Summer So Far 2014

"Summer" in our home usually starts around the time the kids get out of school.
Never when the calendar says "Summer" officially starts.
Kind of like how "Fall" doesn't officially start until the end of September but really feels like it starts the moment the girls step on the bus.
The fun of "Summer" gets sucked up in bus fumes and school paperwork.
Its just not any good without my children.

I am one of "those" moms who looks forward to school break.
Oh yes, there are times I get tired of my girls.
But for me, I like the break from routine that school brings into our home.
The schedules, the homework, the running around that end of August until beginning of June bring is exhausting.
And I like having my girls with me.
Like a mother bear, I like my tribe surrounding me.

Our "Summer" has been going on here for going on two months now.
It started out pretty good then went sour fast.

Here is our "Summer" so far in pictures.

 Summer started out really great.
Look how happy I am.


Dinner on the patio.


Last day of school bike ride.

Then slowly, summer took an ugly turn.

 I got sick.

Really sick.

At my lowest.
And my kids were home to watch it all which made it all the more frustrating.
I couldn't be "super mom".
But something amazing happened.
They rallied.
They became compassionate.
And just plain amazing.
All qualities they had all along but needed something like this to bring it to the surface.
When your six year old with ADHD sits with you in bed and lets you take an hour nap while she reads, colors and plays Barbies next to you?
I consider that growth on her part.

Donuts make everything better.

So does ice cream.

On a day out in the midst of my illness depression, we all went out for a day trip.
We stumbled upon this park where this team of softball players were in throwback uniforms.
It was perfectly perfect in every way.
I said to my hubs, "do you think we are the only ones who can see them??"
Field of Dreams is one of our favorite movies.

In Wisconsin.
At the best ice cream shop ever.

Read this in 12 hours.

Love notes on the garage floor for daddy who works lots of nights.
My girls miss my hubs a lot.
Hell, I miss my hubs a lot. 
Probably a lot more this summer because I have been so out of it.
So when my youngest left this note on the garage floor and said with tears in her eyes, "I miss Daddy just so much", my heart sunk.
In a good way.
For years I have always worried that the girls wouldn't be close to him because of his long hours.
That they wouldn't be bonded.
It couldn't be farther from the truth.
On his day off, my oldest, a teenager mind you, wants him to take them alone to lunch to have time together.
The three of them will sit and watch movies together all day stuffing their faces full of popcorn or Cheetos.
He is the fun one.
I am OK with that.

A lot of the above.
I made a pledge to myself and to Ellie when we found out she had ADHD back in February.
As much as the school system doesn't want my child to be "left behind" I think the bulk of it should start at home.
My mission is for her to go into each grade as prepared as I can get her.
There is normal "slide" for most children over summer but I feel like for my youngest, it is like climbing a mountain at the beginning of the school year.
Change is hard, getting used to the new classroom, new teacher, new schedule.
All of that will be a huge adjustment for her.
I don't want forgetting words, letters and how to do basic math to be a part of that equation.
So we have been working.
At least four days a week to keep her on top of things.
The beauty of this is that she doesn't fight me at all.
When I tell her it's time to do "school" she says, "OK mom" and comes to the table.
This from the kid who HATED to do homework all school year.
I love this time.
I do.
So this is a little selfish too.
I am cherishing this time because in six weeks, she will be somewhere else more than here and that makes me want to cry.

Oh and we lost a little something too.
Sorry for the National Geographic picture.
And the nose hair.
And the spit line.
And the gory ripped fresh from the gum picture. 
I am all about being real.
Maybe a little too real.

So "Summer" is officially here and almost gone.
I am slowwwwwly coming back to my "normal".
And we are OK.
Pass the s'mores.


Mariano's Is Getting Me Ready For The Big Game

I am a member of the Collective Bias Social Fabric Community.
This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for #CollectiveBias and their client.

 Winter in the upper Midwest is known for many things: snow, snow, cold, snow and football.
Watching it on TV not playing it.
Because cold and snow.
And watching the big game on TV means we need some football watching food.
Mariano's is my number one place to head when stocking up for the football Sunday around here.

courtesy of Mariano's

 When most people think of food for the big game, they think deep fried and not always healthy, not that there is anything wrong with that.
But we are trying to watch our waistlines go in the opposite direction so I wanted something fresh but filling.
Thanks to Mariano's health key system, it doesn't take any effort on my part to find items that are good for me!

I decided that I would make my mom's spicy guacamole for our most recent football Sunday!
This stuff is AMAZING and I knew that Mariano's could help me take it over the top.

Because their produce section is TO DIE FOR.
It really is an experience all its own.
If you have time to just walk around and take in their produce section, please do.
Like, literally take an hour just to explore.
I am not kidding.
Its a thing of beauty.

 For the wall of peppers ALONE.
Sorry for the shaky photo quality.
I get the shakes when I get in here, I am so excited.
You think I am kidding.

OK I am not gonna lie.
I planned my game day appetizer AROUND the Mariano's produce section.
I did.
Those of you who adore Mariano's like I do get this.

 Oh yes, this is a TWO FOLD feature today.
I made a cool appetizer AND a cool drink to go with it.

 Those veggies THOSE VEGGIES.

I started out with my beautiful produce from Mariano's:

- cilantro
- three avocados
- one red onion
- one lime
- one tomato
- two garlic cloves

First thing- wash all that produce.
Especially the cilantro since there are lots of little crevices.

Isn't that cilantro pretty??
Mariano's, people.
Get there.
Like, now.

After I wash my veggies, I start cutting them up and adding them to a large mixing bowl one by one.

Take the avocado out of the skins and add them to a separate bowl.
I use a potato masher to mash them.

I don't mash them too small because I like big chunks in my guacamole.
I know that sounds disgusting but guacamole lovers will know what I mean.
Good stuff.

OK then after you added all the above but before you add the cilantro, add in your spices:

- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
-1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper

Then add the chopped cilantro on top of all of it and mix together well.

Cut your lime in half and squeeze the whole thing over your guacamole.
Stir to blend it in.

Grab a bag of tortilla chips and get to dippin' in!

For the next part of my two-fold game day snack, we need a tasty beverage to go along with our guacamole.
I wanted to create a mock margarita to go along with my mom's guacamole.
I didn't have to go further than my friend and neighbor who told me of a recipe her mom used to make when she was growing up.

The beauty of this recipe is that you can add tequila for the adults and leave it out for the kids or for those who don't drink alcohol.
It tastes wonderful both ways.
But I have a reason I want to feature this drink: Mariano's fresh squeezed orange juice.
Before I knew anything about Mariano's, its reputation for its fresh squeezed OJ had preceded them.
I had heard of people traveling an hour to their closest Mariano's JUST to get the orange juice.
They squeeze it into the containers in the store.
It is the best orange juice you will ever drink.
Unless you live next to an orange grove.
Then you will know exactly what this tastes like. 

Add as much OJ to a glass you would like.
I added less than half a glass.
Then added a little more because HELLO MARIANO'S ORANGE JUICE.

Then add equal parts lemon lime soda (I used Sprite but you could use your favorite brand).

Cut a lime in half and squeeze that in.
Then throw the lime in to make it look all pretty like.

Add some tequila in if you would like to make it into an adult drink.
I swear this tastes like a margarita with or without the tequila.

Even the littlest taste tester approved.

#MyMariano's has great new ideas and cool things like tips and recipes on their web page every week!
If you want to find out more about my favorite grocer Mariano's, head over to their Twitter page.
They are also on Facebook, so go write something really nice on their wall.
Like how their OJ rocks.
Because it does. 

How Mariano's Is Helping Me Get Healthy

I am a member of the Collective Bias Social Fabric Community.
This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias and their client.

January always makes me feel ready to take on the world once again and when it comes to eating healthy, game on.
Since I am severely anemic and always like to keep an eye out for iron rich, low fat options, I always head to my favorite Mariano's store since it is so much fun to shop there and offers so many healthy options.
First can I say how excited that I am getting a Mariano's only ten minutes from my doorstep!!!
Ok, moving on....

Before I head out, I always make sure I have my #MyMariano's reward card in my wallet.

I was recently diagnosed as severely anemic and put on an iron therapy program.
But I wanted to make sure I was also eating more iron rich foods as well.
I am always on the lookout for low fat, high iron options but with lots of taste and a mix of salty and sweet (my favorite combination).

Off to Mariano's!
I know they can help me and they have a health key program that is perfect for what I am in need of!

courtesy of Mariano's

With labels on the shelf tags telling you different health lifestyle options for everything from gluten free to heart healthy even vegan.
It takes the guess work out of shopping with a health need in mind.

I have a mild peanut allergy but am not allergic to other nuts.
But most other nuts are processed in plants where peanuts are and I cannot eat them if that is the case.
The nut section at Mariano's has a great selection and I can eat their almonds because they are packaged in a peanut-free facility!
If you have a peanut allergy, you have to know how happy this makes me!

The meat department is so amazing.
Look at how fresh everything looks!

Since I love salty and sweet incorporated into a meal, I decided to do a take on a steak Caesar salad.

 My ingredients include: watermelon (high in iron), almonds (again, high in iron), a greens mix with spinach (ditto), a low fat Caesar dressing and a lean beef flank steak.

Can I just say one more time how giddy I am that Mariano's provides me with peanut free almonds?!?!

Isn't that steak beautiful??

I cut my flank steak into cubes but you could also slice it into strips, which I think I am going to do the next time I make this.

I seasoned the meat with a little salt, pepper, olive oil and garlic powder.
I sauteed the steak until it was just browned.
You could also grill your steak and I will do that when it is a little warmer around here. 

Meanwhile, all I had to do was plop the greens into the bowl since they are pre-washed.

Add the low fat Caesar dressing......

Blend it in a bit.
By the way, only use about less than a half of the jar for an entire bag salad.
I used a little too much this time.

Plate up the salad with the dressing and add the rest of the ingredients!

I added the steak, the watermelon and topped it off with the almonds for a crunch.
You could also add a little cheese to the top if you want.
Some fresh Parmesan would be delicious and since Mariano's has an amazing cheese department, you can't go wrong.

I wish you could taste this through the computer.
It was magical.
And the best part?
I didn't feel guilty after eating it.

Thanks again to Mariano's for helping me create a fun, yummy meal that also helps me in keeping with my dietary needs!


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