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Spending a week bouncing around The British Virgin Islands in a 40′ catamaran as a family was exhilarating and centering all at once. It’s a trip we looked forward to for years, had high expectations for, and yet it still turned out better than we could have hoped. We loved partnering with The Moorings for this adventure and had a smooth and wonderful experience. 

First, a quick peek at our sailing history:

Before we were married David owned a small, 28′ monohull for a short period of time. After we got married, David and I spent part of our honeymoon on a small, crewed monohull. We visited the British Virgin Islands in 2013 on a crewed 44′ catamaran by renting one of the four available staterooms. You can read all the details of the company we chose and our experience here and read about some of the islands we visited here and here. We always knew we wanted to go back as a family.

I’m working on a post answering all the most frequently asked questions I’ve received, from cost, to experience necessary, to how to actually go about setting up this kind of adventure, but this post is focused on our itinerary and experience of our family sailing trip in the BVIs with The Moorings. I was overwhelmed on Instagram by the number of you that have added this trip to your travel bucket list, so if you have any questions, please leave them in the comments and I’ll be sure to address them in the upcoming post!

Looking back, we both feel we knocked this BVI sailing itinerary out of the park. We hit all the key places we wanted to take the kids, never felt rushed, got in some great sails, and enjoyed a nice mix of relaxation and activity. Though we had planned on it, we did not actually map out our trip ahead of time. Instead, we decided to wing it and see how we felt on each day as it came. The weather is usually pretty wonderful, but we didn’t want to be overly committed to a plan in case we had less than ideal conditions. Lucky for us, the weather was perfect- highs on 84, lows of 76, steady winds, and sunny skies. 

Day 1: Charlotte to St. Thomas

Our flight from Charlotte, direct to St. Thomas (USVI), took off at noon. It made for a relaxed entry into vacation. We arrived a couple hours early at the airport, used The Parking Spot (which I highly recommend for long term parking), and took off on time. The flight was about 3 1/2 hours. We landed and got our bags with no issue, then took a taxi to The Windward Passage Hotel, which is a short walk from the ferry terminal.

We unloaded, then walked down the street to Hook, Line and Sinker, a waterfront restaurant by the docks. We grabbed some drinks and wandered the docks a bit before sitting down to order. It was a great low-key way to ease into vacation. The food was good, the service was friendly, though not fast, and we thoroughly enjoyed watching the girls chase the chickens that meandered near our table and play under the coconut trees.

Day 2: St. Thomas to Tortola to Peter Island

The next morning we had reservations for the 8:30 AM Fast Ferry, so we got up and out quickly. I grabbed some to-go breakfast from a coffee shop while David checked us in. The ferry wasn’t exactly prompt, but it wasn’t too far behind schedule, which was a welcome surprise since we know a lot of things in the islands run on, well, island time. The girls loved the ferry! We sat inside, upstairs at a table so they had room to spread out their notebooks but most of all they loved the back swells we rode over on our journey to Tortola.

We disembarked, went through customs, which was slow, but then were pleasantly surprised by the efficiency of the complimentary open-air taxi that took us from the ferry dock to The Moorings main hub. We were greeted with helpful and friendly faces. We found out our boat would be ready at noon. Prior to boarding, David had to attend an hour long seminar covering the basics of the boat and the area. While he did that, the girls and I took advantage of the dockside restaurant and bar, which was really beautiful. It was all shaded and open-air, with fans circulating the breeze, had a nice pool, great menu, and full bar. It was a great place to regroup before we went to provision.

A note on provisioning: the map had showed the grocery store across the street so we figured we’d just swing in and do our own shopping prior to boarding. While it worked out well enough, I would not recommend it. It’s more of a walk than we thought and we had to carry all the groceries by hand. Next time we will certainly take advantage of the provisioning service offered through The Moorings prior to arrival. Also, be aware that grocery prices in the island are 2-3 times what I can find locally in North Carolina. I was expecting this, but I still had a little sticker shock.

We had reserved a captain to help us navigate the first 2 days of our trip, but when David came out of his meeting, he felt confident we could do it on our own. We met Captain Steve on our boat and told him about the change of plans. He was incredibly friendly and helped walk us through everything we needed to know and helped us disembark from the docks. We had already paid for two days of captaining, and while there are no refunds, we still liked the idea of being alone on the boat. 

We ended up leaving Tortola in the late afternoon, destined for Peter Island, which is right across the channel. It took about an hour to get to the mooring field we planned on staying at that night and after a quick refresher for me on how to hook a mooring ball, we were tied up safely for the night.

I cooked a chicken fajita dinner for us and we ate at the table in the back of the boat, as we watched the moon rise over Peter Island. 

Day 3: Peter Island to Virgin Gorda

We woke up and took our time with breakfast while moored. The girls relaxed on the front of the boat while I made cheesy egg wraps and fruit. The slow mornings were one of my favorite parts of our trip and we sipped on coffee, tea, and orange juice before slowly transitioning to bathing suits and sunscreen.

We took the dinghy into a secluded beach covered with shells. We spent an hour or two searching through shells, trying out our snorkel gear, and swimming. David used the drone to get some pretty incredible footage and the morning passed quickly.

After lunch the girls were beat, so they went to their rooms with books and Barbies while David and I set sail towards Virgin Gorda. We were curious to check out the progress of The Bitter End Yacht Club and Saba Rock. We cranked up the tunes and both sat at the helm, sipping a homemade painkillers. It was a long and relaxing sail and we thoroughly enjoyed all 2-3 hours of it. Soon we were rounding Necker Island and pulling into the north sound. As we neared The Bitter End, we were honestly shocked and devastated to see that nothing was there. It was wiped clean, minus an old dock with a couple small boats tied to it. No one was there so we rounded the corner and found an available mooring ball at Biras Creek Resort (which is currently rebuilding but has an open mooring field).

Once secured, we took the dinghy around the corner to get a better look. I’ve seen the emails going out about The Bitter End Yacht Club and their plan to rebuild. I can’t wait to see them back! But by the looks of it, it won’t be anytime soon. Saba Rock was a full construction zone though, so hopefully it will be back up and running soon!

We returned to the boat in time to cook up a shrimp and veggie stir fry over coconut rice, tuck the girls in, and read by the moonlight.

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Family meal ideas that everyone loves are not always easy to come by. Check out these healthy and delicious options that are sure to be a hit!

I love the spring time. The days get longer, school-year activities start to finish up giving way to more flexibility in our days, and the grill is an option for almost every meal. Speaking of grills, we bought a new one a couple months ago, and are really pleased with it! It’s a REC TEC Grill, which is not gas, but a wood pellet grill. It’s ridiculously easy to turn on and I love it.

The only downside we’ve experienced is that it’s a bit noisier than a propane grill, but we’ve grown accustomed to it now. Plus the food tastes delicious, so that and the ease of use win out.

Family Meal Ideas Everyone Loves

We’ve used our new grill quite a bit recently because it allows us to cook outside without heating up the kitchen (did I mention our AC has been broken for over a week now?) and it adds a delicious smoky flavor to our food, like last night’s dinner:

Grilled Sirloin and Vegetable Kabobs

To make these, I cut a sirloin steak into cubes and marinated it in a pre-made sweet garlic mango marinade I bought from Whole Foods (though if you have time to make your own, go this route). At lunch time, I chopped the vegetables, assembled the skewers, laid them on a tinfoil-lined baking sheets and drizzled the remaining marinade on top. After grilling, we ate them over coconut basmati rice with a drizzle of Dave’s Gourmet Spicy Ginger Citrus Sauce (so delicious!) for the adults.

I’ve been all about the marinades lately. While I bought the one I used for the kabobs, I’ve mostly been making my own, like the one I used for:

Grilled Chicken with Wild Rice Salad, Sauteed Kale, and Corn

No wonder this one was a hit with the kids- carb city! The girls gobbled up this wild rice salad, which was full of apples, craisins, and pecans with an orange vinaigrette. It paired beautifully with the grilled chicken that had marinated in this delicious marinade all day long. I gave them each a small portion of the sauteed kale, and ate the rest myself, but they both ended up liking it and asking for more, so I’ll double it next time. For the kale, I sauteed sliced shallot in olive oil, then added the kale. Once slightly wilted I added a a pinch of salt and a splash of champagne vinegar. It was great!

I’ve been doing some meal planning lately, but I’ve also been experimenting with “reverse” meal planning. This is where I check all the sales, buy the groceries, then look at what I have and piece together the meal ideas for the week. I’ve been doing this for two reasons. First, to do a better job of using the things I have in the freezer and pantry. And second, to see if it will help lower our expenditure on food a bit.

It’s been a fun challenge for me, too (you know how I get excited about food and meals!). It’s resulted in me making some meals that are not in my usual repertoire, like:

Meatloaf with Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Salad

I don’t know if I’ve ever made meatloaf, but I had two pounds of ground beef and some onions, so I opened my cookbooks, found a recipe in the William Sonoma one, and went for it. I accidentally over-toasted the sweet potatoes, but they still taste like candy and the whole family loves them. Between the sweet potatoes and the ketchup for dipping the meatloaf, it was a success all around the table.

One tactic I’ve been employing more often is the buffet line. We’ve always used this for taco night, but I’m starting to use it for lunches, too.

Build-Your-Own Wraps

The above may look like a lot of work, but it’s actually a lot less work than we assembling and serving each individual plate. This works for salads, power bowls, sandwiches, or wraps. The line up changes every time, but it’s not uncommon to see: turkey, cheese, cucumbers, tomatoes, avocado, onion, shredded carrots, sprouts, spinach, purple cabbage, hummus and a variety of sauces or dressings. The girls absolutely LOVE anything they can pick and assemble themselves, and often surprise me with what they choose to include without any coaxing.

Like I mentioned, I’ve been using this set up a lot from everything from yogurt parfait lines (fruit, nuts, granola, chia seeds, etc) to:

Greek Night with Rotisserie Chicken, Cucumber Tomato Salad, and Tzatziki

When Kaitlyn was a baby, new to eating solids, I wrote a post entitled One Meal: Four Ways. It illustrated how I avoided being a short order cook by using the same components to make a meal that fit all of our needs. Years later, I’m still using the same tactic. The kids really love wraps or snack plate style meals. David likes wraps or buns. I tend do go lighter on the processed carbs.

For this dinner, I made a simple cucumber and tomato salad with red onion, kalamata olives, and a quick homemade dressing. I picked up a rotisserie chicken, hummus, and Cedar’s Tzatziki. I set it all up as a buffet and it was one of everyone’s favorite meals of the week!

Not to stretch out this “make your own” concept further than it needs to go, but it truly works so well for our family that I just want to highlight one more way that it works-

Pick Your Own Pancake Style

I love pancakes for breakfast because it’s a meal that everyone loves and is easy to make. We usually reserve these bigger breakfasts for Saturday mornings, but now that we are on a more relaxed summer schedule, they’ve been happening during the weeks as well. We are a Pamela’s Pancakes family because they are absolutely delicious. They also happen to be gluten-free. 

When we do pancakes, I love offering mix-in options: blueberries, chopped pecans, chopped walnuts, cooked and chopped bacon, banana slices, etc. I also sometimes throw in fun toppings and spreads like peanut butter, raspberry jam, and occasionally whipped cream! My food philosophy with the girls has always been to keep mixing things up so they continue to be adventurous eaters. Pancakes is an easy way to do this because it’s all delicious!

Hang with me while I share one last “create your own” dinner that is a huge hit. It’s every Friday night in our house-

PIZZA NIGHT!

I make my own dough (well, I use that word “make” lightly since I layer the ingredients in my bread maker and allow it to do all the work). The girls and David use this dough, while I’ve been using a frozen cauliflower crust lately because I’ve been eating gluten-free (as I’m still working on figuring out what works best with me with all this hormone stuff).

I always saute up mushrooms, onions, and peppers. We usually have pepperoni and both shredded and fresh mozzarella. Sometimes we have two sauce options, like pesto and marinara (though we’ve done BBQ before, too!). I give each girl their own ball of dough, take a deep breath as I hand over the flour for sprinkling, and let them go for it. They like being in control of whether they have thin crust or thick crust and which toppings they choose. 

While many of our meals become weekly repeats, just for ease of planning and execution, I try to switch things up at least once a week to try something new. A recent hit for the whole family was:

Baked Boneless Pork Chops with Roasted Potatoes

This was easy to prep early in the day, then just pop in the oven late afternoon. I marinated the pork chops, using this marinade recipe, all day. I chopped the potatoes in the morning, too, and kept them in a glass bowl covered with water (which removes excess starch and makes them crispier) until I was ready to roast them. Then I drained them, patted them dry, drizzled with olive oil, and sprinkled with salt and garlic granules.

Since the pork chops only need to bake for about 15-20 minutes at 400 degrees, I roasted the potatoes for a solid 40 minutes, then added the pork chops to the baking sheet and finished them both together. The juices from the pork chops brought even more delicious flavor to the potatoes!

I feel I can’t close out this post without mentioning our family’s favorite night each week, which someone even overtakes pizza night as best dinner of the week:

Mexican Fiesta Night

Doesn’t adding the word fiesta make..

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A detailed look into our delicious evening at CocoMaya, a “beach chic” restaurant on Virgin Gorda, on the last evening of our BVI family sailing trip.

For the most part, our meals during our week-long sailing trip were casual. I cooked some meals and we enjoyed dinners at beach-side spots like Foxy’s, The Lobster Trap on Anegada, and Cooper Island Beach Club. On our last day, after spending a full morning and afternoon at The Baths, I proposed the idea to David of getting dinner at a picturesque restaurant I had heard several people mention- CocoMaya

CocoMaya Restaurant is just around the corner from The Baths, located at Fort Point in Spanish Town and has a “Beach-Chic” vibe. After a quick google search I saw it had rave reviews on Trip Advisor and is consistently rates as one of the best restaurants in The British Virgin Islands as a whole. David often lets me pick the restaurants because he knows how much joy good food brings me, so we decided to take a closer look and see if it seemed like a good spot for our crew, being that we had a 7 and 5 year old in tow.

We anchored in the harbor where there was little else, other than some ongoing post-hurricane repair on a couple other buildings. David dropped me off at the large dock in the dinghy and I wondered in around 2:30 to see if we needed reservations. The hosted was so kind and suggested a 7:30 reservation so we’d be sure to experience the sunset. 

Since we learned our lesson the hard way after taking an 8:00 PM reservation the night before and having Kaitlyn basically face-plant into her supper, I asked if a 5:30 would be available instead. I saw her scribble us in at 5:30, though not a single other reservation was made for that time, so I’m certain we would have been fine without out.

We moved our boat over to a neighboring mooring ball for the night and all showered up to go into shore. Around 4:30 we decided to head that way to grab a drink beforehand and enjoy the vibe.

We walked in the open-air restaurant to the sound of 50 Cent’s “In Da Club” (not the radio edit) being spun by a DJ set up on the sand by the bar. I giggled when I saw David turn around and raise an eyebrow at me. It had a very Miami vibe, which is not typically our kind of scene, but it was a beautiful set up, they had SWINGS at the bar, and I was ready for one of their happy hour specials- a mango champagne cocktail. So we ventured onward.

On the waterfront side of CocoMaya they had beach games set up, from wooden block Jenga, to cornhole, and more. The girls quickly busied themselves while David posted up at the deep-set outdoor couches. I headed to the bar to grab us some drinks while the club music continued to bump loud and proud.

Once the girls saw the swing at the bar, they bee lined to join me. We ordered them virgin pina coladas and the nice bar staff even brought them some fresh fruit to accompany it. 

By this time the happy hour crowd started to taper out, and slowly the dinner patrons started to trickle in. At our reservation time, 5:30 PM, it was still fairly empty. The heat of the day had just started to dissipate and I’m not sure if it was the effect of the champagne cocktail or the DJ softening his music choices just slightly, but both David and I both began to ease into the atmosphere.

We delayed our reservations a bit while we settled up at the bar and took our table at around 6:00 PM. Our seats were right by the railing so we could watch the girls play while we ordered margaritas- a jalapeno margarita (his) and a spicy Thai basil (hers).

The sun was dipping low in the sky when we ordered our first appetizers- the local root vegetable chips with salsa and guacamole, the Virgin Gorda roll (crab salad/avocado/cucumber/red tobiko/mango puree/kewpie mayo), a spicy crab salad and jalapeno roll with sriracha, and a mango and crab salad avocado roll.

At the appearance of food, the girls ran to join us at the table and we descended upon the plates like a plague of locusts for two reasons. First, we were all pretty hungry by this point, but two- it was possibly the best sushi I’ve ever had in my life. 

I had heard the food was good, but this was clearly next level cuisine. The flavors were fresh and vibrant. The amount of heat on the spicy rolls was just right and the accompaniment sauces added just a pop of flavor and didn’t overtake the taste of the rolls themselves. I’m going to dream about this sushi for years to come.

Encouraged to try more from the menu, we took our server’s suggestion to try the Pad Thai and also ordered the duck tacos. The tacos were good but didn’t wow me, but the Pad Thai was on the same level as the sushi- phenomenal.

By this point in the evening, CocoMaya was really filling up. Tables of couples out for a romantic evening and tables full of laughing sailing friends with their children brought a warmth to the atmosphere as the DJ settled into playing music that was much more our style, like slowed down Michael Jackson medleys and “Easy Like Sunday Morning” remixes.

It might have been the margaritas talking or maybe the sun starting to fall below the horizon, but by this point the night felt magical. 

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This Seed & Nutty Broccoli Salad has great color and crunch, and can easily be made vegetarian or vegan by substituting or leaving out the bacon and honey. Great to make ahead for a potluck or picnic, or throw together for a filling lunch or dinner!

I am so excited to share this recipe with you today because it’s one of my favorite salads to make for a crowd. I’ll be making it plenty of times this summer for cookouts because it’s a crowd pleaser. And with it being the unofficial kick off to summer this weekend, I had to hop on and share it with you in case you’re still looking for what to bring to that cookout on the calendar!

The fact that it doesn’t have any mayo means it’s a great choice for outdoor gatherings. Plus, you can make this a day ahead of time and it will still be fresh (dare I say maybe even better?) when it’s serving time.

The seeds give it a nice crunch and healthy fats, the cranberries a punch of sweetness, and the bacon brings a savory flavor that has even kids reaching for seconds- just cut the florets into small pieces!

I made this as a side for Kaitlyn’s recent birthday party and it added such a nice, hearty veggie-rich addition.

I can’t wait for you to try this one, and when you do, please come back and let me know what you think!

Print
Seed & Nutty Broccoli Salad
  • Author: Brittany Dixon
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 5 minutes
  • Total Time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: 6-8 servings
Description

This Seed & Nutty Broccoli Salad has great color and crunch, and can easily be made vegetarian or vegan by substituting or leaving out the bacon and honey. Great to make ahead for a potluck or picnic, or throw together for a filling lunch or dinner!

Ingredients

1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
1/3 cup sliced almonds
1/3 cup diced red onion
1/3 cup dried cranberries
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
4 cups chopped broccoli florets
1/3 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons champagne vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Instructions

Combine pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and sliced almonds in a large skillet. Heat over medium-high heat to lightly toast nuts and seeds.

Transfer nuts and seeds to a medium bowl. Add red onion, cranberries, parsley, and bacon. Stir in broccoli florets.

In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, honey, garlic, salt, and pepper. Stir vigorously to combine. Pour mixture over broccoli and stir well to combine.

Serve immediately or chill before serving. Chill in fridge for up to 5 days.

Notes

Leave out the bacon and/or honey to make this a plant-based side dish or meal!

Did you make this recipe?

Tag @ahealthyslice on Instagram and hashtag it #ahsinthekitchen

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My baby is FIVE… (well, she will be tomorrow)

And I’m loving every minute.

Kaitlyn is a Mama’s girl and while it means she only wants me if she wakes up in the middle of the night and climbs onto my lap by the end of every meal, I wouldn’t change a thing.

There is so much I could write about our sweet little firecracker, it’s hard to know where to start. 

EAT

I try not to label my kids’ food preferences, but if I did, I’d call Kaitlyn the carb queen. Her favorite foods are mac and cheese, rolls with butter, tortillas, and yogurt. For her birthday party she got to choose the kid menu: corn dogs, mac ‘n cheese, and applesauce. It’s funny to me that it’s really more savory carbs than sweets, too. She’ll leave half a piece of cake on her plate or abandon a muffin halfway through but will demolish a bowl of rotini and marinara.

Despite her preferences, she is not a picky eater. She has tested me more in the eating department than Hailey ever has, but I stuck to my guns and it’s paid off. While I still don’t expect her to be excited about meat or asparagus, she will happily gobble up purple cabbage, carrots, tomatoes, fruit of any kind, salads, and avocado toast. 

SLEEP

She has never needed as much sleep as her big sis, and it’s still true today. She dropped naps so long ago (before age 2, I believe?!), but generally sleeps pretty well at night. I like to keep claiming the girls have a 7:00 PM bed time but between homeschooling and the extended sunshine hours of spring, it’s generally closer to 7:30/7:45. 

She likes to lay in bed with her Leap Frog Pen, listening to stories and animal facts and reading books (mostly looking at pictures). She usually falls asleep around 8:00 PM on a normal night, though has no problem hanging until 9:30 PM or later when we stay out with friends. She typically wakes up at 7:15 AM/7:30 AM ready for the day.

It’s also worth noting (for my own memory sake) that she does not always sleep straight through the night. Over the past year she’s gone through streaks where she’ll wake up every night for a week or two. Usually it’s “I’m scared” but sometimes it’s just to tell us she got hot or cold, had a funny dream, or can’t find ____ (fill in the blank with whatever thing she actually doesn’t care anything about but yet needs desperately at 2:30 AM).

She still sleeps with her bunny lovey, Mimi, and nothing warms my heart more than peeking in on her and seeing them cuddled up together.

PLAY

Spoken like every mom ever, Kaitlyn is smart. She has the advantage of being the little sister and soaks up a lot of what Hailey and I work on. She reads beginner reader books, writes us notes, gets really frustrated if she doesn’t spell something correctly, and can ramble off random animal facts like Steve Irwin. She seems to really like math and often asks for more of it. She’s doing simple addition and subtraction mostly and really enjoys the snippets we read and answer through Bedtime Math.

Kaitlyn is feisty. In fact, I just signed her up for a trial karate class because she’s been begging to try it. She often punches and kicks- not out of anger, just embracing her inner… super hero? She’ll grit her teeth, scream hi-ya!, and just start swinging.

The best part about her aggressive ways is that it’s coupled with a deep affection for all things “fancy.” She adores long dresses, make-up, earrings (“earlings,” as she calls them), necklaces, and rings, high heels, and tiaras. When asked what she wanted for her birthday, she listed out all these “fancy” things, being sure to add in at the end- “oh! And some blush. Mine is getting low.” 

She is a natural leader. She uses her charm and grit to get people to do what she wants. I’m equal parts proud and terrified of this. 

When asked what she wants to be when she grows up, her current answer is: “spa person.” I love this because it means she spends time practicing by brushing my hair, giving me “massagies” and “scratchies” on my back, and rubbing lotion on my feet. 

She brings such sunshine and spunk into our lives. I love how independent she is, but also how much she misses her sister we they are apart. 

I’m so proud to be her mom and look forward to all that FIVE will bring our way.

Happy birthday, Goose. We love you!

You may also like: Hailey at Five Years Old

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On May 2, 2009, I married David. It was a stormy day in the mountains of North Georgia, but the rain cleared just before the ceremony. The lake was our back drop and the mountains surrounded us. As I walked down the path to the ceremony site, arm and arm with my dad, I remember locking eyes with David for the first time. I can still feel the wave of certainty and joy that rushed over me. This was so right. 

Unfortunately for me, any wave of intense emotion brings me to tears and I wasn’t able to get through our vows without my voice shaking and cracking multiple times and I tried to keep tears from ruining my makeup. And can I just mention that I’m not a cute crier?

Somehow we got through it, laughing through my ridiculous tears, sealed it with a kiss and began our life together.

Since then, we’ve sold our city house and moved to the suburbs. We’ve grown our family. We said goodbye to our sweet Koda. We started homeschooling. We’ve started side businesses and seen some thrive while abandoning others. We’ve traveled to some really beautiful places. 

Through it all, we’ve only grown closer. Not to say it’s all been a smooth ride, it never is when kids and life circumstances shake up your world and roles. But I can honestly say that I love him more today than I did 10 years ago… and I was head over heels when I said I do!

My marriage is unique. So is yours. So take this advice and do what you will with it. Heed it, live it, or toss what doesn’t work for you aside. God willing, we will have many, many more years of learning ahead of us. But for now, these are 10 truths I’ve learned about marriage through these past 10 years and truths that I absolutely stand by.

  1. Understand that your spouse is going to grow and change. So are you. Sometimes these changes are wonderful and additive to the relationship, and sometimes they can feel threatening. Click here for more insight on what to do if you are having a tough time with a particular change.
  2. Date nights are not luxuries; they are essential. If you want your marriage to remain strong, you have to make it a priority. Even if the kids have soccer practice (talking to myself here). Even if you don’t have extra money (swapping with a friend and going on a hike costs nothing). Getting out of the house and spending quality time together breathes life into a relationship.
  3. Don’t keep score. Oh my gosh, it’s tempting isn’t it? But stop yourself. No good comes from keeping score. And it most likely won’t ever be balanced. There is a natural ebb and flow and sometimes one partner is “doing more” than the other and then it will swing back the other way. I’ve found that just as long as both partners are showing up to the best of their ability on any given day, then things work out just fine. And on that same note, never stop appreciating each other. It’s so easy to start to take each other for granted and a simple thank you goes a long way.
  4. Tell him what you want. We have to understand that our husbands aren’t mind readers. It took me a long time (too long!) to get over myself in this department. I kept wanting him to just know what I wanted for Mother’s Day or where I wanted to eat. But I’ve learned that life is happier for everyone if I just speak up about it clearly ahead of time.
  5. Have sex. Schedule it. Buy a new outfit. Put the kids to bed early. Whatever it takes. It really is that important.
  6. Don’t try to solve problems when you’re tired. It’s OK to ask for a delay of game (er… discussion) and sleep on it. Breakfast dates are my favorite because it’s when I’m the most fresh. 
  7. Laugh. As often as you can. About everything. Send memes. Have inside jokes. Play together. 
  8. Don’t criticize each other. Not to him. Not to your friends. There are plenty of ways to discuss different view points or hurdles we’re facing together without bashing each other. Using the popular “I feel” language is so helpful in these scenarios. With closeness and vulnerability comes the knowledge of each others’ sensitivities. It’s so important to never use that knowledge as a weapon. 
  9. Don’t expect your husband to fulfill you. I’ve had times where I have felt unusually frustrated with David and it’s usually when I am feeling restless or unfulfilled personally. I found having my own passions and interests are vital. We have to make ourselves happy. It’s too much responsibility to put on our spouses.
  10. Get on the same page. Preferably about the big things (kids, finances, etc) before marriage, but when new issues arise, find time to sit down and hash it out. Sweeping school decisions, retirement plans, or discussions about what you want out of life under the rug will come back to bite you. After all, communication really is key!

*Bonus*

Listen to those further down the path than you. I’m so grateful I’m so close with my mom and dad because marriage advice doesn’t get any better than from someone that’s built a life together for over 40 years with plenty of ups and downs along the way. I have learned a lot in 10 years of my own marriage, but I’m not naive enough to think I know it all. 

But I have learned enough along the way to get us here (taken by our 7 year old on our family date night out to celebrate our anniversary last week):

And for that, I am so grateful.

Do I always get it right? Heck no. And though he might not like to admit it, neither does he. But the secret to our success is that we continuously choose us. We choose to turn towards each other, not away. We choose to work on things, keep communication open, and strive to see what we can do better to build a stronger marriage and happier life.

Tell me:

What is the one tip that has helped to keeping your marriage strong?

You may also like:

4 Ways to Keep Your Marriage Strong After Kids

The Story of Us

3 Ways to Show Up for Your Spouse

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David and I have a shared passion for travel, which you may or may not have guessed.

Perhaps you’ve been reading for a while and remember me writing about our trip to Oktoberfest in Munich and Salzburg (many moons… and kids… ago). Or perhaps you started following along more recently when we had babies and toddlers and kept our trips mostly local, like to the beaches of North Carolina and South Carolina or the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains that are only a couple hours away.

Now those babies I mentioned above have reached a new stage of 7 and almost 5 years old. It’s a stage that we have looked forward to (though I commit to wishing no phase of life away so I have been happy to wait). It’s a stage we anticipated that even influenced our decision to call our family complete with two wonderful children. It’s a time in life we intend to live out in all it’s glory, creating albums full of family memories along the way.

And lately it’s been really invigorating because we’ve started to pick up the travel pace.

We took the girls on their first plane ride this past January to ski Deer Valley. And this month we’ll up the ante again as we take a plane and then a ferry to the island of Tortola where we will embark on a week vacation sailing in the British Virgin Islands. 

We have to pinch ourselves sometimes when we realize that all these things we’ve been working towards, saving for, and planning for are upon us. Our list of places we want to go is a mile long and growing. Though we’ve been to some truly terrific places (I’m looking at you, Telluride), our adventurous spirit pushes us to continue to explore and try new places rather than return to places we’ve been, no matter how much we have enjoyed them.

So the question sent to me for this “how we do it” series was: How do we choose where to go for our family trips?

To start, it helps that David and I are already on the same page. We both like to see new places, which is advantageous over one of us preferring to repeat an annual spot. We both prefer places without crowds. Yes, we’ve done a Disney Cruise and Disney World, but both of those were more about having that experience with the kids while they are young and into the magic, rather than places we’d otherwise choose to go.

However, we differ slightly on our tolerance for adventure. This might stem from the fact that David has traveled more extensively than I have. He spent a summer in Ethiopia on a mission trip, has been on an African safari, and traveled internationally for work (though he’ll tell you those trips don’t count because it’s basically just working all day in a different time zone).

However, I might have him beat on destinations closer to home. I’ve been to Mexico multiple time, all over the Rockies, and skiing in Canada. All my trips, though, have been, shall we say… comfortable? While his (ie: summer in Ethiopia) have run the gamut. So the first question we ask ourselves when planning our trips is this:

Is the trip in question a trip of comfort or adventure?

True, the two can overlap, but in general, it’s nice to have a sense of what we are wanting out of the experience. Quick getaway to the beach? In that situation, comfort reigns, so we’ll look for a multiple bedroom unit so we can put the girls to bed and stay up ourselves. Outdoor magic- hiking, seeing stars? Adventure wins. Maybe we’ll choose to all be snuggled in the same tent.

We don’t always look for the lowest cost, but try to find the most value. We don’t rough it as much as we did before kids because we know how important sleep is to all of us enjoying the experience.

What activities are we excited to do?

In general, we aren’t loungers. I can hang for a single afternoon at a pool, but usually we’d rather be learning to do yoga on a paddle board or exploring new territory in a door-less jeep. Some vacations center around the activity, like snow skiing. Others, we know we’ll have to look for a place with things to do.

When choosing a destination, we also try to visualize our days. What time will we get up? Are activities walkable or will we need to travel to them? What is one activity each child would like to do? We always plan a vacation by picturing what activities we will be doing (and planning at least one each family member will love) and how much time they will take up.

Snow skiing? We’ll be skiing most of the day so we don’t need many other activities.

Sailing? We want to plan have things to do- kayaking, snorkeling, etc.

How much time do we have?

With David’s job, our vacation time is limited. He technically doesn’t get vacation time, he just has to make it work when he can finagle it around doctors’ schedules. This is not a complaint- just a reality of our planning situation. Right now we do more long weekend getaways, but we are committed to getting in 1-2 week-long trips a year.

You probably figured, but for quick weekends away, we tend to stick to drive-able destinations within a 3-5 hour radius. I don’t want to waste much of our time traveling to and from the destination. If we have a week? We hope to hop on a plane!

What is the budget?

We prefer to spend our money on experiences over things, and we allocate a solid chunk of our discretionary income to travel (…and food). When we do our State of the Family date night at the beginning of each year, we outline our tentative travels month by month and do light research to estimate budgets for each trip. This way we have an idea of what we will be spending ahead of time and can also look for ways to save money by either booking in advance, looking for deals, pitching partnerships, etc.

Travel is also a large reason we choose to homeschool. The flexibility of schedule and the ability to visit destinations in the off season are really nice!

What do others say?

While we are planning I often search for reviews of the area, the accommodations, and the activities we are considering. I look at Trip Advisor, but I usually search for blog reviews. I’ll type the destination into the google search bar along with “blog review” or “opinions are my own.” I like seeing personal pictures and experiences to picture how it will fit for my family. 

Where is next on our list?

The world? Truly, it would probably be a shorter list for me to name places I don’t want to visit. But a few trips we are planning at the moment include:

  • The British Virgin Islands (May 2019)
  • Disney World (October 2019)
  • Skiing- resort TBD (winter 2019/2020)

For the future:

  • Yellowstone National Park
  • New Zealand
  • Italy
  • The Greek Isles
  • China

What about you? Do you enjoy travel?

How do you choose where, when, and how to travel? 

See all my travel posts by clicking here
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This coconut curry zoodle soup is delicious, nutrient-dense and only takes a few minutes to prep and cook! It’s vegan and paleo, but can be boosted with extra protein by adding baked tofu or shredded rotisserie chicken.

I always felt that Mexican flavors were my favorite, but in the past couple of years dishes made with curry, coconut, and turmeric have given it a run for its money. From this slow cooker butternut squash dal to this chickpea, sweet potato, and spinach curry recipe, the warm spices and deep flavors almost always guarantees a satisfying meal.

This coconut curry zoodle soup takes the same flavor profiles, but turns it into a comforting bowl of nutrient-dense “ramen.” Most broths for similar dishes take hours to cook to develop the flavor depth, but this combination of coconut milk and red curry paste, along with fresh garlic and ginger, creates a quick broth that also satisfies.

This vegetarian dish is delicious as is, but it’s easy to add in a shredded rotisserie chicken, sauteed shrimp, or pan-fried tofu to give it a boost of protein. You could also certainly use rice noodles to make it a heartier meal, but the zucchini noodles keep it light and nutritious, while still filling enough to call it a meal.

How does it work with a family? Depends on how adventurous your kids are.

  • I love this meal.
  • David really likes the flavors, and appreciates the addition of chicken.
  • Hailey likes it well enough.
  • But it was a bit too much for Kaitlyn. She stuck to drinking the broth and picking out the snap peas. The zucchini noodles were a bit out of her league.

This is a great broth to make on Sunday, then use for lunches all week long. It’s a great switch up to a salad, with just as much nutrition packed in.

I’m excited for you to give this one a try- perhaps on one of these cool spring evenings. When you give it a go, please come back and let me know what you think. Your reviews mean so much to me!

Enjoy!

Print
Coconut Curry Zoodle Soup
  • Author: Brittany Dixon
  • Prep Time: 10
  • Cook Time: 5
  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: 4-6 servings
Description

This perfectly spiced soup is delicious and only takes a few minutes to prep and cook!

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1–2 tablespoons red curry paste
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 (13.5-ounce) can coconut milk
1 1/2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 cup snap peas
1/3 cup sliced green onions
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon sugar, optional
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
2 medium zucchini, zoodled
garnish with: lime slices, cilantro, basil, and red chile slices

Instructions

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat until hot. Add sliced onions and cook for 2-3 minutes or until onions begin to brown and char. Add garlic and ginger; cook for an additional minute.

Stir in red curry paste, salt, curry powder, coriander, broth, and coconut milk. Bring to a slight simmer. Stir in mushrooms, snap peas, and green onions. Simmer for 2-3 minutes; stir in fish sauce and sugar, if using.

Stir in lime juice, cilantro, and basil. Divide zucchini noodles evenly among serving bowls. Divide soup evenly among bowls. Serve immediately.

Notes

** Add chopped cooked chicken or cooked shrimp to this soup for an extra boost of protein.

Did you make this recipe?

Tag @ahealthyslice on Instagram and hashtag it #ahsinthekitchen

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“This is how we do it” is a series that shares what works for our family in various areas during this current season of life. 

I am a person that likes order and routine. I love my paper planner. I love having a game plan. I look at the menus of restaurants online before I go and often know what I’m going to order (which drives David crazy). All that being said, one thing I’ve learned about routines is that they change with the season of life I’m in, and once I get a system down, something happens that shakes up either my priorities or abilities and I have to make a change. This is just a long-winded way of saying that this is my current weekday morning routine at a point of life when I am homeschooling our two girls, ages 7 and 4 1/2.

It doesn’t always look like what I’ll outline below– kids sometimes wake up during the night and I choose sleep over exercise. Or I really need to attend to something on my computer, so I spend some morning hours there. But generally speaking, this is what our weekday mornings look like.

4:40 AM: My alarm goes off. I take a few breaths with my eyes clothes before rolling out of bed. I grab my phone and my water bottle (which I always fill up before I go to bed). I walk out of our bedroom, quietly close the bedroom door, and grab my workout gear off the sofa table in the living room (that I lay out the night before). I head to the powder room to change, then I chug my water bottle. In the kitchen I refill in from the Berkey, add a scoop of pre-workout powder, and shake it. David and I currently use Gnarly Pre-Workoutwhich we both really like. However, if you are new to pre-workout supplements, prepare yourself for the tingles! The first time I took it I thought I was having an allergic reaction- ha!

4:55 AM: I leave home and drive to the gym. I pick a podcast and drink my pre-workout.

5:05 AM: In the gym! Each week I try to do a leg day, an arm day, a long run day, a full body workout day, and a walk/run whatever feels good day. I’m not always consistent. I look online beforehand to find workouts. Some of my go-to resources are Jen, Jess, and Kayla Itsines (I usually find these under google images).

I’m in the gym anywhere from 40-60 minutes depending on when David has to leave for the day, but I’m typically home around 6:00 AM.

6:05 AM: Shower time. I am playing around with different skincare products. I want to go more green/clean beauty but also want something that works. I have some BeautyCounter samples and some EVER samples currently. I am really liking my EltaMD facial sunscreen. I bought it in both regular and tinted. I like that it has a physical block (zinc), but absorbs into the skin well.

I also get dressed for the day.

6:15 AM: Chat with David in the kitchen briefly while he heats up a burrito and makes a latte (we love our new Nespresso!) Sometimes I’ll make him breakfast but since he is usually rushing off and eating in the car, it’s not all that often. I give him a kiss as he takes off.

6:30 AM: I make myself a cup of tea, currently Equal Exchange Organic Earl Grey is my favorite. I sit on the couch or at the kitchen table and journal. I am currently using the prompts that Rachel Hollis outlines in her new journals.

It takes about 15 minutes or so. I hesitate to write this next part because it’s such a new part of my mornings that I haven’t yet proven it will stick, but I meditate. I am using the CALM app and so far, so good.

6:55 AM: I go into the office, turn on my lamp, light my candle, and turn on my computer. I will either work on blog posts, respond to emails, schedule social media posts, or edit images. 

7:20 AM: Kaitlyn is always the first one up and when she walks into the office, my computer time is over. She always shouts “boo!” as she bursts in the door. I always pretend to be surprised, then she comes and curls up in my lap. I shut things down, she blows out the candle and we head to the kitchen.

7:30 AM: Right now she is really into helping me in the kitchen, so I usually put her up on the kitchen island while we figure out what we want for breakfast. She tells me about her dreams (which I believe are actually a quarter real dreams and three quarters rambling, made up stories). I refill my hot water and start pulling out food. Their breakfasts range from pancakes and berries to avocado toast and scrambled eggs to yogurt parfaits and oatmeal. 

7:50 AM: Usually Hailey wanders down around now, but if not, I will wake her up at 8:00. They sit at the table and we all chat while I get their breakfasts finished up. I give them their food and then start on my breakfast. My breakfast is typically a veggie and egg scramble with avocado.

8:20 AM: Wow, when I write it out it is really clear what a leisurely breakfast experience we have each day- haha! I usually eat my breakfast around now. While I clean up breakfast, they tag team emptying the dishwasher. Sometimes we’ll read a chapter or two of our read aloud during breakfast, too, or picture books we picked up from the library.

8:40 AM: I finish wiping down the counters, they head up to get dressed and brush their teeth.

9:00 AM: “Start school.” I use quotation marks because our homeschool style has evolved from the beginning of our school year. While we used to head up to the homeschool room for 2 1/2 hours to work through our studies, I’ve now become more comfortable with the concept that “homeschool is not merely recreating school at home.” It’s something I’ve always heard but never really understood.

At now almost two years into homeschooling, and with the girls still being so young, we are embracing the natural rhythm of the day. We still get the same amount of “work/studies” done, sometimes more honestly, but now we might do 30 minutes of math concepts/games, then go for a walk, then curl up on the couch to read, then go to the library to research Cleopatra, then complete an extra practice math worksheet before dinner, etc etc. It’s really wonderful.

And that’s it- our weekday morning routine!

Share with me:

Are you a morning person?

What is your favorite part of your morning routine?

What would you like to adjust?

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This post is written in collaboration with Pamela’s Products. All opinions are my own.

It’s been a tradition in our family since the girls were babies to have a big weekend breakfast. It’s usually on Saturdays unless soccer starts too early, and sometimes it’s on Sundays if we end up going to church on Saturday night. But no matter when it takes place, the scene is always the same. David puts on his playlist, the girls don their aprons, I fire up the tea kettle and we all gear up to devour pancakes, oftentimes in shapes, bacon, fruit, coffee, tea— the works.

When I had to change the way I was eating starting a couple months back, I kept in on the down low. I just shifted our whole family’s way of eating so we all could continue eating mostly the same thing. No one seemed to notice much, which is exactly what I was hoping for.

But when I started not fully participating in traditional weekends breakfast, the girls raised eyebrows. They questioned why I was eating differently than everyone else. While I’m fully comfortable with explaining to them that everyone’s bodies react differently to different foods, it’s too big of a topic to try and explain to a four-year-old without expecting her to proclaim that her body reacts poorly to, well, let’s say— salmon.

I ended up saying that I just felt like having only scrambled eggs and fruit, but I really hated that they noticed. I also was personally bummed to be missing out on pancake breakfast.

So, I tried some gluten-free products. Some tasted just like glue and others had dairy, another food I am avoiding. I had just decided to write off participating for a while when I discovered Pamela’s Products.

Y’all. It is so good.

I had expected to like it myself because at least I could participate, but the kids? I figured I’d cross my fingers and hope for the best. 

It was love at first bite! Mmms and is this new? were the first things out of their mouths. Since then we’ve stocked the pantry with Pamela’s Gluten-Free (and sprouted!) Non-Dairy Pancake Mix. It has a hint of sweetness and vanilla and (like all their products) is certified gluten-free by GFCO, and wheat-free, with no artificial additives or added sugar. But most importantly, it’s just plain yummy.

Pamela Giusto-Sorrells, company founder, has crafted delicious gluten-free and non-GMO foods for over thirty years! I know that I can count on Pamela’s to source only the finest ingredients and to maintain the strictest manufacturing standards so only the highest quality, delicious products arrive at our table because Pamela still leads the company today.

We are really fortunate to live in a time when companies are starting to make healthier foods, allergy-sensitive foods, and other specialty diet foods so readily available. And more than that— making them so they taste good. Personally we are fans of Kite Hill dairy-free cream cheese, So Delicious coconut milk creamer, CaliaFarms coco-almond milk, Good Karma’s flax milk, and now Pamela’s gluten-free foods.

Whether you are looking for options to navigate a dietary need for your family, or you just want a high-quality and tasty pancake mix, give this stuff a try.

You can find it in local grocers (check your area here), but in today’s Prime era, it’s easy to snag some right from Amazon.  I never thought I’d be grateful for pancake mix, but here I am because I can’t help but be grateful that it has brought back our weekend tradition in all its syrupy glory.

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