Summer Break, Day 1

I did not have a huge organized list of things to do this summer, no bucket lists to prevent boredom, 101 things to make this summer the best.  All of the cleaning out and packing to move has me in a much more minimalist mood this year.  Or I’m just pooped and completely over Pinterest.  Whatever.

We headed out for the orthodontist this morning, so since we were all clean, dressed, and out of the house we decided to complete what I like to think of as the summer reading circuit.  I have at least one child who is extrinsically motivated, so these programs are wonderful!

  • local library – read aloud dates, parties, rewards for books read…FREE! Love it!  Mom’s Favorite for sure.
  • Barnes and Noble Summer Reading Triathlon – the kids complete a journal about their reading, return it to the store and get to choose a FREE featured book.  The journal is not bad…answer 3 out of 4 questions.  Thank you!!!
  • Half Price Books Feed Your Brain Summer Reading Program – my children’s favorite = they read 300 minutes, they get a store credit.  HPB trips are a major motivator at my house.

We rewarded our stellar bookstore/library behavior with some lunch and play (thanks to the Chick-Fil-A calendar card) and headed home.  What a great start for a “rainstorm looming just to the west” kind of day.

If you have a favorite summer reading rewards program, please – leave it in the comments below! 

If you NEED a list

  • Take kids to eat at Chick-Fil-A.  Let them play in the play area.
  • join summer reading program
  • go on a library trip

P.S. I am totally in the wrong field.  I found my old retainers…for $100, the doctor will look at them and develop a plan.  I’m a mom.  I plan all the time.  No one has ever paid me $100 for my plan.  I do like teeth…just saying.

Boomerangs & Birthdays

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As you age, your circle of friends gets smaller. Really good friends who are there for you, they weather the storms with you, they celebrate the everyday victories with you…weddings, husbands, house hunting, countless birthdays, babies, careers, teething, potty training, schools – life. You work at friendship, you keep up with each other, and you support each other.  You don’t always see eye to eye on politics, parenting styles, or career moves, but you don’t let it drive a wedge between you.  We still have our sorority sisters, our buddies from high school, and our dependable colleagues…but distance, obligations, and time all take their toll. Days, weeks, and years go by.  You blink and you pass another reunion, miss another life event, and time ticks on.

My friend J, is one of those weather the storms friends. She lived with Man and I for a bit after college.  She was about to move across country, her apartment lease was up and Man was in paramedic school.  It was awesome to have a roommate while Man worked away the days and studied away the nights.  J has never known me not married to Man.  She didn’t know me in high school.  She only knows adult me.  She has moved all over the country, but every few years she comes back home.  She’s like a boomerang.  Ooooo – I may have just found a new nickname.

We play with the kids, go grocery shopping, and hang at the museum. On shift nights, we make cotton candy; we have breakfast for dinner, drive through Arby’s, and when she moves again, it makes me sad.  Never the less, we still make kids’ birthday parties, babies’ births, and those big moments.  We keep our weekly phone dates, and remember the passing birthdays.  We share the same middle name, a fondness for boxed pasta salad, an appreciation for a restaurant drink so strong it can only be called “cup of drunk”, and contentment in just doing every day, normal stuff together.

Today, in honor of J – breakfast for dinner, the BEST pasta salad, and my picks of the best places in Fort Worth to take kids. Happy Birthday J & hurry home!

Best Places in Fort Worth to Take the Kids

  • Fort Worth Zoo
  • http://www.fortworthzoo.org/ I can’t tell you how much my family loves this zoo. They have a trading village, petting area, renown Museum Of Living Art, touch tank, and an amazing selection of animals.
  • Fort Worth Museum of Science and History
  • http://fortworthmuseum.org/ This museum is designed with children in mind and is very interactive. My boys love the hands on centers with lots of opportunity for creativeness and exploration. There is a section for smaller children focused on imaginative play and one for older children focused on building things. The museum has rotating exhibits, houses the Cattlemen’s museum, and boasts a planetarium and IMAX theatre. Don’t worry, they still have dinosaur bones.
  • Mountasia
  • http://www.mountasiafamilyfuncenter.com/ This place is miniature golf on steroids. In addition to two different mini-golf courses, you can rock climb, paddle boat, battle out laser tag, play arcade games, hit a few at the batting cages, or take a spin on their go carts.

Need somewhere to eat with kids in tow?

Try out Tim Love’s Woodshed (BBQ), the Clear Fork Food Truck Park (smorgasbord), or the Mellow Mushroom (pizza, hoagies).

Shift nights often bring about creative dinners – including breakfast for dinner. Here is one of my easiest throw together breakfast for dinner meals.
Dad’s Breakfast Casserole
1/2# ground breakfast sausage (or bacon, cut into ribbons)
1 can green chilies
8 oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
4 eggs
1/2 cup half & half or whole milk
1/2 bag frozen hash browns

Preheat oven to 375*. In a skillet, brown sausage (throw in some onion & peppers if you’re feeling fancy). When meat is almost cooked through, toss in the hash browns to thaw and begin to heat through. Season well with salt & pepper. In another bowl, beat eggs and milk together with green chilies – set aside.
Grease an 8X8 pan. Sprinkle sausage and potatoes in pan. Pour over egg mixture. Bake for 30-40 minutes, topping with cheese for last ten minutes (after all of egg is set).
Want less mess? If your skillet is oven proof, pour the egg mixture over the meat and potatoes and cook right in the skillet.
*Don’t feel like turning on the oven? After adding eggs, reduce heat to low, cover and cook on the stovetop.

These are two of my favorite essential breakfast recipes.
Fluffy buttermilk biscuits from Spinach Tiger
Essential Pancakes from Inspired Taste

Terry’s Pasta Salad
Gather:
1 pound small penne or bowtie pasta, cooked in salted water until al dente
1 roma tomato, diced
1 purple onion, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
Finely ground black pepper
Garlic powder
Ground oregano
Salt
Onion powder
parsley
Olive oil and Greek (dried mint, allspice, cardamom, coriander, cumin) or Italian (dried basil) seasoning
Mix-Ins: This is where you can decide how Greek or Italian you want to go
Baby corn
Sundried tomatoes
Leftover raw veggies you might have on hand
Feta cheese, crumbled, Provolone, cubed, or Mozzarella, cubed
Kalamata olives, pitted & sliced – feel free to sub a mix of green & black olives
Diced salami, pepperoni, or other yummy deli sausage

To make:
Marinate the pasta, tomato, garlic, and onion over night in olive oil and Greek seasoning. Before serving, toss with whatever mix-ins you chose.  Drizzle with some additional olive oil.  The pasta absorbs A LOT of oil, so drizzle liberally.  Go crazy and shake on some flavored vinegar.
If you have a garden full of fresh herbs, 1 tablespoon of fresh to 1 teaspoon of dried is the normal conversion. I would recommend using a mortar and pestle to crush and mix the herbs.

Summer classics with a little kick

I recently took Man for a tour of the Robertson and Firestone Distillery, home of TX Whiskey. Coupled with lunch at Tim Love’s Love Shack for burgers, it made for a fun double date.

I could just sit all day in the barrel room and breathe in that warm, rich, almost honey nut smell. One whiff, and I was daydreaming recipes.

The second recipe that came to mind is from one of my favorite cookbooks. 20130614-223119.jpg

Whiskey and peaches…and shortcakes, oh my!

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Whiskey, Peaches & Cream

3-4 peaches, sliced (Parker County is a great pick)

2-4 T superfine sugar (depending on the ripeness of your peaches)

1 shot of your favorite Whiskey or straight bourbon

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise & seeds scraped (divided)

1/2 cup whipping cream

Soak peaches and 1/2  vanilla bean with sugar and whiskey, cover and chill 2 hours-overnight.  In a cold bowl, beat whipped cream until foamy.  Add other 1/2 of bean’s seeds, 2T superfine sugar (if you keep the pod in your sugar jar, viola – vanilla sugar)

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This recipe is flour, sugar, butter, baking powder, salt and some cream – nothing fancy, just some great biscuits.  Perfect for chocolate gravy when all the summer fruit has faded into fall.

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It was a warm afternoon, but by the time we made it upstairs to take a peak at the mash it was hot.

HOT weather – needs iced tea.

Getting my butt kicked daily – need bourbon.

Thus, kicked in the seat sweet tea.

Kicked in the Seat Sweet Tea
1 sweet orange
1 quart water
2 Luzianne family size iced tea bags
1/2 -1 cup simple syrup
1/4 t baking soda
Some of your favorite Whiskey or Bourbon (I like Knob Creek straight bourbon)
1 day you feel like life has particularly kicked your butt

Boil one quart water. While water boils, take paring knife and peel several citrus curls from the orange. If you don’t know what a citrus curl is, just gently go around the orange with the knife at a slight angle (stay between the skin and the pith, or white). When water boils, turn off and remove from heat. Steep two Luzianne family size tea bags 3-5 minutes. To a pitcher, add 1/2 c simple syrup, juice from one sweet orange, 1/4 t baking soda, and tea. Stir well. Taste test; goal:  very sweet strong tea.
In an old-fashioned glass, put several ice cubes, 1/2-2 oz bourbon (depending on how hard you got kicked), and fill with iced tea. Garnish with your orange curl. Visualize the front porch.
Should make four servings.