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August 21, 2014

CREAMY SPINACH TOMATO TORTELLINI



I feel like I've posted about this one before, but I made it this week and it was a hit all around. I followed the directions without any changes to the recipe. It's a meatless meal, but uber satisfying. Especially when you pair it with a simple salad and yummy garlic bread.

DIJON HERB CHICKEN


This recipe and the two below are all from the newest issue of Cooking Light. If you don't subscribe, I highly recommend you do so - it never disappoints.

This was delicious to the max. You could easily use it on chicken breasts, but we like to switch it up sometimes so we did the thighs with this recipe. I opted to use avocado oil instead of olive oil on this recipe, but either would be great!

RED PEPPER COUSCOUS


This was originally supposed to be a side for some tilapia, but I cooked this to go along with the chicken above and the salad below. It didn't disappoint!

SHAVED CARROT SALAD


This is so simple and clean. I didn't even add salt and pepper to it! Be careful with the red pepper flakes, though, because mine had a bit of a kick to it!

The Truth About the Summer Bucket List

August 20, 2014

Oh, beginning of summer. How you bring on your lofty goals of being super mom for your kids as the heat continues to climb higher and higher, thus killing any motivation you have to get your kids out of the house.

Remember when we were all pumped for summer, with dreams of keeping our kids busy and making lots of special memories? I sure do. I even made that little graphic above, which shows how enthusiastic I was (at the time).

Then reality set in, plans changed, goals shifted. My "super mom" status that never was, continues to still not exist.

Here's the reality of how it turned out:
Maybe next year, summer, I'll get my act together and make it the best there ever was. But, for now, I'm happy to send you on your way and make room for cooler weather, pumpkin spice everything, Fall cooking and my favorite holidays of the year - Halloween and Thanksgiving.

The Rarity that is Good Customer Service

August 19, 2014

Last week, while watching the Today Show's Steals and Deals, my mom and I decided to purchase a set of four candles for a great price from Aquiesse (all natural wax with lead-free wicks).

Yesterday, much faster than we had anticipated, they showed up in the mail. When I opened the box, though, I only found three candles and no packing slip. So I immediately hopped online to their website, found their customer service number and gave them a call.

I spoke to two people who were over-the-top nice, and within 10 minutes I had the fourth candle being shipped to me with no more than a request that I email them with a pic of what our box looked like. The person I worked with, Hector, was beyond personable, even replying to my email with a "thank you for understanding" once we were off of the phone.


{ must have been a bit of an assembly line oops! }

I wish that more companies would understand how much customers appreciate being able to immediately speak to a human on the phone who understands what issue you are having and is happy to help you come to a resolution. I'm always one to hunt for a deal and get the best price, but there are times when good customer service truly warrants the higher price tag.

So, Aquiesse, you may have lured me in with your Today Show deal, but you've made me a customer for life with this experience.

Oh, and it doesn't hurt that these candles smell like they are from heaven.

Organizing Our Life on Paper

August 18, 2014

It's come to my attention, now that both kiddos will be in school this year, that our life is becoming crazy busy as parents. Determining who goes where and when, who will take them, pick them up, what activities we're doing, personal plans for the U and myself, etc.

And I know that this is something that is only going to become more crazy as the kids get older. Oh yeah, and did I mention that I'm going to be room mom for at least one of their classes (and, most likely, both)? Shoot me now.

As much as I love to design my paper items because 1) it's fun for me and 2) I can customize them to exactly what I want, I have given in to the fact that I need something that is professionally printed and bound to carry around with me on a daily basis, because whipping out the iPhone is not cutting it at the moment, and my big spiral of a to-do list often becomes so long that it gets pushed to the side.

The big contenders are:

1) Erin Condren Life Planner

This one seems to be the obvious choice, but I've heard so many negative things about their shipping and customer service lately online that I'm going to pass.

2) Kate Spade Agenda



As much as I love the look of the planner, I wonder how truly awesome it is for organization since this is not their main product. I'm really searching for something that's tried and true and family friendly.

3) Emily Ley Simplified Planner



It looks like this is the winner. I'm going to go with the lesser expensive weekly version because I don't need to have a page for each day. I'm more of a weekly/monthly planner type of gal. And bonus points for the daily to-do lists and dinner plan that is included. Those are basically all of the items I'm looking for, not to mention that I love the look of her planner as well.

BUT, this planner won't start until January, so enter option 4...

4) Plum Paper Designs



I have ordered this planner starting for October (they have a 4-6 wait time because of the customization) and it will last me one calendar year. After using it for a while, I'll reevaluate on whether or not to purchase the Emily Ley. The features and designs, plus the option to start on a certain month as well as all of the various customization options are just too good to beat. I opted for the family planner, which allows you to customize seven boxes each week, which is what I've been searching for in a planner for quite some time. And, if you Google reviews, you can usually find a current review of the planner with a 10% discount code!

Do you use a life planner? If so, I'd love to hear any input you have in the comments!

Pagosa Springs, Colorado - Family Road Trip

August 15, 2014

Last week we loaded up the kiddos, my mom and brother followed in another car, and we all headed up to Pagosa Springs, Colorado, for some much needed vacation time and a good break from this horrendous August Texas heat.

We stopped in Amarillo (around half way) each time and spent the night, which helped break up the 13 hour drive up there. On the way there, and back, we stopped in Santa Fe, NM, for some lunch and to walk around a bit.

Pagosa Springs is a great little mountain town, but if you're going there to shop or find lots of entertainment that doesn't involve nature, then it's not for you. The U and my brother brought their mountain bikes and had a good time riding the trails, and I was happy as a clam to sit on the porch of our cabin and watch the kids play outside in the gorgeous weather.



We did drive to Chama, NM, to catch the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad and ride on the Cinder Bear Experience and it was so worth the money. It's an abbreviated trip as opposed to the 1/2 and full day trips that they offer. About an hour and a half on the train, then a 20 minute bus ride back to our cars. While it did involve some kiddy things (singing on the train for about ten minutes, someone dressed as Cinder Bear, a bounce house and bubbles back at the station), I really picked it because of the length of the trip. Anything more would have pushed my kiddos beyond their boundaries.





{ The lack of HUT photos is due to his boycott on picture taking at the moment. }

We also visited the hot springs and The Springs Resort, but I'm going to be very honest here - it felt dirty to me. I was hoping for a nice resort type of outing with poolside service. I was completely wrong. While the locker room was very tidy, the pool area seemed a bit rough around the edges, as did some of the clientele (I never claimed to not be a bit particular). The kids loved to play in the pool, but I'm not sure that we'll do that again if we visit (for two kids, three adults, it was $100+).

Since we stayed in a fully equipped cabin, we did a lot of cooking there. With two kiddos, it's just hard to enjoy a meal out right now, so we were happy to cook at home, sit on the patio, make a little campfire and just enjoy our time.





We had some great meals - here's the abbreviated version:

Riff Raff Brewery - amazingly fresh food, awesome beer (their green chile beer was my favorite) and VERY child friendly. We went there a couple of times during our four day stay. We also came back with two growlers of beer (which we filled and drank all of prior to our departure).

Old Town Natural Market & Deli - an organic market that sells homemade gourmet food. We brought sandwiches home one day for lunch and they were all delicious.

Pagosa Baking Company - I wish that we'd experienced their whole breakfast, but I drove down to the bakery one morning to grab muffins for the family and none of them disappointed.

We had one lunch at the Pagosa Brewing Company, but there was confusion with the seating, the service wasn't great and the food was ok. I think it could be a great place to go (live music, kids play area, games for adults too), but we just got off to a bad start. I'd try it again, but make sure it wasn't my last meal of the trip, like it was this time. Also, their green chile beer didn't do it for me like Riff Raff's did!

If you ever go to Pagosa Springs, hands down, without a doubt, the Cabins at Hartland Ranch are worth every penny. Immaculate, clean, fully (and I mean the owners have thought of everything) equipped and they come with a washer/dryer which is so awesome with kids.





I'm happy to share any tips you might want to know about taking a 13 hour road trip with a one-year-old and three-year-old, as well as details for where we stayed and ate along the way - just shoot me a comment below!


{ Our only family shot - outside of the Basilica in Santa Fe on our way home. We were all a bit worse for wear after a week away and a long road trip ahead of us. }