Food

June is National Iced Tea Month πŸΉ

It’s June…I can’t believe how fast this school year went by and I’m excited for all things that include sunshine and tan lines! β˜€οΈ Which means tons of sweet teaπŸ–πŸ₯€

I’ve been a sweet tea drinker for as long as I can remember. When I was young we used to make it with Lipton iced tea mix year round and on hot days my mom would make sun tea, πŸ™ŒπŸ»my fave! I’ve done the same since my kids were little and when we lived in Florida I’d make sun tea weekly.

Now living in CT I haven’t made it as much from scratch, mostly because life is hectic and my kids often make the Lipton mix on their own when they want it. Apparently they’ve forgotten that I used to make sweet tea by boiling water or putting a pitcher out in the sun. Recently after a visit to Erin’s house my oldest said ‘you should learn to make sweet tea like Erin, she makes the real kind.’ πŸ™„

So I heard earlier today that June is National Iced Tea month and I’ve been dying to try it in the Instant Pot after all the posts I’ve read about it. I browsed Google quick and looked at all different variations but then decided to wing it. And I love it!!

I buy decaffeinated tea bags- mostly because we enjoy tea before bed and my kids don’t need any help prolonging bedtime rituals. I used 6 regular decaf black tea bags and cut off the paper tags. Tossed the tea bags into the IP with about 8 cups of water. I also put in 2 scoops of sugar, skip the sugar if you’d like but that’s no fun. 🀣 Totally kidding, I love plain tea too but my kids will only drink sweet and the sugar never mixes once the teas cold. (The scooper I use in my sugar jar is probably equal to 2 tablespoons.)

Close the IP and cook on high for 4 minutes, then allow the natural release. I actually turned mine on and went to the basement gym to workout. When I came back (or finally remembered 😬) it was more than 40 minutes past finish time and it was still pretty hot when I opened it. So you don’t need to get it immediately. If you find it’s too strong for your liking you can always mix in some more water. But I think it came out perfect and sweet but not crazy sweet.

I poured mine in a container to keep in the fridge and my goal is to teach the almost 13 year old to be able to make this for us all summer long! πŸ’πŸΌβ€β™€οΈ

*6 tea bags, 8 cups water, 2 scoops of sugar

*4 mins high pressure then natural release

~Elena πŸ’–

Books, Family

πŸ–Summer break is in sight! πŸ–Ό

It’s that time of year again…Summer Break!! β˜€οΈ Well …we still have about ten hectic school days to finish here in CT but we can see the finish line! As much as I love a break from the routine, I don’t love the kids complaining they’re bored, bickering and expecting me to be cruise director EVERY SINGLE DARN DAY!! So that being said I still try to provide some casual structure to our summers. My kids know they have to be responsible for their rooms, cleaning up after themselves around the house , some chores and get some reading time in on the daily. But I also like to keep their brains from shriveling up which means some learning needs to happen, but just a tiny bit.

When my oldest finished her first year of preschool her teacher gave each student a Bridge book for the summer. What an amazing and generous gift that was and it’s now been our tradition for ten years! Every year as the school year comes to an end I order my kids each a Bridge book based on the grade they finished and the grade they will be entering. Every (well that’s an exaggeration, so let’s say most) weekday mornings in the summer I will ask the kids to do 20-30 minutes in their Bridge books. When they were little they loved it and they would want to keep going and often even pull out the book during the day. As they get older and pages get harder it’s certainly more of a chore. But I’m here to help and I enjoy having my morning coffee in the kitchen while they sit and do some work.

I used to order on EBay but this year I ordered from Amazon, and they’re super cheap! Most books are less then $10.

As you can see the book is to ‘bridge’ your child from the class they just finished to the grade they will be entering. So the early activities are things they are familiar with and the book then gets harder as they go farther. The back is usually full of flash cards for spelling, math facts, vocabulary…anything that they are working on for those assigned grades. The book is divided into sections and then days. So your child can easily do a day at a time, or more if it’s easier and they finish quickly. There are even stickers in the back if you decide to review their work when they’re complete.

My kids have always gotten excited when their books arrive and enjoy doing them, at least for the first few weeks! πŸ˜‚

I let everyone pick out a small basket or bin at the dollar store to keep in the kitchen for the summer. They each put their Bridge book, whatever book they’re reading, a devotional and anything else in there that they plan to work on daily throughout the summer.

This year my husband ordered for our Kindergartener through her subscription to High Five magazine. So hers was a bit pricier but she got a bunch of other fun books thrown in!

And being that my oldest will be 13 in a few short weeks 😱 and did amazing in her first year of middle school, I let her off the hook this year. But instead we’ve propositioned her with a Reading Challenge! She loves to read but sometimes there’s too many distractions, so we’re offering a little reward for every book she completes this summer.

I wish someone would reward me for every book I finish! πŸ“š

~Elena πŸ’–

Food

Recipe Review: Mississippi Chicken πŸ“

I’ve been on a roll this week with dinners. I’ve been thinking ahead, preparing and trying new things…it’s what I imagined being a stay at home mom would be like all the time but is not at all 🀣. Usually the days are so rushed, there’s so much to do, places to be, appointments, volunteering, activities and somewhere along the way I’ve forgotten to defrost something or didn’t get a chance to run to the store and it’s a dinner fail. We wind up grabbing something out quick or throwing something random together. But this week I’ve had more time during the days at home and have really stayed on top of things. So this week I have a few new recipes to review but I’m gonna start with last nights dinner.

This recipe had me a little concerned because the ingredients were simple but seemed a bit odd together. Let me start by saying that this is hands down one of the easiest crock pot meals EVER!!! There is zero prep work, zero!! And when it’s cooked all you do is shred (which it really just falls apart anyway) and stir. I found this one on Buns In My Oven which I’ve been obsessed with lately. All the recipes I’ve tried from there have been amazing. You can even sign up to have them emailed to you or if you follow on Facebook they can come through messenger. I’ve been printing the ones that interest me as they come in and there are so many! This one is called Mississippi chicken and is an easy weeknight meal but would also be perfect for a party or potluck.

Mississippi Chicken πŸ“

You start with boneless, skinless chicken breasts, I used 3 large for my family of 5 and we have just a little bit leftover. (My lunch πŸ˜¬πŸ€—) Then you add 1 packet of Ranch dressing mix and 1 packet of Au Jus gravy mix. Let me say that I didn’t even know that was a thing! I’ve just always made the au jus from the drippings with some broth, so I’ve finally learned there’s a packet! πŸ˜‚ Then toss in one cup of pepperoncini -which you can buy in the jar already sliced and ready to go, and 1/2 cup of butter (we use Olivio instead). And that’s it!

I cooked on low for about 8 hours since we had a baseball game and ate afterwards, and it fell apart when I shredded it. But you can cook on high for 3 hours also. Shred, mix and eat! I bought buns and we had sandwiches. Since it was super hot I added a slice of cheese and it melted right on top. So I thought the smell alone of the pepperoncini would turn my kids off but nope. The two oldest even decided to share a second sandwich and let me say they don’t share anything!!!

I can’t tell you how good this was in words, you really just need to try it yourself. In the recipe link it says you can eat over mashed potatoes or egg noodles which would probably be amazing also. But I was thinking for a party or work potluck this should be a go-to!! πŸ‘πŸ»

~Elena πŸ‘©β€πŸ³

Fitness, Home

Anyone else read on the treadmill? πŸƒβ€β™€οΈ πŸ“–

It’s no secret that I love to read, I’m kind of obsessed. I feel like there are so many books I need to get to and just not enough time in life to read them all. I’ve written about how I read everywhere…in bed, in the car, waiting rooms, kids practices, pickup lines, traveling, seriously I bring a book everywhere! I’m even rubbing off on those around me. My daughter came home today excited to tell me about two new books she got at the library and I even bullied Erin into becoming a reader πŸ’πŸΌβ€β™€οΈ 🀣 But my family thought it was nuts a while back when I told them I’d been reading on the treadmill πŸƒβ€β™€οΈ

I don’t think it’s that crazy. I mean I’m in one spot and I speed walk more than I run anyway. But I was having difficulty propping my book or e-reader up in place. I knew there had to be something out there that worked with a treadmill and other workout machines. So I found this on Amazon:

Here’s the link: Treadmill holder for iPad/Books

This is a game changer!! I can use it to hold actual books, magazines or my iPad/Nook/Kindle whatever it is I’m using to read with at the moment. And if you’re not a reader but need to catch up on some Netflix shows while you workout, well then this works for you too. It is two sided and each side has a different sized lip for different machines and/or depending on what you’re using it to hold. No matter how fast I go or how high I incline this stays put! And it comes in different colors, but I ordered the clear so I can see through it and still read my time & stats. And it’s under $20 πŸ™ŒπŸ»

I can watch a show on the iPad or get into a good book and not even realize I’ve been on the treadmill for almost an hour! And when I’m reading no one bothers me at the gym 🀣 #homegym 😜

~Elena πŸ’–

Books

‘The First Mistake’, book review.

I was sent β€˜The First Mistake’ a few weeks ago as a pre-release to read. This was my first Advance Readers Edition and I was super excited! A few months ago I had read ’The Other Woman’ also by Sandie Jones and I couldn’t put it down, so I had no doubt that this book would be just as good. I had to table it for a week or so because I had 2 other books I was in the middle of and really wanted to finish them first…. but I was anxious to begin it.

I started β€˜The First Mistake’ and had completed the book in less than a week. I know everyone says “I couldn’t put it down” but seriously that was the it. Something about her writing leaves me wanting answers. I certainly don’t want to give too much away and ruin the book for anyone who plans to read it…because I really think you’ll want to read it. If you like novels that keep you asking questions and curious to the end full of twists and surprises, then this one should be on your ‘to read’ list!

As the book started we are introduced to Alice and get a tiny glimpse into her present life. But throughout the early chapters there are sudden hints about her past and why she is the way she is today, without ever giving too much away. I can’t tell you how many books I have to put down and walk away from because they just don’t capture me. I try to force myself to push pass page 50 before I give up. If I feel like it might go somewhere but I still don’t love it yet, I may even force myself to make 100 pages. But who wants to force themselves to read a book? Not me! I hate to give up on a book, but sometimes the author talks to much, describes too much or doesn’t explain enough and I just can’t take anymore. Sandie Jones gives just enough of a teaser that keeps you curious to find answers. And at some point I thought I had figured things out, only to find out I was totally off course.

Between Alice’s husbands (yes plural, just not at the same time😜 lol) and her best friend, I was back and forth trying to figure out who the ‘bad guy’ was , and I even wondered if I was blind to who Alice really is. This book had me questioning everyone and wondering if anyone could actually be trusted. The ending was shocking and definitely not at all what I expected.

Jones’ writing makes for an enjoyable and thrilling read. I can’t wait to see what she comes out with next!! This ones on sale 6/11 but I checked and you can preorder now on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Let me know what you think! πŸ“–

~Elena πŸ€“ πŸ“š

Food

Instant Pot Lasagna Soup

I know it’s springtime and not soup weather, but it’s been a bit chilly here in CT lately. And with my kids playing sports it’s been freezing out in the fields where they play & practice. Monday night my littlest had soccer and oh my goodness it was cold! The afternoon was hectic, actually the entire day was crazy… so I didn’t have time to prepare dinner in advance. That’s pretty much why I bought the Instant pot right?

I have a pile of IP recipes I’ve printed out over the last few months just sitting on my counter and the IP lasagna soup from ‘Sweet & Savory Meals’ has been one I’ve really wanted to try. Whenever I make lasagna I buy two boxes of noodles and always wind up having half a box leftover. The half boxes are taking up my cabinet so this recipe came in handy to use them up. Here’s the recipe I followed:

Instant Pot Lasagna Soup

The recipe is super easy to follow and most of the ingredients are things we all have in our cupboards. I did use ground beef for the recipe but the leanest I could find, and I used a red pepper since I didn’t have a green one. My IP is the 6 quart so it’s not the huge one. I was a little nervous about how full it was going to be and I’ve never made soup in there before. I was really vigilant to make sure I wasn’t close to the Max Fill line. I’m always scared it’s going to blow up πŸ˜³πŸ˜‚ That being said, I did make some changes and it came out perfect. I didn’t use the second cup of water and maybe used about 3 cups of chicken broth. I went heavy on the noodles, at least 3/4 of a box. I also broke them up smaller than what shows in the recipe picture. Actually my kids did and noodle pieces were flying all over my kitchen! When it was all in and ready to go I saw where I was based on the fill line and added just a little more water but still left about half an inch of space.

When it was finished it was a little soupy but I would say more like a casserole. I added a little more cheese when I plated everyone’s and all the kids ate it. I thought it was awesome and will definitely keep this one to use again. Definitely tastes like lasagna!

~Elena πŸ’–πŸ‘©β€πŸ³

Fitness

May Challenge: Abs πŸŽ‰

The votes are in and it sounds like we are doing an Ab Challenge for the month of May!! Who’s excited??? 😳😬 πŸ™‹πŸΌβ€β™€οΈ

Seriously though, in the past I’ve always been more motivated to do these when I know I’m not doing it alone. Accountability! And the last few summers I’ve done challenges every spring and really notice the difference, plus it keeps me motivated even after the challenge is over. I also print them out and keep them in our workout room to reuse and my kids even pull them out from time to time.

I switched up the exercises a bit this time. I wanted to make sure we are hitting different areas instead of just focusing on the middle section. I also threw in a rest day after every third day but sometimes I move those around for myself depending on my schedule for that week. You can switch things up also and make things harder by adding weights. I usually use a 10 lb medicine ball for the Russian twists and my daughter uses a 5lb hand weight. So adjust to make it work for you.

Let’s get started. Tomorrow’s the first day! Let us know if you’re joining in.

~Elena πŸ’–