Sausage Pepper Egg Bake

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

After many years of making the same tried and true ham egg and cheese breakfast casserole, I've been on the hunt for a great sausage alternative to throw into the mix. Finally, I ended up combining a couple of different recipes to find the perfect mix, and now am happy to say, I'm done looking! The great thing about this recipe is, there is a bit of zip to it, so no more bland casseroles, and it's heavy on the protein, so a great option to keep the boys in my life filled up for longer than an hour. Go ahead and double it, using a 9x13 if you are feeding a crowd!


SAUSAGE PEPPER EGG BAKE | Yield: 4-6 servings | Total Time: 1 hr

INGREDIENTS:

1 lb mild sausage, browned
1/2 bag frozen shredded o'brien hash browns, lightly browned
1 C cheddar cheese
1 red pepper, chopped
8 eggs
1 C milk
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp onion powder
1/8 tsp garlic powder

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large skillet, cook sausage until no longer pink. Transfer to a bowl.

Add hash browns to the skillet and cook until lightly brown. Put hash browns in the bottom of a lightly greased baking dish. Top with sausage, cheese, chopped red pepper.

Whisk together eggs, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and milk. Pour over hash brown mixture.

*Cover and refrigerate now if you are baking later.

Bake, uncovered, 40-45 minutes. Enjoy! P.S. --> Leftovers heat up great!




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Florida Summer Vacation

Friday, June 30, 2017

In mid-June, our family packed our bags for a somewhat last minute summer vacation to Florida. We had just visited in April, but after my entire family decided to go back in June, T & I came to the decision that we just didn't want to miss out on an opportunity to all be together again in the sunshine state. When I was a kid, we took several extended family vacations with my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins to Florida, and I have fond memories of the trips that will last a lifetime. I am so glad that we are able to continue the tradition with our littles, and look forward to hopefully many more family trips to come! 



Bright and early on our day of departure, we got packed up in the car and took off for the airport. We were almost an hour behind schedule by the time we left (after a long night of T being on call)and we ran into a detour, had to wait for a train, and went through interstate road construction all on the way to the airport three hours away. Needless to say, it was a bit of a stressful day, and we cut it extremely close to get on our plane in time. Having ALL the gear with us surely didn't help us to speed anything up, but the boys took it all in stride and we DID in fact make it in time...barely. Graham was his usual rambunctious self, and jumped from lap to lap to lap (my parents and brother were in the row in front of us, so G had plenty of friends to keep himself entertained!), while C was content to drive his school bus, motorcycle, and read, before being completely sucked into Minions on papa T's iPad. 

Upon arrival, we ended up getting an upgrade to our vehicle due to lack of inventory, and got to drive an Audi Q3 for the week. So much fun to drive a 'fancy' car! I would not, however, recommend this vehicle if you have little ones in tow. We had a very difficult time fitting our luggage, and ended up having to send one of our carry-ons with my parents. Since we had a mid-afternoon flight, it was pretty late when we got to our destination, but we were happy to discover the calzones at Danny's Pizzeria in Bradenton as a solid takeout option close to our destination on Anna Maria Island.

By the time we arrived at the beach house, the boys were pretty wiped out, but they were so excited about the new sleeping arrangements that you would have thought it was Christmas morning! C slept in the kids bunk room this trip, and he was sooooo excited! 


Everyone slept great the first night of our trip, and no one got up before 7a.m.. Granted, there was a one hour time change, so technically speaking, this was actually 6am, but I'll take it over 5am! After we got rolling for the day, we headed out to Ginny and Jane's for coffee and breakfast with Grandpa T & Uncle T. G loved every minute, and would likely still be sitting there if we would have let him continue to eat! He had a sampling of blueberry muffin, pancakes, and tots, and was so happy to be part of the meal.

After breakfast, we came back to the beachouse, and C & T played in the pool while I snuck out to the beach for a quick walk during G's nap. Later, G & I snuck out for a bonding moment during C's nap, and met up with some of my other family members who had been out boating in the gulf at Tide Tables Restaurant for lunch in Cortez. The restaurant is located on the water next to a fishing dock, and the fish is just about as fresh as it comes. They have a delicious grouper sandwich if you are ever in the area!



Back at the house, it was more swimming for C when G decided he needed a three hour mid afternoon power nap, and C had so much fun practicing shooting his water gun and sitting on the edge of the hot tub. We grabbed dinner to go from Poppo's Taqueria (awesome fresh ingredients - their honey lime slaw and chips and guacamole are where it's at!), and called it a night after a slice of key lime pie.



The guys (aka T & my brothers) got up bright and early Sunday morning to go deep-sea fishing, and were gone by 5:45am for a full day on the ocean. The little people in my life slept until 7:15am when G woke up and thought he was starving...ensuring that C heard him from the room he was staying in on the other side of the house and waking him up. After a bottle, he was much more content, and we got to enjoy a few quiet moments of snuggling before getting up for the day. 

After we did eventually get moving, Gma & Gpa, Aunt H, Aunt C, and the boys and I all walked to Paradise Bagels for breakfast. We weren't more than fifty yards from the house when C decided he wasn't interested in walking anymore, and he ended up riding on the front of the stroller for the remainder of the walk. At breakfast, G was not about to miss out, and he enjoyed sharing part of C's blueberry muffin, banana, and some eggs. I think he's just so excited to finally get to eat whatever everyone else is eating that he doesn't know when to stop!




Back at the house, both boys got in a good nap, and then to the pool we went. G loved swimming in his pool float with Gma & Gpa, while C had fun pouring water and practicing his baseball skills with a ping pong paddle and a tennis ball. The guys eventually made it home around 6pm, and had a great day fishing. They caught several snapper, and grouper, and we had a delicious fish fry poolside.





Monday morning was a day for donuts! We ALL went to The Donut Experiment, enjoyed entirely more donuts than were completely necessary, and loved every bite. G isn't completely sure of donuts yet, but C loved them, and had nearly two to himself. Of course, the vanilla with rainbow sprinkles was his donut of choice, and was devoured nearly as fast as I could get it cut up. After donuts, we walked around Galati's looking and dreaming about yachts before heading back to the beach house after it started to sprinkle. It rained most of the afternoon, so most of our playing was indoors, but the boys made the most of it and had fun playing cars and making parking garages on the couch.








 My whole family went out for dinner at The Waterfront, and I got to try a new fish - tilefish - delicious by the way! - while C enjoyed searching for Dory and Nemo in the giant fish tank inside the restaurant. It's not too often that nearly our entire family is in Florida at the same time, so it was nice of our waitress to snap a picture of us all together. After dinner, we snuck out to the beach for a quick walk at sunset, then after getting the boys to bed, headed out to The Doctor's Office, a new cocktail lounge on the island which happens to be walking distance from where we stay, with my brothers and spouses. So. Much. Fun. The first drink came out lit on fire, so it was obviously a good decision, and a good time was had by all! We all decided that this is going to become a regular stop every visit going forward. The ambiance is great, and has a very lounge like feel with dark woods, warm candlelight, and classic black and white movies playing on a projector screen. They also serve up some pretty amazing small plates to munch on while cocktailing, which was an added bonus.

The following morning started out with a trip to Ginny & Jane's for breakfast, where G once again loved the tots, and specifically picked them out of the other little morsels I put in front of him. After breakfast, we came back to the house so G could catch a nap, and I snuck out to the beach for a walk before packing into the car for a quick trip to my Aunt & Uncle's to see their new place about 40 minutes away. The ocean was super rough, and there were even people surfing on the waves off the beach. Not a sight I've ever seen when we've been visiting! It's a good thing the boys went fishing when they did!






After getting a tour of my aunt & uncle's new place in the Esplanades, we ate lunch outside at the onsite Bahama Bar situated right in the middle of the golf course the boys were atG may or may not have eaten more than C, devouring part of a cheeseburger, French fries, and some of my tortilla wrap before finally calling it quits. After lunch, Gma J, the boys and I all walked through some model homes in the community my aunt & uncle live in, and had so much fun seeing how the designers staged the various layouts, and some of the unique characteristics that were put into the homes. A perfect way to spend a super hot afternoon!


Wednesday morning, we headed up to Pine Avenue to grab a fresh scone and coffee from Hometown Desserts and do a little shopping to kick off the day. It was super hot and humid, so after walking through just one shop, we decided to bring breakfast back to the house to sit in the comfort of the a/c. 




Later in the afternoon, everyone went swimming at the pool to keep cool. G loved floating around in his pool float, and C enjoyed pouring water standing where he could touch, and sitting in the hot tub. Also, off topic, but can we just pause to appreciate yawning baby face for a minute?! G was completely wiped out after a long afternoon of swimming, but was all kisses (a.k.a. face licking) for Papa T after getting ready for bed. Such an adorable little fella he is.





After a long afternoon at the pool, my brothers, sister-in-law C, and T & I went on a date night on Longboat Key to Euphemia Haye. T & I had visited their dessert bar at The Haye Loft on our last trip down, and were so looking forward to trying out the main restaurant. It did not disappoint. I had pistachio crusted snapper, and T had noisettes Madagascar....so so good. Afterwards, we headed upstairs to the Haye Loft for the dessert bar and some live music before turning in for the night. I think this will also have to become a regular stop for us when we have someone who is willing to stay back with the kiddos! Special shout out to Gma J & Gpa T for offering to stay with C & G while we snuck out for an adults only date night!


On our last full day in Anna Maria, we woke up and decided that we needed a second trip to the Donut Experiment before we could be satisfied that we'd had enough donuts to get us through until our next visit. Many other people had the same idea, and we ended up waiting an hour for our fresh, still warm, donuts. I let C pick his own donut out of the box, and again, he went straight for the vanilla with rainbow sprinkles. Of course, he then helped to eat a few bites of the other flavors when his was finished, but the rainbow sprinkles remain his all-time fave.



Back at the house, C & T went out to the beach for a bit - T was adamant he wanted to try body boarding since the waves were pretty big - and C tagged along with our pop-up beach tent and Gma J in hand. The afternoon was for pool time, and while C wasn't all about swimming in the pool, he loved pouring water in his cups and sitting in the hot tub. Meanwhile, G was fully pruned out after floating around in his pool float for solid couple hours. T tried to get him to back float, and while he tolerated it briefly, he wasn't all that interested.

Our entire group along with my aunt, uncle, and cousin C went out to dinner at one of our island favs, Eat Here. G scavenged just about every piece of food he could find, trying everything from dill-caper sautéed mahi mahi to pimento cheese dip, while C acted like the little social butterfly that he is when around familiar faces, talking through the majority of the meal.

Later, as I was getting C ready for bed, I asked if he was ready to go home, and he responded 'I don't want to go home. I want to stay at the beach house'. I asked him 'why?' And he responded 'all the people I like are here'...this kid seriously lives for family time! Over the span of the week, I think we said individual prayers for each and every family member we were traveling with. Such a thoughtful little guy.



The final day of our trip, our return flight went about as smoothly as possible aside from a short delay on our way out of St. Pete. Most of my family we were traveling with were also on the same flight, so the boys had lots of people to talk to and play with in the airport while we waited, and they soaked up every last minute of time spent with their grandparents and aunt and uncles until we are together again. We had a great trip to Florida, and made many wonderful memories together as a family. Can't wait until next time! 
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3 Year Update: C

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Truth. Last night I was eyeing C's baby book with a sense of guilt that I haven't done a better job at getting it filled in, I came to the realization that if I don't write things down in the moment, the memories are much harder to retrieve later on. Therefore, this afternoon, while I find myself finally with a sure to be short-lived moment to myself while both boys are napping, I thought I'd take the opportunity to jot down some thoughts on C's last year. I often find myself in an internal struggle about if I should take a 'time-out' to record some of my thoughts on raising a 3-yr old, or if I should spend my 'free-time' more productively and go do that fourth load of laundry, scrape some of the eight meals or snacks we've had by 1:30pm off the kitchen floor, or maybe grab a shower without an audience. All solid options...and I do tend to gravitate towards them most days, but I also think it's important to write things down every now and then too. So no, I don't get the opportunity to write down as much as I probably would like, but when I do have a chance to sit and reflect, and happen to glance up at the row of neatly organized matchbox cars or tractors C has arranged in a 'parking garage' on my bathroom countertop, I can't help but smile as I think about how much my 'big' boy has changed and grown in the last year.







For C, the most obvious, and biggest change to his life was the day we brought G home from the hospital back in July. C was just over two years old (26 months to be exact), and was so completely full of joy, and an absolute bright spot in our days. He was, and continues to be, a mama's boy, especially at bedtime. At two, C maybe said 50 words or so, and would string together two or maybe three words on a rare occasion. Fast forward to today, and C continues to have an overall good attitude about most things, but can also occasionally be the instigator of trouble. Overall, he has done such a great job in his role as big brother, and it is plain to see that he completely adores G when he brings him his blanket, or sits down next to him while he is playing, brings him a toy, or tells him a story. Before G became so mobile, C loved holding him, even though he's was usually over it about eight seconds after getting his hands on him. After G's arrival, C's speech completely exploded, and he now speaks in full sentences, often times recalling obscure details from months before that even T & I don't remember until he starts talking about it. Steel trap this one!




 







 


DEVELOPMENTAL ACTIVITY
C has grown leaps and bounds this year, and has come so far not only in his speech, but in his agility. For a kid who was on the very late end of things as far as gross motor milestones go (not walking until 18 months), C has taken big strides this year. He loves to run, shoot hoops, play football, really any sort of athletic activity he can convince us to play. While I wouldn't call him the most coordinated kid on the block, he can nail a basketball shot, and loves nothing more than to shout from the top of his lungs that 'I'm on fire!'.

SCHEDULE
C's schedule hasn't really changed much this year. He gets up around 7:30am, naps around 1pm, and goes to bed about 7:30pm. He eats at mealtimes, and doesn't really snack a whole lot in between...although he's a pretty skinny toddler, so sometimes, we wish he had a bit bigger appetite!

FAVORITE TOY
C's favorite toys have stayed pretty consistent this year, and he continues to love playing with cars, tractors, and balls. At any point during this day, you will likely find no less than five separate parking garages or farms set up around our house, and countless balls strewn about waiting to be tripped over.

STORYTIME
C is a voracious reader, and spends at least part of every day with a book or three. He got to the point this year that he was able to recite pages from our at-home library, so after he got past the stage of tearing pages, we started utilizing the library much more frequently. His favorite books tend to be about trains or sports, but he also loves to read about farming and animals. A few of our favorite books from the year are; You Belong Here, Bear Loves Piano, Chugga Chugga Choo-Choo, and our nightly reading from a children's Bible. 

CUISINE
C is a terribly picky eater, and unless it is 80% cheese, or some form of cracker or muffin, he is not a great eater. He does love quesadillas with meat and veggies, enjoys a good chicken recipe, and has no problem downing a full bowl of oatmeal with fruit, yogurt, or cereal. So, ultimately, I suppose you could say that as long as it is a breakfast food, grilled cheese, or mac & cheese, he will eat something!

SLEEP
Just after C's third birthday, he moved downstairs to his new room. We had been putting it off and putting it off, but finally after we returned from our Florida vacation in June during which he slept all week in a twin bed, we decided it was officially time to make the switch. He had been sleeping in big beds for quite a while already when we had been traveling, but we didn't have a twin bed until early June for him at our house, and I was a bit worried about him being on a separate floor from the rest of us. It all turned out great, and he hasn't had any problems at all making the switch. I opted not to use bed rails since he doesn't move around much at night, so instead, I put a couple of pool noodles under his sheets just in case, and we've had no problems with him falling out of bed.

Some of our favorite sayings from the year:
'Carcar needs mischief'
'Carcar grew up'
'Carcar made mess'
'Go see Jesus' (his way of saying he is going to church)
'Mommy's always workin''
'Daddy's workin' shoes'
After bath time, T wraps C up in a towel and calls him Carter-Won-Kenobi - to which C replies 'Not the droids you're lookin' for!' - certainly one of T's proudest parenting contributions thus far!



Photo Credit | Studio1328

Overall, C is the most loving, kind, most of the time well-behaved three-year-old, and we are so proud of the young boy he is growing to be. Now if he would just rub off a little more on his 'wild man' little brother! While I was not planning to be part of the pictures from this day, I am sooooo glad that I have this special time to look back on with my biggest little sweetheart. Love you to the moon and back C!
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