What’s Up August

I hope this post finds you all safe! So many Californians are being affected by the numerous fires devastating our state right now. I know how fortunate my family is to not be in the fire’s path. Every year the fire season seems to become more extreme. My heart hurts for everyone that has had to evacuate in addition to everything else they’ve been dealt this year. As the daughter of a retired firefighter, I’ve also been keeping the firefighters on the front lines and their families in my prayers.

I’ve been doing these What’s Up Wednesday posts for exactly a year now. What do you think? Should I continue? It’s been a fun way for me to document what we have been up to each month. What is your favorite category? I always love getting dinner ideas from friends, so I really enjoy sharing the new recipes we have tried over the course of the month and (hopefully) providing you all with some dinner ideas as well.

What We’re Eating This Month

Hot August evenings have called for light, refreshing and easy meals that don’t require a lot of time slaving over a hot stove. I tried this easy Pesto Chicken Salad Sandwich recipe for the first time last week. It appealed to me because it called for plain yogurt instead of mayo. I picked up the Lemony Arugula Basil Salad Kit, Sea Salted Saddle Potato Crisps and Sparkling Strawberry Juice from Trader Joes to accompany the sandwiches. The salad ended up doing double duty. I put put a little bit of the arugula on each sandwich and then dressed the remainder to serve on the side. We made the Sparkling Strawberry Juice a little EXTRA by adding muddled basil and a strawberry as garnish.

I think this month’s most popular new recipe was the Herb Cous Cous with Slow Roasted Tomatoes. This dish is served at room temperature and would be great to take to an end of summer gathering because it can be prepared in advance. The assortment of veggies and herbs made this dish especially flavorful. We served it with flank steak that was lightly seasoned and prepared on the grill. As we were eating, we were already discussing how soon we could have it again!

Another family favorite this month was this Chicken Caprese Burger. I was able to use the mozzarella and pesto that was leftover from this recipe. I left out the mayo in this recipe and substituted balsamic glaze for the balsamic onion. Grilling hamburgers during the summer is regular occurrence at our house and this recipe was a nice alternative to the beef patties we normally eat. Sweet Potato Fries made a yummy accompaniment.

What I’m Reminiscing About

I can’t believe our Guinea Pigs just turned two! The first month we had them was a much bigger challenge than I ever expected. Little did we know that they brought a tick and ring worm home with them from the pet store. After numerous veterinarian appointments their first few months with us they were finally cured of all their ailments and became much easier pets to have around. They have also gotten really big…I didn’t know they would almost double in size from when we first adopted them. We upgraded them to this much larger cage for their birthday this year.

What We’ve Been Up To

School started on August 13th. Remote learning looks much different this fall than it did last spring. It feels more organized, productive and interactive. I have appreciated the fact that the kids are able to meet with small groups in breakout rooms to interact more with their peers. It has been especially fun to watch (and hear) them participate in their PE and dance classes. I really liked the having middle school Back To School Night virtually. It would have been such a helpful option to have back when my kids were younger and it was either a scramble to find a babysitter or only one parent was able to attend. I had my son join us (off camera) so that I knew we were all on the same page with what his teachers’ expectations are for the year ahead.

The hardest part of going back to school has been not being able to go outside after spending all that time inside in front of a screen due to all the smoke in the air. Before the fires hit my kids were spending most evenings practicing their skateboarding and Spikeball skills. I highly recommend Spikeball if you are looking for an activity your kids can safely play outside with their friends while being socially distanced. My daughter has been meeting her friends at local parks to play over the last month and it has been a great way to stay connected socially.

What I’m Excited About & What I’m Working On

Our home office has long been a catch-all for clutter of all kinds. Finding out that the kids would be starting the school year off learning remotely from home was just the prompt I needed to clean out the space and give it a little update. I can’t believe I actually found a football phone that once occupied my husband’s childhood room tucked away in one of the boxes! I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on this room refresh because I don’t love the built-ins that occupy the space now. One day I dream of doing a complete overhaul of the room and did not want to spend money on something that I couldn’t use later. I did however want to make the space more appealing and remote learning friendly. Here are some “before” picture of our office.

My wish list for the updated space included:
  • a bulletin board above the workspace for the kiddos schedules and to-do lists
  • an organized space for school supplies
  • comfortable (affordable) desk seating for two
  • better lighting
  • a gallery wall to add warmth and personality
  • an inviting spot to sit and read

I was able to accomplish everything on my list and now I’m waiting on a few finishing touches to be delivered. I was able to refresh the entire space for under $400. The two updates I am most excited about are the gallery wall and the bulletin board. Both were easy and inexpensive DIY projects.

I completed the entire gallery wall for $71.52. That included the prints, quotes and frames. The frames should arrive tomorrow and I am so excited to show you the finished results. Spoiler Alert: I didn’t use traditional frames, but found something in keeping with an office theme for only $2.19 a piece.

I wanted to take advantage of the entire section of wall over the desk area for the bulletin board. I bought a roll of cork at Office Depot and attached it to the wall with Command mounting tape. I’m really happy with the end result and it has made the space so much more functional. Here is a sneak peak of the desk area…

What I’m Watching

I was a huge fan a The Babysitters Club series as a kid. I can still remember how excited I would be when a visit to the bookstore resulted in the acquisition of the newest book to have been released. When saw that the books had been made into a series for Netflix, I asked my daughter to give it a chance with me. The series is definitely aimed towards the middle school crowd, but we have still enjoyed reliving the stories together. I wish this had been around a couple years ago when my daughter and I were searching for an appropriate series to watch together. I value the fact that it stays true to the original stories, but tackles then in a more modern way. For example, the cast represents a variety of ethnicities and seamlessly weaves conversations dealing with gender identity, racism, divorce and more into the fabric of the show. The Babysitters Club will hold the attention of both tweens and parents while prompting some really good conversations. If you are the parent of a tween girl I would highly recommend checking this show out together.

What I’m listening To

I listened to a couple new to me podcasts this month that were hosted by some not so new to me people. After Rob Lowe’s riveting interview on Armchair Expert, checking out his podcast Literally! with Rob Lowe was a no brainer. He does not disappoint when it comes to exposing juicy details about famous celebrities.

Unlocking Us with Brené Brown was an instant favorite. Her very first episode addresses how to deal with circumstances that are completely new. Goodness knows we have all been dealing with a lot of unexpected change in 2020. I also really enjoyed the episode with guest, Glennon Doyle. Her most recent book, Untamed, is a popular bestseller.

I find Busy Phillips be entertaining and wanted to give her podcast, Busy Phillips is Doing Her Best, a shot. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t impressed. There are three co-hosts, plus a guest, which can make differentiating who is sharing a little difficult. Plus, the conversation just wasn’t that interesting. I think I’ll give it another listen after she has had some time to find her footing.

What I’m Reading

Earlier this month I finished The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott. It tells the story of Tess, an aspiring seamstress, who finds work as a personal maid for a famous fashion designer aboard the Titanic. The story follows her fateful voyage as well as the aftermath of the tragic voyage once she finally reaches New York. My feelings about this book are a little lukewarm. I wanted to love this book because I have always been fascinated by the story of the Titanic and love the world of fashion, but it just didn’t grab me. Have you read this book? Do you agree, disagree?

What I’m Wearing

Boy, has it been hot! Every year it seems like temperatures are at their highest just when I start to crave fall fashion. I’ve never been much of a shorts wearing girl, but this summer I’ve been reaching for these striped and gingham shorts more often than not. I think a big reason is that the paperbag style shorts that are trending right now actually fit my hourglass shape and are comfortable to wear. The shorts pictured below are no longer available, but these are the same style and fit.

What I’m Doing This Weekend

My daughter is heading to the DMV to take her permit test. She has been counting down the days all summer, looking forward to finally being able to get behind the wheel. I can’t believe I am about to have a daughter that will be driving! I really appreciated the advice that so many of you gave me on choosing a driving school. Do you have any advice for this next stage?

What I’m looking Forward to Next Month

A friend recently gave me a heads up that on September 16th there will be an online discussion with Tara Westover, the author of Educated. You may remember that Educated was one of the best books I read in 2019 and one of my favorite pieces of non-fiction ever! Click here to register. The event is free, but donations assisting Saint Mary’s students whose lives have been adversely affected by COVID-19 are encouraged. I’m registered and looking forward to hearing Tara Westover answer her most asked questions.

Have a happy, healthy and disaster free September🤞🏻

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  1. Kimberly Schaefer

    September 3, 2020 at 6:54 am

    Hey there! My husband and I really enjoyed the Zac Efron TV series Down to a Earth. He’s actually using his fame in a very respectable manner. I think your kids might enjoy it and it’s educational. Two podcasts I like is Very Presidential with Ashley Flowers (she does Crime Junkies, too) and The Shrink Next Door. I really liked The German Midwife by Amanda Robotham (much more than I thought I would and my co-workers did, too) and The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens. I hope you are doing well. I love reading your blog. I guess I’ll find out what you think in your blog if you try any of these!

    1. mparker

      September 3, 2020 at 1:03 pm

      Thank you so much for the recommendations! I just downloaded the first episode of Very Presidential and I put The Life We Bury on hold at the library. The German Midwife sounds right up my alley, but it’s only available in e-book from our library. Would it be a good one to listen to or should I buy the book? I really appreciate you taking the time to share all these 🙂

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