Fall on the Farm

Happy October! It’s officially Fall. And in Deep South Texas – in our little corner of the world – it’s finally cooling off to a nice 85 degree average. This is a nice Fall teaser for anyone who lives in the Rio Grande Valley. If you’re not from around here, 85 degrees probably sounds like a nice Summer day. But we play along with everyone else and pull out our pumpkins and faux maple leaves in hopes that we’ll see the temps dip into the 70’s before Thanksgiving. And if it does – you know we’ll crank up our fire places, pull out the sweaters, and start a pot of chili. Because it’s the right thing to do and it’s Fall time at it’s best ’round these parts. And I love it! Where Fall time never fails around here though is on the farm. Fall time on our farm is serene and for the most part tranquil. Harvest time is over. We don’t have any crops in the ground. And our focus is working the fields in preparation for the next crop. Of course there is always work to be done in the barn, equipment to be maintained and office work to be done. But, the heart of the farm is in the field and what happens in the field sets the tone for the farm.

When it comes to agriculture, the Rio Grande Valley is very diverse. There are some irrigated farms in the area that are planting corn, sugar cane, cabbage and other produce. But our farm is a dry land farm, which means we don’t irrigate for water – we rely on rain. So we don’t have a Fall crop on our farm. And if there’s one important thing to know about farming, it’s this – timing is everything. So this is the time of year that farmers work the land meticulously and prepare it to make the most of every rain in the next few months. Making the most of every rain drop is vital to a prosperous crop – especially in the dry land.

A few short years ago I never would’ve imagined that so much thought and process went into “moving” dirt around. I just figured a little rain got the dirt wet. You thank God for the rain. Then you wait around for more rain. But it’s not that innocent. Maneuvers and methods are practiced systematically to make the most of what you get. And it’s not like putting buckets out to collect rain water…well it is – in a conservation sense of things. But in a more practical approach, those maneuvers and methods include cultivating the land and setting rows. It’s a simple process of taking care of the land.

IMG_3677.JPG

This is what one of our fields looks like after harvest. As you can see…it’s flat. The weeds have grown up. And weeds actually “steal” moisture from us. Not cool. So this is where we start working the land – across the whole farm.

IMG_3680.JPG

Our tractor is cultivating across the field to turn the dirt and destroy the weeds.

IMG_3681.JPG

It leaves a pretty path of freshly turned dirt in it’s path ready to be rowed up and ready to collect rain (moisture).

IMG_3668.JPG

After the land is cultivated, a tractor (or two) comes through the field to lay up rows. This essentially prepares the seed bed for planting.

As a small kid, I used to “lay up rows” with my fingers in the dirt. You know, drawing “lines” across the dirt. It’s pretty much the same concept in farming – but much more intense. Obviously. No fingers in the dirt here. In fact there’s a whole thought process that goes into the rows. It’s not just a bunch of lines across fields. For example, these rows are exactly 36 inches wide. We set them at a certain width for plant growth and equipment accommodations. It’s fascinating how precise it is.

 

IMG_3651.JPG

This is the implement that makes the rows in our fields. We call it a bedder bar. This preparation process of cultivating and laying up rows will take weeks to complete to get the whole farm done. But once it’s done, it’s done. And then we’ll sit back and pray for rain and let the ground do it’s thing to absorb all the moisture it can and “save” it for the growing season. It’s like a savings account for moisture. And this process grooms the dirt for being a good saver…to put it in layman’s terms.

img_3657

And because it’s Saturday on the farm – we’re having a little family fun in the field today. It’s how we roll, man.

IMG_3684.JPG

And after one field is finished we’ll parade on over to the next field to continue our Fall time work on the farm. This is what traffic is like on our street. And my very technical job on the farm is to pick up this hunky farmer from the side of the road. It’s a rough job.

IMG_3654.JPG

I hope you enjoyed a look at some of our “behind-the-scenes” work on The Farm. Planting time and harvest time are big times on the farm that usually get all the attention and glory. But this is another work day on the farm that goes into growing a successful crop.

Cheers to a great weekend of fun, family and farming in the Fall.

XO – Laura

 

 

 

 

DIY Disney Shirts

In a couple of short weeks we will be Disney bound! And I’m just going to say it…I think I’m more excited about it than my 3 year old. I haven’t been to Disney World since I was a kid. I know it’s a magical place for kids – and even for adults. I know a lot of adults choose Disney World as their honeymoon destination or as their romanic annual trip. And I’ve always wondered “why in heck would you go to Disney World without kids?” Well…I don’t know if it’s because I have a kid now or because I have done some extensive research on Disney…but I’m here to tell you that going to Disney without a kid is probably a pretty genius idea. I don’t know that I would actually ever go to Disney World child-less, but I am certainly looking forward to taking a Disney trip in a decade or so when we are totally stroller and nap free so I we can roam the magical wonders of Disney from sunrise to sunset and then some. I may be getting carried away – I’m obviously still in the planning phase of our Disney extravaganza. In a couple weeks, I may never want to hear the word Disney again. Kidding. I hope!

All magic aside – I’m actually really looking forward to our little Disney outing, because it will in fact by definition, ONLY be an outing. You see, we’ll be at Disney World for a mere 48 hours. We’ll be flying through Florida for our annual family beach trip and I moved mountains and oceans to make this little Disney detour possible. Our little guy is only three years old and really…he’s too young (in our opinion) to do a full fledged Disney trip.  So this will be a good chance for us to all get our feet wet and we can look forward to doing the full-meal-Disney-deal in a couple more years.

Once I got all the travel logistics plugged in, I dove in to planning our 48 hours of magic. And in this day and age, planning a Disney trip is pretty magical all on it’s own. The MyDisneyExperience app is amazing and addicting all in itself. Dining reservations, Fast Pass reservations, your travel itinerary, park maps, park events, etc…It’s all right there in the app and so easy to use. Disney did good. I’ll dish more on our Disney detour after we actually take the trip – and I’ll be sure to include any tips and surprises we find along our way.

Well in all my Disney planning (for our full 48 hours at the park) I could not neglect our wardrobe. So of course I jumped on Disney shirts. Because what kind of mother would I be if I didn’t have my family dressed in matching Disney shirts (gasssp!)? Actually I’d be a normal mother, but thanks to Pinterest and the unending creativity, the bar gets set pretty darn high. The idea of a DIY Disney shirt got my attention and for some reason I decided to make it my goal in life to make these shirts happen. They actually weren’t as difficult as I expected them to be. The most difficult part of the project was finding the actual shirts that were the quality, fit, color and size I needed for the three of us.

I used the “freezer paper method” to do Disney character silhouettes on our shirts. You can use this same method for ANY image you want to paint on your shirt. It doesn’t have to be a Disney character. Freezer paper is great for crafts – you can easily trace on it, cut it out, and it irons to fabric beautifully and then peels right off. Just follow these steps and you’ll have your customized shirt in no time.

Just a quick tip before you dive in: I used standard print paper at home to print Mickey because he was going on my child’s shirt. For the adult shirts, I enlarged the images a bit more and had my local print shop print them on larger legal size paper so the silhouette was more to scale with the size of shirt. See the print outs below: 

Materials You’ll Need:

img_3631

  • Shirt(s)
  • Desired Image (Google “pumpkin carving mickey” for a good silhouette option)
  • Freezer Paper (can be found at your grocery store – near the foil paper)
  • Scissors
  • Sharpie
  • Fabric Paint (any color you choose)

And because this is very much a DIY project and I am learning as I go… You’ll also want need these items:

  • Sponge Brush
  • Xacto Knife
  • Large Cutting Board (or another hard surface)
  • Tape
  • Piece of Cardboard (to fit inside the shirt)
  • Iron

img_3637

Directions:

First thing to do is cut a piece of freezer paper off the roll. Start tracing your image on the freezer paper using the Sharpie – you want the waxy side of the freezer paper face DOWN. You want to trace on the matte side of the freezer paper. The waxy side of the paper will get ironed to the shirt.

img_3632

Each of us picked our own Disney character.

After tracing the image on the freezer paper – fill in the blacked out areas of the image with your Sharpie (see below). Everything on the image that is black will be cut out and it will be filled in with paint. It took me a while to grasp the concept of this method. So if you’re not quite sure if you’re doing it right – just keep going. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.

IMG_3635.JPG

Now, use the Xacto knife to cut out the image. This is a good time to whip out the large cutting board, if you haven’t already. It’s a good flat surface to work and cut on. You also want to cut the blacked out areas of the image. An Xacto knife really works wonders here – I don’t know if you could really use anything else to pull this job off.

IMG_3638.JPG

Once it’s all cut out, pull out the shirt. Center your homemade stencil on the shirt just how you’d like it to appear. This is a good time to visualize what it will be painted on like. If you need to trim any areas, this is the time to do it. (If you see my stencil below, you’ll see that I  gypped Mickey out of his eyebrows. That’s a good example of cutting enough of the stencil to let the paint come through. In this case, definitely trim to adjust or plan to go back and fill in later with extra paint.)

Once it’s cut out just right, you may want to tape a few edges down to ensure that it doesn’t move. Now, carefully iron the freezer paper on to the shirt. The waxy side of the freezer paper will stick to the shirt making it 10 times easier to paint on. And then the paper will peel right off. It’s like magic paper.

And BEFORE you start painting…you’ll want to stick a piece of cardboard or an old book or a piece of canvas or any thing that will fit inside the shirt to prevent the paint from leaking through to the back side of the shirt.

IMG_3639.JPG

Now close your eyes (kidding!) and start painting. I think I actually did close my eyes. Or held my breath. Or winced in pain from the pressure. Point is – I was nervous at this point. It was a moment of truth. Would I or wouldn’t I ruin this shirt?

IMG_3640.JPG

Fill in every nook and cranny of the stencil with paint – especially the edges. Once it looks pretty well covered, let it rest and dry for a couple hours.

img_3641

After a couple hours (and the paint has dried), carefully peel off the freezer paper. Get all the pieces of paper peeled off. If all went well, you should be left with the exact image you printed out now gleaming beautifully on your t-shirt.

If you notice a few spots or lines that aren’t as dark or filled in as you’d like, don’t stress it. Just get an ultra-teeny-tiny-fine paint brush, dip it in a little bit of your fabric paint and very carefully darken the lines or fill in any gaps that didn’t quite come through.

IMG_3642.JPG

And there you have it! After the first one is done, it really goes much faster and it’s easier to cut out the stencil since you know exactly what you’re doing. The more detailed the image is, the more difficult it will obviously be to trace and cut. The hubby decided he wanted to be Goofy and I’ll be honest, Goofy was by far the most difficult to cut out. I did the best I could but, I definitely had to go back with a tiny brush and fill in some lines. Just like Mickey’s eyebrows – I felt bad for the poor guy, so I added a little paint to his brow line. Much better!

IMG_3687.JPG

We are officially Disney ready!!

 

 

 

 

 

The Wedge Salad

A wedge salad is my absolute favorite decadent salad. It’s not healthy – at all. I mean there are a few tomatoes – and it is lettuce. But that’s about as healthy as this baby gets. Our wedding anniversary fell on a Tuesday this year – and Tuesdays are just tough to get gussied up for a date night, so we decided to wait for the weekend for that special dinner out. But we still wanted a good homemade dinner at home. Well special occasions call for a special salad. And if the hubs could choose his ultimate favorite dinner – it would be a classic steakhouse dinner. A wedge salad is a steakhouse staple so it’s showing up on our table for dinner tonight.

This recipe makes 4 big wedge salads or 8 smaller salads.

Ingredients: 

IMG_3323.JPG

  • 1/2 cup Mayonnaise
  • 1 cup Sour Cream Light
  • 3 tbsp. Buttermilk
  • 1/2 tsp. Worcestershire Sauce
  • 3 tsp. Red Wine Vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Fresh Ground Black Pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. Garlic Salt
  • 3 Chives (or green onion will work if you can’t find any chives – like me)
  • 4 oz. Blue Cheese (separated)
  • 1 Head Iceberg Lettuce
  • 4-6 slices of bacon
  • Tomatoes

Directions:

Add the first eight ingredients (mayo, sour cream, buttermilk, worcestershire, red wine vinegar, black pepper, garlic salt, chives) to a medium bowl and stir well to combine.

IMG_3336.JPG

This is the reason I usually try to stay away from creamy dressings. But you know it’s going to be so good.

IMG_3340.JPG

Throw in the sliced chives (or green onion) and stir those in. I like to reserve a few for garnish later.

Crumble up the blue cheese (Doesn’t it look heavenly) and combine about half of it into the dressing. Save the rest for topping on your salad.

IMG_3338.JPG

Cover the dressing in plastic wrap and stick it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to let the flavors mingle.

Next fry up your bacon.

IMG_3329.JPG

Get it cooked nice and crispy. Let it drain on some paper towels. Chop it up and save it for topping on your salad.

Now work the wedge.

IMG_3342.JPG

There really is no rhythm or rhyme to cutting a head of iceberg lettuce into wedges. But first and foremost – peel back some of the limp outer leaves of the lettuce head then cut off the end.

Then halve it. Then quarter it.

You can halve the quarters if you need to make eight wedges. Or stick to four big wedges.

Arrange your wedges and tomatoes on a plate. Spoon dressing all over the wedges. Then top with bacon, sprinkle some extra blue cheese and chives (or green onion).

IMG_3344.JPG

Serve it up and enjoy! It’s decadent and delicious. And it’s easy!! And it goes fabulous with that special steak dinner at home.

XO – Laura

*dressing recipe courtesy of foodiecrush / *featured photo courtesy of mymothersdaughter.net 

 

 

 

 

 

My Favorite Breakfast Smoothie

A smoothie for breakfast. Unless you’re a strict bacon & eggs kinda guy or gal – a breakfast smoothie can pretty much hit the spot for anyone. It’s light, it’s fresh, it’s easy and it’s great on the go. Now I’ll be honest, I go through phases on my smoothie kicks. Sometimes the thought of pulling out the blender and getting it dirty…and washing it…..and putting it away is just too much to bear (ohhh the pain!). And then sometimes I’ll snap out of it and get it together and just make myself a smoothie for breakfast. And it’ll be the best thing ever. And then I’ll make it for 16 days in a row….and then I’ll be over it. For at least a few weeks anyway (I’m a creature of habit).

Usually when I think of a smoothie the first thing that comes to mind is…..FRUIT. A fruit smoothie right? It just sounds like the right thing to do. Well I’ve always made fruit smoothies. Berries and banana! That’s always been my favorite. It’s my kid’s favorite. I think it’s the most common thing you could blend into a smoothie. I could say it’s borrrrring, but it’s always gooooood!

In the last couple years, we had a local juice bar (Juiceology) open up in our little town of Harlingen, Texas. It was exciting to get some healthy juice and smoothie options around these parts. I got adventurous and stepped out of my comfort zone (since I didn’t have to clean the blender, ya know?) and I tried all kinds of different combinations. My absolute favorite smoothie (they call it The Hulk) is made with spinach and kale. I love it so much I had to figure out how to make it on my own because I can’t drive into town every morning to get one….and nobody delivers to my house (not even Dominoes, man). So kale and spinach – I love spinach. I’m not a huge fan of kale (I know it’s the hot new trendy leafy green out there), but I can’t even tell that there is a shred of kale in this smoothie. And I just love the IDEA that I’m eating a big salad for breakfast. Or that’s how I like to think of it anyway. I really don’t know how “healthy” this smoothie really is – I’m not a registered dietician or nutritionist – but it’s definitely a better choice than donut holes (which I also love by the way).

I like to add vanilla protein powder to this smoothie. So I guess that would make it a protein shake. But the protein is completely optional. It adds to the smoothie and makes it more filling. It definitely gets me through the morning. Whether you make a smoothie or a protein shake – it’s a great way to start the day!

Ingredients: 

IMG_3565.JPG

  • 1 c. Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk
  • Kale (a handful)
  • Spinach (a handful)
  • 1 tbsp. Maple Almond Butter
  • 1 scoop Vanilla Protein (optional)
  • 1/2 Banana
  • 1-2 c. Ice

Directions:

Pour the Almond Milk in the blender. And add the greens. Just about a handful of each (spinach and kale).

IMG_3566.jpg

With your greens ready to go – flip the switch and blend it all together (don’t forget the lid!)

IMG_3567.jpg

It should look like this. Don’t scrunch your nose and wonder why on God’s green earth you’re trying this (if you’re not a spinach and kale fan). Just keep going…..It’s magic in the works. And now you’re ready for the rest of your ingredients.

IMG_3569.JPG

In goes the Almond Butter….

IMG_3571.JPG

And the protein powder (only if you choose to add the protein!)

IMG_3572.JPG

Don’t forget the banana and ice! (A little banana goes a long way…and it makes all smoothies taste good). 

IMG_3576.JPG

Flip the switch and let the blender do it’s thing. Let it run for a while then check the texture. If you prefer it a little more chunky/icy – add a few more cubes of ice and give it another whirl.

IMG_3578.JPG

And voila! Your shake/smoothie is ready to go.

IMG_3582.JPG

I hope you love this smoothie / protein shake. The hubs even loves it!

If you decide you love it, here are a few tips for your smoothie supplies. I love to wash my kale as soon as I get home from the grocery store. I dry it and store in an airtight container in the fridge. Same with the spinach. And anytime I use half a banana – I wrap the other half in plastic wrap and freeze the other half. These little tricks help smoothie building run a little easier in the morning. And if you’re in a real time crunch in the mornings, you can always go by Juiceology (if you’re in Harlingen) and order the real deal. Or go by your own local juice bar and make a special order!

Enjoy!

Laura

 

 

 

Friday Favorites – 2nd Edition

Friday is here! Didn’t this Friday seem to come around a lot quicker than others (thanks Labor Day)? I love a four day week. Thanks to a little rain in deep South Texas, we got to shut the farm down on Monday – so it was truly a four day week around here. However, the same cannot be said for this weekend. The sun has been shining all week and things have dried up nicely around here – so it’s time to get back in the field and start some land prep on the farm. We live and work around the weather. It’s life on the farm. And I love it.

I’m excited to share a few more of my Friday Favorites this week. For this round of Friday Favorites – I walked into my closet and kitchen and plucked out a few things I use every day (or at least weekly). So all these things really and truly are some of my favorites. Check them out and let me know if you love them too!

1. Stella & Dot Engravable Bar Necklace

img_3508

I love this necklace because it’s simple and cute. I had my necklace engraved with our wedding anniversary. But you can engrave it with any date, any name, or any initials you choose. They even offer different charm shapes to choose from. I’m not a “big jewelry” person – I just can’t pull it off. So this is the perfect little thing for me. Sometimes I’ll get wild and crazy and layer it with a longer chain necklace. But usually I throw this necklace on as an every day piece and love the simple look of it. I snagged this piece up at a friend’s Stella & Dot Jewelry Party. If you have a gal pal that is a Stella & Dot stylist, she can get it ordered for you. Or you can visit the Stella & Dot website and shop the necklace here: https://www.stelladot.com/shop/en_us/p/jewelry/charms-engraving/engravables/signature-engravable-bar-necklace-gold

2. Mizuno Wave Inspire Running Shoes

img_3510

I’ve been running in Mizuno Wave Inspire shoes for about 5 years. I love them. My feet and these shoes are soul mates. They just work well together. I don’t even shop around for running shoes anymore (I’m committed), I just run down to my local running store and order the same shoe in the new model. This is the Wave Inspire 12 by Mizuno. These shoes are pretty new with only a small of chunk of miles on them – that’s why they’re still so shiny and clean. I love brand new running shoes. It’s like running on clouds. I know that shoes (especially running shoes) are very personal choices and a different shoe works for different people, but if you’re on the hunt for a new running shoe – or just a new walking shoe – you might want to check these out.

I get my Mizunos from our local running store, Footworks. If you’re in the Rio Grande Valley, Footworks can analyze your foot and stride and get you in a pair of these. Or you can check them out online here: https://www.amazon.com/Mizuno-Womens-Wave-Inspire-Running/dp/B011QSWF8E

3. Kashi Cookies

img_3513

I didn’t accidentally place the cookies right after the running shoes spiel. I run to eat. I run to eat cookies. cake. donuts. and cookies. Homemade cookies will always be my first choice, but that’s not always an option. So it’s nice to have something readily available in the pantry. And these cookies are my absolute favorite boxed cookie. The best thing you can do with this cookie is get a cup of coffee or a cup of hot tea and whip one of these cookies out and put it in the microwave for 15 seconds. It’s perfect. This is something I do frequently around the 2 o’clock hour. My favorite thing about these cookies is that they’re hearty, so 1 cookie really does the trick. The oats in the cookie give it a grainy texture – so they’re like…healthy, ya know? And the chocolate chips, well those just sweeten the deal. Try them!! And don’t forget to warm them.

You can grab a box of these babies at your local grocery store, Walmart or Target for $3-$4 a box. Or check them out here: https://www.walmart.com/ip/Kashi-Dark-Chocolate-Oatmeal-Cookies-8.5-oz/10319639

4. Fiesta Dishes

img_3495

I started collecting Fiesta when we got married. I love the simple design. I love all the colors. I love that Fiesta is still American made. And I love the history of Fiesta. It’s been around since 1936 and it is the most collected dinnerware in the history of the tabletop industry. Fiesta introduces a new color every year. And the retired colors that are truly retired can’t be ordered – they can only be collected by antique dealers and Fiesta collectors. So Fiesta is fun to collect. It’s fun to shop for. And it’s just fun to eat off these pretty dishes. I have a handful of colors I like to collect. I love to hunt for serving platters, bowls and any other knick knack serving pieces to add to my collection. Sure, I could go to Dillards or Amazon to order some of these dishes (and sometimes I do), but it’s fun to keep your eyes peeled when you’re strolling the antique shops.

If you love Fiesta, check the current selections in your local department store or look online at: http://www.bedbathandbeyond.com/1/1/351145-fiesta-5-piece-place-setting-turquoise.html

Or next time you find yourself antiquing, keep an eye out for Fiesta!

5. GiGi New York – All In One Bag

img_3506

I love this clutch for going out (or when I don’t have to carry toy tractors) because it’s small enough to tuck under your arm – but it’s big enough for a wallet, a phone, a little touch up make up for the road, a pack of gum, and even a few other small things. It’s the perfect size when you’re on the go. There are lots of different colors to choose from. There are also a ton of different sizes and styles to choose from. And…you can personalize. Who wouldn’t want to put their initials on their handbag? And don’t you just love that tassel!

If you’re in the Rio Grande Valley, you can find GiGi New York bags at Cita’s Boutique in Harlingen and Brownsville. If you’re not in this part of the world, go online to check out the selections at: https://www.giginewyork.com/Clutches-s/1823.htm

Chopped Greek Salad

With Labor Day weekend behind us it seems that Summer is officially on the decline and Fall is descending upon us. But in my little corner of the world, we still have temps in the 95+ degrees spectrum of the forecast. I really really want to vibe the Fall season – but when I have pit stains at 9 AM with coffee in hand, it’s just not happening. That being said, I get to enjoy shorts, sandals and Summer salads a whole lot longer (like year-round) than the rest of this beautiful country. And though I’m really looking forward to “sweater weather”, I have really and truly enjoyed this Summer salad recipe that I discovered this year. I love to serve it with any BBQ meats we do (which also doesn’t slow down in our neck of the woods until….well we just don’t quit). This Chopped Greek Salad is fresh, light, and delicious. Everything you could possibly want in a Summer salad. It’s easy to put together, it’s healthy, and it’s a great make-ahead dish.

Ingredients:

IMG_3517

  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 4-5 roma tomatoes
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 (15 oz.) can Garbanzo beans
  • 3 tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • feta cheese

Directions:

Rinse all the fresh produce and chop tomatoes, onion, cucumber, and bell pepper.

IMG_3518

Place all the chopped produce in a large bowl. Then rinse and drain the beans.

IMG_3520

Add the beans to your bowl. And stare at the beauty of freshness you have created before you.

IMG_3521

Ok. Time to move on. On to the dressing! Mix the last 4 ingredients (red wine vinegar, olive oil, oregano, salt) together in a small bowl or Mason jar. (See my sad nails – they’re beyond ready for a manicure).

IMG_3525

Shake it. And drizzle it all over the salad.

IMG_3527

Next, crumble your feta cheese (as much as you want).

IMG_3528

And sprinkle it over your salad. Mix it up and make sure the dressing and cheese gets evenly distributed.

IMG_3529

Sprinkle just a bit more cheese on top of the salad (to make it purty). Cover it in plastic wrap and pop it in the refrigerator for at least an hour to chill and let the flavors mingle with each other. Before serving, toss it around just a bit – the dressing may settle at the bottom.

IMG_3531

Serve this beauty on the side with chicken, fish, pork or beef. It’s an easy crowd pleaser and it’s easy to make ahead for guests or pot lucks. Enjoy!!

XO,

Laura

 

*You could also add pepperoni, salami or olives to this salad if you wanted to build it up. 

*Recipe courtesy of gardengrazer.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Labor Day Love

You know when you ask a married couple, how long they’ve been together…a typical response is “married 12 years…but we’ve been together for 17” or “married 3 years…but together for 5″…or whatever the appropriate number of years are.  Some of us throw in that extra number of actual years together. It’s important, man. Gotta get credit for all of it. Especially if it’s a good number that tacks on some years of together-ness. Whether you throw it in to show how long you’ve been blisfully happy together – or how long you’ve been in the trenches of life, hand-in-hand, trying to be the best team you can be together, it’s always good to showcase how many years you’ve loved each other unconditionally and stuck it out through thick and thin (in addition to the married years). 

In our case, we’ve been married for 8 years (wait for it, wait for it)…but we’ve been together for 12 years. In fact, exactly 12 years ago today (Labor Day) me and the hubs went on our very first date. If you’ve read our Love Story on my homepage, then you know some of the details of our first date. Like the fact that our first date was a blind date, so it was kind of a big deal for us. Oh! You know I had an excuse lined up in case I opened the door and didn’t like what I saw (Kidding! Actually, I’m not). Fortunately, I didn’t have to pretend to be grounded…or sick. I forget which one I was planning to go with – if it was deemed necessary. The beautiful human standing in front of me at the front door on that first Labor Day date met my expectations and then some for a good looking date.

So our first Labor Day together was a magical one (well as magical as it can get at the local Chili’s and Cinemark theater). Since that momentous date, we have spent 11 more Labor Days together. I won’t claim that this Labor Day is as enchanted as our first Labor Day together. This year we are doing some grocery shopping. A little cardio. Garage cleaning. BBQ chicken for dinner. And pre-setting the coffee pot for tomorrow morning. It’s not magical or romantic – but it’s our real life. And we love it (except for the garage cleaning). But as normal and mundane as it may sound, there’s still a little extra lust in the air every year on Labor Day for us, because we I love to remember our first meeting and first date together and all the desire that lingered between us. Notice how I said “extra lust in the air” – because there is always so much lust in our household. I kid y’all. We try. Just like every other married couple – we work at it every day. But there’s no other human on this Earth I’d rather work at life and marriage with than the hubs. He’s a keeper. On Labor Day and every day.

I hope everyone has a Labor Day full of love (and relaxation).

Cheers,

Laura

 

 

 

 

Turks & Caicos

Turks and Caicos (TCI) is a special place for us. It was our first big vacation as a family. Our baby morphed into a toddler in Turks and Caicos. We celebrated his first birthday a week before we arrived in TCI and he really started walking while we were on the beautiful island of Providenciales (It was also where he had his first dose of junk food – – ohhh all the firsts!).

We visited Turks and Caicos in September 2014. We stayed on the island of Providenciales (Provo) in Grace Bay at Seven Stars Resort. The resort and Grace Bay Beach are both ahhhmazing. The views and accommodations are first class – it really made our transition to “family vacationers” as easy as possible. Anybody who travels with small children knows that the idea of “vacation” alters quite drastically because you don’t get to throw all your adult responsibilities off to the side for a week – you’re simply parenting in a different location. And to add to that – you don’t have all the comforts of home (high chair, toys, changing table, etc) to help you out. But, with a little planning and proper accommodations – it’s 100% worth it and it can still be a “vacation” for the whole family.

IMG_2852

Seven Stars Resort in Grace Bay – Providenciales, Turks and Caicos

We checked into our resort after a long day of travel (we left before sunrise and arrived after sunset…that’s a long day of travel). Upon arrival, the kiddo was already asleep, and the hubs and I were both floored at the accommodations presented to us. They were the nicest we’d ever stayed in – but we’ve always opted for low key accommodations for just the two of us. And do you want to know what my favorite amenity in our little 1 bedroom condo was? The washer and dryer. The washer and dryer, ya’ll. This was the ultimate sign that I successfully transitioned to a Mom. Forget the stretch marks. Forget the 10 pound purse. A washer and dryer now made my eyes sparkle with hope and happiness. And the washer and dryer were pretty darn handy…with a few loads of laundry throughout the week – I’m happy to report that we traveled back home with 95% clean clothes. The mere fact that I’m proud of this statement is proof that the definition of “vacation” changes when you make it a family trip. Oh! But the family time – exploring and enjoying full days together – completely uninterrupted – make it a perfect vacation all of its own (laundry included).

Now back to our first night on the Island. It was so dark once we arrived we couldn’t see a thing outside our balcony. So we got settled in and called it a night. We were excited to wake up to a new day and see what was in store for us.

IMG_2703

This is the view we woke up to on our first morning in Grace Bay. It’s absolutely stunning. Our first call of duty was to get to a grocery store to stock our little kitchen with some basic necessities. Fortunately, one of the nicest local grocery stores is just a 5 minute walk from the Seven Stars Resort. I was worried about the stock they would have – as far as baby supplies, so I packed everything we could possibly need x2. Well this grocery store showed me a thing or two. They had everything from our kiddos favorite food pouches, his shampoo, his special formula, etc. They even had children’s shopping carts! However – the prices were a little steep. Think $9 for a box of Cheerios. Almost everything is certainly available to you here – but I would still pack a few dry snacks to avoid the extremely high prices of every.thing.

We spent some of our days lounging at the pool and lounging at the beach. Grace Bay Beach is THE perfect toddler beach because it’s basically a lake with zero waves.

IMG_2686.JPG

We spent a day at the Beaches Resort on Grace Bay – just to check out the all inclusive amenities and the impressive property.

We really considered staying at the all inclusive Beaches Resort, but we just couldn’t bring ourselves to do it. As nice as it sounds, we just aren’t all inclusive kind of people (I can certainly appreciate it though). We prefer to leave the resort – explore and eat at local joints wherever we’re visiting. And when you do the math for an all inclusive stay – we just don’t eat and drink enough to justify the cost, in our opinion. But there are certainly times and places where an all inclusive stay would be ideal. Turks and Caicos wasn’t the time or place for us.

IMG_2712

The Beaches Resort was definitely fun for a day and a very nice family-friendly resort. But after the day was over – we were very happy to return to our quiet and more authentic resort at Seven Stars.

While in TCI, we spent a day on board The Atabeyra for a private sail. It was our best day on the island. We had a great crew and and such a fun time personally exploring the Turks and Caicos Islands on board the beautiful Atabeyra.

IMG_2789

IMG_2805

We went sailing, snorkeling, and island exploring. It was fun to chat with the local crew about the Island and they were just fun to spend the day with. It was also nice to be on the water and see the Island from a different perspective.

IMG_2809.JPG

Our kiddo and Atabeyra crew member, Junior.

The Seven Stars Resort offers a kids club for families staying at the resort. We felt a little selfish taking advantage of this amenity…but we did! One day. And it was so nice. We dropped the kiddo at The Shooting Stars Kids Camp at the resort for a whopping 3 hours one afternoon. We got to spend a little time paddle boarding TOGETHER (usually we’d have to take turns while the other parent hangs with the kid) and just sitting in silence on the beach without sand flying in our face. It was very refreshing for us to take a little time for ourselves. Of course, we ran back to the Kids Camp like we were on a rescue mission to pick up our little guy because it was THREE.HOURS. (and it felt like 3 days). But he got to play with new toys indoors (a good break from the sun) and take a nap. It was a win-win for everyone.

IMG_2740

Me and the hubs paddle boarding in Grace Bay

Just to wrap up our favorite family friendly activities in Turks & Caicos (because I’m a list and bullet point kind of girl):

  • Seven Stars Resort Pool & Beach: Seven Stars offers the best stretch of beach on Grace Bay and the only heated salt water pool on the Island. The amenities are first class and you could enjoy the day here without ever leaving (but don’t do that every day).
  • Day Pass to Beaches Resort: It’s definitely a fun day if you have kids. They have all the Sesame Street characters and a kiddie water park. They also have some nice shopping and it’s really interesting to just walk around the giant wonder that is Beaches. Day passes are available (includes access to all amenities and food & drink for the day).
  • The Atabeyra: The crew and the boat are amazing. It was our favorite day in TCI. If you’re on the Island – Check out Sun Charters for a private sailing trip, a public snorkeling trip or a happy hour sunset trip. Anything they offer will be first class and will not disappoint.
  • Grace Bay Family Pictures: It’s the most picturesque back drop in the Caribbean – you have to take advantage and have a family photo session done. Paradise Photography (Frank) did an amazing job getting some great shots of our little family and working with our baby turned toddler on the beach.

020 Sparks 01364

Now you know we traveled to Provo in September. We almost always travel in the Fall because that’s when our harvest is over and we can finally get away from the farm. The perks of traveling during the off-season include great rates and the perfect sized crowd for relaxing anywhere on the island. The disadvantage of traveling during the off season is that some of the restaurants shut down for the slow season – and this is pretty much a trend all over the Caribbean. So we missed out on some of the great restaurants that we would have loved to try. But, there were still so many that were available to us and we loved every meal we had. A few of our favorite restaurants include:

  • Seven: This restaurant surprised us. It is located at the Seven Stars Resort and we just sort of assumed that it was your typical so-so hotel restaurant. When we finally decided to give it a shot on one of our last nights in Provo, we were so impressed with the food, service and it was a beautiful restaurant. It was one of the only meals we had indoors – which is a nice option on some humid evenings.
  • Somewhere Cafe & Lounge: This was our favorite little locals spot. It’s right on the beach. The sunsets are spectacular, the beer is cold, and the food is simple and good.
  • The Deck at Seven Stars: We really enjoyed this casual dining spot at our resort. The views are amazing, the food is pretty and delicious. And it’s a fun casual little spot in the evenings with live music.
  • CoCo Bistro: This little gem is a perfect combination of local, cozy, first class and amazing. It’s located in the heart of Grace Bay and nestled in a large palm tree grove. It offers unique outdoor dining and the food is fantastic.

We rented a car in Provo to get around the island and I would definitely suggest it. The island is very easy to navigate – however they do drive on the opposite side of the road from what we’re accustomed to in the United States. The island itself is not the most beautiful island I’ve ever been to. It’s very flat, rocky and bare. It’s not a lush, green and mountainous island. But, the water, beach and accommodations certainly make up for that. And the resorts are all beautifully kept and beautifully landscaped.

IMG_2864

Walking back to our resort from the grocery store

Turks and Caicos is an amazing vacation destination. If you plan to visit the Island of Provo you will not be disappointed and you will not want to leave.

044 Sparks 01470

Happy Travels!

Laura

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Turkey & Sweet Potato Skillet

I love Mondays. Most people don’t. I think Monday is a great day to start fresh. It’s a new week and one of the best things about Monday – is that it’s a great day to start any diet or just buckle down on some clean eating after a weekend of indulging. This Turkey & Sweet Potato Skillet is one of my favorite weeknight meals because it’s healthy – it’s good – it’s hearty – it’s easy – and the leftovers are even better.

Now when I met the hubs exactly 12 years ago, he didn’t even know that ground turkey existed. And this man definitely loves beef. Well…I converted him and he has grown to really enjoy ground turkey – and this dish specifically (he still prefers beef – but for health reasons…he’s happy with turkey). My toddler eats a plate full of this stuff and that makes me a happy camper. It’s a staple dinner item in our house and I usually reserve it for busy evenings when I don’t feel like making a mess in the kitchen (skillet meals are the best – it’s one pan to wash!)

This recipe I’m giving you today is actually doubled (that’s how I usually make it). It makes enough for about 6-8 servings. But you can easily cut in half if needed.

Ingredients:

IMG_3386

  • 2 lbs. Extra Lean Ground Turkey
  • 2-3 Medium Sized Sweet Potatoes
  • 3 Bell Peppers (any color)
  • 3 Cloves Garlic
  • 1/4 c. Olive Oil (separated)
  • 1/2 c. Water
  • 3 tbsp. Chili Powder
  • 1 tbsp. Cumin
  • 1 tsp. Onion Powder
  • 1 1/2 c. Mozzarella Cheese (shredded)

Directions:

Start by washing and cutting up the produce. Peel the potatoes and chop them. Bell peppers should be cut about the same size as the potatoes – Bite size or so. Mince the garlic.

IMG_3399

Heat up a large skillet and drizzle in a little olive oil. Add your garlic and get it stirred around for a minute. Add the ground turkey and season it with a little salt and pepper.

IMG_3394

Brown the turkey till it’s almost done. Add the chopped bell peppers.

IMG_3395

Continue cooking and add all the seasonings. Stir everything in until all the seasonings are nicely distributed.

IMG_3396

Now add the sweet potatoes. And stir them in. And add 1/2 cup water.

IMG_3402

Cover the skillet leaving juuuust a crack open. Simmer for 25 minutes to let the potatoes cook through. Stir it occasionally.

IMG_3404

About 10 minutes into cooking the potatoes – lift the lid and add half of the mozzarella cheese. Stir it in. Cover again and let the potatoes continue to cook for another 15 minutes until they’re nice and tender.

IMG_3408

Once the potatoes are completely cooked (you should be able to put a fork through) – top the skillet with the remaining cheese and stick it back in the oven for another 5 minutes until the cheese is melted.

IMG_3411

After the cheese is melted, pull it out of the oven and sprinkle it with a handful of freshly chopped parsley.

IMG_3414

And just like that. Dinner is done!

IMG_3416

This is truly a one dish meal. But feel free to serve this with a green salad if you want some greens in your life (like in addition to the parsley). To keep my leftover lunches simple, I like to heat up a bag of frozen peas or broccoli as a little side veggie for this leftover lunch  (getting some veggies in makes me feel like a responsible adult).

Hope you enjoy it!

Xo – Laura

 

 

Friday Favorites

Don’t you love Fridays? It’s the end of the week – start of the weekend. It’s the perfect day to sit back relax and reflect and look forward to the weekend ahead – whether it’s full of fun activities or a blank slate (I love weekends with no schedule).  Friday nights are my favorite. It’s usually take out night in our house and we just chill man. Let the kid run around like a wild Indian after the long week, crack open a bottle of vino and get ready for an exciting night of ABC’s 20/20. Now if my 19 year little-old-self heard me chattering on like this 10 years ago I would have scoffed at this washed up 29 year old.  Because 10 years ago – Friday nights were for going out till 2 AM, live concerts, 11 pm dinners at Whataburger, midnight movie showings (Ahhh I’m already tired thinking of it). No thank you…I am perfectly content with my already extended Friday bed time of 11 PM and movie nights on my sofa…in yoga pants…with the hubs. Maybe I’ll get re-energized when when I’m 40.

To kick off this beautiful weekend, I’m going to share five of my absolute favorite things that I just can’t imagine my life without.

1. Costa Del Mar South Point Aviator Sunglasses

IMG_3377

My sweet husband got these for me for a birthday I think. And sunglasses are hard things to gift! They are very specific to people and their face shape. He hit it out of the ballpark with these because they are perfect for me and my long little face. They make the world a brighter place and I can’t imagine even getting in my car without these little babies on my head. I dread the day that I break or lose these. It will be a sad day. But if you’re in the market for some new snazzy aviators – these might be the pair for you.

Check them out here: 

https://www.costadelmar.com/shop/sunglasses/south-point/15074?gclid=CjwKEAjwrvq9BRD5gLyrufTqg0YSJACcuF81DgaZpyMo4nlEyNodDK3dRMf3BtUUDcnomvc1WN13AhoCIHXw_wcB/14350

2. Old Gringo Boots

IMG_3372

These boots are my absolute favorite pair of boots. They’re simple but still have a pop of color with that beautiful turquoise stitch pattern. They go with everything and look great on. With the 95+ degree heat we’ve had around here lately, I haven’t had much of an inkling to wear boots at all – but I’m ready to slip these beauties on soon. We’ve been missing each other. They are the most comfortable boot I own (probably because I wear them the most) but really – I love all my Old Gringo boots. I got this pair from our good friends who own a local western wear store in our town. If you’re in the Rio Grande Valley – Bullrider Western Wear in Harlingen can you hook you up with a pair of these beauties.

Or you can check them out online here: http://www.allensboots.com/boots/womens/l113-13-womens-old-gringo-diego-turquoise-l113-13.html

3. Monogram Mug

IMG_3370

Coffee tastes better in these mugs. It’s true. I always always have my first cup of coffee in this mug…before the hoopla of the day begins and I have to resort to travel coffee cups. A good friend of mine gifted me a couple of these for Christmas one year and I have since bought a few of my own to add to my collection. They are simple, pretty and make coffee fun to drink. I have actually considered packing one of these in my luggage when I leave town because I. love. ’em. that. much. They also make cute little gifts!

To check these out and order a couple for yourself go to: http://www.anthropologie.com/anthro/product/poshome-tabletop/78404.jsp#/

4. La Crema Pinot Noir

IMG_3362

I could start by rambling on some tasting notes such as “vibrant red cherry aromas that mingle with sweet spice and coffee bean tones” (and this is true if you’re into those details) but honestly – It’s just a good subtle red wine. It goes with everything from meat, fish, chicken….and pizza. I love trying new wines. But a pinot noir is my favorite. And La Crema never disappoints. It’s my favorite wine to gift and share with guests. It’s all around crowd pleaser. The hubs isn’t a big wine drinker – but this is actually a wine that even he can enjoy. So grab few girlfriends crack open a bottle of this fermented goodness and enjoy.

You can find a bottle of La Crema Pinot Noir at most grocery stores and liquor stores – usually anywhere between $14-$22 a bottle.

5. Boom Chicka Pop

IMG_3383

Are you catching on to my Olivia Pope drift here? Wine and popcorn…it’s a good combination. And speaking of Olivia – I am ready for Scandal and the whole TGIT train to resume. I love that show.

This is the only popcorn we eat at home. I love it – the hubs loves it – my kid loves it. Why bother buying anything else. ever. again. It’s good! It’s already popped. And it’s only 35 calories per cup. Now I might eat 8 cups in one sitting and that requires some hard math but the thought of 35 calories a cup is pretty darn nice. Want to know my deepest darkest secret? I’ve even snuck some of this deliciousness into the movie theater – for dietary reasons!!! So don’t judge. I still purchased a $7 bottle of water. Now I usually prefer the sea salt version. But my kiddo prefers the lightly sweet. There is even a kettle corn version – it’s the purple bag (but it’s a whopping 80 calories per cup – – gassssp! but it’s the best). They’re all good and worth trying.

I can only find Boom Chicka Pop at my local Target and Walmart. I think Costco stocks it as well. And there’s always that little website, Amazon.com, that we all know and love so much. 

Hope you enjoyed reading all about my favorite obsessions for the week. I really do have a ton more and plan to share them in small doses on Fridays a couple times a month.