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France – Part I

October 13, 2014


A few weeks ago, my husband & I along with 6 of our friends (family) set off for a 9 day get-to-know-France excursion. Ahh-mazing.


I have too many memories, recommendations, delicious meals & pictures to share.

france wine cellar

Our itinerary included a day in Paris, a day in Epernay/Riems, 4 days exploring Provence & 3-4 days perusing in the south of France.  Dreamy.

france views

It wasn’t hard to fall in love with the french countryside. Arched windows, (real!) green/blue shutters, ceramic tile rooftops, bright flowers on the windowsills.  Olive trees and vineyards as far as the eye can see.  Quaint villages, authentic markets, roundabouts abound. Lots of wine with friends in a magical setting. Yes, yes, it was perfect.


First, Paris – the Louvre, bike rides & a fairy tale picnic under the Eiffel Tower.


Champagne region – vineyards and champagne tours in Epernay & Reims.  Poppin bottles. Or something.

france champagne

Drive to Provence (lovely!) which included a long lunch stop in Lyon (more on Lyon next time!).

(Ohh) Provence: market days, sightseeing in the nearby villages, authentic french dining – in & out of home, olive education, hiking the Calanques.


We went on a couple wine tours in Chateauneuf-du-Pape.  I mean, they were harvesting the grapes & we met the winemaker…heaven!  Provence – I will be back.

france wine

Côte d’Azur: more French dining, hiking the hillside to the city of Eze, drinking poolside (Rose anyone?), exploring the nearby cities.

france cote d'azur
A little day drinking trip to Monaco for the super-yacht show (because a regular yacht is just not big enough).

france monaco

It was magical. And, I’m lucky enough to go back to France in a few days. Weee!

As you can see, I had the most wonderful time. Thanks, or merci, to my super-Mimi for watching my 3 kids, & these awesome friends for really making the trip all it was.

france eiffel tower

Now, about that reunion trip…

Evan & Aiden are ONE!

October 2, 2014

I’m speechless.


My boys, my babies, are one. ONE!  12 months.  Número uno. 1.

12 mo lr






I can’t believe 12 months have come & gone, yet 1 year ago feels more like 5 years ago. I blame insomnia for most of that.

Let’s stroll down memory lane (which, by the way, is like riding an emotional roller coaster vs a trot down a quiet street).

Last fall, a year ago, we were like this…


Ugh, I know.  No comments, please.

We just moved to Birmingham; I was large & uncomfortable; my daughter still had countable hairs on her head. A cute family of 3.

October 2nd arrived (37 weeks! The day I said I would have the boys which I apparently willed to happen.). Healthy, beautiful boys.

with boys lr

Seriously, this day is like a distant memory. My mind is trying to trick me into forgetting it ever happened. God’s way of making sure families continue procreating…I will not be fooled!

boys hosp bed

Instantly, we became a (crazy) family of 5.


3 under two.  Crazy, like I said. And lots of diapers.


Fast-forward a year and we’re still a crazy happy family of 5.


Aren’t they perfect?


I remind myself they were mine – I couldn’t fully appreciate how sweet they were then because I was so focused on keeping everyone alive, including myself.

With a little luck and a lot of love, we somehow survived the first few months. Thank goodness for friends & family!


And the boys kept growing (Aiden a bit more than Evan), becoming the cutest babies ever. Obviously.


And then mobility and food and laughs just finally over took us. Personalities abound.


Til here we are today, 12-unbelievable-months-old. More hearts.

12 mo twins

My Evan. I call you Evan the Explorer, always looking for something to get into, (preferably electronics). Smiles for everyone, Mr. Curious, determined, & oh so sweet! You give the biggest hugs & are always looking for a snuggle…it’s contagious.  Remember when I called you my chill little man? Not so chill anymore. Stinker.

little guy

My Aiden. At 8 weeks, I could have never predicted you would become such a sleeper…you have such a passion for it! Same for mealtime (although I did predict that one) and baths/swim fun…approaching them all with such gusto! You make the cutest faces & have a great laugh.  My little man.

little man

My boys.


So many are enamored with “twins” but you are each unique and truly different. That’s how I see you – two different, wonderful boys.  I was doubly blessed 12 months ago.

Happy birthday, Evan & Aiden. Love, mom




Homemade Roasted Salsa (for my husband)

September 1, 2014

Roasted salsa by

Do you ever think back to the previous year to fully appreciate how much time can change things? Last September, I was on bedrest in AL trying not to meet my two little boys. Not moving, not sleeping, not cooking.

Feels like a lifetime ago.  Which isn’t the worst thing considering how I felt.

Not that I’m cooking a whole lot nowadays. I can list 75 uninteresting reasons as to why, mostly relating to diapers & laundry. But when I have time, I do like to make things people really like.

matt addie lotawana bw

For my husband, that means salsa. I’ve made (versions of) this roasted salsa at least a dozen times this summer. It doesn’t last long when he’s around.

roasting tomatoes for salsa

It seems appropriate to share this now that my husband just departed for Lyon, France for the next few months.  Oh, and today is his birthday! It’s an awesome opportunity (follow his blog & experiences here!) and I’m so happy for him. (Happy for me, too, because I’m going to visit, yay!  Thanks, Mimi:)

Lots of things to experiment with making salsa. Looking forward to making much more for my husband in our future.

Happy birthday, honey.

roasted  on


6-8 medium tomatoes, chopped, seeds partially removed
1-2 jalapeños, sliced, seeds removed (or keep some!)
1 small onion (yellow or red), chopped
3-4 garlic cloves (peels on)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp cumin
2 tsp sugar
Optional: chili powder, squeeze of lime juice, cayenne pepper, Tabasco sauce, 1 tbsp of diced raw onion. chopped cilantro or parsley


Preheat oven to 350.

Layer tomatoes, jalapeños, onion & garlic on cookie sheet (veggies should cover the full pan). Drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt, pepper & cumin.

Bake on middle rack for 10-12 min. Move sheet to top rack and broil for 4-5 min (til you can see tomatoes & onions are browning nicely!).

Allow pan to cool slightly, peel garlic, & then pulse mixture in food processor or blender until desisted consistency is reached. Add sugar and additional seasonings as desired!

Roasted salsa by

summer eats.

August 13, 2014
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addie cake lr

Summer, summer. You go by too fast.

What are you all eating this summer? Around here….

First, lunch outside on the cooler days. This will continue into the fall for sure.

lunch outside lr

Cannot get enough fresh fruit. Especially peaches.

Blueberry Peach Crisp by

This guy loves his berries. He loves eating in general (sort of obvious) & is very passionate about it.

Caprese salads for days. Tomatoes from my dad’s garden makes them extra delicious.

Roasting some tomatoes for salsa. Yep.

roasted salsa

These cookies.

best choc chip summer lr

It wouldn’t be summer without a little lot of ice cream.

Fall is my favorite season, but I’m not quite ready for it, ya know??

Shrimp with Whole Wheat Pasta & Peas

August 4, 2014


ww pasta shrimp with name

I’ve been meaning to say hello, share a recipe but life has been busy. BUSY, busy. Moving, (my brother’s) wedding, life in general with 3 kids 2 & under. Phew. I’m tired & happy just thinking of the past 2 months.

The Happe wedding.

matt erika reception

Just happy.

You know how recipes remind you of a time or place? I love those. Food tied to memories are always a good great thing in my book.

This pasta recipe will always remind me of Birmingham. I first made it there & continued to make it while living there. It seems appropriate to share since I just packed up our rental & said goodbye to that crazy year.  Also sounds about right that it took me 6 wks to post from when I actually made it.

Shrimp Whole wheat pasta & peas on

But here it is. It’s healthy and all the flavors blend so well together (whole grain pasta + Parmesan + walnuts). I would actually call it a quick meal, if you time the order right.

(This is what I do: bring a pot of water to boil first. Meanwhile, toast bread crumbs in pan. Set aside & then toast walnuts in the same pan. Shred Parmesan cheese during this time & preheat a large skillet. After these things are done, begin cooking pasta; cook peas with pasta by adding during the last few min of cooking.  Simultaneously while pasta is cooking, season shrimp & cook.  Add the cooked pasta/peas to the cooked shrimp; then toss with bread crumbs, cheese & walnuts. Stir in additional pasta cooking liquid as needed. Serve immediately. Err, that is wordy but it will make sense when you go to make this recipe. It may take a time or two to time it right; totally worth it.)

ww shrimp

I didn’t share a whole lot of recipes this past year. I suppose that I shared any at all (e.g. stayed alive) is somewhat of a miracle. I was lucky to have a super involved husband & lots of trips from some pretty awesome family members, especially my mom.

Shrimp Whole wheat pasta & peas on

Now, the kiddos & I are shacking up with my parents for a few months while my husband trains in France. I can honestly say, as a married woman with 3 kids, I never thought I’d ever again be living with my parents. Well.

Life it cute.

It’s actually going pretty good. It’s kind of like an iron chef cooking competition that involves new unique ingredient requirements (e.g. No hot spices for my mom, a certain number of side dishes for my dad) while those 3 kids steal any possible time to cook.

Shrimp Whole wheat pasta & peas on

We’ll see what I can come up with over the next few months.  For now, I’ll just be glad that this recipe came to be.  Thanks, Birmingham.


1 tbsp olive oil
1/3 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
8oz whole grain spaghetti or angel hair pasta
1 cup frozen peas
1 tbsp olive oil + 2 tbsp butter
12oz raw & devained medium shrimp, thawed
Salt & pepper, to taste
3 cloves minced garlic
1/2 cup freshly shredded Parmesan Reggiano cheese


  • Bring pot of water to a boil.  (Be sure to salt it!)
  • Toast bread crumbs: heat a small skillet to medium. Add 1 tbsp of olive oil & bread crumbs. Toss bread crumbs in skillet for 2 min or until browned. Set aside.
  • Toast walnuts: heat a small skillet to medium. Add walnuts and stir occasionally until walnuts become fragrant, about 8 min. (Just don’t forget about them or they will burn; you can also toast in the oven.)  Set aside.
  • Cook pasta according to package directions. Add peas to the last 4 min of cooking. Reserve 1/2 cup of cooking liquid.
  • Meanwhile, heat olive oil & butter in a large skillet over med. Season shrimp with salt & pepper. Add garlic & shrimp to skillet & cook until shrimp are pink (this should only take a few min).  Reduce to med-low heat.
  • Drain pasta & peas (reserving some pasta water) and add to skillet with shrimp.  Toss in bread crumbs & Parmesan. (I usually add about 1/4 cup of the pasta water to  loosen the sauce. You can add more or less or even drizzle with additional olive oil.)  Season as needed & serve immediately.

*You can easily add more or less cheese, walnuts or peas.  Some ripe cherry tomatoes would be delicious on top, too!

Shrimp Whole wheat pasta & peas on


the (Easy) Cheeseburger Roll, & Leaving AL

June 19, 2014

Easy Cheeseburger Roll on

Just like that, y’all, “that year in Alabama” is ending. I refer to it as “that year in AL” because that’s what it will forever be referred to as. A blip on the radar.  Aka the year the twins were born. Read: the most exhausting-rewarding year of my life that I want to both immensely forget yet forever treasure.  So many highs & lows, only of which a twin mom can relate.

While my husband still has a month more to go, I am leaving.  Peace. See ya later. People were nice and the state wasn’t that bad (it really wasn’t), but it was a….hard year. (Can I say that with a mostly positive connotation?) Have twins and a toddler and the words home bound come to mind.

I’d like to say that I’ve been able to sharpen my cooking skills during this time (ha!) but the only sharpening I’ve done is in regards to mastering the diaper change whilst preventing my daughter from pinning my other son and yet not spilling my wine. Err…

cheeseburger roll on

So back to cooking…fast, yes, my dinners are getting faster and easier to prepare. If you’re above needing fast meals, you may want to move along; my multi-tasking skills may be too much for you & your well-rested state might be too much for me.  Ahh, if my 22-year-old self could see me now…

Cheeseburger meets the Stromboli in this recipe. A little ground beef and diced onion rolled into pizza dough topped with the melty American cheese along with a bit of ketchup & mustard. Yum. I have added a little diced red pepper & tomato to the beef & you can surely add some pickles. Easy.

cheeseburger roll on

I believe if my 22-year-old self could see me now she would say…


…you’re going to be very lucky 10 years from now.

1lb lean ground beef
1 yellow onion, diced small
Salt, pepper & garlic powder, to taste
1 refrigerated pizza crust
6 slices of American cheese
Ketchup & yellow mustard, to taste & for serving


  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Cook ground beef & onion in medium skillet until meat is no longer pink. Season to taste with salt, pepper & garlic powder.  (Drain excess fat, as needed.)
  • Unroll pizza crust in greased cookie sheet. Layer 4 slices of cheese along middle of bread.  Pile cooked beef & onion on top of cheese/bread. Drizzle ketchup & yellow mustard.  Add remaining slices of cheese. Roll bread and pinch together to seal.
  • Bake 16-20 min or until lightly brown.

Tips – add egg wash to top of bread before baking.  Add half a diced red pepper or 1 diced tomato to beef mixture.  Add more or other types of cheese to enhance the cheesiness.

Easy Cheeseburger Roll on





the Blueberry & Peach Crisp

May 28, 2014

blueberry peach crisp at

I’ve always wanted to be a morning person.  Inferred in this desire was a view of the sunrise & warm cup of coffee.  Maybe a nice walk.


Not this crazy-everyone’s-awake-&-loud thing we’ve got going on.

It’s mostly this one…

addie swims

LOUD, opinionated, cute.

Ahh, parenthood.

I’m starting to learn that life has a lot more to offer than what you’ve imagined.  I just finished reading All Joy & No Fun by Jennifer Senior (fabulous, by the way), “And that’s what choosing parenthood does: gives strength & structural integrity to one’s life through meaningful tension.”

I challenge the meaningful part but there seems to be some truth to that.

While I’m still working on that morning thing, I will continue to be the dessert person I always imagined myself to be.

Blueberry Peach Crisp by

It’s (almost) summer, which means we can finally get some great fruit.  At the farmer’s market, too!

Blueberry Peach Crisp by

This means one thing to my husband and I…time for the Blueberry Peach Crisp!  I’ve made this a bazzillion times, technically shared it already, but it’s one of my favorites so I’m going to talk about it again.  There’s worse things in life.

Like not being a morning person.

But, we’re not talking about that anymore.  Dessert-talk only.

Blueberry Peach Crisp by

Serve this warm with vanilla ice cream.

Blueberry Peach Crisp by


While becoming a morning person is still debatable, making this dessert all summer is not.


1/4 cup white sugar
3 tbsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
1 pint blueberries (room temp)
4 – 5 medium peaches, pitted & sliced


2/3 cup flour
2 tbsp old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
4 tbsp cold butter
2/3 cup chopped pecans


  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Grease 9″ baking pan with non-stick spray.
  • In a medium bowl, combine sugar, cornstarch & salt.  Toss in fruit & spread evenly into baking pan.
  • Make the topping in another bowl.  Combine flour, oats, brown sugar & cinnamon.  Mix in the butter using a pastry cutter (or your fingers).  Toss in the pecans.  Sprinkle topping over the fruit.
  • Bake 35 – 40 minutes or until bubbly & brown.  Serve warm.

blueberry peach crisp at


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