Summer Menu Staples

Back at the beginning of summer I spent some time thinking about how to make some things simpler in this season. Specifically what kinds of dinners would be easy and delicious. Sometimes the summer feels like one long buffet table. With the kids home all day I feel like I'm constantly cooking and foraging for snacks so I wanted some go-to dinners that would be quick and not too heavy.

There have been 3 meals that I've had in heavy rotation and when I don't know what to make, I go with one of these and it helps fill in the gaps of my weekly meal plan.

1. Quiche! Now, if you live with a boy who may not be impressed by quiche for dinner, call it an egg casserole and thank me later. I use a pre-made pie crust or no crust at all if I want to trim some carbs. I whisk together 8 eggs, some veggies, sausage or bacon and bake at 350 for about an hour. Tips: I like to pre cook whatever goes in the quiche but make sure you let it cool off a little before adding it to your eggs. Sides: perfect with a salad or roasted potatoes.

2. Charcuterie board! This is SO easy and so good. Buy your favorite cheese, meats, nuts, and fruit and put it all on a cutting board. What could be easier? Also this is deceptively filling. Every time I'm worried it won't fill us up and we always end up leaving things on the board. Tips: Aldi is a great place to get affordable charcuterie components. You can make a kid friendly version of this by filling muffin tins with snacks your kids will enjoy Sides: Wine.

3. Salads! This is fun because there are endless possibilities here. Sometimes it's a cobb salad with bacon, hard boiled eggs, and veggies. Sometimes it's a taco salad with a base of chips, followed by lettuce, and then meat, peppers, and beans. It can even be a pre-made bagged salad with some rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. The salad is low effort and you feel great about yourself because you had a salad for dinner. Tips: This is my favorite salad kit. Literally love it so much.
Sides: Soup (if you live somewhere where the idea of soup in July doesn't seem wholly unreasonable)

An Ode to Summer Reading

It was the summer of 1995. I was newly 8 and we had just moved from the panhandle of Florida to suburban Baltimore, MD. Ours was the second family to move into a new neighborhood and my sister and I were the only kids on our street. At some point after we got settled we did what would become my first priority every time my husband and I would move decades later--we got library cards.

Because it was summer, my sister and I signed up for the summer reading program at the local library which boasted activities designed to promote reading and prizes for reading certain numbers of books. Read 5 books, get a bookmark. Read 10 books and get a coupon for free ice cream. Years later I would wish one of those prizes had been fine forgiveness but alas that wasn't one of the offerings.

I was going in to 3rd grade and this was the first year I remember really having agency over my own reading life. I was at an age where my mom would turn me loose in the stacks and I could pick out whatever interested me and take it home to read. I didn't need help selecting titles and I wasn't counting on whatever books had been chosen for me.

I should mention we had no cable that summer. Our new neighborhood had yet to be outfitted with it and my mom called the cable company with weekly regularity, informing them they would not want to trifle with her if she had no cable come college football season. I believe they made an honest woman out of her by Labor Day but not a moment before. Thus the summer of 1995 was the summer of books and of The Orioles.

You know what you can watch with great regularity in the summer with no cable? Baseball. A lot of baseball. Being a sports family in the south means your only baseball team is the Braves and living far from Atlanta we were lukewarm on them at best. So the summer of '95 when Cal Ripken was chasing Lou Gerig's most consecutive games streak we became Orioles fans and despite having not lived in Maryland for 18 years, we still are.

When you move in the summer to a neighborhood with no kids, making friends takes time. We made friends with our newlywed neighbors who lucky for us loved baking and Disney movies but mostly, we lived in a sweet bubble just the four of us: mom, dad, my sister, and me. My mom stayed home with us so the summer was taken up with trips to the library, parks, running errands, and playing outside. We ended most nights at the local snowball stand or out back on the swing set all four of us built together at the start of that summer.

Our weekly (sometimes bi-weekly) library trips resulted in dozens of books read that summer. One after the other recorded on my summer reading log. I read about Felicity in the American Girl series. I read Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing and Superfudge by Judy Blume. I read Nancy Drew (I've always loved Nancy) and the Cam Jansen series of mysteries. All total I read 54 books that Summer, from June - August. I still remember the disbelief on the librarian's face when I turned in my logs.

I can't remember the prize I got for reading well above any of the goals set by the program. But I do remember that magical summer. The one that made me fall in love with reading, the Orioles, and the wonders of the library.

Nearly 25 years later, I still make almost weekly trips to my own library. This time I'm the mom and while I can't turn my girls loose in the stacks just yet, you can bet we're all signed up for summer reading. Because one of these summers they'll have their own love affair with books and words, libraries and baseball teams, and I can't wait.

Dear Preschool Teachers

Dear Preschool Teachers,

You've done it! You've made it to the end of the school year once again. Congratulations! I seriously don't know how you do it, as I specifically send my children to you to avoid being with them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (I kid, I kid...maybe.)

Next week my oldest daughter will leave your classroom for the last time. She's off to the great big world of public school Kindergarten and, God love her, she is excited. But like her momma she is tender and I'd be lying if I said we haven't each shed a few tears over this milestone.

When you send your first child to preschool you have no idea what to expect. You hope it will be fun for her and educational, provide you a with a little break, and maybe you'll each make some friends.
The reality of what happened over the last three years is so much more than I could have hoped for.

Oh if it hasn't been all kinds of fun! Class parties, water days, basket nights, mother's day teas, and so much more. And you know what the best part was? All the fun was simple. It was never over-produced or expensive or technological. It was imaginative, simple, good old days kind of fun.  And in having all the fun she learned all the things. She learned letters and numbers and sounds but she also learned how to get along, how to share, how to be kind (side note, my youngest child has been completely potty-trained by her preschool teacher, bless her.).

One of the great underrated services preschool teachers provide is giving moms everywhere a break, be it for their sanity or their career. Thank for you the hours you provided so I could clean my house, nurse my newborn, and eventually think fully formed thoughts and find time for things that make me feel a little bit more like myself.

I'm a feeler of all the feelings so the social component of anything is, well, everything. I couldn't wait for my tiny girl to make her first friends and in turn befriend their mommas. I love the friends we've both made and realizing we are all headed different places next year has been hard to swallow. It's been precious to see my girl learn about what it looks like to be a friend and for the two of us to greet kids and parents alike every morning on our way in to school.

But nothing has meant more to me than the teachers and staff who created a safe place to leave my first baby every day of preschool. They have loved her like their own, they have discovered what makes her special and affirmed her in all the best ways.  They let her be a kid and managed to instill lessons and values in her along the way. They were silly and flexible and showed us both boundless grace. In the end, they are who I will remember from this sweet, sweet season because they have made all the difference.

So thank you preschool teachers for the patience, the love, and all the handprint crafts I will never be able to throw away.



What I've Been Reading Lately

Summer is for reading, am I right?! Here's what I've read in the last month or so and what is on my immediate TBR list.

Tangerine: A twisty, toxic relationship between two college friends unravels in mid-century Morocco. The setting here is the star.  Morocco is a fully fleshed out character in the story and really enriches the plot. A good psychological thriller. If you need likable characters or hopeful endings, this may not be for you.

Crazy Rich Asians: SO. MUCH. FUN. A great book to pick up before seeing the move, out August 15. This book is told from several points of view of various wings of an indescribably wealthy family based in Singapore. This is the first of three books in a series and I definitely plan on picking up the next two.

The Last Time I Lied: Best thriller I've read in a long time! I love the mystery/thriller genre but I'm particular about the ones I read: they can't be too dark, I don't want to feel like it's something that could happen to me, no gross murder-y stuff with kids, etc. This was perfect summer mystery reading. Emma goes to camp at 13 and the 3 other girls in her cabin disappear one night and they have to shut down the camp. Now an accomplished artist, Emma is invited back to the re-opening of the camp to teach art to the campers. Shenanigans ensue.

If You Only Knew: I listened to this on audio and I loved that it was read by the author, Jamie Ivey, whose podcast, the Happy Hour is also a great listen. This is the story of Jamie's growing up years and the shame she carried from some of the decisions she made and how she came to find freedom in Christ. It was a great listen.

I'd Rather Be Reading: This may be the book I am most excited to read next! Anne Bogel is one of my favorite podcasters and bloggers and she has a new book coming out September 4 all about what it means to be a reader and love books. You can pre-order the book and no matter where you pre-order it, you can submit your order info and get some fabulous bonuses from Anne and her team. You can read all about them here.  As part of Anne's launch team, I am excited to receive a copy of this book to read and review for all of you ahead of the publication date so stay tuned for that!

Things I Bought in June

I thought this would be a fun idea for a post on my best purchases this month. June was my birthday month so some of these items fall under the category of "things people bought me" but you get the idea. Here's what I would buy again in a heartbeat!

Lake Pajamas: One of the aforementioned gifts received and oh. my. stars. these are in fact the world's softest, most comfortable pajamas.  Save your pennies and treat yourself to these!

Crazy Rich Asians: Reading this now and loving it so far. It's a little more intimidating than I thought it would be because its long and features a vast array of characters but I'm about a quarter of the way through and everyone who has read it, raves about it!

Packable Straw Hat: Honestly, I haven't worn this yet but owning it makes me feel more on trend, haha. I'm planning on taking this to Arizona next month and wearing it at the beach this coming week. I'll report back. (BONUS: The hat comes sized which is great if you have a large head like me, hello M/L option)

Target Bathing Suit: I can't get over the cost of this suit! It's 34.99 and fits soooo well. I had almost given up on finding a quality one piece at a reasonable price, but I decide to give this a try after seeing it on laurenebown's instagram. It's a dream, cuter in person than online, and I ordered a medium, FYI.


Summer Activity List

Summer is in full swing so I'm sharing a list of our favorite summer activities on the blog. I hope this inspires you to fill your summer days with fun and is something you can refer to and add to all season long.

Library (checking out books and movies, storytimes, and clubs--just discovered our library has a chess club!)
Slip n' slide
Pool picnic
Chalking the driveway
Baking (box mixes or scratch--your kids will love it either way)
Painting with watercolors
Nature walk (walk the neighborhood and looking for leaves, worms, etc.)
Build a fort and watch a movie
Science center/children's museum
Mall (this doesn't have to be expensive--spring for a kids soda or ice water and just walk and window shop)
Cosmic kids yoga
Journaling (click over to my instagram and see the journals we made)


Creating Your Summer Schedule

Y'all. Here's the thing: I have never loved summer. Even as a kid, I had a low level anxiety about how we would fill our time without the structure and boundaries that school created. And that still exists as an adult and even more so now that I am a parent. And I've decided this year as we close the books on another year of preschool that I'm going to try and implement a flexible summer schedule to lead us through our days. I have a lot of friends who have already clicked out of this piece because they love summer and throwing the schedule out the window and that is fine. I wish I were more like them but I am not, so I have to put things in place to keep me sane.  Now of course there will be beach days and days this goes completely out the window but I am excited to fall back on it as much as I need to.

So here is how we are divvying up our days this summer:

Journaling/art time
Outside time or errands/activity ( This might include playing in the yard, going to library or science center or running necessary errands.)
Rest time/ naptime
TV time (no shame in my TV game)

This is obviously not rocket science. But there is power in having it written out and posted somewhere I can see. It shines light on how we will spend our day. I also have a running list of activities that my kids love so I can refer to those when I am stuck on how to fill that mid morning "activity" block. Come back next week to see what some of those are.

Do you love summer or loathe it? (Click here to listen to an episode of my podcast with my sister about our differing views about summer)