Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Tuesday Tips - Bee Season

The bee's are back and unfortunately that means the mosquito's aren't far behind. I like to carry this sting stick in my bag just in case any of us get stung or bitten. It doesn't completely erase the problem but it helps ease the pain/itch until you can get home and address the problem more in depth. 

This year I'll be carrying it well into the fall!  Last year one of the children in our playgroup was stung by a bee in late October - I hated that I'd left this at home as I'm sure it wouldn't given her some relief!

Did any of your moms carry a sting stick? It's one of the things my mom always had in her bag of tricks when we were growing up. 

Monday, March 30, 2015

#ChobaniKids Project

I was inspired recently by Chobani's #ChobaniKids project to discuss healthy lifestyle choices and proper nutrition for children in honor of National Nutrition Month.  I was instantly intrigued by this project as our family is truly undergoing a lifestyle change this year.  That lifestyle change not only includes healthy food choices but also having a more active lifestyle.  We are still in the training phase but hopefully our healthy choices today will lead to a consistently healthier family unit!


Having an active lifestyle seems as though it would be easy with a toddler but in fact it can be just as easy to stay in one spot and have him run circles around us.  However, my husband and I both want to set a good example for BG's future by moving and shaking with him!  We take weekly walks on our local greenways and through the neighborhood with friends. Although BG is in his BOB for these long walks, I know that interacting with friends while getting fresh air is just as incredibly important for him and knowing that his mama is out getting exercise is just as important to me.

For BG's birthday we gave him a balance bike that he absolutely adores.  He loves to practice riding and we love scooting along side of him.  Our hope is that eventually he'll be strong enough to ride on his own and we'll be able to take long bike rides as a family.

Although he is only two years old, we have always enrolled BG in a class focusing on exercise.  For over a year he took swimming lessons with one of us in the pool as well.  Now we take a gymnastics class together!  Allowing him to exercise while interacting with his peers not only helps him burn that neverending-toddler-energy but he also prepares him for future team sports and activities.


Some of BG's very favorite snack choices involve yogurt!  I often purchase plain Greek yogurt as I can cook and bake easily with it.  The chili's too spicy? Add a spoonful of Greek yogurt! No applesauce or milk for that baking recipe? Try using Greek yogurt! Have a pasta recipe that calls for cream cheese? Substitute Greek yogurt! Obviously there are many ways to fit Greek yogurt into your lifestyle.  The following are some of BG's favorite ways to enjoy Greek yogurt and what parent doesn't love to see their child enjoying a "treat" that actually double as a healthy choice?

He loves being given a small bowl of plain Greek yogurt with fresh berries swirled in or a drizzle of local honey on top.  (Did you know that local honey can possibly diminish the effects of  seasonal allergies?) Fresh fruit or honey really give plain yogurt a hint of sweet creating a new dimension of enjoyment. I'm always happy to see BG enjoying a bowl of high protein and natural ingredients.

We love to make smoothies in our home usually with a combination of fresh fruit, spinach and a big spoonful of plain Greek yogurt. The yogurt creates the creamiest consistency that makes a truly healthy smoothie taste like a creamy treat!

When we travel it can be so easy to fill my bag with snacks that will fill BG up but not necessarily with protein and other essential nutrients.  He rarely gets to have pouches so handing him one on a trip is like giving him a golden ticket! I'm always careful when buying pouches to look for those that have Greek yogurt in them as the protein content is much higher (3-4 grams!) than other fruit/veggie filled kinds (>1 gram).  These new pouches from Chobani have everything that I normally look for and the flavor profiles fit exactly what BG wants as well!

Growing up my mom always froze small containers of yogurt for us as a simple frozen treat.  Now that I'm a mom, I absolutely love making homemade yogurt popsicles for BG!  His favorite flavor combination by far is Lemon Raspberry Yogurt Popsicles (I follow this recipe from Annie's Eats substituting organic sugar ).  When he eats these popsicles he acts like he's tricked me into giving him a bowl of ice cream.  What he doesn't know is that the majority of this frozen treat is actually just healthy and natural ingredients!


When I was younger my dad always told me that everything can be good for you if it's in moderation.  Now that I'm responsible for BG's health and diet, I want to make sure that he experiences moderation in his world as well.  I want BG to know that having the occasional treat or movie day on the couch is okay.  In fact that's what makes those moments even more exciting - they're special because they don't happen often!  That's why on occasion BG gets to pick out a show to watch or choose his own treat at the store. 

A happy life really is all about living in moderation...

*I was not compensated by Chobani for this post.  All of the opinions above are my own.*

Friday, March 27, 2015

Five on Friday - Foodie Style

We've been sticking to the whole30 plan for quite some time now but let me tell you we are counting down the days until we can eat at our favorite Charlotte restaurants. For my local friends, please tell me you've tried them all! For those of you that are out-of-towners, I hope that you can try them all one day soon!

(sidenote: I asked my husband what he thought my list would include and wouldn't you know that he guessed every last one!  I guess it really isn't just me that loves these spots.  He also suggested I do a breakfast and desserts spots post separately...fooooood)


I've named this one first because it honestly is our very favorite place to eat here in Charlotte. It's a hole-in-the-wall and if you don't know what you're looking for you'll drive right on by it BUT that's part of what makes it our favorite. I always get the same thing and it never disappoints: pulled pork, white slaw, baked beans, mac n cheese and of course piping hot hushpuppies! Oh, and a sweet tea please!  I can still remember the feeling of being seasick when I ate there on a picnic table at eight months pregnant with BG and now we've had them cater BG's birthday every year because it's honestly one of his favorite meals as well! I think I might need to have a party with 521 catering once we're done with Whole30!!


When I first moved to Charlotte in 2005 this was my absolute favorite place to take out of town guests for dinner. It's a unique environment, delicious food with a twist and you can grab dessert from Amelie's on your way out of NoDa. I love to order the blackened mahi tacos but you better believe we're there for the corn salsa and queso just as much as the main dish. In fact, I often have leftovers for the next day after filling up on salsa and queso! PS I always get the chocolate mousse cup at Amelie's while the mister prefers the staple salted caramel brownie. 


We've been big fans of Cowfish since it opened but for some silly reason it was just over a year ago that we finally ordered bento boxes and we haven't looked back since.  Perfection. BG himself enjoys the children's bento boxes...best kiddo meal in town if you ask me! 


With its gorgeous uptown location we'd always find ourselves here at the chefs table, especially when we had guests in town!  My favorite dishes are the handmade raviolis, specifically the butternut squash when it's in season. Just like most Italian restaurants the bread and white bean starter never disappoints.  


If you love Indian you must try this delicious spot, the cousin of Copper! The paneer tikka masala is always my favorite dish here but their naan is the real showstopper. It doesn't matter how many pieces we order, it never seems to be enough. Although unusual in its flavorings we love to end our evenings there with their dessert sampler. It's presentation is flawless but the flavors are truly unusual for our normal dessert fair and that's what makes this all the more delicious. My mom always requests this when she's in town and how could we deny her?

six - oops!

Food Truck Friday

I couldn't forget Food Truck Friday!! Our friends invited us to join them last year and we've been hooked ever since!  With it's casual atmosphere (picnic blankets on the ground and byob) we love the feeling of chatting with friends while being encircled with food trucks of all flavors and varieties with a perfect view of the Queen City.  Our favorite food truck, like so many in Charlotte, is Papi Queso.  However, Nate and I still talk about the desserts that we've had.  Yes, King of Pops is delicious on a hot day but wait until you order this delicacy from Sticks and Cones - Krispy Kreme Raspberry Donut - they slice raspberry filled Krispy Kreme donut in half then fill it with vanilla soft serve.  The best.

Any favorite spots in Charlotte that we missed and should make our list??

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Tuesday Tips - Kids Club

I bring snacks for BG when we go just about anywhere but he sure does love a special treat from certain grocery stores. Our favorite TJ's employee always has a special snack up her sleeve for him and Publix/Harris Teeter have free cookies for little ones. My favorite treat spot however is Whole Foods! 

After you check out your child can choose a treat from the Kids Club section. BG is always so excited to choose from their selection, usually a variety of fruits, pointing to the exact piece that he'd like. 

You'd think this fruit was made of gold and sugar. He could hardly wait to take a bite of his apple!

This FREE program should be available at all locations (I've been to spots in NC-OH-MI myself) and not only does your child get to make a healthy choice each time they visit but during the week of their birthday they'll receive a goodie bag filled with great 365 products for children! Ask to sign up at the customer service desk and your child will receive their own Kid's Club card to show at each visit.  

Healthy snacking boy = one very happy mama!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

My Favorite Whole30 Recipes

This post has been a long time coming.  I started my first round of whole30 in October of 2014 and found a lot of success in doing it.  I decided to start another round this past January and have made it over 70 days in a row now. My goal is 100 days!  I've been keeping a log of what I'm eating to not only hold me accountable but also to help me share the successful dishes that I've found with all of you! (I'm looking at YOU, Theresa and Mandi!)

So without further ado, here is my food log. 


My breakfast each day consists of scrambled or runny eggs, bacon/homemade sausage and at times fruit. I don't stray too much from this breakfast set up because I'm never all that hungry in the morning so the thought of cooking something complicated is a no go. I have also made this delicious sweet and savory blueberry tortilla on the weekend when I really just needed something different.


Prepare to be bored.  I eat leftovers.  Whole30 requires a lot of prep work and with Mister BG underfoot you better believe I'm not interested in a chaotic lunchtime prep.  Leftovers will do just fine, thankyouverymuch. Also, salad. I eat a lot of salads if I just can't take another day of leftovers. I'll post my favorite compliant balsamic dressing soon.


Here's the meat of the post, if you will.  I'll try to link to as many recipes as I can or explain those that don't have them. I have 30 main dish ideas listed here in the order that I have enjoyed them for dinner. I tried to label any changes for compliancy issues next to the recipe (avocado oil for butter, etc.).

Burgers on the grill with carmalized onions with grilled zucchini and asparagus
Roast chicken (I use avocado oil versus butter) with roasted sweet potatoes and carrots
Aidells chicken sausages - roasted potatoes and broccoli
Taco salad with guacamole and salsa (I make my own taco seasoning - so simple to do!)
PW pot roast with carrots, potatoes and onions
Cuisine beef (from Costco) with roasted potatoes and green beans
Caramelized onion pork chops with roasted brussel sprouts and carrots
Grilled chicken with cauliflower rice (add a splash of fresh squeezed lemon) and broccoli
Apple bacon burgers with crash sweet potatoes and green beans
Pan fried pork chops (using s&p and avocado oil) with roasted broccoli and potatoes
Almond chicken strips (use coconut flour and almond meal) with cauliflower rice and green beans
Pork Loin with sautéed kale and roasted butternut squash
Lemon chicken legs with roasted vegetables
Salt and Vinegar Chicken (I use drums not wings) with roasted veggies
Shepard's pie with sweet potato topping
Meatballs (with marinara sauce from this Rachel Ray recipe) and zoodles
Carnitas (use avocado oil vs frying oil) with green beans and green beans and roasted potatoes
Bison burgers (just sub bison for beef!) with sweet potato fries and sautéed spinach
Grilled steaks (seasoned with only s&p) with asparagus and curly sweet potatoes
Stuffed peppers
Balsamic pork tenderloin with sautéed spinach and roasted carrots
Mocha-Rubbed pot roast with green beans and roasted sweet potato "chips"
Mini meatloaves (using this marinara sauce recipe) with brussel sprouts and green beans
Fish pouches with roasted potatoes
Chicken soup (using homemade stock makes a HUGE difference in a recipe like this!)
Trader Joe's curry simmer sauce with chicken over cauliflower rice with broccoli
Cottage pie (requires quite a bit of work but it's worth it!)
Lamb loin chops (using this marinade) with sautéed spinach and roasted potatoes
Bison sweet potato chili
Apple Dijon burgers with roasted vegetables (don't forget the egg on top!)

Annnnnnd that's a wrap on 30 days of whole meals! Please let me know if you have any questions or successes of your own!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Five on Friday

Friday is here again! I'm looking forward to this weekend BIG time. 


I completed another big cookie order for The Independence Fund. The easiet way for me to protect them from little boy fingers is to lay them to dry on a tarp in one of our guest rooms. It's always an honor to help this amazing organization, even if it is in such a small way. 


My friend Nina and I love to talk about food together. She got me hooked on making my own zoodles and I got her hooked on using one of our favorite Ina recipes. She recently text me with this muffin recipe from her blog knowing that BG would love it!  It's so simple and he ate two muffins in one sitting!  (I used coconut oil vs olive oil, omitted the extra sugar and chopped up dark chocolate vs mini chocolate chips. I was able to make 16 muffins vs just 12 too!) BG has been enjoying these all week. 


Hanna Andersson pjs are back at Costco! It's been almost two years since they've had them and I literally squealed when I saw them!  BG always looks so darn cute in them.


I'm obsessed with checking the website Everything But The House.  They have locations all over the country and essentially host an online auction of fantastic pieces from peoples homes. Has anyone purchased anything from here?


My family has been doing a March Madness pool for decades and this year BG was actually able to tell me which team he'd like to choose. I have Michigan State winning, Nate has Kentucky and BG has Georgetown. It's the only pool that I've ever done and it's always so much fun. Almost all of our extended family enter since the winning prize is Graeters ice cream - I mean, who wouldn't want to play for that prize? 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Three years

Tomorrow marks three years since we lost my dad. It definitely doesn't seem like it's been three years. I still think about him every single day.

My dad was the greatest. He really was. He sacrificed so much for our family and I never truly understood or appreciated that until I became a mother. He was our biggest fan and supported us through anything (except when I had a nose ring for a few years. He wasn't the biggest fan of that.) Throwing "Cinderella routes" for me when my brothers practiced their real football routes in the backyard before dinner.  Watching Grease on repeat and making countless orange juice and 7ups when I got the flu. Driving 14 hours every weekend to see mom and I so that I could finish high school two states away instead of moving again. Talking almost every afternoon on my way home from teaching always asking the same thing when he answered "So, what did Mean Ol' Mrs 'Duck' do today?" 

Now when BG makes his crooked eyebrow face I'm thankful that I can quite literally see my dad in his. 

When I see my favorite chocolates delivered to our doorstep I'm thankful that Nate knew my dad for such a long time (over 14 years!) and keeps special traditions my dad did for me alive. 

When BG is stopped in his tracks by music I'm reminded that he inherited my dads love of all music. 

When Nate randomly says "Do you remember that time your dad..." out of nowhere I'm thankful that we both have our own moments that we hold dear. 

When I find BG singing to a picture of my dad I know that they have their own little bond that goes beyond physically meeting. 

Three years later I'm so thankful for these vivid memories of my dad. They bring a great sense of peace to me, especially on the days when I miss his voice and presence the most. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Tuesday Tips - Customer Service

Do you ever have horrible customer service? Of course you do! We all do! And we just love the thought of calling the store back and giving them a piece of our mind. 

Well, do you ever have AMAZING customer service? Of course you do! BUT do you ever call back to compliment the employee? You should!

Let me give you a few examples of why these positive phone calls can actually make a difference in someone else's life!

Example A: I received amazing service at Home Depot. I call the manager to compliment the employee for her service and patience with me. When I return the next day for my gallons of paint (versus the samples I'd purchased the day before) this same employee came around the counter to thank me of all things. Apparently my call earned her a Homer Award - extra paid time off and a cash prize. Just from a phone call complimenting her for my positive experience. 

Example B: Trader Joes employee provides us with amazing customer service. I call and speak to a manager complimenting this employee. Next time we're in the store she finds me and thanks me profusely. Her great service continues and so do my phone calls. Months later she confides in me and thanks me for helping her get a (much deserved) raise!

I'm not sharing these stories so that you can pay me on the back - I'm sharing them because it just shows that one phone call can really create a positive effect on someone else's life. If you try to focus as much or more energy on the positive service you receive you'll be amazed at how much happier you feel entering these stores as well. 

Here are tips to make it simple for you. 

- keep the receipt with you when you get into the car. Don't tuck it in the bags, your purse or anywhere else. Keep it with you - the stores phone number is on it!

- Make sure to call the store as soon as you get settled into your car! It's highly likely that you'll forget to call if you don't do it immediately - life just gets in the way even when we have the best of intentions. 

- when you call immediately ask to speak with a manager and the more neutral you sound the better. I always say the same phrase "Hello, I'd like to speak to a manager about my customer service experience."

- explain to the manager the name and service you received from their employee. I always make sure to include the following phrase as well "I wanted to make sure that they receive recognition for their service." At some stores this is a verbal announcement during a team meeting while other stores can have greater benefits for the employee!

- be prepared to hear relief from the manager! Think about how many times a day they get a negative phone call from customers..they appreciate positive feedback just as much as you'll enjoy giving it!

I hope you'll find as much joy in doing this as I do! 

Friday, March 13, 2015

Five on Friday

This has been a long week for our little family. Nothing too overwhelming or anything that couldn't be handled, just a lot of last minute changes and I just don't handle those well! I like to stick to the plan!

Anyway, here are five things from our past week that have kept us busy busy!


BG completed his first ever 5k in support of our friend Karen. She is currently battling stage four colon cancer that spread to her liver before her cancer had even been detected. Karen and I met when we both started teaching at a new (to us) inner city school here in Charlotte. She was quite pregnant at the time with her son (who is now three). She's a tough cookie and she's fighting more courageously than I could've ever imagined. I've had the opportunity to sit with her during chemo and I can honestly say it's not easy to take the high road when you're in her situation. Karen, I'm so so proud of you and your courageous battle. 


Our little neighbor came by on Sunday with a daffodil for me. He was dressed in his Sunday best and just melted my heart when I opened the door and he presented this flower. Sure hope his mama doesn't mind that her flower beds are missing a daffodil. Ha!


I'm so excited about our latest purchase. I have always wanted a piano and this week we bought one!  I learned how to play several songs on a keyboard when I was young and they all came right back to me. BG and I sit and play several times a day. He's requested Old MacDonald and The Wheels on the Bus which thankfully I've already figured out. I play by sound so it's been fun to sing along as I hunt and peck the keys. I can't wait for real lessons to begin...


I've been honored this past week to complete cookie orders for two very special causes. The first one was a birthday party for a sweet friends little girl and the second order was for an awesome event that's happening next week. I'll share more next week once I finally finish the order!  I love being able to bake and sharing my passion with others is truly a bonus!  I'm not a professional but a whole lot of love goes into each sweet treat. 


I tried watching House of Cards this week but it was too hard to concentrate on while decorating cookies so I went back to my latest Netfljx love, The West Wing. I've never watched the series before and my girlfriend kept telling me how much I'd love it. Well, she was right! I love the political drama, the daily life in the White House and most especially I love that it's not so caught up in being scandalous for the sake of scandal. Speaking of which, as of last night's new episode I am done with Scandal. I've been so bored watching it lately and it just seems so disjointed from what the show used to be.  Maybe if they bring back the white hat wearing Olvia I'll get back into. 

Any other favorites on Netlfix that I should know about?

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Tuesday Tips - Bag Clips

Eek - I better publish this one fast or it'll be Wednesday!  

See these random office supply clips? 

Best. Kitchen. Clips. Ever. 

Easy on and off but best of all they keep foods airtight in the pantry, fridge or freezer!  

Here's a tip on the tip though - when you undo the clip do you often lose like I used to? Make sure to clip it to your box or open bag as soon as you undo it saving yourself from counter surfing for the missing clip!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Dream Job

Have you ever thought about what career you'd really love if time, education and money were no object? I know exactly what I would want to do.

I'd open my own bakery.

(This is the bakery from It's Complicated and pretty much my ideal setting!)

I'd make everything, and I mean everything, from scratch.  Breads, bagels and all things baked. I can just imagine stepping into this magical place each morning to bring sweet smells and delicious treats to friends and customers alike.

Now if I could just eliminate the early bird wake ups and financial risk of running a bakery...

What would you do if the sky were the limit?

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Tuesday Tips - Gift Cards

Do you have a stash of gift cards like I do? Some of them are from 2005!!! Can you believe that? I always write the amount left on the card on the front - that way I don't have to call to get the balance each time I want to use them. Then each time I use them I mark the date and remaining balance until it's all used up. A simple trick that helps to keep me organized.