Lavender Lemon Cocktail

I love anything lemon, and when I came across this new recipe, I couldn’t help but try it out. Plus, I love any excuse to have a glass of Ruffino Prosecco. I work for a wine distributer and am always trying new drink recipes. Ruffino Prosecco is a favorite of mine. It is produced in Italy and I love the crisp and refreshing taste of fruit flavors.

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This drink is great for Sunday brunch, or for an afternoon summer cocktail by the pool.

To make the lavender lemon syrup, mix 1 cup of sugar, 3/4 cup of water, 1/4 cup of lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon of lavender. I used fresh lavender off a plant I have, but you can use dried leaves if you wish. I also twisted the leaves to bruise them a bit to help get out the flavoring while simmering. Let these ingredients simmer on low to medium heat for 15 minutes. After, let it cool for another 15 minutes and add purple food coloring to give the syrup the pretty purple color. Finally, pour through a thin mesh to remove leaves from syrup.

When you are ready to mix your cocktail, pour some of the lavender simple syrup into the bottom of a champagne glass. Then add Ruffino Prosecco on top. Garnish with a slice of lemon and a lavender flower.

Enjoy!

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California takes Texas

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Ashley and I just took an amazing trip to Texas with our cousin Katie to visit our other cousin Stacy. Stacy moved to Texas about 4 years ago to work as a nurse. While there she met the love of her life, Kyle. After getting married in 2015, they were surprised to find out they were pregnant with twins in 2016. Twins do not run in our family, so it was a shock to everyone. Katie and I were able to make a trip to Texas back in October for the gender reveal, where we found out that Stacy and Kyle would be having an adorable little boy and a sweet little girl. We knew that we wouldn’t be able to stay away too long since the birth, so we decided to head out to Texas during my spring break.

Katie is a planner and loves to find places to try out. Ashley and I had only been through Dallas when traveling to see Stacy in the past, so Katie thought we should stay the night in Dallas the first night to explore the town.

We love kicking up our boots, so we decided to stay close to Cowboys Red River. Gas Monkey was on the list for dinner and boy was it worth it! All of us loved what we ordered. The decor inside was great and so was the atmosphere. They also had this great gift shop where you could buy mementos.

After dinner we headed over to Cowboys where we were given a free entry, a free round of drinks, and a free bull ride because it was my birthday month! Whoo Hoo! If you have never been to Texas, this is a must see place just to watch the dancing!

The next morning, we headed to Tyler, Texas. We couldn’t wait to get there and smooch on Levi and Mackenzie. After lots of snuggles, we took Stacy out for her first time since having the babies. Stacy needed a break, and this way we got some quality girl time. Thanks to Katie, our day was filled with tons of fun.

Katie’s goal was to hit a bunch of places Stacy had never been, all while getting our drinking and grub on! We started at The Grove. This place was adorable! We got a later started then planned, so we ended up grabbing drinks and apps at the Smoke Shack (connected to The Grove Kitchen and Garden) instead, but this did not disappoint. Make sure to order the nachos! Walking in we were amazed with the adorable chic decor. This was a great start to our day and once we had a drink and some food, we headed to Lindale, TX.

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All four of us are huge fans of Miranda Lambert and LOVE heading to her store Pink Pistol in Lindale, which is about 20 minutes away from Tyler. Not only does she have an amazing store, she does wine tasting. To our surprise Santa (Tom) picked us up and drove us that way. He was such a fun guy and made the trip that much more fun! He told us we would have NO problem getting a Lyft ride back, just to call 20 minutes in advance, since it takes time to get there. Wine tasting in the store was a blast, not only are the staff personable, the decor is great to look at as well.

img_8788The Pink Pistol is connected to a restaurant/bar called Love and War in Texas, so after we were done shopping and wine tasting we headed over for a drink. This place has a stage for bands to play, and they were getting ready for one later that night. The owner claimed Miranda was supposed to be stopping in later that night, but we didn’t really know if we believed him. 🙂 We tried to get a Lyft, but found we were stranded and no Lyft drivers were available. We tried for over 30 minutes, until Katie had a brilliant idea to contact Santa though the lost and found section.  Luckily we got ahold of him and he came to our rescue! He definitely was a saint. 🙂

Once Santa picked us up, we headed back to Tyler to Cork.Food.Drink. This wine bar had an asian twist to it. Here we shared appetizers and drinks. Ashley and Katie took part in a tequila flight. Stacy also tried her first oyster here! When we walked in it was a little dead, but slowly was picking up. Once we finished up our drinks and appetizers, we headed to our last stop of the night, Rick’s on the Square.

Unfortunately there was a cover to enter Rick’s, but it was worth it! They had a great band playing, Live 5. Here we continued the party with some drinks and dancing. Live 5 played some great cover songs of all genres. Our server was great and was on top of our drink orders. When we were finally ready to head home, Katie called a Lyft and to our surprise, Santa was back again to take us home! We accomplished our goal of getting Stacy out of the house and having a blast. It was a great start to our stay in Tyler.

If you ever head to Texas, I would highly recommend any of these spots for a great time!

The next day was Easter, and we headed out to Kyle’s parents house in Big Sandy. This was the first time Ashley and I had been to their property, and we were both amazed. The beautiful 25 acres had a barn house, main house, river house, lake, and river access. Kyle’s parents were so nice to welcome us with open arms. Marsha cooked delicious Shrimp BBQ for dinner with Bread Pudding for dessert. The day was filled with memories of the twins first Easter.

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Easter2017.jpgThe next few days were spent relaxing and helping out with the twins. We were able to take both twins one night, so Stacy and Kyle could get some much needed sleep. We also sent them out on a date night.

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Saying goodbye was hard, but we are looking forward to seeing Stacy, Kyle, and the twins in October when they make their way to California. Hopefully we will be able to make our way back to Texas soon after that!

 

Xo,

Amber

Rustic Flooring Remodel

Hi all! I’ve been MIA lately because my husband I have been working on a big home remodel project. For the past couple of weeks and weekends, our time has been filled with this exciting project!

When my husband and I purchased our house about 2 years ago, we always knew that we wanted to make home improvements to turn it into ours and make it more of a home.

Lately it has been pouring rain in California, so it was the perfect time to begin work on a huge indoor project of ours. Thankfully with the wonderful help of my mom and dad, we have been able to successfully complete this project in just a couple of weekends.

Since moving in, we redesigned our front yard and painted all of our rooms a new color to match our furniture and decor.  Our next thing on our list was to pull out the carpet in the entire house and replace it with wood laminate.

We first started by researching and getting samples from several different local flooring companies in the area. We decided to buy our flooring in bulk from Flooring Liquidators in Sacramento. They have several chains located in California.

When choosing a color for the floor, my husband and I both were wanting something different. We went and picked out several different samples and brought them home to hold up next to our tile. We were not wanting to change our tile in our kitchen and bathrooms, so we wanted a floor color that would bring the look of the whole house together.

After hours of debating and many samples, we both decided on a style that we loved, Old Mill RL. We then narrowed it down to the Country Store color. We loved that it had a rustic look with bits of light and dark in the wood. When we finally settled on a style and color, we went to Flooring Liquidators to make our purchase. We loved working with them. They worked with us on price, and ended up dropping the original price down by $0.17 a square foot.

As far as other supplies we needed, I found a great website called Houzz.com. They had a 900 sq. ft roll of underlayment foam padding for only $99. Typically at your local home improvement stores the foam goes for about $30-$50 per 100 sq. ft, so I was very pleased with this great deal!

We broke the project up into different sections, and decided to start in the living room. Our living room took us two whole days. My dad and husband took charge of the measuring, sawing, and placing of each board. My mom and I helped supervise and repainted the baseboards.

Before

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After

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After the first weekend, we tackled our master bedroom and hallway. My husband and I couldn’t be happier with the final product and I was excited to finally complete the decor in our master bedroom.

Before

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After

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For my birthday this year my parents gave me a canvas of our wedding day. Taken by the amazing Carrie Ayn Photography. 

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Check out these amazing paper flowers my mom made.

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We are so happy with how our flooring turned out and can’t wait to get started on our next home project!

xx,

Ashley

 

 

 

 

Lemony Chicken Risotto with Roasted Zucchini

Since I had the day off today, I decided to cook up my favorite meal from a past HelloFresh meal. Find the original recipe here. I also love any chance I get to cook in my cast iron skillet. It has become my favorite pan. Thanks Mom and Dad!

HelloFresh has been a great addition every couple of weeks, it gives me a new recipe to try and it comes right to my door step. If I don’t like the recipes that are coming up, I simply skip that week.

I decided to try HelloFresh awhile back since I had a free box. I then purchased a Groupon to get a few more discounted boxes. They currently have a deal right now. Click the link to check it out!

These have been great on busy weeks when I don’t have time to go shopping. I also love that they send you exactly the right amount of ingredients, so no wasting of food, and I get leftovers for lunch the following day. Click the link to check out HelloFresh for yourself.

This recipe was originally made with shrimp, but I changed up things a bit and used chicken this time. I also seasoned my chicken with some homemade lemon pepper seasoning. This recipe does take about 55 minutes to cook, so make sure you have the time. Even though it takes awhile to cook it is so worth the wait!

Ingredients:

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  • 8 oz of Chicken Stock
  • 1 Onion
  • 1 Zucchini
  • Mushrooms
  • 3 cloves of Garlic
  • 1 Lemon
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 3/4 cup of Arborio Rice
  • 1/4 oz of Thyme
  • 1 slice of Chicken Breast
  • 1/4 cup of Parmesan Cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a small pot, bring chicken stock and 2 cups of water to a simmer over low heat. Halve, peel, and finely dice onion. Cut zucchini into 1/2-inch cubes. Mince or grate garlic. Zest and halve lemon.

2. Make your chicken seasoning. Place pepper, lemon zest (save 1/2 tsp for later), salt, and garlic powder in a small container and mix. Rub 1/2 seasoning on each side of the chicken. Place the chicken into your pan to sear on each side. Remove and place into a pan for the oven.

3. Add olive oil to your lemon pepper seasoning. Pour over seared chicken. Add lemon slices and thyme leaves to the pan. Place in the oven for 20 minutes.

4. Toss zucchini on a baking sheet with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Roast until lightly browned, about 20 minutes, tossing halfway through.

5. Wipe the cast iron skillet clean. Heat 1 TBSP butter in a large pan over medium heat. I used my cast iron skillet for this part and it worked out perfectly. Add onion and garlic. Cook until softened, 5-6 minutes, tossing occasionally. Season with salt and pepper. Add rice and toss until grains are translucent, 1-2 minutes. Add entire bunch of thyme to pan. Add desired amount of mushrooms.

 

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6. Add stock to pan 1/2 cup at a time, stirring after each addition. Allow rice to absorb stock before adding more. Continue until rice is nearly al dente, about 25 minutes. (This only took about 15 minutes before it was ready.)

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7. While rice is cooking, remove chicken and zucchini from the oven. Cut the chicken into small pieces.

8. Remove thyme stems (some leaves will have fallen off). Stir in chicken and parmesan cheese. Stir in 1/2 tsp lemon zest and a squeeze of lemon. Season with salt and pepper.

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9. Divide risotto into bowls and top with a mound of zucchini.

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Enjoy!

xo,

Amber

Holiday Popcorn & Homemade Play Dough

Valentine’s Day is probably my favorite holiday in the classroom. The students get so excited about the little treats they make for each other. This year I pulled out a favorite of mine, homemade play dough and chocolate popcorn. Luckily it was Lincoln’s birthday on Monday, so I was able to get together with my mom to make these fun treats.

Growing up, my mom made play dough for my sister and I all the time. In sixth grade she decided to make homemade play dough hearts for my valentine’s treat and it was a hit. I remember everyone being so excited and playing with it immediately. Luckily, my mom held onto her recipe after all these years.

Follow the steps below to make your own play dough.

  • 1 cup of flour

  • 1 cup of water

  • 1/2 cup of salt

  • 1 teaspoon of cream of tarter

  • 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil

  • food coloring of your choiceimg_8337

  1. Mix all ingredients into a sauce pan over medium heat.

img_83382. Continue to mix until all ingredients are gathering together. Keep stirring so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.

img_83413. Remove from the heat. Once it is cool enough you can work with it. If you are making goodie bags, cut into a cute shape. If you are making a big batch for you kiddos to play with make sure to keep it into a sealed bag.

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I decided to pair this valentine treat with an edible one for my class and sweet coworkers. Chocolate popcorn is always a go to for any holiday treat. It is simple to make, you can make in huge batches, and it taste delicious. I first got this recipe from my sweet friend Suzanne. I LOVE popcorn, so it quickly became a favorite. You can change up the color or add different candies to make it pop.

My mom and I decided to go with the traditional white chocolate, add some valentine’s colored sprinkles, and M&M’s. The original recipe I got was for microwaved popcorn, which I have done and turns out great, but my mom and I had a bunch of popcorn kernels, so we popped our own. See the directions below to make your own holiday popcorn.

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  • 1/2 cup of Popcorn kernels*

  • 3 tablespoons of Coconut oil*

  • 2 tablespoons of Butter*

  • salt for taste

  • Wilton Chocolate**

  • Holiday M&M’s (Optional)

  • Holiday sprinkles (Optional)

*If you choose to make microwave popcorn, you won’t need these ingredients. Instead you will need 5 bags for every 12 oz of chocolate.

**You can get Wilton Chocolate in the bulk section at some stores. Make sure to use the melting chocolate. It is easier to work with.

  1. Heat chocolate so it melts. We used my mom’s instant pot on the keep warm setting. It was so easy to put in and walk away. We didn’t have to worry about it burning. If you don’t have that option, place in a microwave safe bowl to melt, or create a double boiler to melt the chocolate. Make sure to keep water away, or it will ruin it.

  1. To make popcorn, use a popcorn Whirley Pop Popcorn Maker. Put popcorn kernels, coconut oil, and butter into pot over medium heat.

img_83502. Let popcorn kernels heat. Once you hear them begin to pop turn the handle.

3. After the popping slows down, remove from heat.

4. Place in a large container and add salt. My mom found these amazing foil containers at our local grocery store for .89 cents! They were great for tossing the chocolate and popcorn.

5. Once popcorn and chocolate are ready, pour chocolate over popcorn and toss. Once popcorn is tossed, spread out over parchment paper.6. Add candies and sprinkles.

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7.Once cool place in cute baggies.

Both of these fun treats can be modified for any holiday. St. Patrick’s day could have green four leaf clover play dough or green chocolate covered popcorn. Changing it up for every holiday is easy and fun. 🙂

xo,

Amber

Valentine’s Day Rice Krispies

Happy Valentine’s Day Loves! I usually don’t have an excuse to make sweets that often so I love a good holiday to dress one of my traditional favorites up! Since the hubby and I are planning on staying in tonight and not trying to deal with the crowds I thought I would make a quick and easy snack/dessert. Warning these are addicting! 🙂

 

Ingredients:

6 cups Rice Krispies

3 tablespoons of butter

1 package of marshmallows

pink, red, or white sprinkles

white chocolate for melting

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Step 1:

Place the marshmallows and butter in a microwave safe bowl and microwave for 1 minute. Stir the mixture, then replace in the microwave for 1 more minute.

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Step 2:

Measure the 6 cups of Rice Krispies into the marshmallow mixture. Add in as many sprinkles as you wish.

 

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Step 3:

Place mixture on wax paper. Then place another sheet of wax paper on top. Flatten with a rolling pin.

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Step 4:

Using a cookie cutter cut into hearts. Then place on rack or wax paper. Melt white chocolate chips in microwave for 30 seconds at a time. Once chocolate is melted place the melted chocolate in a Ziploc and cut the corner of the Ziploc slightly allowing only a small amount of chocolate out. Then drizzle across all of the hearts.  Before chocolate dries add more sprinkles! Enjoy!

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xx,

Ashley

Love Your Melon

One of the things I love the most about my mom is how thoughtful she is. Whenever she comes across something that she thinks my sister or I will like, she grabs it for us. And usually one for herself too. 🙂 This time she surprised us with new cuffed beanies from Love Your Melon.

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I had heard about these great beanies before, but never pulled the trigger. One of the things that drew me toward them was their mission, providing hats to children battling cancer and donating 50% of their profit for research to find a cure.

Not only do they have beanies, they have hats, shirts, headbands, necklaces, mugs, and many other accessories. Ranging from $5.00 and up. I was shocked at how nice the quality of the beanie was as well. It is made with 100% cotton and right here in the USA!

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They were perfect for our trip to the snow today. It has been raining and snowing quite a bit lately. We have been dying to go sledding like we would do when we were younger. We packed up some food, our dogs, and threw on some warm clothes and drove up passed Jackson.

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We found a nice little hill, enjoyed sandwiches, and wine before we took the dogs out onto the snow. None of our dogs have been to the snow before, and it definitely felt like home for Bella (our parent’s dog) and Rory. Coco enjoyed herself, but was a little nervous and cold towards the end.

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I can’t wait to make my next Love Your Melon purchase. The mug looks adorable and I think I need to have one of those headbands in my life as well. 🙂  Click the link above to make your purchase. You can shop for yourself or a friend and feel great because part of your purchase is going to support such a great cause.

xox,

Amber

Mediterranean Spinach Chicken

Tonight’s dinner was an easy one to plan. I’ve made this dish several times for dinner and my husband absolutely loves it. Close friends of our just welcomed their baby boy into the world. We wanted to take them dinner tonight so they wouldn’t have to worry about cooking and attending to their new bundle of joy.

When trying to think of what dinner would be good to take to the new family of 3, I thought about what dinner dishes are healthy, tasty, and quick to make. The best part is this dish is made in one pan, so it makes clean up easy! My husband loves this dish and so do I. I modify it slightly from the original recipe. I also make my husband a side of whole wheat pasta to add in with his chicken.

I love that this dish is Whole30 compliant, it is low carb, tasty, and fulfilling, not to mention perfect for when you have leftover chicken from the previous nights dinner in the fridge.

I found this dish on a Facebook post for Whole30. Recipe from the Paleo Newbie on Facebook or Instagram: @paleo_newbie_recipes

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 8 oz mushrooms, sliced (optional)
  • 3 roma tomatoes, diced
  • 8 oz. artichoke hearts, liquid drained and sliced
  • 1/3 cup black olives, sliced
  • 1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes
  • 1 lb pre-cooked chicken (I usually bake mine in the oven for 15 minutes @425F)
  • a couple handfuls spinach
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped for garnish
  • salt and pepper to taste

 

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1. In a large skillet over medium heat add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and sauté the chopped onions for 3-4 minutes.

2. Add minced garlic in with the onions, and sauté together 1 more minute.

3. Add the sliced mushrooms to the sautéed onions and garlic, cook 5-7 minutes until the mushrooms are golden.

4. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the pan then toss in the roma tomatoes, sun dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and olives. Sprinkle in the parsley and oregano while stirring for a few minutes.

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5. Next add your chopped precooked chicken and spinach to the pan. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar. Stir and cook only about 1-2 minutes to heat chicken. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed.

 

6. Serve garnished with freshly chopped basil leaves and a glass of vino!

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Ashley

 

 

#ChooseKind

Read aloud time in my class is my favorite time of day. I love to get all my students on the floor, having them gaze up, and listen to the stories I read. During my first year of teaching, I had no idea what to read to my students. After many workshops and talking to co-workers, I have come across a few favorites that I can not go a school year without reading.

I love seeing students get excited about what they are reading. I had a hard time learning to read, and remember not being able to put down the books I was reading once it finally clicked. I quickly became that kid that would walk around with a book in my face. One time I was so into a book, and my mom was trying to get us out the door to run some errands. She yelled at me to put the book down and get in the car because I wasn’t moving fast enough.

I know from time to time I get a kid who hates reading, or thinks they can’t. I try to find books that inspire them to pick it up and want it to never end.

Every year I tell myself I am going to read more for myself, but it is always hard to find the time to do that. I usually get at least one or two books to read for myself each year, but am lucky enough to enjoy books all throughout the work day. My favorite types of books include children’s books, so it works out in my favor. One of my favorite read aloud books is the book Wonder by R.J. Palacio. I would recommend this book to any reader.

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Wonder is an AMAZING story about a 10 year old boy with a face deformation. His parents decide to enroll him in school for the first time, after being homeschooled his whole life. This is a favorite of mine to share with my students for many reasons, it brings up bullying, tough family situations, loss of family and pets, friendships, loyalty, empathy, and compassion for others. Not only does it have some very important life lessons that at times makes myself and my students cry, it also makes us laugh. I find kids in class that can relate, or want to be friends with the main character Auggie.

I first read this book 3 years ago to a class that I was having many issues with. They were very mean to each other, they took every chance they got to put someone else down. This book opened up many talking points for my class, and after reading I saw changes in their behaviors. I saw more compassion between them and even was surprised by some of the things that they did for each other when they knew someone else was going through a difficult time at home.

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After that year, I told myself that I would not go a year without reading this story. It is definitely a difficult read for students to understand at times, and takes quiet a bit of time to get through, but it is also the book that my students beg for me to keep reading just one more page, or they sigh when I put it down for the day. They cheer when I pick it up and are excited because they know it is time for read aloud.

The greatest thing about this book is there is another one after it. I never read it to my students, but have had past students beg their parents to purchase it and then read it within 2 weeks. That is always my end goal with a read aloud, to get them so excited they are dying to hear more or find out what happens next.

My mom is an active reader, and I made her read it last summer. After the first day she text me saying, “I don’t know how you read this to your class. So far I have already cried and laughed so hard I couldn’t control myself.” I told her to keep reading because it has such a great ending. You can purchase the book below at the amazon link.

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Buy the book here!

This is book will soon be a major motion picture staring Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson, and a new favorite of mine Jacob Tremblay. I would highly suggest reading this book before it hits theaters. It is an amazing book for both children and adults!

 

xo,

Amber

Tomato Tortellini Soup

Yesterday I had a major headache and was dreading coming home to cook. My husband went in for a dental check up earlier in the day, and ended up having some unplanned work done. He was needing something that would be easy to eat. Originally, I had planned to make a chicken dish, but knew that I needed to think of something that would be more realistic for dinner. I did not want to go out to eat, and I knew that it would be my husband’s first choice. That is when it hit me, Mom’s Tomato Tortellini Soup.

It is easy for me to throw together and I already have most of the ingredients.  This was a favorite of mine growing up, and something my sister and I both love to make on a cold winter day.

I love making recipes that my mom made for us when we were younger. My mom is an amazing cook. My husband always jokes that he married me for my mom’s cooking, so I like to make her recipes any chance I get.

A majority of the ingredients are items that are always in my pantry and refrigerator besides the tortellini, but seeing as I am in and out of grocery stores all day for work it was easy to just pick up the tortellini at my last stop.

My mom originally found this recipe in a magazine before there was internet 🙂 It quickly became a staple in our family. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

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Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time 10 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium Zucchini
  • 1/2 a Yellow Onion
  • 3 (14 1/2 oz.) cans of Beef Broth
  • 1 pkg (9 oz) Cheese Tortellini
  • 1 (14 oz.) jar Tomato & Basil Pasta Sauce
  • 1 tsp. Italian Herb Seasoning
  • Parmesan Cheese

*If you want to make this a little more hearty, add some of your favorite sliced sausage in as well.

1. Bring broth to a boil in a large saucepan. Add tortellini and cook 5 minutes.

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2. While cooking tortellini cut zucchini and onion in half and slice.

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3. Add zucchini, onion, pasta sauce, and Italian seasoning. Bring to a boil and cook 5 minutes longer.

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4. Top with grated parmesan cheese if desired.

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Enjoy!

 

xx,

Ashley