Guess Who’s Back, Back Again

Can you believe it, it has been almost a whole year since I last posted? I couldn’t tell you the number of times I have sat back and thought to myself “I really need to get back on my blog” “I really should write a post.” “That would be great for my blog!” Yet, I never followed through. I wish I could say I have good reasons why, because let’s face it, life gets crazy. But, if I am being honest, I don’t truly know why I haven’t come back. I guess you could say I am still doing some soul searching when it comes to that topic, among others. So, you’re probably asking, what’s new? Or, maybe you know me personally and are not asking that at all, but instead laughing at the question in the first place because you know the answer… regardless, the short answer is: everything. The long answer? Well, that would keep us here all day, and night. So, in a summarized fashion, let me bullet point some of the biggest highlights of the last 11 months so we can just move forward like this little hiatus never happened.

17

Thanksgiving 2016

  • Adam and I moved!!! Get this, we came home to Indiana. 18 year old Lyndsay is back there in time cringing at the thought that I would move back, not just to Indiana, but to my sleepy home town. Adult Lyndsay is sitting here, totally content and at peace with that choice, happier than she ever thought she would be. 🙂 Long story short, our family is here, our friends are here, and our lives are our family and friends so in essence, our lives are in Indiana. I truly left my heart in Indiana when we moved to St. Louis and it took moving away to realize what actually makes me happiest and who would have thought that for me, it was people, not places or things.
  • I changed careers!!! And when I say I changed careers, I mean, hello out of blue career change. Nothing against my old job- because I truly truly miss those people I worked with more than I ever thought I would miss coworkers, and I truly enjoyed PARTS of what I did. But, I would be lying and trying to sell you a load of bull if I sat here and said I loved my job and my heart was in it. Because it wasn’t. And corporate America is great and has many perks, but I knew I was destined to do something different. So I left engineering behind. I left Fortune 100 companies behind, and I came to work for…. the government? I came home to Indiana on faith and faith alone…. with a rapidly depleting bank account and no idea what my next move was. And God brought an opportunity to my door that I truly never saw myself doing and I literally had zero previous experience in, and I took it and ran. So, here I sit, working for the Department of Child Services, ensuring children are cared for in healthy, safe, loving, stable, permanent environments and get this? I love it. I love every stressful, exhausting, frustrating, busy moment of it.
  • Adam and I moved (Again)!!! Now, I never saw myself moving so much in such a short time. Mom and Dad’s, St Louis, Mom and Dad’s again and now Adam and I are in our own house in our home town. Town living is certainly different than country living, which is much different than the city living we had before, so it is taking some adjusting, but we are blessed with family who love and support us and that makes it so much easier to handle. We are fixing up his grandmothers old home and making it our own for the next little while until we are planted firmly in our new jobs and feel like it is time to take the next step in permanent living.
  • Adam and I got married!!! I had a HOT summer wedding. I had a much bigger wedding than I ever envisioned. I got married near our home. These were things that a year ago, when that ring was put on my finger, I was absolutely against and never wanted for us. But, for many reasons, I caved and you know what? It is totally okay that I did. I am happy with the end result. Because at the end of the day, I still got to marry the man I wanted to marry and the people that were the most important were there, and I learned and grew so so much in everything we dealt with for that wedding and the short time frame it was planned in – we may have been engaged for almost a year, but we planned a wedding in 4 very short, stressful months.
  • Adam and I are having a baby!!! Yes, you read that right. Crazy right?? Talk about life out of left field. We spent Valentines day 2016 at a rodeo, living it up, believing that when we chose to have a baby together it would be months of hard work and planning and fertility treatments and expenses and hormones and well… you get the picture. We spent Valentines day 2017 telling our families “Surprise! We have a bun in the oven!” To say I was shocked is an understatement. But, we have a baby girl we get to be excited about welcoming into the world in October and I trust God and his plan for me and for us with my whole heart, as scary and unexpected that plan may be at times. I truly pictured myself being mama to only miss Lucy for quite some time still, and the big man had other plans for me. So now comes the joy, and countless other emotions (hello hormones), of motherhood! ❤

As you can see, life has handed us many unexpected adventures straight out of left field in the last year. 1 year. Not even 1 year technically. So much has changed I still look back and say “what in the world?” when thinking back on where we were a year ago and I laugh. I don’t laugh in a bad way, or in a negative way. But I laugh as if to say “wow, if this year brought me all of this, imagine in yet another year where life will have me?!”

I have so many topics I could have blogged about this last year, but I think I am more excited than ever to blog about the new topics that await with all these life changes. I have been brainstorming changing up the blog a little bit, and it is possible that I do so sooner than later, but I haven’t fully laid it all out in my head yet. Until I have it figured out (which lets face it, I am a perfectionist so this could take a while) I will just keep typing away with whatever post comes up in my mind next!

Mia

Baby Girl in June 2017 ❤

Advertisements

Microblog Monday

Hey all! I didn’t get to post a microblog last week, turns out I came down with something pretty crappy and was ill for most of the week! I’m still battling this cough that won’t seem to leave, but feeling much better now! 

First: I have to say Happy Birthday to the sweetest 8 year old in the world, my niece Jovie! 

Jovie Sarai


Monday Mantra:

Monday Mantra


Meatless Meal: Tomato Tortellini Soup

(I will admit- I have only had this ONE time before but this was the exact recipe I used and didn’t stray much from for once, and I really found it easy to make and liked it- perfect with grilled cheese!!)
1 teaspoon olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 (10 3/4 ounce) cans condensed tomato soup

1 1/2 cups milk

2 cups half and half

2 cups vegetable broth (or chicken broth)

1 teaspoon onion powder

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

1 (9 ounce) package cheese-filled tortellini

grated Parmesan, for serving

Instructions

Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and cook just until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomato soup, milk, half and half, vegetable broth, and all the seasonings. Bring to a simmer. Once simmering, drop in the tortellini and cook according to package instructions (probably about 7 – 10 minutes). Serve hot with Parmesan on top.

*note: I did add some croutons on top of mine for some extra flavor and texture! Yum!

Creamy Tomato Tortellini Soup

Memorable Moment: Adam got a new car!! Saturday we decided to venture out and just see what this deal we kept hearing about at a dealership by our house was all about. His truck frame was rusting through and we really were not looking forward to taking on another car payment but knew safety had to come first and it was time to bite the bullet. 6 hours… Yes 6! (Turns out that deal being advertised made them VERY busy) we drove out of there with a 2015 Hyundai Sonata for him. The process was long, exhausting, stressful, and frustrating at times but I will never forget going through that process for the first time together and the stories we came away with. It was another day spent bonding in maybe not the most romantic way, but a totally new and different way, more practical and real. 

Microblog Monday (on a Tuesday)

Hi there! I know it has been a while since I blogged and updated everyone on life at the Howard Homestead- wow, where does the time go right?!

Since my last post, we went on a family vacation, celebrated my 26th birthday,  got engaged, started looking for a new place to move- oh wait, what was that? Yep! I said it! We got ENGAGED! 😀 It happened on vacation with my family, on the last day, in the middle of the Smokey Mountains, and was a complete shock to me, but the best kind of shock there is. ❤

13712383_1001808259937322_1674926773_n

Our engagement announcement- not how he asked, just how I told the world. Next stop in the game of life!! What is more fitting than one of my favorite board games to play together? 🙂

With our lease expiring in 8 weeks, crazy end of the year rush at work (our end of the fiscal year is September), and the busy day to day life events, we have been so swamped we have not had much time to really begin planning. Little things here and there are getting done, we have vendors narrowed down, plans are forming, but nothing is absolute yet- don’t worry, once we at least have a date- I will start blogging and discussing more here.

However, I wanted to start something new in hopes of meeting my goal to blog more. I had an idea to do what is called a “microblog” on Monday’s. This would allow me to share a few things every week, but not type out super long post. So without further ado, here is my Microblog Monday! 🙂  note: It is on Tuesday this week, for some reason I set the post date thinking the 16th was a Monday originally. Whoops.

Monday Mantra-

13658636_1133397076706677_1990477124_n(1)

Courtesy of Cheryl Strayed. Absolutely love this. ❤

Memorable Moment- Without a doubt, spending a Saturday afternoon at one of the local state parks with Adam and Lucy. He fished. She ran free. I read. The weather was perfect and we found a new favorite place to venture to on the weekends.

13686984_1092067830870979_1615749296_n

Our Memorable Moment this week.

Meatless Meal- Spinach and Mushroom noodles – I love how this dish turned out! (and if you wanted to add meat- cut up a couple chicken breasts and brown in the skillet before adding anything else and wa-la!

Ingredients
  • 4 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 16 ounces sliced mushrooms
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 cups pasta
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons basil – if you don’t like basil, feel free to leave it out.
  • 3 cups chopped spinach
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Instructions
  1. In a large sauce pan over medium heat, heat oil. Once oil is heated, add mushrooms and garlic and cook for about 4 minutes until mushrooms are tender.
  2. Add pasta, water, salt, pepper and basil. Bring to a boil and cook until pasta is tender about 10 to 13 minutes. Water should be almost gone by this point.
  3. Add spinach, cream and grated Parmesan and bring to simmer and begins thickening. (note: it will thicken as a cools too)
  4. Serve immediately.

 

July Book Review

As you read in my previous post, June was crazy busy! I didn’t accomplish as much as I would have liked in multiple areas, reading being one for sure! However, sticking to my plan, I did make sure to make it through at least one to ensure I had this post to write, and that my goal was met!

This month, I read Crowns of Beauty by Sophie Hartman. I went a little out of my usual neighborhood of reading and stepped into the world of memoirs. I don’t typically pick those up too often, but I was told by Adam’s wonderful sister of a launch team that was starting for this book upon its release and that I should look into it. I loved that the subject dealt so much with not only Jesus but also was based around orphanages and children. Having two nephews who were adopted internationally, that is a subject that is very close to my own heart. So, off to join the launch team I went!

Crowns of Beauty
Sophia Hartman

13380886_671083866379565_412290262_n

Crowns of Beauty is the story of Sophie Hartman and her experience of listening to God’s voice after visiting Zambia and tapping into her love for Jesus so much that she left behind all she knew in the US and moved to Zambia and use her love to seek and instill Jesus, love, acceptance and kindness all around her and heal the broken and hurting children in so many ways all to give glory to God!

I truly truly enjoyed this book. First, Sophie Hartman is such a unique, strong, beautiful soul. Second, the story itself is one that hits home already and is told so beautifully and third, it is truly touching to read it and leads you to Jesus while she is on her own search to better know Him and His love. When someone is truly passionate on a topic, it shines through. This is a prime and perfect example of that statement. While it may be a book, you as a reader are still able to connect and understand the passion and use such fierce passion to build your own relationship and inspire yourself to be as open and raw as Sophie is with readers. I almost wondered when starting this book if I would end up taking away from it that Sophie would be almost in a humble brag state about all of the help she did and the light she brought to such a dark world, but after reading it I can honestly say that is not the case. If there is anything that I try to practice and really bring into my everyday life, it is love and acceptance- of all nature. Always. This book touched on that desire within me to love and accept everyone, and to use God’s love as a guiding light to do more good in the world. It truly just opens and tugs at your heart. You can’t help but walk away feeling a little more understanding of Jesus love for His people, and right now, with the state this country is in, that is something we all could use a little more of. If you have a love of Jesus, a desire to know more of his love don’t miss out!

Dog Days of Summer

Wow, I can’t believe it has truly been almost a month since I last posted. I am pretty mad at myself for that one. Honestly, life was just so exhausting and busy there for a while and once it slowed down a little the past week or two, I have just been full on burnt out. I am happy to say I am finally, slowly, starting to feel normal again. Hopefully this helps my writers block too. Somehow in the middle of the craziness of June, I lost all control of any daily life planning I had going on. Menu plans, blog plans, event plans, it all just kind of went out the window. On top of the busy schedule, it has truly been unbelievably hot here in St Louis. Maybe this is normal, but I am thinking it is a tad warmer than it usually is for this time of the year. I mean most of June was a heat index of over 100 every single day. July has been shaping up to be either the same horrible heat, or rainy. That is enough to make you dread even checking the mail. Trust me. Because of all of this, I got to thinking… Is there a way to keep up with the blog a little easier, or at least a tad more consistently? Even with a busy schedule? I THINK I may be coming up with a good concept in my head. I am working on the different aspects of it and trying to get it all mapped out so that perhaps I could start as early as next week! I write to keep everyone up to date on our lives, I write as a fun little outlet and hobby for me, and I write to spread the word about things, events, people, businesses, whatever! So, why not work all of that into a more concrete idea that is easier to manage right? We shall see! Time will tell!

I don’t want to recap the last month too intensely for anyone. This post would be forever long! I will post photos from some of my favorite experiences over the last month to summarize most of it, but in a nutshell we got to enjoy Fathers Day weekend with Kaci back in Indiana, I stood by my best friend as she married the love of her life, and was uber surprised at a phone call from her a week later telling me she just took a pregnancy test… and it was positive (yay!)! We went canoeing down the Meremac River down at Meremac Caverns and enjoyed some bonding time just the two of us, and we enjoyed a work party for Adam that allowed us to get out and mingle with new people and I finally got to spend some time at our pool. Whew! We will round out July with Adam doing an irrigation installation for a friend and coworker of mine down here, then picking Kaci up and going to my work summer cookout down at Grants Farms here in the city, before heading off to a family vacation in Gatlinburg (a loooooong overdue one!) and meeting up with my parents and brother and his family! And finally, heading back to Indiana to celebrate that my sister got married in Jamaica last month! 🙂  Man, when I put it all down in words like that I am already exhausted again. Never a dull moment here at the Howard Homestead!

 

Book Review

Naturally, June has flown by, just as I knew it would. But, what kind of blogger would I be if I let the month pass without the monthly book review for May’s books! I happened to have read 2 for the month, I was secretly hoping to get a third in but life just picked up a little sooner than expected and that didn’t happen. Whoops!

Dear Heart, I Hate You
By: J Sterling

28560969._UY534_SS534_

This totally sounds like something my angsty teenage self probably would have walked around saying. And the emotion behind it is so strong. Actually, I admit, I only read this book thanks to my best friend. I often log into her kindle account and read whatever is in there that strikes my mood when I have some extra time, or I am waiting for another book to come in the mail for myself, or she texts me in a book coma freaking out over something she loved. For this book, it was the third reason that brought me to read it. Kylee messaged me one day telling me I must log in and read it right away. Naturally, I listened to her.

The book is about workaholic Jules meeting equal workaholic Cal and having an instant connection together, a connection that goes beyond just a physical attraction. You follow them on the ride better known as long distance relationships, and you watch each struggle with the idea of keeping themselves and their lives exactly how they always saw it going, and exactly what they were comfortable with- single, busy, and successful and with the idea of changing everything they wanted because their feelings for a person suddenly are shaking everything they believed and had planned.

I think personally, I resonated with the storyline a little bit as it sounded a little familiar to me. Fiercely independent adult, life plan set, happy… until you have to decide if a different happy is better than the happy you have now. (in my case, it was… hence, Adam :)) The book was good. I will admit, I didn’t overly love it to the point I fangirled and fawned over it. But, it was good. It drew me in immediately. I do mean, immediately. It kept me going and reading, which is always a plus, and I really liked the characters, I didn’t find them overly annoying or frustrating or anything of the sort. I found them actually, pretty real. Almost like friends or people we all know and would have in our lives that the story could at least somewhat relate to. They were very real. You can even say the same for the secondary characters, and that is even more rare in a book. I did get invested in things that happened and ended up angry and bitter at times for the characters, but that is natural and I  promise it would make sense why I felt that way if you ever read it. It was an easy book to read, so keep in mind if you want an easy, breezy read, this is something to consider. I think I got it done in 1 night. – No joke. I started it at work on my lunch and by bed time, I stayed up a little later than normal and boom! By 11 pm, I was done. If every book was that easy… well, I don’t want to know what it would be like for my bank account.  My biggest complaint is honestly the pace of the book. It is fast. I like fast, but this is borderline too fast. It didn’t leave me fully satisfied over the story. I was left wanting more, but not more in a book coma kind of way- more so in a, I want more development, more story, more something for this book! It was good, it wasn’t great. Overall, if you are looking for some easy readable romance, I would say you might not mind this though, especially if time is short on your hands.

The Girl on the Train
By: Paula Hawkins

original_The_Girl_on_the_TrainI had this story on my nightstand for months before finally giving in and reading it. I am not sure why I waited either! Maybe I was worried I wouldn’t enjoy it? But I enjoyed Gone Girl. Maybe I was looking for something else? But I wasn’t reading much. So maybe I just didn’t have a lot of time on my hands. Yeah, that is what I am going to go with. Nevertheless, leave it to a movie to kick my butt in gear. I found out it was being made into a movie to be released this fall, staring the lovely Emily Blunt (who I have a major girl crush on and an even bigger crush on her handsome hubby John Krasinski) and I knew I needed to finally get on it and read it! (Smart move by me!)

To summarize this for anyone not aware of the storyline, the main character Rachel is living at her friends after her marriage comes to an end, drinking heavily, and just all together having a rough time with life. She takes the same commuter train every day to and from work. Every day, she watches this couple who seem to have it all- and everything she believes she lost, sit together, talk, eat, and have a life. In her mind, she feels as if she knows them and their whole story, a story that for her, brings entertainment and enjoyment somewhat to a fairly dull life she is living. One day, she sees something from the train that she struggles with. After going to the police with information she has on this woman she watches every day, she becomes tangled in an investigation, in everyone around’s lives, and ultimately, the entire book becomes a story about in my mind, some really messed up characters. (in a good way!)

So, I really liked this book. Surprisingly, or not actually, I found it very entertaining. I say surprisingly, because psychological thrillers is not usually my forte. I say not surprisingly, because I kind of knew what I was getting into, and I was pleasantly surprised with other books I have read similar. The characters help make this way more interesting of a storyline because of just how truly messed up they are as individuals. Talk about a shit show at times. Good grief. You have an alcoholic, a liar, and a cheater… which one do you believe and trust the most? That is essentially what this book is requesting you to do. Every narrator it has is unreliable, messy, and untrusting. I loved them and hated them at the same time. I felt for them, and said “You are an idiot” multiple times- that is how you know the characters are twisty and good. Much like gone girl, everyone has a secret- or secrets, and as a reader, I was always wanting to know more and more. It truly is a page turner  in that respect. The ending in one regards, I kind of guessed before I reached it, but it didn’t stop me from going on with reading it at any point in time because there were multiple moments a curveball is thrown and I would question if my idea was accurate. However, the ending in another regard (sorry, I can’t say much without a spoiler and I am trying SO hard to avoid that with this book), I didn’t truly guess and it may have seemed a little convenient for it to occur, but I still actually liked it. I truly do recommend this to anyone who wants a twisty curvy read that isn’t always predictable, and does keep you wondering.

Stay tuned! Next month I will be reviewing One plus One, Crowns of Beauty and (maybe) another surprise one!

Summer Lovin

Woah. June is here. Which for St Louis, apparently means the heat is here. (hello 100 degrees this weekend!) Honestly, I just want to lay by my apartments pool and relax. I figure I don’t know where we will end up next summer (new apartment or house), but it won’t be where we are now, so I might as well enjoy this brand new never swam in before pool while I can. However, sadly, life has been/is so busy right now that I don’t know when I will get a moment or two to sit down, breathe, and enjoy a warm day by the pool relaxing. I love a busy life, I strive on a busy life, but it has been so long since it has been THIS busy for me, I almost don’t know how I am handling it so calmly right now.

13116769_250231752033535_2079731565_n

My little Mallie joined t ball this year and apparently grew up over night. Gosh I love her so.

In a nutshell, so many events are taking place over this summer that from Memorial Day on we will be spending 7 weekends traveling back home, one weekend at home followed by another 2 traveling again. That is enough to exhaust anyone! Don’t get me wrong, no complaints on seeing family and friends that much – I truly love spending time with everyone, but like I said, it has been a while since life has been this hectic.

Kylee, my best friend, is getting married on the 25th and this weekend is her bachelorette party. I kid you not when I say I am living in a real life bachelorette party factory pretty much. My amazing Adam has done so well with not complaining, just indulging in my crafts and all my planning, acting as if he cares about it almost as much as I do. But, I know he will be happy when I don’t have our bed littered with crafts all evening long after this weekend and he can actually lay down in it before 10 PM to relax whenever he wants. 🙂 Between crafts for that, other things I am making and working on, I am in full Martha Stewart mode! I love it, my bank account, not so much.

Work has been absolutely nuts. I traveled to Kansas last week to visit our local office there and give some training. It was nice to visit, meet some people face to face I often only speak to via the computer or phone calls. But, I have been playing catch up ever since I feel like. It gets hard when half of the people I work with and need answers from live in other states and countries and the communication lags. Sometimes I wish I could work like half days on St Louis time, half days on Pune India time. Or 6 and 2 or really anything! But I truly feel like I have learned so  much recently that I didn’t anticipate knowing and learning, and that lately I have noticed I really have grown in my role, it feels nice to feel a little more accomplished than I had been feeling there for a while.

13256706_1793818730840924_526080870_n

My handsome and supportive guy and I at the zoo

My sister had her bridal shower last weekend. It was nice to get to see her and my soon to be brother in law one last time before they get married.  Before anyone asks why I won’t be there, the wedding is out of the country, just them, and the same day as Kylee’s. Their celebration is actually in July for their wedding. On the same note, it was so nice to also get to see some of my extended family. I don’t see many extended family members these days, but I see my dad’s side the least. I would say it has probably been almost a couple years for some of them, which is a long time seeing as how when my grandmother was still alive we got together for every single holiday. Literally, every single one. The other good thing about the shower was that it was held at a local restaurant and I finally got to curb one of my cravings for some local Indiana food that I love. One place down, like 4 more to go! (Looking at you, Tomato Bar, Hacienda, Ben’s Pretzels and Rolling Stonebaker!) I finished off the day by going to a movie with my mama, just her and I. It has been so long since we got to do that and it was so enjoyable. What did we watch you ask? Oh, just Me Before You. *sigh And, I loved it! No truly, I really did. I ugly cried all over again. And, had to stop myself from continuing to ugly cry even after the movie ended. I don’t want to say much or give away anything but let’s just say, they did a great job at following the book. They of course had to leave things out for time reasons, but what they did put in the movie, followed the book, which was refreshing cause you better not try and mess with my Will and Lou!

Over Memorial Day weekend we got to spend some time at home in Indiana with our families and friends, and Kaci. It was so nice to be able to see her again as it has been a little longer than we usually like due to work hours in the spring. But, dang that girl seems to grow every single time we say goodbye and hello again. She can stop now, any time, that is fine. A fun cookout at Adam’s parents with his siblings and the kids and his grandparents and everyone was so nice. The weather was perfect for a summer cookout and the kids were just so excited to finally be able to wear bathing suits and play in sprinklers and get in the crazy cold pool. My family does an annual cookout at my brothers every year, although it involves more than just my family- we are talking his family friends, church friends, my sister in laws family, a little of both of our extended family. It is always a yard full of people and dozens upon dozens of kids just running around everywhere. But, it is tradition, and I look forward to that tradition every single year, even if it means that some years like this one, I can’t stay as long because I have to come back home for work the next day.

We also recently got to enjoy another visit from Adam’s sister Allie and her husband and their son, Brantley. We love when they come to visit us. It is always so nice to go out and explore and do fun things when people come to town and it helps when both Adam and I have someone to kind of bounce things off of the other might not be interested in. Adam can talk cars, hunting, and beer with Andrew. Allie and I can talk, well, everything else under the sun because we are women and you would expect nothing less, shop and just bond over anything and everything. And then we have Brantley who is always a riot and so stinking funny you just want to squeeze him. This visit we finally got to take them down the Zoo for a visit! My company actually matches donations there so I was able to pay half price for a membership and they pay the other half, and this gives us all kinds of perks. The zoo is already free, but parking, tickets to extra exhibits and rides, and discounts on things is included with this. It was a day full of waiting, waiting in traffic to park, waiting for the train, waiting waiting waiting… but, it was still so much fun to all be together, we even enjoy just waiting together we found out, and not many people are lucky enough to have others in their life that make waiting in line so much fun. I am pretty sure it was all worth it for everyone though the moment Brantley got to ride the train he talked about riding for days. ❤

12322589_10209724128204982_4656049814432787730_o

Train trip!

Don’t worry, picture overload will happen of all our exciting things going on this summer, I am sure. And I am going to attempt to get myself on an actual schedule for posting, instead of just having a goal of so many a week/month. Maybe with an actual schedule, there will be some consistency and I can start broadening my writing topics again to include more random posts on random things. My brain is long over due for that type of therapeutic outlet. Until then, in the words of both Dory, and my mother, I will “just keep swimming” through this crazy thing called life.

Dump Dinner

Summer is coming, even if it hasn’t felt like it lately! One of things people often associate with summer is busy schedules. On top of the busy schedules, heat. Because of this, it often makes dinner time a difficult thing to tackle in households during the warm season. I know for me, when it is warm out, I not only dread turning on an oven to make dinner, but I prefer to spend my evenings doing things I enjoy a little more. On top of this, new moms I have found, really enjoy these meals as they are often busy and overwhelmed with their new bundle of joy that dinner can sometimes be the last thing they worry about and fuss over. I am excited to begin using dump dinners more throughout the next few months and experimenting with various foods, but of course it is only natural I have at least a few options I already know work out well and taste great too. You may be wondering what the heck a dump dinner is because well, it sounds kind of gross. Actually, it essentially just a dinner you dump into a crock pot after having previously meal prepped it and pre assembled on a different day and often kept it good in the freezer. I find not only does it cut back on time in the kitchen, but they have also saved me in a pinch that I find I get myself in sometimes. Check out the recipes below and as always, I try to make them cost friendly and pretty simple to do! 🙂

enhanced-27814-1441134583-2Beef and Broccoli

1.5 lbs thin flank steak chopped into 2 in pieces
1-1.5 cup beef broth
2/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp minced garlic or garlic powder (I have used whatever I have on hand, no use in spending extra for this meal)
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (can be reduced, increased or left out if heat is an issue)
4 cups broccoli florets
2 tbsp corn starch + 4 tbsp cold water MIXED

Combine all ingredients except corn starch & cold water mixture. Add to ziplock bag and freeze. When it comes time to cook, thaw out the night before. Once thawed, spray your slow cooker with non stick spray, add contents of bag to slow cooker and cook on high for 3-4 hours, low 6-8 hours. If it looks a little dryer than you would like, you can always add water half way through, or additional beef broth to your taste and liking. Makes 4 servings.

Italian Chicken & Rice
(this one is actually made in an oven but the same concept of a dump dinner, just different cooking method)

1 Jar marinara sauce of choice
15 oz diced tomatoes undrained
1.5 lbs skinless boneless chicken breast
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 tsp Italian Seasoning
2 tbsp chopped parsley
1 Cup uncooked long grain rice

Mix Marinara, tomatoes, chicken, seasoning, parsley, rice together and freeze. Once you are ready to cook, thaw and ensure ingredients are mixed well in a 13×9 in baking dish. Cover the dish tightly with foil (ensure no steam will escape). Bake at 375 for 45-55 minutes. Remove foil from dish, spring cheese mixture and place back in oven for 5-10 more minutes, until cheese has melted to desired outcome. Makes 4 servings.

Lemon Garlic ChickenOne-Skillet-Chicken-with-Lemon-Garlic-Cream-Sauce-24

2 tsp minced garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tbsp parsley
2 tbsp lemon juice (or 1 whole lemon fully juiced)
4-6 chicken breasts, or 8-10 chicken tenders

Literally combine all ingredients in gallon size freezer bag, ensure chicken is fully coated and freeze flat. Thaw overnight before cooking. Pour in baking dish and bake at 350 for 35 minutes. OR frill on a bbq grill outdoors until no longer pink. OR place frozen in crockpot and cook on low for 6-8 hours. (I literally love how there are SO many options for this dish!)

Crockpot Chicken Teriyaki

1-1.5 lbs chicken breast
Stirfry frozen veggie mix (or any mixture of veggies you prefer, I find this easiest)
1/2 cup Soy Sauce
1/2 cup Re Wine Vinegar
1/4 cup honey
1 small onion diced
Seasonings of choice (I always do to taste with this one- usually garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes and sesame seeds)

Combine all ingredients in gallon size freezer bag, ensure everything is fully coated and freeze flat. Thaw overnight before cooking. Dump mixture in crock pot and cook on low 4-6 hours until chicken is cooked and veggies are soft.

Ranch Pork Chops

4-6 uncoooked pork chips
1 envelope of dry ranch seasoning mix (I always use Hidden Valley)
2 cans of cream of chicken soup (10 oz)

Mix ingredients together and freeze. Thaw the night before you intend to use and pour into crock pot and cook on low for 4-5 hours. (Note: you will have sauce left over with this dish, usually I use with mashed potatoes- but that is just me)

I hope you try a few and if you do- please let me know! I love hearing how things turned out for my readers and if any changes/substitutions were made. Happy cooking and remember to enjoy spending time doing things you really love instead of cooking all evening this summer! – Unless what you enjoy IS cooking that is!

**Note: Photos are not mine, compliments of google.

The Girl You Left Behind

I am a little late to the party on my book review for the month of May. Speaking of late to the party, apparently I am a little late to the party on Jojo Moyes. I have spoken about my love for the first two books she read, but because they were the same characters, I had no idea if I would enjoy other stories. Verdict is in: I did.

The Girl You Left Behind (talk about a good title huh?) is set in two different time periods, in two different countries. You have pre WWI German occupied France and modern day London to split the book into two parts. The story is ultimately about a French artist who paints a photo of his wife, Sophie, that hangs in their home. He has left home to fight on the front lines and the Germans have occupied the French village that his wife and extended family live in. The painting sparks the interest of a German Kommandant and because of the effect the painting has on him, Sophie uses it and risks everything to be with her husband and one true love again.

Fast forward to today, the young widow Liv has the portrait hanging in her home in London, as a gift from her late husband. However, it catches the eye of Paul, who brings to light the dark and passionate history of the painting. The history is the very thing that can ruin the first chance at happiness Liv has had with anyone since her husbands passing, and cause turmoil in all areas of her already uprooted life.

51QKsswsqJL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

Now, I am not typically one to like time pieces. Honestly, I am not sure why, but I usually just have a hard time getting into them, relating, finding the visualization in my head, but surprisingly, this was not the case at all with this story.  I truly enjoyed the storyline of Sophie and her family in a German occupied village of France. I suppose maybe because I have not read stories during that era before, maybe I would be more surprised to know that I do actually just enjoy them in general more than other time periods. Nevertheless, I found the story to truly be one that kept me turning the pages way beyond my bed and eager to know more.

If Sophies side of the story kept me excited, interested and begging for more, Liv’s side… fell a little flat for me. I was very surprised by this, expecting it to be the opposite. However, I felt it was not a relatable relationship between Liv and Paul and I couldn’t get invested in it. I didn’t truly care nearly even half as much about their outcome as I cared about Sophies. At times, it felt drawn out, long, and at times bland, honestly. But, I truly enjoyed Sophies story so much, as well as the strength and fearlessness of her character. Liv was determined and strong as well, but I felt her character was more forced, her sadness almost too consuming for me as a reader at times, and not in a good way, because I love me some all consuming characters.

If I could truly give the “past” portion of the book one rating, and the “present” another, I would because they felt that much different for me. But, overall, I still would recommend this book to many people, especially if you like WWI stories and time pieces, or if you have an interest in art. Moyes did a great job at really putting you in the leading ladies places, especially Sophies, or at the very least, grabbing your attention and allowing you to picture the story in your mind and question what you would do. To me, a book that makes you think almost always can be a guaranteed good read.

Baseball, Gardens and Weddings Oh My!

13151083_885708854873348_2127847112_n

My best and I at the friendly confines. ❤

Last week, I kept thinking “I really need to write my blog posts. I really need to write my blog posts. I really need to….” (and then I would get distracted) As you can see, I never wrote. Whoops. Oh well, good thing I can share now I guess right?

My parents got to come down for a quick visit! I say this with the most excitement and enthusiasm  you can imagine. They had actually only been to our place since we moved, one time. And, it was right after we moved in, we were not totally unpacked, and it was an even quicker trip than this last one! They work opposite schedules from one another, and they have done this pretty much my whole life. (Part of the many reasons I admire them so much for keeping the love alive despite sometimes seeing each other only while the other sleeps, or for 45 minutes, or even not at all for multiple days) So, because their shifts and days off differ so much and their jobs are very demanding, it is difficult for them to find time to come down here. But, we loved having them. I finally got to take my mom to the arch, she had been wanting to go forever. My dad got a shopping trip at our Harley dealer, and they got to spend time with us and enjoy some good BBQ. Needless to say, I naturally did not want them to leave when it came time to say goodbye.

13124910_10156867653300082_5790955550313214622_nAdam has been busy working, as this spring weather keeps them pretty occupied at work. Actually, he works every Saturday the whole month of May minus one, so that really limits our weekend planning for the month. Which in all honesty is probably a good thing so we can save up some money cause June and July are B-U-S-Y. And that word usually also means expensive. With all of this nice weather we have been having though, we thought it would be nice to take advantage of our motivation one weekend and we decided to start a small garden on our deck! Nothing too elaborate as we are (very) short on space, but I hated not having any greenery around, and Adam is pretty good with plants. I am pretty thrilled to say we planted some tomatoes and peppers and put some flowers out. Now, it remains to be seen if I can keep them alive or if I take after my mother, who is well, not the best with plants. 🙂 One of the reasons I cannot wait to be in a house versus an apartment one day is for the yard work and gardening alone. I probably sound crazy to some, but we love that kind of stuff. I am toying with the idea of doing a small herb garden here in the apartment as well indoors. The only catch is they require a decent amount of sun from the research I have done and our kitchen actually doesn’t have a window because the apartment is just so open and the windows are in the living and dinning room. I figure I will look into it some more and maybe (hopefully) decide here soon. It has been a good hobby for me the last couple of weeks so maybe another plant or two won’t be too much more of a commitment. Along with Adam working a lot, I actually have been working longer days as well trying to get some things taken care of at work, while still trying to plan wedding things for my best friends rapidly approaching wedding, and taking care of things at home, running errands, and well, just adulting basically. I feel like the work never ends that is for sure! But, I have always enjoyed being busy so I can’t say I am complaining… yet.

13118157_519034088304151_1373954143_n

When you take a group picture with your best friends and Fetty Wap comes on in the middle of it, this is the best you are going to get.

13118278_1528268874148904_674643173_n(1)

Can’t even try to tell me my best friends aren’t gorgeous. 

Last weekend I actually made a whirlwind trip back home to Indiana. One of my closest friends, Andrea, married her high school sweetheart and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. It was a beautiful day (no seriously, the weather has been crappy out there lately, and she could not have asked for a more perfect day), and by beautiful I mean she was stunning, her venue was gorgeous and everything about the day was truly magical. All of us girls danced the night away with each other and just enjoyed being together for a few hours celebrating such an amazing couple. Flash forward to the next morning and I joined Kylee on a trip to Wrigley Field with her sister and fiancee. I honestly didn’t know if I would be able to make it to Wrigley this season, and it would have been the first season in almost 10 years that I didn’t make it (and ironically, their best season so far..) but thanks to that wonderful best friend of mine, I made it! I felt terrible Adam couldn’t come with because we had been talking about going together lately, but work just had to get in the way. Plus, he did go to a Cards game earlier in the week with a friend. (hey don’t hate, it was free- and he still doesn’t like the Cards :))Despite being exhausted and fighting a headache (thank you to the previous nights alcohol consumption), it was absolutely worth it to be in the city for a few hours and at truly one of my most favorite places ever.

13174003_10156867653355082_8829141563551654230_n

She hates that hat but boy do I love her! *Sigh*

I can’t say a whole lot of other stuff is new and happening in our lives right now. I shattered my phone screen again (second one in 5 months!), Lucy turned 6 (Cry!) we finally got our access to the gym at our apartment for 24/7 use rather than business hours only use, and they are building that pool a little more every day. I also went a little outside of my norm and joined a bible study this month! Adam’s sister, Allie, is hosting a bible study on The Book of Hosea and it is actually being done via a private Facebook group and in an effort to go outside of  my comfort zone a little bit (I am normally not the type to do a bible study or anything publicly like this) and to support Allie, I thought I would give it a try. It has only been a couple days now, but so far, I have enjoyed it and I look forward to continuing throughout the month! Who knows, maybe it will spark a blog post out of me like a book review or something similar. (Speaking of which… May’s will be up THIS WEEK! I am determined! )