memorial day ideas

Can y’all believe that MEMORIAL DAY is just around the corner?!

I for one cannot – I mean, it’s almost June already! For us, this holiday means the start of the summer season…think grillin & chillin, lawn games, time spent at the river, and all sorts of fun outdoor activities and get-togethers. I thought it would be fun to share some of our favorites {our go-to articles, websites, etc.}, in case anyone out there needed a bit of inspiration for their Memorial Day bbq/party time. Here ya go – enjoy!

Alicia xoxo 

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Food & Grilling

Summer Grilling

BBQ Tips

Memorial Day Side Dishes

20 Desserts to Make for Memorial Day

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Fun & Games

Memorial Day Games – For Kids of All Ages!

Fun Adult Games

…Outdoor Games for Adults!

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Festive Beverages

Memorial Day Drinks {adult}

10 Cocktails for Drinking Outside

Fun & Refreshing Drinks {many kid-friendly!}

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Happy celebrating, y’all!

lately: graduation weekend

As you saw from Friday’s post, the hubs and I were home for a long weekend, celebrating a huge milestone for my sister Jackie : ) We spent the weekend touring Richmond – soaking in the graduation ceremonies, exploring the downtown area, and of course…lots of good eats and drinks! What made it even more special was that we got to see several of my extended family members, some of whom I haven’t seen for quite some time. Here’s a peak into how we spent our time!

-Alicia xoxo 

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lately: the in-laws were here!

Recently, my wonder in-laws and sister-in-law were here. We planned a full week and a half while they were here; packing in everything from hikes, to a nice dinner out, and everything in between. Here are some snapshots of our adventures – some of the views might make you long for the outside, and the food may or may not make you hungry! 

Alicia xoxo

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congrats, jackie!

…from our goofy days as kiddos, to her undergraduate graduation from Duke University, I couldn’t be more proud of my middle sister, Jackie. We’re celebrating her 2nd graduation this weekend – but this time, from medical school! She’s headed back to Duke this summer to begin her residency; a four-year stint full of what is sure to bring even more knowledge and skills to her already extremely smart and savvy self. Cheers to you, Jackie – I love you!

Alicia xoxo

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peanut butter power bites

Even a kitchen fail can produce beautiful results. I mean, just take a look at these…

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I am certainly no stranger when it comes to the occasional kitchen “mess up”. There are things, simple things, really…I just can never seem to get it right! My favorite example of this is brown rice – I don’t know what it is, but I have a tendency to either undercook/overcook the rice, or add slightly too much salt when preparing it. White rice, cous cous, or any other grain is no problem for me, but that darn brown rice and I just don’t get along!

But I digress. Back to today’s recipe.

I was making a batch of my homemade peanut butter and I accidentally over-processed the mixture. While still delicious, the end product was far too grainy and chunky to really be called spreadable. It was so thick I could barely get it out of the food processor, let alone into a Mason Jar for storing it! But I sucked it up and saved it anyways; I hate throwing out food, and I knew that if I gave it a day or two to roll around in my foodie brain, I’d eventually come up with something.

And boy oh boy did I; the end product is so wonderfully delicious {and nutritious!}. I was snooping around my pantry and my eyes danced over the rolled outs near the top shelf. So of course I thought of peanut butter cookies, but then I started pondering a no-bake, freezer-style version. Thin the peanut butter out with some honey and add in oats for binding, and you’ve got the perfect power snack! I was giddy with excitement, practically dancing into the kitchen to pull out my trust food processor yet again.

Y’all, the process doesn’t get much simpler than this. Everything goes into the bowl, a few quick pulses, and you’re there. I scooped them into greased mini muffin tins, popped them in the freezer, and fell in love. Truly. These are the perfect bites for between meals; great healthy snacking for outdoor activities, or a tasty little treat before bed. I even offered up a few suggestions for add-ins, should you feel so creative : ) These have become a staple in our house; I hope they will become the same for you!

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Peanut Butter Power Bites

Perfect for snacking on the go, and just comprised of three ingredients, there’s no reason to not whip up a batch right now. You’ll be glad you did! 

Ingredients:

2 cups peanut butter {here’s my homemade version!}

1 cup rolled oats

1/4 cup honey

optional: dried fruit bits, chopped nuts, mini chocolate chips

To Prepare:

Place all ingredients {except the optional ingredients} into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until combined; it won’t take long!

Fold in the optional ingredients by hand.

To assemble:

1.  Bites can be rolled into balls and placed on a greased sheet tray.

2. Using a greased mini muffin tray, balls can be formed and molded into rounds.

3. Spread evenly into a greased 9″ x 9″ baking dish.

Freeze until solid, about 3-4 hours. Store tightly covered.

how to: a romantic date-night in

…I’ll admit, I feel like I’ve been on a bit of a “how to” kick lately! But it’s also something that I feel is important to take the time to do – as busy people {whether working, parenting, or being a student} with extracurriculars and other daily activities that take up much of our time, it’s a breath of fresh air to be reminded to have fun; setting time aside for ourselves is just as necessary, no? 

With a lot of trips/visits/activities packed into our schedule over the past two months, the hubs and I have prioritized a weekly “date night” practice that really has turned into, I’ll admit, somewhat of a new tradition. We pick one weekend evening where we stay home and go through all the musings: nice outfit, special dinner, cocktails and drinks. Heck, I even put some music on while I’m preparing dinner and the hubs is on the other side whipping up drinks! It’s the little touches that make nights in so much more special; today, I thought I would detail a bit more of our routine : ) 

-Alicia xoxo

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How To: Have a Romantic Date Night In

  • as i mentioned above, get dressed up for the occasion! it might not feel like it matters much, since you’re at home, but i’ve found that it really helps elevate the mood. when you feel good, you look good!
  • set up a designated “happy hour” from the point where you and your significant other are both “ready” for the date; enjoy a few cocktails or, perhaps your beer lovers – make a point to run to the store beforehand to pick up some specialty craft beers you’re both dying to taste!
  • music. have some fun tunes playing lightly in the background – it gives you more of a restaurant/bar vibe, but since you control the channel, you both will always be happy with the selection! {we even like to switch genres to a more subtle tune for when we sit down to dinner}
  • candles. i am a HUGE fan of candles, and have them lit whenever possible. i may go a bit overboard for occasions such as this, but it really adds a special touch; plus, the lighting is super warm and inviting…much nicer than bright overhead lights! & keep the blinds in your home up for bonus natural light.
  • when it comes to dinner, we gravitate more towards a tapas-style approach. i think small bites are more fun, not only because you can enjoy more of them {hehe}, but it makes preparation much easier! i focus on one larger place {think crab dip, or wings} then  set out lots of little snacks with it – olives, nuts, a nice block of sharp cheese, dried fruits, crackers. that way, you can build and customize your plate exactly as you’d like.
  • pick a fun activity for post-dinner. whether it’s watching a movie you’re both itching to see, playing some board games, or even just sitting down and catching up on the week, make sure you end date night on a high note!

I’d love to hear how you make your nights spent in with your loved ones{s} special! Leave me a note in the comments! 

{secret ingredient} chocolate chip cookie bars

Sometimes, the most unusual of ingredients can be the most versatile. Enter: tofu…today’s secret ingredient!

I know what you all must be thinking – Alicia MUST be crazy!…tofu used in cookies? That can’t be right…

The exact same thought was running through my mind when I happened upon this recipe while in a futile search to use up a block of tofu before it reached the point of no return. You see, I cook pretty frequently with tofu: sauces, stirfrys, smoothies, often just plain. You name and I have more than likely tried it {or saved a recipe to try it, hah}. But I wanted to do something different, something unusual. So, when I saw this recipe, I knew it had to be done.

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I’ll admit, I had my doubts. My husband did too. After all, how can a soy by-product be transformed into a sweet and luscious dessert? It didn’t make sense. But boy oh boy, were we pleasantly surprised! These cookies come together in not time, and the batter is rich and thick; typical of any traditional cookie dough. The tofu {whether silken or firm} is simply a means of replacing the higher fat ingredients; butter, oil, and the like. By nature, tofu has a pretty mild, almost undetectable flavor, so when paired with the bold tastes of chocolate/peanut butter/oats, it blends in beautifully.

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You have to promise that you’ll give these a shot, ok? You won’t be sorry! {or miss the other ingredients!}

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{secret ingredient} Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars {recipe adapted from Food.com }

Want to fool even the pickiest of eaters? Look no further! These protein-packed cookies will satisfy anyone’s sweet tooth, and won’t leave you feeling guilty. 

Ingredients:

1 package {12-1/3 ounces} tofu

heaping 1/3 cup natural style peanut butter, creamy style

1 cup brown sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1-1/2 cups old fashioned oats

optional: chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, assorted nuts of your liking

To Prepare:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray an 8″ x 8″ baking dish with nonstick cooking spray, and set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the tofu, peanut butter, brown sugar, and vanilla.

Slowly add in the flour, baking powder, and oats. Stir gently to combine with the wet ingredients.

If using, add in any additional optional ingredients.

Spread evenly into the baking sheet, and bake 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely before cutting into squares and serving.

Cookies will be kept best in the refrigerator, tightly covered, for several days. They freeze beautifully, too; simply use a freezer-safe bag, and transfer to the fridge several hours before consumption.