July 30, 2014

Menu Hump Day!


We have been having a blast during these last few days of summer.  I go back to work next Wednesday, so I’m trying to make every last little bit count. 


My mom was in town over the weekend to attend Finley’s Celebration and see the little dude; which meant Mike and I got to partake in some funsies – kid free!  It was a win-win for all of us!

Saturday and Sunday we actually found ourselves headed to Oviedo for some activities I have been looking at for a while.  We opted for the Good Neighbors Farmers Market which includes a petting zoo on Saturday morning. 

Besides being super hot, it was so cool.  The cost was $2 per person (under 3 were free) and I thought was well worth it.  E got to feed goats, a brahma bull, chickens/ducks, donkeys and pigs!  Truth be told, I was a little bit scared of the pigs, but I think they were Mike’s favorite.  The food costs a little bit extra ($0.50 per cup) but it was well worth it.  Be sure to bring cash (they do have an on-site ATM)!




Sunday we headed back to Oveido to check out the Lukas Nursery and Butterfly Encounter.  I have heard great things about the Butterfly Encounter (and I think I have even been to the nursery once) and knew my mom would love it…however I think I loved it more than anyone. 

I will say, the whole encounter is H-O-T, but feeding the butterflies was so cool!  E was a little scared of them and didn’t quite get that you had to be very gentle when touching them, but he loved pointing to the “buu-fie” (as he says) flying around the open area.  There were also finches and quail walking/flying around.



Monday found us heading to St. Pete for a baseball date night.  The Milwaukee Brewers were in town playing the Tampa Bay Rays and we had to represent Wisconsin.  We ate at an amazing burger joint called Engine No.9 (thanks Urbanspoon) and highly recommend it.  We split the One Bad Pig burger and it was out of this world.  Beer, my boy and baseball…not a bad night!





Here’s what we will be eating this, our last week, before reality sets back in!


M:  Brewers vs. Rays Game!

T:  Oven Fajitas over Baked Potatoes

W:  Lasagna Roll-Ups w/ Chopped Salad

Th:  Greek Flatbread w/ Roasted Carrots

F:  Grilled Porkchops w/ Balsamic Mushroom Orzo and Green Beans

Sa:  Spaghetti and Meatsauce

Su:  Ham and Veggie Omelette w/ Wheat Toast



Gotta run!

July 26, 2014

Celebrating the Life of Finley Elizabeth


What a year it has been.

Yesterday our sweet angel, Finley Elizabeth, would have turned one.  She would have been taking her first steps, eating handfuls of yummy cake (pink, I’m sure) and tearing open birthday presents in front of her amazing family and friends.  But she couldn’t… so we celebrated for her.




We celebrated the life that she lived, the lives that she touched and the lives she will touch in the future.  She was a world changer from day 1, and still is one year later.

Last night we gathered at East End Market with her mom, my friend, Noelle for a celebration of her life.  Finley didn’t have a funeral when she passed,  and looking back, I don’t think she should have.  Funerals are sad.  Funerals represent grief.  Funerals are the end. 

Finley was different.  She was and still is a light to so many.  As Noelle’s brother put it, she represents what was and what is.  Finley represents the future.  So it was only fitting that her pink and gold celebration be filled with tears, laughs and everything in between; encompassing hope in so many.






The venue was beautiful down to the last detail and the program was one filled with remembrance and promise. 

A few months ago I was asked by Nomo to read the letter that I had written to Everett right after Finley died.  I was so honored to get to share my letter, but knew it was going to be rough.  That letter takes me back to those days and moments when we all were in such despair, not knowing what to do next and trying so hard to put one foot in front of the other.  But it paints a picture of the impact Finley had on so many.  I can honestly say I wake up every.single.day with a new outlook on what is important in life and say a thank you prayer for our healthy (crazy) baby boy.




Dear Everett,

I want to tell you a story about an angel named Finley. She was a beautiful baby girl who was born just a few months after you were. She was bigger than you when she was born (just about every baby we know was) and her mommy and daddy were in love with her from the start.

She had a light dusting of brown hair and the cutest little sausage toes anyone had ever seen. Her eyes were a clear crystal blue, just like her mommy's, but instead of being wide open and full of wonder, Finley's eyes were closed.

She was very sick when she was born and we were all so worried about her. She didn't sleep in a regular crib like you did, she had to sleep in a special bed with lots of wires, beeping noises and blinking lights.  Her mommy and daddy just wanted to grab her up, kiss her face and rock her to sleep but they couldn't, and it broke their hearts.

I got to meet her when she was one day old and I just melted when I saw her. She looked so peaceful and perfect. She reminded me so much of you and how you looked when you were teeny tiny.

You and dad were there that day, too. You wore a onesie made just for Finley and cheered her on as you explored the hospital downstairs with dad while I was falling in love with that precious baby girl upstairs. I knew she was special from the start, but I just didn't realize how special she would become.

Baby Finley stayed in the hospital for a few weeks longer after that visit and although she  was fighting her hardest, she didn't get any better. Her mommy and daddy did everything in their power to help her, but nothing seemed to work. She had an amazing doctor and precious nurses who loved her just as much as we did, but they couldn't help her either.

One day, after weeks of sadness, Finley took one last breath and said goodbye to all of us. She went to sleep in her daddy's arms, holding her mommy's hand and was finally at peace. There would be no more poking or prodding, only dancing among the clouds like the beautiful ballerina that she was.

I want you to know that Finley not only changed the whole world, she changed our world. She taught people how to love again. She taught me how to savor every minuscule moment and not to sweat the small stuff, because in the end it really is all small stuff, and she showed your daddy how lucky he is to have a baby boy as amazing as you.

In honor of Finley, we promise to never take any moment with you for granted and will love you with every part of our being each and every day.  Just like Finley's mommy and daddy loved her.

You are our heart.



Noelle also had an amazing video that played and introduced her new endeavor.  The Finley Project.  She has been working hours on end to launch this amazing non-profit organization that is designed to fill the need for grieving moms after infant loss.  I know The Finley Project will be like no other and I can’t wait to see the continued effect Finley will have on our community.



finley project

Click here for more info!


After dinner we all headed to Blue Jacket Park for a butterfly release.  The weather was perfect, actually cool and breezy (thank you, Finley!) and we were able to fellowship together once more.  The perfect ending to a perfect day for a perfect little lady.






Every time I see a rainbow I say hi to Finley.  That’s my sign that she’s ok.  Noelle and I talk about it all the time.  As we were headed to her celebration last night it was storming, and instead of being worried about it, I just smiled and texted Noelle that, “We’re going to see a rainbow tonight.  I just know it.” 

Well, as my mom and I were getting ready to leave the park I was walking up to say goodbye to Noelle and happened to look down at my phone to see a picture message from Mike that said, “There it is!”  A double rainbow shining down, letting us know that everything is exactly as it should be and that Finley is safe and sound watching over all of us.



“Lord make me a rainbow, I'll shine down on my mother
She'll know I'm safe with you when she stands under my colors”  -The Band Perry


Happy 1st Birthday, sweet girl.



July 18, 2014

Catching up + Menu


We have been busy.  Non-stop actually.

photo (11)

…and to think our July calendar looks just as packed!


This past weekend was alllllll about catching up, with laundry, friends and rest.  I think our go, go, go summer agenda/vacation finally caught up with us and it was nice to have a weekend to recoup.




Saturday I don’t really know what we did during the day…but I do know we met up with our friends at Kobe Japanese Steakhouse to celebrate Jill’s birthday.  E was excited his girl Kennedy was there, and then was excited to go back home with Gransie while Mike and I headed for some chill time with the grown ups (even though I ended up falling asleep during the movie we were all watching!).




Kennedy (16 mo) and Everett (17 mo)



E was not so sure about the fire!!!


Sunday was spent bird feeding, swinging, doing a marathon shopping trip to prepare for the Kiddie Top Chef camp I taught at our school’s summer camp this week, followed by a World Cup Finals marathon.  I don’t think E and Mike even left the house on Sunday – which is unheard of!






This week, which is now basically over, was busy, fun and chalked up to a success.  Have a great weekend!



M:  Philly Cheesesteak Paninis w/ Sweet Potato Fries

T:  Grilled Steak w/ Roasted Green Beans and Grilled Corn

W:  Soyaki* Ribs w/ Napa Salad

Th:  Broccoli, Cheese and Mushroom Potatoes w/ Brown Gravy

F:  Zesty Chicken Tenders w/ Yellow Rice and Chopped Salad

Sa:  Brinner – Eggs Benedict over Potato Pancakes and Yogurt Parfaits

Su:  Roasted Turkey Breast w/ Dressing and Green Beans


*Trader Joe’s Soyaki ($3, 21 oz) - A classic teriyaki with a rich flavor of fresh ginger and sesame seeds, that really penetrates and renders meat juicy.  The ribs were delish!



July 9, 2014

We’re Back !!! (and our menu of course)


What a whirlwind!  We are home from a long and very fun trip to Wisconsin to visit family and friends.  We were literally on the go from the minute we left Orlando until we returned home and instantly crashed.  We are now resting from our vacation (should be the opposite, right?!?).

Below are just a few (picture) snippets from our trip which had funsies planned every.single.day in and around the Madison area…just the way we like it.  It’s a lot of planning on the front end, but we never had a moment where we were saying, “What should we do?”.  We love having options, and although we don’t have to get to all of them, we definitely try to!

Our final schedule of events ended up closely mirroring the one we had planned before we left.  Here’s a recap:


Wednesday – June 25:  Depart Orlando, stop in SC to see Pops and Vicki

Thursday – June 26:  Arrive Madison 7am, USA World Cup game, family BBQ

Friday – June 27:  Mickie’s Dairy Bar, Henry Vilas Zoo and Middleton Splash Pad

Saturday – June 28Dane Co. Farmer’s Market, golf for the guys, Camping at Hickory Hills

Sunday – June 29Devil’s Lake State Park for swimming, hiking and fishing

Monday – June 30Eugster’s Petting Farm, Milton Splash Park, dinner out with friends

Tuesday – July 1Bike Madison, Babcock Creamery Tour, Picnic Point, Camp Randall Tour, USA World Cup game and the Memorial Union Terrace, dinner out with the fam.

Wednesday – July 2:  Visit with Great Grandpa Art and Great Grandma Katie, Cave of the Mounds, Free Family Night at the Madison Children’s Museum

Thursday – July 3Monona M.Y. Dream Park and Summerfest in Milwaukee to see The Zac Brown Band.

Friday – July 4:  Evansville 10K run, 4th of July Parade and cookout and fireworks with friends.

Saturday – July 5:  Paddleboarding around lake Monona at Brittingham Boats, Madison Mallards Baseball game

Sunday – July 6:  Depart Madison, stop in Chicago to see Erica (and The Bean), drive straight through

Monday – July 7:  Arrive Orlando 4pm and crash!!!



From top left to right: 

Madison Mallards game, E having fun with his friend Will at Eugster’s Petting Farm, Milton Splash Park, family walk around Edgerton, photo in front of the rhinoceros exhibit at the Henry Vilas Zoo, a visit with Great Grandpa Art and Great Grandma Katie, Camping at Hickory Hills, running on the field at Camp Randall (home of the UW Badgers), parade watching on the 4th of July in Evansville, and Summerfest to see Zac Brown!


To see the full Flipagram recap of our trip, click here.


As for this week, Mike is back to the grind, I am actually back at work for a few days of workshops before summer camp starts for the next two weeks and E is at daycare 3 days a week to get back in the grove.  Busy, busy, busy – but fun.  Here’s our menu for this week (so happy to have some home cooked meals – eating out gets very old!)


M:  Pantry Dinner

T:  Chicken Pesto Pizza on Garlic and Herb Pizza Dough (from Trader Joe’s – my first trip!)

W:  Grilled Pork Chops w/ Mushroom Baked Potatoes

Th:  Taco Salad

F:  Grilled Steak w/ Balsamic Roasted Green Beans

Sa:  Stuffed Peppers w/ Mashed Potatoes and Chopped Salad

Su:  Pasta Fagiole


Have a great week!