On June 12, 2016 my husband woke me up to tell me the news of the Pulse Nightclub shooting. My head was swimming in thoughts – “Are all of my friends OK?” “What happened?” “Why would something this awful happen?” Throughout the day I tried to process it. I sat in front of the T.V. and kept listening to them recap what happened and kept watching the death toll rise and kept feeling so much disbelief.
Then I heard it. That phrase I never thought I would hear, especially tied to my town, where I live. “This is the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.” As soon as I heard it I knew I never wanted to hear it again. I wanted to take that designation and lock it up. Keep it in Orlando. Not because I wanted us to be known for the shooting. But rather I never wanted anyone else to experience that heartache – that entire body ache – ever again. I wanted to take that designation and ensure it never saw the light of day.
I woke up on October 2, 2017 thinking it would be a normal Monday and just like every day I checked social media on my phone. The first article I saw: mass shooting in Las Vegas. I followed the story closely. I thought about the victims and their families. I thought about the people who were injured, who were fleeing to save their lives, who saw their own friends and family shot in front of them. I thought about the first responders and I thought about the heroes who went back to save others. I can’t even begin to imagine what it is like to experience this.
Then at some point in the day listening to the news, I heard it again – the designation that “this is the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.” I experienced the same anxiety, the same heartache, the same full body ache. This time it was in a completely different state but the feeling was the same.
Las Vegas, I do know one thing: That designation will not define you. What will define you is the response to this tragedy. The people who stood in line for 10+ hours to donate blood. The go fund me’s that have already started. The benefit events local business will hold to raise money. The community coming together to support each other. That is what will define you.
I won’t turn this political and talk about gun control and my personal thoughts and opinions on our current gun policies. What I will say though, is if you believe current policies on guns isn’t the problem, then you are accepting what happened in Las Vegas.
We stand with you Las Vegas. We are here for you. Orlando is here for you. I am here for you. Love is here for you.
On November 9, 2016 I woke up to find that the candidate I supported and felt would effectively fulfill the position of President for the next four years lost. I’m not mad or filled with hate. I can certainly appreciate opposite views and just because I felt passionate about one candidate doesn’t mean other voters views must align with mine (obviously). Isn’t that what living in this country is about? We have the freedom to form opinions and not be ridiculed for them. That is amazing!
I absolutely love tzatziki but I have never attempted to make it, which is surprising because I also strongly dislike the store bought variety. Well when the theme for supper club was announced as Mediterranean, I knew I would have to bite the bullet and make a batch. Let me tell you, it turned out more amazing than I thought it would. I sat down and compared a few different recipes and decided to take that knowledge but ultimately make my own. I just couldn’t wait to share this one with you!
Note: This tzatziki dip paired really well with my Stuffed Mediterranean Meatballs mentioned in this post! It has also paired well with wings and makes for a great salad dressing. YUM!
A good friend of ours started up a supper club. Before we knew him, he began this group that would meet up on a scheduled basis and bring a dish that fit a unique theme. Each meet up would be hosted at a different location, cycling through all members. Flash forward to a couple years ago and we were asked to be part of this adventure.
Eventually the supper club 2.0 disbanded. We would occasionally have dinner meet ups and wine nights but nothing quite as exciting as that supper club. Flash forward again to a couple months ago, we were hanging out with this same friend and he made mention of starting it back up again. We jumped on board, saying YES instantly! Supper club 3.0 was born.
This past Saturday a group of eight people met up, shared food, wine, and laughs. There were a few sentimental tears and interesting stories shared. We all had different backgrounds but none of that mattered. The purpose was to have a good time and that is exactly what happened!
The theme was Mediterranean food. I know very little about that flavor of cooking so I jumped right onto Pinterest to start my search. Eventually I found these Stuffed Mediterranean Meatballs. I pretty much followed the recipe to the letter and they turned out AMAZING! Of course there are a few things I would alter next time but I certainly added them to my recipe book! I did omit the wrapping of cucumber and I decided to pan fry them on each side and then finished them in the oven. I did try to only use the pan; however, I felt the meatballs were burning.
Now, Mediterranean food would not be complete without tzatziki. For this, I looked up about five different recipes and found they were all similar with the same four ingredients – greek yogurt, cucumber, garlic, and dill (well six ingredients if you count salt and pepper). Simple yet delicious! For the complete recipe, see this post!
I could not have asked for a better Saturday. I was forced outside of my cooking element by trying Mediterranean food. I was able to try many wonderful dishes cooked by amazing people. I spent the evening sipping on wine and finding out interesting factoids about existing and new friends. My heart and stomach were full by the end of the night!
If you read my blog post Camping – From a newbies perspective you would know that I learned so much on my first adult camping trip. Although I think it went smoothly, there are of course parts that I would adjust the next time we head out into nature. I will say though one thing I would absolutely NOT change is the food preparation we did ahead of time. If I was stuck eating beans and hot dogs for all my meals, I would have been miserable.
I knew I didn’t want too much clean up so I had to make food that was self contained. I scoured Pinterest for ideas, Brendan and I made a menu, and the food prep began. Once everything was put together, we threw it in the freezer and took it to the campsite frozen. The only exception was our day one dinner.
Since we left after work on a Friday and headed out, dinner was our first camping meal. We didn’t know how long it would take to set everything up and I didn’t want to be cooking after the sun went down. Our biggest obstacle on this day…making fire.
Kielbasa and Potato Foil Packet (dinner)
It was delicious! I have made these to grill before. It was great to take them camping. Clean up was a breeze!
We woke up around 9:00 and finally got our day going. For lunch we went out and about to explore Ormond beach so we only really ate breakfast and dinner on day two.
Coffee and Breakfast Burrito (breakfast)
This was a great way to start the day. The coffee took a lot of time and the burrito was slightly charred on the bottom (oops!) but it tasted delicious and the sense of accomplishment I felt was well worth it! We cooked outside…in nature…over a fire…WHOA!
Macaroni and Cheese (dinner)
I had already cooked a batch of mac and cheese. I just transferred it over to the handy dandy tin containers and put foil over it. Click here for the recipe!!!
We scarfed this meal down pretty quick. There was no time for pictures!
We were tired, dirty, and ready to get home. We packed up and headed back!
Pasta is my weakness. Specifically the pasta and cheese combination, which is a staple in our house. I didn’t always have a good homemade macaroni and cheese recipe though and while box macaroni and cheese got me through most of college, it is terrible. The powdered cheese or the liquid cheese-like substance just turns my stomach. This led me to search for the perfect recipe and I really didn’t need to go far. My stepmom snagged a recipe from Southern Living and I needed to know how she made it. Finally, after trying many recipes that didn’t compare, I asked her and she shared.
I’m pretty sure I now have the best macaroni and cheese recipe and it has become something we eat AT LEAST twice a month (probably more but I’m not willing to admit that). The recipe below is what I refer to as the “base” version because over the years I have done many different combinations – Curry Mac & Cheese, Taco Mac & Cheese, Spicy Mac & Cheese…the options are really limitless!
Insider tip: Sometimes I take the left over boxes of pasta and the left over nubs of cheese and make a version using that. It is still delicious! I call it my “garbage mac and cheese” but people have told me that doesn’t sound appealing. I’m in the market for a new name!
Ever since my husband and I got together he has relentlessly pushed a camping trip. My response was always an immediate NO. There was nothing that sounded appealing about camping. You work to set up camp. You build a fire. You have hot dogs and canned beans for EVERY meal. You get hounded by bugs. UGH!
Well I caved. We found a campsite at Tomoka State park, set a date and and just like that, our vacation was planned. Panic set in. What have I gotten in to? I began to frantically search for ways to prepare. What to eat? What to pack? What if it rains (we live in Florida…it is inevitable). Sure, I had gone girl scout camping but I was nowhere near prepared to do adult camping. The one thing I knew was I wanted to have a good time. The idea of camping (gradually over the years) grew on me. The whole idea of depending less on the indoor comforts and moving everything outside is kind of interesting. I truly wondered if we could actually pull it off!
After spending hours scouring the internet, Brendan and I came up with a camping game plan! We put together our packing list and menu. Over the course of a few weeks we pulled everything together (thank you Amazon Prime) and by May 6, we were ready to go.
We pulled into the camp site and began unpacking. Setting up the tent outside was a breeze. I’m assuming part of that was because the first time we attempted to set it up it was in our living room and it was much too big for that space, so actually having the room made it so much easier. After the tent, Brendan started the fire so we could get dinner going. Then it was time to relax.
The next day was much of the same. We got up, started a fire, got the coffee and breakfast burritos going. During the afternoon of the second day we did a little exploring around Ormond Beach, which is a lovely area that we would love to visit again. After we got our fill exploring, we came back, made another fire and had dinner. Of course both evenings included some adult beverages because camping wouldn’t be complete without those!
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised with how much fun I had. First of all, I want to say that I don’t think the weather could have been any more perfect. Highs in the 80s and lows in the 60s. It was the beginning of May. Those temperatures (and no rain) are unheard of around here for this time of year. Secondly, food preparation was key! I don’t think I would have been as content on the trip if I hadn’t taken the time to put together a menu and prepare all the meals ahead of time. We hardly touched our junk food snacks we brought! We were able to fit in a s’more or two though.
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t the kind of trip I want to do all the time but I am excited to start planning our next one (after the summer of course).
It all started with a desire to eat better. What I put in my body matters and I wanted to make sure what I cooked didn’t contain chemicals that could potentially harm me long term. I have been semi successful at this feat although I am always learning new things and some weeks are better than others.
Once I opened the food door, it lead me to think about what I put on my body and what I use to clean our home. So I began to explore homemade cleaning products. For a while the house smelled like vinegar all the time and neither Brendan nor myself really enjoyed living in that environment.
For fear that Brendan would explode one day because the vinegar odor would just become too overpowering, I went on an internet search for the best truly “green” products. This let me to City Maid Green, an amazing local store with a great owner and wonderful ideas! I dragged Brendan to a soap making class there one night, which wasn’t difficult after I mentioned there would be alcoholic beverages served. While having a fantastic time making soap, we found out that they have a maid service. This was great news since I had wanted to get the house deep cleaned but I feared the products wouldn’t really be clean.
I requested a quote online, set up an appointment, and on Memorial Day weekend two of the nicest people came to our house and began to clean. I can honestly say they exceeded my expectations by 100%. I don’t think in the two years we lived in this house our bathroom floor has ever been that clean and the calk around the bathtub was actually white. The smells of the products took over the home and were extremely pleasant (unlike the vinegar and essential oil concoctions I would try to make). They took their time, making sure every corner was checked and cleaned thoroughly.
The best part of the whole experience is that I trusted the products. We had met the owner. We had heard her story and her reason why she started City Maid Green. I felt like even in the bigger city of Orlando I was able to contribute to a mom and pop company and they were able to provide us with an amazingly clean home.
Image courtesy of City Maid Green
I was constantly on the search for good pesto and I was always disappointed by the store bought stuff. Whether it is found in the cold section next to the “fresh” pasta or right off the shelf in the pasta sauce aisle, I get it home and I am left longing to still find something better. Some had too little salt while others were lacking in the garlic area while others just had no flavor at all. Then one day an idea hit me! What if I make my own?! Crazy idea right? WRONG! I tried it and it turns out not only was it the BEST DECISION EVER, it is also extremely easy to make!
Side note: My favorite thing to use the pesto in is my version mini bruschetta bites. Also, if you are feeling like you want more than just a turkey sandwich for lunch, I highly suggest using the pesto with some tomato slices and mozzarella cheese lightly toasted.
Probably about 6 months ago I was browsing on Pinterest and I stumbled upon information about how bad highly processed foods are for your body. Now, I am skeptical about getting my facts off of Pinterest (although I trust them more than Wikipedia). I started my research on “Real Food” Diets. I think at first I was more intrigued with the cooking aspect than the actual lifestyle change it promotes.
As I read all the blogs, I really started to warm up to the idea that maybe what I am putting into my body isn’t all that great for me and with only a little more effort and time I could have food that tastes better and is better for you.
At first it all seemed a bit overwhelming (and it still does) so I thought I would start with something easy. I chose peanut butter!
Enjoy, let me know what you think!