May Reading Recap

Reading has always been a huge part of my life. This year I am trying to read more fiction, and steer clear of the YA novels that have dominated my past two years of reading. I also read the entire Outlander series last year, and while it felt great to read the entire series, I was looking for some more content this year. One can only dream about time traveling and Jamie in a kilt for so long, am I right? 

You can always follow my Goodreads account here, but I also plan on doing a monthly recap of what I read. I am not a person who likes to read multiple books at once, but I am a very fast reader thanks to learning how to skim read in college. So, I will typically read 5-7 books a month.  

1. Killing Patton - Bill O'Reilly
I am not a huge Bill O'Reilly fan,  but I do love his books. For history reads, they are read quickly and are usually very interesting. This book has A LOT of war talk in it, so you should be somewhat interesed in the Second World War. But, it also has a lot of character development and surprising personal facts about some of WWII famous men and women. I still have some questions about his death, but hey I learned a lot through the read. 

2. All Fall Down: A Novel - Jennifer Weiner
As a mother you will love and hate this book. There will be tears and there will be times where you nod and shake your head in agreement or disagreement. Honestly, I don't think I would have liked this book if I was not a mother. I think it is written well, but I think you have to be a mother to understand how she could succumb to drug addiction in  upscale suburbia. The story outlines a mother who struggles with the day to day monotony of being a mom to a 6 year old, a full time blogger, and a wife who needs to do it all. I also loved this as a blogger. I am excited to read more of Weiner's books and I think this one should be one of the first if you have not read her before. 

I recently started watching this series, thanks to nothing else that peaked my Netflix interest. And while I am still convincing myself to like this show, I found the book extremely interesting. Not much in this book that I could personally relate to, but it was funny and well written. 

4. And When She Was Good - Laura Lipman 
I LOVE this book. It is labeled as crime fiction, and if you are not typically into that genre, please try this book! Who doesn't love a good book about a prostitute who became a successful madam and manages to be a loving and good mother? There are twists and turns throughout the story line, and there are sentences that every mother can relate to. All in all this is a page turner, I think I read it in less than 14 hours. 

5. Among the Ten Thousand Things - Julia Pierpont 
Skip this one. Honestly, it was not a good book. The sentences were well written, but there was no story line. It has been a long time since I have had to force myself to finish a book, and this was a book that I had to do exactly that. I still am not sure what this book was about. The beginning pulls you in and you think to yourself that this book will be about a family's coming of age after the father cheats, but really it is just a novel that bounces around. 

The Perfect, Freezable Lasagna!

This month of #freezerlovefriday has been fun! I love a good pasta dish, and I love having my freezer stocked full of them. Being military, we are often surrounded by friends who don't have family near by. So, when they have a baby or are going through a sickness, meal trains are a necessity. I love being able to grab something from the freeze and sign up for a few days of the meal train service. Which recipes have you made to help stock your freezer?

Also, are grilling this weekend? Need some amazing grilling marinades? Make sure to check out my pineapple BBQ and chili lime marinades, your family will love them! 

I am bringing back one of my original recipes, with a few changes. This lasagna is so easy and so good. Of course, I am using my homemade sauce, but feel free to buy marinara sauce if you have not had the chance to make my sauce. 

Easy Lasagna

The Perfect, Freezable Lasagna!
Yield 4 8x8 pans


1 pound beef
1 pound turkey 
1 cup cut squash 
¼ cup onion
4-5 cups of sauce (recipe HERE)
2 8oz can of tomato sauce
1 t salt
¼ t onion powder
½ t garlic powder
½ tbsp Italian seasoning 
2 boxes of no cook lasagna noodles 
15 oz ricotta cheese
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp parsley flakes 
32 oz bag of mozzarella cheese


Brown meat in skillet

Cook vegetables in EVOO along with salt, onion/ garlic powder and Italian seasoning. 

Combine all together including marinara sauce and tomato sauce. Simmer for 10 minutes and let cool.

Combine ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese and parsley flakes. 

 My noodles were not the right size do the 8in foil pan, so I ended up having to break some off. Make sure to measure and try yours before you start loading them up! 

Spray bottom of pan lightly with Pam. 

Light layer of sauce
Ricotta mixture
Cover with mozzarella cheese
Mozzarella cheese 

Spray a piece of foil with Pam (so cheese does not stick to foil) and cover dish.

Bake covered with foil for 45 minutes.

Uncover and cook for 15 minutes more.


Freezing directions:

Spray foil with Pam spray
Cover dish 
Cover with Saran Wrap completely
Place directions on top and place in large ziplock bag. 
Cool completely and freeze for up to 2 months. 

If cooking when lasagna is frozen, it will require up to 2 hours at 350 degrees. I typically will take mine out of the freezer 48 hours in advance and place in  refrigerator. It is not necessary to unfreeze, just easier on your oven! 

The bottom left was the freezer version and I was giving the other three away, so placed foil (ready to bake) with the plastic lid that pan comes with!

I hope you enjoy these as much as we did! 

Happy freezing,

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Bring on the Men - The Cocktail Hour, Part 2

And now the really fun part of the evening, the cocktail party. We all know there will be a drunk fool, maybe a kiss or two (who am I kidding, I think JoJo will be the second Kaitlyn) and a few surprises thrown in there. On one of the previews for the upcoming show, Jake Pavelka walked in the door, which immediately got my attention. Who remembers the on the wings of love pilot, Jake? Let's hope his train wreck self doesn't beg for a rose from JoJo, because honestly he just loves being a reality TV star. 

First up, JoJo welcomes everyone and let's them know she is there for love. 
Someone has to grab her and Alex is the first one to do that. Of course, the men start throwing the Neapolitan complex jabs at him, while Alex is outside doing pushups with JoJo sitting on top of him. It never ceases to amaze me how petty the men are compared to the women on the Bachelor.

Mr. Harry Potter loves chatting with JoJo. Aladdin, er Ali, thinks that JoJo is the most gorgeous women he has ever met. The running theme of the night is that everyone is nervous and no one is really opening up to her. They may be blinded by her dress, just saying, it is bright and sparkly.

Jordan is a front runner right off the bat (or should I say goalpost) and much to my husband’s dismay he did not drop that he was Aaron Rodger’s brother in his conversation. Listen, he is a lady’s man, but they look good together and can I just be the first to admit I want him to go to hometowns so we can see Aaron. Yes please.   

YES, I love the game cootie catcher. And I am so happy Will brought it out to play with JoJo and hey it even gave him the first kiss (ok, peck) of the night.

Jordan came back to claim what was his and get his kiss from JoJo. She seems to be on cloud nine and instantly recognizes his squat induced butt, saying she must up her squat level. Don’t worry I am sure he is into CrossFit so you can do that on your first date.

You think having a Mariachi band at a restaurant is awkward, try having All for One serenade you all night. Not sure if this is bonus points for Wells or just a good excuse to listen to good music.

There is always a Chad in every season of The Bachelorette. Are there really men like this in real life? And for some reason, women eat that shit up. So, I am sure he will make it far at least until the men tattle on him and let JoJo know he is a horrible human being.

I LOVE that the drunkard is a Canadian. Daniel, keep on drinking my friend. He has the brilliant idea of showing how he looks with no suit on. White Canadian Wasted is my new term of endearment for everyone I know. “Weird mojo for JoJo,” is another favorite saying of the night.

James, James, James. He is at the top of my list. Another Texan, Luke, brings JoJo boots to make her feel at home. Am I really about to have my two favorite guys be from Texas? Listen, I have known enough Texans to know that they stick together, so I am feeling rather confident right now.

The first impression rose goes to Jordan. Of course, her gut leans towards the one who pulled her into a luscious kiss. No surprise there. Cue the rose ceremony.

Remember this is a reality TV show so they need “placed” surprises and they need drama to keep everyone in suspense. Also remember that avid Bachelorette fans have come to expect these, so no one is really surprised when Jake walks in, we are all just hoping that he doesn’t want to be in the running. If looks could kill, Jake would be dead. After doing some research, it appears that him and JoJo are family friends and he is just wanting to wish her well on her journey.

Rose Ceremony:
James T.
James S.
James F.
Aladdin (er, Ali)
St. Nick
James S.
Jordan (first impression rose)

Going Home:
Nick S.

Let's get real, the brackets are confusing and who has time to write all of that down? Shelby and I are picking our top 3 picks for the season. After being right last season (called Lauren from the beginning), I do not have high hopes for this season. But, we shall see! 

Join us next week, where we will announce our picks for the season. 

What No One Tells You About Traveling With a Toddler..

We live far away from family. I have a sister who lives within a few hours, but all other family is a airplane ride away. Needless to say our little guy has become quite the frequent flyer, he even has his own frequent flyer number (we love you, Southwest)! 

Listen, I used to be that person who loathed hearing a loud baby or a needy toddler on the plane. I would throw a dirty look, put on my earphones and judge away. But, guess what? You have NO idea. 

So much time goes into making sure my 3 year old will make your flight enjoyable. I sneak away days before to go to the dollar store, solo, and pick out toys that will keep him busy for 4 hours in the air. I come home and individually wrap those presents, so it gives him an extra two minutes of unwrapping fun. I schedule flights around nap time, to better my chances of him sleeping. I think and rethink what his favorite snacks are at that moment, so that he will have exactly what he wants to eat, when he wants to eat it. I throw the "no sugar" allowed rule to the side, and load up on jelly beans and Swedish Fish. I pray that the episode I just downloaded of Fireman Sam is the exact one he wants to watch that day. 

No matter how much time or effort I put into making sure my toddler doesn't disturb you, he probably will. He won't like the color of the car that I bought from the store. He will say there is too much tape on the wrapping paper. He will decide that he doesn't need a nap on the day of the flight. His new favorite food that day is spaghetti, and guess what? I didn't pack spaghetti. He will eat all the sugar and all the candy and decide that he now wants to jump around the plane. And guess what? His new favorite show on the day of the flight is Caillou, not Fireman Sam

I ask you, solo traveler, older gentleman, mom traveling without her kids, or young entrepreneur on their way to enjoy a much needed vacation, give me and my loving toddler a break. He hasn't seen his Nonnie in 6 months. He is excited to go to the beach. We are flying to see friends of ours who we have not seen in over 3 years. He is excited and he may be a bit moody because flying 30,000 feet above ground is not his usual daily routine. Understand that he may have 3 minutes of unhappiness, but also understand that he LOVES planes and he would love for you to ask him about his airplane ride or let him know you think he is a great traveler. 

At the end of the day we paid for our tickets too, and we are just trying to make the best of a situation that is completely out of our hands. And guess what, we too are annoyed by the tantrums, but we also know that he is 3 and he will get over it. We also know that in the grand scheme of things this is just a few hours out of your day. Put on your headphones, enjoy your book and say a little prayer for us! 

Happy traveling, 

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Bring on the Men! - The Limo Arrivals, Part 1

Hi all! I am so excited to let you know that I will be blogging The Bachelorette this season, with SHELBY! Ya'll should remember her, because her guest post she did for me on Ben's season was a huge hit. She is goofy, witty and an all around gem of  a person. We will be blogging our way through JoJo's season, which is sure to be full of drama and surprised. 

Shelby is bringing you the first hour of the season premiere and I will follow up with the second tomorrow. Going forward we will be alternating weeks, and with both of us writing this season, I am sure you will have many laughs. Until further ado, let's recap last night hour 1.... 

Jojo the Bachelorette

Are you ready for love?
Here for the right reasons?
Great, because here we go again!

With a montage of Ben promising not to blindside JoJo and a meeting of former Bachelorettes where Kaitlyn pretty much reminded JoJo to keep her pants on, we are back in the swing of things faster than you could slide on your unicorn mask.

In the words of JoJo, “Bring on the Men!”

We are treated to a segment highlighting some of this season’s contestants. We’ve got a fireman, Aaron Rodgers’ brother Jordan, who wants to be JoJo’s #1 draft pick, 50% of a pair twin Marines, a Bachelor “superfan,” erectile dysfunction “doctor,” the real-life Aladdin (courtesy of Disney, ABC’s parent company), a tech consultant/gym rat/humanitarian raising both of his brothers and Luke—a cowboy from Texas who attended West Point who may or may not have stolen my heart (but more on that later).

Are you exhausted? Because at this point they hadn’t even gotten out of the limos!

Limo introductions fall into one of three categories: A classic hello/somewhat cheesy pick-up line, a prepared shtick/grand gesture or something that totally and completely falls flat.

Here’s the run-down:

·         Jordan (Aaron Rodgers’ Brother/Former Pro Football Player)—I think his former NFL status is a bit generous, but that’s a conversation for another day. Jordan makes a classic limo exit, cordial introduction and his bouffant looked glorious. I’ve heard rumors he’s a ladies man, but he certainly managed to make a great first impression on JoJo.

·         Derek’s a commercial banker from Ft. Lauderdale. He seemed perfectly boring and if my memory serves me, people from Florida do not fare well on this show.

·         Grant is a firefighter with an exceptionally square jaw. He meant well when he said he wouldn’t fall in love with two people (clever reference to last season), but there’s only one JoJo and the jury’s still out on whether or not he can take the heat coming from her kitchen.

·         James said he’s here for a relationship, not a rose. But this raises the classic question of which came first, the rose or the relationship. Also, for future reference, he’s the James without the guitar.

·         Robby’s occupation is “former competitive swimmer,” which means he could be doing literally anything now. My best guess is applying hair gel. Props for encouraging JoJo to take a bottle of wine to the face. Everyone loves someone who can remember things about their mom.

·         Alex is a marine with an identical twin brother. I am grateful for his service, but I’d love to refer him to a better tailor. I haven’t seen high waters like that since 6th grade.

·         Will is a civil engineer from NJ with flashcards that fall in between the grand gesture and the shtick that falls flat. I will give him extra credit for his dad jokes.

·         Chad is…just creepy. He can mumble with the best of them. Remember that guy who wanted to guard and protect everyone’s hearts?

·         Daniel is a Canadian, with a short tie and a slight vampire resemblance. He is also creepy.

·         Ali is a bartender, but I’m fairly sure he is the real-life Aladdin. Will JoJo become the real life Princess Jasmine? Stay tuned.

·          James Taylor is a singer/songwriter, because of course he is. I think we all know how a contestant with a guitar plays out…is he here for the right reasons?

·         Jonathan is a kilt-wearing half-Scottish/half-Asian gentleman with terrible jokes. Jonathan will not make it out of night one alive.

·          Father Christmas, AKA Saint Nick AKA Santa is one of the better shticks I’ve seen in recent seasons. For all we know, he really could be from the North Pole…and beards are really chic right now.

·          Chase is a medical sales rep with a couple of mustache puns…nexttttttt!

·          Jake is a landscape architect, Jake was not very memorable

·          Sal offered JoJo to squeeze his balls. Oh, Sal.

·          Coley came out swinging with some real estate puns. I didn’t quite know what to make of this guy

·          Brandon is a hipster who said he didn’t watch last season, but I would be willing to bet he’s got a band you’ve never heard of that he just loves!

·          There was a Nick S. because there are always a couple of Nicks. In his case, the S stands for “Splits.”
·          Vinny is a barber who brought a piece of toast to propose a toast to their impending union. I’m just glad Vinny didn’t offer JoJo a shave with a straight razor. I bet the hipster would be into that…

·          Some guy brought a giant heart and asked to be JoJo’s man-crush Monday. Let’s save that for pre-teen Instagram feeds, eh?

·          Evan, the erectile dysfunction “doctor” gets out of the car and asks “How’s it going, girlie?” Talk about bedside manner.

·          Christian, who gets to the gym by 4 am, raises his brothers and manages a telecom firm also finds time for motorsports. It wouldn’t be a season of the Bachelorette without the arrival of a dude on a motorcycle.

·         Wells the radio DJ exits the limo with one of the original boy bands, All 4 One. If Wells stays, I vote All 4 One also stays for impromptu serenades and walks down memory lane.

·          And then there’s Luke, who arrives on a real-life unicorn named Coconut. Props for creativity, authenticity (if anyone was to wrangle a unicorn, it would be a cowboy) and adorability.

On to the cocktail party, where you can bet dudes will drink too much, shirts will come off, and someone will want to borrow JoJo for “just a sec.” 

Check back tomorrow for the cocktail party recap! 


The Perfect, Freezable, Baked Spaghetti Recipe!

When we got married, I made 5 different recipes on rotation. Remember, I was the ripe old age of 23 and coming off of the Ramen noodle college diet. God love my husband for being patient and knowing that one day my kitchen skills would expand. Baked spaghetti was one of these recipes and occasionally my husband will amaze me and ask for this for dinner. It really is the simplest and most delicious baked spaghetti recipe, ever! 

You won't see any vegetables in this recipe, because the my homemade spaghetti sauce is loaded with them. If you have not made my freezable spaghetti sauce, hurry and make a big batch. If you have not made the sauce, use plain old store bought sauce but make sure to add in some veggies! 

Freezer Friendly Baked Spaghetti

Yields 2 8x8 Pans! 

4 cups cooked spaghetti
4 cups of homemade spaghetti sauce (recipe here)
1 cup of mozzarella 
½ cup of fresh Parmesan
½ cup of panko break crumbs


Grease a 8x8 baking pan. Cook your noodles to al dente, and mix with the sauce after completely cooked. 

Dump mixture into the greased pan. Top with mozzarella, than the Parmesan cheese and than finally the bread crumbs. 

Cook at 350° for 25-30 minutes, until bubbly and hot. Lastly, place under broil for 1-2 minutes to brown the bread crumbs before serving. 


Freezing Directions:

This makes two 8x8 pans, so serve one hot and freeze the second one for the future. You can freeze with cheese and bread crumb mixture on top, but wait to put the topping on until the spaghetti has completely cooled. If frozen cook for 55-65 minutes at 350°. 

Happy freezing, 

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5 Must Have Items to Survive a Cold

You know that feeling when you wake up one sunny morning and have an itch in your throat? You immediately say a little prayer to keep healthy and go about your day. It either gets better or gets worst and lately, for me, it has been getting worse. This Winter, and now Spring, has been brutal on my immune system. Living in Arizona I typically am super healthy with little allergies, but for some reason it has caught up to me. Lucky for me, my husband has been super helpful and we have all managed to get sick at different times. Sharing is caring, especially when you feel like death run over, so here are my 5 "must have" cold remedies!

natural ways to cure a cold

1. Humidifier - These have been amazing for us out here in the dry desert. Here is the one we use for Luke and here is the one we use in our room. When we are sick we swear by the medicated Vapo Steam that you put into the humidifier, but regardless these will help with coughing fits at night. We also like to put a dash of peppermint and rosemary essential oils in them. 

2. NetiPot - My parents are addicted to these things and while the sensation takes a bit to get used to, they really do help clear things up in the nostrils. From allergies to a sinus infection, they will have you breathing easier.

3. Lemon Ginger Tea - I am sure I did not invent this,  but I have introduced this to quite a few people. 8 oz hot water (as hot as you can stand), juice of half a lemon, 1 TBS honey and a few slices of ginger. Let that steep for 4-5 minutes and drink immediately. Do this as often as necessary throughout the day. This drink is a miracle worker, I promise! 

4. Vick's Vapor Rub - I love this stuff! Luke had a lot of stuffy noses as a baby and when I was desperate enough, I read to put the rub on the soles of his feet and cover with socks. I swear this worked a miracle for him every time we did it. It helped him to sleep better and was a natural remedy for the night time sniffles. I have been desperate enough to try this, as well, and yes it really does work. 

5. Zarbee's Naturals Cough Syrup - I love this brand and we have used it since Luke was old enough for the honey. They have daytime and night time cough and mucus suppressant for kids and adults. Give them a try, you will love the taste and the outcome. 

Keep in mind that I am NOT a medical professional, just a mom who loves to share what works for my family. I hope some of these work for you too. What are your favorite cold remedies? 

Happy healing, 

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Happy National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day!

Ya'll, we love a good chocolate chip cookie. We make a batch at least 2-3 times a month and we LOVE to share the goodies. Luke and I love making them together, and while his favorite part is taste testing the batter before we put the egg in, my favorite part is when they come out of the oven. 

the best chocolate chip cookies

To celebrate this epic holiday, I wanted to share with you my chocolate chip cookie recipe. The recipe is adapted from the original Nestle Toll House recipe, but I add in a few ingredients to make the cookies even better! 
Hope you get to celebrate today, with your little ones in the kitchen.  

The BEST Chocolate Chip Cookies!


2 ¼ cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 ¼ cup butter
¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 ½ cups chocolate chips


Preheat Oven to 350°

Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. 

Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. 

Gradually beat in flour mixture. Add chocolate chips and hand stir until well mixed. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto baking sheets, lined with parchment paper. 

Bake for 8-9 minutes, let cool on cookie sheets for 2 minutes and remove to wire rack to continue cooling! 

semibalancedmama cookies

Happy baking,