Monday, June 30, 2014

8 {cheap} summer dates

If it were up to me the world would take the month of July off. Kids get to enjoy the freedom of summer break every single year... who decided that should stop once you graduate?? Whoever you are, I'm not your biggest fan.

The good part is that longer days means more time to get out and enjoy whether you're working or not. Here are eight easy, cheap dates that will make your summer a little more enjoyable. Luke and I will be taking a date a week starting this weekend... should be fun! And, believe it or not, that will just about get us through the summer. Tear. 

1. Dinner and a movie: throwback

Who doesn't love re-living some part of their childhood every now and then? One of my favorite date nights was when Luke and I bought lunchables and ate them while watching favorite kids' movies. Drag extra pillows and blankets to the tv room to get comfortable. Rent an old favorite (Little Rascals) or a current favorite (Despicable Me anyone?) and relax in your extra comfy space. Don't forget sugary cereal or indulgent ice cream sundaes!

2Screen on the green

I'd venture to say that most cities have outdoor movie festivals/events each summer. Check your local area for the schedule at the beginning of the summer and find the date and movie that work best. Pack a picnic, blanket and enjoy! (This post is meant for making food for other people but several of the dishes are pack-able and picnic ready). 

3. BBQ taste test

'Tis the season of cookouts. Find three  bbq sauce recipes that look good and make a small batch of each. Have a taste- test for dinner and decide on your favorite. Once you've found 'the one' make another batch or two and store for future summer cookouts or gifts

4. Create and update your bucket list

Tape a few pieces of paper together to make a long scroll (or cut out strips of card-stock or use a journal) and write out your bucket lists. Talk about all the things that you're excited to do in life and make plans! Pick three from each list and set a goal to accomplish them by the end of the year. 

5. Getaway for a Day

Take a day trip to the beach... Or lake or river or other body of water. Is there a better way to spend a warm summer day?? Make sandwiches, a mix CD and pack some snacks. Bring your towels, sunscreen, cooler and book. Enjoy an early morning drive so you can beat traffic-- opt for sunrise if you're feeling especially adventurous. 

6. DIY/ Yard Sale Adventures

We live in a small apartment in a well- to- do area with lots of big houses. This means great finds at both yard sales and thrift stores :) Scour a couple of local garage/ yard sales and each find one piece that you like.  Swing by the hardware store on the way home, grab whatever other supplies you want, and see who can create the best home decor. Bonus: now you have two more pieces of decor! 

7. Play Ball

All you need for this date is a soccer ball and some glow in the dark bracelets. Find a local elementary school or park and venture out around sunset. Use the bracelets on your wrists and on the soccer goals. Get competitive! Create a point system (points for headers, shots on goal, saves in goal, etc.) and see who earns the most points in half an hour. Loser buys slurpees! 

8. Enjoy a (free) concert

Local town squares and outdoor shopping areas often host free summer events. We love to go to the outdoor venues in the area and... you guessed it, bring a picnic. Big name concerts can get pricey but I'm of the opinion that experiences are always worth it so make tickets a birthday gift! (Plus outdoor venues generally sell lawn tickets that are cheaper and more fun). 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Taking people food {part two}

As promised in my post on ideas for taking people dinner, here are some of my favorite recipes to take people (and to eat myself)! 

I can't stress enough how nice it is to include side dishes and alternatives to the standard dinner meal. Everyone loves a casserole and will be eternally grateful, don't get me wrong. But if you're lucky enough to receive multiple dinners and/or not in a position to shop, non- dinner food becomes scarce. As mentioned in part one, opt for alternatives like grocery runs or breakfast foods. 
  • Main dishes
    • Potato soup
    • Chili and cornbread waffles
      • Make cornbread batter and instead of baking it, put it in a waffle maker for a couple of minutes. Eat your chili on top! Take a couple warm and a couple in freezer bags for breakfast. 
    • Pasta salad 
      • Add bell peppers to this recipe and you're set
    • Meatballs and potatoes
    • Pizza
      • Try barbecue chicken pizza (sweet baby rays bbq sauce, onions, chicken and cheese)
    • Enchiladas
    • Chicken salad
    • Couscous salad (I'm obsessed) and sausage
  • Sides
    • Sweet potato fries 
      • Chop and deliver in a bag with instructions to add oil, salt, pepper and bake at 450 for 15-20 minutes
    • Chopped bell peppers 
      • These can be eaten fresh alongside dinner or frozen and used in another main dish (mandarin chicken from trader joes, anyone?)
    • Bag with smoothie ingredients
      • Collect all the ingredients needed to make a serving or two of a fruit smoothie in a bag. I like to use frozen mango chunks, a scoop or two of yogurt, orange juice and spinach. They can add ice, blend and enjoy. Easy!
    • Granola bars
      • Here's my recipe. Wouldn't it be great to have a stock of bars for snacks, breakfast, kids, etc?
    • Banana muffins
      • Another great item they can eat for dessert or snacks or breakfast. Selfishly I also like that you can easily split the recipe and keep some for yourself! (One of the worst things about baking a cake for someone is never knowing how it tastes!)
  • Desserts

Friday, June 13, 2014

Taking people food {part one}

A couple of months ago, when life was really hard, we were blessed with multiple hand delivered meals. Now that baby season has begun it's time to pay it forward! Whether you're bringing dinner to a new mom or someone who needs a pick-me-up, here are four things to remember:

1) Opt for groceries
Instead of making a meal, bring a couple bags of kitchen essentials. Two of my friends brought us groceries (they were somehow perfectly spaced apart) and it was perfect to balance out the meals. They stocked us up on microwaveable lunches, easy snacks and some treats.  

2) Include fresh food

It might feel silly to pack half a bag of apples but it is so appreciated. Without frequent (or any) store trips it's hard to keep your diet fresh.  Replenishing milk, fruit and veggies can be a lifesaver!

3) Make breakfast

Pre-made dinners + no shopping = only dinner food. Help your new mom by packing a bag of chocolate chip muffins, banana bread, or even pancakes that she can throw in the fridge for a quick breakfast (or snack). 

4) Pack plastic

When one friend brought us dinner she included plastic plates, forks and paper towels. We didn't have to worry about shopping, cooking OR cleaning and that was a relief. 

Part two here!