Five Delicious Flavors For Summer

It is widely known that I am a stress-cooker. Not a stress-eater per se, but a stress-cooker. It is highly relaxing for me to turn up music in the kitchen and just create.

Our custody schedule switches to week on/week off in the summer, so it seems that every summer I struggle terribly the first week or two that the kids are away.  Add to that the fact that we were without my stepkids for two weeks straight too and you can understand why I have been cooking like a mad woman!  For some reason, this summer has been harder on me than normal. I have struggled emotionally with schedule changes that have kept me away from my children much more than normal.

The kids are getting to an age where they want to do fun things with friends and go to camps, but if those fun things are to take place, then I have to give up my custodial time for them to happen. I hate to give up my time, but I want them to be able to have summers they will always remember while doing fun things with their friends.

So I have been cooking… a lot.

I wanted to share five of my favorite recipes that are perfect for summer. We keep these in the fridge all summer long and they provide many meals for our family. The two things that almost made the cut were pimento cheese (if you have never tried it, please make the Magnolia’s Pimento Cheese… trust me) and chicken salad (I don’t use a recipe, but my family adores it!).

IMG_15801) Barefoot Contessa’s Orzo with Roasted Vegetables – This is summery and light. I made it this past time with fat free feta cheese and it tasted just as good. The pine nuts and basil make the dish! If you do Weight Watchers, then each serving is probably about 4 points per half a cup. It’s great with a grilled chicken caesar wrap or a turkey sandwich.

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2) Blackbean & Corn Salad with Chipotle-Honey Vinaigrette – O.M.G. There are no words to describe this.  I saw the recipe on Pinterest and thought it was worth a try.  I had no idea how I would crave this… It is THAT good.  The only thing I do that is not described in the instructions is I scraped the seeds out of the chipotle peppers first because I didn’t want the heat to be too intense for our kids. It is perfect!

3) Sassy Salsa – This is a recipe I got out of the Raleigh Junior League cookbook years ago and I use it religiously. It’s better than any salsa you can buy in the grocery store and is great on southwestern salads, blended with ranch for a tasty dressing, or as an added flavor for your scrambled eggs. It’s a simple recipe and the only thing I do differently is I use the entire small can of V-8 because I like the salsa to be more red than pink!

IMG_15794) Grilled Chicken Pasta Salad – I have shared this recipe numerous times before, but it is one of our absolute favorites!  My children would eat this every meal if I would let them. Sure there is a lot of oil and cheese, but at least it’s olive oil! I try to stay positive. I keep this in the refrigerator as often as possible because it makes an easy and quick dinner or a simple after-school snack. I have been making this recipe for so many years that I am not even sure where it originated.

5) Frozen Peach Pie – I am not sure where this recipe originally came from either but it is HEAVENLY. I remember my mom making it when I was in high school so I asked her for her recipe and made it a few weeks ago. PERFECTION. It’s perfect to make a few when it’s peach season and then whenever someone you know has a death in the family or a new baby or something, you can pull one out and WOW them!! Thoughtful and yummy.

I hope you all enjoy my favorite summer recipes. I would love to hear what your favorites are for the summer!

“YOU Are My Priority!” – Words Every Child Deserves To Hear

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We live in Raleigh, but two kids go to school in Wake Forest. One goes to school in Raleigh. One goes to school in Wendell.  I work in downtown Raleigh and Joe works in Cary. Whew….

I ordered my first Mom Agenda yesterday and I am now anxiously wishing away July so I can start using it daily.  With four kids, I have exhausted all ideas on how to keep my calendar organized.  I have used first initials and I have color codes.  I have tried online calendars and paper calendars.  I have found that I do much better with a paper calendar where I can see everything laid out at once.  I still use my shared Google calendar so that my ex, his wife, Joe and I can all be on the same page, but I am hoping this Mom Agenda will dramatically change my life!  It has been tough enough with four kids in general, but this school year is bringing about massive change for our party of six.

Two kids are in year-round schools, so they started back this week.  One is in high school and one is in middle school.   The other two are on a traditional calendar, so they will go back at the end of August.  Our life will be rocked at that time… because all four kids will be at different schools.

Yes, you read that right… four kids at four different schools.  Schools located in three different cities/towns.  I’m wondering how Joe and I will be able to keep our jobs and still get kids to and from school every day.  Not to mention all of the activities that two high schoolers and two middle schoolers have. (Why have I chosen at this time to quit drinking?)

People ask me on a regular basis how in the world we do it with four kids and different custody schedules.  I usually can answer them easily because we have just made it work.  I have got NO WORDS right now.

Until the school years are both in full swing, I am completely unsure how we will get everything done.  Hiring help is usually easy, but not when you live in Raleigh and you are asking them to drive out to Wake Forest and Zebulon.  That’s not an appealing job prospect for a college girl.  Our last sitter leased her car, so that extra mileage was a big deal.

This should be an interesting year and I am honestly tired just thinking about it, but THIS IS IT!  THIS IS LIFE!!!  Our boys only have four years left before they head out of our nest for college.  The girls will be following shortly behind them.

I want to remember every second of this.  We know we are blessed beyond measure to have found each other after all of these years and even more so because our children all love each other so much.  Not everyone gets the chance that we have to spend the rest of our lives with the true love of our life.  So until that day, when the last child hugs us goodbye and walks to her packed car, our focus is on loving our kids and making them our #1 priority in life.

I said that to Crawford while we were on our family vacation to Disney World.  She was feeling sick and so we went to sit down while the rest of the kids rode rides with Joe.  She said, “I’m sorry you are missing the ride because of me” and I replied, “Honey, you are my priority.”  The look on her face said it all.  THAT is what our kids need to hear.  They need to know that THEY are our priority.

Joe will be driving forty minutes to Wake Forest to get the kids to two different schools three days a week and then driving another forty minutes to get to work.  I will be driving thirty minutes out to Johnston County to take one child to school and then driving back in to Raleigh to take the other child to school before driving to work.  Not to mention Warren’s basketball and workouts, Will’s cross country and basketball, Hattie’s soccer and horseback riding, and Crawford’s track, piano, and basketball.

Joe and I will be driving all over Wake/Johnston counties for the next four years, but we will be doing it with a heart full of love and a smile on our faces.  The next four plus years our babies are our PRIORITY.   Does anything else really matter?  No.

Summer Vacation in a Blended Family

Summer is upon us!! In a blended family, summer presents an assortment of planning issues and hurt feelings. It’s tough enough in a divorced family to deal with scheduling issues, but throw another family in the mix and you feel like burning your calendar in the backyard fire pit rather than trying to work them out.

As we were working out custody schedules this summer, it turned out that we would not have my step kids with us on our planned family vacation to Myrtle Beach. The vacation had to be a specific week because we were planning it to coincide with a basketball tournament we would already be participating in. Of course I was not too happy to learn that two of our kids would not be on our family vacation! So I swung into action…

I found out we would have my step kids the week after school got out for my kids, so I started planning. I wanted to do something not too crazy, but fun…. something where we could really have family time… but everyone would enjoy it. I wanted to go somewhere we could drive… Yeah, we went to Disney World.

Thankfully my ex-husband gave up his first week with the kids after school got out so that we could throw all six of us in the Suburban and head south. For weeks before the trip I was convinced I had lost my mind. As I booked dinner reservations and Fast Pass reservations I started to second guess myself.

Disney World in JUNE? It may be hot as the devil! Making an 8+ hour drive with four complaining kids? Not even frequent stops to Cracker Barrel would help the misery! Not to mention to save money I booked a two bedroom condo, so I was fearful the kids would fight incessantly the entire trip.

A week before we left I received a call to confirm my reservations and they had us booked in a two bedroom condo with one master bedroom and one bedroom with a queen bed. I had a meltdown. I tearfully explained to her that I have four kids and that I couldn’t possibly survive the week under that duress. I didn’t think there was enough wine in the state of Florida to get me through!!! She was very kind and upgraded us at no extra cost to a three bedroom condo for our stay. I knew at that moment that everything would be just fine.

And it was PERFECT.

The drive to Orlando was uneventful. We left at 5am, so everyone except Joe slept until we were almost halfway through the trip. Once we got there we were excited to find a gorgeous condo and we went straight for the pool.

Since my step-kids had never been to Disney World before, I wanted them to get a taste of it before we went to the Magic Kingdom the next day, so I booked dinner at the Polynesian resort for the night we arrived in Orlando. I am SO GLAD I did… We had a great dinner and then we rode the boat ferry to the Magic Kingdom and back (while watching the electric water parade). The fireworks started as soon as we docked back at the Polynesian, so we watched them from the dock. After the fireworks were over, we settled into a beach chair on the beach and watched my favorite Disney movie, Tangled, on the big screen on the beach.

I think the excitement and joy of that first night set the tone for the entire trip. It didn’t hurt that we had awesome Fast Pass reservations, plus kids who all like the same rides, and did I mention the weather was actually 15 degrees lower in Orlando that week than it was back home in Raleigh? My step-son even got to celebrate his 15th birthday at the Magic Kingdom. He was wished “HAPPY BIRTHDAY” by pretty much every Disney employee on that day! (I will post more about his birthday dinner soon… it was a HOOT!)

Blended families often face difficulties in scheduling. The key is to not let the bumps in the road cause you to give up. You have to deal with the disappointment and roll with it. In this case, we rolled with it and ended up having the trip of a lifetime with our family. Flexibility is key when in our situation. Since my children’s father gave up his time for us to take the kids to Disney World, I am giving him back that time at the end of the summer so that HE can take them to Disney World.

It’s all about give and take… flexibility… and communication. Who is the winner in this situation? THE KIDS. And that’s all that matters. (Plus I still get to take the kids to Myrtle Beach for the week for the basketball tournament… so I guess I win too. 🙂 )