My Tiny Squares
- Rhode Island!
- Just A Random Wednesday – A Post Only A Mother Could Love
- Keto-Friendly Chicken Pad Thai
- Thai Beef Satay And Peanut Sauce
- Slow Cooker Mexican Meatballs And A Rainy Day At Home
- My Babiest Baby Is Three!
- Bacon Makin’
- Key West – What We Ate, Saw and Did!
- My girl is FIVE!
- 10 Tricks I’m Doing To Stay Alive During My Sugar Cleanse
Author Archives: Sarah Grace
Whenever I sit down to write I always think: Why don’t I do this more often?? Usually it’s because the kids are all around me, sometimes it’s because life is busy, but sometimes, even when I find the time to slow down, I don’t remember to do this. Just open my laptop, have a cup of coffee by my side and let the words come.
So here I am.
Day four of our vacation in Rhode Island. I woke up this morning to the smell of smoking meat. What year am I in again?? And now, smoking meat and coffee. What an amazing mixture of smells. Brenden brought his smoker from Virginia and is now smoking a brisket the size of Remmy. It will take 18 hours so I better get used to the smell that is wafting in the windows.
It’s raining outside, and will rain all day. Days like this really remind me I’m in New England. I can’t see the sea from here but I know it looks dramatic, the rocks jutting up to the grey sky, the waves lonely lapping the shore.
This is the first year that we are in the cabin with the kids instead of the main house. It’s so still and calm and peaceful. The kids are sharing a room with two twin beds, and I can tell they feel so grown up. I swear Brielle has aged three years in three days. She is a little teenager walking around. She must smell independence and adventure… I’ll try to plug her nose for a few more years.
Remmy’s bed is pictured here but sadly, (or not so sadly) he isn’t with us anymore. He started to bark incessantly whenever we would leave the cabin which would annoy the neighbors who were trying to have a quiet non-dog-barking vacation. So we decided to give Remmy a vacation of his own! He is being boarded now and is very happy I hear.
Brielle is getting more and more proficient with her photog skills! (M photo bombed us and then nearly gave me a heart attack by almost falling off the lifeguard stand.)
Still, lots of pics like this. 🙂
We walked back from the dock happy, but the knee injury would continue to haunt us. Especially with the salt water, oh my! I don’t remember Brielle reacting this way when she got a skinned knee….? #boys.
Then last night we got a date night! Thanks Grammy and Grampy. We went to the Matunuck Oyster Bar which has become our favorite place to eat up here. It is paaaacked whenever we go, but so worth the wait.
We ended the night with dessert at the Shelter Harbor Inn. This was bitter-sweet for us because we have so many great memories here, (it’s right up the road from Nanny’s house where we stay every year) but it seems not to be doing so great, (aka we were the only people there) and I’m not sure how long it will be around in its current state.
Brenden hates this pic, I love it.
The kids play hard all day (thanks beach and cousins) and crash hard all night. Actually GETTING them to crash is a different story. But we find that a bath helps. I just love love love this scene. Safe in the bath. Played-out and sun-tanned.
And car naps… Car naps are my new best friend.
Okay, the kids will be up soon and my coffee is cold, so off I go!
Today I documented everything that happened on a random day.. everything we did, everywhere we went, what we had for breakfast, what I felt at 8am and what I felt at 1:30 pm., all the monotony and all the joy…
This post is for future me. I want something real and tedious to look back on, a way to re-live the details, the minutia, the beautiful (and not so beautiful) everything that makes up our lives today.
So future Sarah: Have fun remembering. It really was this good, their soft sweet kisses and their little laughs, the way their energy made me breathe in new life every day in a new way. Their conversations that have little to no logic and that make me laugh continuously. It really was this good.
And it really was this hard. The constant ON(ness) of being responsible for the well-being and safety and growth of two human beings. The constant effort and love and work. The constant thought and worry and sacrifice. The questions, the whining, the non-stop requests and complaints. It really was this hard.
Wednesday, May 31, 2017 – Our day in pictures:
6:30 am: “Mommy I’m donnne! I wanna Bottle milk rub your tummy!”
Cat’s out of the bag, he still gets a bottle of milk in the morning. I hold him and he rubs my tummy and I drink my coffee and look in his eyes and tell him all the things I love about him and why he’s special and how much God loves him.
And yes, he’s still in a crib, and that might last forever because he hasn’t climbed out yet and we all lovvvvve it. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.
As soon as the kids are awake it’s the signal to the animals to start demanding things too. Eustace wants to come in and have his breakfast – I wish I had a pic of his mouth open and yelling at me. That’s his signature “good morning” face.
Eustace after breakfast – retirement must be nice!
Bacon and eggs in the morning for Brenden Michael and I – cheerios for Brielle.
I crack them in the pan and then scramble them. I want chickens so bad!
We bake our bacon! 3-15 minutes on 385 until crispy. So much easier and less mess than on the stove-top!
It’s 8am and he’s already saying “I want to cook!” I told him we were going to make Chili and he won’t be happy until we start. I try to make our dinners super easy on Wednesdays because we have community group at 6:30 and there’s no time for anything else in the evening.
He loves to help me make this Chili. He rinses the beans and adds the corn and spices. The only part he doesn’t like is when I add the chopped onion. “It hurts my eyyyyes!”
Then when I went to shower I saw this…. And I laughed out loud. Just thinking about documenting my life in detail today makes everything stand out so much more. So many bumps in the road!!! Nothing is smooth and easy!
I’ll let this newly wrecked blush compact stand in for all the pictures I won’t be able to take during the chaos and spills and falls and arguments and confusion and mess and everything else that happens today.
After we got dressed I set the kids up with their on-going project this week: A book report! It was Brielle’s idea to write a book, and I got so excited thinking about going to the library to “research” our topics.
Brielle chose insects, Michael chose instruments, and then Brielle said “mommy what will your book be?” Umm.. what a novel idea. (Pardon the pun.) I was giddy at the thought.
I chose wildflowers and we went to the library and picked out the most beautiful vibrant books we could find on our topics.
Already we learned about Pasture Roses and Morpho moths and listened to tons of different instruments on youtube.
After we had about twenty minutes of book writing (our max attention span with Michael around) I told them to go play while I cleaned the kitchen. Making chili with a 3 year old isn’t pretty.
Then I heard Michael say “I want some gum, B-ell.” Apparently she’s his dealer? “I know where some is, let’s go outside.” She led the way down the front stairs but neither of them could get the door open.
Then I heard, “Let’s try the back door!!” They came back upstairs and opened the back sliding door and ran around the side of the house to the car. I met them outside:
They had no idea how to open the car doors! I couldn’t stop laughing.
I let them in so they could play “Driving to Rhode Island” while we waited for the appliance repair guy.
(Brielle asked me specifically for this side pony-tail.) *Heart-eyes.*
His new thing is picking the rubber spikey things off the tires whenever he gets a chance. Is that bad for the tires I wonder? It sure does make his hands gross.
I sat on the front steps while they played, simultaneously making sure they didn’t get killed by the appliance repair man’s truck when he drove up, and painting my nails.
Literally I had just sat down to paint my nails (which is a bad idea if you are a mom and anywhere other than in a salon or the kids are asleep) and Michael said “mommy my feet are wet can you wipe off my shoes?” And Brielle said “mommy I’m thirsty can you get me some water?”
And then horror of horrors they noticed I was painting my nails… so of course they had to join in. Michael pointed to his right hand – “I want three nails!!” But he wouldn’t let me paint them, he wanted to do it himself.
Nail painting party.
As soon as he blew his fingernails dry he said: “Boys don’t like nail polish.” Brielle agreed with a “yeah daddy hates to wear nail polish.” And he promptly picked off all his polish.
Brielle asked if she could pick the neighbors flowers. How can I refuse that face? Somehow I did.
Still no appliance repair guy… It should be illegal to make moms wait more than an hour. Ridic.
Then we went into the back yard to check out our tomato plant and found a few more little green ones!
I have green peppers, zucchini and tomatoes growing in three pots side by side and I think they are all kind of one big plant now.
Finnnnally the repair guy came, fixed what he needed to fix and left and we were able to get in the car and head to the Discovery Museum. But first a stop at the dry cleaners to get Brielle’s purple princess dress mended. A seam was coming apart and she wanted to wear it (specifically) to a friend’s Princess party this weekend.
Then to the drive-thru library window (which we love) and then we were on our way to the Discovery Museum. For real this time. We love the Discovery museum, and it’s freeee when you either have a membership (which we don’t this year) or have a very handy pass that you can check out at the library for free!
Five minutes before we arrived at the parking garage (and only after a 12 minute drive) this guy was passed out.
Now whatttt. Brielle was insistent that the DM could not wait for another day, so we let him sleep for another 10 minutes and then woke him up.
It was like waking a bear. And I realized it was 11:30 and he was hungry. Total mom fail.
We always get french fries on Friday, usually from Chick Fil A because that’s everyone’s favorite, but today I was desperate and we pulled through the drive through at McDonald’s. Whateves.
I love that I do this on the day that I am trying to be as detailed as possible about my day!
The Discovery museum was a hit as usual. Seriously, we could have stayed all day if it wasn’t for gymnastics.
On the way out we rode on the carousel. I remember when they were too afraid to ride this. It was only last year. 😀
It’s amazing how fast a mood can change when you’re with kids. I feel like I have emotional whiplash half the time. This morning we woke up so excited about the day and by 1:30 I was like, “It it too early to send them off to college? And can the dog go too?”
By gymnastics time we were all a little worn out. Into the car we go, back home to get Brielle’s leotard and then down the road to the gymnastics center.
I find it fascinating how as moms we are at the mercy of their little moods and developing emotions and attitudes. It requires so much resilience and strength to not be sucked down whatever path they happen to be on, and some days I just don’t have that resilience!
Michael had a hard time at gymnastics because he was exhausted… He didn’t want to nap but he also didn’t want to be awake. Cue hell. So I drove around trying to get him to nap while Brielle did her class.
“Mommy how are your arms rully rully long to reach?”
He didn’t nap.
We got home and the house smelled of delicious Chili. Thank goodness. Can I just say how nice it is to have dinner ready with nothing needed by me?? I love my crockpot.
I resisted the urge to have a bowl of half-done chili and I had leftover red beans and rice and coleslaw for lunch. This is how I roll when I’m eating alone, whatever is in the fridge goes on my plate. It was delicious.
I made the kids dinner. Wow, this is a reallllly bad day to be talking about what we ate, but such is life. I made Brielle a peanut butter and honey sandwich and Michael had some chili.
Peanut butter and honey sandwiches, rice, and cheerios are her staple foods right now. She’ll eat raw veggies too, and some chicken, etc., but those are her three go-to favorites. We are working on it.
Neither of them ate much of it, they just sat and played restaurant with their food, which means they will be hungry in about an hour. Joy.
They just brought me this “special” dish from their restaurant. 🙂
I sat next to them as they played restaurant (aka ate dinner) and sipped tea and tried to type this post, or at least part of it, and all I heard was loud LOUUUUD voices singing: “First I was a pea and I grew and I GREW and I grew so big that the pea pod POPPED!!” Over and over. I love it, right? Right. So much so that I considered buying noise canceling headphones the other day. Lol.
Shoes were found and clothes put on, troops were rallied and we left to go to our community group meeting. I am so grateful to be doing life with other Christian families and individuals that I LOVE and love Christ! It makes life so rich and so beautiful.
Today we talked about sharing our story, what God has brought us through and brought us out of. I want to be more proficient in sharing my testimony with people that I know and that I meet. I want to be challenged in this area and I’m so grateful for a group of people who are doing that in my life. Sharing our story is powerful!
And speaking of stories:
Every Wednesday this beautiful girl is here to play with us. We love our Aunt Genevieve! She is such an amazing young woman, has the most beautifully unique and inspiring story, and is just over the moon amazing with the kids. And I hear her right now practicing her harp downstairs. It is beautiful!! Yes, she is too good to be true.
Tonight Brielle asked her to make her a “crown braid” and she did this. So sweet.
We got to church a few minutes early, just in time to have Brielle almost smash her head hanging from the stair banister on the concrete steps. I reminded her we weren’t in gymnastics class… and she did it again. I’m trying to be more firm and have absolute consequences when she disobeys, like taking away her toys or a show for a bit, the verdict is out on the success of this.
Of course we had to walk down the sidewalk to Sweethaus while we waited for the doors to open. We looked in the windows and saw all the deliciousness but didn’t get anything… “because we didn’t have dinner, remember guys??” They are so silly.
I feel like in mom life you can experience the entire spectrum of emotions in one day. If the morning is all glittery rainbows and smiley faces the afternoon or evening is bound to be some level of hell. I can’t remember a day when we’ve been like yes… it’s been amazing all. day. long. No. It isn’t possible.
But it is possible for me to try to keep my sanity and be the happiest I can be no matter what is going on around me. And that will allow the kids to come back to my level whenever they can/want/are able to. It makes it easier for them to get back to “normal” if I am at that normal level on the regular.
I’m reading Triggers again, (for the second time) and love it so much. It’s teaching me so much about parenting and my own sin, and how my kid’s actions usually make me react out of my own shortcomings and sin, not theirs. It is so humbling and I love it!
The kids are in bed now, see how I skipped the ‘get home at 8PM and get them to sleep’ part? No thanks, even I don’t want to see pictures of that. There’s nothing like two over-tired kids who didn’t eat their dinner and didn’t nap. That’s when life gets cray and everyone needs their pillows flipped because “my pillow’s too hotttt” and “I don’t want to take a bath, my legs itch.” And I just asked Brenden for some more bedtime complaint examples, because they are adorable and I don’t ever want to forget them, and he said, “oh sweetheart… I’m off the clock.” Good enough.
Okay, that was a long post. Loooooong. And I know I’ll be glad I wrote it one day. That’s just how I am.
Happy Normal Wednesday from my crazy family to yours!
I just love Pad Thai, and this low carb version hit the spot. It took a little more time than my normal 10 minute meal prep-time but it was totally worth it.
I’m not a clean-as-I-go type person can you tell? And cooking with a three-year-old doesn’t help either. (Hands over face.)
Don’t let this long(ish) list of ingredients scare you! The end result is worth the extra effort:
⅛ teaspoon ground ginger
⅛ teaspoon garlic powder
⅛ teaspoon sea salt
⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds free-range chicken tenders
2 tablespoons peanut oil
3 large free-range eggs, lightly beaten
⅓ cup organic chicken broth
3 tablespoons peanut butter
2 tablespoons tamarin or soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
½ cup chopped scallion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 zucchini, spiralized
½ cup bean sprouts
½ cup crushed peanuts, for garnish
1 lime, cut into wedges, for garnish
In a medium bowl, mix the ginger, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper. Toss the chicken tenders in the spice mixture until they are coated.
Now add the peanut oil to a skillet and get it hot. Add the chicken and cook, turning once until cooked through. It took me about four minutes.
Don’t over-cook it! I usually err on the side of under-cooked to avoid tough chicken. Especially in this recipe, because it will go back in the sauce later.
Once the chicken is done cut it in 1/4 inch pieces and set aside.
This is where I chopped the scallions.
Use the same skillet to scramble the eggs. I added a little more oil and cracked them right into the pan. Then set the eggs aside.
All I see is protein! I want chickens so bad.
Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the chicken broth, peanut butter, tamarin or soy sauce, vinegar, scallion, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Stir well and cook for 3 minutes.
This Pad Thai sauce smelled and tasted so so good.
The recipe said to add the spiralized zucchini to the sauce and didn’t mention cooking it.. at first and I thought that can’t be right!! But I’m glad I followed the instructions and added it RAW because it was perfectly cooked after just one minute of simmering in the sauce. It was tender-crisp and delicious.
Serve with peanuts and a lime wedge. (Michael and I put peanuts in a bag and hammered them with a meat tenderizer. Perfect little boy job.)
I almost didn’t want to add this picture because it doesn’t do justice to how yummy and gorgeous this was. But here it is. Ah, yay for the convenience of iPhone pics and the craziness of dinner-time!
Brielle just came up and said “Can I write my name??” So here it is:
Michael obviously had to join in too. I’m leaving it here for future enjoyment, because you know, my kids will want to read alllllll my blog posts when they are older. 😀
Have a beautiful week friends!
*Thanks to The Easier Life for this awesome recipe!
Thai food is one of my favvvvvorite foods in the world. I ate my way across Thailand when I was 19. Okay, maybe not “across,” but I ate my fair share in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Pattaya City and gained a few kilos.
It was better than heaven and I loved how we ate “family style” with big bowls in the middle of the table and hands reaching every-which way.
I loved the idea of being able to recreate these flavors in my own kitchen… But I never thought it was possible until I bit the bullet and decided to actually *try* it.
I’m so glad I did! The best part of this entire meal for me was the peanut sauce. There was a ton left over and I used it on anything and everything for the next week. It was creamy and spicy-sweet, and exactly what I order in Thai restaurants that always makes my mouth water.
And it was so easy to make:
1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
1/3 cup coconut milk full fat from a can
1-2 teaspoons chile garlic sauce
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon Thai Red Curry Paste (I added a little extra at the very end to up the kick.)
(I soaked my skewers in water for a day before using.)
1 pound flank steak or skirt steak
2 tablespoons Red Boat Fish Sauce or your favorite
2 tablespoons Tamari Soy Sauce or coconut aminios
2 tablespoons sweetner – I used honey
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
Cut the flank steak into 1 1/2 inch strips so that the grain of the meat is going horizontally across the strip.
Stick the skewers into the meat leaving a handle long enough to hold while eating.
Mix the fish sauce, soy sauce, and honey together in a baking dish and coat all surfaces of the beef.
Now sprinkle the meat with the coriander and rub it in. Now let it marinate for about 15-20 minutes.
I used a grill pan to grill the meat, and ended up taking the skewers OUT of the meat before I grilled it because the skewers were too big to fit in the grill pan! Next time I will use smaller skewers so I can retain the “Satay” look.
And I have to add this picture because I just love their little faces. Whenever she sees “never-greens” Brielle says “Look Michael, tickle trees!!!” And they both laugh as the trees “tickle them.” Ahhhhh. Never ever ever grow up!
Happy almost Friday!
Thanks Low Carb Maven for this awesome recipe!
Last Tuesday started with a dead truck battery and ended with a traffic ticket from a very kind police officer. No really, he was so kind.
After one look in the back of my land-cruiser packed with three preschoolers he went from business as usual to sweet and comforting: “Just call DMV and renew your registration and it’s like you never even got a ticket….”
“Call DMV??” I don’t know what planet he’s from, but it’s not earth. Even so, I was thanking him as I drove away.
Kindness! It makes the world such a better place.
After we were merrily on our way I asked my audience in the back; “Can you believe I got a ticket??” To which Brielle’s little friend replied, “A ticket?? To what?”
I mean, adorable.
Days like that remind me how little my happiness and joy depends on my actual circumstances, and how much it depends on my willingness to just be content.
(Telling stories and having our snack in the car before resigning ourselves to an unplanned morning at home.)
Some days motherhood is a whirlwind of places to go and to-do lists and some days it’s rain coming down and hours of nothing but fights and make-ups and Netflix and crafts and meals and clean-ups and books and games and snacks and make-believes and time-outs, and doing it all agains…
And that leads me to the Mexican Meatballs… They were simmering quietly in the background, not needing or requiring me.. just getting “done” on their own. Ahhh.
I used to think slow cookers were for chili and soup in cold weather. Now, as a mom, I know they are for survival. There’s nothing better than turning a pot on and having dinner done eight hours later.
I found this recipe years ago and I’m excited to share it with you and have it eternally on my meal-planning radar.
Slow Cooker Mexican Meatballs:
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
6 garlic cloves (I use minced in a jar, so a couple teaspoons full.)
Shallots, 2 bulbs diced
Ground pork 1 1/2 lbs
Garlic powder 2 tsp
Cumin 1 tsp for meatballs and 1 tsp for sauce
Chipotle pepper in Adobo sauce 1, chopped
Chili Powder 1 tsp
Salt 1 tsp
Crushed tomatoes (Can, 14 oz)
Crushed Tomatoes (Can 28 0z)
Avocado, 1 cubed
Lime, sliced into wedges
I always chop my veggies before I deal with the meat, because of the obvious grossness factor.
Then I diced the Shallots:
I added the Cilantro to the pork (The shallots go into the sauce.)
Then I added the spices:
Then I took off my rings and mushed it all together.
Next I made the sauce which is so easy:
I combined the cans of tomatoes in the crockpot with the second half (1 tsp) of cumin and the adobo pepper as well as the shallots and minced garlic.
Stir stir stir.
Then I rolled the meat into balls and dropped them right into the sauce.
Once they were all in there I covered them up with the spoon, being careful not to damage them.
Then I covered the slow cooker and turned it on low for 8 hours (You can also do high for 6 hours.)
As an additional step, (but not necessary for a delicious meal) you can remove the meatballs from the slow cooker when they are done and puree the sauce with an immersion blender before mixing the two together again.
Don’t forget salt and pepper!
They are tender and delicious and way too easy not to add to my monthly meal rotation.
Happy Tuesday everyone!
Throwing a party for a three-year-old boy… Could there be anything more FUN? And more terrifying? For the first time (in his long life of three years) he was super excited about having a party. Like suuuuuper excited.
Every day leading up to it, “Is it my burday party?? I wanna go to my burrday party!!” Lots to navigate for me in that area, but there was much fun and cuteness found in-between the stress of managing a three-year-olds emotions and unrealistic expectations. So much fun and cuteness!!!!
We went to Sweethaus on his actual birthday for a cupcake. It was rainy and chilly, perfect weather for his new blue raincoat that he just got for his birthday! When he saw it he said “It’s just like Dell’s!” I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I know it means he loves it. 🙂
Thursday night we had dinner as a family at Red Robin. Birthday boy’s choice. 🙂
His smooshy kisses are the best!
Friday we made favors for his party guests. Idea compliments of Pinterest, and so adorable. Also, super fun and delicious to make.
Then we got to work on the cake. I got the actual cake from Giant, a basic chocolate sheet cake with a pretty piping around the edges.
We (Brenden actually, let’s be honest) drew a “3” and cut it out. Then we proceeded to do this:
Brielle had lots of fun scraping off of cream. And then (not pictured) banging them to pieces in a plastic ziplock bag,
I laid the 3 on the very dry icing and sprinkled the cookie crumbs around. Then I pressed the crumbs so they wouldn’t be misplaced when I lifted the paper.
I’m no baker but it was fun to use a paintbrush to get the pieces of “dirt” off the road.
Pretty cute indeed.
I will never forget M’s face when he saw it. He had told me for weeks what he wanted for a cake. “I want a blue dinosaur cake.” “I want a racecar cake.” “I want a robot cake.” “I want a….” It was non-stop. He never asked for this cake, but little did he know it was exactly what he wanted! (Thank goodness.)
We had these two big trucks we wanted to use for a center display so we crushed MORE candy. Peanut butter cups and malted milk balls!
Combined they made the best boulders and dirt for these trucks to move and push.
Again, googley-eyes from the birthday boy.
Birthday party time!
It was a serious dose of adorable. And the best part, it didn’t break the bank. There were so many great ideas on Pinterest for a construction themed party, but man, it was intense. Too many ideas, too many options. I decided less is more and settled on some cheap construction hats and “caution” tape. (Thanks Amazon.) And it made the look. Oh, and I found some orange cones at the dollar store on the day of. Score!
He made the FUNNIEST faces when we sang happy birthday to him. He is such a joker!
The cake was a hit!
He really looks like a little construction worker on his lunch break. LOL.
Oh how I love family traditions! Especially ones that taste good, (and may or may not raise your blood pressure, but let’s not dwell on that.)
Over the past couple of months THIS has become a weekend family tradition for us.
Every Saturday morning I see Brenden dragging this thing from the utility room (he wishes he had a garage) setting it up, pouring the pellets in, and setting the thermometer to connect to his iPhone.
(Who knew smoking meat could be such a nerdy/techy activity?? Maybe Brenden just finds a way to make everything nerdy/techy? Either way, he loves it.)
Last weekend we ran around doing our normal weekend stuff while this baby (we need to name her) did some pretty awesome smoking for us.
Whenever the smoker is ON I go through the fridge: “Can you smoke this? How about THIS??” And I pull out random stuff and bring it to the fire.
Brenden has smoked tomatoes, hot dogs, chicken wings, bacon, pork roast, ribs, (yummmmm, my favorite) and whole chickens:
He used a method called “Spatchcock” (not kidding) to flatten it out. This way it’s able to cook evenly and smoke to perfection!
And then there’s bacon makin’! I don’t know how to articulate how much this family loves bacon. Maybe just by saying, “one day it will probably kill us.” Because it probably will. We eat bacon every morning, then sometimes pork again of some variety by the end of the day. (Hands over face.)
No one really knows the health ramifications of bacon, but that aside, everything in moderation is a good rule… right? Well moderation is certainly not something we’re practicing over here currently. So… if we are going to eat it, it might as well be delicious.
So at the beginning of Brenden’s bacon making there was some trial and error. We went through a few pork bellies before we cut into it and were like “mmmm yeah, perfect salt to sugar ratio.”
Brenden first started off using brown sugar, and now he uses white sugar. The white sugar actually dissolves and absorbs into the meat as opposed to the brown sugar which seems to fall off right after you rub it on.
So the method he has adopted is this:
Go to whole foods and buy 3 lbs pork belly.
Mix: 1/3 salt, 1/3 cup white sugar, 2 tsp curing salt.
The curing salt is pink. I’m only telling you this because I am a stickler for safety, but this could be LETHAL if ingested in huge amounts. Meaning, if Michael or Brielle decided they for some reason wanted to eat an entire box of this, they would become very very ill. We keep it super high up and out of reach, and I doubt very seriously any human would want to eat that much pink salt anyway, but it’s worth mentioning! Good, off my chest.
Here it is:
The ingredients, if you care: Salt, Sodium Nitrate, and pink food coloring.
Mix mix mix and pat onto the pork belly. Okay, this is a picture from when he used BROWN sugar, picture it white.
He cut the meat into two sections and made one a little spicy with some Sriracha. Yes please.
Just squeeze it on, (no measuring needed) and pat the sugar/salt mixture on after all the sauce is rubbed in.
Then place the meat in a bag and seal it closed. It will stay in the fridge for a week. He flips it once a day (for some reason) and sometimes I flip it too because I think maybe he forgot that day, so when we both flip it, it ends up NOT being flipped at all! Perfect example of too many cooks in the kitchen.
After about a week he pulls it out, and now it’s ready to smoke.
The thermostat talks to his phone so he knows when everything is done without any hassle.
My tan lines are fading fast, time to relive our vacation via a blog post! The first few days home were an adjustment to say the least. Whew! Seriously, peeing alone for four days and not having to mediate one sibling fight… that kind of freedom is hard to recover from. 😀
We stayed at the Casa Marina Waldorf Astoria Resort and I have to say, it was exceptional. I also have to say that we paid for it with our Hilton points! If we had to fork out actual dollars instead of hotel points we would have opted for a different hotel. This is a huge perk to Brenden’s hobby of making sure we have credit cards that give us the most return for our purchases.
We use the AMEX blue on groceries and get cash back on that until it caps out at the max allowed for the year and then we switch to the Hilton card where we get hotel points for every dollar we spend for the remaining of the year. The most bang for our buck comes from the blue card in the form of cash back so once that reaches its max amount allowed it’s pretty nice to have hotel points racking up on our Hilton card for the rest of the year.
It’s funny to see him geek out on all these details, but it turns out it really does make a difference and I’m so glad he spends time optimizing in this area! I can’t remember the last time we actually paid for a hotel room.
I did’t get any full front pics of the resort but it was beautiful.
Roosters and chickens strolled around like guests at the resort, which was so funny. Everywhere we went we heard clucking and crowing, and they seemed to be monogamous (or maybe that’s just me being a romantic?) Whenever I saw a beautiful rooster I would see a significantly less beautiful chicken with him, palling around enjoying their day together. They spent a lot of time scratching in the soil under the shrubs by the pool, digging up bugs for the chicks trailing behind them.
They were all over the city too!
The first night we went to Mallory Square to watch the beautiful sunset and experience the Sunset Celebration. It was beautiful! Then we walked a few feet away to the Hot Tin Roof for dinner.
The Yucka fries are what stands out the most in my memory. They were ammmmazing and served with a pesto dipping sauce which sounds weird but it was just so good. We also had the PEI mussels with grilled ciabatta, pork empanadas, crab cakes (which we found out had dairy in them so I didn’t eat any sadly) and I had the most refreshing delicious New Zealand Sauvignon blanc. The menus lit up!! Back-lit, people. Which made for a very cool ambiance as you looked around the restaurant.
The Hot Tin Roof is famous for its views and it did not disappoint! The post-sunset sky was stunning.
After dinner we went down to the dock to see a Sublime cover band. Apparently they always have a big live entertainment event for the spring break crowd during this time of year. Let me tell you, we felt ollllld in that group. Happy but old!
Thursday morning we took a two hour jet ski tour around Key West. I was the one who wanted to do it! I was giddy and excited! I pictured us puttering around, maybe occasionally accelerating just to get a rush.. but no no no. This was sooo different.
We were FLYING full speed ahead. I reached 50 mph, not because I wanted to but because I had to speed to keep up with the rest of the tour! We were hitting huge wakes and I thought for sure I was going to flip my jet ski or fly off.
It seemed like everyone else was having a blast but I really and truly didn’t like it AT ALL. The only real moment I enjoyed was when we slowed down and got to play in the Gulf of Mexico where it was shallow and calm and I could see the bottom. (That’s where I got this picture of Brenden. When I was stress-free enough to pull my phone out of its waterproof case.) We did fun circles and got to play around instead of flying through the choppy water 50 mph. Seriously, no thank you.
Okay, enough about the darn jet skis.
One of our favorite places was Grand Vin. It’s a sweet place right off Duval street where you can buy a bottle of wine and sit outside, enjoy a glass and they will put your name on it and you can come back and enjoy the rest later! We had a bottle of wine there all week. It was a unique/fun feeling to go back to Grand Vin for “our” bottle of wine. 🙂
Next we had dinner at Nine One Five. I think this was my favorite restaurant of the trip. Click here to see the fans blowing the flowers above the tables. This was the exact view from our table and it was incredible! The ambiance, the beautiful smells, the food, the colors. It was just too wonderful. The address is 915 Duval Street, hence the name.
For a starter we had calamari and bacon wrapped asparagus. Called ‘Addictive Asparagus’ on the menu for a reason!
Brenden had the Seafood Soup which he said was delicious but I couldn’t taste it because it had cream in it. I had Pasta with Shrimp in a wine sauce. The pasta was made in house and it was to.die.for. The noodles literally melted in my mouth and tasted like no pasta I’ve had before.
The next morning was Friday and I remember thinking, we still have three full days!! It was incredible to have that much time with my man in full relaxation mode. No responsibilities and not a care in the world. We never travel without the kids so having this much time together alone was just bliss.
I had so many naps… I told Brenden I didn’t know I was that tired and he said napping is my super power. I can nap on command, even if I’ve already napped twice that day, and it doesn’t even ruin my sleep that night. Yes, I’m proud of my cat-napping ability. It serves me well. 🙂
We heard we HAD to go to Latitudes Restauraunt. It’s on Sunset Key, a short ferry ride over Key West harbor. They were booked for dinner until May! Which was a good thing, considering I can’t imagine spending the $$$ to eat dinner there. Some locals joked that we should bring three wallets. So yeah, no thank you. We decided to go over for lunch, and it was delicious.
We had stone crabs caught that day.
I ordered a blackened fish sandwich and fries… I wish I had some of those fries right now!
Brenden had a fish and risotto dish. He said it was good but I couldn’t taste it because of the cream.
All in all the food wasn’t anything to write home about. It was just some yummy fresh seafood. But the sights, the ferry over, the panoramic gulf views. The warm wind and scents from the flowers and trees. The atmosphere. All of that combined is why it’s worth raving about.
After lunch we took a walk around the Island. Sunset Key is a private island with adorable little houses and sweet picket fences with colorful flowers draping over every-which-way. We walked the entire island in about twenty minutes and loved the quiet atmosphere. No cars, just the occasional gulf cart. Peace and serenity.
The white sandy beach where we sat for lunch is apparently where those blissful Corona commercials are filmed! Makes total sense:
We took our time heading back and before we knew it, it was dinner-time. We got a recommendation from some locals for dinner:
I was seriously excited for some Cuban food!! Bring on the rice and beans! It was authentic, amazing, and just a taste of Cuba for real.
I got grilled chicken with black beans and rice and it came smothered with sweet plantains. Realllllly good. The portion of chicken could have fed a family of four which kind of turned me off considering I saw these birds in live action clucking around all day with their cute little chicks behind them. It’s okay… I value lean protein for fuel too much to be phased by this for long. So I enjoyed every bite.
Meanwhile Brenden had the slow roasted pork and was right in his element. There was a hot sauce on the table that was almost gone when we left. It was delicious, all of it!
One of my favorite discoveries on this trip was the watermelon juice. I found it at the hotel breakfast buffet and I was determined to recreate it for the kids as soon as I got home.
I would drink two glasses with breakfast and then take some to the pool with me for later. My version of it at home was not quite as good, sadly!
It was surreal spending so much time together with no distractions and no responsibilities. Wow. At home a two hour date night is a treat!! Here we had a date night every night… and all day. I mean, come on. Mom-life culture shock much?
The last night we decided to go to Sunset Pier to just see if they could accommodate us. We didn’t have a reservation and it worked out perfectly. We got a table right on the water and got to see the boats and the insane sunset.
We started dinner with some conch fritters. Mostly because I was curious!
They were okay. Kind of a weird texture… I detected some stringy-ness every now and then.
But my dinner was two-thumbs up. I mean three if I had three. I am a sucker for ribs. Ribs and coleslaw and street corn?? BRING IT ON.
Brenden got steak skewers and raved about his too.
We were so happy. And this was our view.
The next morning was Sunday, time to go home. We woke up in time for the sunrise for once! So glad we did.
Four days was my limit. I loved every single moment of independent bliss but by night four I wanted to SWIM home to see my babies. I missed their little faces and non-stop noises and fighting and their very persons. I MISSED THEM.
That is what makes a vacation without kids so amazing…. there is such a contrast from vacation to mom life!
Sunday morning we went to Banana Cafe before taking the taxi to the airport. The herb and potato omelette hit the spot.
I am so grateful to our incredible moms (and company!) who made the kid’s time so healthy and happy. They felt like they had a vacation too, I could tell when I got home! They were so full of love and joy and security. It was such a gift, to be able to relax with each other knowing our babies were happy and well cared for.
Key West, we are coming back for you!
Five??? Come on, how is that even possible? It feels like just yesterday I put a number “5” on her dress representing five months.
I’m putting all this down now because if I don’t it will never happen. I always wait too long and then it just falls off my radar, all the pictures drifting farther and father back in my iPhone album.
This post can’t possibly do justice to what is going on in my heart right now… my little girl is growing into a beautiful young woman right before my eyes… so I won’t even try. Instead I’ll just write what happened this weekend so I never forget it.
Friday morning before preschool Grandmommy Erkel surprised us with a birthday cake! We sat around and sang happy birthday and had coconut cream cake for breakfast!
We were driving to preschool and Brielle was already saying “best birthday weekend ever!” It’s not hard to win her little heart. 🙂
We made Funfetti cupcakes with sprinkles for her preschool celebration. They love to help in the kitchen… It’s always messy but always fun.
Brenden and I went to her classroom to read two of her favorite books: Why Should I Help? and How to Pick a Pup. The kids in the class were SO CUTE sitting around interacting with us and talking about the books. She has such sweet little friends! Michael loved to be there too. He sat on the floor and basically made a huge commotion while we read.
Then we went to Red Lobster for her birthday dinner on Friday night. Don’t ask me WHY she wanted to go to Red Lobster. We don’t ever go there as a family… and I hate that they keep live lobsters in a tank until they kill them! But she wanted to go so we did. They had Shirley temples and picked at their rice and shrimp. It wasn’t a huge hit other than the cake and liquid sugar with cherries in it. 😀
(Brielle is showing off the bracelet her daddy gave her.)
We had her birthday party at Classics Gymnastics and it was a blast!! Her favorite activity during the week is her gymnastics class and she LOVED to share it with her friends.
It was so much fun having all her girlfriends there to celebrate with us! The kids had rosy cheeks after running around and doing obstacle courses and different activities with the awesome leaders. The favorite was the foam pit and the monstrosity of a bouncy house!
I made myself a promise that next year we will keep it simple and have a small family party. I loved this big to-do but there’s something so valuable about keeping it simple too. I don’t remember having these kinds of birthday celebrations as a kid, I mean, the presents alone…. It will take a month to open all of them!!
This morning when she was eating her birthday chocolate chip pancakes before church she said: “So am I a ‘plain five?’ I want to be an older five like five and a quarter or five and a nickel.” Brenden and I died. These kids seriously never cease to amaze us.
This “I want to be older” mentality was very welcome after Friday when she cried all day because she didn’t want to turn five. Her concerns were: “Is it hard to turn five? How will I know how to do it? Will I still fit in my clothes? I don’t want to get any bigger. Will I still look like me?”
Some of her questions made me laugh and hug her, others made me want to cry with her. Like when she said “I don’t want to get big like Aunt Lizzy. Can’t I always stay small like I am right now?” Sob. I mean, these are my thoughts too… coming from her makes them even more real and painful.
Then we had a long talk and looked at her Peppa Pig calendar. We looked at the day before her birthday and the day after her birthday. I told her she would be the exact same size before and after her birthday… she would just have a different number.
This morning she opened her presents from us and her favorite, (surprise surprise) was her makeup kit and nail polish. Michael and I already got our makeovers!
Brenden smoked ribs all day and we had a family dinner tonight. We went to another dear friend’s party, (yay for drop off parties! It is how I was able to write this post!!) And then Michael gave Brielle his gift to her: A beautiful orchid. (Thank you Daddy!) Their relationship is a treasure to my soul.
She went to sleep so so happy. So full of love and hugs and joy. And her favorite new doll!
She will be my baby forever. I love you so much Gabrielle Elise Grace.
1) Water water and then some more water.
2) When I feel “off” or have an intense craving I eat a spoonful of organic coconut oil. Immediately I feel better; and a sort of buzzing energy in my brain. That stuff is incredible.
3) I drink bone broth throughout the day. I need to master making this on my own (aka mine tastes like crap) but in the meantime I’m drinking organic drinking bone broth from Whole Foods.
4) I eat lots of nuts and sardines and I have avocados in my purse that I eat with a spoon. You don’t even need to peel them, just dig in and scoop out the goodness! Healthy snacks on hand is a must. I’ve avoided many a sugar catastrophe thanks to my stash of weird food. 😀
5) I’m being kinder to myself physically. I haven’t done kettle bells since I started my fast. I do a medium intensity step class and it requires the perfect amount of energy. I seem to get more winded and my muscles tire easier, but my mind is firing like never before. I am remembering things better, being more productive, and I feel like I can prioritize and plan more effectively. The fog is gone. It feels good!
6) I drink ‘Amazing Grass’ Green SuperFood. I didn’t know what that was until about a week ago when I heard some friends talking about it. I got it at Whole Foods and it’s kind of disgusting… But I mix it with lemon-lime seltzer water and suddenly it’s not half bad! And it’s loaded with everything good for me. Loaded I tell you.
I drink my green drink and an entire cup of water (in addition to the seltzer water with green powder) before I have my coffee with almond milk in the morning. I make myself work for it, and my body thanks me! By 6AM I am hydrated and full of antioxidants and nutrients.
Getting a good start to the day in this way makes it harder to mess up later. When I get started on the right foot I want to stay on the right foot!
7) I’ve been drinking smoothies. My new favorite smoothie is:
1 cup frozen blueberries
1 tbs ground flax seeds
1 tbs ground chia seeds
2 tbs almond butter
Splash of almond milk (I’ve never measured it.)
Splash of vanilla extract
Huge scoop of coconut oil.
(I blend it without the coconut oil first and share some with Brielle and Michael then I add the coconut oil and reblend for me. Reason: Brielle doesn’t want “hair cream!!!” In her smoothie. I use coconut oil for Michael’s dry scalp so she assumes I cook/make smoothies with hair cream. And I eat it right out of the jar sometimes too. Her eyes just go wide. Poor girl.) 😂😅
8) I just don’t keep sugar in the house. If I leave it out of sight it seems to be out of mind, and I am able to avoid “decision fatigue,” which is a real thing!
9) I’m aware that I’m detoxing. When I have a bad attitude or frustrated moment I remind myself: you are giving up sugar. One of the most addictive and dangerous substances of our time. Take a break. Breathe. Be kind to yourself and slow down. Then I eat about 20 baby carrots.
10) I’m avoiding all grains as well, flour, pasta, bread, etc. which requires more will-power but I think ultimately helps me cut sugar cravings much more quickly. I’m not having blood sugar spikes and crashes all day, leading to more cravings. It can become a vicious cycle!
When I reach ten days sugar free I want to create and cultivate a healthy and different relationship with sugar than I’ve had in the past. This body and mind needs clean burning fuel and energy without all the harmful effects of sugar! Can I get an amen???
Here’s to the next five days. 🙌🏻