Month: June 2014

Root Beer Meringues

I like almost everything about the 4th of July – the fun, cohesive attitude of almost everyone around me, the swirls of red, white, and blue, the fireworks. I love it.

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And, I get really excited over the prospect of serving up hamburgers, potato salad, watermelon, and s’mores, and whatever other fun themed treats I come across in my recipe searches.

Yes, the food is always a very important part of any holiday or get-together, for me.

Yesterday, I made some very cute meringues. They are a great go-to recipe for anyone trying to avoid gluten, dairy, and fat. You can make them almost any flavor. I used my root beer extract and added 4th of July sprinkles to make these festive.

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The root beer extract was a nice addition. I found it at Walmart, of all places. Sometimes, that place really comes through – new extract flavors, $5 maxi dresses, watermelon bikinis, seasonal and odd flavored Oreos and other cookies. I digress. Anyways, these came out so summery and so light. And festive!

I’ve used this recipe before and it’s easy as pie…good ol’ American apple pie. Well, actually, it’s MUCH easier than that.

Try them. Try out new flavors too.

The recipe link is in this blog post:

http://sprinklesinmylunchbox.wordpress.com/2014/02/12/sweetie-pie/

I simply replaced the cherry and almond extract amounts with the root beer.

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Blessings,

Kristin

 

Summer Shenanigans

We’ve been up to our old tricks again – doing summery things and eating lots of food. It’s how we do.

The week after my 30th birthday, earlier this month, my sweet friends took me to dinner at one of our favorite places. We got all fancy.

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I wore my “birthday cake” shoes that I got for my birthday a few years back (they are just so fun and the colors that I’d want on a birthday cake). I wore a dress that I found at Goodwill, and my necklace was a gift from a friend. I love getting fancy.

For apps, we shared the Mezze Platter (muhammarra, edamame hummus, goat-cheese stuffed peppadews, fried feta, marinated artichoke hearts, sundried tomato, and grilled pita).

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I cannot get enough of the goat-cheese stuffed peppadews.

For dinner, I ordered the Vegetarian Plate and shared with a friend, and she shared her Moroccan Lemon Chicken.

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And then they sang to me over flourless chocolate cake and ice cream.

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They sure knew how to make a girl feel special. <3

The next day during naptime, I enjoyed one of my birthday presents with some trashy mags.

It was a good time.

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We celebrated my wonderful Husband on Father’s Day. I made him turkey burgers.

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His request. 🙂

On the next Saturday, I took my boys on a date while my Husband had to work. My Bigs was SO excited to go on a date, knowing it’s something that Mommy & Daddy do, and something that Mommy does with her girlfriends. He was beside himself. I took them to Panera.

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I haven’t had it in forever. I got the Thai chicken salad and wild rice soup. I got grilled cheese and yogurt (quite heavy on the dairy, I am now realizing lol!). The boys were fairly well behaved. We went to Old Navy afterwards for 50% off jorts and $0.25 bouncy balls. The bouncy balls made the boys’ night!

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I’d call it a successful date night. 😀

During the week, we went to a park playdate for a little friend’s 2nd birthday. It was so very hot out, but we had a great time.

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And lastly, I made some reeeeallly delicious pancakes for dinner last Friday. I used a GF mix that I picked up on clearance at Target. I made it DF and added fresh blueberries.

I served it with turkey bacon.

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I even tried one of those Pinterest ideas where you put pancake batter on the bacon. I wouldn’t say it turned out like it does on Pinterest. 🙂

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I still ate it.

All caught up! Have a great weekend!

Blessings, Kristin

 

Summer Fun Kid Food Ideas

I have been on vacation. Well, not really. My idea of vacation is eating my way through Europe (i.e. croissants in Paris, tea in London [okay, I’ve done both of those, but a girl can dream to do them again!], pasta in Italy, a pint in Ireland, Scottish Eggs in Scotland…are those from Scotland?)…or laying on a white, sandy beach somewhere with a fruity drink in my hand…with an umbrella in it. Anywaaaaayz, the sort of vacation I’ve been on hasn’t really been of that sort. I still get up before 6:30 every morning, still prepare little meals, still wipe bum-bums. I’ve been on a “fun kid food” vacation. As soon as summer break started, my kids got square PB&J sandwiches. And they haven’t complained….thankfully, I suppose. Once school starts back up, I’ll have to get back into my “fun kid food” mode. I have, however, done a few things here and there…just to keep me sharp.

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For snack one day last week, I added some of my LorAnn Red Velvet Emulsion (which adds color and flavor) to some vanilla yogurt, put it in a cake cone and added 4th of July sprinkles. They kids went bonkers over it and ended up looking like bloody zombies afterwards. Not cute. But they did love it.

And for lunch one day last week, I went with a watermelon theme.

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I cut the boys’ sandwiches into triangles and used my food-safe spray and Food Writers to make them look like little watermelons. I put them on my watermelon plates (Christmas Tree Shop – $1.00 each!!!) and served them with GF veggie straws and fresh fruit salad. They LOVED it.

Happy Summer!

Kristin

Bake me a cake as fast as you can!

Baking cakes is rarely a fast process.  I prefer to make them from scratch. And that takes a while. That isn’t a snobby thing. I don’t turn my nose down at cake mixes. Nope. I use those, too. If given the opportunity of time, I just like the process of measuring out each of the many ingredients a scratch cake requires. But, this blog post isn’t about a scratch cake. It’s about one made from a mix. I had picked up a few boxed mixes when my Publix had them on sale for $1. I mean, you almost can’t beat that (get it? beat it? like, with a whisk?). I used the Devil’s Food mix for the donuts I made earlier this month. And then I had a yellow cake mix left. What to do, what to do! In keeping up with my trying to use cookbook recipes out of my cookbook collection, I ran across one that would work with the ingredients I had, including the cake mix. Sure, the recipe actually called for white cake mix, but that really isn’t me, using or having the “real” ingredients, now is it? 🙂 The recipe, titled “Aunt Ruth’s Favorite White Cake”, also came with a frosting recipe from scratch.

I had a Great-Aunt Ruth, myself. She was a ridiculously fun, eclectic woman. She had really long gray hair that she coiled into a bun on the very top of her head. She lived on her own little (huge) plot of land with my Great-Uncle after they moved back home from living on an oil rig in Cuba. She cursed (a no-no, but always a funny-at-the-time situation for my big brother and me – we’d giggle nervously), she kept marshmallows in crystal bowls on all the end tables, she would give my brother and I those little Lifesavers books (remember those? you’d open them and there would be a few rows of Lifesavers) every time we’d visit, she had a dog named Shasta that I only ever saw through the pressed cardboard barricading him in the laundry room (we used to think he was a Cujo-type dog because all he did was bark really loudly and slam his huge body against the barricade. We always felt he’d eat us, if given the chance). She had a brick chimney sitting in her yard, from her house that had previously burned down, and she kept it, as she re-built right next to the old plot. Near the yard chimney, was a koi pond, with huge koi fish swimming in it, that my brother and I thought were at least 400 years old (they seemed it, to our little selves back then).

Ahhh, yes, a cake by the name of “Aunt Ruth” was sure to be a delicious, exciting one for me.

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Aunt Ruth’s Favorite White Cake

(I’d like to think my Aunt Ruth wouldn’t have the right ingredients all the time, too.)

1 package white cake mix (I used yellow and it turned out great)

1 1/4 C water

3 eggs

2 T vegetable oil

1 t vanilla

1/2 t almond extract

Mix all together, follow the directions on the box. Bake in two 8 or 9 inch greased/floured pans for 30 minutes (mine were done before then, but my oven runs hot).

The frosting intrigued me. I have always been interested in trying a flour-based frosting.

Creamy White Frosting

1 C milk

3 T APF

1 C (2 sticks) US butter, softened

1 C powdered sugar

1 t vanilla

*I also added almond extract to the frosting*

Combine milk and flour in a saucepan. Cook and stir over low heat until thickened. Cool.

Beat butter in a large bowl until cream. Add the powdered sugar and beat until fluffy. Blend in vanilla (and almond, if you are doing that). Add flour mixture and beat until thick and smooth.

The cake came out like a bakery cake. It was moist and fluffy (albeit a little crumbly), and the taste was wonderful. I must admit, however, that the icing was not my favorite. It had a funny texture to me, almost as soft as a Crisco-based frosting, but even more so. It was weird. But I am happy I tried it. I gave almost half the cake to my sweet neighbors and she said it was fantastic.

Recipe taken from: The Cake Mix Bible

Give it a whirl! Or not!

Kristin

Sticky Black Rice Pudding

I have a TON of cookbooks. I’d like to think that I collect them. I’m sure a lot of my foodie friends out there can relate. I could just sit for hours, thumbing through my cookbooks, gazing upon those glossy pages, my eyes skimming the ingredients, my mouth watering over the perfectly styled pictures. I know that the internet provides a quicker, easier way to look up recipes…but to me? There’s nothing like holding a cookbook in my hand, flour dusting the pages, the smell of a real book (I’m also a real-book-reader, as opposed to giving into a digital reader…is that even what it’s called?).

A week or so ago, I was reading my Vegetarian Cooking: A Commonsense Guide and found a recipe for which I had all the ingredients.

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Sticky Black Rice Pudding

2 C black rice

3 pandan leaves (I left this out)

2 C coconut milk

2/3 C soft brown sugar

1/4 C caster sugar

coconut cream, to serve

diced mango or papaya, to serve (I used mango)

Put the rice in a large non-metallic bowl and cover with water. Let it soak overnight (or a minimum of 8 hours). Drain the rice and place in a saucepan with 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Cook on a low boil, stirring, for 20 minutes. Drain.

*I skipped this step* Pull your fingers through the pandan leaves to shred them. Tie them in a  knot.

Pour the coconut milk into a large saucepan and heat until almost boiling. Add the pandan leaves and the sugars and stir until the sugar has dissolved.

Add the rice and cook, stirring, for 8 minutes (no boiling). Turn off the heat and let it sit for 15 minutes. Remove the pandan. Spoon into bowls, and serve warm with coconut cream and mango.

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Mine came out exactly like the picture in the cookbook and tasted DIVINE. I halved the recipe and it still made a ton. My Smalls loved it. <3

Enjoy!

Kristin

PS – More bloggy blog posts to come!

 

Snowballs & Meatballs

It has been HOT. Like, fry-an-egg-on-the-sidewalk, bake-a-cookie-outside, I’m-melting HOT. Super hot.

To keep “cool”, I made indoor snow for my boys! I found an easy recipe on Pinterest and already had the ingredients. You take shaving cream (must be cream, not gel) and mix it with cornstarch. It took a while for me to get the right consistency, but it finally came together. The boys had so much fun playing with it and squishing it. Well, Bigs did. Smalls liked sticking his plastic spoon in it (so as not to get it on his hands).

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And today, to wallow in our own sweat to beat the heat (what were we thinking!), we went to the local zoo and splash pad with some friends.

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We saw the rhinos, who were in their pond, trying to stay cool.

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We saw the butterfly garden.

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We watched the giraffes play and eat their…whatever giraffes eat.

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And then we trucked it to the splash pad, which was near the entrance. The heat was almost unbearable. We didn’t even see all the animals. It was just too hot.

Smalls sat the splash pad out, as I thought he might. The girls and Bigs had fun. We ate our sweaty picnic lunch and called it a day.

At least the boys got a great (long) nap. 🙂 That makes the heat worth it!

For dinner tonight, I made meatballs…with a twist. I was inspired by the Vietnamese date my husband and I went on last weekend. I used some of the same flavors from that meal in tonight’s meatballs.

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I mixed tamari sauce (GF!), rice wine vinegar, peanut butter, fresh minced garlic, cilantro, sesame oil, pepper, and onion powder. I then added almost a pound and a half of minced pork, one slightly beaten egg, and some cornflake crumbs, and shaped into balls. I baked at 400F for about 15 minutes. I served it with brown rice and a freshly cut pineapple (Costco whole pineapples are both cheap and delicious!!). Everyone enjoyed it. Well, not everyone. Smalls squished it all into smithereens. Whatever.

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Another successful summer day under our belts!

Blessings,

Kristin

Beach & Birthday & Bunches of Other Stuff

I said I was going to be better at blogging, didn’t I? Well, I had every intention, but boy, has summer life given me other plans. We’ve been so busy with fun things! We’ve gone to the beach, we’ve eaten good food, I had a “big” birthday, where I was thrust into a different decade. Yes, it’s been busy!

I’m going to start with two weeks ago. My mind works best in chronological order.

I went on my monthly girls’ night dinner to a sushi place. My friends and I love getting gussied up.

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I got that dress at Goodwill, as I often do. I love finding gems at Goodwill.

I ordered the Cucumber Roll and the Avocado Roll. They were pretty good.

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The next day, Friday, we went on our usual Friday Playdate. We went to an indoor children’s playing place. That’s the official name.

The boys painted (Smalls stepped in red paint, naturally), played dress up (they had costumes for girls and boys!), and went in the sandbox.

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I had packed lunches for the boys…

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…and in my hurry to get out of the house, I forgot the top piece of bread on Bigs’ PB&J! Ooops!

That night, I made a turkey dinner! I know the picture looks like it was edible, but trust me, it almost was not. I roasted it, to the tee by how much it weighed, and it came out dry. As a bone. Also, I left some of the innards inside. Ooops. They got grody in the roasting process.

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Thank goodness for side dishes. 🙂

On Saturday night, my wonderful in-laws took us out to dinner to have an early birthday meal since they wouldn’t be in town on my actual day.

I had a beet and goat cheese salad:

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It was incredible.

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I ordered the chicken off the “lighter” menu to aid in my diet journey. It had chicken, asparagus, artichoke hearts, roasted tomatoes, sun dried tomatoes, capers, garlic, and balsamic. Delicious.

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For dessert, I picked the s’mores cheesecake! YUMMY! See? That’s why I ordered from the “lighter” menu.

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After our dinner, we walked around the plaza and played with the giant-sized checkers. The boys had so much fun! They must have felt like they were in Honey I Shrunk the Kids!!

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Smalls promptly stood on a black checker and pooped in his pants. It was the entertainment for a lot of people walking by. What can you do!

Checker pooping included, it was a perfect night!

On Monday, we visited with my parents. We helped my Mom prune her garden. She let the boys pick beans and tomatoes.

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Then, we ate lunch and made and ate dessert – Strawberry Coconut Cream Pie Bars!

Yes, that’s right. And they were as delicious as they sound!

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I can’t even. The glazed fresh strawberries on top of the cool, creamy pie remind me of the strawberry pies my Mom would make when I was growing up (where I would lick the hot glaze off the wooden spoon, burning my mouth but not caring), in the same kitchen where we made this dessert!

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Try the recipe. Yesterday.

http://willowbirdbaking.com/2014/04/07/strawberry-coconut-cream-pie-bars/

The next day, I took the boys to the beach with three of my girlfriends and their wonderful children. It was overcast (yet we still got burned, even after applying sunscreen once an hour!), and a beautiful day. It was our first beach trip of the season!

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The boys wasted no time playing in the sand. Smalls did struggle, however, with the incoming waves and the constant sand on his hands and feet. He’s a little finicky. 🙂  He felt a little better when I put Bigs’ water shoes on him.

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He loved pulling around this little cart.

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There is something about the salty, fresh air and the sound of the waves that puts my soul at ease.

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A woman, near where we set up ‘camp’ (and believe you me, it looked like a campsite, with all of the stuff we brought), helped Bigs catch a little fish. He was so proud of that little fish. He carried around as long as he could until the bucket overturned in a wave and the little fish rejoiced in its freedom.

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Whenever I am at the beach, it gives me a chance to reflect on God’s great gifts to us on this Earth.

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My little Smalls enjoyed spending his beach time close to me, as the older kids splashed, boogie-boarded, built sand castles, dug holes, and played.

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Sweet friends

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We ate our picnic lunches and Smalls clutched his food for so long, they were covered in sand (SANDwich, watermelon, carrots – all covered!).

It was a great day!

On Wednesday, we were busy, once again, but I was able to find time to make some donuts (isn’t there always time??).

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We were going on a playdate the next day and I couldn’t show up empty-handed!

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I’ve used this short-cut recipe before and loved it.

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I also tried my hand at donut holes. I think I need more practice (if you know what I mean, wink wink!).

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I think my friend liked them! She’s got a sweet tooth, just like me! 🙂

Here’s the recipe:

http://www.confessionsofacookbookqueen.com/2012/04/mini-devils-food-donuts/

The next afternoon, I made Mushroom Piccata (I didn’t follow a recipe, I just made them as I would make Chicken Piccata) and a corn and bean salad for lunch. My Smalls was obsessed with both!

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For the corn and bean salad, I used one can of corn, one can of beans, one avocado, tomatoes, S&P, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar.

And when the boys went to bed, I ate a little cake that I’d made the day before with leftover donut batter. I used a little bit of malted chocolate frosting that my Mom had made. It was just the right size and the perfect nap-time treat.

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Nap time was also a treat.

For my last dinner in my 20’s, I made a taco bar. It was good! The kids enjoyed it too. They didn’t even mind that I burned the hard taco shells.

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I made a taco salad for myself.

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And, then last Friday was my 30th birthday. Eeek! I am now in a different decade! It’s so weird. I immediately felt older. Anyways, we started the day with pancakes (GF, DF). I jazzed up the plates a little bit. You need sprinkles on your birthday always, even if it’s your 30th.

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My husband took off work. He’s so wonderful. He always takes off work on my birthday. He took me (and the boys) shoe shopping after breakfast. And then we went to Chili’s for lunch.

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My Hubs and I had some kind of pineapple-y adult beverage.

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I got the Honey Chipotle Chicken. When I was pregnant with Smalls, I ate this and got horribly sick. Not from eating it, but from being pregnant. And usually when that happens, one doesn’t again eat the food that made them sick. But I like this meal so much, I keep eating it. TMI? Whatever.

For dessert, we ordered the Cinnamon Lava Cake with our free birthday dessert coupon. It turns out, the staff will sing to you even if you turn 30. I ate my cake with pink, embarrassed cheeks.

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After naps, we went in search of free donuts. It was National Donut Day. How fitting that my birthday fell on this day. It’s like the universe knew.

When the kids were in bed, my husband surprised me with a little pineapple coconut cupcake to eat without pecking children around.

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It was a wonderful 30th birthday. I don’t think I would have changed a thing.

My Hubs and I went out on an adult celebratory birthday dinner the next night. We went to a Vietnamese restaurant we used to frequent. But before we went, my Mom brought some Peach Cupcakes over to celebrate! They were great!

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At our Viet restaurant, I ordered a bubble tea, in green tea flavor, with boba.

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I am obsessed with these things.

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It was divine. I’m going with taro next time.

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I was a happy Birthday Girl.

We ordered the Summer Roll Sampler.

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And we each ordered the Chicken Pho.

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We went to a bookstore for coffee afterwards. Just like we used to do before kids. Viet and the bookstore. Computer mags for Hubs, rag mags for me. It was so nice to get some alone with my Husband and do some of the things we used to do.

On Sunday, we went to church and later on, I made a yummy dinner. I made macaroni and cheese from scratch and paired it with a rotisserie chicken and fruit.

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Happy bellies.

And here are my gratuitous salad pictures (of salads I’ve made and eaten) to keep me motivated on healthy eating and jogging, at least enough to keep the cake calories off, which I realize is a lot due to the amount of cake I’ve eaten lately.

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Whew. We are all caught up! I hope you all are doing well, and like always, I hope I can stick with posting, even through our busy summer days.

Blessings!

Kristin