Easy Weeknight Dinners

via The Little Things
Actual footage of what I am not doing at 6PM on a Thursday. (via The Little Things)

By the time I made it through the torrential downpour last night and survived the drive home, it was pushing 6:30PM and I had exactly zero motivation to cook or clean or be vertical, really. Luckily, Mike already had the kids and the dinner situation under control (my hero, as always), but that isn’t always the case. Sometimes he’s working late or the kids are a tornado of crazy and before we know it, it’s way past dinnertime and we’re reaching for whatever we can pop in the microwave.

Because stress-eating Nutella does not count as a meal, I’ve had to put some work into a little endeavor I’d like to call, “Making Dinner That Doesn’t Include Hot Dogs or Chicken Nuggets After Sitting in Traffic for Approximately Two Hours.” Since that isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing title, we’ll just go with Easy Weeknight Dinners.

And they are! Pinky swear. They are also low-maintenance when it comes to ingredients- things you probably already have on your grocery list or in your pantry. Get yourself a sheet pan, though, because that’s where most of this is heading. My favorite is this one from Target 🙂

Sheet Pan Fajitas // This literally could not have been any easier. Chop up a couple peppers, two or three chicken breasts, and put it all on a sheet pan. Mix olive oil, cumin, chili powder, and garlic salt and drizzle it on top. Bake for about 25 minutes, done and done! No hot dogs in sight.

Mini Meatloaves // I grabbed this recipe from one of my favorite bloggers (follow the link to check out her post about this and other weeknight meals!) and Landon gave it all the thumbs up. I’ve never actually made meatloaf before, probably a result of the time my dad made “porkloaf” and the whole idea of meat in loaf form lost its appeal- love ya, Dad 🙂. These little minis can be made in a cupcake pan! Just a handful of ingredients, low-prep, big hit.

Sheet Pan Garlic Butter Tilapia // This is such a great, light, summertime meal! The lemon garlic butter makes the tilapia taste very Bonefish. Mike plated his so that he got a little asparagus, tomato, and tilapia in each bite and it was ah-mazing.

Chicken Fried Rice // This one is slightly more high-maintenance, but still something that can be thrown together in about thirty minutes! All you need are two cups of cooked white rice, frozen mixed vegetables, soy sauce, vegetable oil, two scrambled eggs, and chicken. Sometimes I grab a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store on the way home. If I have a little more time, I bread and fry the chicken instead- whatever works! Combine the rice and vegetables in a large skillet with about a tablespoon of vegetable oil and soy sauce to taste, then add in everything else.

Tortellini and Breadsticks // This is probably the least earth-shattering of the recipes I’m sharing, mostly because it isn’t so much a recipe as it is boiling frozen pasta and heating up a jar of pasta sauce. However, when you’re crawling toward the weekend, it’s a great secret weapon. Add some Texas Toast breadsticks and a salad and no one would ever know the entire process of “cooking” this meal took all of ten minutes. You’re welcome 🙂

Sheet Pan Nachos and S’mores Dip // Ok, so these aren’t meals. We’re having some friends over this weekend though, and I’m looking forward to trying them out!

What are your go-to weeknight meals? I feel like I always end up with the same handful on rotation, so I’d love to get some new ideas! You know where to find me 🙂

Happy weekend, everyone!

 

Currently // 7.28.17

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1 // So excited to share some official branding for ETG! I fell off the face of the blogging planet for most of 2016 (new job, small children, unhealthy amounts of Netflix) and I’m realizing how much I need this space. And even if it’s just for me, investing in it feels like a kind of self-care that is so necessary when everything else is for everyone else.

Jamie Sebby is nothing short of a rockstar when it comes to hand lettering and custom design! This is the third time I’ve asked for her help with a project, and I am in love with the banner she created. Definitely check out her shop on Etsy!

2 // Living that commuter life for the next couple of weeks! I can’t say it’s something I would want to do every day, but I’ve figured out how to manage it with lots of iced coffee and low expectations. Yes, I’m talking about you, Friday Rush Hour.

The Coffee + Crumbs podcast is my go-to in the mornings, brought to you by the writers of The Magic of Motherhood, which I’ve already raved about all over social media. So good. Each episode is roughly the length of my drive, and it feels like I’m sitting in on a conversation with my best friends.

This recipe for breakfast-on-the-go gets all the thumbs up! I made a batch on Sunday night (with sausage instead of spinach) and they were good for four days. I have a solid hour of planning before the kids arrive, and having a real, non-donut breakfast after the drive in was a great way to get the day started.

Speaking of…

3 // Teaching a course called “Be a Scientist!” with the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth! So far this week, we’ve explored chemistry, biology, forensics, genetics, and physiology. PHEW. It sounds very Ms. Frizzle but feels more like my brain is going to explode. The last time I had to know/care about the difference between prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells was ninth grade but ask me now! Forensics has been my favorite to teach so far overall, but the gross-factor of the digestive system model we made today might make it a close second 🙂

4 // Taking Landon shopping for school supplies and back-to-school clothes this weekend and I can’t even. Kindergarten? KINDERGARTEN. It’s happening. Pre-K graduation wasn’t all that long ago, and even in this short amount of time it’s crazy how he’s grown up. We’ve started reading chapter books at bedtime, he’s newly obsessed with playing video games, and he’s figuring out sarcasm and trying it on for size (and it’s hilarious). Who is this big kid???

Oshkosh is having a huge sale on all of the back-to-school essentials, so that’s where we’re heading! I’ll be the one crying over the baby clothes that are conveniently positioned right outside the dressing room while my five-year-old tries on jeans by himself 😦

5 // Leaving you with these words from Grace, Not Perfection in case you need to hear them, too.

We’re all looking for someone to give us permission to slow down- to be perfectly imperfect and uniquely different. So here it is. You have permission.

If we take care of ourselves the way we take care of everyone else, we’ll find all sorts of joy and be better for everyone we love.

PRAISE. HANDS. Right now that self-care looks like podcasts and breakfast-on-the-go and investing in this corner of the internet, but even those small things matter when we have to be so many things to so many people.

Happy weekend, everyone!

How to Clean Your House

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Ah, Summer Break. Unbelievably happy that you’re here (and seemingly unending). I am soaking up this time with the boys, but also feeling zero mom-guilt about sending them to daycare two days a week because sanity. Two days to do grown-up things like clean and walk laps around Target and eat snacks without hiding in my bathroom.

In the event that you, too, are relishing a few kid-free days and have big plans to check cleaning off of your list, this “how to” guide might just be the one for you.

How to Clean Your House in 15 Easy Steps!

1 // Take the children to daycare.

2 // Come home and immediately change back into your PJs.

3 // Actually, maybe a shower would be nice. Yes, while the children are at daycare and can’t barge in every few minutes to ask, Are you naked in there? and Did you know girls only have butts?

4 // Sweatpants.

5 // Get sucked into four episodes of Mad Men/Gilmore Girls/etc. Consider starting a load of laundry multiple times. Do not leave the bed.

7 // Carry the laundry downstairs because it’s noon and, well, that’s a start!

8 // Realize you haven’t eaten yet.

9 // Stop in the kitchen to make lunch and share it with no one. Eat it all in one sitting. This is amazing.

10 // Actually take the laundry to the laundry room.

11 // Pick up one of the two-year-old’s shirts and wonder how he ever got this big. Spend the next hour reminiscing by trolling your own Instagram.

12 // IT’S THREE O’CLOCK?!

13 // Clorox wipe everything. Run the vacuum like you’re being chased. Do two loads of laundry on the “quick wash” cycle.

14 // Pick up the children from daycare.

15 // Watch as the two-year-old spills his snacks and the five-year-old crushes them into crumbs on the carpet on his way to tear out every toy you own. It’s okay! There’s always tomorrow 🙂

In addition to all of the things you obviously need, these products and tricks of the trade are seriously life changing if you are seriously on a mission to clean. I use them, I love them, and they are essential to my cleaning routine (which is basically just Step #13, let’s be real). 

Products –  Clorox ReadyMop Flip Mop // Glade Carpet Powder

Tips and Tricks – Cleaning a Microfiber Couch // Cleaning Glass Bakeware

 

A Post for Mother’s Day

The big secret about motherhood is that no one has any idea what they’re doing.

Especially with those firstborns (sorry, Landon).

There are plenty of books and blog posts and pictures on your Instagram feed that may make you feel otherwise, like someone out there must have this thing figured out. But what they don’t show are all the ways we’re trying and feel like we’re failing; all the time we spend worrying over how we handled that question or tantrum or request for a seventeenth snack; all of the neurotic Google searches about things like developmental milestones and does this rash look normal?

The closest thing anyone has to an “expert” on motherhood is other mothers.

Other mothers have tried and failed and learned something. They can assure you that you’re fine and they’re fine and they know when that rash is actually hand, foot, and mouth disease so clean everything in your house and we’ll see you in a week.

Other mothers know the struggles of making it to bedtime on a Wednesday night. They’re the ones we text when it’s 3AM and one is throwing up while the other is ready to greet the day and you’re wondering how many cups of coffee it’s going to take to be a functional human being in the morning. They know that even though this part is hard, you’re going to miss it someday, so hold on tight.

The best example of motherhood is, of course, my own mother!

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She’s such an incredible example of what it looks like to work hard, love selflessly and unconditionally, and makes this job look easy. She’s the encouragement I need when I feel like I’m doing this all wrong, the one I text for advice or just the reassurance that everyone is alive so I’m doing okay.

She’s the best Gigi in the world! She’s always up for a Justin Timberlake concert or a Birthmas trip or running across Washington Square Park in the middle of the night to make it to a comedy show 🙂 She constantly goes out of her way to take care of us, and we would all be lost without her.

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Everyone jokes about the horrors of realizing you’re turning into your mother, but it turns out it isn’t so bad. If I can be half the mother she is, I’ll be doing okay.

Mommas, we’re all doing okay. To all the women who hold us up and keep us going, Happy Mother’s Day!

Currently // 3.12.17

1 // Considering having this print framed.

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[print available in this Etsy shop]

Mike has been in Hawaii for a week, closing out a very full couple of months of traveling, and we are WAY ready for him to come home! Landon has been more emotional than a thirteen-year-old girl, and Alex demands that we play “Life’s a Happy Song” by “the BUPPETS!” on a loop. I may very well, in fact, lose my mind up in here, up in here. Hurry home, babe!

2 // Binge-watching The Mindy Project and considering re-bingeing Mad Men for the third time, because why not? Counting down until The Handmaid’s Tale and the new season of House of Cards premiere later this spring!

3 // Planning my spring break reading list! Here are a few of the books on my radar:

Modern Lovers // The Hopefuls // Forever, Interrupted

Jennifer Close and Taylor Jenkins Reid are two of my favorite authors, and the preview I read of Modern Lovers hooked me from the beginning. If you haven’t read Close or Reid’s other books, do it! You won’t want to put them down.

4 // In love with The Mom Capsule!

I could live in all of these clothes, probably because they’re #sobasic. Love the idea of a capsule wardrobe around a few essentials! Might save me from staring into my closet forever every morning so I can pack a lunch for work like a real grown-up. Thinking I could probably build one with the clothes I already have, but I’m definitely crazy-enamored these three shirts, accessories, and with these pants!

5 // So proud of our little preschool nugget!

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He started a sight word challenge last week, and has already learned twenty-eight sight words. Seriously, who is this smart cookie?

He’s been with mostly the same crew since they were two years old, and his preschool recently created a separate class for ten of the kiddos who were ready for more of a challenge. How awesome is that?! Landon loves to learn, and we couldn’t imagine a more perfect place with more amazing teachers to help him grow 🙂

6 // Drinking all of the Iced Cinnamon Almondmilk Macchiatos. It’s becoming a problem.

7 // Sharing one of our favorite prints from the gallery wall in our master:

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[custom from this shop on Etsy]

Today’s sermon– and the whole Love Songs series- has really made me appreciate the guy I get to share this life with! Definitely worth watching or re-watching (and how gorgeous is that print from JS Lettering?!).

7 // Looking forward to lots of fun this spring and summer! Mike and I are heading to relive our pre-kid glory days at a John Mayer concert in DC in April, and we are traveling to Florida in June for our first family vacation since, oh, 2012. We have big plans for the beach and a day trip to Disney, but Landon is mostly just excited about being on an airplane.

Also looking forward to the impending blizzard, because who doesn’t love a couple of snow days?? Here’s hoping the meteorologists got it right and we’ll be snuggled up in our PJs for a few days this week 🙂

Currently // 1.15.17

1 // Hoping everyone is off to a fantastic 2017! So far, the children are still waking before the sun so it doesn’t feel all that different from 2016.

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Here’s hoping their New Year’s resolutions to stay in bed til 6 (at least, but I’ll take it) are just off to a slow start.

2 // Reading You’ll Grow Out of It by Jessi Klein, and recommending it to anyone else who is looking for something sharp, witty, and honest but only has five minutes to read between playing Power Rangers and the demands of Report Card Season.

3 // Looking for a copy of my next read, The Strong-Willed Child (kidding, kind of). Alex is as cute as a button, but also as ornery as they come. Word on the street is that it comes with the territory of being a second, but he really isn’t helping to make my case for a third. Favorite hobbies include kicking his door to express his disdain for afternoon naps, waiting impatiently by the snack cabinet, and trying to sneak up the bunk bed ladder. But then he snuggles up next to you and flashes those big brown eyes, and you temporarily forget that he’s been a tornado of crazy since 5AM.

4 // In amazement of my four-year-old who is beginning to read! This is the part where I gush about my special little snowflake child because he’s obviously the first ten millionth four-year-old to do this.

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He knows a fair amount of sight words, and he’s getting confident enough to try sounding out new words. He’s known his letter sounds since he was three (thank you, Endless Alphabet) but getting him to use them to read has been, well, a task. His knee-jerk is to say, “I can’t do it” when, in fact, he can– he’s just stubborn (not sure where that comes from) and has some anxiety about trying and being wrong (no idea- er, wait- did I just describe myself?). Trying not to be That Mom- or worse, That Teacher Mom- because he’s four and he should really only be worried about deciding which episode of Ninjago to watch. But as long as he wants to practice reading on his own, I’m not going to get in his way 🙂

// Searching for this sweater in every color because it’s amazing. There are more colors in store than online, like a cobalt that gets all the heart eyes (and is one of, like, two jewel-toned items in my closet so you know it has to be good).

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6 // Registering for two grad classes this semester, and looking forward to sleeping again sometime in May.

7 // Recommending these tech tools for teachers! Readworks Digital is leveled by grade, Lexile, and F&P. It allows you to create classes and assign texts with quizzes that are aligned to CCSS anchor standards that it scores for you. Other tools we are using all. the. time. (besides Google Apps for Education, obv) are Epic!, Formative, and Padlet.

8 // Binge-watching Designated Survivor (in an attempt to fill the political-suspense-drama void left by Man in the High Castle) and counting down until Z: The Beginning of Everything and The Handmaids Tale are released. Can’t. Wait. Also, the absence of my social life is obvious and sad.

// Sharing this recipe for chicken corn chowder that I could eat every day for the rest of this winter. It’s a hodgepodge of several other recipes I’ve found, and is enough for maybe six people..? Literally dump everything in the crock pot on low for six hours, shred the chicken, and add the heavy whipping cream like ten minutes before you’re ready to serve it. So good!

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10 // Ready to take on the week, and leaving you with this, because Friday is real life and we all keep moving forward.

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[Brad Montague]

How to Shop for Groceries with Small Children

Start out strong by heading to the grocery store with a list that’s half-written, following two other errands, testing the limits of an eighteen-month-old who missed his nap and has been awake since 5AM because the four-year-old woke everyone up to find out the name of the third color in the rainbow.

Locate the shopping car-cart and happily jaunt through the produce section while serenaded by faux-traffic sound effects as the children appear to be getting along in a precariously tight space. Elderly couples smile and make passing comments like, “You certainly have your hands full!” and “What sweet boys you have!”

The day is young.

Make it to the deli counter and through two more aisles before the “Beep! Beep!”s turn into “Mom, he hit me!”s. Grab a snack cup of cookies from a basket by a register and loudly announce to no one that “Mommy will pay for these when we’re all done shopping!” as you thrust them into the hands of the eighteen-month-old, as if the hands used for hitting could also be used for sharing.

Elderly couples are now avoiding eye contact.

Regret sets in as you realize there is little to no reward at this point for the effort it takes to negotiate turns from one aisle to the next when pushing an eighteen-wheeler car-cart around the grocery store at noon two days before New Years Eve. Exactly zero snacks have been shared with the four-year-old. Hands are still being used for hitting.

Crazy Mom Eyes make their grocery store debut as you duck your head into the front of the car-cart to negotiate a peace. Eighteen-month-old isn’t feeling it, would rather scowl angrily and eat all of the snacks.

Remove eighteen-month-old from the car-cart and place in the regular shopping cart seat, much to his disdain. Emits loud war cry to alert all other shoppers that this is not okay. Make a mental note that two snack cups may have been a better choice.

But you’re in the homestretch! Frozen foods, dairy, and that one thing you forgot seven aisles back! The four-year-old now has his feet sticking through the “windshield” of the car-cart as the eighteen-month-old blasts a random playlist of music from your iPhone.

Elderly couples are amused. You are avoiding eye contact.

Make it to the register. No one is crying, but everyone is over it. Hand the cashier the empty snack cup and smile, but she is a teenager and very confused about why you’re trying to pay for it. Finally, everything is in bags and in the cart and you’re loading the kids into the car before you realize you forgot that thing seven aisles back.

Decide you can live without it.

It isn’t long before they’re both passed out in their car seats. Peek back at their sweet cherub-like faces and wonder if entertaining the idea of a third makes you certifiably insane. Decide to take the long way home because nap time is sacred, and there are four more hours til Dad comes home.

Pray for patience and vow never to do such a crazy thing again, or at least until next Thursday 🙂