What to Pack: Beach Resort

I hate to check to bags. I like to have all of my things with me! When I decided to accept the invitation to attend Social Media on the Sand at Beaches Resort in Turks and Caicos… the first thing that crossed my mind was- What do I pack!?

First off… this was not a sponsored trip. I paid to attend the conference and I paid for my airfare. This doesn’t take away from the fact that this was the most amazing trip I’ve ever been invited on. Amazing or not… I wasn’t about to sacrifice my carry on for a week’s worth of adorable resort wear! And this is where my obsession with capsule wardrobes began.

What is a capsule wardrobe?

It’s a small set of clothes that are able to be mixed and matched to create dozens of combinations. Perfect! This is just what I needed! I jumped on Pinterest and began some serious research. Then I did a survey of my closet and then… I shopped. Here is a representation of what I brought on my week-long, off-season trip to Beaches in the Caribbean.

what to packYou’ll need 3 easy breezy dresses, 3 basic tops (one patterned) 3 basic bottoms (one patterned). From these 9 pieces of clothing and a handful of accessories, I had the freedom to create 12 “normal” outfits. You could go crazy and start some  serious layering (as I’ve seen on many posts like this) but I’m not one to layer skirts or shirts over my dresses. You could also add the awesome scarf to everything and count that as a “new” option, but I’m trying to keep it real here.

My t-shirts are from Target. V-neck boyfriend style are the best fit for me. I can also credit Target for my uncontrollable scarf, bag and hat addiction. The beachy, jersey knit dresses in my closet are from Old Navy (mostly). I do want to make one HUGE shout out in this post to Iristocracy. They gifted conference attendees with their choice of sunglasses. I chose these polarized Ted Baker aviators. Awesome. Right?

I hope that this post has inspired you to look at how you pack a little differently. Save space. Travel light. Relax and enjoy your trip!

*Disclosure- I was not paid to write this post. I’ve given all the trip details and information on my gifted sunglasses within this post.

A Less Traditional Holiday

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One of my favorite movies during the holiday season is- A Christmas Story. Remember when the dogs came through the house and ate the turkey? I love that the family then went on to celebrate their holiday dinner regardless… even if it was in a less traditional way at a Chinese restaurant! I don’t remember many untraditional holiday meals in my house growing up. My mother is an amazing cook. But I do remember a few. We ordered pizza from time to time. And now that I have my own family… I’m not as talented in the kitchen as my mom is. I love when our favorite restaurants have holiday menus. I can take the kids and celebrate without having to worry about dishes or cooking. They can start to associate the holiday season with time together around the table with me. It doesn’t really matter if it’s our table or not. The point is… we’re spending time together!

My kids love Denny’s. And I love Denny’s coffee :) Denny’s Season’s Favorites menu is now available and we’ll absolutely be creating new family memories around the table! I’m not a huge fan of Red Velvet but you might be! Be sure to try out the Red Velvet Pancake Puppies or new Red Velvet Milkshake! Do you love pumpkin? I do! There’s plenty of pumpkin in the new pumpkin pancakes! I’m most looking forward to the new Pumpkin Coffee! I’ll be sure to let you know if it’s available in the home brew varieties. You all know how much I love making Denny’s coffee at home! I’m planning on kicking off November with a nice fall holiday meal… The turkey and dressing dinner! It’s served with turkey breast, gravy, stuffing, cranberries, 2 additional sides and bread. The kids love the coziness of a turkey dinner :)

Vice President of Denny’s Marketing, John Dillon, says  “We believe that time spent at the table should be about making memories and being with your loved ones, which is why each year we strive to offer a hassle-free holiday celebration that combines the festive flavors our guests know and love, with the same value and variety that we provide every day.”

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The Season’s Favorites menu is only around for a limited time. Be sure you stop in your local Denny’s before it’s gone!

xo

Kelly

 

Disclosure: I’m a paid ambassador of Denny’s. This really excites me, because Denny’s was one of my first real jobs as a teenager! You can check out my first post in this series all about my real, authentic, love of Denny’s here. I’d never share about something I didn’t truly feel fondly about! xo -Kelly

On a Personal Note… Love is Hard

 

Very rarely do I write this openly… but it’s my blog. So. I’ll do what I want to. I firmly believe that every relationship we’re in, prepares us for the next. As someone who got married young… I never really experienced this. It wasn’t until now, in my 30′s, that I’ve began to understand what this means. And… I’m grateful for it. I’m grateful to the Universe for bringing amazing people into my life. Each of these people have taught me something valuable about being in a relationship. I’ve learned about  friendship, fighting fair, caring, supporting one another, being a cheerleader, accepting help, pain, loss, and love. I’ve been in love. And I’ve been loved. But I don’t know that it’s ever been at the same time in a healthy way… until now. I’ve met someone who I can’t imagine a day without. We’ve discussed our past relationships and it’s clear that we’ve reached an amazing place in our lives.  And still… Love is hard.

 

So… I trust. I believe. I give. I let go of what is required. And I seal it with a kiss to the Universe.

 

Hunger in America

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I struggle with this topic. This is America. One of the world’s richest nations. How can we possibly be dealing with hunger in America? And yet… we are. Did you know that 1 out of 5 kids in America are facing hunger every day? That’s nationwide. Let’s break it down even further. I live in the state of Arizona. In Arizona, 30% of kids struggle with hunger. THIRTY PERCENT! Out of school-aged kids in Arizona, 493,000 are receiving free or reduced-price lunches and only 46% of those are getting school breakfast. Translation? Most of these students will only eat ONE meal a day. At school. What about in the summer? It’s time to stop hunger in America. I know I’m only one person… but we can all do something to help make a difference.

Kids who eat breakfast have a higher school attendance and are more likely to graduate high school. Twenty percent more likely, as a matter of fact! Those same kids are proven to go on to earn $10,000 more annually on average than their hungry counterparts. Additionally- these kids are less likely to experience hunger as adults. I suppose that we could assume that their children would also be less likely to experience hunger- stopping the cycle.

If you read along regularly… you know that I’m on the Denny’s Brand Ambassador Team. But I’m not invoicing Denny’s for this post. I’m writing it because it’s an important topic… not because it’s on my editorial calendar or because I’m being paid to do so. Denny’s is one of many brands on a mission to end childhood hunger in America. They need our help.

Every dollar we donate to No Kid Hungry is tax deductible. That dollar can feed a child up to 10 healthy meals. All proceeds go to Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry, a campaign that ensures every child in America has access to free and nutritious food. Donate $3 and receive up to $9 of value (in coupons) on all your Denny’s diner favorites. Visit nokidhungry.org/dennys for more information. And tweet with us at #DennysNKH and #NoKidHungry.

Join me in doing this one small thing to make a difference.

xo

Kelly

Disclosure: I’m a paid ambassador of Denny’s, however I was not compensated for this particular post. Not that it matters… I only post about the things I authentically love. Thanks for reading! xo -Kelly

That One Time That I Passed on the Fries…

Fries. I. Love. Fries. I love them plain. I love them with ketchup. I love them with beer. I love them with soda. I love them with burgers. I love them alone. I. Love. Fries.

In case you were wondering…. Denny’s has amazing fries. I took the kids to a Denny’s event last week and not only did they order fries… but we ordered jalapeno buttons! Deep fried slices of jalapenos! Oh. Yum. But… I digress. This is about that one time I didn’t order fries. It’s true! I ordered fruit! How novel!

This summer Denny’s launched a few new menu items! My favorite? The chicken salad sandwich! So much so… that I’ve tried to recreate it (scroll down for the recipe). I think I got pretty close to the Denny’s version… but I’m so lazy… I’d rather just head to my local Denny’s and order it! The Denny’s version is made from scratch with roasted, seasoned chicken and served on toasted 7-grain bread. It’s amazing.

Below… you’ll find my own recipe. Let me know if you try it out!

chicken salad

Ingredients

  • 1 pound boiled chicken cut up into little cubes
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup red grapes cut in half
  • ½ cup of chopped almonds (or walnuts if you prefer)
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper

Instructions

Add the chopped chicken to a large bowl along with the celery, grapes, chopped almonds (or walnuts), mayonnaise, salt and pepper. Stir them all together until all the ingredients are evenly combined. Chill. Then eat! Yum!

 

Disclosure: I’m a paid ambassador of Denny’s. This really excites me, because Denny’s was one of my first real jobs as a teenager! You can check out my first post in this series all about my real, authentic, love of Denny’s here. I’d never share about something I didn’t truly feel fondly about! xo -Kelly

Recipe: Roasted Green Tomatillo Salsa

Newsflash: I do indeed make recipes which do not involve a slow cooker.  This is one of them.  I love my green salsa recipe and you will too.  Or scroll down to the bottom for a red salsa recipe which doesn’t taste “dumbed down” but is so full of shortcuts it’s embarrassing.

One nifty trick I learned from the Food Network is that you can turn your salsa into enchilada sauce by sautéeing it with a little flour (I’m simplifying–if you take that literally as the one step to make enchilada sauce, you will be a very dissatisfied, hungry person in the end).  But with that knowledge there are more ways to use this recipe–which is why I make a triple batch most of the time, because if I’m going through the trouble to roast vegetables and get the heavy blender down off the top shelf then I want to make it worth everyone’s while.

I’ve separated the ingredient lists into those for “roasting” and those “used raw”.  Partly because that’s how I remember what to buy at the supermarket without a written list and partly because I don’t have a single photo with all ingredients.

salsa 1Saturated with olive oil, salt the silent killer, and freshly ground black pepper.  Let’s do this.

Ingredients for Roasting:

  • ~1lb tomatillos, husked (one pound is about 1/3-1/2 the capacity of the baggie from the dispensers in the produce department)
  • 1 yellow (or white) onion, chopped into thick pieces or wedges
  • a couple gloves of garlic (yeah I used like ten cloves of garlic here)
  • 1jalapeno pepper, to taste.  Or three.  I used three.

Roasting Instructions:

  1. Organize ingredients on baking pan.  Drizzle with olive oil.
  2. Sprinkle with salt the silent killer and black pepper.
  3. Broil at 500° for 6 minutes.  Keep watching, it could take one or two more minutes before things start browning.  Then remove from oven.

 

Raw Ingredients:

  • one bunch cilantro, roughly chopped (some stem is okay)
  • one bunch green onion, sliced into thick pieces (your blender will pulverize them, so no need to spend the time to slice them shorter)
  • juice of one lime

salsa 2

Instructions:

  1. In a blender*, layer roasted tomatillos, onion, garlic, jalapeno, cilantro, green onion & lime juice.
  2. Set blender to pulse, being mindful that a chunky salsa is sometimes preferable to a completely smooth, pureed salsa.
  3. It may require more than one batch in your blender–try to divide the ingredients so that a little of everything is in each batch, and then combine the mixtures.

*I used the Ninja Ultimate Blender for this recipe.  I included the top blade, which is what powers through chunky ingredients like the tomatillos.  This meant that my mixture spent less time at the bottom of the pitcher getting pureed and resulted in a slightly chunky salsa–which is ideal.  I will never use a regular blender again for this recipe.

 

salsa 3

salsa 4

Footnotes:

  1. If you’re a tomatillo novice: you’ll find them in the produce section, usually around the jalapeno and bell peppers, although tomatillos are not spicy.  They look like small green tomatoes covered in a papery thin, green husk.  They’ll roast more evenly if they’re all the same size.  Also, be aware that sometimes there can be dirt on tomatillos which can be rinsed off, but if a tomatillo has black specks which require scraping off, that’s mold.  And mold is no good.
  2. The recipe calls for a jalapeno, but you could use any pepper.  If I’m making salsa just for me, I use habanero or ghost peppers.  You could use a serrano, too.  I suggest starting with a jalapeno and see what you think.
  3. Before juicing your lime, nuke it in the microwave for fifteen seconds.  It loosens up the juices inside.  Thanks for the tip, Rachael Ray.
  4. If you have a Ninja Kitchen blender, use it for this recipe.  I’ve made this recipe for years using my regular blender (food processor works, too) and it does the job, but this recipe is just made for that dual blade on the Ninja.  So efficient.  It works like a dream.

salsa 5MOAR CILANTRO!

I love tomatillo salsa.  The tartness of tomatillos is so appealing, and I love experimenting with different spicy peppers.  If this all sounds fine and good to you but you just don’t have the time or inclination, I give you permission to forgo this recipe and try out my go-to recipe for red salsa which is laughably easy but still tastes like it’s homemade.

You don’t get pictures of this one.  It’s too easy.

You need:

  1. Two cans Ro*Tel Tomatoes & Green Chilies (found on the shelf with other canned, diced tomatoes)
  2. One bunch cilantro, washed and the bottom stems cut off (some stem is okay, just not the thicker, woody stems at the bottom)
  3. One bunch green onion (scallions), roots cut off and the rest roughly chopped into smaller pieces
  4. One jalapeño, stem removed, roughly chopped
  5. Juice of one lime

Put all ingredients into your blender on pulse until you’re satisfied with the consistency.  Add salt and black pepper to taste.  You’re welcome.

rotelThey did all of the hard work for you.

 

Link to your favorite salsa recipe in the comments, or if you have a favorite brand of salsa that you don’t just tolerate but you love, share that too!

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Cassandra can be found on Twitter @aclevergirl.  Learn more about her family’s unique challenges and why they have hope for a cure for Spinal Muscular Atrophy at byrdsforacure.org.