Meal Prep Hack

As a busy mom, my meal planning and prepping is constantly evolving. I find that it’s hard to prep too many days of the same meal at one time because I like variety in my meals. I’ve also spent whole Sundays cooking food for the week and then ended up making a frozen pizza for dinner because I’m so over being in the kitchen. What’s a girl to do?

For this week’s meal prep, I used three recipes to make enough food to both feed my family for Sunday dinner and prep four lunches for the week – two for me and two for my husband. Combined with a couple of salads and one meal out during the week, these meals will get us through the workweek eating healthy.

First, I prepped my sweet potatoes by dicing them into chunks about 1/2″ wide, then tossing them in vegetable oil and salt. I roasted them in a 450-degree oven while I went to work prepping my proteins. I cut a pound of chicken breasts into about 1″ chunks then tossed in oil and cajun seasoning before arranging them in one layer in a glass baking dish. Next, I peeled a pound of shrimp and placed them in one layer into a different glass baking dish, then drizzled with oil and topped with salt and pepper. I popped the two baking dishes into the oven and grabbed a couple heads of broccoli. I chopped the broccoli florets into small pieces, drizzled with some oil and sprinkles with salt and pepper, then into the oven they went!

While everything was cooking in the oven, I sliced my leftover broccoli stalks and made a quick slaw with some diced almonds, chopped grapes, 1/4 cup of mayo and 2 tbsp. of apple cider vinegar.  I put a package of Green Giant zucchini noodles in the microwave to cook, then mixed up my sauce for the shrimp and zucchini noodles – 2 tbsp. mayo and 1 tsp. diced chipotle peppers in adobo.

Once everything was cooked, I packed up four lunch containers with a little bit of everything in each, then we enjoyed a delicious dinner from everything that was cooked. The kids enjoyed the cajun chicken, roasted sweet potatoes and the shrimp and zucchini noodles (they aren’t big on green vegetables – more roasted broccoli for us grownups!).

 

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New York Comic Con Trip Win

If you’ve read some of my posts about how I enter and win contests and sweepstakes, you’ve seen some of my trip wins. Being a “sweeper” as a hobby is definitely full of adventure, especially when winning involves my favorite thing: travel!

Recently I was notified that I was one of the lucky winners of the Lipton Brisk New York Comic Con sweepstakes. The prize was a three-night trip to New York to attend Comic Con, including flights, hotel, ground transportation, Comic Con tickets, some spending money and a gift bag. If you’re not familiar with a comic convention, or comic con, this is typically a multi-day event where various comic book authors and artists and other vendors come together to celebrate fandom of all types. San Diego Comic Con is the largest in the U.S., but New York’s annual event takes a close second. Expanding from its original focus on comics, NYCC offered panels from actors, actresses, writers, showrunners, authors and other people involved with some of the hottest movies, tv shows and books.

Over three days and a handful of different venues, my husband and I got to take in panels on some of our favorite shows and even see the first episodes from new seasons for some. We also visited the show floor, where there were plenty of vendors and interesting experiences, plus attendees dressed in their cosplay best. From independent artists creating graphic novels and comics, to hand-painted items to fragrance oils and vintage deadstock music memorabilia, there was plenty of shopping. NYCC was definitely an experience – it was crowded, but totally fun!

 

 

Holy Grail Moisturizer

As a product junkie and skincare fanatic, I’ve tried numerous skincare products and routines since my early teens. Moving into my 40’s, I’ve tried to change up my regimen to include a serum morning and night and a little bit heavier of a moisturizer, preferably with anti-aging benefits. I’d tried samples of some Perricone MD moisturizers before, but they were so tiny I could only try them for a day or two.

Thanks to Influenster, I was able to receive a recent VoxBox featuring Perricone MD’s Face Finishing & Firming Moisturizer. This lightly rose-scented cream is hydrating but not too rich. It smooths, plumps and firms skin and is perfect for daytime use. I’ve been using it now for over a week and I can definitely tell the difference. My skin is clear, moisturized and healthy-looking. Some of the fine lines around my eyes have been smoothed out and my face just feels soft and smooth.

If you’re looking for a good anti-aging moisturizer, definitely give this one by Dr. Perricone a try! You can find the product at Sephora, who currently has several excellent coupon codesfor some extra freebies.

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Shrimp and Green Bean Skillet

With three kids, a husband and a full-time job, finding quick and easy dinner recipes is super important. I’ve found the quickest options include frozen or pre-packaged items. My go-to’s are store brand organic frozen veggies. For this skillet, you’ll need a pound of raw frozen shrimp, a package of frozen green beans, some oil or butter, a medium onion, a clove of garlic, salt, pepper and your favorite hot sauce (mine is Cholula!).

Thaw out your shrimp – I usually do this by running warm water into the bag and letting it sit for about five minutes, then draining and repeating until all shrimp are thawed. Remove shells and tails and set your shrimp aside. Cook a package of frozen green beans in the microwave according to the package directions. Put 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive or vegetable oil or butter in a saucepan over medium heat, then dice half of a small onion and one or two cloves of garlic.  Sprinkle on some salt and pepper, and let the onions and garlic cook down for a few minutes. Add your shrimp and season with some more salt, pepper and a few dashes of hot sauce. Cook the shrimp for a few minutes on one side, then flip them over to finish cooking. Add your cooked green beans in for just enough time to coat them with seasoning and sauce, then plate and serve! Yum.

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Quick, Healthy Breakfast

I’m always looking for quick, easy, meal-prep options that are also healthy. For a while, my go-to breakfast was some egg whites, salsa and cheese nuked for about a minute and a half in the microwave to cook the eggs. Then I discovered Green Giant’s veggie spirals, especially the zucchini spirals. The quick-cook package makes meal prepping for the week quick and easy. I can just throw the package in the microwave to cook the veggie spirals from frozen, then divide the package contents across a 12-cup muffin tray.  Drop in some onions, cheese, fill the cups about 2/3 of the way with egg whites, then top with salt, pepper and any herbs I want and it’s a quick cook in the oven for about 15 minutes at 375 degrees for a batch of yummy, healthy mini veggie frittatas.

Once the mini frittatas have cooled, you can drop two at a time into plastic bags and store in the freezer. It’s easy for my husband and I to each grab a bag of these to take to work and warm up in the microwave. Voila – the problem of how to enjoy a quick, healthy breakfast is solved!

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Family History Travel in Wytheville, Virginia

I caught the genealogy bug more than ten years ago, and as soon as I heard about Ancestry.com, I knew I wanted to create an account, upload the genealogy information I had and explore more about our family’s history. Over the years, I’ve discovered so many interesting stories about my ancestors and have learned that most of my family came to America in the 1600’s and early 1700’s, including some who arrived as early as 1619.

My maternal grandfather’s family, the Crowder’s, originally arrived in Virginia in the early 1600’s. After slowly migrating from Charles City County to Mecklenburg County, my grandfather’s great-grandfather and his family settled in Wytheville in the early 1800’s. As we learned from exploring census records, he partnered with his next-door neighbor to run a tailor and shoemaking shop. Today, the original building that housed his shop still stands and is a boutique and gift shop called The Farmer’s Daughter.

I had determined the location of several of my ancestors’ graves in a couple of Wytheville cemeteries, so we visited the cemeteries and located them.

On the Saturday we were in Wytheville, we decided to search for the site of a terrible event that happened to several of my ancestors, an Indian massacre. On our way, we went up Big Walker Mountain and visited the Big Walker Lookout and Store. For a small fee, we were able to walk across a suspension bridge to view an overlook, then climb to the top of a more than one hundred foot tall former fire tower. We also got to speak with a local author, Joe Tennis, who has written a number of books on the area, including books on hauntings.

 

We came down on the other side of the mountain near Sharon Springs and Ceres, locations mentioned in accounts of the Indian massacre that killed several of my ancestors. In the summer of 1774, my sixth great-grandfather, Jared Sluss, was working the land near his home. His wife, Christina, had just put their newborn baby, Mary, into a cradle and pushed it beneath a tall bed so the flies wouldn’t bother her. Ever since the European settlers had pushed into the region, various native tribes had taken exception to the treaties in place between the settlers and natives, and had carried out occasional massacres of area settlers.

On that morning in 1774, Jared Sluss had heard his neighbors warnings that marauding bands of Indians had been seen in the area. Needing to harvest his crops and work his fields, and not necessarily believing the rumors, he and his sons continued their work and didn’t even notice when a band of Shawnee or Cherokee Indians worked their way down the mountain and between Jared in the field and Christina in the house. Father and mother were both killed, as were all the children except two daughters who were in town at the time, one son who escaped the massacre to get help in the village and the baby daughter in her cradle, who was not discovered by the natives. This story is memorialized with a marker at the Lutheran church at Sharon Springs, and the graves are marked with stones from which the engravings have long since weathered away.

We also visited the Wytheville Farmer’s Market and had lunch at the Log House 1776 restaurant, both in downtown Wytheville. According to Mr. Tennis’ book on hauntings, the Log House 1776 is haunted, but it was also a great lunch spot with yummy sandwiches and a kids’ menu. For dinner, we enjoyed El Puerto Mexican restaurant. According to locals, this was the best Mexican place in town, and it did not disappoint.

We stayed at the Ramada Wytheville, which was a great choice for families. It had an outdoor pool and a delicious breakfast buffet, with affordable, clean rooms and a great staff. This was a great summer weekend getaway to explore our family history!

 

Beach Adventure

For a fun, off-the-beaten-path adventure, my husband and I reserved a night at False Cape State Park, Virginia’s southernmost state park. This rustic park offers primitive camping on a deserted, remote beach or inland. False Cape is on the southern edge of the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, and you have to hike or bike the 3.5 miles through the Refuge to get into the park. Campers need to bring in water as there is only potable water at the Visitor’s Center. You should also be aware of the various types of wildlife, including venomous snakes. Cottonmouths (also known as water moccasins) are abundant – we saw five on our hikes into and out of the park.

To get to our beachfront campsite, our full hike was about 7 miles each way. Despite the hazards and long hike, the experience of being the only ones camping on a deserted beach and watching the full moon rise from the ocean was truly unique.

Within the park, there are various hiking trails, including ones to a beachside shipwreck and an abandoned church from a small community that used to live on the land prior to the establishment of the park. There are also tram tours that depart from the Visitor’s Center of the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge if you’d rather just visit the park for the day. It’s just south of Sandbridge and miles away from the hustle and bustle of Virginia Beach.