Make Your Own Spring

Spring has arrived! But, we live in the Midwest which means that spring won’t really feel like it’s here for several more weeks. It’s not uncommon for Illinois to get snow in April. This week we may have 70 degree temperatures….and then the forecast has mentioned a chance of snow for the weekend. It’s hard to keep waiting when you are really really ready for sunshine, warmer temperatures, and gardens. I have some suggestions of things that you can do to make your own spring when spring seems so very far away…..

Check out an Indoor Garden!

The spring show at Garfield Park Conservatory is always a great way to gear up for spring sights and smells. This year’s theme “Understory”, has the visitor viewing the plants and flowers that grow beneath the forest canopy. The entire Conservatory has long been a favorite place for our family to escape the cold, rain and/or snow (all of which we might have on the same day in Illinois spring). You can check out the spring show until it closes May 12th.

Start Planning Your Garden!

So many different home improvement stores are full of flowers and plants right now. Lily and I went to Home Depot over the weekend and checked out the many annuals that they have in stock right now. They also had a few perennials. I already have some ideas for my container gardens.

Get outside as often as you can!

When those really nice days arrive, take full advantage of them! Get outside. Go to a playground. The weather can change very quickly so it’s important to take advantage of the sunshine while it’s here. I feel the same way during the summer months. If it’s nice out, we should get outside (for at least some of the day). Save the movie marathons for the rainy days!

Eat Warm Weather Foods!

Sure, I’ll eat ice cream year round. But once the snow has melted, it just seems to taste better. Do you agree? Being able to eat an ice cream cone without my fingers freezing…yea…the ice cream just tastes better. And once the temperatures start to inch above freezing and stay there, that’s when I want one of my favorite warmer weather meals – a Superdawg with everything, onion chips, and a strawberry soda. Yummmmm! Just thinking about it makes me feel a little bit warmer. 🙂

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Check out a professional garden!

The Chicago Botanic Garden has a useful chart here that lets you know what will be in bloom and when. Yes, this one is really more for days when it’s a little warmer….and hopefully not snowing. But, this lets you plan for what dates you want  to try to check out their gardens. (Especially if you know you really want to see the tulips in bloom!)

If you were lucky enough to check out the orchid show (which sadly has closed already) you were treated to some absolutely beautiful flowers and arrangements. I loved it! It was like a mini tropical vacation! I mean, just look at these flowers! Beautiful!

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Use Those Leftovers!

I am notoriously terrible at eating leftovers. Seriously. It’s bad. I’ll eat them. But I don’t really want to. (Except for holiday leftovers – I eat those for sure!) But, I’ve learned something…if I just add one or two new ingredients and transform it just a bit I can trick my brain into eating something new.

After a run on the treadmill, I was hungry. Like really hungry. And I needed something quick!

You know what we had in the fridge? Eggs. And leftovers.

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I threw a couple eggs in a pan with some olive oil, salt and pepper.

Then, I added some leftovers. (These were from a quick skillet dinner that Ryan made earlier in the week with chicken, brussels sprouts, carrots, golden raisins.)

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The skillet was really good during the first meal (I had two helpings of it for dinner that night) but I really wanted something different.)

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The finished product? It doesn’t look very pretty but the eggs, olive oil, and the hot pan transformed these leftovers into something new. And I ate all of it.

What do you do to be sure that you are using your leftovers?

Costco – Our Necessities

Shopping at Costco can be an overwhelming experience. There is just so much to see! And so many foods to sample! (Seriously…sample everything). Honestly, the only time that we were in and out of Costco in less than an hour was when we were ordering tires. Yep. You can order tires. (Seriously….they have everything!).

When shopping at Costco, keep in mind the following tips:

  1. Make a list. Do your best to stick to that list but be willing to purchase the yummy new food that you just sampled.
  2. Remember that not everything that you want will be there. Sometimes, they stop carrying items for a short time. Sometimes, they stop carrying items for a very long time.
  3. Understand that it will seem as though 90% of the suburbs are in Costco with you. Everyone is frustrated. Try to keep calm.
  4. Park your cart as far over to the side as you can. (See number 3).

We have several things that we always buy while there. Feel free to use this list as a starting point if you are new to the wonderful world of Costco. 🙂

Paper products: toilet paper, paper towels. You know that you will need these items so if you have the means to store them, stock up.

Beauty products: We buy deodorant, body wash, and razors! And there are frequently Oil of Olay products if you use any of those.

Baby products: I love the baby wipes! They are very soft and are so cheap! We never really purchased diapers because they never carried the brand that we liked for our girls. However, if you are in the diaper-buying stage, check what they are currently carrying.

Snack foods: We buy a lot of the lunchbox ready snacks like popcorn, veggie straws, string cheese, crackers, etc. They have it all.

Dairy: Cheese! We go through a lot of cheese in our house. And if you go through a lot of yogurt or Danimals, you can find those here too. Honestly, I am not a fan of the milk but give it a try because you might like it.

Grains: Buying cereal can be a great deal if you go through a lot of cereal. Not a great deal if you aren’t – the cereal will be stale before you get to the end of the box. Bread can be a good deal but you might need to freeze some.

Fruits and veggies: There can be great deals to be had, if you have the ability to freeze the fruits or veggies. The produce, in our experience, tends to go bad pretty quickly and there’s a lot of of it. So, buy it and throw it in the freezer. However, if you are planning a party, the large bags of salad are a great buy!

Freezer foods: This is so much better now that we have a chest freezer. Frozen pizzas? Throw them in the freezer. Frozen treats or desserts? Yep. In the freezer. If you do not have a chest freezer, I recommend being careful how much you buy. Remember, it will all have to fit somewhere.

Canned foods: You will almost always find cans of chicken stock and chickpeas and jars of peaches in our cart.

Bakery goods: The muffins are some of my favorites. I like them even more than muffins from the grocery stores that we buy from. They also have great croissants. Although we’ve never purchased a cake, you can get sheet cakes of almost any size if you need that.

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Throughout, you may seem us stocking up on seasonal items as well. It’s back-to-school so I purchased a new set of Sharpie markers. 🙂 You can also frequently pick up construction paper or pens. Right now, you can purchase Christmas decorations. (Yes, it’s a little early and there will probably be more selection in the coming weeks so you don’t need to rush in for this one.)

After all of that shopping, you’re hungry, right? Time to pick up a super cheap hot dog or a slice of pizza. You can also pick up a whole pizza  but that takes some time to prepare (so, start at the counter, place an order for your pizza, do your shopping, and pick up your pizza!).

So now I want to know, what are your Costco necessities?

A Weekend at Mimi and Pa’s House

Usually, when we have a weekend at Mimi and Pa’s house (my hometown) we don’t have too much planned. This summer, however, we had an epic weekend because it was the weekend of my 20th high school reunion (20 years?!?!?!?!?) and it was also the weekend of the county fair.

So……..we did a lot. 🙂

Ryan and I went to my high school reunion.

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The next day, as a family, we went to the county fair. We went to the demolition derby (one of my favorite fair memories), ate some fried food, and rode some rides.

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We ended our trip with a trip to the playground, lunch at Cracker Barrel, and my mom and I went to swim aerobics (p.s. I want to find a place with year-round swim aerobics! So fun!!!).

The list thus far:

 

 

 

Super Easy Pasta Salad

During the summer, who wants to turn on the oven? No one. No one wants to turn on the oven. So, let me share one of my favorite summer time recipes.

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This summer salad is so simple and is super quick to throw together. Plus, the only thing that needs to be cooked is the pasta.

1) Cook your pasta (cook until just al dente). You can use any type of pasta that you have on hand.

2) Cut up veggies. Any veggies. I had green pepper, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, and radishes. I also had some leftover grilled zucchini and corn from earlier in the week (this salad is a great way to use up leftovers, too). We’ve had lots of veggies on hand lately thanks to our Imperfect Produce deliveries! Try to be sure that everything is close to the same size.

3). Add the cooked pasta and your veggies into a large bowl.

4). If you want, you can add a protein. Shredded chicken? Tuna? Yum.

5). Drizzle with olive oil, pinch of salt, pinch of pepper.

6). Stir. Stir. Stir. Be sure that everything is lightly coated.

7). Now drizzle Italian dressing. Use whatever brand Italian dressing that you like.

8). Stir. Stir. Stir.

9). Taste. Does it need more salt? More pepper? How is the dressing? Do you need more?

And that’s it! Super easy. Super tasty. And the kids love it! You can even include them in the preparation of the salad. They can do the stirring. Or, they can practice cutting some of the veggies.

Only at the hotel….

There are some things that I only do while staying at a hotel….

1. I watch tv in bed.

We don’t have a tv in our bedroom at home and haven’t had one in our bedroom for years. So watching tv in bed is really kind of a treat! Watching Food Network while wearing my jammies, well, that’s not anything new. But watching Food Network while wearing my jammies AND in bed?! Now, that’s something special.

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Also, aren’t those pajama pants the cutest?! Stitch! I got them from Wal-Mart but can’t seem to find them online (or else I would link to them…..).

2. I eat food in bed.

The very thought of eating in bed at home makes me cringe. Crumbs! Crumbs in the bed! Crumbs! And that leads to fears of…..Ants! Ugh! Ants in bed! Ahhh!

But when I’m staying at a hotel, my distaste for crumbs in a bed goes right out the window because one of my favorite things to do is eat cookies in a hotel bed. The easiest way to make a super cozy hotel bed even more cozy is by the addition of cookies.  And, in my opinion, the best kind of cookies to eat in a hotel bed are Chips Ahoy chewy chocolate chip cookies. (You have to get the chewy kind. They are superior.) I basically only buy them if we are staying in a hotel. Sure there might be crumbs in the bed….but I don’t have to wash the sheets!

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3. If there’s a gym on site, I will use it. And I will use it frequently.

It’s fun to be able to use equipment that I don’t regularly have access to. Since my regular routine consists of running outside or using the treadmill inside, it’s nice to be able to change that up. The last hotel that we stayed in had an elliptical, treadmill, and a bike. There was also a nice assortment of free weights. It’s nice to change it up but it’s also important to give your muscles a chance to work in a different way.

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Plus, there’s a pool! So, chances are really good, if I didn’t work out in the gym facility, I’m probably going to be taking the girls to the pool at some point. And if I did go to the gym AND hit the pool, well, that’s two workouts in one day! Yes!

 

What do you do while staying in a hotel that you only do while staying in a hotel?

 

 

Finding All of the Green Food!

March means St. Patrick’s Day and the first signs of spring. (Also my baby sister’s birthday and my mom’s birthday!) The color green is everywhere! Green clothes worn on St. Patrick’s Day. The green leaves of tulips starting to come up. The Chicago River gets dyed green.

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Seriously! Look at that river! Soooooooooo green!

St. Patrick’s Day may be over but we still have more March. And you can still celebrate with green.

Are you searching for some green food? Well, let me help you out on your search!

1). Culver’s – Mint Concrete

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Get yourself a mint shake or concrete. This one pictured is a mint/Oreo concrete. Because, if you’re gonna have a concrete, adding Oreos is a pretty good plan.

2). McDonald’s – Shamrock Shake

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It’s the classic, right? Sort of tastes like mint. Sort of tastes like vanilla. Sort of tastes like sugar. Very very very green.

3. Public House – March’s Seasonal Cake Shake
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Yep. You want this. The cake shake has a piece of cake on top!!!!!! And has another whole piece of cake mixed into it. Plus – beer. Each month, Public House has a new crazy over-the-top cake shake. I’m looking forward to the April one because I’m guessing it’s going to be amazing.

4. Spunky Dunker’s – Easter Donut

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So, it’s not a St. Patrick’s Day themed donut but it sure is green (they do have a chocolate mint donut for the month of March if you want a little more of a minty-St.Patricks-taste). I originally thought that the jelly beans were just sitting on top….nope. The donut is basically hollowed out and has a jelly bean core. Yep. Lots of jelly beans.

5. Epic Burger – Green River float

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If you live in the Chicago area, you are probably already familiar with Green River soda. It’s green. Really green. And tastes kind of like lime jello (well, in may opinion it’s like lime jello). Well, for a very limited time, Epic Burger is turning it into a float. I actually like it better as a float – it kind of mellows out the lime flavor a bit. But, limited time means you need to get there soon! (Or Epic Burger, you could just offer it year round……just sayin’)

6. Labriola Cafe – Mint bar

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This one is not seasonal. You can get it whenever you want (or at least whenever they have it in their pastry case.) It’s super minty. Like astonishingly minty! So if you don’t really love mint, this might not be for you. But if you are a mint fan, go for it! Also, it’s huge!!!! So, you could definitely share. Or not.

 

Where are your favorite places to get green treats? Remember, March isn’t over yet!