Summer Checklist 2018

summer checklist

Super great news – my first year at my doctorate program is over! While we only had about one month off last summer, we were blessed with 10 days off between the spring semester and the summer session, and we’ll get TWO WHOLE MONTHS off this coming summer.

With wedding planning in full swing and a bunch of projects on my list, the timing couldn’t be better. If you remember, I made a summer checklist last year and managed to finish most of it – but not all. Here’s what I hope to accomplish with my time off this summer:

1. Wedding Lawn Games DIY
This is a biggie. Our wedding is in October, in a huge field behind a gorgeous barn, and the entire setup was designed to accommodate lawn games galore for our guests to enjoy until twilight hits. On the list? Mr. & Mrs. Cornhole, Ring Toss for the kids, Giant Jenga. Stay tuned.

2. Finish our Farmer’s Porch
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Last year, I started painting our farmer’s porch with a haight-style blue on the ceiling, and my grand plans were going just fine until Mike proposed (not a bad distraction!) With a half-painted ceiling and a still-chipping floor, it’s fair to say that NO progress has been made in the last 6 months on this project, especially with summer weather hitting so late here in RI.

Goal for this project – July 4th.

3. Start and Maintain a Perennial Garden
I have always wanted to keep a flower garden, and this was never possible in NYC with my minimal apartment space and non-existent yard. I dug out a small garden last year and planted some hosta and hydrangea, just to test and see if the soil would keep for flowers this year.

IT DID!

This year, I planted a ton of different perennials, and I can’t wait until they bloom – IF they bloom! I’m so excited to share the progress I’ve made with my lillies, roses, and other plants this summer.

4. Refurbish a Found Park Bench
At the start of the summer, our neighborhood associated voted to replace the benches along our walking path. However, the bench at the end of our street, though rusted and a bit worn, was in perfectly good working condition. Mike, our neighbors, and I have taken this bench under our care and have decided to refurbish it to enjoy in our own yard.

It’s going to be beautiful – black metal supports with an early American oak style for the wood slats. We’d love to have this one done by the 4th as well to accommodate our guests for the fireworks.

5. Read 2-3 Books for Pleasure
During the school year, I resent reading a bit. Articles upon articles loaded with statistics and scientific writing have made me lose a bit of my luster for a good book. This summer, there are a few books I’d love to read – in particular, the new Gillian Flynn book that they’re making into the HBO Show, Sharp Objects. Beach reads a-go-go!

6. Master the At-Home Workout Routine
Now that I’m teaching spin classes 4 times a week at a local studio, I barely have time to enjoy the other workouts I love during the school year, like running and TRX. With the wedding coming up I’m feeling the heat when it comes to “bride body,” and I’m hoping this free summer will give me the opportunity to enjoy more of the workouts I love. We also just purchased a new paddleboard, which I’m excited to learn how to use and get some of that core strength I’ve always been lacking!

7. Eat More Protein
Along those same lines, Mike has been totally revamping his diet and has seen a ton of success losing weight and recomposing his figure. I hope to do the same in the coming months before the wedding, and beyond – especially since I’ve just found out I have Celiac Disease (more on that later). Protein has always been a struggle for me, but we’ve found a few ways to inject more protein into every meal that I’m excited to share.

8. Get Organized!
The forever task. There’s SO MUCH STUFF in our house, and the collection keeps on growing. A MAJOR task that we started this winter that I’m hoping to finish is our basement. When I say that it’s literally a pile of tools, surfboards, boat accessories and garden supplies, I’m not exaggerating. Things keep piling up, and there’s a lot of potential with the space. A big goal for Mike this summer is to make that space functional for us to take on more DIY projects – like the homemade bar cart he’s hoping to construct in the fall.

9. Find 3 New Go-To Recipes
A goal I always like to set myself each season is to find go-to recipes that are easy to put together for either me or Mike that we both actually like, that’s healthy and clean, and now that I’ve got this new dietary condition, that’s gluten free. I’ve always eaten gluten free because the diet makes me feel better – even my mood! – but now that it’s more medically necessary, I’m looking at this change as an opportunity to really refine my skills in the kitchen.

10. Redecorate our Bedroom
Last but not least – the bedroom. We recently built our own platform bed from scratch and it really upgraded the look of the room. Between that and the dresser I repurposed to be more “nautical” last year, the room is coming together. It’s a weirdly shaped space, and a lot of it is empty now that we’ve also removed a set of twin bunk beds that used to live there. My mission – make our room a cozy hangout spot for us and Reese Witherspoon the dog to rest in.

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Easy Party Pasta Salad

pasta salad

It’s happened to everyone – it’s a beautiful day, you’re enjoying the weather with friends or family, and suddenly you come down from your NYC rooftop or in from your favorite beach and you’re at your place with a hungry crowd. This pasta salad has saved me from that desperate situation MANY times, and I’m excited to share this quick party trick with you.

Pasta salad could not be an easier way to host on the fly, and you probably already have most of the materials in your pantry. Plus, it’s easy to substitute gluten free pasta (my favorite is Banza chick pea penne, which adds some extra protein) to accommodate for dietary restrictions.

Simply: boil 1 box of pasta, rinse with cold water. While the pasta is boiling, add 1 chopped cucumber, 2 chopped peppers (any color), and 1/2 chopped onion. We have this awesome Ninja chopper my mom got me for Christmas a couple of years ago and it has taken years of food prep off my life. Top with some salt and 3/4 bottle of Wishbone Italian Dressing and you’re done!

This recipe is also easy to make ahead – just hold off on the dressing until you’re about to serve the dish, and add about 1 tablespoon of olive oil per box of pasta to keep it moist. Refrigerate covered.

I like to serve this pasta salad as a spring and summer staple, alongside anything you can cook up on the grill. It’s a hit!

 

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Gluten Free – Sweet Potato Gnocchi

gnocchi

Coming from an Italian family, it’s been hard to make a full switch to the gluten free life. The struggle applies particularly to gnocchi – one of my favorite Italian dishes ever and one of the only dishes I’ll ever order at an Italian restaurant. (On principle, I don’t love going to Italian restaurants because I can make most of the dishes at home – gnocchi being a strong exception because it’s so labor intensive and so hard to nail. For those of you in the Providence, RI area, you’ll understand – especially if you’ve ever had the gnocchi from Siena.)

Anyway, I stumbled across a recipe for sweet potato gnocchi on one of my favorite food blogs, Pinch of Yum. If I was going to have to quit real carbs, I thought I’d try making one of my favorite dishes the GF way – with sweet potatoes. Plus, it fits in really well with Mike’s low-carb diet.

Here is my adaptation of the recipe from Pinch of Yum.

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Yummy Breakfast Acai Bowls

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Acai bowls – basically smoothies on crack. These yummy bowls make a great breakfast – so long as you monitor how much sugar you’re taking in! (Spoiler alert- the bowl in this picture is super sugary, so it’s great 30-45 minutes after a morning workout.)

To serve 2-3 adults for a healthy breakfast, blend 3 packets of Sambazon Acai (you can find this at Whole Foods), 1 banana (frozen or fresh), 1 cup of frozen blueberries, 1 cup of frozen strawberries, 2 cups of coconut milk, and 2-3 scoops of protein powder. The protein powder is key, especially if you’re watching your diet – the extra protein will make this bowl much more filling.

To turn it into a smoothie you can grab for your drive to work, just add a bit more coconut milk and a few ice cubes.

Top the bowls with whatever you desire! Granola is a great topping to make the bowls more filling. Try making my Homemade Granola Recipe for a gluten free granola option. I like to add a tablespoon of peanut butter and a drizzle of honey, and often I add coconut flakes.

Acai bowls & smoothies are a yummy, filling breakfast that will boost your protein intake for the day. Enjoy!

 

Acai Bowls

Print & Share Breakfast Acai Bowl Recipe

 

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DIY Platform Bed with Storage

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How many times have you woken up in the middle of the night, displaced from your comfortable bed “zone” by your significant other and your dog (or kids, for all the moms out there!)? Chances are, probably a lot. And, chances are, you’ve probably come to this conclusion one time or another – WE’RE GONNA NEED A BIGGER BED.

That decision was made in our house in early March, when Mike and I started shopping for mattresses (aka polling all of our friends, family, coworkers, waiters, etc). We finally decided to buy our brand new (King!) mattress from Nectar, which came highly recommended from a former coworker of mine and comes with a ONE YEAR Warranty, which seems like a totally reasonable amount of time to evaluate how much we liked the mattress.

With a new king mattress and a full/queen frame, it was clear we also needed to invest in a new bed. I browsed online for hours and found a million links to beds that I liked a little bit, but nothing truly caught my eye that would match our wall-to-wall carpet and go well with this dresser I upcycled last summer.

That’s when Mike suggested we BUILD our new bed – a more cost-effective option that gave us the flexibility to decide on features and colors, and also gave us a project that we could work on together.

First things first – it should be noted that building a DIY bed is not that much cheaper than buying a bed, particularly if you don’t have all of the necessary tools. That said, this bed has all of the features we want (read: storage) that we may not have found in the same price range from a furniture store.

The Plan
Mike found this great pattern on the Lowes blog in his great internet sweep for DIY beds.
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