Islamorada, we are back!

After taking a much-too-long hiatus from traveling (specifically Islamorada) we got back to it last week with a much needed vacation to our favorite spot in the good ol’ USA. As you know we are damn near obsessed with this tropical key and at our max (of freedom) were traveling there 3 to 4 times a year. We even ended up taking our honeymoon there… with my sisters and their boyfriends.

Our trip this year was a little, well a lot, different. For one, since I resigned from my teaching job we had a lot more freedom with our travel time/date, and for another we had an 11 month old with us for the 11 hour car ride. Yes, I said 11 hours. Do I suggest this? Absolutely not. Would I fly next time? Abso-f*%$ing-lutely. Was it worth it? Absolutely it was (crazily enough). We broke up the trip driving from Atlanta to Savannah: 4 hours and then the next day did Savannah to Islamorada: 8 hours, but due to traffic and towing a boat it was more like 11. We did the same thing on the way back and let me tell you that I would have rather walked than drive that last leg. Getting Jack back in that car seat was like trying to tie down a bull. But we lived and now we have some wonderful (and some not so wonderful) first real family vacation memories to keep us warm at night. IMG_6477

Like I said, the trip down was not bad at all. There were tears, but I think that it was mainly excitement to get back to “our place” that made the drive more bearable. Also, moments at random gas stations in Florida (see below) are always a good time.


Then we were there and all was right with the world.


Well, almost everything. I got my nice camera out of it’s bag as soon as we got there. I was ready to document this family vacation! Hey, maybe I would even make a book *patting myself on the back*. Uh oh, battery’s dead! Let me just get my trusty charg… crap.

So, all of the photos are iPhone pics and most of the photos are Snapchats that I sent to my family and friends. You’re welcome.

The weather was hopping, especially coming from 30 degree weather in ATL. I’ll take a high 70’s sunny day any day. IMG_0020 We basically did the trip like we usually do. Up early in the mornings, John goes fishing, I drink coffee and get a little sun (baby takes a nap), John comes and picks us up we eat lunch/explore/etc., head back in at sunset, change and go to dinner, early to bed and repeat for 7 days. Its bliss. IMG_0023Having Jack with us called for things to be a little more regimented, but that was fine with me. I am a schedule type of gal. Staying in a hotel room for 7 days got old by the end and I wanted some space. It got a little crammed, ok, A LOT crammed. But that was just the more reason to get out and do stuff. Also, Jack projectile vomiting while in crammed hotel room didn’t help matters. Cue Barbara Streisand’s “Memories” from The Way We Were. 


Most importantly we actually got to spend time all together. And that was wonderful. IMG_0019 IMG_0026 IMG_0030

Lucky for us, some of our best pals live in Ft. Lauderdale a mere 2ish hours away and came down for a night. We got in some quality boat time and hang time which we really needed. They have a son who is a year older than Jack (or “Yak” as he was called) so they both had someone to play with… and dance with. IMG_0040 IMG_0049_2

It was so funny to get to watch the two of them interact. Jack loved following their son around and try to do all the things he was doing. A farewell trip to Alabama Jack’s before they headed home the next day was a blast. If you are ever on Card Sound Rd. I HIGHLY suggest hitting up this biker/boater bar. IMG_0061

John got in some great fishing while he was there. While the sailfish still eludes him, he brought home dinner almost every night. One thing that I love about Islamorada is that the restaurants will cook your catch. We ate tuna 2 or 3 times, some snapper, and… something else. Sorry John. I can never remember them all. He, however, can probably recall all their names, lengths, weights, and whatever other stats fish have.

IMG_0067There was also ample time for napping, a must-have on any vacation of mine. We skipped the crib for Jack’s afternoon nap so most days he conked out just like this. And so did I. 
IMG_0058On the way back to the docks are these great sandbars. When its a little warmer they are packed with people drinking beer, listening to music, and having a good old time. It was a little too chilly for me to get my hair wet, but that didn’t stop us from walking around. Jack loved it. 
IMG_0072 I am sure that he didn’t love this though. Those are shorts. It’s a long time til you’re 18, kid. IMG_0076 We have been staying at the same hotel for a few years now and have gotten in with the caretakers (What do you call the people who live at the hotel and run it? Well whatever you call them, these people are them. Did that make sense?). They headed out to get lobsters one night while I stayed back with the snoozing baby. We were able to enjoy some yummy Florida lobsters on our stop over in Savannah. It was a little taste of the keys a little closer to home. They were delicious. IMG_0001_2

Before we left Islamorada we made sure to head south and hit up one of our favorite spots, Robbie’s. They have great little shops, killer key lime pie, and an even better view. IMG_0034 But the best part (and most touristy part, but I don’t care) is feeding the tarpon. The pelicans are everywhere and I may like them more than the actual tarpon. They are such funny birds and always looking for a snack. IMG_0112 This one didn’t even look real (as it stood next to me oddly on the dock). IMG_0115 IMG_0120 Like I said, they are everywhere. Here is one taking a bite out of John’s foot. IMG_0128 IMG_0141

As per usual, with bellies full of Key Lime pie we headed to nearby Indian Key for our history lesson. We have visited Indian Key every trip to Islamorada and its still one of my favorite parts. Google it if you have a moment. IMG_0149

And, as all vacations do, it finally came to an end. The last day was bittersweet. I, for one, was ready to get out of that dang hotel room and back to my house, I was also dreading the ride, but there is probably no place that makes John happier. And for that reason I was sad to leave. Oh, and the sun. I was definitely going to miss the sun. IMG_0168

Vacations used to be just these things that we did all the time, just us two. Maybe taking a year’s break from them made me appreciate them more and appreciate being together more. I know that we want to bring our kids with us, let them get to travel, love places we love. I think that that is important for John and I. Buuuut, that said, I am still looking forward to a couple’s getaway. Hey John, what do you think about Europe?

One Year Ago: Snapshots from my Hometown Baby Shower

Two Years Ago: What the Kale?

Three Years Ago: Fresh Whole Wheat Pasta

Four Years Ago: Don’t Ever Give Up


Skinny Veggie Lasagna and A FREAKING GIVEAWAY! (Winner Announced)

Congratulations to the winner Rust Hawk! By visiting Blackbird Ideas on Facebook you won the Lasagna Packet from Red Gold Tomatoes! Please check your email for further details 🙂

Yoooooou guuuuuuuuuys…..

I have been on a serious lasagna kick the past few weeks. It is the perfect dish to cook for a group (which seemed to happen a lot over the holiday season) and its also great for a small little family (ahem… mine) to nibble on over the week.

But I do have to admit that after a holiday season that seemed to last FOREVER (was that just me?!?) I am in serious need of a reset. This recipe comes from my super-not-diet-scribbled-on-a-post-it-while-making-it-up-full-of-butter-recipe from over the holidays, but without all the guilt.

My Skinny Veggie Lasagna has no butter, a mere 4 cups of cheese (*cough cough*), and a bunch of veggies but the best part… it is packed full of flavor. This I kid you not.

Luckily for me, my buddies over at Red Gold Tomatoes sent me a lasagna package full of my favorite tomatoes (basil, garlic, and oregano… hey hey) and other fixin’s to make this baking dish full of goodness. Red Gold is also offering a reader the same amazing packet they sent me! More on that below, so keep reading. Or just scroll to the bottom to enter. I’ll never know.

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I started by preheating my oven to 350 and boiling my noodles according to the package instruction. Then I started cooking the onions until they became translucent in the olive oil. After a minute or two I added in the garlic.

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Then, add in the cubed zucchini and cook until it has softened as well.

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Now, these babies are the pièce de résistance. Talking these guys make this dish. DO NOT LEAVE THE OUT. Dice em up real nice.

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And then throw them into your pot and stir them around letting them get heated through.


Once the pot of veggies has gotten to know itself (everything is warm and cooked and looking nice and glisten-y) add in the cans of tomatoes and the can of crushed tomatoes.

Be sure to properly salt and pepper here. I added an ample amount of salt and fresh cracked pepper.

If you have the time, let this simmer for 30 minutes on low, but if you don’t (and I didn’t) then that’s alright too.

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While this veggie sauce simmers, mix together the ricotta, parmesan, eggs, more salt and pepper, and 1 teaspoon of dried parsley.

When all is ready: get your lasagna making station set up! Noodles? CHECK! Sauce? CHECK! Other stuff? CHECK!

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Start with a thin layer of sauce at the bottom of your baking dish.

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Then 6 noodles (that are slightly overlapping) and 1/3 of the ricotta mixture.

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Then, a layer of sauce and a layer of the shredded mozzarella.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Repeat 3x (6 noodles, ricotta mix, sauce, and mozzarella cheese) until you reach the top layer. I like a little extra shredded cheese on the top so I kind of reserve a little extra as I go, but that’s totally your call. Oh and the remaining dried parsley.

You can throw it in the oven at this point or get a little fancy and add some thinly sliced roma tomato rings and fresh basil leaves. Oh, and of course a little salt and pepper.

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Place tin foil over the top and slide into your 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. Then remove foil for 15 minutes. I also like to run the broiler for a minute or two (while watching SUPER carefully) until the cheese starts to bubble.

Oh yeah….

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You. Guys.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetI know what you’re thinking. “But there’s no meat!” This baby is awesome without!

But it would be AWESOME with some meat. Throw some in if you want! I would totally mix in some Laura’s Lean Ground Beef to keep the recipe skinny (you can brown it when you brown the onions). This recipe is baby Jack approved as well. He has been happily gobbling it down for lunch and dinner.


1 package of lasagna noodles, cooked to package directions

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 sweet onion, minced

2 tablespoons minced garlic

3 zucchinis, cubed

12 oz jar of roasted red peppers, cubed

2 15 oz. cans of diced tomatoes (with basil, garlic, and oregano if you can find it)

1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes

15 oz. 2% ricotta

1/4 grated parmesan (give or take the amount)

3 eggs

2 teaspoons dried parsley, divided

4 cups shredded mozzarella

salt and pepper

roma tomato, optional

fresh basil leaves, optional


Preheat oven to 350. Boil noodles according to package directions and drain when finished.

In a pot or dutch oven, heat olive oil and add onion. Cook onion for a few minutes and add in garlic. Cook for another minute and add in zucchini. Once the zucchini has begun to soften, add in the peppers until everything is heated through. Add cans of tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste and bring to almost a boil. Turn the heat to low and let simmer for up to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, stir together ricotta, parmesan, 1 teaspoon of dried parsley, salt and pepper, and eggs in separate bowl.

Start to put the lasagna together by adding a thin layer of sauce at the bottom of a baking pan. Then 6 noodles, 1/3 ricotta, 1/3 sauce, 1 cup of mozzarella cheese. Do this 3x. Top with remaining mozzarella cheese and remaining dried parsley and a little salt and pepper. For an added bonus option arrange sliced roma tomatoes and fresh basil.

Cover with tin foil and place in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. Remove tin foil and cook for an additional 15 minutes. Optional: Turn on the broiler for a minute or two to brown the top. Let rest 15 minutes (at least) before cutting. Enjoy!



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The kit is a gift pack of tomatoes, lasagna noodles, Laura’s ground meat, a Red Gold reusable tote, apron, coupons and recipes… Sweet!

There are 3 ways to win so just click below!

 Just click here—————>a Rafflecopter giveaway

Red Gold will also be hosting a promotion starting Jan 13, where twice a week, they will give away a Le Creuset Lasagna Pan, a Simple Gourmet Lasagna Kit, Red Gold spatula, Garfield Toy, coupons and an apron. Just go to to enter on or after Jan 13th. Well, they had me at “Le Creuset.”

The Giveaway will run until January 28th. Good luck and happy cooking!

Christmas Memories from the Vannoy Family

Before I was a Howkins, I was a Vannoy. Heck, I am still a Vannoy. All those family traditions and memories from growing up will be the ones I cherish forever. I have become an enormous sap every since Jack was born and I want him to have the type of Christmas that I had growing up. So, I have become my mother. I seriously laughed-out-loud at that one. In some ways I have become my mother (like the Xmas decorating part, not the marathon running part).

One thing that my mom always did right was the holidays. This lady has Christmas decorations out the wazoo and when we moved into our new house she graciously passed a lot of them (the ones that she wasn’t still using of course) on to me. She passed a “Christmas Memories” book as well and when I opened it was transferred right back to the 90’s, and to bangs, and to having two annoying twin sisters (and older brother) to fight with.

Pretty sure me and my 3rd grade self wrote this. I am pretty sure that I didn’t believe in Santa in 3rd grade. All of my showboating must have been for my 1st grade sisters. Also I am pretty sure that I signed the “Thanks, Santa” at the end.


Then one from my sister Erin, at least I think it was her as I found her name scribbled in crooked cursive on the back.

EPSON MFP imageAh, the memories.

Ah, my hair.

And overalls.


There is nothing like old Christmas cards.

We have also thrown a few little holiday get-togethers with friends and family.

Going through my cookbooks lead to some truly hidden gems. My grandmother passed away in 2009 but her recipes live on. Just reading her neat cursive on the recipe cards I have sent chills down my spine. She made these awesome cheese & sausage ball things during the holidays and I can’t wait to give this recipe a try to see if its it (in these old cookbooks I found no less that five “Cheese & Sausage Ball” recipes). It makes me wish that she was here to make those classic dishes that will forever remind me of Christmas. What did I say? I am a total sap!



I could have sworn that my Granny’s were cheese AND sausage… but maybe not. There weren’t any recipes that had both. But I am dying to sink my teeth into a little taste of my childhood.

Classic Mac ‘n Cheese dish anyone? I may sub out the margarine but other than that it seems pretty solid. 


Also, some of these old recipes are hilarious. Just reading some of the ingredients made my stomach hurt.




I know you are dying to cook up that Apricot Chicken from my Aunt Marlene! Let me know how it goes.

Merry Christmas to you and yours and see you after the holidays!

Sneek peek: I have a Red Gold Giveaway coming up soon! Stay posted for a yummy recipe and some treats for a lucky winner!

One Year Ago: Our Charleston Anniversary

Two Years Ago: Back and Better Than Ever

Three Years Ago: Christmas Take 1

Four Years Ago: How Can Something So Cute…

Creative Holiday Gift Guide: ART and a coupon code

There are only two weeks left until Christmas. TWO WEEKS!

How is that?! I have a serious holiday obsession and it makes me so sad to think that I only have another two weeks with my Christmas decorations. I look forward to putting them up all year and then BAM! Time to take them down again.

John and I went to Savannah with our friends Joe and Brooke last weekend. They are our favorite Savannah buddies (seen in such posts as Tybee Pirate Fest, ARG! and Pirate Fest Take 2, Well 3) and while I love them so, I MISSED my Christmas decorations. How sick is that?

For me, with any holiday season comes the stress of gift giving. I want to give the perfect gift and too often than not I overthink it. Enter the perfect gift} ART.

I LOVE getting art for a present. Even if its not exactly my taste, I always appreciate getting a piece that someone thinks I would like. I helps me to step out of my “what I usually buy” mode (and I am acting as if I am buying art all the time anyway… I’m not). Its special and it always has meaning. There is always a story behind it and, to me, its the best gift you can give. I have a friend who used to give me and John a painting every Christmas. It was the gift I looked forward to most.

There are tons of places to purchase art (or hell, make your own), but I love me an Etsy shop. Its such a great way to get a rather “unknown” artist’s work for a more affordable price.

One of the shops that I am loving is The Whatsoeverist on Etsy. Pearson, who is the shop owner, is located in Charleston, SC (my happy place) and does a variety of different types of art in different types of mediums. She works mainly with custom orders but also has some items in her Etsy shop which can be purchased as is.

Here are a few of her already completed pieces:

Pearson started out with these great animal paintings before moving into abstracts and landscapes. These would make the perfect gift for any dog lover.

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She does everything from more realistic paintings to the abstract. Is everyone just loving abstracts right now? I mean, I can’t get enough! Although a perfect marsh painting is always on my wish list.

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She has a quick turnaround and can help you out with that last minute tough-person-to-buy-for person on your list (could I say “person” one more time?).

Go find THE WHATSOEVERIST on Etsy and enter coupon code blackbirdxmas for an additional 20% off from now until January 15th. Don’t forget that she does CUSTOM ORDERS too!



Down with the Brown

I never dreamed I would have a house update so soon! Trust me, one thing that I have learned about John and house renovations is that they take foooooooreeeeeeeever. We lived in our old house for five years and tackled maybe 2 of the 138,474 projects that we had planned. Maybe its knowing that we want to live here for a long time or maybe its just the “seize the day” feeling we both have, but either way we tackled some major painting this past week.

In my naive mind I thought that the painting would take 1 day. HA! It took 3 days of 8 to 6, 5 guys, and even a little overtime to get it all done. But if you remember my pictures from the other day (you can see them here) there was some major brown wood trim that had to go. Since we knew that the kitchen job was more than we could tackle ourselves, we decided to hire professionals to do the job.

Now, I have painted more than a handful of rooms in my day and I won’t hesitate to pick up a paintbrush if necessary, but if someone else wants to do it… go on ahead! Since the pros were here we also had them paint the living room, the front entry way and the master bed and bath. I painted the half bath about 2 days into living here, but the pros went back and hit the trim and window.

Painting the kitchen is Stage 1 of my our overall plan, so we hope that painting the cabinets can buy us some time to save save save for a complete overhaul in the future (we are talking like 5+ years).

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(Please excuse the blur in the picture above.)

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We still have a ton of things that we need/want to do. 

1. Add hardware to cabinets and drawers.

2. Figure out the hinge situation (since the hinges and cabinets are about 40 years old, we are having trouble finding the same hinge in a different finish). We would like a hidden hinge, but I would be happy if we could just update them a little.

3. Get new appliances. We would like to move the fridge to the garage (there are some water issues with it) and sell/donate the cooktop and ovens to match the new refrigerator.

4. Get a new light fixture in the breakfast nook. I am thinking one like this or this.

5. Remove the scalloped piece from over the sink.

6. Update sink fixtures.

7. Possibly get a rollaway island?

Regardless we are LOVING the new bright kitchen. Painting the trim white and updating the wall and cabinet color made a huge difference. Once the pulls are on the cabinets and drawers it will look a little more finished.

For the cabinets we went with Behr’s Downpour. The color reminded us of our old house and for us it was a nice little nod to our first place.

For the walls in the kitchen we went with Valspar’s Asiago. I wanted something less yellow than the walls were previously, but not white, but still bright. I think it did the job.

Once I get the living room organized/free of baby junk I will do a post on it… and whether or not I win the battle of “Paint the Fireplace White.”







New House

Hey there! Remember me?

No. Well me neither.

Seriously. Who am I?

The life of a stay-at-home mother/afternoon tutor is definitely different from my previous life as a full-time teacher. Days of quiet time, gym time, and evenings spent relaxing on the couch are gone. Days of yogurt in my hair, driving the streets of Atlanta in rush hour traffic going to and fro from tutoring, and evenings spent going to bed at 7:53 pm are in full swing. And I wouldn’t change a thing. I love staying at home with Jack.

Speaking of home… John and I got a new one! If you saw this Instagram post, then you already know that.

Screen Shot 2014-11-14 at 9.26.15 AMJohn has come full circle and bought a house in the same neighborhood that he grew up in. I love it. I think that its a little weird for him, but my dream was to live in a great neighborhood, with a pool (hello summer!) and tennis court, great schools…. the suburban parent’s dream!

The house is great because it is a blank canvas. I mean the walls are all tan and almost everything is original. Original 1970’s. You knew that was back in right?

We plan to live here, “like forever”, so we will tackle the projects bit by bit, wall by wall, and floor by floor. But in the meantime there is an awesome pool table already in the basement that we can procrastinate with. You already know that if you saw John’s Instagram post.

Screen Shot 2014-11-14 at 9.30.52 AMI am bringing it back college style. Man I used to love playing pool. Drinking Miller Lite with my bestie and shooting pool for hours was how I spent a lot of my freshman year. Don’t worry: I eventually graduated.

But while we haven’t done much besides move in some furniture, paint a bathroom, and change a light fixture we are already happy as clams in our new abode. Bonus: I can walk to my sis-in-law’s in less than 5 minutes.

Here are some pictures of what we have to start with. Enjoy my notes. Stage 1? Stage 2? Be glad you aren’t married to me.



I think the dark gray will look bold when you first walk into the house. Its usually a color that I would be afraid to use, but its a small space. I can’t wait to see how it looks. Its probably the area that I am most excited about painting.



This room needs some TLC! We keep going back and forth on what to do with the fireplace. I want to paint it, John wants to wait (“What if red brick comes back ‘in’?” he says! “It won’t” I says).



The kitchen is nice and large with a huge layout. We decided to get the cabinets painted instead of just “living with them” for a few years like we planned. Still, this wood trim has got-to-go!


I love a formal dining room. We are pretty much keeping this as is for now and will look into some wallpapers in the future.



I can’t tell you how excited I am about this office (I am in here right now!). No more stacks of papers on the kitchen table. Hooray!



Nice, large, light. We are just going to paint for now and revisit after a while.



You like that tile? You want to know where you can get it? 1975.

We will re-tile, paint the vanity, and change out the countertops eventually.

EPSON019 I love this cozy little room. We have 2 larger bedrooms that Jack can move into when he out grows this one, but for now its almost perfect. Its the only room that is really “done.”



We are in the process of getting a new deck. Its a little unstable and not up to code so it has to be replaced.

The colors are represented great in those pics, but I can’t wait to get it all painted and see what it looks like in real life. 

I hope you enjoyed the preview of my trapper keeper. I am old school and like to have actual papers to flip through. I also like to use tape, pens, markers… If you knew me in high school you know there is nothing I love more than a nicely decorated note.

Hopefully I will have an update for you in less than 5 years.

New to Blackbird Ideas?

One year ago: Pasta with Tuna, Olives, and Fried Capers

Two years ago: Salsa Verde with Chicken

Three years ago: Skillet Challenge: Black Eyed Peas

Four years ago: One, Two, Three Shoot!










Massaged Kale Caesar Salad

Imagine kale lying on a massage table with a masseuse giving him a deep tissue massage. The masseuse accidentally pokes the kale in the eye and the he shouts angrily “What the kale?!”

Har har. I know. I know. Kale doesn’t have eyes…

Anyway! Today’s been weird. You know what’s not weird? Massaged Kale Caesar Salad.

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I heard recently (from the side of my Whole Foods bag) that collards are the new kale so I need to get this recipe posted before no one eats kale any more.

We are big greens eaters over at my house. I love to throw greens (kale, collards, whatever) in some homemade chicken noodle soup for a little extra dose of healthy. I have even given it to my 8 month old, Jack. He loved it and I couldn’t believe it.

One downside of kale is that it can be pretty fibrous. It is one of those foods that needs to be worked with, erhhumm massaged, to be tasty in addition to being good for you. By massaging this kale in water first it softens up and holds the thick caesar dressing so nicely that you’ll wonder why you’ve never thought of this before (or maybe that was just me).

And with a little grilled chicken on top, you have yourself a meal!

Start by marinating the chicken in a simple marinade (1 part oil, 1 part vinegar, s&p, and a squeeze of lemon is my go-to). Grill the chicken until it is cooked through. 


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Continue by chopping your kale and cutting the thick veins out of it. Toss it in a large bowl and cover the kale with water. Submerge your hands and grab handfuls of kale rubbing your hands together. Think old timey washing methods down by the river. Rub rub rub together. You will see the kale starting to darken where its been properly massaged and you will feel it getting softer. Continue doing this for a few minutes until you have rubbed all the pieces together. Drain very well and pat down. 

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Add the kale to another large bowl, drizzle on my super secret caesar dressing, top with the grilled chicken, fresh black pepper, and optional parmesan cheese and you have yourself one delicious salad!

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I love to leave out the parmesan in the dressing and salad for a dairy-free twist. Trust me, it tastes (almost) just as good. Although I do have to admit that its pretty awesome with some fresh shaved parm…

Crockpot Turkey & Black Bean Chili + a GIVEAWAY!

*Giveaway has ended. Congrats to Rose and happy cooking!*

Hello Fall! So nice to see you.

I love your cool breezes.

I love your lovely colors.

I love the delicious recipes you bring.

Speaking of recipes (See what I did there? No? Me neither.)… it’s time to whip your crockpots out ladies (and guys!) because Fall is here and with that comes the ability to set it and forget it! Well, don’t totally forget about it. Come back to it is 6 to 8 hours. So- set it and come back to it in 8 hours it. Ugh. Whatever. You know what I mean.

My buds over at Red Gold were total dolls and sent some cans of their awesome tomatoes to celebrate Fall’s arrival. When I think of a Fall crockpot recipe, I immediately think of chili. I have posted a recipe or two in the past for chili and reminisced about growing up and my mother cooking chili once a week, stovetop, and how I shunned chili for the rest of my adolescence.

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But this Turkey & Black Bean Chili aint ya mama’s chili. Or my mama’s chili for that matter (sorry Mom). Subbing out beef for turkey lightens this up a bit and using Red Gold’s tomatoes with chilles makes for a spicy dish that livens up your typical weeknight chili.

Let’s get started. You need:

3 tablespoon olive oil

1 white onion diced

1 heaping tablespoon of minced garlic

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 tablespoons chili powder

1 lb ground turkey

1 can of Red Gold diced tomatoes with green chilies (15 oz)

1 can Red Gold crushed tomatoes (15 oz)

2 cans black beans (drained and rinsed)

salt and pepper

optional garnishes:

pickled sliced jalapenos (highly recommend)

sour cream

shredded pepper jack cheese

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Start by adding all of the ingredients to the crockpot, except the turkey. You are going to brown the turkey in a pan first (seasoning it with salt and pepper) and once its cooked through add it into the crockpot with the rest of the ingredients. Set to low for 8 hours or to high for 6. I did the low for 8 (and maybe kind of forgot about it and came back 9 or so hours later and it was still delish). How easy is that?!

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Serve with a dollop of sour cream, a sprinkle of shredded pepper jack, and a few slices of pickled jalapenos and mmmm mmmm mmmm! John and I were whoofing this down all night. And then again the next day for lunch.

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Now for the fun part. The giveaway. Like I said my pals at Red Gold sent me these tomatoes. And they would like to send you some as well! And an apron. I have one too. We can be twins.

This photo is from I (stupidly) used all my ‘maters before snapping any pics….


You can enter two ways. Either like Blackbird Ideas on Facebook or post a comment below that says what you would do with free cans of Red Gold Tomatoes (and/or and apron). Click the link below for a handy dandy way to enter the contest!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Also, check out Red Gold’s Facebook page to enter their own giveaway to win a free crockpot! They are giving away TWO A DAY! Holy crockpot!

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* The link is the best way to enter the contest, but you can also simply comment on the blog post below and that will count as well. Sorry for any confusion. I try to make things easy and well….


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Summer Bummer

I can’t believe that summer has (almost officially) come to an end… what a bummer. I guess technically we have until the end of September for it to really be fall, but I’ll be darned if I haven’t caught some cool breezes the past week or so. To ring in the end of Summer ’14 we travelled to Savannah for a low-key weekend full of sunshine, fishing, and even a little sailing.

The weather was hot, hot, hot. There was barely a cloud in the sky for the majority of the weekend. Who could ask for more! John and I were the only “kids” at the house (Do we count as “kids” anymore? I guess I should replace it with 30 somethings… oh lord. Jack is really the kid, you know what I mean…) so we ran our adventures with just the two of us and our little peanut.

There was a lot of southerners soup happening, as seen in the pictures below. It was one of those weekend where it is too hot to be outside unless you are fully submerged in water.

DSC_0002We hit the water the first chance we got! I needed to feel that wind in my hair and that squirmy baby in my lap. We rode the boat over to Dafuskie for a little cruising and lunching. It is almost an hour cruise to Dafuskie Island from Wilmington Island, which is pretty long with a baby sitting on you. Needless to say I was more than ready to hit land and feed Jack lunch, get us some grub, and change a diaper. Once we got the boat tied up we realized that due to a communication error, the diaper bag (with lunch and diapers) had been left behind. John, I, and ol’ puffy diaper sat down at Marshside Mama’s for a quick bite before having to head back and retrieve a much necessary bag. 

Luckily for us, once the boat gets underway Jack stops wiggling and falls asleep. So he slept for most of the trip there and the trip back. Also luckily for us there was no “code brown” situation happening and we stayed mellow with just the yellow for our boat adventure (that was probably way too much bathroom humor wasn’t it?).

photo 3

Lately I have noticed that Jack inherited my facial expressions. I have been cursed with a resting frown face 😦 He is such a happy boy, but often his expression is stern. Don’t be fooled by his glares. I swear he is having fun.

DSC_0018 See! We can look happy!

DSC_0032 He has also, unfortunately, inherited my frequent open-mouth-face. This poor poor guy.

DSC_0042Like I said, the weekend’s weather was BEYOND. The tides were right, the sun was out… so we hit the sandbar for some R&R and some floating. DSC_0049 Jack loves the water and had a great time just sitting in the ocean and feeling the current rush. Don’t worry. I had a death grip on him. DSC_0074 What better place to practice crawling than a little tidal pool on a sandbar?


photo 2


We took advantage of a beautiful tree that had washed up on the sandbar. Here is John IV with John Jr.


We ventured out of our normal sandbar/beach hammock beach spot one day and went to Wassaw Island. We saw dozens and dozens of dolphin. They seemed to be enjoying the beautiful weather as much as we were. 
DSC_0122 We set up an umbrella, a cooler, and a bean bag and once again, enjoyed ourselves.

DSC_0126 Looking through my camera after the weekend, I found this gem. We sat here forever while he splashed and laughed in the water. I had no idea that John was taking my picture (which would explain my resting face which I usually cover up with a smile), but I was loving this moment and knowing that this would be a memory to cherish for the rest of my life. I love to see Jack experience new things and enjoy the things that we enjoy. DSC_0127


Now the real news of the trip to Savannah, way better than just pictures of me with my son, John caught a whopper fish while we were there. He actually caught 2 whopper fish. He went offshore and caught two different kinds of grouper! It was awesome! I am used to him bringing back some type of mackerel (that I don’t prefer), marinating the crap out of it, and then having one little piece at dinner. Not the case with the grouper! We have been eating it all week: grilled, pan fried, blackened, you name it! I will be sharing a recipe soon so keep checking back.

photo 2I know that John was pretty pumped about it, as was I, Jack, his dad and girlfriend, our neighbors and just about anyone else that got a taste.

Speaking of John… he has a few Marsh Hen charters left open for this year if you are interested! There is also the possibility of a fishing charter… check out his website here (last I checked this link doesn’t appear to be working 😦 please look at his website at

Hope you have also enjoyed the tail end of Summer ’14!

One Year Ago: Susan’s Salad

Two Years Ago: Who Let The Dogs Out

Three Years Ago: Marinated Pesto Chicken

Four (holy cow) Years Ago: Weekend Trip to BuHiFM



Grapefruit & Basil Sangria

When Williams-Sonoma reached out to me to create a sangria recipe it was like the mothership calling me home. So obviously I jumped at the chance. 1. I love Williams-Sonoma and 2. I love sangria. How easy was that? Also, with the holiday weekend coming up, what better time to whip up a batch to serve at your neighborhood BBQ, family beach trip, or with a group of pals? Well, with my Grapefruit & Basil Sangria, look no further for a fresh, healthy, and boozy recipe!

gandb sangria

I have not been able to get enough grapefruit this summer. I just love it’s tart, sweet taste whether alone or mixed in a cocktail. Luckily for me, grapefruit also has many health benefits such as lowering cholesterol, boosting metabolism (hello!), and helping firm skin (double hello!).

There is nothing better than juice straight from the source. There is something so pure out slicing a grapefruit and juicing it, rather than just pouring it out of a bottle from the grocery store. Williams-Sonoma has an awesome selection of juicers perfect for a recipe such as this! I need to add this Electric Citrus Press to my arsenal. John would love it! Do you juice?

My garden has had an abundance of basil this summer. I have been whipping up caprese salads, pesto dishes, and spaghetti sauce with it all summer… so why not add it to my cocktails too? Did you know that basil is a stress reliever? Uh huh. And can also help reduce breakouts? Uh huh. Enough said.

Here is what you need.



or in words that would be:

1/2 bottle of sauvignon blanc or other white wine

1/2 bottle prosecco or champagne

1 cup fresh squeezed grapefruit juice

1/2 cup basil simple syrup*

1 grapefruit, sliced

fresh basil for garnish

soda water, optional

basil simple syrup

*for the basil simple syrup

1 cup water

1 cup sugar, I used turbinado sugar

1 cup loosely packed basil

Heat all three ingredients in a saucepan until sugar dissolves. you can use regular granulated sugar (which would give the sangria a lighter color), but I had turbinado sugar on hand. Remove the pan from heat and let it sit for about 10 minutes, infusing the basil flavor. Strain it into a container and refrigerate until cool. The simple syrup keeps for about a week in the fridge.

In a large pitcher, pour wine, grapefruit juice, and basil simple syrup over ice. Add in grapefruit slices and top with prosecco. Pour into glasses and garnish with a grapefruit slice and chiffonaded basil. Top with soda water for a lighter taste.

I registered at Williams-Sonoma for my wedding and the pitcher and glasses can still be purchased there and monogrammed with your own initial. Like I said: MOTHER. SHIP.


So not only is this sangria yummy, it is also good for you. It’s all you ever wanted a cocktail to be!

Whip up a batch with your buds this weekend! I still have some basil simple syrup sitting around if any one wants to come over…

gandb sangria