Monday, July 22, 2019

Sweet Summer Vacation

Sweet Summer Vacation

Before Robbie and I had kids, we traveled pretty consistently, both with his job (most of you already know this, but he's the stage manager for a band and works on tour half the year) and on our own. And while we still travel quite a bit with the kids (both on road trips several times a year and by plane two or three times a year), it's much less. Much, much less.

Last winter, we decided we were going to take a vacation this summer, just the four of us, no matter what. It wasn't going to be visit anyone or for a work campaign for me or to tag along with him to work (which, let's face it, aren't vacations for him at all because he is busy the entire time). We'd never taken a real vacation that was just about our little family, and it just felt necessary. Then spring passed, and summer arrived, and there was still nothing in the works. Vacations are expensive, and they take a lot of planning with kids and job schedules and all that, and it seemed like our well meaning plans weren't realistic.

But then I had an idea. Around 1 AM one night while lying in bed when Robbie was on tour, I remembered how a friend of Robbie's in the hotel business has been recently transferred to Clearwater Beach, Florida. And despite the fact that July was the only time Robbie would have a week off for a vacation and that it is genuinely the worst time of the year to visit Florida (so, so hot), I started researching Clearwater Beach and was smitten. (I mean, give anyone in this family a nice sandy beach and an ocean and we are beyond happy.) A few phone calls and some airline points later, and our trip was officially planned.

As you read this, we're already high in the sky on our way there. And for once, I'm actually going to take a real vacation from work too, so there won't be any posts here, and my Instagram will likely be just a bunch of nonstop Stories (because let's face it, I'm an oversharer and even a real vacation can't stop me.)

I'd love to hear about any trips you've taken or will be taken this summer. (Aside from a couple of short road trips, this is it for us. Essley starts kindergarten in 3 weeks!) And if you're curious and want to see some of the travels we've taken in the past (like our trip to Mexico in December for Robbie's work, as seen in the photo in this post), click here.

Happy summer vaca!


Friday, July 19, 2019

Not-So-Basic Basic Refried Bean Tacos

This post is sponsored by General Mills, but all opinions are my own.

Even if you've only stopped by here on occasion, you probably know how much I love tacos. Honestly, I've always been a little shocked that "taco" wasn't my first word as a baby. (It was "moon," but that's a whole different kind of post. #hippiechild) And I've shared a lot of taco recipes here over the years, because, well, I eat a lot of tacos. From sweet potato and yogurt avocado sauce tacos to loaded breakfast tacos spilling over with eggs and potatoes, I've pretty much made (or at least eaten) them all. But in this house, there is one taco recipe that is our staple meal, especially in the summertime. It's the one kind of taco that everyone in the family loves eating, and while it's not some extravagantly complicated, eccentric recipe, it's perfect. Some might call them basic, but once you taste them, you know they're far from it.

Not-So-Basic Basic Refried Bean Tacos
Serves 5-6

1 package Old El Paso Stand 'N Stuff Shells (10 Count)
1 can Old El Paso Traditional Refried Beans (16 oz)
2 cups soy "beef" crumbles (optional; may substitute ground beef, or exclude it all together)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1-2 fresh tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup large black olives, sliced
shredded romain lettuce
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium saucepan, heat Old El Paso Traditional Refried Beans over low heat. Add spices to beans and stir. (If using soy crumbles, heat in a skillet according to package instructions.) While beans are heating, heat Old El Paso Stand 'N Stuff Shells in oven as directed on package, and prep toppings (tomatoes, olives, lettuce, and cheese). Once beans and shells are heated, divide beans (and soy crumbles, if using) evenly between shells, then tops each with cheese, tomatoes, olives, and lettuce. We like to serve with homemade guacamole or fresh sliced avocado topped with salt and pepper. So good!

When I was growing up, we made good old fashion refried bean tacos just like this, and it was my favorite meal. It's been so much fun to recreate them into a family tradition with my kids. There is nothing better than making the tacos together, sitting outside on our patio, and eating them up on a summer night! (My daughter calls taco nights with this yummy recipe our summer fiestas. The best!) The recipe is so quick and easy too. Every time we're at Walmart, we're sure to stock up on Old El Paso Stand 'N Stuff Shells and Old El Paso Traditional Refried Beans so we have plenty on hand for our frequent taco nights. We love Old El Paso Stand 'N Stuff shells because of their amazing crunch, the fact that we can fit so much goodness inside of them, and because they stand on their own (with sure does make less mess with these little ones.) And Old El Paso Traditional Refried Beans are so full of flavor and add the perfect textured based to our beloved tacos. (We also love Old El Paso Gluten Free Crunchy Shells and Old El Paso Super Stuffer Shells, also both available at Walmart!)

I hope you guys love our not-so-basic basic taco recipe as much as we do!


Wednesday, July 17, 2019

IKEA's New FÖRNYAD Collection


It's not secret that I'm a big IKEA fan. (Remember that one time I was on their home improvement show to redo my old living room seating area?) A visit to IKEA is always a thrill for me, and I'm very appreciative at how affordable their pieces are without sacrificing style.  I've gushed about a few of their past collections here (this one is still my favorite), and today I'm going to share another one.

Unlike the other ones however, this one, called FÖRNYAD, is a big step out of my style comfort zone. I gravitate toward neutrals and prefer minimal design with hints of bohemian and mid-century modern.  FÖRNYAD (which was released last month) is bold, bright, and filled with pattern. But there is something about it that I really like, despite being so different from anything I have in my house. The collection includes lamps, sofas, desks, stalls, and accessories, and it's pretty freaking fun.

FÖRNYAD is the result of collaboration between IKEA, Sarah Andelman (Creative Director of colette), and Craig Redman (Of Darcel Disappoints). Geared toward students (I mean, these pieces would truly make for the coolest dorm room ever), the pieces are super quirky and just make me happy. I'm not sure if I would purchase any of it (well, maybe the stationary), but I've been having a lot of fun window shopping it.

What are your thoughts? Too much? Just right? Do you have a favorite IKEA collection or item?


Monday, July 15, 2019

Peanut Butter Chex Trail Mix

This post is sponsored by General Mills. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

One thing I've learned as a parent, especially over the last couple of years as my babes get older and we're constantly running from one activity to the next, is that having snacks on hand that can be taken on the go are crucial. I mean, crucial. While there are plenty of individually packaged snacks made for that purpose, I've found that unique snacks we can make and enjoy together at home tend to be more appreciated (by all of us).

Since I was a child, I have had an profound affinity for Chex Mix. I remember my aunt making it for holiday parties and racing to the food table as soon as I walked through her door to get my fill. My kids, husband, and I also love making our own trail mix. So when I first spotted NEW Peanut Butter Chex at Walmart (did I mention we're all big peanut butter fans as well?), I knew we had to put together a special trail mix with this as the star of the show. My daughter and I experimented with a few different combinations, and finally came up with one that is so incredibly delicious I just had to share it with you guys.

Peanut Butter Chex Trail Mix

4 cups Peanut Butter Chex cereal
3 cups pretzel twists
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup raisins
1 cup dry roasted or cocktail peanuts
1/2 cup pepitas
1/2 cup sesame sticks

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Mix well, and store in an airtight container. You can't get easier than that!

The key to this recipe is, of course, the Peanut Butter Chex. The subtle sweetness pairs perfectly with the chocolate chips and raisins, and the rich flavor of the peanut butter (it's made with real peanut butter, and you can tell) takes the mix to the next level. Combined with pretzels and peanuts, the Peanut Butter Chex provides the perfect crunch. The pepitas and sesame sticks are optional, but I really think they give the mix an added layer of flavor. The combination of ingredients is truly mouth watering! I also really appreciate that Peanut Butter Chex cereal contains no high fructose corn syrup, no colors from artificial sources, no preservatives and no artificial flavors. (It's gluten free too!)

The kids loves eating this, but they also love that they can make this special trail mix by themselves. It's so easy and there's no cooking involved, which is a big bonus. I measure the ingredients for them and they combine them in a big bowl. Then we put the mix in a container and enjoy it for a week, taking it with us everywhere from t-ball games to dance class to picnics at the park. It's truly the perfect summertime treat!

If you love peanut butter, Chex Mix, trail mix, or just a truly great snack, you'll also love these recipes: Peanut Butter Chex Party Mix and Double Peanut Butter Muddy Buddies. (We love the Muddy Buddies for dessert!)

Head over to your local Walmart or click here and stock up on some Peanut Butter Chex right now. (It's pretty great for breakfast too.) And if you make our trail mix recipe or either of the others I recommended, I'd love to hear what you think!