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Honestly, I miss the summers before the kids were entrenched in all day camps. I know I dreamed of those longingly when they toddled about the house as I came up with all manner of field trips and art projects. But now I hardly get to see them! We fit things in where we can, but all I've got to really share this month is more of what we've been eating. Because they are definitely EATING. 

We all love these meatballs and I always double the recipe when I make them. In case you've missed my Instagram posts of our new bento boxes (which have garnered more comments than any other posts so I'm seriously considering starting a packed bento box business), I'm making lunches this summer and the ol' turkey sandwich every day trick doesn't work now that they are older. So I make sure to use leftovers when I can. These take a bit of time to mix up, but then basically cook themselves while you can do other things. Try them! 

Moroccan Meatballs
(slightly adapted from Skinnytaste)

Ingredients
Sauce 
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 (14-ounce) cans no salt added diced tomatoes 
- 1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika 
- 1 1/2 tsp cumin 
- 1 tsp kosher salt 
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper 
- 1/2 cup green olives, chopped 

Meatballs 
- 1 lb lean ground beef 
- 1/2 cup finely diced onion 
- 2 tsp paprika
- 1 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon 
- 1 tsp kosher salt 
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper 
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley 
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, divided 
- feta cheese (optional)

Directions
1. In a large dutch onion, sauté chopped onions for sauce with a little olive oil until just starting to brown. 
2. Add remaining sauce ingredients and stir to combine. 
3. In a large bowl, combine all meatball ingredients—leaving 2 tbsp of cilantro for garnish.
4. Gently form mixture into 20 meatballs (don't overhandle them or they'll be tough!).
5. Place the meatballs on top of the sauce. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer on low for 35-40 minutes. 
6. Top with feta cheese and reserved cilantro to serve. 

*          *          *

Day 1 (M) - Grilled Chicken (Whole30 BBQ sauce); sweet potato fries; green beans 
Day 2 (T) - Scallops seared in ghee + olive oil with a spicy mayo sauce (Whole30 compliant hot sauce, paleo mayo, little water); cauliflower rice 
Day 3 - (W) - Paleo Jalapeño Popper Chicken Chili 
Day 4 (Th) - dinner out 
Day 5 (F) - grilled burgers and salad in NJ
Day 6 (Sat) - grilled steak and salad in NJ 
Day 7 (Sun) - Juicy Balsamic Grilled Chicken and salad in NJ 

Day 8 (M) - brinner (eggs, potatoes, salad)
Day 9 (T) - Easy Shredded Harissa Chicken over cauliflower rice 
Day 10 (W) - dinner out 
Day 11 (Th) - Paleo Cauliflower Rice Bowls with Shrimp 
Day 12 (F) - Flank Steak with Chimichurri SauceLoaded Potato Skins with Bacon; green beans
Day 13 (Sat) - leftovers 
Day 14 (Sun) - dinner out 

Day 15 (M) - Grilled Salmon Kebabs (but left filet whole and skin on); leftover potatoes; salad
Day 16 (T) - Whole30 Easy Steak Fajitas 
Day 17 (W) - dinner out 
Day 18 (Th) - Moroccan Meatballs over cauliflower rice 
Day 19 (F) - brinner 
Day 20 (Sat) - dinner out 
Day 21 (Sun) - chicken fajitas (made up as I made them)
 
Day 22 (M) - brinner 
Day 23 (T) -  dinner out 
Day 24 (W) - dinner out 
Day 25 (Th) - my birthday dinner! Delmonico steaks with chimchurri; baked potatoes; watermelon, mint + feta salad.
Day 26 (F) - Slow Cooked Pork Carnitas (sans peach salsa); cauliflower rice; salad 
Day 27 (Sat) - dinner out 
Day 28 (Sun) - brinner 

Day 29 (M) - leftovers 
Day 30 (T) - Greek Marinated Flank Steak + Hummus Plate
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I could bore you with all the mundane details of why I haven't had any time to post here in almost three months, but how about I just skip all that and share some of what we've been eating during that time. Plus, meal prepping, cooking, and eating is a lot of what we've done the last three months anyway, so ....

I am smack in the middle of a new round of Whole30, but a lot of what we ate for this 60 Days of Dinner was at least Paleo-compliant. I feel way better when I just eat clean, so I'm really trying to stick with it.

This is definitely the longest stretch of eating clean I've accomplished and the best I've done at getting back to it when I stray for an event or two. There are plenty of nights in here where we dined out too, but I've generally been doing a good job of keeping it clean when we eat out. And easy one pan meals like the fajitas I'm sharing below have really helped me cook dinner at home even on busy nights. They are so quick to whip up and packed with a lot of flavor (even the veggies!).

Whole30 Easy Steak Fajitas
(slightly adapted from The Movement Menu)

Ingredients
Marinade + Steak
- 1 1/2 lbs flank steak
- 3/4 tsp garlic powder
- 3/4 tsp onion powder
- 1 1/2 tsp cumin
- zest of 1 lime
- juice of 2 limes
- 1/4 cup avocado oil
- 1/3 cup coconut aminos
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes
- salt and pepper, to taste

Veggies

- 1/4 cup beef broth
- 4 bell peppers, thinly sliced
- 1 yellow onion, sliced
- 4 medium zucchinis, sliced

Directions 
1. In a small bowl, combine all of the marinade ingredients together. Add flank steak to a gallon ziplock bag and then add marinade. Press out any excess air and close the bag. Give the steak a little massage to incorporate the marinade. Let it marinate in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

2. Heat a large cast iron skillet on medium-hight heat. Spray skillet lightly with olive oil. Remove steak from bag and discard marinade. Season steak with salt and pepper.

3. Gently place the steak into the pan and let cook for 4 1/2 minutes. Flip over and cook for another 4 1/2 minutes. Remove the steak from a pan and let rest for 10 minutes with foil tented over it.

4. While the steak is resting, cook the vegetables. First, add the broth to the pan. Scrape up brown bits and remove from pan. Spray pan with a little more olive oil. Add vegetables and cook for 8-10 minutes until soft and cooked through.

5. Slice steak against the grain and layer on top of the vegetables. Top with sliced avocado, green onions, and fresh cilantro.

*          *          *

Day 1 (M) - grilled burgers, sweet potato fries, salad
Day 2 (T) - brinner
Day 3 (W) - Grilled Chicken Tacos
Day 4 (Th) - Healing Paleo Chicken Soup -- everyone loved this. I added some noodles to the kids' portions when I served it.
Day 5 (F) - dinner out
Day 6 (Sat) - dinner out
Day 7 (Sun) - leftovers

Day 8 (M) - Mediterranean Chicken and Cauliflower Rice
Day 9 (T) - Pan Seared Scallops, skillet potatoes, roasted brussels sprouts
Day 10 (W) - brinner
Day 11 (Th) - Instant Pot Shredded Chicken (I just used my slow cooker and cooked on slow for 8 hours)
Day 12 (F) - Steak Fajitas with Chimichurri and Cucumber Salsa
Day 13 (Sat) - dinner out
Day 14 (Sun) - Oven Braised Corn Beef and Cabbage, roasted potatoes and carrots, Sautéed Cabbage and Bacon

Day 15 (M) - Tavuk Sis (this was from a cooking class we took, but this recipe is similar), Turkish Shepherd's Salad, cauliflower rice
Day 16 (T) - Shrimp + Roasted Carrot Tostadas (Plated), green beans
Day 17 (W) - brinner
Day 18 (Th) - Instant Pot Carnitas (I made these in my regular slow cooker on slow for 8 hours), cauliflower rice
Day 19 (F) - leftovers
Day 20 (Sat) - dinner out
Day 21 (Sun) - Sheet Pan Cuban Chicken with Citrus Avocado Salsa

Day 22 (M) - Easy Paleo Green Chicken Skillet, Apple + Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Creamy Balsamic 
Day 23 (T) - Smoked Salmon Pizza with Whipped Goat Cheese, Capers, and Tomato (Plated recipe but I used gluten free dough), fruit salad
Day 24 (W) - brinner
Day 25 (Th) - dinner out
Day 26 (F) - Steak Fajitas with Chimichurri and Cucumber Salsa
Day 27 (Sat) - dinner out
Day 28 (Sun) - dinner out

Day 29 (M) - Whole30 In N Out Burgers: Double Double Animal Style (OMG! This were bananas good!), sweet potato fries
Day 30 (T) - Sweet and Spicy Pineapple Salmon, sweet potato fries
Day 31 (W) - brinner
Day 32 (Th) - dinner out
Day 33 (F) - Shrimp Scampi with Zucchini Noodles
Day 34 (Sat) - Garlic Lovers Salmon in Foil
Day 35 (Sun) - dinner out

Day 36 (M) - dinner out
Day 37 (T) - All-American Chili (left out beans)
Day 38 (W) - brinner
Day 39 (Th) - Slow Cooked Carnitas with Peach and Tomato Salsa
Day 40 (F) - leftovers
Day 41 (Sat) - Grilled Mahi Mahi Tacos with Chipotle Lime Crema
Day 42 (Sun) - Chimichurri Whole30 Meatballs with Swiss Chard

Day 43 (M) - leftovers
Day 44 (T) - brinner
Day 45 (W) - Citrus Broiled Salmon
Day 46 (Th) - All-American Chili (left out beans)
Day 47 (F) - The Best Chicken Tinga Tacos, corn
Day 48 (Sat) - dinner out
Day 49 (Sun) - Grilled Chilean Beef Skewers with Smoky Chimichurri, sweet potato fries, salad

Day 50 (M) - leftovers
Day 51 (T) - Mediterranean Chicken and Cauliflower Rice
Day 52 (W) - Greek Marinated Flank Steak and Hummus Plate
Day 53 (Th) - dinner out
Day 54 (F) - Slow Cooker Crispy Chicken Carnitas
Day 55 (Sat) - dinner out
Day 56 (Sun) - dinner out

Day 57 (M) - Grilled Salmon (I cook this as a whole fillet with the skin on the grill -- let it cooks 8-10 minutes with skin side down and don't flip!)
Day 58 (T) - dinner out
Day 59 (W) - Sheet Pan BBQ Pork Chops and Potatoes (Whole30 Fast & Easy Cookbook), salad
Day 60 (Th) - leftovers
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Daylight Savings Time kills me in so many ways but I am always thrilled with more natural light at dinner time! It makes me so much happier to cook while it's still light out—and it doesn't hurt for photos of food either. 

In other news, I finished up my Whole60! Well, actually it turned out to be a Whole55. I started adding in some alcohol and dairy on day 56 because I was headed to a bachelorette party and was trying not to die. But I've stayed eating Paleo and pretty clean. I have the occasional drink, but keeping the food clean makes me feel so much better! 

This month's top recipe is an insanely quick meal to make and is SO delicious. It's a new family fave and is in regular rotation at our house!

Mediterranean Chicken + Cauliflower Rice 
(slightly adapted from Paleo Gluten Free Eats)

Ingredients
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 2 tsp paprika
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 1-2 tbsp olive oil
- 24 ounces cauliflower rice
- 1 1/2 cup chicken stock
- lemon juice from 1/2 lemon
- lemon cut into wedges
- fresh cilantro for garnish
- handful of cherry tomatoes
- handful of kalamata olives
- 1 tbsp of goat cheese (omit if Whole30 or dairy free)

Directions
1. In a small bowl, mix together the spices for the chicken. Rub half the spice mix on the chicken (reserve 1/2 for later).
2. Heat a skillet over medium heat and then drizzle with olive oil. Cook chicken until golden brown on each side (about 3 minutes per side—you'll finish cooking it later). Then remove chicken and set aside.
3. Fill skillet with cauliflower rice, stock, lemon juice, and the other half of the spice mix. Stir the cauliflower rice. Mix in tomatoes and kalamata olives. Set chicken breasts on top of the rice. Cover with a lid and cook on medium/low hear for 20 minutes until chicken is cooked through.
4. Garnish with chopped cilantro, goat cheese if using, and lemon wedges.

*          *          *

Day 1 (W)Beef Ragu over sweet potatoes; salad 
Day 2 (Th) - dinner out 
Day 3 - (F)Shrimp Tacos with Pineapple (sans tortillas) 
Day 4 (Sat) - Chicken Fajita Stuffed Sweet Potatoes 
Day 5 (Sun) - Super Bowl! Pulled Pork Loaded Sweet Potato Nachos and Grilled Chicken Wings Two Ways

Day 6 (M) - burgers; leftover sweet potatoes; salad 
Day 7 (T) - leftover pulled pork; Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Cauliflower with Orange 
Day 8 (W) - Grilled Chicken with Mustard Balsamic Marinade; leftover roasted vegetables; roasted potatoes 
Day 9 (Th) - dinner out 
Day 10 (F) - leftovers 
Day 11 (Sat) - grilled flank steak; baked potatoes; salad 
Day 12 (Sun) - brinner (eggs, turkey bacon, purple sweet potato fries, salad)

Day 13 (M) - Easy Honey Dijon Skillet Chicken; salad 
Day 14 (T) - Slow Cooker BBQ Beef; sweet potatoes; salad 
Day 15 (W) - brinner (poached eggs, potatoes, turkey bacon, acai berry smoothie) 
Day 16 (Th) - dinner out 
Day 17 (F) - Mediterranean Chicken and Cauliflower Rice 
Day 18 (Sat) - brinner 
Day 19 (Sun) - dinner out 

Day 20 (M) - Pan-Seared Flank Steak with Chimichurri Sauce; sweet potatoes; brussels sprouts 
Day 21 (T) - brinner 
Day 22 (W) - dinner out 
Day 23 (Th)Chicken Stiry Fry with Veggies and Garlic Sauce 
Day 24 (F) - Italian Sausage Stir Fry 
Day 25 (Sat) - dinner out 
Day 26 (Sun) - dinner out 

Day 27 (M) - Paleo Egg Roll in a Bowl
Day 28 (T) - brinner 
Day 29 (W)Paleo Taco Skillet 
Day 30 (Th) - dinner out
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The count down to Spring Break is on and we are over at the OOLY blog today sharing some of our favorite travel arts + crafts projects today! Easy ideas to help keep things creative wherever you're headed or just to freshen things up at home if you are staying put too. Check it out! 
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So much for my goal of blogging regularly. I blinked and two weeks went by! Somehow even though the kids are now at school all day, I find myself even busier and struggling just to keep all the plates spinning. In any event, here's what we were up to this week ....


Reading -- I love cooking but am not always comfortable coming up with my own recipes. I've been reading Salt Fat Acid Heat this week and LOVE learning about all the science behind cooking. I've always had a general idea of how these four elements work in cooking, but this book is so interesting and has been giving me the confidence to experiment more (there's nothing worse than spending a whole evening cooking and having the entire family have to eat something yucky for dinner). The kids and I are on the second book in the Book Scavenger series and love it! It's especially fun because it's set in San Fransisco and we just visited there this past summer -- I'll eventually finish those vacation posts! 

Cooking -- this Slow Cooker BBQ Beef was a HUGE family fave this week -- I hardly had any leftovers for lunch! I'm about 15 days out from finishing my Whole60 -- it's been going awesome, but I have a bachelorette party coming up right at the end, so I'm still figuring out my strategy for that! 

Making -- Kane has been super into drawing lately and loves these printable comic book template pages from the Picklebums

Wanting -- I'm loving these Tai Capricorn Pendants ... I need a Gemini

Playing -- now that Cam is more proficient at counting money, the kids have had more frequent and intense games of Monopoly. This week it seems that someone always ends up crying, but I guess they're still getting math in? 
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It's been so long since I've done a Friday Five that I almost forgot what to share! We are also smack in the middle of wrestling season, and with both kids wrestling this year, I feel like almost all of our non-school time has been spent in a gym. So we haven't had a lot of creative time lately, which has been driving us all nuts! Nevertheless, here's what we've been up to this week ....



Making -- the kids are PUMPED for the Eagles in the Super Bowl this weekend and have been busy making signs to hang all over the house with oil pastels and decorating all our windows with these amazing gel crayons (they wipe right off, promise!!). 

Playing -- I've finally succeeded in getting the kids to play their math homework games together! We are always looking for dice, so this set of math dice has really come in handy! 

Cooking -- we successfully wrapped up our first Whole30 of 2018 and I decided to extend it to a Whole60 -- I'm just not ready yet! These pork chops with potatoes are a huge family fave and I always wish I had an enormous cast iron skillet so I could cook double the recipe at once! 

Wanting -- not to become that super annoying clean-eating friend, but I tried out Vital Proteins collagen in my coffee this last Whole30 round and kind of love it. Maybe I'm just imaging it, but I do feel like my skin and hair have been better. I always get a bad case of dermatitis in the winter, so I'm willing to try anything! I'd like to kill two birds with one stone and try the Collagen Creamer, but I need to wait until I finish up my canister of regular collagen. 

Reading -- Kane is obsessed with the Adventures of Tin Tin and has a volume with him at all times. I love that he is digging into something himself, but it's impossible to get him to put it down to do anything -- like walk down the street. My mom brought me some of my favorite childhood books on a recent trip and we've all been enthralled with Black Beauty this week. I love the Illustrated Junior Classics version and we are finding all sorts of neat tidbits about the value of treating animals (AND PEOPLE!!) with kindness and respect. Love 
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We just finished our first successful Whole30 in a looooong time and I feel great! And, as I've done in the past, I've decided to just keep going for another 30 days. It's become routine by now and so much easier for me to continue on at this point. So all the meals this 30 days are Whole30 compliant. I tried a lot of new dishes, but have plenty of standbys sprinkled in. And we only dined out three times this entire month, which is a pretty amazing feat for our family.

I am not a big fan of cooking fish at home, but this Sheet Pan Teriyaki Salmon and Vegetables was so easy and so tasty that I picked it to share. Great for a weeknight meal!

Sheet Pan Teriyaki Salmon + Vegetables 

Ingredients
- 1 to 1 1/2 lb salmon filet
- 1 white onion, sliced
- 1 red bell pepper, sliced (you can really use whatever veg you want -- I used up some cherry tomatoes I had in place of the pepper)
- 2 to 3 cups brocoli florets
- 2 to 3 cups green beans
- avocado oil, for drizzling (olive oil works too)
- salt and pepper

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 425 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Add the vegetables to the lined baking sheet. Drizzle with oil, season with salt + pepper, and lightly toss to coat the veggies. Arrange them flat on the baking sheet and transfer to oven.
3. Roast the vegetables for 10 minutes.
4. While the veggies roast, combine the sauce ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Continue to cook, stirring often, allowing the sauce to reduce and thicken. Turn the heat off once it reaches a consistency you prefer.
5. When the vegetables finish, move them to the sides of the pan to make room for the salmon. Drizzle the salmon with oil and a sprinkle of salt + pepper.
6. Place the baking sheet back in the oven, and roast for 15 minutes longer or until salmon is cooked through. Once finished, drizzle the entire dish with teriyaki sauce.

*          *          *

Day 1 (M) - Dijon Chicken Skillet (basically followed this recipe, but left out honey and sherry); cauliflower rice; salad 
Day 2 (T) - Crockpot Beef Chili (leave out maple syrup); green beans
Day 3 (W)One Pan Pork Chops with Apples and OnionsRoasted Brussels Sprouts and Bacon; roasted potatoes 
Day 4 (Th) - Beef Ragu (no gnocchi); baked potatoes; green beans 
Day 5 (F)Slow Cooker Crispy Chicken Carnitas (no tortillas); sweet potato fries 
Day 6 (Sat) - dinner out (steak, baked potato, brussels sprouts -- all plain)
Day 7 (Sun) - Dijon Chicken Skillet (same as above); baked potato; green beans 

Day 8 (M) - Slow-Cooker Kalua Pig; cabbage and kale mix; roasted sweet potatoes 
Day 9 (T) - brinner (poached eggs, bacon, breakfast potatoes, salad)
Day 10 (W) - Beef Enchilada Bake; cauliflower rice 
Day 11 (Th) - Garlic Lover Stew with Olives, Capers + Tomatoes; cauliflower rice; salad 
Day 12 (F) - grilled burgers; sweet potato fries; salad
Day 13 (Sat) - Pan-Seared Steaks with Chimichurri Brussels Sprouts (from Whole30 Fast & Easy Cookbook but see similar here -- use ghee or oil instead of butter); baked potato; salad 
Day 14 (Sun)Jalapeño Popper Chicken Chili; green beans 

Day 15 (M) - Trader Joe's frozen burgers (no one liked these, but they did the trick in a pinch); roasted carrots; potatoes 
Day 16 (T)Creamy + Smoky Chipotle Pork Chops (I didn't have time to make the sauce and the chops needed it); leftover potatoes; salad
Day 17 (W) - Paleo Beef Barbacoa; cauliflower rice; sautéed shaved brussels sprouts 
Day 18 (Th) - dinner out at CAVA (got all totally Whole30-compliant din, but my stomach still didn't feel exactly right after)
Day 19 (F)Beef and Plantain Skillet (a runner-up for the featured recipe!); sweet potato fries 
Day 20 (Sat) - grilled steak; Twice Baked Potatoes; Cauliflower + Carrot Puree 
Day 21 (Sun) - leftovers 

Day 22 (M)Spicy Beanless Chili (I wasn't a fan of this -- the heat was overpowering); salad
Day 23 (T)Zucchini Noodles with Avocado Pesto and Shrimp (I usually don't like zoodles, but the pesto made this dish delicious!); salad
Day 24 (W) - grilled flank steak (with this marinade - SO good); omelets; and sweet potato fries 
Day 25 (Th) - Slow Cooker Brisket and Onions (I prefer this slow cooked in the oven); brussels sprouts; potatoes 
Day 26 (F) - leftovers 
Day 27 (Sat) - Sheet Pan Teriyaki Salmon + Vegetables 
Day 28 (Sun) - dinner out (steak, carrots, and potatoes -- all plain)

Day 29 (M) - sautéed chicken; sweet potato hash; avocado 
Day 30 (T) - Fennel Crusted Pork Chops with Potatoes + Shallots; roasted green beans + broccoli 
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Oh holy hell! I started this blog post back in October and then who knows what happened. Part of it is that I had just gotten a new camera, this trip was the first time I was using it, and I'm not really happy with the photos. Part of it is just that I've been busy doing all kinds of random things and haven't had as much time to blog. In any event, I haven't been able to get back to editing photos until now! I'm determined to get through them though because I love having a catalog of our experiences and I so rarely print out any photos that I take, so at least I have them here! So, back to our 2017 summer vacation ....

I think that the best worst part of planning any vacation is trying to parcel out where and how to spend each day. We allotted four days for our excursion to Yosemite and we could have just as easily spent an entire week there -- especially since it's a bit of a trek from San Francisco and we spent the better part of two days traveling there and back.




Joel had a bunch of work to do in the a.m. before we hit the road, so I took the kids to La Boulangerie on Pine for breakfast. By the time we got back, the car was packed and we ready to go (thanks to Joel's brother for letting us borrow his car for the Yosemite trip!). The kids were exhausted and slept a lot of the ride out but they woke up right as the twisty mountain ride started. We hadn't spent a lot of time planning on where to stop for lunch because we wanted to get as far as we could first. But the kids needed a break from the car and Priest Station Cafe seemed like our best bet. It was fine -- nothing fancy. But the view is pretty.






It wasn't too long after lunch that we arrived at our lodging location. If you talk to anyone about going to Yosemite, they'll tell you that you need to book everything far in advance. And they are right. And we didn't. I went to book an in-the-park stay a few months ahead of our trip and the annoying park system (it is SO annoying - you select something to book and then a person emails you back saying what they actually have available. And back and forth. And back and forth) basically laughed at me. But what was available turned out to be one of the best surprises of our trip. We booked a Hillside Villa at Rush Creek Lodge. It was an incredibly family-friendly lodge that reminded me of what I think an upscale Wolf Creek Lodge would be like (I haven't been). The villa was roomy and nice, but still woodsy. We checked in and the kids booked it to the amazing pool before we had chance to do much else. As Joel and I settled in with drinks from the pool bar, Joel remarked that this was the kinds of "camping" he could get into. Ha!

When the kids tired of swimming, we checked out all of the games they lodge had to offer. There are a few different restaurants at the lodge, but the kids weren't in the mood to sit down and I was kind of sick of eating huge meals. So we chose to hit up the general store for sandwiches and chips and we picnicked outside. Btw, we hit up the general store HEAVY over our stay there. It had everything, but as you would expect, was expensive. Next time we'd definitely stop at a grocery store first to stock up. The villa had a fridge so we bought things for breakfast the next morning. After din we hit up the nightly s'mores station -- the kids were thrilled! They got back in the pool while Joel and I cozied up to a fire pit and hit up the bar again. The sunset was gorgeous!







We all slept HARD that night, which was a good because I woke everyone up super early to get into the park. I smelled what I thought was campfire and told the kids it must be the wood-burning furnaces that are in the villas (it gets cold at night!). But then we started our drive into the park (the entrance is only 1/2 mile from the park's 120 west entrance) and it got cloudier and cloudier. And our eyes burned a bit. I pulled up the park's website in the one spot the internet worked and BAM, forest fire mania in the park. It appeared that there were two pretty serious forest fires burning in Yosemite, but the park was still open. On our drive in, I read to the kids from a great guide to Yosemite for kids -- it helped me plan our trip there quite a bit too. It happened to include some good info about the role of fire in the park and that helped lay a good foundation for our trip there.






We stopped at the typical vantage points on the way down to Yosemite Valley. My plan was to stop at the visitor center there and confirm the hike I wanted to do was going to work out.







We dressed in lots of layers knowing that it would be cool when we arrived down in the valley but as we hiked throughout the day, it would get warmer. I didn't want to waste much time at the visitor center -- I heard the trails get really crowded unless you get moving in the morning. I was a little worried about the air quality and hiking with the kids, but Joel and I figured we'd see how it went and we could always turn around. So we confirmed our hiking plan with a ranger and hit the trail!





Joel and I decided to try an ambitious hike: Vernal + Nevada Falls. A 5.4 mile, 5-6 hour hike round trip. You take the mist trail up to Vernal Fall and then keep climbing up to reach Nevada Falls. We did a loop and took the John Muir Trail back down and I was SO happy -- the way up was super slippery. I'm going to put this not-so-humble brag out there: our kids rocked it. This was a HARD hike (I had a harder time coming down than going up -- my knees!). It was hard for most adults. But our kids persisted without much whining. And it was an amazing thing to do together.






The falls were insanely beautiful and every turn revealed new mountains of rocks jutting up higher and higher. And when you turned around to see from where you climbed -- WOW. Everyone was into  it and I was happy that I hadn't applied for a permit to hike to Half Dome because I think the kids would have pushed for it (it wouldn't have been a good idea) given the chance.


At the top of Vernal Fall we took a little break to have a snack and drink water (and snap a vacation tradition photo of Joel fielding work emails and phone calls mid-family-activity). We rounded our way up the side of Vernal Fall to continue hiking up to Nevada Fall and came across an awesome field of rock sculptures. The kids would've stayed building for a long time, but I was worried they'd hit a wall and we pushed on.



The hike up to Nevada Fall was steep and didn't have any of the same mist sprays onto the trail that Vernal Fall had. There was a little more complaining this length of the hike, but we eventually made it up! And we had lunch sitting basically on top of a waterfall (we'd packed bread, cheese, fruit, and some goodies from our lodge's general store and everyone ate with no complaints).








We had a long hike back down and I didn't get a ton of photos because I was trying to deal with my old knees. But we loved feeling the runoff spray coming off the mountains as we wound our way down. We returned to the Yosemite Valley visitor center with not much time left before closing. But the kids were dead set on getting their junior ranger pin so we picked up the packets and got to work. One of the tasks was to learn something new from a park ranger. With time dwindling, we headed over to the Indian Cultural Exhibit and Village at the Yosemite Museum. The kids beelined for a ranger demonstrating Indian instruments. We stood listening to an eagle bone flute and I had total deja vu. I knew this guy. HOW did I know this guy? Lightbulb. It was Park Ranger Shelton Johnson featured in our kids guide I mentioned above. He started out as a ranger in DC and then ended up in Yosemite -- fate!

The kids got his signature on their ranger packets and we hightailed it back to the visitor center to collect their badges. They were SO excited. And we were SO tired. We headed back to the lodge, ate at at the nightly poolside barbecue (I've never seen the kids eat so much barbecued fish), and crawled to bed!!
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No, that's not a plate of homemade fancy sweets for dinner. That's a shot of the kids' experiencing augmented reality at the Artechouse Nutcracker exhibit. Real life has been a little crazy lately and, as you might have noticed, I haven't had much time to post much less grab a good shot of a homecooked meal. And I'm actually so far behind on sharing our monthly meal post that I have a month and a half to share!

I am feeling good about how 2018 is looking though. We've got a new round of Whole30 lined up (SO excited), lots of family celebrations, trips, and a new property in the works too! I'm going to spend the rest of the holiday break brainstorming a bit about what I'd like to do in this space in the upcoming year. I have lots of different ideas percolating, so stay tuned. In the meantime, here's what we ate for the last month and a half!

*          *          *

Sunday -- Chicken Avocado Burgers (Plated)

Monday -- Cheesy Chicken Fajitas; rice and beans
Tuesday -- Pork Medallions with Scallions and Magic Green Sauce -- everyone LOVED this
Wednesday -- Shrimp and Roasted Carrot Tostadas (Plated)
Thursday -- Slow Cooker Chicken Pot Pie; salad
Friday -- Greek Lamb Meatballs (Plated)
Saturday -- dinner out
Sunday -- dinner out

Monday -- dinner out
Tuesday -- Apple Cranberry Turkey Meatballs; carrots; egg noodles
Wednesday -- Soy Glazed Steak (Plated)
Thursday -- Pork and Brisket Chili 
Friday -- Blackened Salmon Burgers (Plated)
Saturday -- dinner out
Sunday -- dinner out

Monday -- 20-Minute Chicken Enchiladas
Tuesday -- Crab Cakes with Spicy Rémoulade 
Wednesday -- dinner out
Thursday -- Thanksgiving dinner! We had shrimp cocktail, charcuterie, Smoked Salmon 7-Layer Dip, and a Balsamic Onion and Thyme Tarte Tartin for apps. For din I made Maple Bourbon Glazed Turkey Breast, Sourdough Stuffing with Sausage, Red Onion and KaleCaramelized Onion and Bacon Gravy, Grapefruit-Apricot Cranberry Relish with Rosemary, Ultra-Creamy Mashed Potatoes (to DIE for!), and Lemon Pepper Green Beans with Minty Yogurt Sauce. Fam filled in the rest!
Friday -- leftovers!
Saturday -- dinner out
Sunday -- dinner out

Monday -- brinner
Tuesday -- Shrimp and Roasted Carrot Tostadas (Plated)
Wednesday -- leftovers
Thursday -- Butter Basted Steak (Plated)
Friday -- Peruvian Chicken Sandwiches (Plated)
Saturday -- dinner out
Sunday -- dinner out

Monday -- One Pot Shrimp Scampi; salad
Tuesday -- dinner out
Wednesday -- Miso Salmon and Quinoa Bowls (Plated)
Thursday -- Piri Piri Chicken (Plated)
Friday -- Mexican Casserole with Roasted Corn and Peppers
Saturday -- dinner out
Sunday -- Cauliflower and Chicken Sausage Casserole; green beans

Monday -- Simple Chicken Enchiladas 
Tuesday -- Slow Cooker Brisket and Onions; latkes
Wednesday -- Chicken Tinga Tostadas (Plated)
Thursday -- dinner out
Friday -- Ground Beef Taco Casserole
Saturday -- dinner out
Sunday -- dinner out

Monday -- dinner out
Tuesday -- Steak Gyros (Plated)
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We are on day 4 of winter break and LOVING it! I can't remember the last time we had so much downtime and everyone reallllllly needed it. Cam and I made these cookies the other day and are sharing them over at The Land of Nod blog -- go get the scoop and get baking -- I hear Santa might love them!
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