My mom is always trying new recipes to prep throughout the week. She made this one awhile back, and I was hesitant to try because I am not a fan of spice. I am such a wimp about it! I am constantly asking people if the salsa is super spicy, or just a little spicy. Whenever I get told, “Oh, it is just a little spicy,” I still usually always think it is waaayyy to spicy, so when my mom told me that these meatballs weren’t spicy, I was scared to try, but went for it and loved them!! I had to remake them for myself. :)These are great to make and freeze for the future, or to bring to a party. The best thing about these meatballs is that they are Whole30, so you can eat them guilt free!
1 lbs. ground chicken
1/4 onion finely chopped
1/2 C. mangoes chopped small
3 cloves of garlic minced
⅓ C. cilantro chopped
1 finely diced jalapeño* (feel free to add more for additional heat)
1/2 C. almond flour
1 1/2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. smoked paprika
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 375*
Lightly grease a baking dishes (I needed two) with some olive oil to prevent sticking (I used olive oil cooking spray from Trader Joe’s)
Add all ingredients into a large bowl
4. Once combined, form into small balls
5. Arrange on a baking sheet and bake for about 25 minutes*
6. They should be golden brown on top and cooked through
*Mine didn’t really keep shape, but I was fine with it. My mom even smashed her meatballs into little patties. Another alternative is to grill the meatballs in a cast iron.
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.
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.
The 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.
The 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.
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!
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!
8 oz of Chicken Stock
3 cloves of Garlic
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.
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.)
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.
9. Divide risotto into bowls and top with a mound of zucchini.
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 choice
Mix all ingredients into a sauce pan over medium heat.
2. Continue to mix until all ingredients are gathering together. Keep stirring so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
3. 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.
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.
1/2 cup of Popcorn kernels*
3 tablespoons of Coconut oil*
2 tablespoons of Butter*
salt for taste
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.
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.
To make popcorn, use a popcorn Whirley Pop Popcorn Maker. Put popcorn kernels, coconut oil, and butter into pot over medium heat.
2. 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.
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. 🙂
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
When Ashley got engaged, I knew that I was going to have to plan the best bachelorette party and I wanted to do it on a budget. I wanted it to be an amazing weekend that Ashley would never forget, as well as the rest of the girls that would be joining us. Read below to find the steps I took to plan this awesome weekend.
I started by talking to a few other girls that had recently been on bachelorette parties to get some ideas of what they liked and enjoyed. Ashley shared with me that she didn’t want to do Vegas or something local. I knew I wanted the trip to be affordable for all too. I found that we could go to either LA or San Diego for a decent travel price if we bought our plane tickets at the right time.
I sent out an email to all the girls Ashley wanted to invite to her bachelorette party about a year in advance. I know it seems crazy to do it that early, but I wanted to get an estimated headcount of who wanted to go, and how many girls we would need to accommodate. After I got my headcount, I was able to figure out a budget that I would be able to work with.
Setting a budget was important. I didn’t want people to feel like they were having to spend an arm and a leg on this trip. I figured with 10 girls going, minus Ashley. we could each put in $400.00 and have a budget of $3,600. Each girl would have to purchase their own flight, and some food and drinks. Since flights were no more than $300 round trip if you bought at the right time, this seemed affordable for most.
I set up a Tilt account and asked girls to put in a min. of $50 a month. This way girls were able to save for the trip and I would have money to pull from to put down deposits on the room and board, or any activities that we would be doing.
3. Hotel or House?
We had 10 girls going. I began to look online for places to stay. Originally I was looking at hotels, but because we had so many girls going, it didn’t make sense to pay for multiple rooms. I searched AIRBNB, HomeAway, and VRBO. I would find a house, email, and get turned down because I had told them it was for a bachelorette weekend. No one wants to rent to anyone hosting a party.
I kept searching and decided I would tell them it was for a family reunion. This seemed to work. We secured an awesome house that would sleep all 10 of us comfortably and was only 4 blocks from the beach! We were stoked. After this was secured, I knew that I had only a certain amount left in the budget to plan activities.
4. What to do?
We were planning on flying in early Thursday and leaving late that Sunday. We had 3 nights and 2 full days. I searched for unique activities that might not be something we would do in our hometown.
Since we were getting settled in on Thursday, I planned a bike booze cruise. This was a fun way to see all of downtown San Diego, and get our drink on. I was planning on everyone purchasing their own drinks on this night, but since I had over budgeted for the weekend with the Tilt money, it just made it easier for me to buy rounds of shots as we bar hopped. The girls wore their Team Bride shirts this night. We even met some guys along the way that we had jump on and help us bike! It was a great first night to start off the weekend. After our time was up on the Booze Cruise, we ordered pizza and went back to the house for Cards Against Humanity and lots of laughs.
Friday morning we woke up and went to brunch. This was a no host brunch, but ended up being a blast because we were given a free bottle of champs on the house. I had researched on Yelp great places near our house to check out. The food was amazing and ended up getting some amazing service. After brunch we went back to the house and played some bachelorette games. (I’ll share those later.) We had picked up snacks, and drinks from Costco the day before, so we packed up and walked to the beach. There we enjoyed music, laughs, got our tans on, drank, and met some cool guys that taught some of us how to surf. We went back to house around dinner time and cooked up some burgers. We made a group decision to get stuff for this the day before, so it was a really relaxing dinner. After dinner we dressed up as Ashley’s Pink Ladies, pink shirts that I provided that were personalized and black pants. Ashley was dressed as Sandra Dee. We headed out to the town to bar hop and complete the scavenger hunt.
For Saturday, I had made a reservation for brunch. We had a great time at this place off the beach and met another bachelorette. We kept it relaxed and open for girls to do whatever they wanted. Some headed to the beach again, and some walked around the shops. We all planned to be ready to go for our dinner at 6:00. I found this amazing drag queen show and dinner called Lips. I shared it with my sister to see if it was something she would be interested in. She was all for it. I called and booked a table for all of us girls and picked the set menu. This would be one of the dinners that was paid for with our Tilt money. Lips was a great experience, they pulled Ashley up on stage and embarrassed her quite a bit. After dinner, we headed downtown to hit the club. We had a friend that set us up with an outside booth, but once we were there we decided to upgrade to a bigger one. We danced the last night away in this amazing 3 story club.
5. Goody Bags, Games, & Gifts
A girlfriend of mine had told me about this adorable idea that they did for her sister-in-law, and I couldn’t pass it up! Each girl was given a 8 x 8 card stock paper with their official invitation I sent out. It had instructions for them to decorate the card with pictures & a note for the bride. I requested that they send it back to me before the bachelorette weekend, so we could give it to Ashley when we were there. Each girl’s page turned out amazing and personalized with wishes for the bride.
I also requested that each girl bring a pair of panties for the bride. We played a game where she had to guess who brought her the panties. If she was wrong, she had to take a shot, if she was right that person had to take a shot. It started our beach day off with a great laugh.
I wanted to give each girl a goody bag and hangover kit for the weekend. I wanted them to feel special and appreciated for spending the weekend celebrating my sister. Since we were heading to the beach I knew I wanted to create a beach bag. I found some great bags at Target in their dollar section that worked perfectly. Next, I needed to fill it. Target also had these cute Bride Team shirts that I stumbled upon. I was able to get one for every girl and a Bride one for Ashley. I ordered the Ashley’s Pink Ladies shirts and included those as well. Ashley loves Sour Patch Watermelon, so I placed one of those in each girl’s bag. I went to the travel section and found chapstick and suntan lotion. I was so excited when I came across some adorable pink beach towels at Costco and stocked up. I ordered personalized tattoos and cups on Etsy. I also hit up Claire’s bridal section for bridal buttons, sunglasses, and accessories for Ashley’s bag. Ashley’s bag had bride related things inside.
The hangover kit ideas came from Pinterest. I went to a wrapping paper store and found some lunchbox type boxes for this. I wanted to put inside things you might need when you were hungover. I added bandaids, aspirin, goldfish crackers, gatorade, mouthwash, hair ties, and gum. I personalized the front of it with a sticker and ribbon.
We used Uber all weekend. One of our first rides was from this guy named Andrew. He agreed to let all 10 of us girls pile into his car. We ended up using him all weekend and he was featured in many pictures during the trip. He was amazing and made our trip even better. The weekend was filled with so many memories. I was so happy with how it turned out. It was so great to hear how fun everyone had and how we all couldn’t wait to go back to celebrate another bride!
Hi! My name is Amber. I am a single 27 years old teacher. I spend my days teaching (and loving) little ones all they need to know. At night, I spend time with my baby girl Coco. My weekends are filled with family, friends, and sometimes a date or two.
How can you not love that face? Don’t let her fool you. She is very naughty at times.
My sister is my very best friend and I look up to her even though she is the younger one. We don’t go a day without talking, unless we are fighting, which only happens every once in awhile. She has my back, and will tell me when I am being crazy. She puts me in check, and is always down to have a good time. She encourages me and pushes me to be my best every day.
Teaching brings so much joy to my life. Each year I fall in love with my students and treat them all as if they were my own. I would take every single one of them home if I could. Good thing I live in a one bedroom. 🙂 Growing up, all I wanted to be was a teacher. I would “practice” teaching my sister in our garage with our whiteboard and stuffed animals. When I think about it now, I don’t know what my career path would be if I wasn’t teaching. It has always been a dream of mind and it is where I feel comfortable. Some days I look around my classroom and am amazed that I am influencing these little ones in front of me. They do what I ask of them and want to please me. It makes me realize how much of an effect I can have on some of their lives. How precious each word I say, or how I say it can ruin or make their day.
My sister and I live 10 minutes apart from each other. The beautiful thing about this is we get to see each other very easily and almost every day. (Zack secretly hates this.) We walk our dogs, make dinner together, hit them gym, or catch up on our shows. I feel so fortunate to have such a close relationship with my sister. People tell me its not normal, but I couldn’t imagine it any other way.
I can’t wait to continue to share with you my joys in the classroom, book review, recipes, DIY projects, and everything else.