Savory Sundays: Blueberry Almond Salad With Feta

August is right around the corner and that means my favorite fresh fruit season is about to strike in Michigan: blueberry season! I have grown up eating pounds and pounds of those delectable little berries, and as I’ve gotten older and “more mature” in my palate, I look for various ways to incorporate my favorite fruit into different recipes.

Today’s Savory Sunday is a simple one. But it is also a top contender on my healthy summer meal plan. Dark green spinach, plump blueberries, sharp red onions, crunchy and salty almonds, and rich feta cheese all mixed together for a happy, healthy meal. This salad is packed with lots of nutrients and antioxidants! Plus my homemade dressing adds just enough tang to make you wanting more once your bowl is gone.

Blueberry Almond Salad with Feta

  • Servings: 1
  • Difficulty: Too Easy
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Ingredients

  • 3 cups salad greens
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onions
  • 2 Tbsp salted almonds (sliced almonds work too)
  • FOR DRESSING:
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/3 cup raspberry vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp verjus
  • 2 Tbsp Stevia (or sugar; add more if you like a sweeter dressing)
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • pinch of dried oregano
  • pinch of black pepper

Directions

  1. Place salad greens into a bowl
  2. Top with cheese, blueberries, and almonds
  3. Place all dressing ingredients into a Mason jar
  4. Close jar tightly and shake to mix together
  5. Pour as much dressing as preferred over salad
  6. Serve immediately


Not blueberry season where you live? Substitute dried cherries or dried cranberries instead! Walnuts and pecans work well in place of the almonds also.

Enjoy, friends!

Savory Sundays: Cilantro Lime Shrimp Scampi

Anyone remember me mentioning all those supplies I bought for mosquito repellent candles in my Lemon Rosemary Chicken recipe? How about my goal to eat less grains in my post with the Buffalo Chicken Stuffed Sweet Potatoes? Well, here is a dish that makes the most of both! The left over limes from my would-be candles and low-carb zucchini noodles make this recipe healthy and satisfying. Two things I love to pair together!

G was craving some shrimp this week and scampi sounded good to me. However, I wanted to use up some ingredients I already had in the fridge and pantry. I also didn’t want to go full out Cheat Meal mid-week by throwing the buttery shrimpers on top of some noodles. So I improvised and wooh-la! Another meal to find permanent residence in our cook book.

This original recipe can be found on Closet Cooking, but I tweaked it a bit to be simpler and have a Uncorking Peonies twist. Yum!

Cilantro Lime Shrimp Scampi

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Print

Satisfy your Italian craving with a healthier option over zoodles.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound shrimp, deveined and shelled
  • 4 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 2 Tbsp salted butter
  • 1/4 cup verjus (I love Dablon Vineyard’s verjus!)
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 lime, sliced
  • red pepper flakes, to taste
  • garlic salt, to taste
  • 1 bag Birds’ Eye Zucchini and Lentil Noodles
  • chopped cilantro, to taste

Directions

  1. Melt butter and pressed garlic in pan until fragrant and frothing
  2. Defrost zoodles by placing in microwave for 3 minutes
  3. Add shrimp, garlic salt, and red pepper flakes to pan and cook until shrimp is opaque
  4. Set shrimp aside using a slotted spoon — keep melted butter mix in pan
  5. Add verjus and juice from 1 lime to pan and simmer
  6. Add zoodles to pan and cook until preferred tenderness
  7. Add cooked shrimp, cilantro, garlic salt, and additional red pepper flakes, and toss together
  8. Serve immediately

If you choose to make your own zoodles rather than using a pre-made type, great! Sprialize three zucchinis and saute them to your preferred tenderness in olive oil. Add these at Step 6 but do not cook for any additional time.

Unsure if your shrimp are fully cooked? When they form a C-shape, they are perfectly cooked. However, if you let them continue to cook, they will twist into an O-shape signifying they are overcooked. An easy way to remember this is C-shaped stands for “cooked” and O-shaped stands for “overcooked.”


Enjoy, friends!

House Hunting Adventures v. 1

Lesson Learned v. 1: Look In The Basement First

I know I’ve mentioned it a few times before, but here it is officially: G and I are house hunting. Our current apartment lease is up in August, but we have the option to renew for another year if we would like. Though it looks like this is the most likely route we will take, we are casually working with a realtor and viewing potential houses. It has been a fun experience so far because we are able to see what we like and dislike, what we’re willing to compromise and not, and not feeling rushed as we look.

The Michigan housing market where we live is absolutely crazy. There are double the buyers than there are sellers, and that leads to many houses only being on the market for hours before they’re under contract. Though we do not feel rushed to purchase a home, if we ever do come across one we love and can picture as our own home, then we have to be prepared to JUMP. Luckily we haven’t felt that urge yet, but we sure have come across some very unique adventures in the houses we have viewed…

House #1 was a beautiful farm house built in 1900. I came across this house on Zillow and decided to drive by it one evening with G. We walked around the exterior and peeked in the windows after it became quite apparent the house was vacant. From the outside, we loved the look of this place. From looking in, though, we were a bit worried. It seemed as if the entire place had been gutted! The kitchen was bare save for a few hanging cabinets and the living room boasted a raw floor. Still, we were curious to see more as the price was ideal and the property fit our wants.

When we met with the owner and took a tour inside, our fears were confirmed. The house was completely gutted. The main floor bathroom had plumbing exposed and a wall missing. The upstairs bathroom was bare bones. Plus, the floors were uncovered, the stairs were shaky, and the windows on the South side of the house were missing.

Now, G and I are looking for a home in need of a remodel. We both are quite handy and love the idea of using our own elbow grease to make a house into our dream home. But House #1 would require way more manpower than feasible for first-time home buyers. We had no doubt we could make this place an amazing home, but it would take months to finish to even be livable. Deciding against the pains of attempting to receive home improvement loans or opting to live with either of our parents again as newlyweds, we said goodbye to House #1 and began looking through housing websites again.

House #2 was another farm house that looked great from the pictures online. (For anyone else house hunting, how many times have the pictures fooled you? We’ve gotten tricked a couple of times!) When we arrived, we took a quick walk around the property and I was really feeling it. Large backyard, out in the country, mature trees, pretty landscaping, and enough room to build G’s must-have pole barn someday. The house’s shingles would need to be covered as soon as possible, but changing the outside appearance didn’t seem too worrisome either. Overall, I was impressed.

Then we went inside. The interior wasn’t too bad either. The social gathering rooms were large and the kitchen had a lot of room for being very functional given a change here or there. The bedrooms were rather small but the house was built in 1900 and that comes with the territory.

Next came the basement, though, and that’s where things turned odd. For anyone who does not have the pleasure of knowing what a “Michigan basement” is, let me tell you: a Michigan basement is the term used throughout the state for a crawlspace that was later excavated to the depth of a basement. They are cold, dingy places that usually have dirt floors and cement walls. Basically they’re a space for storage and utilities, and nothing more.

Most farm houses in Michigan sport these kinds of basements if they are not crawlspaces. We were expecting this sort of space when we walked down the stairs. But what we found was so much more…

The basement in House #2 had a wall at the far end. Looking from the entrance, you could see rocks had fallen from the man-made hole used to install a new HVAC system. Next to these rocks was a door. Carefully we opened it to find a muddy room stacked with piles upon piles of dirt-filled bags. At least 200 filled bags lay against the foundation walls of this house, and we began to fear their necessity. Were the walls about to cave in? Was the basement flooding and this was the owner’s makeshift solution? We didn’t know, and we didn’t care to stay around to find out.

Leaving the crumbling house, we departed with our realtor to House #3. House #3 was a nice little ranch overlooking the local river. After severe flooding in our area a few months ago, we weren’t sure what “river front property” might mean with this house but decided to try our luck. In this case, the river lay 30 feet below the house’s rear and provided a beautiful overlook. The property had a lot of foliage, which G and I loved right from the start, and the house itself looked to be in good shape from the front. I remember pulling into the driveway and G saying, “Now this one. This one I like already.”

I definitely agreed by the time we took the tour of the main floor. The rooms would need updating but I could picture hosting family holidays in the living room and watching Disney movies with my future children in the family room. The master bedroom boasted an entire wall of windows which reminded me of our honeymoon cabin, and the kitchen was big enough to make me giddy. Plus the house had a three car garage attached that tickled both G’s and my fancies! For him, the garage meant space for his welding tools and future car projects. For me, it meant enough room for me to squeeze my car in during the winter months even with all his toys. It would be a win-win situation.

However, when we ventured into the basement for House #3, we began to feel a bit nervous. (There is something about basements; I think for the future I’ll just not go downstairs anymore.)

House #3’s basement was really nice. It had a finished section for entertaining complete with a word-burning stove and a door that exited the rear of the house to bring you within five feet of the descent to the river. The basement could be a beautiful space for game nights, and G and I envisioned building a deck out the backdoor looking over the river.

As I was perusing the space I found something incredibly troubling and all my future vision bubbles started to pop. The closest corner to the river’s embankment seemed to have been repaired. The entire corner was sunk nearly an inch lower than the rest of the flooring which made us worried about the foundation. Fearing the worst, we stepped out the basement door and took a look at the exterior of House #3.

And our fears were confirmed.

A half inch wide crack sprawled the house’s read wall. From the basement to the main floor, the crack traveled nearly ten feet and looking like one little push would make it web even further. For a house we were falling for, we were quickly realizing it was also falling… quite literally.

With an unhappy sigh and shrug of our shoulders, G and I decided to move forward with our house hunting and will be continuing to look with our agent for our first home.

We’re curious where our adventures will take us in the future…

Until next time, friends,

 

How To Write Wedding Thank You Cards

Now that the wedding is over, there are a few items on G’s and my to-do list to complete such as legally changing names and addresses, reviewing vendors, and finding a place for all our wedding decor. Yet the most pressing of these necessary post-wedding items is writing our thank you cards.

Our friends and family traveled from near and far to celebrate with us on our Big Day and we received many nice gifts as well. The task of writing close to 100 thank yous seems a bit daunting, but it’s an oh-so-important task and we plan to block out time on our calendars to take care of these notes every night over the next week.

Are you at this point as well and are avoiding the task because you don’t know what to say? I gotcha, girl. Knowing how to word thank you notes is something many brides struggle with after the wedding. It is easy for wedding thank you cards to feel like an overwhelming and anxious task! But as long as you can muster up a few heartfelt words, you are free to use the same thankful wording over and over… and I’ll even help get you started!

First off, always address all guests who attended and/or were mentioned in the wedding card. After your Dear So-And-So, keep the message short and sweet. Wedding thank you notes do not to be long — they are notes after all — but they do need to sound genuine. Provide details such as the gift item received or a personal inside joke or how you’ll be using cash gifts. So, in short, keep you notes short, detailed, and light-hearted.

Thank You Wording for Physical Gifts

Thank you so much for coming to our wedding! The day would not have been the same without you in attendance. We were also so happy to receive [the gift/s] and look forward to [using it for years to come/having it as a beautiful reminder of our wedding/etc].

Thank You wording for cash gifts

Thank you for attending our wedding! It was the best day imaginable, and your presence was a big factor in that! We are so appreciative of your generous gift, and plan to [add it to our down payment on a house/use it to make our honeymoon wonderful/etc]. Thank you again for celebrating with us.

Thank you wording for attendance only

Thank you so much for being at our wedding! It was wonderful to see you and be able to spend time celebrating what was such an amazing day. Your attendance warmed our hearts and made our wedding day THAT much better. Sending you the warmest well wishes until we see you again.

Thank you wording for a loved one unable to attend but sent a gift

We are so sorry you were not able to make it to the celebration on our wedding day. It was a wonderful day, but you were missed. We wanted to make sure to say thank you for [the gift] and plan to [use of gift, physical or cash] in the future. Thank you for thinking of us, and hoping to see you soon.


A few other things to keep in mind while you’re writing those notes:

  • Be timely with your thank you cards. Enjoy your honeymoon and a few weeks of “getting into the swing of married life,” but then knock this task out. Most guests expect a thank you within 2 to 3 months of the wedding.
  • Write notes to everyone, even if they didn’t give you a gift. That friend or family member made the journey and spent their precious time (and most likely a bit of travel expenses) to celebrate your union, remember? Thank everyone who showed up to be a part of your wedding.
  • Both partners should be a part of the thank you writing process. You both got married, right? You both had guests attend, correct? Then, ladies, this is not just your post-wedding “party.” Start your marriage off on a good page by tag-teaming this task into completion.

Good luck and full steam ahead!

Reblog: A Short List Of Things Worth Doing For Self-Care

On Friday I talked about what I believe self-care truly means and how ugly real self-care can be. This might mean taking a good, long look at yourself and finding solutions — whether easy or difficult — to fix the issues prohibiting you to be your best you. Figuring out those solutions can be a chore in itself, but making habits to better yourself is hard too. Want some ideas on small steps you might be able to take? Angelo Caerlang over at Thought Catalog came up with an awesome list of thing worth doing for your self-care. Take a look!

1. Getting enough hours of sleep.

Your brain is sharper when you are not sleep deprived. I totally get how hard it is to achieve 7-8 hours of complete rest every night, but once you make a habit of sleeping early, you will notice a positive shift in your behavior. You will wake up the next day less irritated and more of like a functioning human being. So set a consistent bedtime every day and train your body to stick with it no matter what.

2. Writing down your thoughts and feelings.

Journaling has changed my life for the better and I 10/10 recommend it for everyone. There is something very therapeutic about writing everything that is living inside of you. The clean, empty spaces in your notes seem like an invitation for you to understand the way you think, the way you feel, and the way you handle different circumstances in this world. Journaling is a way for you to look back one day and see how much you have evolved as a person. It will be a proof that you survived your toughest days. The words that you wrote will be an inspiration for you to keep going.

3. Working out every day.

I used to hate people who talk so much about health and fitness. But recently, I’ve realized that if there is one obvious thing that makes me different from them, it is that they look happier than I am. Apparently, when you do exercise, your body releases this thing called endorphins which happens to be the chemicals that help you be happy or whatever. So I tried working out for a few days just to check if it’s true, and girl, have I been feeling lighter and more stable lately? You bet.

4. Going out for a walk.

A good way to declutter your mind is to go out there and sync yourself with nature. By taking long walks, you get to hear your thoughts really well. You can make unbiased decisions about the little issues that bother you. The ground beneath your feet will remind you that the best things really come for free. You don’t have to necessarily fly on the opposite side of the world just to figure out how satisfied you are with your life.

5. Weeding out negative people.

If people have been scheming and talking poorly about you when you’re not around, it’s probably best that you detach yourself away from them. Nobody deserves to feel like they’re wasting their time hanging out with the wrong ones. You shouldn’t hold yourself back from going after what you want because you’re waiting for someone to catch up with you. Time plays an important role in your growth. It’s okay to separate ways with those that are only causing you to slow down.

6. Buying books and actually reading them.

Reading helps you become more sympathetic. It’s a chance for you to know and experience what it’s like to be in somebody else’s shoes. It provides you with valuable information that you can use in the future or even in your day-to-day life. It’s nice to sit down, drink a cup of tea or coffee, and do nothing but read. Life doesn’t always have to be wild and crazy. Sometimes you also have to learn how to calm your mind and be still.

7. Allowing yourself to eat the food that you want.

There are better ways to lose those extra pounds other than starving yourself. You aren’t going to live for eternity and I’m pretty sure that you don’t want to look back someday regretting the times that you deprived yourself of good foods. Go ahead and stuff your face with that meal that you want. Give yourself a break and have a cheat day. There is a time afterward to burn those calories. But right at this moment, allow yourself to satisfy your cravings.

8. Accepting that some things just don’t work.

You can like somebody so bad but if they don’t feel the exact same way, what’s the point of chasing them? The right person will smoothly sweep into your life. Stop banging your knuckles on the doors that won’t open. Some things just don’t work. And the sooner you accept that truth, the more chances you have in finding someone who can actually fall in love with you.

9. Defining what’s important to you.

You will not be blindsided by anything or anyone once you have a concrete idea of what truly matters to you in this world. Your priorities are your guide when the road in front of you is fuzzy. Life may bring you to different places but if you know who you are, you will never be lost. Nobody will be able to take away your voice or even silence you. And no fear can shake up your foundation.

10. Having quiet time.

Maybe the reason why you can’t think straight is that you’re afraid to tune out the noise around you and just be alone with your thoughts. It’s true that confronting your problems is hard. But if you keep running away from the devils that haunt you at night, you will never feel one hundred percent at ease in your life. Embrace the quiet times that you get once in a while and use it as an opportunity to solve some issues from your past. Learn how to be okay on your own. Because in the end, the only one who can truly help you and save you is you.

Written by Angelo Caerlang for Thought Catalog on Tuesday, July 10, 2018. Find the original post here.


So what do you guys think? What is self-care to you? I would love to hear how you strive to become a better version of yourself.

With you and for you,