What I Love Wednesday


Ok, ok I know it’s Thursday. I had most of this post written and I was all excited about it, and then I realized that YESTERDAY was Wednesday, not today. So… it’s What I Love Wednesday on Thursday. This whole having Monday off thing is throwing me.

Anyway, here are 10 things I’m loving lately:

1. Watch this. Seriously. It’s worth every single minute. It’s hilarious and nostalgic at the same time.

2. On another nostalgic note, my sister sent me this and I can relate on so many levels, 2, 6, and 9 in particular!

3. These llamas want to be models. I love them.

4. I treated myself to a new Kindle PaperWhite e-reader. I’ve read 3 books since it came in last Saturday. I think it’s one of the better purchases I’ve made in the last year or so.

5. We saw the Great Gatsby last weekend and I absolutely adored it. I’m a huge fan of the book (Thank you Ms. Johns’ amazing English class in High School!) but Baz Luhrmann’s interpretation was fantastic. I know a lot of people had complaints about the music, but really, it was just what I expected.

6. I love Joss Whedon and his take on the typical college graduation.

7. I really hadn’t been sleeping well for quite some time. I watched my caffeine intake, I’ve been walking and still nothing. Then I got this pillow. Best. sleep. ever.

8. My family visited this hotel when I was a mere 15 years old. I want to go back, and soon.

9. If cats could write diaries, this is what they’d write.

10. Thinking about doing this to my hair for the summer… thoughts?

And, because I love you, here’s a dog on a trampoline:

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Honestly The Best BBQ Ribs

My early childhood is peppered with memories of spending time with my grandpa Bernie, who we lovingly called Papa.

He was insufferably funny, and did goofy things with me like painting my nails each a different color, letting me try all of my grandma’s perfume, and making ridiculous jokes that my four-year-old brain thought were HILARIOUS. Telling me my green pants were gorgeous when they were CLEARLY red? Best. joke. ever.


Notice the painted nails. And I assume I smelled like a mixture of Chanel No. 5 and Jean Naté.

He passed away when I was 5, and his legend remains in many things, but a few foodstuffs in particular. Back in the early days of the blog, I attempted to recreate his BBQ sauce upon instruction from my mom. Oh how I wish I knew then what I know now. Duh, I should’ve strained the BBQ sauce for a more traditional texture. Oh well, live and learn. Besides BBQ sauce, I remember my Papa making ribs; great slabs of ribs on a smoking grill in the patio behind his and my grandma’s house. And of course, he’d use his BBQ sauce.

For Memorial day, I enlisted the help of my mom to help me make ribs the way she does, which is the way Papa did. A series of text messages and a trip to the grocery store later, and I was ready to go.

There was a dry rub for the ribs, a simmering pot of sauce on the stove, an hour in the oven and then an hour over indirect heat on a smoky grill before the ribs were ready, but my oh my was the wait worth it.


BBQ Ribs-1.jpg

There’s really something to trying to replicate something that only lives in my memories. It made me smile when I saw smoke billowing out of the holes of my Weber grill, because that’s what I remembered from my childhood. When I cut into the racks of ribs to separate them into manageable portions, the smell brought me back to endless summer BBQs at my mom’s house, celebrating one holiday or another.


BBQ Ribs-3.jpg

I’d never done BBQ like this before. Sure, I’ve grilled chicken, and thrown things on the grill before, but this had the feel of “real” barbecue. It was slow, painstaking, and nerve-wracking because I honestly didn’t know if it would work. The meat had the incomparable “smoke ring” from the slow cooking, the ever saught-after “bark” and the flavors were beyond what I’d expected.  An ear of grilled corn and our meal was complete, with a side of nostalgia.

BBQ Ribs-2.jpg


Best BBQ Ribs

by What’s For Dinner?

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 2 hours, give or take

Keywords: barbecue grill entree pork ribs American summer

Ingredients (2 slabs ribs)

  • 2 slabs pork back ribs

for the rub

  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder

for the sauce

  • 1 large sweet onion, chopped
  • 5 slices bacon, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large green pepper, chopped
  • 12 ounces tomato paste
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup whiskey (I used Gentleman’s Jack)
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon tabasco (or more to taste)
  • 1/4 cup brown mustard
  • 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons Kitchen Bouquet
  • 2 Tablespoons molasses
  • salt and pepper to taste


prepare the ribs

Trim off any excess fat.

Pre-heat oven to 350*F.

Mix together all ingredients for the rub, and spread it liberally on both sides of the racks of ribs.

Place the ribs on a large cookie sheet and cover with aluminum foil.

Bake for at least an hour.

In the last 15 minutes, prepare the grill. Stack the coals on one side of the grill and light, allowing the coals to become grey.

Remove the ribs from the oven.

Carefully set the ribs, meatier side down, on the side of the grill opposite the coals.

Cook, covered, for at least an hour, turning the racks every 10-15 minutes.

In the last 15 minutes of cooking, baste with good BBQ sauce (recipe follows) and turn once more.

Cut into manageable portions and serve.

BBQ Sauce

Cook the chopped bacon in a large heavy-bottomed pot until a good amount of fat is rendered.

Add the garlic, onions, and green peppers and sautee until softened and nearly caramelized.

Stir in the remaining ingredients, then mostly cover the pot.

Simmer over low heat for at least an hour.

Using an immersion blender, puree the mixture.

Pass the sauce through a sieve for a smooth texture.

Return the sauce to the pot, and keep warm over low heat until ready to use.

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Posted in family recipe, grilling, pork | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Freebie Saturday: DIY Body Scrub & Printable Label

Ok, so I know that I’ve told dozens of stories here about how I was “into” certain things “so long ago” and I sound like either a snob or a hipster or some odd combination of both.

I swear, that’s not my goal! I just find it so amusing that things that were “so weird” back then, like quinoa, almond butter, whole wheat pita, and whatever the heck else I’ve waxed hipster about. And now, here I am on Freebie Saturday waxing hipster about some other thing that’s über-trendy right now that I’ve been “into” for so very long.

The summer I turned 17 (this was 1997 people!) my mom bought me a massage and “salt glow” at my still-favorite day spa here in Chicago, Urban Oasis. I remember a few distinct things about that day: 1) I had never had a stranger give me a massage before, and it took me far too long to enjoy it. 2) The salt glow treatment made my skin feel better than it had EVER felt, and 3) Taking a rain shower afterward was life-changing.

So, in 1997, not long after that spa treatment, and long before the days of searching Amazon for the odd products you can’t find anywhere else, my mom and I searched high and low for salt scrubs. For a mere 3 months, Origins sold one, and we stocked up and used it through the winter. It was gloriously orange-smelling, and super-moisturizing. Fast forward to 2013 and now, salt and sugar scrubs are EVERYWHERE. There are expensive ones, cheap ones, delicious-smelling ones, weird-smelling ones… but they have a few things in common: oil, scent, salt or sugar.

DIY Lavender Coconut Body Scrub-2 copy

I wish I’d known when I was 17 that making my own darn body scrub was this stinking easy. I did a little online research and asked at the craft store about ingredients to use, and the general consensus is that coconut oil is the best base for dry skin. It’s been a long winter and my skin is beyond dry, so that’s what I went with. The craft store had some delicious-smelling lavender essential oil specifically for soap and scrub making, so I went with that as well. I used a 3/4 : 1/4 mix of sugar to salt, and a 2:1 mixture of salt/sugar to oil.

DIY Lavender Coconut Body Scrub-1.jpg

I’ll include what I did for my scrub, but feel free to play around with it to match your needs. Different oils work differently, but few are solid at room temperature like virgin coconut oil. I can’t wait to experiment with different scents, but I’m looking forward to smelling like a tropical lavender field for as long as this scrub lasts.

DIY Salt & Sugar Body Scrub

  • 1 cup extra virgin coconut oil
  • 3/4 cup white sugar (for a coarser scrub, use sugar in the raw)
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt (feel free to use all sugar, or more salt, for different levels of exfoliation)
  • 15-20 drops essential oil of your choice (I used lavender)

Heat the coconut oil in the microwave for about 15 seconds so it’s slightly melted and easy to mix. Add in the sugar and salt and stir until combined. Add the essential oil, stir again, and store in a sealed jar in the shower.

To use: Scoop out a small amount and rub into skin. Rinse thoroughly, then rub the remaining oil into your skin after your shower. Use soap when rinsing if you don’t want to rub in the oil. Be careful in the shower too, since oil makes the floor slippery!

I used a cute jar from the craft store, but a regular mason jar or even an empty peanut butter jar would work, as long as you can get your hand in the opening.

DIY Lavender Coconut Body Scrub-3.jpg

Conveniently, last week’s Freebie was a scrubbie, which combined with the body scrub, would make a wonderful gift for most anyone! If you’re gifting your scrub, I’ve made a printable label for you to use. It would look adorable printed on card stock and tied on with some raffia.

Download the printable here

salt and sugar scrub.jpg

So, that’s your Saturday Freebie! Check out all the other Freebie Saturdays!

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Posted in crafts, Freebie Saturday | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

What I Love Wednesday



I truly cannot believe that the school year is almost over. It feels like just yesterday that I was saying goodbye to my last group of Duckies and getting ready for my 10th year of teaching. Now, here I am at the end of the year, saying goodbye to another group of 8th graders who I’ve known since they were in 6th grade. Crazy I tell you! Some things I’m loving this week:

1. These beautiful hand-painted stones. I’m thinking they’ll be inspiration for one of the many nature walks I plan on taking this summer with my future Duckies. I love having them find things and then use them in  unexpected ways.

2. 30 Places I’d rather be sitting right now. Seriously, I’ll take any  (or all) of them.

3. I now have a mission in life: tiny tiny tiny crocheted things.

4. This is truly incredible. You’ve probably seen it already, but I still had to share.

5. We can all text “Red Cross” to 90999 to immediately donate $10 to the Red Cross for emergency relief in Oklahoma. There are dozens of other ways to help as well, including all of these and all of these. Keep in mind that two elementary schools were completely devastated, and those teachers will need to start from scratch. Consider giving to DonorsChoose.org to help them out.

6. Because I’m a Spanish teacher nerd, here’s a list of fun Spanish words to try. Current favorite: tiquismisquis (fussy or finicky)

7. John Krasinski and Jimmy Fallon did a Lip-Sync-Off. I laughed way too hard.

8. Harry Potter in 99 seconds. Yep. Still a nerd.

9. I’m kind of obsessed with the monthly sample boxes that a lot of companies have these days. My current fave is Ipsy. Every month, subscribers get a makeup bag, 3-4 full size items, 2-3 samples, and coupons, all for $10.

10. Another funny t-shirt that I just can’t justify buying… both Chicago and Spanish in one!

And, because I love you, here’s a dog and her pet ducks:

This post has been shared on What I Love Wednesday

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Smoky BBQ Chicken Pasta Salad

The time has come in the school year when there are a whopping three things on everyone’s minds:

  • How many days are left in the school year (11, not that I’m counting)
  • There are only ___ days left in the school year.

In relation to the 2nd thing on the list, my school building is very distinctly both air conditioned and not air conditioned. I really can deal with the temperature in the building, even in the non-air conditioned classrooms (like mine) because I get used to it. But, when I get home, the very last thing I want to do is turn on the oven to make dinner.

So, thanks to a suggestion from my oh-so-wise, and oh-so-heat-hating husband, this pasta salad was born.

smoky bbq chicken salad

The ingredients for this perfectly delicious pasta salad actually came to me as I was walking through the produce section of the grocery store. I thought about what makes a pasta salad one that I actually eat, rather than one that I pick the noodles out of. I can’t STAND celery or carrots in pasta salad. They’re too crunchy, in my opinion, for something like pasta salad. I love when there’s “surprises” that kind of get hidden in the noodles, like cheese, crunchy bits, peas, corn… And so, with the realization that I had chicken and charcoal at home, this salad was born and subsequently devoured.


As with any pasta salad, you can adjust the ingredients to your own tastes, but unless you’re vegetarian, I wouldn’t recommend it. The balance was perfect. However: it makes a TON. I’m talking my biggest Pyrex bowl, full to the top, and I’d call it at least 15 servings. So I suppose you could reduce the recipe, but again, I wouldn’t recommend it. You’ll want that much.

This can, of course, be made with leftover diced chicken, but since I had to cook the chicken fresh, I included those instructions as well.

Smoky BBQ Chicken Pasta Salad

by What’s For Dinner?

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Keywords: grill simmer entree chicken pasta

Ingredients (12-15 servings)

  • 1 pound whole wheat noodles
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, cut in half
  • 4 ounces smoked gouda cheese, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups corn kernels (frozen is good!)
  • 1/3 cup toasted salted sunflower seeds
  • 4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled


  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup barbecue sauce
  • 1/4 cup milk


First, cook the pasta according to the package directions.

Drain, and run under cool water to quickly cool the pasta, then place it in a large bowl.

Add the cheese, tomatoes, corn, crumbled bacon, and sunflower seeds.

Toss well.

(You can skip this next part if you’re using leftover BBQ chicken, or just cooked chicken tossed with BBQ sauce)

Grill the chicken breasts until nearly done, about 6 minutes per side.

Brush liberally with BBQ sauce, then grill another 2 minutes until the sauce is bubbling.

Dice the chicken and allow it to cool.

Add the cooled chicken to the pasta mixture.

Whisk together the dressing ingredients and pour the dressing over the pasta mixture.

Toss well.

Chill for at least an hour, then serve.

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I enjoyed my hefty portion of pasta salad with a cold Samuel Smith organic Cherry Ale. I can already tell that both of these will be making regular appearances throughout the summer!

Just checked…there are still 11 days of school left.
See? Teachers count down as much (if not more!) than the kids do!
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Posted in chicken/turkey, pasta, simple recipe | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments