pretty good menu lined up for the week. I’m venturing outside the box a bit one day and making fish tacos {!}, and trying some new meal ideas from one of my all-time favorite cookbooks {Sara’s Secrets for Weeknight Meals – a cookbook my brother got me years and years ago!}. We’ll see how it goes, but this week all of us are trying new things and enjoying food!

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Food!

One of my favorite things in life is food. I’m far from a “foodie” – I really just like to eat good food and also enjoy a tasty burger every now and again. I’ve been so excited for Ben to start eating so that we could ultimately introduce him to our favorite foods. It has been really fun, but also a completely different experience than I expected.

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Call me crazy, but I envisioned that one day we’d say “okay, today’s the day Ben is going to eat solid food” and then he’d sit in his high chair, eat solid food and from that point forward be an “eater.” While that’s not inaccurate, it’s a little more glorified than reality.

We are doing a combination of spoon feeding Ben and a concept called “Baby Led Weaning” {BLW}. With the spoon feeding, Ben is feeding himself food we put on a spoon, primarily pureed food. Baby Led Weaning is a completely different concept – polar opposite, really, where you give babies “finger size” pieces of food to feed themselves.

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I love the Baby Led Weaning concept because it teaches kids to feed themselves, provides opportunities to try new textures and tastes and gives them control over what they eat and how much they eat. Basically they just gnaw on something for a while and taste the food and get the juices. For the first several months the point of BLW isn’t necessarily to actually eat the food – it’s to try new things and get used to the idea of food.

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The reason we’re incorporating spoon feeding, too, is to increase the calories Ben is taking in. He’s a big, big eater these days and I can hardly keep up with the amount of milk he’s drinking so he needs to start getting some of his calories elsewhere. I was shocked to find out that 2 tablespoons of oatmeal contain 35 calories – it’s amazing to me that he can get so many calories from so little oatmeal. Two tablespoons of oatmeal almost replace 2 ounces of milk {plus it’s a good source of iron!}!

So far Ben has tried oatmeal, banana, applesauce, apple wedge, avocado and sweet potato fries. I’d say oatmeal and the apple wedge were his favorite. When he eats any of these foods he seems surprised to taste something and have the texture of food in his mouth.

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It’s my intention to keep introducing new foods every several days to him.¬†I have been enjoying making up his food – it’s so easy to do! I make oatmeal for myself in the morning and before I add milk and salt I take a spoonful and put it in the food processor to grind up the oats a bit finer. And applesauce couldn’t be easier – I sliced an apple and put it in some boiling water until it was soft, then removed the skin and threw it in the food processor. I love making Ben’s food so I know exactly what’s in it.

For the immediate future we’ll keep up with both spoon feeding and BLW and see what happens! Hopefully he’ll get used to some new tastes soon.

Time in the Kitchen

I’ve had a lot of people ask if I’ve been able to find the time to still cook since Ben was born. The easy answer is yes! It’s not always easy and I opt for different types of meals now than I did before Ben was born, but I still cook dinner every night that we’re home.

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Before I went back to work I found a new menu planning template to work and I LOVE how it’s formatted. Most templates have you plan out every day’s breakfast, lunch and snacks, but that’s just not my style – I’d rather have a week of ideas for breakfast and lunch, but plan out the dinners for each night of the week with a little more intention.

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This new menu has been working really well. I usually have themes for my dinners – I’m trying to do a Mexican dinner, an Asian night and sometimes a pizza night each week. Mexican offers great versatility with lunches the next day or use in leftovers/making something new later on in the week. Asian is our favorite and we love making homemade pizzas. I’ve also been pulling out my slow cooker more and more – it’s too handy not to!

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Over the weekend while Alex and Ben were out at their “guys day” with two other dads and their babies {4 babies to 3 dads!} I spent quite a bit of time putting together some freezer meals – I made a bunch of breakfast sandwiches and waffles to be able to pull out and pop in the oven on a busy morning.

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Here are some of my recent {and all-time!} favorites/go-to dinners:

Dog Days of Summer

It’s June and we’re nine days into summer. I don’t think I’ve felt like we’re in that stretch of hot summer days that don’t seem to end quite this early before. It’s too early to complain, plus it’s not really my style to complain about sunshine and heat, but we are working hard at finding creative solutions to staying cool in our hotbox house.

{Henry and Jackson parked in front of the fan}

{Henry and Jackson parked in front of the fan}

Last week I¬†shared that I had found some new sources and inspiration for how to consume the great produce in our CSA. I’m pleased to report that I had at least one salad every single day last week.¬†If you know much about me, you know that is very strange¬†–¬†it’s unusual for me to have a salad a month let alone a day. But, lo and behold, I have started to come over to the dark side and I’ve got to say I’m enjoying it!

{checking out the goods!}

{checking out the goods! so enjoy having salad as a light, “no cook” meal in the heat.}

{as a "no cook" idea I got a rotisserie chicken from whole foods that I can use in a few different meals this week. tonight's menu is all about grilling, though!}

{as a “no cook” idea I got a rotisserie chicken from whole foods that I can use in a few different meals this week. tonight’s menu is all about grilling, though!}

As another follow up to last week’s post, I’m pleased to report that Alex and I have gotten ourselves into more of a consistent routine, particularly with Spanish. We discussed a daily Spanish schedule with our tutor, and she really upped the homework and told us we need to spend at least an hour a day on Spanish in order to make progress.

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Additionally, I feel like I’m starting to get into a rhythm with my own personal routine. My work schedule slowed down last week and allowed me some consistency. I went for three great runs last week, and this week I plan on starting to increase the length of one of my runs to start officially training for my half marathon this September. I’ll basically just run 2-3 short runs each week {2-3 miles} and one “long” run each week, where I increase the long run by one mile each week, starting with running¬†4¬†miles this week.

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Over the weekend, we did find some fun ways to beat the heat. On Friday night we grabbed a quick dinner at one of Tom Douglas’ new spots, TanakaSan, before catching the new Jurassic Park movie at a fancy theater called Cinerama in downtown. The food at TanakaSan was really fun and different- we shared the Osaka Pancake, which was fantastic, and I had a Hawaiian burger, which was amazing. It was nice to have a fun date night – I couldn’t think of the last time I went to a movie! And we both enjoyed the movie – different parts, though ūüôā

{just in time... I ordered new natural sunscreen and bug spray. anxious to try them both out!}

{just in time… I ordered new natural sunscreen and bug spray. anxious to try them both out!}

Saturday was a day of running around. We took Jackson down to the lake for a quick swim and then took care of a few things around the house.

{tested out our new griddle - turns out, it is super handy to make pancakes on a griddle rather than a pan!}

{tested out our new griddle – turns out, it is super handy to make pancakes on a griddle rather than a pan!}

{using my CSA and farmer's market berries to make a cobbler}

{using my CSA and farmer’s market berries to make a cobbler}

{a "quint" berry cobbler sounded pretty good... too bad I was a little overzealous and accidentally doubled the amount of butter in the crumble topping. oops! I have never said math was my strong suit... oh, and the cobbler still tasted good!}

{a “quint” berry cobbler sounded pretty good… too bad I was a little overzealous and accidentally doubled the amount of butter in the crumble topping. oops! I have never said math was my strong suit… oh, and the cobbler still tasted good!}

Later on, we headed over to the Eastside to run some errands before meeting our friend Ali at Chateau Ste Michelle for their member appreciation concert. Ali and Tyler have been inviting us to attend this particular concert with them for four years now {they are wine club members at CSM} and the concerts are so fun! This year, a Beatles cover band was playing. Sadly, Tyler missed out because he was home sick.

{enjoying our picnic and thankful the sun went behind the trees!}

{enjoying our picnic and thankful the sun went behind the trees!}

We arrived early so we could partake in the free wine tasting and get set up and start eating our picnic. Each year, though, we get shown up by fancy people with incredible picnic sets. And while we had kind of a fancy picnic, too, we were definitely shown up! Next year we will have a table!

{this was seriously someone's picnic!}

{this was seriously someone’s picnic! can you believe they brought a plant inside a watermelon…!?}

On Sunday morning I took Jackson for a long run down along the lake, followed by a quick swim for him. Just as I was arriving home it started to thunder! Thankfully a little storm blew through and the temperature dropped and the wind picked up so our house cooled off a bit {to 78 degrees}.

{he never can make up his mind whether he wants to be inside or out!}

{he never can make up his mind whether he wants to be inside or out!}

 

That afternoon we headed to Magnuson Park to attend Eat, Run, Hope, an event in support of fetal health. Several of my friends have suffered through pregnancy loss in varying forms, so this was one little way I could give back in support of fetal research. Plus, it was a great event with amazing food tastings from some of the best chefs in Seattle.

{we got to spend the afternoon with this cool dude - Conner is Ali's 13-month old and he is the most chill child I've ever met!}

{we got to spend the afternoon with this cool dude – Conner is Ali’s 13-month old and he is the most chill child I’ve ever met!}

{Vivian, Ali's 2 1/2-year old, kept us entertained all afternoon. Viv is unbelievably cute and has an enormous personality. somehow she ended up with an arm painting instead of on her face?}

{Vivian, Ali’s 2 1/2-year old, kept us entertained all afternoon. Viv is unbelievably cute and has an enormous personality. somehow she ended up with an arm painting instead of on her face?}

This week is moderately busy with some fun outdoor activities planned. We are in town for the 4th {I think we’re the only ones who are!} and looking forward to crossing some more of our summer bucket list items off our list.

The Happenings

Other than our recent trips to Chicago and Lake Chelan, we’ve certainly kept busy! The weather in Seattle has been unbelievably amazing the last several months. It sure seems like it’s going to be a HOT summer – highs in the 90s are forecast for this week {average late July/August temps are in the high 70s}.

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We recently acquired some new outdoor pillows for our patio table chairs. I love setting up my “office” in the backyard when it’s nice out, but sitting with a wooden back on the chair was getting old, so now I can work in comfort outside! We also finally got some zero-gravity reclining chairs for our backyard, too, finally, which are ah-mazing!

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Since early April, Alex and I have been having a once-weekly Spanish lesson with our Spanish tutor, Elizabeth. We are definitely getting more comfortable speaking Spanish, but struggle to work it into our weekly routine to practice enough to really be making faster progress.

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Along those same lines, one of my goals is to get into a good rhythm this week. I was anticipating having a much more low-key work schedule this summer but that has proven to be quite the opposite. I’ve had a ton of meetings and just a lot going on, so I have been feeling like each day is so different it’s been hard to get into a good schedule. I’ve got a half marathon to train for, Alex still needs to train for his bike ride in August, and I really need to get back into a good Pilates and yoga groove. It’s amazing how un-motivated I have been since leaving my Pilates studio in March. It’s not the same bouncing around to different studios all the time – kind of a lack of accountability, almost.

Last week marked the first week of our CSA {Community Supported Agriculture – we get a box of produce from a local farm each week}! I absolutely love our CSA – most CSAs are “farmer’s choice” which means you don’t choose what’s in your box, but ours allows us to pick and choose from their crops with what we want based on what is available and in season. This year I am really striving to try new things. In our first shipment we¬†got fava beans, cipollini onions and kale, none of which I had cooked with or eaten. We also splurged and got some dairy with our CSA too {actually, it’s not even a splurge – it’s less expensive than the grocery store} – I ordered chocolate milk, regular milk and butter. There’s really nothing like that butter! I might even add eggs to our share, too. We’ll see…

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I’ve been trying to eat lighter and more real foods lately. I think up until the last few weeks most people would agree that I ate pretty well, but I still have some work to do. I think I eat too much bread and too much meat and not enough leafy greens, vegetables and whole wheat, as opposed to refined white flour. I’ve been trying to incorporate more salads into my lunch routine as a great way to get more greens and veggies, and so far it’s going better than I expected. Now my biggest challenge is coming up with “no-cook” dinners because it’s really going to be a summer where it will be too hot to cook in the house. I think I see a gas grill in our future?!

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{one of my favorite “real food” cookbooks with great recipes for produce}

{found this gem of a magazine at Whole Foods last week - can't wait to try the recipes inside!}

{found this gem of a magazine at Whole Foods last week – can’t wait to try the recipes inside!}

 

All in all, life is good. We’ll be in town for the next few weekends, enjoying all that our beautiful city has to offer, and catching up with some friends and yardwork.

Weekend Parties & Projects

As the saying goes “work hard, play hard” – we definitely can succeed at both! This weekend was a nice mix of getting stuff done and having a good time. It was a gorgeous day on Friday {goodbye productivity during the workday… hello spring!} so we kicked off the weekend with burgers on the grill and an amazing wine, followed by a movie night.

{Henry cat enjoying the nice weather outside}

{Henry cat enjoying the nice weather outside}

Saturday was our big project day of the weekend. Alex tackled the backyard and I spent the day scouring the kitchen.

{our lovely backyard complete with some new topsoil, tons of grass seed, a fair amount of weeds and some new plants up in the retaining wall}

{our lovely backyard complete with some new topsoil, tons of grass seed, a fair amount of weeds and some new plants up in the retaining wall}

Alex’s main project is re-seeding the backyard. He and the weeds are united in the fight against mud right now. I really hope the new grass is the winner of this battle.

{the heavily trafficked area right off the patio needs the most love... check out the fancy sprinkler!}

{the heavily trafficked area right off the patio needs the most love… check out the fancy sprinkler!}

Last spring¬†The last three springs you may recall we did basically the exact same thing we’re doing right now. I can only hope the outcome is more successful and long-term this time around. One thing that we are doing¬†differently has to do with watering, which was our achilles heel last year. We get a bit lazy with watering and for some reason last spring it didn’t rain at all, so our grass seed didn’t come in strong. This year we’ve got a fancy sprinkler set up on a timer, so it automatically turns on and off twice a day. Hopefully that does the trick!

{sprinkler timer!}

{sprinkler timer!}

I was able to squeeze in a little time in the yard on Friday and did some weeding and also planted some new fun stuff in the containers we have on our front porch.

{loving the new plants!}

{loving the new plants!}

After Alex got the backyard squared away and I finished deep cleaning the kitchen we took an impromptu trip to Marymoor dog park since it was Jackson’s birthday. I think it’s safe to say he¬†enjoyed the swim, walk and ball playing he got to do! We are extremely lucky to have such a magnificent dog park nearby.

{Jackson enjoying his birthday steak}

{Jackson enjoying his birthday steak}

The birthday celebrations continued on Sunday when we went out to Salty’s for brunch to celebrate my birthday and my friend Mary’s, as well. We had a great time and thoroughly stuffed ourselves.

{such great friends!}

{such great friends!}

 

Meal Planning Strategies

Planning a menu for the week ahead is something that I always make an effort to do. I will tell you that planning a well-thought menu is not easy and it requires a lot of time and consideration. It’s easy to say let’s have this, that and another thing, but if you are trying to not break the bank or waste food it really requires skill and mindfulness. I have been a weekly menu planner since before I graduated from college and only recently have I felt that I’ve really started to take hold of some of the strategies worth considering for a thoughtful¬†menu.

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My menus initially consisted of¬†writing out¬†each¬†week’s menu on a cute menu planning notepad that I loved. Eventually¬†I realized¬†that it was taking me a really long time to choose meals – I was going through my Pinterest page every week in addition to my own personal recipe book and then a few cookbooks and lists I had made. It was taking me about an hour or more each week just to create the menu, and still, I found I was wasting food, spending too much money on groceries and wasn’t making the right choices about using similar ingredients for multiple meals.

A few weeks ago I decided to utilize a new way of planning my weekly menus. I made a new menu board for my fridge as a way to help me plan my meals and save time with that task.

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My new menu board is color-coded based on the cuisine – I have one color for slow cooker meals, another for ethnic meals, light meals, meat-centered entrees and then I added “leftovers” and “out to eat” and “traveling” to account for reality.

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To create the meal planning board I found some cute clothespins and glued a small magnet to the back. Each clothespin on the fridge holds the meal ideas for each day of the week. I used a variety of bright, colorful paper that I cut into strips (about 1″ by 4″) and then wrote down the name of a meal idea on one side, then listed the ingredients that I may need to purchase in order to make said meal on the reverse side of the paper. Seperately I cut¬†smaller strips of paper and wrote ideas of sides, like quinoa or roasted vegetables, and then adhered a magnet to the back so that I can easily plan for both the main entree and sides to go along with the dishes.

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{the back side of one of the meal ideas – this is Teriyaki steak salad}

I don’t always use as much variety with breakfast and lunch, so I just have a little note off to the side with ideas for those meals.

So far this has been a HUGE timesaver for me! It was definitely a time commitment to create the meal planning board, but each week it has taken me about 5 minutes to decide on the meals to add to my menu and then another 5 minutes to write out a grocery list. I think it looks adorable and it’s really easy to use. I have been spending less money on groceries and have been feeling like I’ve been a lot more mindful about picking meals with similar ingredients.

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The Happenings

While life has slowed down immensely over the last month {thankfully!} time still seems to be zipping right along. Alex and I have been thoroughly enjoying down time at home, trying to make the most of our empty schedules before the holidays and ski season and a crazy travel year sneak up on us, which I think they just did!

{Jackson has been getting extra attention and lots of walks this week!}

{Jackson has been getting extra attention and lots of walks this week!}

Ski season in Washington is officially kicking off tomorrow. December is upon us. Thanksgiving has come and gone, which means the holidays are in full-swing. I’d be willing to bet big bucks that you’ll find us at Crystal mountain for day one of Allen Family Ski Season next weekend.

{Random photo... we got these cute little pots for growing herbs in our kitchen.}

{Random photo… we got these cute little pots for growing herbs in our kitchen.}

Alex and I¬†can’t wait for Christmas, but more than anything, we are both just so excited to embrace the holidays this year. It is a big year for us – we’re hosting a swanky holiday party, then both of our families are coming out for Christmas in Washington. I have been busily planning for our party, our week-long Christmas celebration and several trips we are taking between now and mid-March. We’ve also got a couple of tentative trips and a really exciting project we’re working on. Oofta! It’s going to be a great winter!

{Holiday drinking begins with homemade Irish cream!}

{Holiday drinking begins with homemade Irish cream!}

That said, we had a wonderful Thanksgiving. We spent the day over at Ryan and Mary’s house, alongside Ryan’s fraternity brother, Mike, and his girlfriend Priya. It was such a relaxing, calm day filled with great company and food. And wine.

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In all this down time I have had, I have been rather lax about posting what we’ve been up to. Last weekend I got together with Carrie, Mary and Jamie to have an afternoon at the new Hobby Lobby, then ran over to Carrie’s to see the beautiful result of their recent kitchen renovation. At some point recently we had a really fun night out in Capitol Hill with the Buffingtons and the Millers, but I can’t remember which weekend that was!

{Cocktails at The Old Sage, a whiskey bar in Capitol Hill.}

{Cocktails at The Old Sage, a whiskey bar in Capitol Hill.}

Last weekend we met Mary and Ryan, as well as Jamie and Evan at Marymoor dog park for a little puppy play date. Our little ham and Berkeley, Mary and Ryan’s dog, decided to have a contest to see which pup could get the dirtiest. Berkeley won.

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Thankfully this dog park is so baller that they have a dog wash station, which we were very happy to pay a visit to.

{This is the coolest thing ever - they have about 5 huge tubs and then a sprayer that you can switch from water to shampoo to water, then you switch it to vacuum to dry the dog! Awesome!}

{This is the coolest thing ever Рthey have about 5 huge tubs to wash the dogs and each one has a sprayer that you can switch from water to shampoo to water, then you switch it to vacuum to dry the dog! Awesome!}

After our dog park sesh, both us and the Millers realized we were going to pick up our wine club release shipments that day, so we met up in Woodinville to taste at Darby, where Ryan and Mary are club members, then across the street to Trust, where Alex and I are members, then next door to Fidelitas, a winery none of us had ever been to.

So far we are thrilled with our newest wine club, Trust Winery. They do two shipments each year and in each shipment you get three bottles of two wines, so six total wines but three of each. I love that concept. We haven’t tried anything yet – I think these ones will hang out in the cellar for a bit…

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Aside from Thanksgiving this week, Alex and I have really just been home for the most part. Alex had Wednesday and Friday off, whereas I worked at home on Wednesday. He woke up on Wednesday and made cinnamon rolls! Yes, from scratch! Love him.

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Friday we got up, lit a fire and decorated our house for Christmas {I’ll do a separate post with photos of our house all jazzed up for the holidays – we got a ton of cute new stuff this year that I can’t wait to share, but not everything has arrived yet!}.

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Just as I was waking up on Saturday morning Seattle was getting covered in a light blanket of snow. I grabbed a cup of coffee and positioned myself in front of the window to watch the big, wet flakes slowly fall. It is very, very rare for it to snow in Seattle, so I was treasuring the moment.

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The rest of the weekend has been so super relaxing. Alex read a book in front of the fire. I finished up my Christmas shopping and have just been doing some planning. We had our Pilates class on Saturday. We are relaxed and well-rested… Let¬†the holiday season begin!