The ants go marching two by two, hurrah!

Picnic2

I love picnics. There is something so fun and special about eating outside, in the fresh air. Sure you have to find a way to pack up the food and take the time to set it up (and clean it up!), the wind blows your picnic blanket away, there are flies and ants to contend with, birds get a little uncomfortably close, eying your food, and the sun can glare down on you in such a way, causing you to squint as you enjoy your food al fresco.

Picnics are awesome.

This post isn’t about a recent picnic, but it IS about a classic picnic themed lunch I made Bigs for school tomorrow.

Classic Picnic

I packed him some cold fried chicken tenders (Publix – only the best for my child), a cheese stick, some red grapes and watermelon, and some little bear shaped cookies for dessert (for some reason, bears and picnics go together in my head). I think he’ll like it. I asked him if he’d eat cold fried chicken and he said no. I said I’d put a large ice pack in his lunchbox to keep it cold and he, very excitedly, agreed to the cold chicken. A little friend in his class had an ice pack in his lunch and Bigs has made mention of wanting the same in his lunchbox. It’s the little things.

Here’s to hoping we jaded adults can find joy in the little things…like ice packs in our lunches and eating outside.

Kristin

Be Still…

It’s been a fun weekend! On Saturday, it was a Community Garage Sale day! Those are always fun. We didn’t have a garage sale this year, but we plan on saving up some junk to sell for next year. It’s amazing what people will buy. And ridiculous. And I’m not exempt from this group of people. But the only things we bought this time were children’s books. We found some Berenstain Bears and Little Critters, both of which were two of my favorite series growing up. When we got home, I threw together some ingredients for crockpot red beans! We had a dinner party to go to that night and it was a taco theme! I love a theme! The beans were easy – dry kidney beans, veggies, seasoning, water. I meannnn, I love a recipe that can come together with SO little effort on my part.

http://www.tablespoon.com/recipes/slow-cooker-red-beans-and-rice/10972c0d-2186-4067-9dc2-5e812472cf8a

I also put together a Sopapilla Cheesecake! It’s also been called a Churro Cheesecake. I’ll eat it whatever it is called! I had tried before and found the recipe on Pinterest. It was also a cinch to put together.

Sopapilla Cheesecake

It was simply crescent rolls on the bottom, a jazzed up cream cheese filling, another layer of crescent rolls, melted butter, and a layer of cinnamon sugar.

http://bestrecipesite.net/sopaipilla-cheesecake/

PS – my friend over at Willow Bird Baking does a PUMPKIN version of this! I will so be trying this when Fall comes back around!

http://willowbirdbaking.com/2011/10/02/easy-sopapilla-pumpkin-cheesecake-bars/

Get in mah belly.

Before naps, the boys played outside. My little guy was picking up little things that he found on our driveway (nuts, bolts, whatever else you find on driveways) and I thought he was going to put one of them in his mouth (as per the usual) and I went to say something to him (along the lines of “Smalls! No, no! Don’t put that in your mouth!), but something told me to stop. I simply watched him. Instead of putting that bolt (or whatever) in his mouth, he walked to the back of his trike, lifted the lid to the little trunk and placed it in there, ever so gently. I watched him for a few minutes more and saw that he was placing lots of little things in there – sticks, dirt clods, more bolts. To him, they were little treasures that he wanted to save. It was a small moment, but a moment that was a reinforcing one to me, and reminded me of one of my favorite Bible verses – “Be still, and know that I am God…” – Psalms 46:10. We needn’t worry, we simply need to sit back, be still, and know that God has all sorts of His own treasures for us. It was a poignant reminder to me of God’s simple way of taking care of us.

I asked Smalls to show me what was in his treasure box:

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He was so proud to open the little lid.

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And I was so grateful that he was so eager to show his important things to me and Bigs.

I love reminders straight from God and love being reminded of God’s love through my sons.

We had such a fun time at our friends’ house that night! My friend is a fellow blogger and her and her husband have two boys similar in age to our boys. They were very gracious hosts and we can’t wait to do it again.

And the food was great! You can’t go wrong with tacos!

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The beans came out pretty good, too.

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I had also made basmati rice to go with them.

And dessert:

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My mouth is watering just writing this post!

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That cream cheese layer was so good. The only change I made to the recipe was that I added about a tablespoon of pure vanilla bean paste in addition to the vanilla extract. I like seeing the vanilla beans in my desserts.

Today, after church, we had a park get-together with some of Bigs’ Sunday School class. All were invited! Our friends (who have a little one Bigs’ age and they go to church and school together) made the suggestion to get together, so we could get to know each other. And what a wonderful time we had! It was nice to share in fellowship and to get to know the kids and the parents of the kids who join our sons in worship each Sunday. I hope to do it again. The kids had so much fun on the park – running, jumping, swinging, wishing on dandelions. Simple, honest, fun.

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I got in on the dandelion action.

I love building community, especially within our large church. What a blessing!

After naptime today, my husband grilled out…

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…while my sweet, wonderful sons played together.

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Bigs likes to “let” Smalls into his “clubhouse”.

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They could go up those stairs and down that slide over and over again.

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What a great end to a lovely Sabbath.

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Even my persnickety pup was relaxed.

I hope you had a blessed weekend, God Bless! ❤

Kristin

Clear your plate!

My boys are still sleeping (!!!) and I have the chance to catch up, to clear my blogger plate, so to speak!

We had a small turkey dinner last night. I love love love turkey dinners that resemble Thanksgiving dinners. My love for Thanksgiving runs deep.

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I roasted two large turkey breasts and sliced them against the grain (oops). I served them with a bunch of different colored sweet potatoes, topped with marshmallows and your proverbial mixed vegetables.

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I loved it. Smalls ate approximately none of it and Bigs cleaned his plate only after I pretended my hand was an airplane arriving at the hangar (mind you, he’s almost 4).

Since Smalls ate so little nothing, I made a “fun” snack for them for after dinner. It wasn’t so fun for me.

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I saw this on Pinterest. You slice bananas and sandwich peanut butter in between them and freeze them. I think you can dip them in chocolate. Now that would be fun. These were ugly. But the boys liked them. Smalls got some protein and I was happy.

Hope you have a GREAT Friday (just the fact that it’s Friday should add some greatness),

Kristin

Rainy Day Reflections

School was canceled for Bigs today, due to a funeral being held at our church (which is also our school). The funeral was expected to be attended by up to 5,000 people. The person who passed away was a beloved, young police officer who died in the line of duty.

Normally, I love Bigs’ school days. It gives me a few hours of peace and quiet less chaos. Today, however, I am grateful for an extra day of chaos, of chasing after my two precious boys, running errands, breaking up brotherly fights, cutting food into teeny bite sized pieces, and implementing time outs.

For the Fallen Officer was once (and always will be, I can imagine) someone’s precious little boy. It’s very tragic, sad situations like these that help me to remember to enjoy the little moments with my boys, no matter how hard the every days can be.

I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers.

– Philemon 1:4

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

– 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

-James 1:17

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Today for lunch, I made a brunch. I made french toast bites and fruit (with pieces of cheese for Smalls). The boys cleaned their plates.

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Have a blessed, THANK-FILLED day and if you can, say a prayer for the family, friends, and colleagues of this fallen officer?

God bless,

Kristin

Ribbit!

Frog Parking Only

Ahem! AHEM! ‘Scuse me. I had to clear a frog in my throat.

Today, I made a frog themed lunch for my Bigs!

Froggy Themed Preschool Lunch

We are in full Spring mode now! It’s so renewing, this time of year. I did a frog-shaped PB&J (not-so-pretty crusts added back in after picture taken), corn off the cob, a little fruit salad of clementines and blueberries, and a little pudding snack (which I normally don’t do).

Have a froggy day!

Kristin

 

Berries and Army Men

Well, Spring Break has come to a close. It was a nice break. On Friday, we went to our usual Friday playgroup and we celebrated one little friend’s first birthday! It was so cute! It is SO fun to see these little babies grow up. We were at the park, so the kids had a great time. It was a sunny, clear (warm!) day – the sort that makes more freckles appear on Bigs’ nose and makes him and Smalls’ cheeks turn pink!

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The park was a new one to us and really great! There were lots of mini-playgrounds to explore.

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As per the usual, Smalls followed Bigs around, trying to do all the big boy things bigger boys do.

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Bigs loves going down fireman slides. He’s so good at it. He calls himself “Fireman ‘Bigs'”, when sliding down!

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The boys had so much fun!

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And the birthday boy did too! He smooshed cake all over his sweet little face. It was a fun day!

When we got home, my wonderful neighbor brought me a Jewish pastry called a hamentashen. It was a prune flavored one and it was just delicious.

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The pastry was light and buttery, the prune filling was subtle and sweet. It was my first hamentashen and I’d been wanting to try one for a while. So thoughtful of my neighbor!

We rounded out our day with a fun dinner at Cracker Barrel with my parents-in-law (I took a picture of my dinner, under the watchful, slightly judgey eye of my sitting-too-close-dining neighbor-that-I-didn’t-know, but it didn’t look as good as it tasted). After dinner, we rocked on their famous rocking chairs for a while and relaxed. It was a great Friday.

We didn’t have pancakes on Saturday morning (!!!), but I DID make muffins! I needed to use up more of the spinach from St. Patty’s Day (when I made spinach pancakes).

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I doubled the recipe since I had a ton of spinach and it only made 12 muffins (I like to freeze them for future eating). They were spinach banana muffins. They came out SO good!

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I was taking pictures of them as they were cooling and Smalls couldn’t resist trying to sneak one. I love those little sneaky baby hands!

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These muffins came out just right – the perfect, tender, chewy crumb, a heavy banana taste, loads of cinnamon.

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You couldn’t taste the spinach at all, and I used about 3 or so cups!

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In our house, when I make spinach muffins, we call them “Army Men Muffins” because they come out almost the same color as Bigs and Smalls’ army men.

Here is the recipe for our Army Men Muffins:

http://thegreenforks.com/popeye-muffins/

We took the boys to Home Depot after breakfast to get some plants. There happened to be a popcorn cart there, at which the boys got some free little bags to munch on.

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Smalls

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Bigs

I shouldn’t even admit this, but I sort of love going to Home Depot. The lumber smell that hits you right as you walk in is such a wonderful smell, especially mixed with the hot doggy smells from the hot dog cart by the entrance. They sort of go together – hot dogs and lumber. Anyways, I love going through the garden section. It’s always like a little e-venture (as Bigs call it).

Bigs likes to try out the riding mowers.

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He’s so neat.

We got a blackberry plant, a blueberry plant, and some other stuff that I have no idea about. When we got home, we (they) transferred them to their new pots.

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Bigs is at such a wonderful age (turning 4 in about a month and a half), where he loves to help and is actually good at it.

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He put together his own little plant. He called it his “merry-go-round” plant because he couldn’t remember that it was a marigold.

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He dropped in the seeds and watered it all by himself.

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We can’t wait to see it grow!

Smalls played in the yard while Bigs planted.

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He likes going up to the fence separating our yard from the neighbors’ and barking at it, in hopes that their dogs will come to see him.

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Our sweet little girl keeping a watchful eye on the new plants

After planting and naps, the big boys (Husband and Bigs) grilled some burgers while Smalls kept me company in the kitchen. We had macaroni and cheese (GF, DF version for Husby). I also sautéed some green and wax beans with some carrots.

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It was a good Saturday.

Today, Sunday, was a great day too! Church was great. We are learning about the book of John right now. Today we talked about how even when we don’t know ourselves and when we question who we are (which I have many times), God always knows who we are and who He has made us to be. It gave me such a sense of peace that I don’t even need to always know who I am. It just doesn’t even matter. God knows.

And in Bigs’ Sunday School class, they learned about Jesus washing feet.

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They got a little kit of soap and a teeny towel. I couldn’t even get a picture of it all together since Bigs was so excited. He couldn’t wait to get home and wash the feet of the most willing participant (I won). He said it’s how Jesus showed His love and so he wanted to do that too.

I am blown away at the Biblical knowledge Bigs is learning and how his love for Jesus is showing. ❤

With our leftover hamburger dinner, I made the most yummy fruit salad. A refreshing way to end our Spring Break.

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It’s summer fruit season already and I am so excited! I never used to look forward to Summer (so hot, not an outdoorsy kind of gal), but my boys just make it so much fun and we have so much to look forward to. God is good!

I hope you all have had a blessed Spring Break (or week, if you weren’t so lucky).

Happy Sunday,

Kristin

Spring has Sprung!

It’s still Spring Break here and we’ve been staying quite busy! The weather has been gorgeous (save for one day where it seemed like we were in a hurricane) – clear skies, white fluffy clouds some days, picture-perfect blue backdrops everyday, chilly mornings that burn off to warm, sunny, lovely spring days.

Spring Break actually started last week, after Bigs got out of school. We had breakfast for dinner that night. I made a baked oatmeal casserole.

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I based my recipe loosely on this one:

http://www.aaronandyolanda.com/2013/07/baked-oatmeal-casserole.html

Instead of two cups of milk, I did one cup of coconut milk and a cup of pumpkin puree. I only added a few chocolate chips. I also didn’t add nuts or fruit of any kind. So it’s basically nothing like that recipe. And it of course didn’t turn out like that recipe (what did I expect!).

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It was alright. The oats didn’t get soaked with the pumpkin custard like I thought they would, so there was a separation of sorts. Next time, maybe I’ll have all the right ingredients and I can make it the right way. 🙂

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I served it with scrambled eggs, turkey bacon, and sausages. It did the trick (if trick = filling our tummies).

The next day was GORGEOUS! We went to a park play date.

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Smalls was able to keep up with the big kids this time.

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And Big Brother took the time to play with him.

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I love to see them playing nicely together. 🙂

I gave Smalls a wee little apple and he carried that thing around while playing. He dropped it and still clutched it tightly. This is what I found him holding later on.

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The next day was Pancake Saturday – not to ever be missed in our house! It should be renamed Pancake and Breakfast Meat Saturdays.

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By this time, I’d run out of eggs (running out of ingredients is a key theme in my life, apparently). I substituted applesauce for the missing eggs. The result was an incredibly creamy, custard-like inside. I also added loads of vanilla and vanilla bean paste, and some caramel extract that I found at Wally-World (Walmart). I thought they were just delicious.

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They came out fluffy and golden. So good. Seriously. I might be using the applesauce trick again. I also might HAVE to, as I never seem to have everything I need.

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Oh, pancakes.

After breaky, we went to a local Farmer’s Market/Petting Farm. It’s newly opened and we’ve been wanting to try it out.

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Bigs insisted (and I am not using that term lightly) on wearing his overalls and boots.

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Kind of adorable though.

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We saw all kinds of farm animals. Bigs went up to the chicken coop and squatted down and said to them, “Hey Chickens! Why did you cross the road?!” My husband and I were beside ourselves with laughter!

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From there, we went to the food trucks and market side. We ate an okay lunch of hot dogs.

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And followed that up with a huge cup of the most refreshing, gorgeous, delicious fruit ever. I think it tasted even more delicious after that greasy, fried lunch.

We also ran into two different families we know! It was a great day.

When we got home, there was still some time before nap, so the boys did their “yard work”.

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They earn their keep, I tell you.

On Sunday night, some of our best friends, who have moved far away, came back because of work and we got to visit. We went on a date night with several of our couple friends. It was just wonderful seeing them. It is terribly sad when one of your best friends moves away, but it makes you treasure the time you have with them, when you see them again.

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My husband ordered the best red wine I’ve ever had – Jam Jar! SO GOOD! I will have to get that one next time. I’m not much of a red wine drinker, unless it’s sweet, which Jam Jar was.

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We had a minted edamame hummus and roasted red pepper hummus with lavosh crackers, as an appetizer. We also tasted our friends’ pesto chicken flat bread.

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After we toasted to our wonderful friendships…

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…we dug into our meals. My husband ordered the scallops (did not get a good picture) and they were divine. I ordered the winter vegetarian sampling.

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This plate changes seasonally. I love it. This time, there was a stuffed mushroom, some roasted beets, broccolini, asparagus, and peppers, along with a veggie stuffed taco, and some tofu with mango chutney.

This restaurant is famous for its small desserts. I can’t ever choose one.

Oink.

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I chose the chocolate peanut butter mousse (um, SO good) and the cannoli (cannoli cream, chocolate chips, raspberry sauce, cannoli shell).

I can’t even.

I am still dreaming about that cannoli cream. Is that weird? To dream about cannoli cream?

The next day was St. Patrick’s Day! I always go big on these smaller holidays. I love a theme! I think you know that by now.

Before everyone (else) woke up, I put together the Irish Stew in the crock pot.

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I sort of changed around the recipe. I used this recipe as a base:

http://everydaymomsmeals.blogspot.com/2013/02/its-not-soup-its-stew.html

I did not add onion soup mix (due to the non gluten and dairy-free and high sodium nature), so I added real onions. I only used one can of tomato soup and added a can of no-salt stewed tomatoes. I also added more of the same vegetables. I let that sit on low all day while we were busy doing other things.

For breakfast, I made Spinach Pancakes (yep – the third time in five days that I served my family pancakes – that’s how I roll). This was a great recipe.

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They were chock full of fresh spinach (two cups!). Bigs said that they tasted like green beans, but he kept eating them, so that’s a good sign.

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When drizzled with syrup and some butter, the very obvious spinach flavor was sort of pushed to the back (a plus for most kids).

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I added more vanilla than called for. I served them with corned beef hash.

Here is the recipe:

http://www.superhealthykids.com/blog-posts/no-dye-green-pancakes.php

My best friend since kindergarten was up visiting from where she lives and brought her little girl (who is only 2 months older than Smalls). I LOVE seeing my best friend. I miss her dearly. I feel so blessed to see two of my loveliest friends, who no longer live near me, all in the same week!

For an after lunch St. Patty’s Day treat, I made Leprechaun Pudding for the kids!

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I just mixed half a packet of sugar-free, fat-free white chocolate pudding mix into some vanilla yogurt and added some green coloring. I layered that with some Lucky Charms cereal. I think they liked it.

Earlier in the morning, I’d also made a birthday treat for my bestie. I asked her what she wanted and it was so simple and I love her for that. All she wanted was a boxed mix peanut butter brownie with a ganache on top. How easy!

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I sent that home with her. She let me try it and take pictures of it before she left though. THAT’S a best friend!

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It was good. I used coconut milk for the ganache.

While my boys were napping, I prepared our Irish dessert – Banoffee Pie! I totally used shortcuts. I made a quick crust from graham cracker crumbs and butter. I “baked” it in the toaster oven. I sliced a banana on top of that, melted and poured some dulce de leche that I bought from Costco, and sliced another banana on top. I then whipped a half pint of whipping cream and spread that on top.

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I let it sit in the fridge for a few hours. It was SO good.

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I loved that the dulce de leche was the only sweet part of it. I added no sugar to the graham crust or whipped cream. It was a nice contrast.

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It was a dream of a pie – crunchy, buttery and rich, sweet creamy bananas, indulgent, deep caramel, fluffy, milky topping. Seriously, the stuff (my) dreams are made of.

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Just…yum. It was even better the next day.

And the Irish Stew came out SO SO good!

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The stew beef was so tender, as were the potatoes.

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The broth was rich and tomato-y.

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We ate it for two days. It was great.

I’d call that a successful food holiday!

I got a chance to see my other friend (who we’d seen on Sunday) again before she went back up North. We met, with some other friends, at a neat farm-to-table restaurant.

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We started off with fresh, crusty bread and butter (the only way to “start” anything).

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My friend got a Blue Moon and I had some. I love that beer – so refreshing!

My other friend and I went halfsies on the burger. It wasn’t just any old burger. It had bacon jam, pimento cheese, spicy/sweet pickles, bibb lettuce, and a fried green tomato.

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One of the best burgers I’ve had!

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It was served with wedged potato fries topped with shaved white truffles. Earthy, salty goodness.

Aca-yeah!

Yet another friend and I shared the chocolate cake! We call each other “cakesters”…we just live for cake, what can I say!

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It was delicious. And a wonderful night with wonderful friends.

I got to see my kindergarten bestie again the next day! I took her to my favorite donut shop.

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She hadn’t been there before. She is now a convert.

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I got my now usuals – a sprinkle for Bigs, some holes for Smalls (one of which was shoved whole into his teeny mouth), a German chocolate, a Coconut Crunch, a strawberry and cream cheese, a chocolate and peanut butter, and a chocolate and cream cheese.

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I meannnnnn…..

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Oh, my heavens.

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Why, thank you!

We then walked off our calories at the zoo. It was such a gorgeous day!

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The boys and my bestie’s daughter, B, really loved seeing all the animals.

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The usually low-key otters were really playful and the lemurs saved their freak-out for when we were leaving.

It was a really wonderful day.

My, what a foodie Spring Break it’s been, and it isn’t even over yet!

I hope this finds you all well,

Kristin

Birds of a feather find their way home

Flamingo

Once upon a time, there was a girl about 12 years of age. She had an obsession with flamingos. And when I say obsession, I mean it. She loved anything (tacky or not…mostly tacky) that had flamingos on it. It was her thing. And people knew it. After almost 10 years of loving flamingos like she did, this little girl (now a much older young lady) went through some difficult life changes and all of a sudden, she didn’t know who she was anymore. She had an early life crisis, if you will. Flamingos now reminded her of that rough time in her life and she just stopped liking them. It was very sad.

After many, many years of trying to find herself, the young lady had an epiphany. She realized that she could love whatever she wanted and it didn’t have to remind her of a yucky place in her life…she could just re-associate her love for flamingos to where she was now and to the good memories she had in the past. It was a big step. It wasn’t just about the flamingos. It was about self-acceptance. Finding that she liked who she was becoming, and also letting herself grow, letting go of some of her dark places, learning that she loved finding out more about herself, that it made her more complete.

That little girl turned young lady is me (I’m not terribly young anymore, mind you).

I am very happy to say that I’ve been back in the flamingo game for a few years now (maybe not to THAT extent that I was, but I am more than okay with enjoying them again).

It truly makes me feel more whole when I discover something about myself, that I maybe didn’t previously know or that I somehow suppressed on my journey and have re-discovered. God has helped put me back on the track to being myself and I am so grateful.

So. Today is Bird Day in Bigs’ class at school. Although I have several different bird cookie cutters, it just seemed fitting to me to use my beloved flamingo. I’m not even sure why I ever got into them. Maybe because they are pink (post shrimp buffet)? Because they are weird and stand on one leg? I really don’t know. But they are neat. And they are absolutely a sign of self-acceptance and self-love to me, in some weird (I’m weird, what can I say!) way.

So, I made a flamingo themed lunch for my Bigs today.

Flamingo Themed Preschool Lunch

And I made it as tacky as I could. It’s the only way, really, when dealing with flamingos.

I made a flamingo-shaped crunchy PB&J. I also put in corn and carrots, some pink (strawberry, I think?) yogurt pretzels and some cherry yogurt raisins. I used some of my flamingo cupcake picks and a palm tree, just to tacky it up a little more. I think Bigs will get a hoot out of this. I sure did.

Have a self-accepting day, my friends!

Who you calling tacky