New Recipes, Part 2

Apparently I have slacked off on trying new recipes since the beginning of the year.  It's been a busy few weeks, but I am picking up the pace on cooking again.  I am still sure that I have cooked more at home and more from scratch this year than at any other time in my life.  I am learning more about what fresh foods we will use most often, and more and more often, I have most of the items on hand that I need to make a new recipe.  My kitchen finally feels fully stocked, ingredient-wise.

I expect the cooking to pick up in full force again soon, particularly because some work friends and I are starting Weight Watchers next week.  I'm a little nervous (mostly that I will completely and utterly fail at this endeavor), but I am also feeling super encouraged by my friend Kelly, who has just lost nearly 30 pounds.  (You're looking fabulous, my friend!)

Anyway, here are some more new recipes I've tried this year (with only the Pinterest pictures because I'm a terrible blogger):

  • These oven fajitas from Budget Bytes are my absolute favorite right now, and the latest in a string of successful recipes from her blog.  The fajitas are super easy, and I have even used frozen chicken and they turned out just as well.  These are also excellent left over, meaning I make extra to have for lunch during the week. 
  • I got hooked on whole wheat egg noodles for awhile there, and I created a Butter Garlic Shrimp Pasta, adapted from this recipe.  I used the same basic ingredients, but left out the peas and only topped mine with Parmesan.  I added shrimp and threw on some steamed stir-fry vegetables.  This one was a definite hit with both Jeremy and me.  (Hey, it turns out I did take a picture of this one!)
  •  Taco Pasta was pretty good, just a little on the spicy side.  Jeremy agreed, so we may likely try it again sometime.  We are all taco fans here, so it may just need a little tweaking.
  •  I went through a crazy pancake/waffle phase about a month or two ago, and I seriously could not get them off my mind.  When I came across a recipe for Sour Cream Pancakes from the Pioneer Woman, I knew I had to try them.  They are definitely quite different from regular pancakes, but not in a bad way at all.  We finished the batch easily, and I kept the recipe bookmarked.  These won't be my standby pancakes, but definitely worth a repeat.  They are super easy!
  •  Finally, in an effort to satisfy my cravings (not pregnant, I feel the need to specify, just hungry!), I made these waffles from Everyday Reading.  It's a great basic waffle recipe that will definitely be a keeper in our house.  I've actually made them three times in the last month or so, and we all love them.  The best part?  The recipe makes enough for me to stick a couple of waffles in the freezer for later.  Always a plus.
  • While I have been having a love affair with waffles, Addison & Mackenzie have become a little obsessed with pita pizzas (and apples, which they are eating basically twice a day, but that's a whole other story).  I love how quick and easy it is to throw these together, and they're relatively healthy, too.  Take a pita round (we use whole wheat), drizzle on a bit of olive oil and garlic powder and bake in the oven for a few minutes to let the oil sink in.  Top with pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese, and veggies of choice and bake (on a pizza stone if you have one, it makes the crust just a little crispy) at 450 degrees until all the cheese is melted and toasty.  Delicious and simple...the best combination! 
What are you eating these days??
(I hate to do it, but I am going to turn on comment verification for awhile.  I've been getting a TON of spam lately, so I'm willing to try it.  Sorry for the inconvenience; please don't stop commenting!)


Why I Dress My Twins Alike (Most of the Time)

Back when I was pregnant with the girls, I was often asked if I planned to dress them alike.  I think my standard response in those days was, "I think we'll just dress them in whatever we can grab!"  Oh, how true that was at times.  

I did start to notice, though, that if we were going out I liked to dress the girls alike, or at least in coordinating outfits.  I looooved the little cotton rompers that come in packs of two or three.  I could throw one on each baby and have them similarly dressed but not exactly matched.  We got so many clothes as gifts, we had a ton of matching outfits.  People find it hard to resist buying doubles of cute little baby clothes, it seems.  Most of the girls' nicer outfits came in a pair, either because it was gifted or I purchased them myself.  So, from an early age, they have been dressed alike most of the time for church or other "nice clothes" functions.

10 months!

The 'dressing alike' trend continued and increased when the girls reached the toddler/preschool years.  During the last couple of years, A & M have probably been dressed alike more often than not.  I don't think too hard about it, and neither do they--so hopefully I'm not having too much of an effect on their delicate little psyches here.  When I occasionally ask if they want to wear the same thing or something different, there's about a 50% chance they'll choose the same thing anyway.  Most days, they really just don't seem to care.  M requires a 'twirly dress' nearly every day, but beyond that, neither of them is too very picky.

I will let you in on my big motivator for dressing them alike:  it's easier.  Do I think they're cute as pie in matching outfits?  Sure!  But I think they're cute as pie no matter what they're wearing.  When I'm pulling out clothes for the day (or pajamas for the night), it's just SO much simpler to grab two of the same outfits rather than fussing over who is going to wear which one.  I do still often buy coordinating outfits--the same outfit in different colors, for example--but it's basically the same principle.  M wears the purple and A wears the pink.  (The colors are their choices....I didn't have a whole lot to do with that one!)

Beautiful day for a walk at Bridge Street...until it started raining on us!

Yes, even the pajamas usually match.  I don't want to hear fussing at bedtime either.  And I reason that if they're wearing the same thing, one shouldn't be cold while the other is burning up.  See?  Simplified!

Proud to be four!

Dressing the girls alike also keeps things simpler in my mind.  Naturally, the girls have certain clothes that are favorites of mine.  Occasionally I will run across an outfit that I just absolutely love and I know I have to buy it for them.  Of course I have to get two, right?  I can't buy Addison an outfit I love and Mackenzie an outfit that I think is just okay.  (I realize no one but me would know that I didn't just love both outfits, but it makes sense in my head, okay?  Just a little neurotic around here.)  If it comes in two colors I like, or if there are two different-but-equally-cute options, I am likely to choose those.  But if not, a duplicate set is added to the cart. 

Getting dressed for church on Sunday morning?  No need to spend time picking out two outfits that are equally cute/equally loved by mom/on the same level of dressiness...just throw a matching set of dresses on and be done.  Simplified again!

I have begun to question if we are maybe reaching the age that it's time to stop dressing them alike so often.  Even if they don't care about the clothes they are wearing and whether they match or not, maybe I need to start making more of an effort in this area.  Surely I can spare an extra few minutes to pick out two outfits versus one in duplicate. 

I'm not saying it's going to happen overnight, and I'm sure there will still be plenty of times when I can't resist buying two of the same outfit.  But at least maybe the girls can start wearing them on different days...

Do you still dress your twins alike (or did you ever)?  What do you think is the "cutoff age" for dressing alike on a regular basis? 


Wednesday Quick Takes

I feel like everything I want to talk about lately can be summed up in a few short sentences.  (That is most definitely an indication of how my mind is working these days!)  So, how about some middle-of-the week bullet points?

  • My spring semester is finally finished and officially closed out.  Now I'm starting the hard part of getting ready for summer...with an entirely new textbook.  The next several weeks could get a little stressful, but I'm trying to keep in mind that the stress now will only make fall that much easier.
  • We are really beginning to feel the late spring/summer attitudes taking over.  Trips are being planned, activities scheduled, and we are all dreaming of the beach.  Unfortunately, our beach vacation isn't until September again (although it's worth the wait because that is the absolute best time to go, in our humble opinions!).  For a few minutes earlier this week, I thought we might be able to sneak away for a last-minute trip next week, but we couldn't swing it this time.  So we will wait until September and plan lots of other fun in the meantime.  I, for one, can't WAIT to return to my most favorite amusement park ever one weekend soon!
  •  Jeremy has a work trip in Nashville next month and I am tagging along for a few days.  I am thinking of bringing the girls up for last part of the week (after I've had a couple of glorious days and nights of doing nothing at all).  Suggestions for fun kid things in Nashville?  
  • My sister and I saw The Great Gatsby Sunday night.  That was my Mother's Day request, and it was an excellent one.  I may repeat that idea next year.  : )  LJ and I thought the movie was pretty fantastic.  I am not usually a big fan of Leonardo DiCaprio, but he was perfect as Gatsby.  And I think maybe he's looking better with age?  Why do so many men have that luxury?  I am a big fan of Carey Mulligan, and I enjoyed her portrayal of Daisy.  I have read the book twice, but it's been years, so I had forgotten a lot of the plot.  I did catch one of my favorite quotes at the end:  "They were careless people, Tom and Daisy--They smashed up things and people and then retreated back into their money...."  I recommend the movie...and reading the book first, of course!
  • On a long day at home a few weeks ago, I started showing the girls how to cross their eyes.  Addison picked it up pretty quickly and has been freaking Jeremy out with her "trick" ever since (he can't stand to watch anyone do it!).  Mackenzie couldn't quite do it, but she'd try and try, opening her eyes as wide as they'd go, and making me crack up every time.  This past week, she finally got the hang of it, and spent most of dinner the other night making J groan.  Isn't she classy?

My silly M! #latergram

Happy Wednesday!
How is your week going so far?


A Dual Inheritance, by Joanna Hershon: Review & Giveaway

Before I read A Dual Inheritance, I had never heard of dual inheritance theory.  Apparently, it's a real thing, defined by Wikipedia as "a theory developed in the late 1970s and early 1980s to explain how human behavior is a product of two different and interacting evolutionary processes: genetic evolution and cultural evolution."

Although the dual inheritance theory is mentioned at the beginning of the book, I didn't really think of it much while I was reading.  It is more in retrospect that I see exactly how Hershon wove the concept into the story.  I do think it's a perfect title...plus, it just sounds nice:  A Dual Inheritance

This book totally captivated me from the very beginning.  It's what I like to call an epic story--there's not one huge thing that happens, it's not even necessarily plot-driven.  This is a very character-driven book, and it covers decades, continents, and generations with its characters. 

Ed and Hugh meet one night during their senior year at Harvard, beginning the most unlikely of friendships.  Ed is a slightly hard-edged Jewish student, attending Harvard on scholarship.  He has big dreams and big plans and is determined to make a better life for himself.  Hugh, on the other hand, is from an "old money" family, a member of the envied Boston elite.  Despite all his advantages, Hugh is restless and reluctant to follow the path set out for him.  A Dual Inheritance is the story of these two men, the stages of their friendship (budding, thriving, and then non-existent), and the unexpected effects they have on one another and the lives they each choose to build.

I can't say enough how much I truly enjoyed this book.  From the characterizations to the changing landscapes, to the depiction of the relationships, I thought it was all just fantastically well done.  I recommend reading this one over a long weekend when you can let yourself be truly engrossed in the story...trust me, you won't want to put it down!


The publisher, Ballantine Books, has offered a copy of this book to one reader.  To enter, just leave a comment on this post and tell me the last book you really loved.  Be sure to leave an email address if I don't already have yours, so that I will have a way to contact the winner.  At the publisher's request, this giveaway is open to U.S. residents only.  

The giveaway will be open through Sunday, May 19, 2013 at 9:00 p.m. central time. 

I received a copy of this book for review via TLC Book Tours and the publisher.  All opinions expressed are entirely my own.  For more reviews, check out the full tour post.


We Did It! A 5k Foam Fest Recap

Remember a few weeks ago when I pondered how crazy I must have been to sign up for a muddy, wet, and messy 5k, for FUN?  Turns out, I was indeed pretty crazy.

When we signed up, none of us had any worries about the weather on May 4.  I mean, we live in the South, May is practically summertime, right?  My biggest concern was that it might be too hot for me at our 12:30 race time.

As the weekend approached, I kept hearing about a massive cold front that would be moving into our area.  By midweek I was obsessively checking the weather every day.  The prediction hovered between 55-60 degrees, with lots of rain.  Okay, not ideal for being soaking wet and muddy, but we remained pretty optimistic.

Until about Friday afternoon.

That's around the time it sank in that yes, it was probably going to be pretty cold, and raining on top of that.  Now we all know why the race organizers make it very clear that there will be no refunds.

When this was our view all the way to Nashville, I was pretty worried:

Still, we powered on.  What else could we do?  I think at this point we were all just thinking, "This will suck, but let's get through it and then we'll go out and have a good time tonight."  At least, I know that's what Jeremy and I were thinking!

When we arrived at the race site (where, I must mention, we had received an email reminding us that parking would be in a field...and they would have tractors on hand to pull out any vehicles that got stuck in the mud.  Comforting, right?), it had blessedly stopped raining for the most part, but it was a cool 49 degrees.  Yep, at this point, we were all pretty convinced it was going to suck.  A lot.

We look ready, though, don't we??

Once our heat began, I think we were all pleasantly surprised to find it wasn't quite as awful as we feared.  There was very little running to be done, at least for our group.  The mud was just SO ridiculous that we were sliding all over the place.  It was hard to walk and stay upright, much less do much running.  (Which was okay with me, I will admit!)  

There were a couple of obstacles in the beginning--a moon bounce filled with foam and water, for instance--then a looooong stretch with nothing but muddy trails.  And the hills...there were so many hills.  At one point I remember my friend Kelly saying something along the lines of, "This hill has to go down sometime, right?!"  

A little over halfway through, we began to encounter more obstacles--5 ft. walls, then a set of 8 ft. walls (which I turned out to be good at...who knew?), an inter tube crawl across part of lake, wading through a huge mud hole, a lily pad run (on top of the water--that was pretty neat!), a gigantic cargo net climb, two enormous blow-up slip-n-slides, and even an electric mud crawl.  Yes, with real electricity running through the ropes we were crawling under, as we found out the hard way!  Surprisingly enough, there was only one significant injury in our group...Jeremy twisted his ankle when he turned around to see our reaction to the electricity.  (He finished the race limping, but he's doing okay.  Just swollen now.)

Finally, just over an hour after we started, our group finished together.

No, we didn't lose one...Shane was so cold he went ahead to change and warm up the car.  (My legs are red because they were FROZEN, in case you're wondering.)

I checked the temperature when we left, and it was around 46 degrees.  We were soaking wet, muddy, tired, and freezing.  But still, I felt pretty triumphant.  I completed every obstacle on the course (except the electric mud crawl, which I skipped out of halfway through--I don't do electricity, thanks!).  We all stuck together, helping one another up when we fell and encouraging each other through the tough parts.  It was, dare I say, actually a lot of fun.  I never want to be that cold again in my life, but I am definitely glad I did it. 

I might even go so far as to say I'd like to do it again next year....as long as the temperature is above 60 degrees!


The State of Affairs: April 2013

We kicked off the month by celebrating Addison & Mackenzie's 4th birthday.  I decided to majorly scale back their party this year, one of the last few before we get so overwhelmed with school friends, etc.  I reserved a local cafe for the afternoon and threw the girls a small, very laidback, princess-themed party.  It turned out perfectly, and I think my princesses and their guests had a very good time.  Since it is spring, I spray painted small clay flowerpots white, then let the kids paint them.  At the end of the party, they each got to plant a small flower in their pot to take home.  It was an easy craft, but hopefully a special touch A & M will remember.



Birthday 3


The rest of the month has been fairly quiet.  The weather has been gorgeous, besides the awful pollen covering every surface.  One Saturday evening we played t-ball in the yard with the girls, and I have started taking neighborhood walks with them some afternoons.  A & M took swim lessons this month, which went...okay.  They (especially M) were a little scared, but I am proud of them for sticking with it for five weeks.  They learned some of the basics of swimming and are a slightly less frightened in the water than they were before we started lessons.  Overall, it was well worth it, and hopefully we can get in another round of lessons later in the summer.

Sweet girls after swim lessons yesterday

Books Read in April: 3.5
The Clover House--Reviewed here.

Carry On, Warrior--Reviewed here.

Just One Day--I enjoyed this one very much, and it pulled me out of my reading slump.  It's YA, by the same author (Gayle Forman) of If I Stay/Where She Went, but much less emotionally taxing than those books were.  A bit far-fetched, but this book was just what I needed this month.  Can't wait to read the second book coming out this fall.

A Dual Inheritance--I'm a little over halfway through this one, which counts for a lot, I think, because it's a pretty lengthy read.  I can't put it down at night, a fact that surprises me a little since it's not what you'd call action-packed.  Review to come!

Still reading bits and pieces of a few others here and there, including Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma, which I've been meaning to find for a while.  Interesting stuff, and lots to think about.  (Thoughts to come, of course.)

I'm still running, roughly 2-3 times a week.  My goal is to turn that into a steady three times a week, hopefully soon.  Our big 5k/foam fest is coming up this weekend.  (I'm a little scared!)

I slacked off a bit on cooking new things this month, but now that spring is here, bringing with it an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, I hope to pick back up in that area.  The first trip to the big farmer's market in Huntsville is scheduled for this week or next, and I can't wait!

How was your April?