A May To Do List.
That time of the month in which I choose everything I’m going to try. Mostly 4 things per category with a few exceptions for a bonus if we have time. You can choose any categories you like! These are just things that are important to me. And choose more or less depending on how much time you have!
In May I want to be outside, be present, and be focused on my family. I do have two little personal goals for the month – everyday blog posting and everyday workouts. I am the type of person who thrives when doing something every day rather than once in a while. I’ll keep you updated on how it’s all going!
Bake (for the weekend)
- Last Day of School Bake – Last year I did donuts, the year before, a cake. I’m feeling a pie this year. What do you think?
- Blueberry Hand Pies
- Angel Food Cake with Raspberry Cream
- A new pie from The Book on Pie, by Erin Jeanne McDowell
- Neapolitan Pops – ambitious to have 5 things on my May list, but I’ll give it my best shot
Treat (a weekday treat)
- Kale Caesar with Sweet Potato Rounds
- Caramelized Lemon Butter Orzo with Arugula
- Hot Honey Chicken
- Italian Heroes
- Milk Braised Pork with Gnocchi in sage and butter with a salad of bitter greens – literally read this meal in a book and haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since.
- SunFest – Jack Johnson and the Killers are playing and I can’t possibly choose
- Charcuterie Date
- IPA Beer Tasting
- After Bedtime Fancy Dinner
- Charlie Graduates!
- Memorial Day Overnight
- Zoo or Science Center weekend outing
- Boys to a Movie with dad
- New Doors!!!
- Garden Planner
- Plant Lettuce
- New Couch – playroom
What are your goals this month? Anything exciting? I’d love to hear! Even if it isn’t exciting! Maybe especially if it isn’t. You know I’m all about the mundane, beauty of the everyday. 🙂
Other to do lists if you’re into this sort of thing, and another on the point of it all.
I know I’ve talked about Lemon Everything for spring, but you know what else I am in love with this time of year? Lavender. I bought a giant package of food grade lavender for different treats this month. I’m making lavender lemonade, lavender tea, lavender simple syrup for lavender lattes, and a couple weeks ago I started my lavender adventures with a yummy little lavender cake. The thing you have to remember is that lavender can be pretty strong. You have to be pretty into it to really enjoy these treats. Maybe you don’t know if you like lavender! Maybe you should try it! I really love it, and think it’s beautiful, soul filling to cook with, and maybe you will too.
Lavender Cake with Lavender Frosting
For the cake:
1/2 cup milk, plus 2 tablespoons to be used in frosting below
2 tablespoons culinary lavender
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
zest of one lemon
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 tablespoons mild-flavored vegetable oil
For the frosting:
1/2 cup (one stick) butter, at room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons lavender milk (from above)
Prepare the Cake:
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease an 8-inch round pan or 9-inch square pan with butter and line the bottom and sides with parchment paper.
- Over medium heat, bring the milk and lavender to a boil. After it comes to a boil, turn off heat, cover with lid and let it steep for about 10 minutes.
- In a small bowl, whisk the eggs together. Set aside.
- Place the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and mix with a fork.
- Using mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter for 30 seconds on medium speed and then gradually add the sugar. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Continue beating on medium speed for another 4 minutes or until light in color and fluffy. Add vanilla and lemon zest and beat until combined.
- With the mixer still on medium speed, gradually add the eggs. On low speed, add the flour mixture and then the oil and 1/2 cup of your lavender milk, making sure to reserve 2 tablespoons for your lavender frosting; mix until just combined. Don’t overbeat. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake in the center of the oven for 40-50 minutes. When a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, and the cake bounces back when lightly pressed, remove the cake from the oven and let it stand for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the cake to gently release. Invert the cake, peel off the pieces of parchment paper and cool on a wire rack.
To make the frosting:
- Cream butter in mixer with paddle attachment until smooth and fluffy.
- Add powdered sugar and vanilla.
- Add your lavender milk and continue to beat for 3-4 minutes. If it seems too thick – add a bit more milk, if it seems too thin – add more powdered sugar.
- Make sure to wait until your cake is completely cooled before frosting or you may be dealing with a slippery, sliding mess.
Let me know if you try it!
An April To Do List.
April! The month of daffodils and misty rain and easter goodness. If you’re new here – at the start of each month, I choose four-ish things to do in different categories. Think of it like a bucket list for the month. Just a few things that I want to get around to doing without the month passing me by. I hate that feeling of “oh, we didn’t get to x, y or z”. This really helps me stay focused on the things that are important to me. Categories can be anything you choose, these are just my priorities! I hope you try it sometime!
- Rainbow Bread
- Lavender cake
- Lemon Meringue Pie (our Easter dessert tradition)
- Hot cross buns
- Easter Cookies
- Carrot Cake Loaf
- Bunny Pop-tarts
- Dutch babies with Lemon Curd and Blueberries
- Easter Supper
- Homemade Pasta
- Tulip Tarts
- Chicken lettuce wraps
- Lavender Lemonade
- Irish Coffee
- Boozy Beet Shrub
- Dye Easter eggs
- Beach Trip
- Cousin Visit!!
- Outdoor movie night and s’mores
Dreaming about…a Picnic Date.
I know that it’s still snowing where some of you are and I think that’s just the pits. But where we live in Florida, it has been all blue skies and lovely breezes and windows thrown open, and all I can romanticize about right now is a picnic in a big green field with butterflies flitting by, a husband by my side, cold grapes, a bottle of crisp white and fresh cheese on a cracker to go along. Play along with me as I daydream about a picnic date.
The sweetest little sundress to lounge in,
a French market bag to tuck a baguette and all the fixings into,
a straw hat because a sunburn isn’t at all romantic,
buffalo check napkins to use all through spring and summer,
enamel tumblers in *tarragon* for sipping,
the cheeseboard of my dreams,
a recipe book for menu inspiration galore,
a pretty berry basket for fruit,
the only blanket you could possibly take on a picnic this romantic,
and this cute mini cooler to keep it all icy.
Books I Read in March.
March was a good month for reading! I was knocked DOWN by a vicious bug (not Covid! We already had that in the fall 😅) that also brought down Charlie, but our recovery gave me a couple of days in bed for reading. Then, Charlie got sick again, which meant a couple more days home for reading. Spring Break gave me a week to fly through a couple more. Of course, I’m sort of always flying through books, aren’t I?
One True Loves, by Taylor Jenkins Reid – 4.5 stars – Loved it. I wept! The love story (stories!)! It was an impossible situation to reflect on and I felt like the ending fizzled out a little for me after the build up of the middle. It was a little anticlimactic after the passion, but Taylor Jenkins Reid is just such an amazing storyteller. Read it and weep. Literally.
Notes on your Sudden Disappearance, by Alison Espach – 4.5 stars – Tragic and funny much in the Sorrow and Bliss was (which I also recommend). So sad, so beautifully written. One of those books that will stay with me for years. The grief, the joy, the being in between and the being left behind to live through it all. I would skip if death of a (teenage) child or fatal car crashes are a trigger for you.
Hell Bent, by Leigh Bardugo – 4/5 stars – Really good. This is the sequel to Ninth House, and it didn’t disappoint. That one ended on SUCH a cliffhanger, I couldn’t wait to read this book. I’ll be honest and tell you that much of the detail of the first book had left me, so I did have to go back and read a few summaries to remind myself. If you like fantasy, you should pick it up. I wouldn’t say it was scary, but more suspenseful. There will absolutely be a third after this one. I just think that Alex is such a badass. Love that about female fantasy main characters. They always rule the world.
The Diamond Eye, Kate Quinn – 5/5 stars – Historical fiction has to be REALLY good to hold my attention and this one did it. It’s not short, but I flew through it, staying up late into the night to read more more more. I LOVEd Mila, her story and was fascinated by the setting in Russia in WWII. The American part of the story was a little hokey to me, but Quinn pulled it all together by the end in such a nice little package. It was the kind of interesting and complex storyline that you really want in a historical fiction – with wonderful, real characters to root for and other truly despicable ones to hate. You can tell the author really did her homework on this one. So much of the story was true – including Mila herself! Have heard great things about Quinn’s other books too. Adding them all to my list!
Stepsisters, Susan Mallery – 2/5 stars – Guys it was bad. Skip it. Upon reflection, I can’t believe I finished the whole thing. There were just some parts that were…icky to me.
Dinner in One, by Melissa Clark – It’s not a cookbook that I would plan to buy, but was glad to get it from the library. I bookmarked the meatballs, a couple of the chicken recipes and the a few of the skillet meals to try. I am always looking for one pot meals, and this had some good ones if you’re looking for that too!!
That’s it for March! Can’t wait to see what April brings my shelves!
Creamy, Lemony, Garlicky Pasta for Spring.
When you hear the word Spring, what do you think of first? My answer: Lemon. Second answer: Daffodils. I’ll save the daffodils for another day, but the color, the smell, the feelings I get when I close my eyes and taste lemons – it just screams Spring. Don’t you think? I could admittedly go for lemon at any time of year. Lemon bars, lemon cake, lemon tart, lemon poppyseed bread, lemonade, yes, even lemon butter popcorn. Give them all to me. But especially around this time of year, I really crave everything lemon. I made this pasta on Sunday night, and I didn’t really know how much the lemon would come through, but it ended up being so very good. Different than Alfredo or Mac and Cheese, yummier than Pasta al Limone. The lemon makes it zippy and fresh. The perfect meal for a lovely evening in Spring. I highly recommend grilling chicken and trimmed asparagus (wrapped up into foil a foil packet, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper) and adding that to your bowl too as we did. And if you needed any more convincing – even my kids ate this one.
Creamy Lemon Garlic Pasta
1 pound angel hair pasta
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 cup dry white wine, such as sauvignon blanc
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoon flour
3/4 cup chicken stock
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
zest and juice of one lemon
kosher salt and pepper, to taste
chopped/torn parsley, to garnish
dinner, food, food blogger, lemon, pasta, recipe, spring, spring food
- Fill a large pot of water and add a few pinches of salt. Bring to boil, add pasta and cook until al dente. Drain and set aside.
- Heat oil over medium high heat. Add garlic and saute until golden. Add wine and cook until the wine has reduced by half. Add butter, and whisk until melted. Sprinkle in flour and cook, whisking constantly until incorporated. Pour in chicken stock, heavy cream, parmesan, salt and pepper. Turn heat to high, bringing liquid to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and cook, stirring often until it begins to thicken ~10 minutes or so.
- Remove from heat, stir in lemon zest and juice. Add pasta, mixing into sauce with tongs until all strands are coated. Serve, topping with grilled chicken, fresh parmesan, and parsley.
Simple Joys Lately.
A weekly post to remind myself to look for and appreciate the simple things that bring joy to my every day.
This hat – for being the solution in the matter of the pesky thermostat. Now you see it, now you don’t.
Weekend potatoes – for being a constant in the rhythm of our weekends. I’ll choose you every Saturday forevermore.
This basket of books – for being (almost) all good. And the joy of knowing that I’m headed back to the library with them tomorrow for a fresh stack.
This vintage croquet set given to us by sweet neighbors – because my parents have the same set at home and it makes me feel all melty thinking about my kids having the same memories about their childhood that I do about mine.
This sister cocktail scene – for filling up my literal and metaphorical cup every Friday. And because the Gimlets did not disappoint this week. Up next – Sazerac.
These warm sugar cookies – because I didn’t even barely have to lift a finger to make them. Forever thanking my past self when I pull frozen cookie dough balls out of the freezer to bake on a whim.
Goodnight, friends! I hope you remember to pause and appreciate the simple joys in your life this week.
A Sweet Little Side Table Before & After.
I have a problem. It’s not life threatening or anything, but it’s a problem all the same. You see…I really love furniture. And we happen to live in a spot where people put furniture out on the curb all the time. For free. I call it Picking Day. Other people call it Trash Day. Every Monday in our neighborhood is Bulk Trash day. You can literally put anything out on the curb that you don’t want. And sometimes I get very lucky and find myself in the right spot at the right time and someone else’s trash finds it into the trunk of my minivan. This is only a problem in that we do already have a house with furniture so I often find myself shifting things around, making work for myself that I don’t NEED to do. It’s a problem, but perhaps I should call it a hobby.
I can’t even tell you how many things I’ve picked up on picking day. I’ve outfitted our house with these finds. But sometimes they need a little help. And that’s when my little hand sander comes in. Honestly though…Every time I sand something I say I’ll never do it again. It’s the actual worst. But I’ll also say that I never regret it once it’s done.
I did share about this on Instagram a few weeks ago, but thought I would save it here for future reference. Am I the only one who finds it terribly difficult to find something on instagram if I forget to take a screenshot in the moment?? I can’t be. Much easier to look at a website for future reference!
- Sand with 80 grit sandpaper followed by 120 and 220 to smooth using a detail sander or a random orbital sander. I used my detail sander for this one with its straight lines but for a larger piece I would probably recommend an orbital. An orbital sander just has more power than the detail sander.
- You may have to get in the curves, nooks and crannies a bit by hand. Keep going until you’re happy with the color and finish. Mine had these dark lines where the previous stain had seeped in very deeply. I just kept sanding until they were gone.
- At this point you could apply a new stain in a different color. I liked mine as it was, so I next just finished it with clear matte polycrylic applied with a sponge brush. Matte means it won’t have a shine when it dries.
A note because there may be questions: I have tried the oven cleaner method on a couple things and it does work in taking off stain, BUT I feel that it damages the wood. It seems to sort of shred the wood finish while taking the stain out. Just stresses me out for my poor wood pieces. Not to mention all chemicals in oven cleaner. I prefer sanding because it freshens up the look while making it like new again. However, if you have a piece of furniture with lots of nooks and crannies – oven cleaner may be a good place to start for you. Curves and corners are notoriously difficult to sand! There’s also always citri-strip! You might have great results with that too! But for me – I have ended up having to sand even with other stripping methods. So you may have to do a combination of things if you have an orange-y gal laying around like me that could use an update!
Hope those tips and the process are helpful in case you’re not sure how to update your wood pieces!
For an Instant Birthday Party.
Last week was Benny’s fourth birthday. Seems like eons ago already as it passed in the blink of an eye. I was also in the throes of a nasty fever (chills! swollen throat! a general lump of lethargy!), so I feel like I didn’t get to really enjoy the day with him. I didn’t even have cake! Almost sacrilegious. A big giant *praise hands* that my parents were still here and they and my husband could save the day. Actually though, the entire last year passed in pretty much the blink of an eye too. I’m left asking myself questions like – didn’t I just birth Ben just yesterday? And now he’s going to be in pre-k next year? What? I feel like that a robot that moves its arms around saying “DoEs NoT cOmPuTe” over and over. I guess it just goes to show that that old saying holds true – the days are long, but the years are short. I’m actually not here today to wax poetic about my kids getting bigger (insert sob) or how it’s all going too fast (insert fist shaking at the sky) though I could go on about those things for a mile. I AM here to bring you a simple little idea to make birthdays a bit easier.
I thought of this trick when Charlie was just a tiny guy, but it just so happens that all three of our kids have middle-of-the-school-year (two in October and one in March) birthdays which can mean *STRESS* setting in a few days before. That’s right around when it hits me that I need to somehow bake a cake in the middle of the week, pick up cupcakes for their class party, make their favorite meal, buy them presents, wrap them, and generally make their day filled to the brim with magic without myself becoming a stress ball mom trying to soak up the memories all while telling everyone who will listen how very busy I am – my biggest mom pet peeve. Ha! No short order.
So hear me out. It doesn’t solve all my birthday struggles, but at least one answer to this middle-of-the-week-school-year quandary is – The Birthday Box. Our birthday box is…just a shoebox. I should think about an upgrade at some point, but honestly the shoebox has been working for us for a very long time, so why overcomplicate a good thing? Okay, other than that time when we moved and I became panicked when I couldn’t find The Birthday Box. I was convinced that my husband had thrown it away – it being a shoebox and all. But it turned up (I think in the garage?) after a few prayers to Saint Anthony. Phew! But that’s also why it now says *do not throw away* in very emphatic writing. Anyway, the night before The-Birth-Day we just pull the box out, and decorate the dining room with abandon – setting hats out at each spot, hanging garland, inserting the age in the birthday crown, and blowing up balloons. Instant party. You should see the look on the boys’ faces when they get up in the morning. Pure childhood magic. And after each birthday, I just make a little list and restock the box if needed. Just makes life a little easier.
A list to build your own Birthday Box:
- Our beloved birthday crown that I made out of felt with a little plastic pocket to insert the age (should maybe post a how to at some point, yes?)
- Pom Pom String Garland
- Happy Birthday Garland
- Noise Makers
- Party Hats
- Extra Scotch Tape to prevent late night wrapping panic
Other things to make birthdays special:
- Falcon Party Set
- A pretty, classic Cake Stand or a simple baking dish for a sheet cake has never failed me
- My favorite cake cookbook
- Here is a nice little box if you’d like to use something fancier than a shoebox
- You Are Special plate, my most cherished birthday memory from my own childhood. My mom got us one when we were married.
- The cutest wrapping paper
Just making things a little easier in any way we can. Do you have any ideas to make birthdays a little smoother? I’d love to hear if you do!
How To Read More.
One thing I’m often asked is “How do you read so much?” It’s true that I do work full time as a teacher, have three small children, cook dinner every night, and keep the house looking fresh (most of the time). Now friends, it would be laughable to list all those things without saying that I have a hugely present and supportive spouse who is my partner in all things of life. It’s not like I’m doing “it all” alone. But in between doing “it all” with my sweet husband, it’s true that I will forever find time to read. Every day, no matter what. Now, listing all those things sounds a little braggy – Look how productive I am! Look how full my life is!” But I don’t meant it that way in a bit. I just mean, that you can do it too, even if you feel like you have a list of to do’s that never get done (we all do), even if you have a small child hanging off of you (me too!), a partner you want to give your undivided attention to at the end of the day, or a kid who desperately needs you in the next room (MAMA MAMA!). You could find time.
- Choose a book over scrolling. I am definitely a creator online, but I am not much of a consumer. I have maybe 4-5 people I like to look at on instagram, and I give myself 15 minutes every night to scroll Pinterest, but other than that – I don’t watch reels, I don’t scroll feeds. I don’t watch stories like a tv show. Put the phone down, and pick up a book instead.
- Get multiple versions of the same book – get the print copy, the audio, and the e-book. I mostly do a combination of listening to books (while shelving, driving, or running) and reading the print copy (at night, in bed, on the couch, or while monitoring my kids). And for goodness sake – don’t pay for any of it! Get them all from the library. It seems greedy to use all of the versions, but if no one has it checked out then you should. Libraries buy books so that people will use them. Just return as soon as you are done and you don’t have to feel guilty.
- Bring your book with you wherever you go. Get a purse or backpack large enough to carry the print copy. Or learn to enjoy reading the e-book version.
- Place holds at the library. I just shared a long list of holds that I have at the library. Having a stack of books that you’re excited to read always helps.
- Only read good books. Now…by this I mean – Put a book down if you’re not interested. No one is giving awards for finishing books in adulthood. If you’re not into it, move on.
- Read whenever you have a moment. Waiting for the pasta water to boil? Pick up your book. Waiting in the school pick up line? Pick up your book. Kids have soccer practice? Pick up your book.
- Try not to reserve your reading time only to when you know you won’t be interrupted. After school, I generally get dinner going and then I take the boys out to play and bring my book with me. I know that they’re going to need help, and that I may only get two pages read, but it’s still reading time. Who knows – maybe you’ll get through a whole chapter!
- Read instead of watch tv. This is similar to scrolling. You could choose to read a book instead of watch tv at night. My husband and I will watch a show together while folding laundry after the boys go to bed, but then I usually get my book out and he’ll switch to sports. I personally am not bothered by the tv being on when I’m reading, but I know that’s hard for some people. You could try to get your husband to read with you instead of watching tv! Or just go lay in bed!
- If you work – read at lunch. Read at breakfast too! I have always brought my book to school with me and read while eating. It’s the half hour of my work day that centers, grounds and calms me. I look forward to it.
- Get up early to read for a few minutes. Occasionally I am lucky enough to wake before the children and I will enjoy my first few sips of coffee with a quiet house, a simple breakfast and my book.
There you have it! My tips! I hope you find a pocket of your day for reading. Fit it in whenever and wherever you can. Reading and books are one of life’s greatest gifts in my very humble opinion.