Sunday, June 30, 2013

Perfect Summer Day

When we arrived home from the wedding yesterday, I really felt like just being lazy and lying around the air conditioned house all day. My sister and Justyn had taken Riker over to Seaside to go on the boardwalk rides so the house was all quiet and cool, and a nap sounded perfect. Butttt, it was such a gorgeous day out and Matt convinced me to go meet up with the gang for a little beach time. I was so glad I did.

We couldn't have asked for a more perfect beach day. The air was warm but not muggy, with a slight breeze off the ocean and a bright blue sky. This year we bought a truck pass for Island Beach State Park so we can just drive our car right onto the sand - meaning we don't have to lug all our chairs and bags up from the parking lot, we can listen to music playing from the car speakers, Matt can throw a fishing rod in the surf, and we can enjoy a quiet beach toward the end of the island that's not crowded.

Riker loves the beach. He just runs around picking up shells and filling buckets with sand, giggling and having a great time.

On the way home we made two very important post-beach stops. First, ice cream at Charlie's. There's really nothing that screams summer more than a leisurely day at the beach followed by a hand scooped ice cream cone to cool you off. Our second stop was to A1 Seafood to pick up a few bushels of crabs for dinner.

Matt had a hankering for sitting in the backyard picking crabs for dinner, and it sounded great to the rest of us. A1 steamed the crabs for us, so when we got home all we had to do was lay down newspaper, grab our shell crackers and get to work.

We also threw a few burgers and dogs on the grill. Matt picked up some grass feed beef, nitrate-free hamburgers and hot dogs at Trader Joe's this week, and everyone loved them. Riker gave the crabs a shot, but it wasn't really his thing. He preferred eating a hot dog running through the sprinkler.

Blue claw crabs make such a fun dinner. Not only do they taste great, but it takes hours to sit there and pick all the meat out - which may sound terrible, but it's so relaxing to just sit in the backyard listening to reggae music leisurely cracking claws to your heart's content.

We finished the night off with a fire and retelling of high school stories - Amanda and I have some good ones! ;)

We're all going camping together in a few days for 4th of July weekend, and last night's fire got me really excited for spending a few days out in the woods.

Amanda and Justyn left to go back to Philly after breakfast, and now I'm just waiting for Riker to wake up from his nap so we can head out for the afternoon. Blueberries are in season, so we're packing a picnic lunch and going to Emery's Organic Farm to pick a big batch of blueberries for snacking and homemade jam. Ah, summer, I love you.

Adam and Liz Tie the Knot

Yesterday we celebrated the wedding of one of Matt's best friends, Adam. They've been good friends since childhood and I love Adam like a brother, so we were so happy to be part of his and Liz's wedding day. Matt was a groomsmen, so left first thing in the morning to spend the day with Adam and the rest of the guys. My sister and her boyfriend Justyn came from Philly for the weekend to watch Riker for us, so I stayed home with them until it was time for the ceremony to begin.

And soon enough, it was time! Liz made an absolutely gorgeous bride.

Delia was the flower girl, and she made an adorable one. Gah I love that picture!

We had a few hours to kill in between the ceremony and reception, so while Matt went with the bridal party to do pictures, I went to the hotel with the rest of our friends to check in, have a cocktail and get dressed for the evening. There must have been at least 30 of our friends there plus Matt's family, so I knew from the start it was going to be a fun night.

At 6:00 we went outside and boarded the party bus to the reception. A party bus is pretty much guaranteed to get everyone in party mode.

The reception was at a country club overlooking a beautiful golf course. We spent most of our time indoors but had to come out on the veranda for a few pics of the grounds.

I love unique details at weddings, and thought it was really cute that the cocktail hour included a "boardwalk food" station since that's where Adam and Liz met - over an order of cheese balls. :)

I didn't eat much at cocktail hour since I was bouncing around catching up with friends I hadn't seen in a while, but I devoured every last bite of dinner when it was served. First up was crab cakes with wilted spinach. Can't beat a good crab cake.

The salad was simple but delicious with oranges, red onions, fennel and other veggies.

But the star of the show was the Chilean Sea Bass. The entree was surf & turf - a piece of filet mignon paired with a piece of sea bass - but I asked the waitress if I could skip the beef and do double surf. The fish was amazing; it was so sweet and tender and sitting on a creamy orangey sauce. Sooo good.

Love this girl. :)

We had a blast dancing and taking silly group shots in the photo booth all night. The wedding ended too soon, as all weddings tend to do, but thank goodness there was a karaoke after party back at the hotel bar where everyone gathered. This mama was up pretty late; gotta live it up a bit when you have a babysitter at home and the chance to sleep in late the next morning. ;) Needless to say I woke up this morning in some desperate need for a caffeinated pick-me-up. Matt and I went out for breakfast with our friends Dan & Jen (the other newlyweds!) and then stopped at Starbucks for his & hers Caramel Macchiatos.

I literally never order sweet coffee drinks - it's always a skinny latte or dark coffee with cream - but I was craving something with more flavor this morning so I splurged. Whipped cream and all, eee!

We got back home early afternoon and spent the rest of the day with my sister and her boyfriend, and my little boy of course, relaxing at the beach. Now it's bonfire time in the backyard. It's a good life. :)

Friday, June 28, 2013

Wednesday Weekend

The last few days have felt like the weekend already began. Love those weeks! Wednesday was such a beautiful day, and after work I really felt like relaxing outside and not cooking. When I mentioned sushi and wine, Matt was more than game, so we got some sushi takeout to eat in the backyard.

Seaweed salad is always a must for sushi night.

Sushi in the backyard is way more relaxing than trying to eat dinner out with an 18-month-old who just wants to run around the second he finishes eating (by the way - he totally ate two pieces of sushi, that kid will eat anything!).

Please ignore the pile of kids toys and overturned water table in the flower bed. One thing at a time.

While we were out picking up dinner, we stopped at Redbox to grab a movie. I feel like it's been forever since we watched a movie and couldn't wait to snuggle up on the couch after dinner and Riker's bedtime. We finally watched Zero Dark Thirty, which I've been wanting to watch since it came out. Sushi alfresco, wine and a movie on a Wednesday totally tricked me into forgetting it was only the middle of the week. We have to do this more often. :)

Yesterday the day sped by since I only had work until 4:00. At 4 on the dot Matt came home and hustled me into the car to an important event: the wedding rehearsal of his good friend Adam.

After a beautiful bridal shower and a boys trip to the Bahamas, the time has finally arrived! Us girls chatted at the church watching the rehearsal, then the whole group headed to dinner at a nearby Italian place.

The bridal party for this wedding is huge - I think 22 people in total, so it was a lot of fun hanging out with everyone and getting excited for the big day.

They make such a cute couple. And today is the day! I have off work and am leaving here at 2:00 for the nuptials. I can't wait to get this party started!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Flaxy Kale

The rest of the weekend went a little something like this.

I had an early breakfast of plain Chobani with strawberries, bananas, almonds, pecans and a sprinkling of Nektar Honey Crystals I was sent by the company to try. Love these things! I'm trying to come up with a fun recipe for them to share with you all.

Then it was a mom's morning out for a pedicure/manicure and some shopping at the mall. We have a wedding on Friday and I needed to get a dress and make sure my nails were lookin' pretty. :) After shopping I had a quick lunch at home and then we headed to Matt's parents' house for an afternoon birthday celebration for his dad.

I only snapped a picture once everyone was relaxing and snacking on appetizers, but we spent most of the time playing in the pool like little kids. It was HOT out and the pool felt great. After pooltime we headed inside for a dinner of barbecued chicken, grilled garlic shrimp, roasted parmesan cauliflower, green beans and salad.

I stayed on the straight & narrow through apps and dinner, but I splurged on a Dairy Queen Saucer for dessert.

Yum. Gotta love a non-traditional birthday cake!

The night ended with story time and bedtime songs with Riker. How cute are they together?


So we're in the middle of a heat wave here and, not that I'm complaining, but 95 degree days with 100% humidity just make my appetite totally deflate. For the last two days I've been living on smoothies, salads and sun tea. Cold all the way!

Enter the return of the Massaged Kale Salad. A giant bowl of greens massaged with oil and topped with broccoli, carrots and coconut broiled shrimp. I normally massage the kale with olive or sesame oil, but this time I used flax seed oil and it tasted awesome.

Matt loves this salad. He says every time he eats it he feels like he's fueling up on nutrients and vitamins and he just feels healthier as he chews. ;) Good ole kale!

I just put Riker down to bed so now it's time for some dark chocolate and DVR'd Food Network Star. #addicted.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Summer Salad with Homemade Raspberry Vinaigrette

Yesterday we helped Lindsay and Ryan christen their new home with a big backyard housewarming party. The last time I was at their house they were just moving in, so it was nice to see it all set up and decorated. Lindsay had a bunch of appetizers and a huge spread set up for dinner, but I had offered to bring a salad to share. I went with a classic - one that I've been making since I was in high school and worked for a catering company that used to serve it at weddings. It's a mesclun greens salad with various fruits, goat cheese, nuts and raspberry vinaigrette, and it's always a hit when I make it.

Isn't it so pretty? Love those colors! I usually dress it with a bottle of store bought raspberry vinaigrette, but yesterday I suddenly got the urge to try making my own dressing. The store bought stuff usually has corn syrup and is loaded with sugar and other not-so-great ingredients, and I figured, I make vinaigrettes all the time anyway, so how hard could it be to make my own? Turns out, not so hard!

I didn't have a recipe so just went with my tastebuds and adjusted things as I went along. I had some gorgeous, sweet fresh raspberries that I pureed in my Magic Bullet with a little water. Then I strained the puree in a small strainer to get out all the seeds.

I used a spoon to smush the puree through the colander.

Once I had a half cup of smooth puree, I added oil, vinegar and a few other things, dumped everything in a Mason jar and took it with me to the party to shake up and pour over the salad at dinnertime.

All dressed up...

Check out the full recipe below! But back to the party. When we first arrived I nibbled on some veggies and dip, chatted with the girls for a while and sipped on a Heady Topper that Ryan's dad brought down from Vermont. I was so excited to see these at the party, I savored every last sip!

Matt and I took turns running after Riker, who was feeling much better after his visit to the doc this morning (he has pretty bad allergies, the poor kid) and was finding all kinds of new things to get into.

Oh my god, a hose!

He's learning to share now, and watching him and his friend Delia (Heather and Kevin's little girl) share bubbles back and forth was the most adorable thing ever.

Then we ate, we hung out, we sang songs to Ryan playing the guitar. It was a pretty fantastic afternoon.

I have to say, though, one of my favorite parts of the evening was smashing Kevin's face into a cake. Kevin's birthday is in a few days, so Lindsay picked up a birthday cake to surprise him with at the party. Lindsay's aunt taught me a little trick just before the cake was cut...get Kevin to smell the cake, and then when he leans over shove his face into it. How have I never heard of this before?

I told him the colored balloons all smelled like different flavors and he just had to smell them. He fell for it, poor guy. I even surprised myself on this one - I'm not usually the one to throw anyone in a pool, play a prank or shove someone's face in cake. Good thing Kevin is a good sport. ;)

Speaking of birthdays, Matt's dad's birthday is this afternoon so we have a nice little family day planned. Off to enjoy this beautiful day!

Summer Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette

Serves a party

Ingredients - Salad
1 8-oz. package organic mesclun greens
1 can sliced pears (in pear juice, not syrup)
1 fresh pear, sliced (if in season)
1 large can mandarin oranges (in juice, not syrup)
1 small package raspberries
1 8 oz. package goat cheese, crumbled (I used cranberry goat cheese)
1/2 cup toasted pecans or walnuts, chopped
Raspberry Vinaigrette

Ingredients - Raspberry Vinaigrette
1 cup raspberries
3 tsp. water
1 tsp. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. red wine vinegar
Pinch sugar (optional - not needed if the berries are really sweet)
1/3 cup flavorless oil (walnut, grapeseed, or canola)

In a large bowl, layer half the greens, pears (these should be sliced fairly thin), oranges, raspberries and goat cheese. Repeat layers once more, then top with pecans or walnuts. Dress with raspberry vinaigrette just before serving.

To make the vinaigrette, add raspberries and water to a small blender and blend until smooth. Pass the puree through a small strainer to strain out all the seeds. Transfer the puree to a mason jar or bowl, and add all remaining ingredients. Whisk or shake well to combine.