Summer List 2019!

It’s finally here! Summer vacation! And as usual, we have a bucket list of things to accomplish throughout the summer.

Follow along as we try to have the best summer ever!

Our list thus far:

  • Go to Disney World.
  • Pick blueberries.
  • Go bowling. Bake some treats.
  • See outdoor movies.
  • Go to the museums.
  • Go to LEGO Discovery Center.
  • Visit Brookfield Zoo.
  • Go to Morton Arboretum to see the Lego sculptures.
  • Visit the Art Institute.
  • Eat ice cream.
  • Play on the playground.
  • Go on a hike.
  • Go to the library.
  • Go to a festival.
  • Have a slumber party.
  • Have a pajama day.
  • Watch movies at home.
  • Visit Granny and Pa.
  • Visit Mimi and Pa.
  • Have a beach day.
  • Pick dandelions out of the yard.
  • See fireworks.
  • Go to the splash pads.
  • Visit Chinatown.
  • Play outside.
  • Have tea at American Girl.
  • Play in our house.

Now….some of these things we will definitely do several times throughout the summer. And some of them are on the list specifically because we already know that we are doing them (Disney World).

What’s on your list?

Some Not-So-Fancy Food

Some of my girls’ favorite foods are the very simplest foods possible. Peanut butter and jelly. Buttered noodles. Grilled cheese.

Some of their favorite foods to cook (in which they do most of, if not all of, the work) are also pretty simple.

They like to make cookies – the break-and-bake ones are amazing if you are trying to do this with kids. Yes, it is important to teach fractions and how to measure ingredients and all of that. But, seriously, these cookies are fine! And it means that you can have cookies whenever you want with very little effort (or mess to clean up!).

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Every summer, the girls put making banana pudding on the list of things to do. This summer, we learned that Lily doesn’t like banana pudding anymore…..So, although that might change in the future (she also decided that she doesn’t like string cheese, so who knows what she’s going to like or not like) making banana pudding probably won’t happen very often in the future. However, when we make pudding of any type, I like to make it in plastic cups. It’s easy to portion out that way and you don’t have a giant bowl taking up a lot of space in the fridge.

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The final food that the girls request to make every summer. Lemonade. And, not just any lemonade. The powdered stuff that takes all of two minutes to make. Well, it sure makes it easier to knock things off of the list.

Our summer list thus far:

Cookies for Dinner

I was recently sent a copy of Holly Nichole Zarcone’s book, Cookies for Dinner, to read and review. This is such a lovely book for storytime with young children. The story really resonated with me, as well. And, I’m certain, that it will resonate with many other moms, too!

The mom in this story is a mom who is feeling overwhelmed by all of the stuff that she has to get done in her life. What mom doesn’t know what that feels like? And when she takes a moment to take a step back, she remembers that sometimes it’s the little things in life that are the most important. The laundry can wait. The dishes will still be in the sink. But, sometimes the little things, like having cookies for dinner, are the things that mean the most to our kids. Those are the things that we need to hold in our hearts because those are the things that are kids will remember.

Not only is the story lovely, there is a recipe for chocolate chip cookies at the end of the book. And after reading the book, my girls and I made cookies…..and we did in fact have cookies for dinner!

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What have you done recently to celebrate the simple joys in life? Although we can’t do it every night…..I’m thinking we might need to add cookies for dinner into our meal rotation. 🙂

Easy, easy trifle

Now, I’ve watched enough Great British Baking Show to know that Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood would definitely not be impressed with my trifle. I don’t make any of it from scratch! I use Cool Whip! Aaaahhh! But, it’s delicious. And is great for any holiday (I need it for New Year’s Day – family tradition). And, it’s a great leftover as the flavors all come together in one delicious pile.

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen the beginning and the final product of this trifle in my instastory. But, you’re in luck. Because I’m going to do a step-by-step so that you too can make a delicious and quick trifle.

(Shout out to my mom, who still makes the best trifle ever!)

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You are going to need two pound cakes. As you can see, I don’t bake them fresh. I buy my pound cakes from Mariano’s because Mariano’s makes delicious pound cakes. You can also try other flavors of cake – maybe angel food cake for a light trifle or a chocolate cake. That’s the fun part of trifle. You can mix and match the flavors to match what you have or what sounds delicious to you that day.

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Cut each pound cake in half and spread a good (thick) amount of jam or preserves – essentially you are going to make a really big sandwich.

Next, put that sandwich back together and cut into small little sandwiches. You can going to cut the whole cake lengthwise and then into smaller wedges.

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Make the pudding. I like french vanilla for my trifles but, again, you can experiment with flavors that you like and what you think will work well with the jam and berries (or other fruit) you are going to use.

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Now comes the fun part – putting the whole thing together!

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Start with a layer of the little sandwiches. I then drizzle a couple tablespoons of orange juice across the layer. Since authentic trifle has alcohol drizzled over the cake, this gives you the same added moisture and flavor soaked into the cake – but makes it family friendly because there isn’t any booze.

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Then, start the layering. Berries. (I used raspberries this time.) Then pudding. Then Cool Whip. Yes. Of course, you can make homemade pudding. Sure, you can make fresh whipped cream. But, yes, you can also make this as simple as possible and it’ll still taste delicious.

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Another layer of cake. Another sprinkling of orange juice. Berries. Pudding. Cool Whip. I mean seriously. Doesn’t that just look beautiful?! So colorful. And so easy.

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I like almonds on top for a little extra crunch since most of the texture in the bowl is a bit soft or mushy. You can even add some crunch into your layers by adding almonds in between layers.

Again, there are tons of recipes online for trifles. Seriously. Do a search right now. How many results did you get? A lot, right? Well, each of those trifles is essentially the same thing – layers of delicious served in a beautiful bowl so you can see the layers of delicious.

Use the cake flavors that you like. Use the fruit that looks good. Experiment with flavors. I promise you, it’s going to look impressive. And, it’s going to be delicious.

Baking – Banana Bread from a mix

I love baking mixes. Do the end results taste as good as something completely made from scratch? Honestly, I think so. Although, I usually add some extra ingredients to the mixes to give them a bit more of a “from scratch” taste.

And honestly, when you have a couple bananas that are past the stage in which you would want to eat them, what’s better than banana bread? Not much, right?

Now, when I have the time, I have a recipe for banana bread that I like because it is so easy to put together. I’ve blogged about it here.

But, when it’s a summer morning and we have to get a lot of other stuff done, a mix is perfectly fine.

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Eating our way through the checklist

Throughout the last couple weeks, we were able to mark a few more things off of our summer to-do list. We ate at one of big girl’s favorite restaurants: Labriola Cafe. Their mac-n-cheese is her all-time favorite mac-n-cheese. I like their burgers.

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We also made lemonade. Now, this wasn’t fancy homemade lemonade. I wasn’t really in the mood to juice a pile of lemons. But, thankfully, big girl didn’t have a problem with that because she likes to help make lemonade the easy way.

 

 

Yep. Good ol’ Country Time lemonade. Dump the mix, add the water, and stir. Easy and the girls love it.

We also took the easy way out with some cookie baking.

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Cookie dough – already made and already portioned into perfect cookie sizes. Yep. Is it cheating? Maybe. Do I care? Nope. When you’ve had one of those weeks…..and you want cookies…..but you don’t want to have do find ingredients and do dishes……these give you a perfectly yummy cookie. And, that’s one more thing that we can mark off of the summer to-do list.

 

 

The checklist thus far:

  • Make lemonade.
  • Eat at Big Bowl.
  • Go to Millennium Park.
  • Go to Adler Planetarium.
  • Get space ice cream.
  • Go to zoo.
  • Go to Shedd Aquarium.
  • Go bowling.
  • Make banana pudding.
  • Go to the splash pads downtown.
  • Play at Maggie Daley playground.
  • Go to Field Museum.
  • Go to Art Institute and do a JourneyMaker tour.
  • Go swimming.
  • Go to the Children’s Museum.
  • Play at playground.
  • Have a pajama day (with daddy.)
  • See a movie at the movie theater.
  • See a movie outside.
  • Go to the library.
  • Go to the Family Festival downtown Chicago.
  • Make cookies.
  • Read books at home.
  • Ride the train at the mall.
  • Go to the beach.
  • Have a picnic.
  • Go to American Girl Place.
  • Draw pictures and cut them out.
  • Play with legos.
  • Make muffins.
  • Make pasta salad.
  • Play with toys.
  • Go to a festival.
  • Try to go to a water park.
  • Go to the Disney store downtown Chicago.
  • Eat at Rainforest Cafe.
  • Eat at Labriola Cafe.
  • Bake an apple pie.
  • Play games on the iPad.
  • Play Mario game with daddy.
  • Go to the Morton Arboretum.
  • Go to Mimi and Pa’s house.
  • Go to Granny and Pa’s house.
  • Go on a hike.
  • Go to the Museum of Science and Industry.

Going Stir Crazy? Stir Some Batter.

The kiddos are definitely already ready for spring. It’s just sooooooo cold. I can’t blame them. I’ve been ready for spring since December 26th. But, the girls are now old enough that when they get bored, they start arguing. I told Ryan that I’m looking forward to a time in the future (far future) when we have a two story house and I can tell the girls to “go downstairs!” Or, “go upstairs!” *sigh* That’ll be awesome.

Since we have a one-story ranch house, my solution to the bickering came in the shape of a box of bread mix. (And, the fact that our bananas were ripe…..very ripe…..very very ripe.) So, the girls and I made two loaves of pumpkin bread (with three bananas mixed in). Bread and muffin mixes are some of my favorite pantry staples. Many times, I want to bake something but I just don’t have the time to mix and mix and mix. And many mixes are actually delicious or can be made delicious by throwing in a few ingredients (chopped nuts, dried fruit, bananas that are very, very, very ripe).

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And yes, they stopped fighting the entire time that we were preparing the bread. Ten minutes later they were arguing again but that short time was peaceful……