An Uncomplicated Life Blog: July 2019

Monday, July 29, 2019

How To Make A Quick Pickle

Summertime is full of fresh veggies! Use this method to quickly pickle them to enjoy at cookouts or with cheese plates.

I love vegetables. Steamed, sauteed or even roasted in the oven. Sometimes, though, the traditional ways of making veggies gets old. Sometimes I have more green beans than I can stomach to eat steamed - again. A great way to use up all those summer veggies is with a quick pickle. It's a different flavor dynamic, and with the "quick" part, the vegetable retains some of it's crunch and freshness, but takes on some of the tang of the vinegar you soak it in. These are also called "refrigerator pickles" depending on where you're from, but I take that concept and expand it to ALL vegetables, not just cucumbers. They're so easy to make and go great with just about anything grilled. And... they require zero heat, so it's the perfect way to fix your vegetables in the summer. This is how easy it is to make a quick pickle.

The thing I love best about this method is how versatile it is. There's a basic "recipe" or method to follow, then you can switch up the details for whatever your main dish is, or for whatever occasion you're pickling the veggies for. For example, when I make these Greek chicken burgers, I use apple cider vinegar and dill. When I make Asian dishes, I add a little sugar and soy to the vinegar. It's really easy to adapt this recipe to whatever you're making so that the flavors work!

You can see in this recipe, I made a pickled onion to top off my Greek chicken burgers and quite frankly, it's what makes the dish.

What you need for a quick pickle:
- large mason jar (or container with a lid)
- raw, fresh cucumbers for traditional pickles or a mix of fresh, uncooked veggies (like carrot sticks, bell peppers, cauliflower, etc. for a variety of pickled vegetables)
- enough vinegar to fill your container half of the way full. My favorite vinegar is apple cider vinegar, but you could also use white wine vinegar or champagne vinegar
- 1 to two tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon dried herbs. I like to do:

  • dill with cucumbers
  • oregano for a mixed veggie pickle perfect for Italian sliders
  • cilantro for a mixed veggie pickle perfect for Thai dishes
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce for Asian dishes

How to make a quick pickle:
Slice your fresh veggies into thin slices. The thinner they are, the faster the pickling effect will take place and the shorter their fridge life; the thicker you cut them, the pickling effect will take longer but they'll also hold up in the fridge for longer. If you want to make and eat them same day, I'd recommend cutting them super thin; if you have 24 hours to let them sit or want to keep them for a week or more in the fridge, cut them thicker. Pour the vinegar in your container and add your herbs/flavor elements. Stir or shake to distribute in the vinegar. Then add your veggies, cover, and let it sit on the counter for two hours, shaking or stirring occasionally. After two hours, they'll be lightly pickled and ready to eat! Move them to the fridge if you want them cold or to serve them later.

Thinly pickled veggies will last for a few days in the fridge. Thicker cut veggies will last for nearly two weeks. Although, I've never had them last longer than a few days because they're so good, we eat them all right away! You could use fresh dill, but I don't recommend leafy fresh herbs like basil or cilantro because they get really slimy. It's one instance when dried herbs are better than fresh.

How to make homemade pickled vegetables in less than 2 hours in your fridge
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That's how you make a quick pickle! Also called refrigerator pickles depending on what part of the country you're in. I love how easy it is - you literally throw things into a mason jar and let it sit on the counter and let the vinegar work it's magic for you. It really brightens the flavor of whatever dish you're making, especially grilled food and sandwiches. The perfect way to enjoy veggies this summer!

Monday, July 22, 2019

Why I Allow My Son To Do Feminine Things

I not only allow, I encourage my son to wear dresses for playtime, paint his nails and do other "feminine" activities. Here's why.

I'm a blogger. I make my living on the internet. That means I spend an unusually large amount of time on it, and also social media. Over the past few years, there's been a trend that, as a mom of boys, I simply can no longer ignore. Have you ever noticed how girls are encouraged to do anything - sports, typically masculine professions, dressing up like male superheros, etc (which I think we can all agree is GREAT!) - but boys are left out of being invited to join girls in "feminine" pursuits? Boys aren't encouraged to dress up like princesses when they go to Disney. They're not included in volleyball teams. Going with mom or dad to a nail salon to get their nails painted, too? No way. This trend of encouraging girls to expand their gender role that explicitly leaves out the same invitation for boys is NONSENSE. I'm here to tell you that it's absolutely ok for your sons to participate in traditionally feminine activities. Here's why I allow my son(s) to do feminine things and where I think society fails boys in a big, big way.

Getting his face painted so he could be a "witch cat" last Halloween

One of the most annoying things that's ever happened to me as a mom is my local early childhood education PTA group. Not the group itself, but rather an event they plan. See, I live in the South, which is still a tad decades behind the times in terms of being socially progressive. This group still plans a daddy-daughter dance. Both my older boys love to dance, and love to spend time with their daddy! So I asked if they'd be welcome to attend this dance, too. The group's answer? A resounding NO. I was pointed in the direction of the mother-son event, and to add insult to injury, was told I was, "welcome to plan the next mother-son event or volunteer at the daddy-daughter dance." If you think I want to volunteer at an event you outright told me my sons weren't welcome at, you're sitting first class on the stupid train!

Why does an event like this still exist? What about the girls who don't have daddies? Or the boys who love to dress up and dance? Why not make it inclusive and have it be a parent-child dance open to the whole community?

I'm also in a boymom group on Facebook. You can have daughters too, but you have to have at least one son to be a member. I can't tell you how many times I see moms post, asking if it's "ok" to let their sons play dress up with their sisters, or play with dolls, or dye their hair a certain color - all traditionally female activities. What's even sadder is how many moms will respond, "No, I wouldn't let my son do that."

You wouldn't "let" him?! What the heck does that mean? When we stifle our children's interests, we create an environment makes makes us as parents feel unsafe for them. They don't want to tell us what they're interested in, because they'll feel shamed for it. Then they bottle it up inside... They internalize that shame and guilt they feel for wanting to do "bad" or "wrong" things. Then they act on it, when they can't possibly take the pressure or the weight of that guilt and shame anymore. What does that look like? Have you ever noticed how all the mass shootings are done by males? Yup. Usually white males who have been suppressed in some way. Maybe they weren't allowed to take dance lessons, or maybe they got shamed for playing with barbies. Maybe they just never learned how to show or share emotions because they were too busy being told to "be strong" and "be a man" when they were too little to even know what that means.

Perhaps that's drastic. Not every little boy who is told he can't play with dolls will go on to shoot up a movie theater, or a school, or a concert. But it IS realistic to say that if a boy isn't allowed to explore his nurturing/artistic/empathetic/emotional side, odds are really good he'll be a terrible life partner. He'll fail his own kids. He might develop substance abuse issues as a coping mechanism. Worse yet, he might act out in anger towards his wife or partner, his kids, his pets or anyone else close to him.

Stifling traditionally feminine interests in boys doesn't do anyone any good. I don't understand why, in a day and age that we can all recognize girls can "do anything" and are encouraged to do so, boys are left out. In 2019, boys are still uninvited to daddy daughter dances and encouraged to play solely with trucks, wear blue, and play aggressive sports. Well, I call bullshit on that narrative. I'm flipping the script for my own sons - all four of them.

How happy is he to get his nails done?! He's loving life!

If you follow me on Instagram and watch my stories, you know that I support Otto getting his nails done with me. My MIL and I took him to the nail salon for the first time just a few weeks ago, and you should have seen him beaming! He loved every minute of it, and I loved getting to spend some one on one time with him. He also wanted to be a witch for Halloween. Now, my kids are old enough to tell me what they want to be. So late last fall, I asked them, then we scoured Amazon until I found costumes they both wanted to wear. Henry picked out a ghost costume, but Otto selected a witch costume, designed for a girl. I had no problem with it. My husband had not problem with it.

But the most shocking part? The preschool the boys went to is Baptist. Not crazy conservative Baptist, because I'd never subject my children to that, but Baptist nonetheless. They have Halloween parties. Dress up for them in their costumes. And the teachers pulled me aside and thanked me for supporting Otto's choice to dress up in a girls costume. They said they feared most families wouldn't allow their son's to pick out a costume like that, but they were so glad we let three year old Otto have his own autonomy and pick out what HE wanted to wear. Oh, and that he had the best costume in the class, and all the other kids loved it to boot.

The full witch costume (and his ghost brother Henry)

Look, I'm a mom of all boys. While I cried the day I learned I'd never have a daughter, slowly I'm learning that it's absolutely ok that I don't have a daughter; in fact, I'm getting to enjoy the very things I thought I'd never get to do with my sons: feminine things. In a world where it's completely ok for girls to do "anything" and they're constantly encouraged to do masculine things, why are we failing our boys? Why are we telling them to "man up" at young ages, and then wondering why we keep having national tragedies like mass shootings - or even personal tragedies, like men who beat up women, hurt their kids, have addictions or other mental health issues? I can tell you why. It's because we're neglecting them. We're shunning any interests they may have that we, as a society, have deemed "feminine." Well, I'm not going to fail my sons. They're entirely encouraged to pursue any interest they want! Dance lessons? Yup! Painting their nails? Yup! Baby dolls and barbies? You, got it son. My son's will always be allowed to do feminine things so they grow up to be well rounded, well adjusted men. 

Monday, July 15, 2019

Two Minute Makeup Routine For Busy Mornings

I spend less than two minutes a day on my makeup and still look put together. Here's how!

In the past month or so, I've had so many women reach out via Instagram Stories on my makeup, asking me what I use and what I do, as they're interested in more natural products and an easy makeup routine. First, this is so flattering (thank you!) and second, I honest to Pete only wear about four products and my makeup routine is less than two minutes. The key is great skincare! If you've got that, making yourself look "pretty" in the morning is a breeze. I'm going to talk about all of it in this post so you can do just as I do, if you'd like, and completely overhaul and simplify your life. It's SO worth it and so freeing (and yes, you can still wear that lipstick!) *This post contains affiliate links*

Let's start at the beginning, shall we - your skincare. I love simple, nontoxic and extremely high quality products. My favorite brand is this one - it's a four part skincare line where I can actually pronounce everything in it! You can also customize it to your specific needs. Next, I add Revive essential oils to it to boost the anti-aging properties of the skincare and address some of my specific skin concerns. I outline all the oils I use and how I use them (and why they're good for your skin!) in this post

But I didn't always have pretty skin. In fact, I've suffered from acne most of my life. I wrote this post on a DIY face wash I you can make and this post on a DIY toner, both of which cleared my skin right up. Yes, there's before and after photos in the post, and if you watch my stories, you can see my "after" skin all the time, because I wear NO concealer and NO foundation! Now I no longer need acne skin products, and really love the ART line from Young Living. The smell is fantastic, my skin feels soft, and hey - I'm almost 35 and don't have crows feet and barely any wrinkles. Yes, that's genetics (if you have acne prone skin, bonus! Your oily skin isn't as likely to wrinkle. God thew us a bone like that) but it's also that I don't use excessive products on my skin. Did you know the chemicals in most American brand products actually AGE your skin? They're so harsh, they're aging you. Even though they're marketed to you as "anti-aging." If you want real anti-aging power, ditch the product lines, simplify, use a few oils on your skin, and wear suns screen & hats. That's the best anti-aging regimen you're going to get!

Ok, so you got your skincare down. Do it in the morning and the evening, without fail, every day. How about that two minute makeup routine that I get so many compliments on?

Here are the products I use daily:
- L'Oreal Paris Volumous black mascara (I dare you to find a better one, at any price point. It doesn't exist!)
- Bare Minerals blush  or Savvy Minerals from Young Living 
- Babo Botanicals lip gloss (honestly the best lip gloss I've ever tried, ever. Vegan and cruelty free!)

On days that I know I'm going to be out in the sun, I also put this on. Seriously, the best brand! I buy their mineral sunscreen for the kids too, and it's my absolute favorite.

Take the eye pencil and run it in the inner corners of your eye. Apply the blush on your cheekbones. Use the mascara wand to slowly apply mascara to your eyelashes, slowly wiggling the brush back and forth as you pull it through your lashes. Slap some lip gloss on and boom - that's what I do nearly every day! If I'm feeling extra fancy, I'll add some eyeliner. No crazy cat eye or application techniques - just a thin line of dark brown or black on my upper lid.

That's all I do! That's the person you see in IG Stories. I think it's just enough to look like a decent human and feel good about myself, but I don't waste any time "getting ready" in the morning. Frankly, I just don't have the time to give to put a whole face of makeup on. Not to mention all the crap in the products sold in the U.S. and what they do to your skin... I'm not interested in that! A legitimate two minute routine with mostly natural products (I'm looking to replace the eye pencil so if you have any recommendations, let me know!) is how I roll these days. 

Monday, July 8, 2019

Currently, July Edition

My kids have all of two weeks left of their summer camp and Henry starts school in less than a month. Didn't summer just start?! That's been one of the craziest things about moving to the South. Summer starts in May (literally - that's when summer break starts for schools) and school starts back in August, so by the time July rolls around, we're on the last legs of summer. In Minnesota, I always went to school through mid-June and didn't go back until after Labor Day, so this shift throws me off every year. All that to say, we're in the last weeks of full out summer mode and I aint mad at it! Here's what's going on, currently:

Prepping for either the best or dumbest thing we've ever done:
We're going on a family vacation to Galveston in a new weeks... And we're driving. Have I mentioned that I despise road trips before? Because I do. Longer than 2 hours in a car and I want to fly. But flying with four kids, two lap babies, four car seats and Lord knows how much luggage is NOT HAPPENING. I doubt we'd even be able to rent a car large enough for us! So we're packing up the Yukon XL and headed to the Texas coast for a week. It's a six hour drive. It *should be* four and a half, but it will take six hours with all these kiddos. It will either be amazing to spend some time at the beach or we'll vow to never travel again until our kids are all potty trained. Hoping for the former, preparing for the latter. Oy vey.

At least we have high speed limits in Texas, so the louder it gets from my two backseats, the harder I'm going to push on that accelerator. That's my plan, anyway, and it's always good to have a plan.

I've been in a funk, and am desperately trying to climb out of it:
June was a rough month personally. We had a EF0 tornado hit our house and cause a good amount of damage to our property. We were displaced to a hotel for a while. Then my husband took the longest business trip he's been on in over a year two days after we were able to get back in our home. My period came back after having the twins, so my hormones are all over the place and it's causing me to have terrible insomnia again. My kids gave me hand, foot and mouth disease which let me just tell you, is AWFUL. I mean, there were just no breaks to be had in June. So glad that month is done and looking forward to a better end to summer!

Have you made this ^^^ yet? Because you should!
I've been trying to expand my culinary horizons with new flavors and new recipes. Thai red curry paste and coconut milk being a few of them! I got inspired by a recipe I saw on Pinterest and came up with this soup. It. Is. Good! Soup isn't really a traditional "summer" food but this is nice and light. My husband loved it, my toddlers loved it, my two nannies ate it up and my mom, who is a big meat eater, loved the tofu. Winnner winner Thai coconut curry soup dinner.

Want some other fun summer recipes, activities and craft/decor ideas? Check out this blackberry sangria recipe that's perfect for the heat. Pregnant/not a drinker? I've got a great post full of mocktail recipes too! Maybe you're deep in the thick of summer break with all your kids at home - you need to read this post, full of great ideas of things to do on the cheap to beat the heat! Breastfeeding mamas, if you're struggling with what to wear in the summer beyond the ugly "nursing tank", I rounded up some great Amazon fashion finds that are nursing friendly. Finally, if you're sick of your ho-hum outdoor space, check out this post I did on how we decorate our outdoor space.

The babies are 9 months old:
Crazy right? I've already started to plan their first birthday party (I'm super excited about the theme! As a Halloween lover, having mid-October babies is ideal for party themes). Knox is a hilarious crawler. He biffs it on his face every so often and just starts barrel rolling, like he intended to fall (he didn't). Teddy, on the other hand, couldn't be lazier. He's the baby of four kids, and it just so happens his older brothers bring him ever toy he ever wanted, so he's entirely unmotivated to even try crawling. He literally sits like a king while his older brothers serve him. As the baby of the family myself, I feel this strategy. Both boys have yet to find food they don't love and we've basically skipped the puree stage. They'd much rather have exactly what their brothers are eating. I've never been into baby led weaning, and we've had a few gagging scares, but... When you have four kids, feeding everyone one meal is really the only way to go. Two more months until they start preschool! Oh my gosh, I'm going to have to buy them shoes. They've never worn a shoe in their life!

It's so crazy that they're nearly a year old already. I keep thinking about last summer when I was pregnant and it feels like it was ages ago, not just last summer. I remember July was the last real month I had to do as I wished because mid-August I was put on bed rest until I delivered them at 37 weeks. What an absolute blessing to make it to 37 weeks! We're also still exclusively breastfeeding, and I think I might actually make it to my year goal - finally! I mean, these are my last babies so it's my last shot. I'm determined! Also, they refuse formula. So there's that, too. They'll literally eat anything BUT formula, ha!

That's what's going on currently around here! Trying to use these last weeks of summer to get out of a funk, experiment in the kitchen, and plan my twins first birthday party. Do y'all already feel like summer is basically over? I really think it's because school starts Aug 15 here - although Henry is the only one who will be going. It's throwing me for a loop and I'm starting to mentally shift into fall mode... In July. So weird!

Monday, July 1, 2019

The Easiest Thai Coconut Curry Soup

Loaded with flavor and easy enough to throw together on a weeknight, this Thai Coconut Curry soup will become a staple in your home!

Several weeks ago, I posted about how my three year old, Otto, refused to eat the mac n' cheese I made the boys, but was all up in the Thai coconut curry soup I made. I had made them the mac n cheese because I figured there was no way in heck they'd eat the soup. This kid demolished the soup, as did my mom, who was staying with us at the time, and my husband asked I add it to my regular rotation of meal planning. Good thing it's SUPER easy to throw together and was such a massive crowd pleaser! If you subbed out veggie broth for the chicken broth I used, it's vegan too. I love it when I can make vegetarian meals my whole family will eat! Especially a soup like this that will feed us for more than one meal. Here's the easiest Thai coconut curry soup. Trust me when I say you'll want to add it to your weekly or bi-weekly recipe rotation, too!

If you're like me, you get stuck in flavor ruts. Italian always goes over well - I make spaghetti and lasagna roll ups all the time. Greek burgers and Greek salads are another favorite. Of course, "American" food, with a variety of pastas and quinoa with fresh herbs always go over well too. That's why I like this soup so much. I don't often cook with Thai chili paste or coconut milk, so it adds a totally new flavor to the mix of what we typically eat. And I honest to goodness couldn't tell you how shocked I was that my toddlers liked it! I think it's the sweetness of the coconut milk... But who knows.

Making this with tofu is my preferred way. My mom, who is a born and raised farm gal and rarely, if ever, eats vegetarian food, even said she loved it! My husband also loves him some meat, but has come around to more of my thinking on vegetarian food, probably because I make him watch food documentaries on what the meat industry does to our planet. I seriously hate all the low carb, Keto based diets that drive up meat consumption... Do y'all know what you're doing to the planet?! Do you care? Oh man, I could go on and on about that. But this is a recipe post, not an op-ed bashing eat meaters. So let's get on to the recipe!

The Easiest Thai Coconut Curry Soup
- 64oz container organic chicken or veggie stock (veggie will make this whole recipe vegan)
- 1 package extra firm tofu
- 1 medium red onion
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small sweet potato, peeled and diced into small bite sized pieces
- 1 bunch broccolini, cut into long stemmed but bite sized pieces
- 3 tablespoons red Thai curry paste
- 1 can whole fat coconut milk
- 1 tablespoon sriracha hot sauce
- half a package rice glass noodles 
- 2/3 cup flour (could sub in rice flour)
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 2/3 cup veggie oil
- generous salt and pepper
- chopped cilantro, for garnish
- lime wedges, for garnish

Heat the veggie oil over high heat in a large frying pan or dutch oven. Strain the tofu, then pat dry with a paper towel. Mix the flour with the garlic powder and salt and pepper. Coat the tofu in the seasoned flour, then slowly add to the hot oil. Fry to a golden brown, then set aside on paper towels to drain excess oil off.

Ready in 30 minutes, easy to make Thai coconut curry soup that's better than take out
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Heat the olive oil in a large soup pan. Add the red onion and sweet potato, and lightly brown. After about 3 minutes, add the red Thai curry paste and cook another two minutes. Then add the chicken (or veggie) stock, sriracha hot sauce and coconut milk. Bring to a low and slow boil. Cook for 15 minutes, then add the broccolini. Cook for 5 minutes, then add the rice glass noodles and slowly add the tofu into the pot. After another 5 minutes, the soup will be ready to serve; garnish with the fresh cilantro and a lime wedge.