Friday, March 31, 2017

The Friday Five!!

We are still on spring break, which is fabulous btw!, so I'm going to make this real quick. When we haven't been jumping waves or lounging in the pool, we've been ...

Cooking -- nothing!! We have been eating all kinds of wonderfully delicious food prepared by our great chef. Not only do I not have to cook, I really don't have to think about what to order -- he does it all and every single thing has been delicious. I'm going to have to figure out how to make Mofongo when we get home.

Wanting -- we are staying at a private villa this week, but have privileges at the Eden Roc Beach Club. They are building suites right along the amazing beach and I absolutely want one.

Reading -- I haven't done nearly as much reading on our trip as I wanted, but a friend brought We Should All Be Feminists and it was a great quick read for thought.

Playing -- we've been playing all kinds of games when the kids need down time out of the sun, but the boys have loved a card version of Oregon Trail the best.

Making -- there has been lots of arting during down time too and these super sparkly Bingo markers I read about on Art Bar have been a huge hit. The colors are great and it's just a different fun way to make art.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

5 DIY Plant Ideas for Spring

I spent a lot of the winter season looking forward to spring and the return of outdoor gardening, but there are significant benefits to planting indoors, too. Along with adding design details and a great punch of color, house plants also help clean and filter the air inside your home. Plants can actually filter out mold spores, bacteria, and a variety of toxins, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Don't have a green thumb? Don't worry. Many of the indoor plants that help improve indoor air quality are also of fairly hardy stock. We have some mother-in-law's tongue plants prominently displayed in our home year round, but I've also been keeping my eye on some fun DIY planters to add into rotation this spring. In particular, I've been looking for projects that the kids would enjoy too. Here are a few of my favorites.

Recycled Faux Marble Planters
It's no surprise by now that I have a serious love for all things marble. But I also love that there is a recycled component to these faux marble planters that makes this DIY project even more green. The fact that succulents are low maintenance is an added bonus.

Fun Toy Planters
 This is technically another recycled DIY project. Try using one of your kiddos' old toys to make a modern and fun planter. I particularly like the idea of spray painting the toy gold for a chic look. Cam would be all over that.

Kids' Hair Planters
These silly hair planters double as science lessons for your kids. The grass will grow quickly, but you could also try planting a crazy succulent to give your kiddo's photo a fun looking hat.

Air Plants
There are so many different DIY projects out there for air plants. Check out this roundup that has a good range of easy to more complicated projects. You can't beat a plant that doesn't need to be watered! In addition, I think some of the hanging versions would be great clutter-free ways to add color to a child's room. Because, let's face it, probably the last thing they need is another tchotchke on their dressers.

Indoor Herb Garden
An herb garden is one of the first outdoor projects we get going in the spring. We have a sunny spot in our side yard, and we use big planters to grow my favorites for cooking. If you don't have the outdoor space or if you simply want a smaller version handy in your kitchen, think about planting a series of pots or organizing them on a tray. I like this DIY project that also offers extra space to store kitchen necessities.

Honestly, there are so many cute options, it's hard to pick a place to start. You can't go wrong with any of these low-maintenance DIY projects that serve double duty to keep your indoor air clean and give you a healthy boost for spring.

Disclosure: This post is brought to you by Bounds Heating & Air. Thanks for helping to support the sponsors who support us!

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Friday Five!!

We are gearing up for our spring break, so I'm keeping this week's Friday Five short and sweet. Between last minute shopping and packing, we've been ....

Cooking -- this is one of our family's favorite tastiest stews.

Reading -- the kids put a new book series on our Spring Bucket List, so we started this one this week.

Playing -- the kids are obsessed with my Words with Friends, so I've transitioned them to old school Scrabble.

Wanting -- I need some new spring booties and I'm kind of loving this blush pair.

Making -- we picked up this great sticker activity book at the Cooper Hewitt museum in New York and Cam has been working on it nonstop.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

5 Tips to Keep Spring Chores Green

Spring is finally here! That means my spring cleaning is in full force, but so is my effort to get the kiddos to help with chores. They have always had some sort of chore list, but as they get older, I feel like it's time to kick it up a notch. They are more capable of cleaning up after themselves.

But as I handed Cam a bottle of wipes to clean up her sink last week, I gave a second thought to what she was using to get the job done. I didn't really want her cute little six-year-old hands scrubbing chemicals everywhere. So I did a little research on how we can keep all of our spring chores a little greener this season.

Purchase Green Products
To start, trade out those chemical-laden products for a few green ones. You'll be keeping toxic chemicals away from you and your kids and out of the environment, too. There is a wide range of products available, but check out some of these tried and tested eco options. Also look for refillable products to help decrease the amount of plastic you're using.

Try a DIY Product
Still not happy with the green products commercially available? People swear by making their own. Trying a DIY product ensures you know exactly what you're using and helps the piggy bank too. How much time you need to make each product will vary, but start with these 25 recipes and see what is worth the effort.

Clean Indoor Air Naturally   

I love nothing more than opening every window in the house as soon as spring arrives! Letting all that fresh air in does everyone's mood so much good, and it helps sweep dust out as well. Stay away from chemical cleaners and air fresheners, though. If spring allergies prevent you from throwing the windows open, make sure you replace the HVAC filter before kicking the air on. It's always smart to service your system in advance, too.

Monday, March 20, 2017

2017 Spring Bucket List: 50+ Ideas to Put a Spring in Your Step!

Happy Spring Equinox!!! Despite the fact that we finally had some snow dumped on D.C. last week, the sun is out, the birds are chirping, and I'm going with spring. Which means .... new bucket list! We've been brainstorming up ideas for our annual seasonal list and I'm pretty excited to get started on this one. There are some old standbys, but the kids also came up with some pretty specific fun ideas for spring too. Have at it!

p.s. we knocked 30 items off of our Winter Bucket List -- not too shabby!

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Friday Five!!

I feel like I blinked and it's Friday again! We avoided a major snowstorm this week, but have had ridiculously freezing weather. I normally love getting out and about in the winter, but given that I was running in a tank top last week, I just couldn't bring myself to haul my winter gear back out again. So I feel like we've spent a lot of time indoors the last few days. No problem. We found a lot to do ....

Cooking -- we went to the Dead Rabbit last weekend for an Irish fix and the kids tried corned beef for the first time. They loved it so much that I made one of my fave easy recipes this week.

Reading -- we picked up Who Built That? Modern Houses: An Introduction to Modern Houses and Their Architects in New York this past weekend and we are all loving reading it together! I have an irrational dislike of Nicole Kidman, so I don't plan on watching the new show Big Little Lies. So, instead, I'm listening to the audiobook in the car. 

Playing -- the kids were obsessed with Monopoly Deal on our train trip. It's almost more cutthroat than the regular Monopoly!

Wanting -- I need some new slip ons for spring and have my eye on these gold Vans.

Making -- Cam's continued sewing everything in sight and has made several things from this cute accessories book this week.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Statue of Liberty + Ellis Island

We just spent a great long, albeit insanely freeing, weekend in NYC. In fact, it was so freaking cold that I hardly took any pictures -- my hands needed to stay bundled up! Nevertheless, I thought I'd share a few highlights of our trip. It had been a while since we'd taken the kids and a bunch of things just fell in place for a quick jaunt. So we took the kids up last Friday on the train, which was a first for them. It's so much easier than flying or driving (plus, we tested out a bunch of new travel games and activities, so keep your eyes peeled for an update post on those in advance of spring break!).

Friday, March 10, 2017

The Friday Five!!

We are headed out of town for a long weekend. Unfortunately we are headed into snow and cold weather, BUT, I'm still excited to get a little bit of a break for everyone. Before we packed up, here's what we were up to ....

Reading -- Kane has been reading Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back So You Want to Be a Jedi? and LOVES it. It seems like a great retelling and he gets a kick out of the jedi lessons, including some guided meditation techniques. And I just started Never Let Me Go.

Making -- Cam requested playdough this week, which we haven't done in forever. I whipped up a batch of her fave marbled glitter variety and she went to town.

Cooking -- did you catch our 30 Days of Dinner from this week? I still think the Fennel-Crusted Pork Chops with Potatoes and Shallots will be a monthly fave.

Wanting -- I've been painting my own nails for a while now, but I love to get one good mani every season. I kind of love this bright embellished cuticle mani.

Playing -- we've been playing a lot of games this week, but Just Desserts is one of our favorites. Maybe it's just because I can't have sugar.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

5 Tips for Spring Cleaning Prep

This winter hasn't been particularly harsh, but for some reason I've had the itch to kick off spring cleaning for a while now. Maybe it's just because our kids seem to have amassed a ridiculous amount of stuff this winter or because we've all had a never-ending cold, but I'm ready to whip our house into shape. In years past, I've let the cleaning impulse simmer only to lose my mind finally and start upending closets willy-nilly. Since then, I've become much better about preparing for spring cleaning, and I have a few tips to share.

Plan in Stages
I break down any real cleaning effort into three stages: purge, organize, and clean. Going through these sequentially seems like a lot of work, but I find that it really saves time in the end. There is no sense cleaning toys you end up giving away. I like to start on a level of our home and go through one stage at a time for all the rooms on a floor. 

Involve the Entire Family

I always loop our kids into a cleaning effort. It helps teach them to be responsible, to take care of their things, and to appreciate the daily efforts of maintaining a household. If they balk, I let them know that they can help make the purging decisions or that I can ruthlessly do it for them. Think of some ways to make it fun for them, too. Whip up a silly product like cleaning slime or turn making labels for their stuff into an art project.

Take Stock of Supplies
Go through your cleaning and organizing supplies and make a list of what you have and what you need. Planning ahead ensures that you have whatever you need to get the job done once you get started. I also find that buying supplies in bulk makes the effort more cost-effective.

Outsource Maintenance
There are several home maintenance items that you'll likely need to outsource to the pros. Plan ahead for things like sprinkler system, pool, and air conditioner maintenance. Service providers book up quickly, and you don't want to wait until you really need these systems.

Make a Schedule
It's easy to let all of this slide, so I like to make a schedule to hold myself accountable. It doesn't need to be a Martha Stewart-worthy calendar, although Martha has a great checklist that I use as a starting point. Making a simple list with dates for each stage is enough. I always like to give everyone a reward for crossing items off the schedule. Let the kids pick a small prize for doing a good job organizing their rooms. You don't want to go overboard, since a big part is of spring cleaning getting rid of excess things. A little incentive never hurts, though!

This might seem like a lot, but with a little bit of planning, I find these to be effective tips that get me started on spring cleaning. Now I just have to tell the kids.

Disclosure: This post is brought to you by Merritt Heating & Air Conditioning. Thanks for helping to support the sponsors who support us!

Fennel-Crusted Pork Chops with Potatoes and Shallots + 30 Days of Dinner!!

Woohoo!! We just wrapped up our Whole60 a little over a week ago and it turned out to be a fabulous way to start the new year. We have completely reset the way that we eat. So that even though we've re-introduced some things (a bit of dairy (cheese!!), alcohol, and the occasional sweet), we still continue to eat super close to a Whole30 diet with no problem at all. I plan to loosen up a bit on a few upcoming trips, but I hope we can really stick with it long term.

This last month was pretty busy, so I have lots of basic meals in our dinners below. But the pork chops recipe definitely stuck out -- it's super easy and just a nice change from red meat and chicken. It's a perfect weeknight meal!

Fennel-Crusted Pork Chops with Potatoes and Shallots 
(slightly adapted from Bon Apetit

- 1 1/2 tbsp fennel seeds
- 2 garlic cloves, finely grated
- 1 tsp hot smoked Spanish paprika
- 3 tbsp olive oil, divided
- 2, 1-inch-thick bone-in pork loin chops (about 1 1/4 lbs total)
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 lb small Yukon Gold potatoes, quartered
- 2 large shallots, cut into quarters with some root attached
- 1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
- 2 tsp red wine vinegar

1. Preheat oven to 450 F. Toast fennel seeds in a small dry skillet over medium heat, tossing often, until fragrant, about 4 minutes. Let cool.

2. Combine fennel seeds, garlic, paprika, and 2 tbsp oil in a small bowl. Season pork with salt and pepper and place in a resealable plastic bag. Add spice mixture; seal bag and turn to coat. Let sit at least 30 minutes.

3. Heat remaining 1 tbsp oil in a large ovenproof skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium-high heat. Cook pork chops until golden brown on 1 side, about 4 minutes; turn. Add potatoes and shallots to skillet; season with salt and pepper and toss to coat in pan drippings. Cook, tossing potatoes and shallots occasionally, until pork is golden brown on second side, about 4 minutes.

4. Transfer to oven and roast until potatoes are tender. If potatoes need more time, transfer chops to plate and continue to roast until tender; transfer chops back to skillet when potatoes are done. Remove skillet from oven and mix in parsley and vinegar. Let pork chops rest 5 minutes in skillet.

5. Transfer chops to a cutting board; cut meat from bones and slice against the grain. Serve with potatoes, shallots, and any pan juices.

*          *          *

30 Days of Dinner

Day 1 (W) -- brinner/leftovers 
Day 2 (Th) -- Slow Cooker Paleo Jalapeño Popper Chili 
Day 3 (F) -- Paleo Brocoli Salad with Bacon, eggs, potato hash 
Day 4 (Sat) -- dinner out 
Day 5 (Sun) -- SuperBowl dinner! Salad, two kinds of wings (Paleo Buffalo Wings and Crispy Chicken Wings), and kids had nachos too. 

Day 6 (M) -- burgers, Sweet Potato Fries (LOVE this recipe), salad 
Day 7 (T) -- Ginger Garlic Steak Tacos with Pineapple Pico de Gallocauliflower rice 
Day 8 (W) -- Lemon and Garlic Chicken with Cherry Tomatoes (leave out wine and sugar, and sub gluten-free flour); zoodles and kids had pasta
Day 9 (Th) --  Fennel-Crusted Pork Chops with Potatoes and Shallots; brussels sprouts 
Day 10 (F) -- Asian Turkey Burgers with Spicy Lime Mayo (I LOVE How Sweet It Is, but found these disappointing); salad 
Day 11 (Sat) -- dinner out 
Day 12 (Sun) -- Crockpot Pulled Pork Chili 

Day 13 (M) -- dinner out 
Day 14 (T) -- Valentine's Day! Steak and Baked Potato with Crab, Jalapeño, and Mint (leave out dairy if Whole30)
Day 15 (W) -- Roasted Chicken with Potatoes + Arugula (leave out dairy); green beans 
Day 16 (Th) -- Hash Brown Breakfast Casserole (everyone loved this!)
Day 17 (F) -- dinner out 
Day 18 (Sat) -- dinner out 
Day 19 (Sun) -- dinner out 

Day 20 (M) -- brinner: scrambled eggs, salmon pastrami, hash browns 
Day 21 (T) -- Grilled Rosemary and Balsamic Chicken (leave out sugar); salad; potatoes 
Day 22 (W) -- Slow Cooker Brisket; mashed potatoes; salad 
Day 23 (Th) -- Greek Lamb Burgers (no dairy); sweet potato fries; green beans
Day 24 (F) -- dinner out 
Day 25 (Sat) --  leftovers 
Day 26 (Sun) -- dinner out 

Day 27 (M) -- Paleo Beef Barbacoa (still love this); cauliflower rice 
Day 28 (T) -- Loaded Taco Soup (I thought this was delish -- the rest of the family seemed annoyed that it was soup instead of chili, and sort of ate it like chili. So next time I might let it simmer and thicken longer). 
Day 29 (W) -- brinner 
Day 30 (Th) -- dinner out