Welcome to my blog!

This blog highlights all my favorite picks and ponderings. I share book recommendations, yummy recipes and fashion favorites! I throw in some surprises every now and then and share my life happenings and LOTS of pictures of my adorable sons, Joey and Teddy:) Hope you'll keeping stopping by!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Pumpkin Chili to kick off Fall!

Fall arrives on the Paladino doorstep on Sunday!! To kick off my favorite season I've decided to share my Pumpkin Chili recipe! I created this recipe a couple years ago. I thought why not combine my two favorite Fall foods into one fabulous dish! The result was perfection! Chili is the perfect Sunday afternoon meal. The best part is--it's super easy!! I like easy and I like tasty and I've basically nailed it with this combo! 

1  lb of ground turkey (or hamburger, your choice!)
2 cans of diced tomatoes
1 can of 100% pure pumpkin (I use Libby's)
1 can of pinto beans (drained and rinsed)
1 can of kidney beans (drained and rinsed)
1 can of black beans(drained and rinsed)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 onion finely chopped (optional)
1 TBS cumin
2 TBS chili powder
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp salt

Brown turkey and sprinkle with a little minced garlic and parsley.  Meanwhile combine all other ingredients into a chili pot.  Add turkey and stir.  Bring mixture to a boil, then simmer and cook for about 45 minutes to an hour.  Sprinkle on a little shredded cheese and sour cream if desire.  This chili is so delish!  I always whip up a batch of cornbread as a side.

This recipe is super easy.  BELIEVE ME, if it wasn't, I would not make it!


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A last week of summer recipe

I have literally been at Ocean Park everyday this week with the fam until 7:30. Then we rush home and and get Joey ready for bed and by 8:00 I am wiped!! I have been totally slacking on the blog this week. But I do want to share a recipe of the week!! I made yummy BBQ Joes last week and they were fabulous! I made them partly because they looked easy/delish and partly because they had my son's name in them!! How yummy do these look?!

Click here for the recipe! Of course it's from the kitchen of Mix and Match Mama! If you haven't started following her foodie blog you need to! Her recipes are so fabulous and even better-- easy! Today is her foodie blog's 2nd birthday and she is giving away a $100 William Sonoma gift card!!

Happy Hump Day!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Beach Book Bonanza Finale!

It's the last week of Beach Book Bonanza because it my opinion it is the last week of summer!  As soon as September arrives I am all about Fall!  In honor of the last week I am doing a countdown of my top favorite summer reads.  Some of my favorites are ones I have already mentioned and some are not!  This list is in no particular order because I couldn't choose a favorite.  I love them all!
Book #1:
Heat Wave by Nancy Thayer

I just read this book last week in a day!  It was that good, I couldn't put it down.  Joey took a nice long 3 hour nap and I wasn't feeling well because I caught my husband's summer cold, so I plopped down on the couch and read the afternoon away and then I read the evening away after putting Joe to bed.  Nancy Thayer does a wonderful job weaving together a story that contains so many elements and characters that truly engage the reader. 
The book deals with:
loss of a husband
loss of freindships
moody teenage daughters

How can you not read a book so compellingly relatable!? It is worth a trip to the library to finish off the summer with a little heat wave:)

Book #2:
Sweet Salt Air by Barbara Delinsky

I already reviewed this book a couple of weeks ago, but I have a confession to make.  I wasn't completely finished!  It was just so good while I was reading it I got overly excited and felt like I neded to recommend it!  But after finishing, I realizied that my review didn't do it justice because I ended up loving it that much more.  I actually fell in love with a character.  I'm pretty sure Andrew wouldn't be jealous because let's face it, he has no competiton.  The guy is entirely fictional.  CLick here for the review!

Book #3:
Blue Bistro by Elin Hilderbrand

Elin Hilderbrand is the queen of the summer read!  Click here for my thoughts on Elin.  For a great review of Blue Bistro click here!  Blue Bistro is Miss Hilderbrand's favorite book she wrote!  How do I know?  She told me!  At a book talk I was able to attend!
Book #4:
Summer Sisters by Judy Blume

This is the quintessential summer read!  And who doesn't love Judy Blume?? Click here for my original post.
Book #5
The Best of Us

This is a sultry and sassy summer read! I had never read anything by this author, but I am definitely going to start!  Great characters, compelling plot, fun tone!  Click here for my review.
Enjoy the last days of summer:)
I have a great read for you next week, so stay tuned!!
Pop over to Blissfully Blessed for my recap of our weekend at Ocean Park!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Friday Favorite

Check out Blissfully Blessed for my Friday favorite!!


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Pins of the Week!

I love Pinterest.  Do you love Pinterest?! It's addicting, am I right?? It makes me feel like I have a chance to be crafty.  It makes me feel like I can be stylish.  It makes me feel like I could have a really cutely(that is a word I swear!) decorated house.  Here are some of my favorite pins of the week!
Favorite Fashion Pin:
How chic and stylish is this outfit?! It screams Fall and looks super cozy!  I am loving the whole look.  Click here to visit the website.
Favorite Tips and Tricks Pin:
Ok I have so many of these baby wipe containers around the house and I have been trying to rack my brain for ways to use them!  Well, duh, I should have just consulted Pinterest immediately! Silly me:)  I found dozens of ways to put these bad boys to good use!  Click here if you wanna check it out too. 
Favorite Recipe of the Week:
I made these brownies this week! SOO good!  If you make them, don't expect them to taste like a normal brownie because they don't.  But they are super delicious. And, they have a serving of veggies! Can't beat that.  Click here for the full recipe!
Happy Pinning People!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Summer Salad Perfection

As the summer is dwindling down I am trying to whip up as many summer salads as I can!  I love a corn and bean salad and I have even posted a couple recipes for you, but all summer it just hasn't quite tasted right.  I literally have made this recipe tons of different ways and each time it was good, not great.  Well, Monday I finally perfected my recipe!!  All the ingredients came together in all their yummy goodness!  Here is my final product!

-1 can of corn (or 1 frozen bag)
-1 can of black beans
-I pint of cherry or grape tomatoes halved
-1 zucchini diced
-a splash of EVOO
-1/4 cup of red wine vinegar
-a splash of lime juice
-1 tbsp. cumin (the secret ingredient!)
Mix up all the ingredients and chill!  Delish, I tell ya:)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The summer countdown

I want to start by saying next week is the last week of Beach Book Bonanza!! Say what?! Summer is dwindling down my friends. As a summer read farewell I will be counting down my top 5 summer reads next week! Today I have one last recommendation.  Then I am going to link you up to The Ultimate Summer Reading Guide by Bookish.  We need to get in our last summer reading while we can!
New York Times bestselling author Nancy Thayer returns to her beloved Nantucket in a highly emotional, wholly entertaining tale of three sisters forced to confront the past over one event-filled summer on the island.

Charming ladies’ man Rory Randall dies with one last trick up his sleeve: His will includes a calculating clause mandating a summer-long reunion for his daughters, all from different marriages—that is, if they hope to inherit his posh Nantucket house. Relations among the three sisters are sour thanks to long-festering jealousies, resentments, and misunderstandings. Arden, a successful television host in Boston, hasn’t been back to the island since her teenage years, when accusations of serious misbehavior led to her banishment. College professor Meg hopes to use her summer to finish a literary biography and avoid an amorous colleague. And secretive Jenny, an IT specialist, faces troubling questions about her identity while longing for her sisters’ acceptance.

To their surprise, the three young women find their newfound sisterhood easier to trust than the men who show up to complicate their lives. And if that weren’t problematic enough, their mothers descend on the island. When yet another visitor drops by the house with shocking news, the past comes screaming back with a vengeance. Having all the women from his life under his seaside roof—and overseeing the subsequent drama of that perfect storm—Rory Randall might just be enjoying a hearty laugh from above.

Nancy Thayer’s novel insightfully illustrates how the push and pull of family altercations make us whole. It’s how the Randall sisters come to forgive, and learn to open their hearts to love.
This is the quintessential summer read.  Full disclosure: Everything works out grandly for all the characters in the end.  It is very tidy.  But I like my summer books that way. I like feeling happy and light-hearted at the end of a book.  Nancy Thayer does not disappoint.  This book delves into the unique bond of sisterhood.  There's love and loss.  There's scandal.  There are handsome men sweeping the ladies off their feet.  And it is set on the beautiful island of Nantucket.  This book is basically my summer standard.
Click here to check out The Ultimate Summer Reading Guide!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Must Have kitchen items!!

Good morning blog readers! What a beautiful morning it is! Fall is in the air and I am getting so excited to start making fall foods!! Today's post is all about my top 3 Must Have Kitchen items!! These are items I can NOT live without! This whole paragraph had an over abundance of exclamation points, but can you sense my excitement?! 

Must Have Item #1:
My slow cooker!

Holy moly do I love this thing?! It seriously makes dinner super easy yet so delicious! And I make things that I normally wouldn't make otherwise! I love just fixing up the meal and then forgetting it for hours until it's time to have dinner! Game changer, people! If you don't have one or have one and don't use it GET ON IT people! Some of my favorite recipes I make in my crock pot are:
BBQ chicken 
Beef stew
Chicken and Stuffing
Spinach dip

I'll blog about these later in the Fall!

There are also quite a few recipes that I am so excited to try this fall!!
Side note: I made sure when I registered for my crock pot years ago that I chose one where the lid remained attached when you lifted it to stir or serve or what have you!! Nothing worse than having to take off a steaming hot lid and find somewhere to put it!  

Must Have #2:
Hand mixer

Now don't get me wrong I LOVE my Kitchen Aid and feel very lucky to have one!! Not everyone has a Kitchen Aid and a hand mixer does the trick most of the time! I have been using mine up a storm this summer with all the bundt cakes I've been making. It's also super easy to clean and stores conveniently for those of you who may not have a ton of kitchen space!  The particularly one pictured is a fancy electric one!  The one I have is an older model that my mother-in-law gave us and it works wonders!  But there are tons of new ones out on the market that are swanky and come in crazy colors like hot pink!

Must Have #3:
My coffee maker

If you read my blog regularly than you know about my love affair with coffee! Imagine the money I'd spend if I bought a coffee everyday?!? Instead, I use the heck out of my coffee maker! I tried the Keurig and HATED it! When I taught it was great having one in the twacher's room for a quick cup but at home I like to have 2 big cups and frankly I found the Keurig a pain. Some people swear by it! To each their own! I'll take Mr. Coffee any day:) I've been using my coffee even more now that I've been hosting lots of morning play dates. I make a big pot of coffee ( a mommy must have for sure) and make a yummy treat. Cute, huh?!:)

Now I could go on and on about kitcheny things, but these are my top 3!! What are yours?? 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Friday Favorites

It's Friday again! Can you dig it?? I love Fridays for a multitude of reasons, one being my Friday Favorites post!  Seriously I have so many favorite things to share with you, it's all about narrowing it down to three!  Here are my three favorite things of the week... I've totally been loving on all of them!

Favorite #1:
My jogging stroller

I use this bad boy EVERY day!! My dear sweet friends from college got it for me for my shower.  I was completely surprised and super pumped!! I hadn't originally registered for one because I didn't think I would need it right away,  but boy am I glad I got one!! I have used it since Joey was about 3 months old.  When he was real little his infant seat popped right into this stroller.  Anyways, I have been using the heck out of this stroller all summer.  I try to get in 3 runs during the week and if we don't run we walk up a storm!  LOVE, love love this:)

Favorite #3: 
Polar Seltzer Water

I don't drink soda and besides my coffee in the morning and a glass of milk with dinner, I drink water all day.  Let's be honest, that can get a little boring.  I love to sip on this tasty refreshing beverage!  These are some of the summer flavors that I am taking advantage of!  It really hits the spot and gives me a carbonation fix so it's kinda like I am drinking soda.  Kinda!

Favorite #3:
my dust buster

Words can not describe the love I have for this household machine! Seriously love this darn thing!  I HATE, LOATHE, DESPISE dust, crumbs, messes of any kind.  I use this thing basically all day!  I sometimes just go around dust busting things to make sure dust is not lurking around.  THIS was totally worth the money, you hear that hunny?!
Speaking of, I must go dust bust something.

Happy Weekend:)

Did you check out my "You know you're  a mom when..." post from yesterday?? If not, click here!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

You're welcome

I tried these potatoes and they came out awesome!! And, they were super easy!! Love me my crock pot:)

Check out the original source!


You're welcome:)

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Best of Us-Sarah Pekkaknen

Following a once-in-a-lifetime invitation, a group of old college friends leap at the chance to bring their husbands for a week’s vacation at a private villa in Jamaica to celebrate a former classmates' thirty-fifth birthday.
All four women are desperate for a break and this seems like a perfect opportunity. Tina is drowning under the demands of mothering four young children. Allie needs to escape from the shattering news about an illness that runs in her family. Savannah is carrying the secret of her husband’s infidelity. And, finally, there’s Pauline, who spares no expense to throw her husband an unforgettable birthday celebration, hoping it will gloss over the cracks that have already formed in their new marriage.

The week begins idyllically, filled with languorous days and late nights of drinking and laughter. But as a hurricane approaches the island, turmoil builds, forcing each woman to re-evaluate everything she’s known about the others—and herself.
This is the first book I  have read  by Sarah Pekkanen and I have to say I really enjoyed her writing.  She is very reminiscent of Jennifer Weiner and Emily Giffin, two of my favorites.  The story centers are around a group of college friends and their spouses.  Although the characters are making difficult, and sometimes aggravating  choices, Pekkanen uses her adept touch to keep the characters real, believable and compelling.  The characters were illustrated with both redeeming traits and annoying qualities.  I loved how realistic the people were as well as the life issues/worries/stresses (aside of course from that all expenses paid trip to Jamaica - I wish!)   This is definitely a contemporary, chick-lit, beach side fare that I just couldn't put down and is therefore very worthy of Beach Book Bonanza status:)

If you missed Must Have Monday check it out by clicking here!
If you wanna see the cutuest little nugget ever, then you'll head over to Blissfully Blessed!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Must Have Monday!

Today I am doing a post devoted to some fashion picks that I WANT to have, but don't! Do I really need them?? Of course not! But I think they would be a perfect addition to the closet:)

Pick #1:
A leopard scarf!

How do I not have a leopard print scarf?? I love a scarf! I love leopard!  It would only make sense that I have this combo! Alas, I do not.  I need to get on that, wouldn't you say?? 

Look at all these choices! LOVE!

Pick #2:
A denim Chambray shirt

How do I not have this wardrobe staple!? It goes with SO many things!? I found this cute and reasonably priced one at Old Navy! Click here to check it out.  It's paired with the most adorable printed pants! Gotta have it!

Pick #3:

I have never owned a pair of Toms.  I think  I need to jump on this band wagon, like yesterday!  If not for the cuteness than for the mere fact that they donate a pair of shoes to underprivileged children with each purchase!
 Look at how cute they are?!

I really think I need these ones!!  They would match perfect with my scarf right?!

This is my must-have Wish List!  Hope Santa reads my blog:)

Weekend Wrap-up at the family blog!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Friday Favorites AND Last Day of Back to School Fashion

Today is the last day of Back to School Fashion Week and I must admit, I'm kinda sad! I have really enjoyed linking up with Jenna, from the Fashionista Teacher. She is super stylish and seems oh so sweet.  I am betting her students absolutely adore her!! I have loved getting all dolled up in my teachery clothes so I am ending the week with 3 of my favorite Fall looks!

Look 1:
I just got this sweater and was dying to wear it! These are my favorite black flats, SO comfy!

Just swapped out one sweater for another! Love me some stripes:)

And finally my fabulous new cardi with my gray skinnies. Remember this is the sweater I got from winning the Sugar love giveaway on Pinterest Told Me To's blog! Not like that was an exciting moment or anything!! But click here if you need a refresher:) How teachery do I look in my glasses by the way??

Ok, some quick Friday Favorites!

Favorite #1:
The early morning weather!!

How fabulous is this?! A touch of Fall is in the air!! We know this girl loves the Fall! 

Favorite #2:
General Hospital

This has been motivating me to fold laundry!! If I am folding laundry it's ok to be sitting around watching soap operas, right?? Productive mama over here:)

Favorite #3:
Blueberry Cheesecake Fro-Yo!!
Yum! Enough said.

Thanks again to Jenna for letting me link up to Back to School Fashion Week! It was a blast:)

Have an amazing weekend!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Back to School Fashion Picks!

Day 4 of Back to School Fashion Week continues!
Today I thought I would share my top teacher wardrobe staples!

 Staple #1: Scarves!
 A scarf is the perfect item for a teacher's wardrobe.  It jazzes up any outfit! You can wear it with a multitude of outfits and style different ways.  You could wear the same shirt every week or a couple times in a week and pair it with a different scarf and voila you have a totally different look! I obviously have ever worn the same shirt in one week. I swear.
Here is a shirt that I styled with different scarves and different looks!
Same shirt, different looks! 

Here is some more ways to style a scarf!

Staple #2: a good pair of Khaki pants
As a teacher, you can't go wrong with a good pair of khaki pants!  They go with almost anything and they are super versatile.  You can dress them up, or you can make them more casual.  You can wear them with boots, heels or flats.  Basically, you will wear the heck out of a pair of khakis!
Here is a cute pair from The Loft. Who doesn't love a pant with a little stretch?! Am I right ladies??
Here is a snazzy pair from Target.
Here is an adorbs pair from my go-to Old Navy.

Staple #3: Cardigans
I don't know what flat out screams teacher quite like a cardigan!! Cardigans are a perfect addition to the wardrobe! Great for layering and can be worn many different ways!
Here's a few that are all sorts of adorable!!
Here is one from Old Navy that I am in love with! I am partial to the mint color but they have lots of choices!
Click here for this fabulous sweater from the Gap! How adorable does it look paired with a chambray shirt?!
Or how about this sweet little cardi from The Loft! Who doesn't love polka dots?!

What are your back to school staples?!
I have really enjoyed Back to School Fashion Week, it is super fun!

Have you been checking out the Fashionista Teacher's fabulous looks?! If not, click here! Girl has got it going on.
Don't forget to pop back tomorrow for the last day!

And don't forget to visit the family blog today for A Day in the Life of Joey and the Mama:)

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A Yummy Recipe & A Cute Outfit:)

I love my lasagna recipe for three reasons.
1. It's easy
2. It's delicious
3. It tastes even better as leftovers
I actually don't do leftovers! Once I am done with a meal, I am done! But for some reason, this lasagna tastes so delish the next day!
I originally got this recipe from my mother-in-law and tweaked it a bit to make it my own! The great thing about this recipe is you use regular old lasagna noodles, but you don't have to cook them! Love that!

I box of lasagna (You won't use the whole thing)
1 jar of pasta sauce (I use Newman's Sockarooni)
1 box of frozen chopped spinach
32 oz Ricotta cheese
2 eggs
2 cups of shredded Mozzarella (divided)
1/2 cup Paremesan cheese
about 2 tsp oregano
about 2 tsp parsley
1 tsp minced garlic
1 cup water
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Thaw spinach in microwave for about 2 minutes. Drain excess water.
Mix together ricotta, eggs, parmesan, 1/2 cup of mozzarella and thawed spinach.  Add oregano, parsley, garlic and a dash of pepper.  Mix mixture until well incorporated.
Take 1 cup of pasta sauce and spread on bottom of a 9x13 baking pan. Layer 3 rows of lasagna noodles across and 1 down.  *See picture.
Top with 1/3 of cheese mixture.
Add another layer of noodles.
Top with the next 1/3 of cheese mixture.
Add another layer of noodles.
Top with remaining cheese mixture.
Add final layer of noodles.

Pour the remaining pasta sauce over top and spread.
Add the remaining mozzarella cheese.
Now remember how I said you didn't have to cook the lasagna noodles.  Well the next step ensures they cook in the oven! Take 1 cup of water and pour around the edge of the lasagna all the way around the pan.
Tightly secure tin foil over the pan.
Place in oven and cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Take out and let sit for 15 minutes.
The beauty of this recipe is that you can make it ahead of time and pop it in the oven when you are ready!
In all the excitement of getting the dinner all ready, I forgot to take a picture of the final product. Shame on me! I assure you, it looked as delicious as it tasted:)

Ok, today is Day 3 of my Back to School Fashion link up with Fashionista Teacher!
Click here to see Day 1
Here for Day 2.
Here's today's look.

Love me a scarf!

Don't forget to check out the family blog today:)

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Summer Reads for Kids! And Back to School Fashion Day 2!

Today is Day 2 of Back to School Fashion Week!  I am excited to be linking up with the Fashionista Teacher again today because even though I won't be going back to school, I miss all my teacher clothes!  So this is fun!

The thing that I love about this dress-besides it's vibrant green color and its cozy fit-is that it has pockets!! As a teacher a pocket is clutch!  
Check out yesterday's look here.

Ok so today I decided to recommend Summer Reading for kids!  Most kids get summer reading assignments in the summer and if your kids are anything like my little brothers, they probably haven't started yet!  Yikes! Get on that fellas!

My favorite thing about being a Middle School Language Arts teacher was getting kids to read books!  I honestly think I was pretty darn good at it.  I'm not saying every one of my students LOVED reading, but I think I got all of them, even the most reluctant reader, to tolerate at least one book while they were my student.  The key to getting a kid to read is finding a book they actually want to read.  No kid likes to be told what to read, they just don't.  Which is why I made sure to have ample opportunities for Free Choice.  I used to do tons of book talks about a variety of books in hopes that something would catch their attention!

Sometimes I think parents have a certain conception of what they think a "good" book is.  Honestly, if a kid is reading ANY book (appropriate content, of course!) I think that IS good, right?!

I have a story for you.  A couple of weeks ago I was at the library with Joey and we were hanging out in the kid's room.  A young boy, I want to say 5th grade, approached his mother with four books he had chosen.  He seemed genuinely excited!  The mother looked at the books and said, " These are not good books, you need to choose four good books and you can take one of these."  I think the ones he had chosen were graphic novels.  But hey he was excited about a book, I love that.  He begged and pleaded (about books, mind you!) but the mother was adamant in her decision.  The boy was immediately frustrated and showed no interest in finding any more books.  And I know this mom totally had her reasons, BUT as a bystander/former Language Arts teacher I was thinking to myself, Your kid, a boy no less, picked out four books he WANTED to read!! Go with it Mom!! If she wanted him to read one of her "good" books, then have him choose just one, and let him take his four chosen books.  Believe me, he will be more apt to read mom's books, if he also has four books he chose, and WANTED to read! Any reading in my opinion is good reading!

Here are some of my picks for 5th-8th grade!


Sidekicks-Dan Santat
When I volunteered at the library this past year, I literally could not keep this book on the shelf!

Lily and Jake- Jerry Spinelli
Love this author.  This book is about twins and they alternate telling the story. 

Ghetto Cowboy-G.Neri
One of my very reluctant boy readers loved this book! It's a win in my eyes.

Wonder- R.J Palacio
My brother hates to read and he actually liked this book!  This actually works well as a great read aloud too!


Legend-Marie Lu
I had this as a summer read for my incoming 8th graders and they LOVED it.  It engaged both boys and girls.  It has action and a little romance.  It has many themes that can be touched upon all year AND it's a trilogy.  The thing about series--they keep kids reading!

The Mysterious Benedict Society-Trenton Lee Stewart
I love this book! I used it every year after I had discovered it. The book itself can be daunting because it is pretty thick, but once a kid starts reading, they get sucked right in! So fabulous.  Also, in a series.

The Outsiders-S.E Hinton

I had to go with a classic.  This is one of my favorite books of all times!  I did this book every year with either my 7th or 8th graders and every kid loves it!  Must be the bad boys from the wrong side of the tracks thing??  I always showed the 1980s movie with Rob Lowe, Ralph Maccio, Patrick Swayze, Emilio Estevez and Tom Cruise.  They get quite the kick out of it!

What do your kids love to read?!