Excuse me, Chef?

I had yet another wonderful experience being not only a judge for the high school culinary state championships at Kendall College on Monday, I was also lucky enough to be a taste judge too!

PicMonkey Collage - kendall

Last time I was a “production” judge, which meant I went around the room looking to see how the teams worked together, if they had their timeline posted, recipes posted, knife skills, etc.  Just like last time, it was clear that there were leaders in the group almost right off the bat, you could tell the ones who had no confidence by asking SO many questions of their teammates, and some groups that never spoke to each other almost the whole time they cooked.  I did notice that a couple of the “leaders” of the group repeatedly would ask “how are you guys doing?”  “does anyone need help?” “I am so proud of you!”  Loved that.

Um, you will note on the lower right hand picture above, that ONIONS were a main component of the dish.  It is interesting to me because while everyone is working on the same exact recipes, each and every plate looked completely different.   The menu?  Fennel and pear salad with a citrus glaze and pecans, butternut squash and potato mash with browned butter, Brussels sprouts with caramelized onions, and pan seared chicken breasts with an apple juice sauce, then tiramisu with lady fingers for dessert.

Sadly, of all the chicken we tasted, only two were not overcooked.  The teams had 30 minutes to mis en place, but no cooking was allowed.  We had to dock two cooks who started cooking a bit early.  Then they had 60 minutes to prepare the three dishes.  Happily, everyone finished, which was good.  But there was one dish that all you could taste was salt.  I imagined their team thinking “season every layer of the dish!” to the point that was all we tasted.   I didn’t stay until the end, because it was going to be another hour or more before all the votes were tallied to declare the winner.  The top 6 cooks make it to Nationals which is in San Diego this year!

It was terrific, Theresa who has invited me to both of these events let me keep my chefs jacket, because she said it won’t be the last event I judge at.  Love.  It was just cool to walk around the room in the chef’s jacket and kids asking “excuse me, chef?  Can I  . . . .”   Fake it til you make it, right?!

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So not knowing how long my day was going to be, I never told my twin sister that I was going to stop by.  She’s back to blogging again – this time posting all her WW meals – she’s down 16.5 pounds for the year so far!   So I walked the three miles from Kendall College all the way to her office at State and Madison.  On my walk there, I saw a McDonald’s food truck!  They were giving away fresh French fries and Sprite!   I never thought of a fast food restaurant having a food truck!

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I only spent about 15 minutes there because she was busy, but it’s always nice to see her.  And she just got her hair cut and got bangs for the first time in as long as I can remember.  She was worried about how they would look, and I was like “um, all you have to do is look at me and know you’ll look fabulous!”  Ha!  Great seeing you Jenn!

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Last week I posted the burger I had with my Mom at The Little Gem Café in Oak Park on Instagram:

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Not only did I get 387 likes because, duh – it looks amazing, but I also got several comments from people telling me where they thought the best burger was in Chicago.  My Instagram friend Cindy suggested Au Cheval, and since it’s literally a 10 minute (if that) walk from the train station, after I said goodbye to my sister, I headed in that direction.  I got nearly 20k steps in on Monday with all the walking!

It turned out to be the perfect time to go.  I had only had a Kind bar for breakfast, and little tastes of chicken, mash, etc. for the taste judging, so I hadn’t had a real meal all day and I was pretty hungry.  I got there at 4:30 in the afternoon, and there was one lone seat at the bar – perfect!

PicMonkey Collage - cheval

Thanks to their photo on their website, you can see where I was sitting to get that first shot above:

au cheval

Here is one thing that was weird to me – sitting at the bar, I had a server.  Huh.  Not sure if it was just because of where I was sitting in front of the beer taps?  But it was actually quite nice!  And if anyone is wondering, I did have a beer.  I couldn’t pass it up being at a place that had so many beers on tap!  And while I went from January 1 until my trip to Austin without alcohol, I did have about 7 drinks total in the 11 days I was in Austin.  I had two glasses of wine when we went out to Ruth’s Chris for Jacob’s birthday, and then that beer.  Compared to what I used to drink, this is a vast improvement!

Anywho, online it said that the wait could be upwards of 90 minutes, which I would have been totally fine with, because they take your cell number and text you when your table is ready, so you could check out any of their neighboring bars.  I asked for the single burger, and declined on the egg, because I am not a runny egg kind of person, but said absolutely yes please on the candied bacon.

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I as also fascinated that the burgers were served right behind the bar.  That guy there was sweating his balls off and I imagine he perpetually smells of burgers and fries, which should actually be a men’s cologne if you ask me Open-mouthed smile

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Lordy.  My mouth is just watering again looking at that picture.  Perfect soft bun, and turns out a single is actually a double!  The patties are thin, so there is no asking for temp other than if you want it really well done.  The candied bacon was thick, slightly sweet, and that hint of saltiness with the buttery burger was too much, in the best way possible of course!  Um, you will note that there are tiny chopped minced onions, and I only scraped off a few.  The burger was juicy and flavorful, and I will declare this my favorite thin patty burger I’ve ever had.  I think the Little Gem wins it for me with texture, medium rare and flavor though.  But the fact that had two of the best burgers of my life within days of each other?  Priceless.  I am really going to miss this semi-retirement I have going on whenever it ends!

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Another thing I love about not having a job right now?  Hanging with Hannah!  Yesterday was her only day off of school AND work, and Jacob worked and had school yesterday, so after she homework in the morning, and I did more behind the scenes computer stuff for the blog, we took the dogs on a long walk.  It was near 60 degrees yesterday, not a cloud in the sky.  I loved just being able to spend time with her and not feel like we are rushing trying to cram it in when we can.  I promise I am not choking Rummy, the harnesses and longer leashes were in Jacob’s car, so we had to improvise.  Rummy didn’t want anything to do with the river, and both dogs were worn out by the time we got home.

PicMonkey Collage - pups

Are you sick of my snapchat pics yet?!  OMG, it gets me laughing so hard.  I’ll give you these below so hopefully you’ll laugh today too.  Laughter is the best medicine, right?!

PicMonkey Collage - snapchat

I am sure if Tony were still alive he’d say “why do you keep putting those pics up?!”  And if he were still alive, I’d tell him “because it’s my blog, and I can if I want to!”  Sorry Shelley!  (these kind of freak her out!)

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And last, but not least, I was thrilled to pick up my friend Andie’s new cookbook!   She and I have been blog friends since 2010 when I started following her blog, and vice versa.   She’s not only written a New York Times best seller “It Was Me All Along” but her book was the first book I had read in 10 years (um, turns out I love reading blogs!) and I’ve probably read it at least 9 times since then.  So many passages I’ve underlined and go back and reread to help me stay on track.  “Another plate wouldn’t have brought me any greater satisfaction, because contentment doesn’t double by the serving.”  “That girl version of me learned that I shouldn’t experience discomfort.  That whenever I start to feel even one inkling of boredom, doubt, anxiety, or anger, food would soothe me.”

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I had Hannah take this picture and I put it on Instagram and tagged her on the photo, probably like thousands of other fans did too on the day her cookbook came out.  So I was a bit shocked when she responded not too long afterward!

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Can’t wait to check it out – Hannah already flagged her overnight oats with a blood orange mint topping.  You can check out a few of the recipes she had other bloggers make prior to the cookbook being officially published yesterday here.

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So I think I am doing pretty well with living my life now.  It’s made me painfully aware how much of a home body I had become, not only when Tony was ill, which couldn’t be helped.  But I also realized it’s because Tony was a home body.  He liked going to one thing, then coming right back home.  And going to Chicago?  That was like pulling teeth – and I think the last trip we took to Chicago was back in 2009?   I miss that face! Sad smile

tony and biz

live your life

Hugs!

Grilled Meat!

I had such a fun weekend.   Tony’s nephew and his wife and two kids stopped by on Saturday for a visit.  They were visiting from Tennessee and I am just so happy that they carved out some time to meet me – because it’s the first time meeting their daughter and only the second time I’ve met their son. 

PicMonkey Collage - HB

It’s nice that Tony’s extended family hasn’t forgotten about me now that he’s passed away.  Although Tony used to joke that if we ever got divorced he said that all his friends and family would stay on my side after the divorce!  Can you get over those baby lips, tiny toes and that smile?  The dogs did great.  I was  bit worried and had them in the bedroom with the door shut.  I wasn’t worried about the dogs so much, but I wasn’t sure how their son was around dogs, and being that they were both little, I thought it might be a bit scary for him, but he loved them.  Even had to get away a couple times when Roman wanted to lick his ears when he was on the floor!  And Roman was also very interested in the baby – it was all so cute.   It was a great afternoon spent catching up and I hope to plan a road trip down to the Nashville area when it gets nicer out, so I’ll be the one to come visit.  Izzy and I could do some damage in her kitchen! 

Saturday night also marked the second annual Ruth’s Chris birthday dinner for Jacob.  He turned 24 yesterday.  While Jacob and I both woke up dreaming about their awesome beef, Hannah was a bit apprehensive.  Last year she got a salad and onion rings, and while the onion rings were outstanding, the salad was just okay for her.  But it’s the equivalent of ordering lasagna in an Irish pub!   I was so proud that she actually ordered a shrimp dish, and declared it the best shrimp she’s ever tasted.  Jacob got the 22 ounce bone-in Cowboy ribeye, and I got the petite ribeye, which wasn’t even that petite at 16 ounces.  I brought over half of it home.  But I took one bite of Jacob’s beef and declared it would have been worth the extra $8 to get the 22 ounce ribeye.

PicMonkey Collage RC

Hannah and I need to find a recipe for their cremini mushrooms – the sauce maybe has cognac in it?  All I know is that we were all fighting over those mushrooms.  It was a fun evening out.

The only bad part of having your birthday on Easter is that a lot of places were closed for the day.  He originally wanted to have a Chinese fest, but the two best Chinese restaurants were closed for the day.  I knew it wasn’t going to be too bad weather wise outside, and asked if there was anything he wanted to have for dinner that was grilled.  Ribs!   Jacob’s Mom picked up country ribs and came over and popped those in my oven, while I made pork spare ribs – mainly because Hannah is picky about ribs and I knew she’d like the “skinnier” ribs.  I made a batch of my Rudy’s copycat BBQ sauce,  and we baked our ribs for three hours in the oven at 250 degrees, and I finished them off on the Weber.  I had a hell of a time starting the coals because it was raining by the time I started to grill, but I got it to work.

PicMonkey Collage Weber

I love my copper colored Weber grill I got last year.  And I love how Jacob’s Mom cooks like I do – buying enough food for 10 people, even though we were only cooking for five!  And Roman was trying to sway my Mom into giving any leftovers off her plate, you know, just in case she didn’t want it anymore.

I am up early today because I am actually headed downtown for the State finals for a High School Culinary Competition at Kendall College.  I was there back in early February when I was a guest judge and spending that day around chefs, and the cooking college –   it basically was the turning point in me deciding that I didn’t want to work at my job anymore.   And here we are and I’ve been off of work for a month, I spent 11 days of that month in Austin, and I get to do things like being a judge at a culinary competition without having to worry about work, or if someone else requested the day off, etc.  I am thankful every day that my husband and I were smart enough to buy life insurance – I urge anyone who’s married, even if you are young, to buy it, because you just don’t know if and when you’ll ever need it.

You can follow me along on Instagram (mybizzykitchen) until my next post on Wednesday.  Time to go catch the train to Chicago – hope you had an amazing weekend.  Make it a great day!

Spinach and Cheese Pizza with Walnut Pear Balsamic Glaze

A few weeks ago I realized that Weight Watchers started following me on Instagram!

weight watchers follwing me

I was like, WOW! until my friend Loren pointed out that WW has 342,000 followers and only follows 546, and I am one of them.  Double WOW!  They had asked if they could use my spinach pizza with balsamic glaze in their social media pages, and I of course said yes!  Well yesterday, in the midst of doing laundry, doing computer work, etc., I looked down at my phone and saw all these new people following me on Instagram and I was wondering what the heck was going on!

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Within an hour of WW sharing my party pizza Friday picture, I had 550 new followers on Instagram, traffic to this site shut it down for a bit (actually, not sure what happened exactly, but thankfully my brother Charlie got it up and running really quickly – thanks Charlie!).  Of course, I like to think that the traffic from Weight Watchers crashed my site Open-mouthed smile

Then people started tagging me asking me for the recipe, and like most party pizza Friday nights, I just kind of wing it.  The dough is still my tried and true no rise pizza dough.  That dough is enough for two 10-14 inch pizzas, depending on how thin you roll out the dough.  I like mine pretty thin.  The best part is that even though you can roll it out and use it right away, it’s even better the longer it sits in the fridge.  I’ve left mine in there for up to a week, and just bring it out for 30 minutes before using it so it gets to room temperature.

So I thought I’d write the recipe here so that if you want to make it at home you can.  Seriously, you could bake four pizzas in a row faster than delivery would take!  This recipe below is for two pizzas:

Spinach Cheese Pizza with Walnut Pear Balsamic Glaze
Serves 16
Why order take out when you can use my no rise pizza dough? Just mix, roll out and bake - way faster than takeout any day.
Write a review
Print
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
13 min
Total Time
20 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
13 min
Total Time
20 min
172 calories
14 g
27 g
9 g
9 g
5 g
79 g
356 g
1 g
0 g
3 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
79g
Servings
16
Amount Per Serving
Calories 172
Calories from Fat 77
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 9g
13%
Saturated Fat 5g
25%
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 2g
Cholesterol 27mg
9%
Sodium 356mg
15%
Total Carbohydrates 14g
5%
Dietary Fiber 1g
4%
Sugars 1g
Protein 9g
Vitamin A
11%
Vitamin C
4%
Calcium
19%
Iron
3%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Ingredients
  1. 2 cups flour
  2. 1 teaspoon salt
  3. 1 teaspoon yeast
  4. 1 cup water
  5. 8 ounces shredded 50% reduced fat Cabot cheese
  6. 8 ounces shredded mozzarella
  7. 1 cup jarred pizza sauce
  8. 1 cup chopped baby spinach
  9. 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  10. pinched of crushed red pepper
  11. 2 tablespoons walnut pear balsamic glaze
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees.  I use a baking steel (I absolutely love it and I do not get paid to say that!) so I heat it in the oven.  You can use a baking stone, pizza pan, or cookie sheet.  In a bowl mix the flour, salt and yeast together, then stir in the water.  I actually use my hands to bring it all together.  Divide dough in half.
For one pizza
  1. 1/2 the dough, rolled out
  2. 1/2 cup pizza sauce
  3. 8 ounces of the mixed cheese
  4. sprinkle with 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  5. pinch of crushed red pepper
  6. bake for 12-14 minutes
  7. Once out of the oven, spread with 1/2 cup chopped fresh spinach and finish off with 1 tablespoon of walnut pear balsamic glaze over the whole pizza.
Notes
  1. Check out your vinegar aisle at your grocery store – mine has about half a dozen or more flavored balsamic glazes for about $2.50 a bottle.
beta
calories
172
fat
9g
protein
9g
carbs
14g
more
My Bizzy Kitchen http://www.mybizzykitchen.com/
3.26.16WW 015

I don’t remember the brand pizza sauce I used on this pizza, but each slice came in at 4.5 points.  The dough recipe is for two pizzas, 8 slices per pizza and just 2 smart points for the pizza dough per slice – you could totally skip the cheese, or reduce the cheese by half, add way more veggies – the sky is the limit.  I hope this no rise pizza dough becomes your Party Pizza Friday night! 

So excited to meet my new grand niece today – they are already on their way!  Enjoy the rest of your weekend – and let me know if you make this pizza at home.  If you are on Instagram, just tag me so I can check it out!

Banana Pecan Scones with Dark Chocolate Drizzle

I’ve had such fun days this week.  Wednesday I had lunch with an old field hockey friend.  We’ve lived in the same town 15 years and ran into each other once like 10 years ago at Bed Bath & Beyond.  She gave me her phone number then, but I brought it home, set it on the counter, it got wet and I couldn’t read her married name or the number, and back then she wasn’t on Facebook because her kids were too young to be on it.  Shit, I am not even sure I was on Facebook 10 years ago?  In any event, Facebook brought my name to her as “someone you may know” because of our mutual friends, and we now have each others phone numbers on our cell phones.

PicMonkey Collage - erin

We met at a local restaurant.  And with most good friends you just loose touch with over the years, we just picked up where we left off, and promised it wouldn’t be another 10 years before we see each other!  And my steak salad was pretty delicious too!

Yesterday I finally met up with my Momma.  She has a social calendar like no other and I tried to get together with her before I left for Texas but she was already booked for the week.  She wanted to take me out for a belated lunch – let me first point out that she took me out before my twin sister, which (again) proves that I am Momma’s favorite. 

PicMonkey Collage - momma

She took me to a place in Oak Park called The Little Gem Cafe, and holy balls, was that a good choice.  I seriously can’t wait to go back there to try their other menu items if it is anywhere close to how good their burgers are.   Carrie, I couldn’t help think of your husband and what he would think of this burger!  Carrie’s husband is quite the burger aficionado, and I am pretty picky when it comes to burgers too.  First off, love a restaurant that can cook a burger medium rare.  Mine was perfect, and my Mom wanted hers just slightly pink in the middle and hers was cooked perfectly too.

I am also particular about the burger to bun ratio, how juicy the burger is, the toppings, etc.  This literally clicked off every “must have” on my burger checklist.  Juicy, flavorful burger, diced tomatoes on the bottom so you don’t pull off a whole slice of tomato on the first bite, buttered bun, gruyere cheese (best melty cheese for a burger in my opinion) and what we think is a very subtle horseradish sauce.  We both contemplated eating the whole thing, but were perfectly happy and content eating just half and having a few fries.  Delicious lunch – thanks Momma!  We then walked around Oak Park, but not for too long because the weather was awful – rain, which turned to sleet, which turned to snow as the temps started to drop.  We quickly ditched that idea and headed to a thrift shop in LaGrange called http://www.thehopechest.net/.    It’s an upscale thrift store.  I ended up buying that cute jacket – I was heading downtown for an event and was looking for something exactly like that since my shirt underneath was long. Andrea, check it out, I am wearing both a scarf and a necklace!   It was a fun way to spend the day with my Mom – love you Momma!

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I’ve been trying to network and get my “name out there” any way I can to find a job that I want to do for the next 20 or so years.  When I was at my sisters office a week before I quit my job, I was introduced by one of her co-workers to someone who works at a high end catering company in Chicago.   He was much like me, although he came to the realization much earlier in his life, that the desk job he had wasn’t fulfilling him and he quit his job, went to culinary school, and as they say, the rest is history and he enjoys every aspect of his work life now.  We’ve been emailing back and forth, and he invited me to an event called Thursday Therapy in Chicago.  It’s mainly for wedding planners, but he thought it might be a great opportunity to meet with a lot of people in the hospitality/catering/food industry at once. 

PicMonkey Collage - TT

I had my game face on.  I knew no one at this event.  But I was bound and determined to mingle with people, even if at first it felt outside my comfort zone.  But I thought I had nothing to lose, so why not talk to as many people as possible!  Things didn’t start off on the right foot though – the first several people I talked to were actually insurance people trying to sell group insurance to catering companies.  Huh.  And the next several people I talked to were waiting for friends and had nothing to do with the food industry.  Then the D.J. started to play music, and all bets were off – you could barely hear yourself thing!  And while I know it was to get wedding planners to hear DJ’s for their potential clients wedding, any type of networking after that point was moot.

Strange thing though – I ran into two high school friends!  My friend Joellyn owns a dessert catering company specializing in custom styled, luxury dessert and candy buffets for all occasions.   She also didn’t know anyone at the event, so brought her friend Leanne, someone I also went to high school with.  I had to laugh because Tony used to make fun of me that if went anywhere in the Oak Park or Chicago area, I would almost always run into someone I knew.  So that was fun catching up with them, and while this event didn’t garner any leads to a full time job, it was good practice meeting people and being proactive about my job search.

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Since I was meeting my friend Erin for lunch on Wednesday, I knew I couldn’t go empty handed.  She is still very active with three teenagers and when I looked at her Facebook page pictures, they were all pictures of doing active things together, like rock climbing, etc.  So I knew I wanted to bring her something “healthish.”  I saw on Instagram that my friend Liz made banana and honey roasted peanut scones.  Huh.  Of all the scones I’ve made, I never thought to use banana!  And as luck would have it, they had bananas on the $1 rack at the store.  I did revise her recipe a bit, I made 16 mini scones and subbed in almond milk for the heavy whipping cream, reduced the butter by half and used pecans instead of honey roasted nuts, because that’s what I had on hand.

Banana Pecan Scones with Dark Chocolate Drizzle
Serves 16
Great for a hostess gift, or just a weekday breakfast,
Write a review
Print
Prep Time
25 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
35 min
Prep Time
25 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
35 min
170 calories
26 g
19 g
6 g
3 g
3 g
58 g
119 g
9 g
0 g
3 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
58g
Servings
16
Amount Per Serving
Calories 170
Calories from Fat 54
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 6g
10%
Saturated Fat 3g
15%
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 2g
Cholesterol 19mg
6%
Sodium 119mg
5%
Total Carbohydrates 26g
9%
Dietary Fiber 1g
5%
Sugars 9g
Protein 3g
Vitamin A
2%
Vitamin C
1%
Calcium
4%
Iron
3%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Ingredients
  1. 2.5 cups King Arthur Whole White Wheat Flour
  2. 1/2 cup sugar
  3. 1 teaspoon baking powder
  4. 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  5. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  6. 4 tablespoons cold butter, cut into pieces
  7. 2/3 cup unsweetened almond milk
  8. 1 teaspoon vanilla
  9. 1 egg
  10. 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  11. 1 cup banana slices
  12. 2 ounces dark chocolate chips
  13. 1 teaspoon coconut oil
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 425.  In a food processor, pulse the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Add in the cold butter and pulse until the butter is combined.  In a small bowl mix the unsweetened almond milk, vanilla extract and egg and beat together.  Add this to the liquid mixture and pulse until combined.  Lastly, add in the banana and pecans and pulse, making sure to leave some chunks of banana.
  2. At this point, since I was making 16 scones, I divided the dough into two balls, then pressed them down on parchment paper and put them in my freezer for 20 minutes so that they are much easier to cut into 8ths.   Cut the scones, and transfer straight from the parchment paper to your oven – I used my baking steel that was preheated in the oven, but you could put them on a cookie sheet.  Cook for 10-12 minutes, until they are slightly browned and cooked through.
  3. In a microwave safe dish, melt the chips and coconut oil for 45 seconds until melted.  Once the scones are cooled, drizzle the chocolate over the top and top with a few chopped pecans if you want.  Once the scones sit for a bit, the coconut oil in the drizzle will help solidify the chocolate – it takes about an hour for the chocolate to harden back up.
Notes
  1. The prep time includes the 20 minutes the scones sit in the freezer so you can cut them better.
beta
calories
170
fat
6g
protein
3g
carbs
26g
more
Adapted from Liz from Floating Kitchen
My Bizzy Kitchen http://www.mybizzykitchen.com/
bscones 014 copy

I thought these were delicious.  Hannah took one bite and said “did you make these healthy?!”  Yes, I did!  I think I could even reduce the butter to two tablespoons and they would be just as good.  Mine come in at 6 WW points each.  I could totally eat these for breakfast with fresh fruit and a hard boiled egg and be perfectly happy with it.

So that brings us to Friday already – what a fast week this was!  I am really excited because Tony’s nephew and his wife are coming over tomorrow – they just had their second baby – a girl named Hazel and it will be the first time I’ve met her.  Then Saturday night we are going to Ruth’s Chris for dinner to celebrate mine and Jacob’s birthday – it’s a second annual trip to Ruth’s Chris, and worth the $$ the one time a year we go there.  Then celebrating his birthday on Sunday – can I tell you that Hannah ordered a Portillo’s chocolate cake for his birthday?  Um, it’s only the best chocolate cake I’ve ever had in my life, and insulin worthy!  I’ll need to hit the gym hard these next three days to balance out all the good food I’ll be eating!

Hope you have a wonderful weekend, until Monday, you can always follow me on Instagram (mybizzykitchen).  Make it a great day!

Skinny Potato Soup

Its pretty amazing what you can get done when a job doesn’t get in the way.  The first two days of this week just flew by, probably because I am doing what I love!  Hitting the gym, being Bizzy in my Kitchen, and working on my blog and throwing out my food resume and seeing where it sticks.  I’ve applied for several jobs, and even had a 30 minute phone interview when I was in Austin, which I hope will pan out to a personal interview.  Really keeping my fingers crossed on that one, because it would be the job I would have written for myself!  But I don’t want to jinx it, so we’ll just let it simmer on the back burner for a bit.

I did a full grocery shop on Sunday and it felt good to meal plan again since I hadn’t in a few weeks.  We basically ate through our pantry/fridge/freezer before we went to Texas, and I just did a $30 grocery shop to get us through last weekend.  One thing that’s been interesting is that being home, I find I am tempted to just snack in between meals which is something that I wouldn’t do at work.  I need to get a handle on that, otherwise all my workouts at the gym will be for nothing.  They always say that you can’t workout bad eating habits!

I’ve had some good eats though!

PicMonkey Collage - food

Pretty sure if you put Frank’s hot sauce on anything, I’d eat it.  Well, okay, not everything.  I put on Instagram that I’d eat buffalo liver, but I wouldn’t eat that – gross!  Mom, Bonnie and/or Carl – do you guys still make liver and onions for yourselves?  Ew!

  • I buy prepared chicken tenders at my grocery store, which Jacob has declared the best chicken tenders he’s ever eaten.  Not gonna lie, they are pretty good – just enough crunch of the batter, and it’s all chicken breast on the inside.  Five ounces, or about two generous size tenders comes in at 7 smart points.  I just tossed the tenders in Frank’s hot sauce, and wrapped them in Tumaro’s ancient grain low carb wrap with a touch of ranch dressing – with carrots and fruit on the side, lunch came in at 9 smart points.
  • Irish soda bread – I puffy heart Irish soda bread.  My store had it on sale for $2 a loaf, and my measly 1.5 ounce slice is a whopping 5 smart points, but totally worth it.  I’ve subsequently turned Jacob and Hannah onto soda bread too, and they may or may not have bought four more loaves to stock in the freezer.  But with my egg white, spinach, hot sauce scramble and fruit, breakfast was 8 smart points.
  • I made another batch of barbacoa – this time I used a pretty lean cut of chuck roast and ended up making romaine beef “wraps” with red cabbage, lettuce and light Cabot cheese with 1/2 cup of yellow rice on the side.  That dinner came in at 10 smart points. 
  • Yesterday morning I had planned to do my first group fitness class at the Y.  I was excited because my long time blog friend Erica (formerly of Itzy’s Kitchen) had been teaching it for so long.  The class was an hour long, so I knew I wanted a high carb breakfast, so I ended up heating up Trader Joe’s frozen steel cut oats in the microwave, and topped it with blueberries, strawberries, and apples that I sauteed in 1/8 cup of sugar free pancake syrup – a big bowl of food for only 5 smart points!

The group exercise classes at the gym that are popular have numbers handed out – so once all the numbers have been handed out, the class is full.  While I totally would expect a 5:30 p.m. class of Body Pump to fill up quickly, I thought arriving 15 minutes before class on a Tuesday morning would be fine.  Nope!  All the numbers were gone.  Rat farts.  I found out that the numbers are handed out 30 minutes before each class, so next time I’ll get there at 9:30.  I still had a good workout – my favorite thing to do lately is my walk/job/sprint workout.  I do it at 5 minute intervals.  Running and I are interesting – I hate it the first 20-25 minutes, but then I hit my stride, get my breathing under control.  I held my last “sprint” for two minutes at an 8:00 mph pace!  Gotta love that girl at the gym giving me the stink eye for taking a selfie Smile with tongue out

PicMonkey Collage  - selfie

When I got home from the gym, it was only 11:45, so I had plenty of time to make soup.  Not gonna lie I feel pretty happy to be able to do this.  It only took about 10 minutes to prep, let it cook for 20 minutes and lunch was ready!  Again, I scored on the $1 rack and picked up Idaho potatoes – two pounds for $1.  Roz, I thought you’d appreciate this picture and maybe add it to your Random Heart Project on Facebook?!

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I got my inspiration for my potato soup from Gimme Some Oven – she called it a skinny potato soup, and while I am sure it is, I knew there was room for improvement.   I left out the bacon step all together and subbed in a piece of Trader Joe’s uncured bacon for 1 point as a garnish.  I also reduced the potatoes to one pound, added carrots and celery and used 2 ounces of light Cabot cheese as a garnish – 1/2 ounce per serving, but is included in the nutritional serving of 1.5 cups.

Skinny Potato Soup
Serves 4
A creamy potato soup without any cream! Perfect for a chilly day.
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Print
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
270 calories
35 g
19 g
11 g
9 g
4 g
485 g
672 g
6 g
0 g
5 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
485g
Servings
4
Amount Per Serving
Calories 270
Calories from Fat 83
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 11g
16%
Saturated Fat 4g
21%
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 4g
Cholesterol 19mg
6%
Sodium 672mg
28%
Total Carbohydrates 35g
12%
Dietary Fiber 4g
15%
Sugars 6g
Protein 9g
Vitamin A
164%
Vitamin C
17%
Calcium
41%
Iron
9%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Ingredients
  1. 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  2. 3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
  3. 3 celery stalks, with leaves if possible, chopped
  4. 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  5. 2 cups vegetable stock
  6. 2 cups unsweetened almond milk
  7. 1 pounds Idaho potatoes, peeled and diced
  8. 2 ounces light Cabot cheddar cheese (I used for garnish)
  9. 1/2 cup Chobani plain Greek yogurt
  10. salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. In a stock pot, heat the olive oil to medium heat for a couple minutes.  Add carrots and celery and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.   Sprinkle the flour on top and cook for 1 minute.  Slowly add the veggie stock and almond milk, stirring until the soup starts to thicken.  Reduce heat to low, add in the potatoes, put a lid on the pot and cook for 15-20 minutes, or until the potatoes are cooked through.  Remove from heat, stir in the yogurt and mix until combined.  Garnish with toppings of choice.  The 1.5 cups of soup (which includes the cheese) is 6 smart points.
Notes
  1. optional toppings: thinly-sliced green onions or chives, extra shredded cheese, extra bacon, sour cream
Adapted from Gimme Some Oven
beta
calories
270
fat
11g
protein
9g
carbs
35g
more
Adapted from Gimme Some Oven
My Bizzy Kitchen http://www.mybizzykitchen.com/
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And guess what?  While I just used the green onion for a garnish, I actually ate them and it wasn’t bad!   And after this picture was taken, I did add a bit of crushed red pepper to kick it up a notch, so feel free to add some if you can handle the heat.

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Last week I made a low sugar granola that really tasted like ass – turns out granola is only really good if you add copious amounts of sugar/honey/agave nectar!  But guess who’s loving it?

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This is not Kyle or Lyle – because he’s really skittish if I come to the back door, but he LOVES the granola.  He probably ate a cup of it over the course of 15 minutes.

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And my bed head continues with short hair!  The hair on the left is when I went to bed with wet hair.  The one on the right is from, I don’t know what!

PicMonkey Collage - hair

So excited because I have a lunch date with an old field hockey friend today, who actually has been living in the same town as me for 15 years and we’ve only bumped into each other once in all those years.  Her kids are much younger, so it explains why we haven’t run into each other at the high school when Hannah was there.  Her two oldest kids are in high school now, and Hannah graduated nearly six years ago already.  How did that happen?  You know I couldn’t go to the lunch empty handed, and when I saw my friend Liz make a banana scone, I knew I would use my $1 bananas to recreate them.   Although I made mine a bit healthier, and made them mini, but I’ll be sharing my version of the recipe on Friday, because these are really good – and totally worth the 6 smart points!

bscones 014 copy

It makes me so happy to be Bizzy in My Kitchen!   Make it a great day!

p.s.  My twin sister is back to blogging after taking a bit of a break.  She’s also on Weight Watchers, and so far has lost 16.5 pounds this year – she’ll be posting her tips and tricks on how she eats on WW – you can check it out here.  Keep up the great work Jenn!

Birthday!

Thanks for the birthday wishes here, on Facebook and Instagram.  It’s weird because every year I don’t really feel that much older, but I am considering 48 is the new 35!   While I didn’t get to spend the day with my tiwn sister, it was a good day.  I had a semi-productive/lazy day, and it was perfect.

Jacob had to work later on Saturday so I decided to pick going out to breakfast, which is my favorite meal to eat out.  Usually it’s some type of diner, and there are so many options to choose from, by either staying savory or going sweet with pancakes or waffles.  I stuck to one of my regular breakfasts:  corned beef hash, scrambled eggs, hash browns and sour dough toast.  I ended up eating only half of this, but it was so good!  Gotta love a good corned beef hash!

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Our server went to high school with Hannah and Jacob, so Hannah told her it was my birthday and she brought out a red velvet cupcake with a candle on it – that buttercream frosting?  Um, insulin worthy!

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We got back from breakfast and saw a FedEx truck drop a package off.  My step-son Joe and his wife Lizz sent me Shari’s Berries – holy balls are these delicious.  They say that you really need to eat them within 48 hours and let’s just say we didn’t have a problem with that.  I think there might be one left!  Thanks guys!  It also came with four truffles – sinfully delicious!  I told Hannah and Jacob I didn’t need anything for my birthday.  But they did end up getting me stuff:  a new journal, a wonder wallet, a new saute pan, a new cast iron grill pan that I can’t wait to use, and a sign to hang in my kitchen Open-mouthed smile

PicMonkey Collage - loot

Oh, and a mandolin slicer.  After eating out so much while in Texas, I had no desire to go out to dinner for my birthday.  I decided on Italian beef sandwiches and handmade potato chips for dinner.   Shaved Italian beef is meat Hannah will actually eat!   So I got busy making baguettes, and while the dough was rising, Hannah and I watched Teen Mom 2 (guilty pleasure of ours!) and watched videos on Vine and YouTube while in our pajamas, even though it was the middle of the afternoon.  It was great and I had no guilt about thinking about all the things I “should” be doing because turns out I don’t have a job right now, so this week I’ll have my productive pants on.

PicMonkey Collage  - bday dinner

Here’s is my safety announcement for the day.  USE THE HAND ATTACHMENT to save your fingers from being sliced.  I know better too, which is partly funny.  I had one last bit of potato to slice, and thought “I’ll just do this last piece without it” and quickly sliced two fingers pretty badly.  I could have easily sliced off the ends of my fingers, so I guess it could have been worse.  I also made potato chips using both red potatoes and Idaho potatoes – Idaho potatoes pictured above were hands down the better choice.   I had just cleaned out the deep fryer too, so these were extra crispy and light with the new oil and not greasy at all.

I am sure I’ve mentioned it before, but for some reason I see 3:19 on a clock nearly every day – and March 19th being my birthday, it’s especially special to see it on my actual birthday.   I can be anywhere, driving down the street and see it on a bank sign, in the car, at work, in the kitchen – anywhere.  Hannah and I were out thrifting for a bit on Saturday and I looked down at my phone, and saw 3:19!   I love that picture of Tony – I’ve had that picture as my screen saver for about the last six months.

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It’s hard to believe that this is my second birthday without him already.  He used to make me the best breakfasts – it was his favorite meal to cook for me.  He could just take a look in the fridge and come up with the most amazing breakfasts, even if he got pissed off most of the time because he couldn’t find anything in the kitchen.  I finally figured out that after he chose his ingredients, I’d ask him what tools he’d need, and pull them all out for him.  Not a day goes by that I don’t miss the hell out of him.

The dogs are happy that I am home too.  This was them looking up at me as if to ask “grandma, when are you going to sit down?!”

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And Roman is tall enough now to reach the dining room table, how can you say no to that cute face?!  That lip kills me!

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I did make it to the gym yesterday, even though I was in my pajamas until 3:15 in the afternoon!  I also meal planned because even though I am self-employed now, I realized that I still need to keep a schedule so that I am actually productive and reaching towards a goal of having a job working with food.  I want to get my food handlers license just to have.   I need to continue to build my LinkedIn page.  I have more behind the scenes blog work to do, and I have to get to the gym each day.  My goal is to take advantage of some of the group exercise classes this week.  Tomorrow I’ll be doing an hour BodyPump class and I can’t wait.  Do you guys remenber Erica from Itzy’s Kitchen?  She actually taught her BodyPump class up until her 38th week of pregnancy – crazy!  And literally five days after he was born, she was already walking two miles.  She doesn’t blog anymore, but I follow her on Instagram. 

Yesterday I did 60 minutes on the treadmill – walking 4 minutes then sprinting 1 minute and repeating.  My last sprint was at an 8:00 minute mile pace.   One thing that helped me with those sprints?  Spanx.   I grew up with spanx because we used to wear them under our field hockey uniforms and my sister used to have them under her pom pom skirts.  When I was in Austin on one of our several trips to Goodwill, Hannah and Sarah and I walked around and I found this pair of Spanx for only $4.99 – and they retail for $72!

power pant

They call it their “power pant” but I call it “holding in the muffin top pant.”   Anyone who has any type of belly fat, you know what it’s like to run not wearing the right pants.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to stop running in order to tie my pants tighter, or have them start to fall down as I run.  But these pants literally hold everything in.  There is no movement at all.  I could just concentrate on running and not have to worry that my pants were going to be on the ground.

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And it just so happened that I was watching Diners, Drive-ins and Dives and they were at a place that made amazing pork sandwiches.  Gotta love watching FoodTV while exercising!

Alright, time to get busy with my day.  I have to admit though, this “semi-retirement” lifestyle is pretty great so far!   Make it a great day!

Thin Cornmeal Tortillas

PicMonkey Collage - flying

Home again!  I told my brother Charlie (check out his latest blog post here!) that I think this is the longest time we’ve spent together since we were in high school – 11 days!  I am happy to report that my fear of flying is long gone.  I had no anxiety at all about any of the travel.  I think with all the travel I did last year it helped.  When you only fly once every few years I think you forget the normal sounds of the plane and I would always hear something and think “Is it supposed to sound like that?”  And the last several trips I took before Tony died I flew by myself, so I couldn’t hold anyone’s hand if I was scared.  

While cleaning out my brothers garage, we found some of my Dad’s old stuff that Charlie now has – my brother is a Jr., so they have the same initials – that was my Dad’s car key ring – I had totally forgotten about it!  One thing I do miss about Texas?  Flip flop weather!  Although those shoes I bought gave me blisters on the side within a couple days of wearing them.  Get this guys – I actually bought brand new shoes!  Those flip flops cost $19.  I had only brought my gym shoes as another pair of shoes, so when we did a Goodwill run to drop stuff off, I popped in and bought a $2 pair of Columbia flip flops and ended up wearing those the rest of the trip.

I got one last visit with my stepson Joe and his wife Lizz.  As luck would have it Joe started a new job the first week I was there so couldn’t take any days off, and with all the work being done at my brothers house, our time together was short, but glad we were able to get together one last time before I left.  My niece Rachel and I met them at a place called Lupe Tortilla.   They are known for their fajitas, so Joe, Lizz and I decided to share the beef fajita plate.  Joe ordered two pounds of beef for the table – what I loved about this presentation is that all the elements were separate – the sautéed onions, peppers, etc. 

PicMonkey Collage - fajita

I fought with them to pay the bill, but I won.  It wasn’t until the next day that I really looked at the receipt.  I saw that our total for dinner was $135, which I though was pricey, but I didn’t want to micromanage the bill at the table.  Um, one pound of fajitas?  $41.95 and we got two pounds!  No wonder – but you know what – the beef was perfectly cooked.  Super flavorful, tender and something I am going to do from now on when I make fajitas at home – a generous splash of lime at the end.  So good! 

One of the big jobs that my brother and his wife hired professionals to do was to remove wallpaper from the kitchen.  Lori, I feel for you with all of your renovations at your house – but wallpaper is crazy hard to remove and takes so much time.   This was what it looked like at the end of day two!  And that laundry room?  Seriously took 3 of us like six hours to paint.  Have I mentioned that every single surface of their house is textured, so trying to get the paint to cover was crazy.

PicMonkey Collage - paint

 

And then just like that, it was time for me to head home.  My brother went back to work on Wednesday, so my niece Rachel dropped me off at the airport – thanks Rachel!  It was a touch cool when I left Austin – 65 degrees cool – and when I landed it was super windy and with the wind chill felt like 41.  Definitely not flip flop weather!  My guilty pleasure?  People magazine for $6.89 and I got a fruit and cheese package for the flight for lunch – which set me back $10.91 – gotta love airport prices! 

If you can’t tell from my brothers work badge, he works at Apple’s headquarters.   They have a subsidized cafeteria and most menu items range in price from $5-$8.  You can get stuff like seared ahi steak with a ginger lime sauce.   But what does my brother eat nearly every day?  Ramen noodles.  I wish I was kidding, but I am not.  He’ll add a little peanut butter to the broth to add in some protein and flavor and he’s a happy camper.  Oh, and he eats the apples – all over the campus are baskets of different kind of apples that are free to employees.  All I know is that was one of the things I missed most about leaving my job at Sears corporate headquarters – the cafeteria there was amazeballs.

PicMonkey Collage - windy city

So I haven’t done a full grocery shop yet, and won’t probably until Sunday.  I picked up a few things like fresh fruit, coffee creamer, etc.  Yesterday I spent time working on my LinkedIn page – I am still not very familiar with it, so any tips are appreciated!

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It’s nice working just 20 feet from my kitchen!  Around 10:30 I started looking around to see what I could make for lunch.  I found a chicken breast in the freezer so decided to poach the chicken and then I’d go from there.  I just filled a pan with water until it covered the chicken, then cooked over medium low heat with a lid on for 30 minutes and it was perfect.  I thought, I’ll make tacos!  But a quick search in the fridge I had no tortillas.   I went on Pinterest, and found that King Arthur Flour makes a thin cornmeal tortilla.   I tweaked the recipe a bit to make it more Weight Watcher friendly – I reduced the oil to 1 tablespoon and then upped the water to 3/4 of a cup to make the dough.

Thin Cornmeal Tortillas
Serves 10
A great recipe for making tortillas without having masa flour on hand - delish!
Write a review
Print
Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
40 min
Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
40 min
114 calories
21 g
0 g
2 g
3 g
0 g
47 g
119 g
0 g
0 g
2 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
47g
Servings
10
Amount Per Serving
Calories 114
Calories from Fat 18
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 2g
3%
Saturated Fat 0g
1%
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 1g
Cholesterol 0mg
0%
Sodium 119mg
5%
Total Carbohydrates 21g
7%
Dietary Fiber 2g
6%
Sugars 0g
Protein 3g
Vitamin A
0%
Vitamin C
0%
Calcium
0%
Iron
3%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Ingredients
  1. 1 1/3 cups flour
  2. 2/3 cup white cornmeal
  3. 1 tablespoon canola oil
  4. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  5. 3/4 cup water
Instructions
  1. In a medium bowl, mix the flour, cornmeal, oil and salt together.  Add the water and mix until combined.  Put a wet paper towel on the dough and let it sit for 30 minutes.  Divide the dough into 10 pieces – each of my pieces was 1.45 ounces – or 3 WW points.  I heated up my Lodge cast iron skillet over medium heat, rolled out the dough with my roller, and cooked the tortillas for 1 minute per side.  At this point you can let them cool and store in the fridge for several days.  I ended up using the poached chicken, spinach and tomatoes to make my tacos.
Notes
  1. Each tortilla is 3 WW points - the 30 minute prep time includes the 30 minute rest of the dough.
Adapted from King Arthur Flour
beta
calories
114
fat
2g
protein
3g
carbs
21g
more
Adapted from King Arthur Flour
My Bizzy Kitchen http://www.mybizzykitchen.com/
3.17.16 039

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I love the texture of these tortillas – they are super thin, and I pan fried them in a teaspoon of oil, which only added 1 smart point, but gave them the best crunch on the outside.  That whole plate of food ended up being 9 smart points and was delish!

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And I have to give a shout out to Shelley!   She gave me a bag of Texas loot when we met for lunch last week – cannot wait to try the rub out this weekend on something to grill outside –thanks Shelley!

Austin 2016 665

And the dogs have been like glue to me.  I literally had to put them in Hannah and Jacob’s room when I was trying to work yesterday because they kept jumping over each other trying to get close to me.  I had my laptop on my lap on the couch and I couldn’t even type because they’d just walk right over the laptop.  But if I sit in the back of the house at my desk on the desktop computer, they are content just sitting on the floor by my feet.

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Tomorrow is my birthday!  Oh, and I guess my twin sisters birthday too.   I won’t see her, but we have plans in the near future for her to take the afternoon off from work and we’ll have lunch downtown and walk around – it’s a bit chilly today – only 37 degrees right now.   I love going out to breakfast so the kadults and I will go out to breakfast before they have to work.  For the first time ever, I have not only unpacked my bags, but I have done all the laundry AND put it away – crazy!

I hope you have a great weekend!  I am off in a bit for a group class at the Y.  It was so nice to hit the gym yesterday and I am looking forward to getting back into a routine now that I am home.  Make it a great day!