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Holy cow…where did our summer go? My older two boys head back to school tomorrow, so we were sure to make the most of our final week of vacation. Shall we start at the beginning?

Keith was out of town last week from Friday through Tuesday, so with a completely free Sunday on my hands I knew that I better plan something fun to do with the kids. Before everyone woke up, I started the morning with an early living room workout: a 16-minute power walk from THIS DVD and a 10-minute yoga session from THIS DVD.


Shortly after breakfast we piled in the car and took off on a mini road trip. We traveled about 90 minutes east to Richmond to visit the Lego Exhibit at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.


What an awesome way to spend a morning! It exceeded my expectations and definitely ranks as one of the highlights from our summer. I took a lot of photos, so I’ll keep the words to a minimum and let the pictures do most of the talking.

We had maps to show us where the different Lego sculptures were located, so Gibbs led the hunt as we looked for each creation.


There were a variety of Lego sculptures that were huge and entirely made out of Lego bricks — including a hummingbird,




goldfinches on a feeder,


and Spencer’s favorite: a huge lawnmower!


Casey loved exploring the different varieties of plants and flowers.




I did my best to keep the little guy out of all of the water features…


and we made our way into the arboretum to see the tropical butterflies. They were so cool!



The boys loved the giant treehouse,



and of course the Legos.


It stayed cool all morning thanks to overcast skies, but when the sun came out around lunchtime it got pretty hot. We filled up in the Garden Cafe before making the drive back home.


The boys played outside for most of the afternoon (it turned out to be a beautiful day),


and I made a quick batch of Chocolate Cherry Fudge Pops:

Blend together about 3 cups of frozen pitted cherries (I love the giant bags of organic sweet cherries from Costco) + 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder + 1 cup milk + pinch of salt + splash of vanilla extract. Freeze in molds!


and a cheesy crustless quiche to reheat for easy breakfasts or lunches during the week.


Since Keith was still out of town we kept dinner very simple! Chicken noodle soup + grilled cheese for the boys, plus Organic Vegetable Barley Soup (from Costco) for me + leftover Dump-and-Bake Cider-Glazed Chicken from the night before.


After baths and bed for the kids, my Sunday evening consisted of some blog work, the Olympics, and a fluffy magazine. Perfect!


Since I couldn’t get to the gym for my regular Monday morning workout, I settled for the next best thing: a 20-Minute Strength and Cardio Boot Camp in my living room!


It was a rainy and cool day, so I dragged the boys to Charlottesville for some errands in the “big city.” We stopped at the mall to pick up a variety of items and to do some back-to-school shopping for the kids. They each needed new shoes because their feet never stop growing, and the older two needed new soccer cleats as well. Why, oh WHY do they always want the brightest, light-up, loudest shoes on display?! I tried hard to convince them that the gray Nike running shoes were cool, but none of them were biting. It certainly wasn’t worth the fight, so we left with 3 pairs of light-up Star Wars shoes and 2 pairs of neon yellow cleats. ?


I also treated them to lunch at the food court, a merry-go-round ride, and Starbucks desserts!


We grabbed a few groceries at Whole Foods (gotta take advantage while in the area!) and made our way home by late afternoon.

Dinner was an easy repeat! When I was meal planning last week I asked the boys if they had any dinner requests while Keith was out of town. Their only suggestion was chicken tacos, so I just froze the leftovers from my 3-Ingredient Slow Cooker Tacos (recipe in THIS POST), and reheated them on Monday evening.

Spencer’s Plate — Slow Cooker Ranch Chicken Taco with Cheese; Salsa; Corn; Guacamole; Tortilla Chips


And Tuesday was such a weird day. Keith was still out of town, so instead of going to the gym I hopped on our stair stepper in my living room for about 20 minutes before the kids got up. It wasn’t much, but it was better than nothing…and it even made me sweat!


In an effort to get us all a little bit more ready for back-to-school, I had scheduled hair cuts for that morning. My mother-in-law was kind enough to drive down for the day to visit and help with the hair ordeal, so off we went. Unfortunately, Spence got stung AGAIN by a hornet or wasp just outside the hairdresser’s. I had to rush off to buy some Benadryl, but his arm still swelled to an unimaginable size. I’ve seriously never seen anything like it! While the doctor confirmed that he doesn’t have an allergy, he is obviously more sensitive than the average kid. Fortunately I found these chewable Children’s Benadryl tablets…which he actually likes to eat! I always have trouble getting him to drink the nasty liquid medicine, so this is a great option.


We then finished with the hair cuts and headed home for lunch.

Casey wanted a mohawk (I said, “NO!”)


The older boys went north with Carole to have sleepovers at the grandparents’ houses in Northern Virginia while Spence napped the afternoon away. The quiet house was a great opportunity for me to edit photos and get some other computer work done!

And since it was just me and Spence at home for dinner that evening, I didn’t do any cooking at all. Spence was not feeling well, so he just ate peanut butter and crackers with his milk and called it good. I snacked on hummus and carrots with Spence and then made myself a Peaches and Cream Smoothie (because it’s easy),

Peaches and Cream Protein Smoothie 7

and topped my less-photogenic version with a few handfuls of homemade granola while watching the little guy play. Some nights you just eat smoothies and cereal for dinner, am.i.right?!


Oh!! And since my love for mason jars obviously runs VERY deep, you know I was so excited to see that Southern Living included one of my mason jar salad recipes in THIS VIDEO that they made. Check it out!!!

Keith arrived home late Tuesday night, so I was able to get up and go to the gym for a workout on Wednesday morning. It was a crazy-hard one and Mark took plenty of photos so that I can share the full workout with you in a separate post. In the meantime, here’s one of my favorite exercises from the routine…I hope you’ll try it!

Single Leg Squats with Kettlebells into an Overhead Press (I think that Mark’s official name for this was “TRX Rear-Foot-Elevated Kettlebell Bottoms-Up Clean and Press”…but that’s basically a foreign language to the rest of us!)


Shortly after I returned home, Spence woke up…and his arm was immobile, red, hot, and WAY more swollen than the day before. The swelling had moved from his hand (where he was stung) all of the way up his arm to his shoulder, so he couldn’t move his arm or bend his fingers. I panicked and called the pediatrician for the first appointment that morning. Off we went to the doctor’s again…

Still playing…even with only 1 good arm!


We were told that it was just another really bad histamine reaction to the sting, so we were sent home to ice, elevate, and take Benadryl. The rest of our day basically looked like this…


except that my two-year-old had no interest in really sitting still with ice on his arm. It was a constant back-and-forth struggle!

I made an old favorite for dinner — Slow Cooker Barbecue Brisket, which is a great easy option…


and it was perfect because I had some apple cider to use up that was leftover from last week’s Dump-and-Bake Cider-Glazed Chicken. Keith is a barbecue lover and he’s very discriminating when it comes to which BBQ he eats, so I can confidently tell you that this recipe is 100% approved by the whole family — even Keith!

Along with a store-bought pasta salad, I made a caprese salad on the side because our tomatoes are ripe,


our basil is rampant, and I had fresh mozzarella in the refrigerator. Summer on a plate!

One of our basil “trees.”


On Thursday morning I made it to Mark’s early boot camp class at the gym, and then my mom brought the older boys home from their “sleepovers” with the grandparents.

Casey and I hustled out the door for his Kindergarten Open House while my mom stayed with the other two…


and we all reunited a short time later for lunch at Subway!

I tried hard to get everyone to look at the camera at the same time but it just wasn’t happenin’


After lunch it was Gibbs’s turn! We went back to the school to meet his First Grade teacher and say hi to old buddies!

I’ll be honest: this little boy is NOT thrilled about going back to school on Monday! Summer has been too fun…


Since I knew that Thursday would be kind of crazy, I prepped our dinner the night before when the house was quiet and Spence was the only child at home. I knew that I better take full advantage…

I made a Cheesy Chicken and Quinoa Casserole with Zucchini, which was really easy (I used leftover rotisserie chicken), and it was a big hit with the kids. I need to remember to take photos next time and share the full recipe on here! I actually prepped two small casseroles instead of one huge dish. I put the other 9-inch square dish in the freezer (before baking) for dinner on another evening. Biscuits on the side for my carb-loving males!


Friday was a low-key day, which was a much-needed break after a busy week. My boys were tired!

Other than an outing to the grocery store in the morning, we stayed home most of the day. While I was in line at the store, the woman behind me commented on the boys and asked how old they are. We started chatting and it turns out that she has 6 boys of her own (no girls), and so of course we started talking about the groceries needed to feed so many growing guys. I think my jaw hit the floor when I noticed her cart full of about 8 loaves of bread, 8 gallons of milk, and numerous giant-size bulk bags of cereal. She had two of her sons with her and they were each pushing a full cart as well…and that was just the family’s regular grocery haul for the week. OMG…it made my bill look GOOD for once!


I had a bowl of very ripe local peaches sitting on the counter just begging to be used, so I baked an easy Healthy Peach Crisp (using this recipe, but swapping sliced peaches for the strawberries). It’s SO good because the fruit is very naturally sweet right now, and I will definitely be eating this with some yogurt for breakfast over the next few days. Who says that cobblers or crisps are only for dessert? Not me.


In fact, when the afternoon munchies hit around 4:00 my snack of choice was obvious!


Dinner that night was the usual Friday fare — carry-out pizza from the local pizzeria.


On Saturday morning I decided to get a run in outside, rather than going to the gym. Since the weather was calling for almost-100-degree temps, I made sure to head out early. I went for a 25 minute trail run, and then did some shopping at the farmer’s market afterwards.


This week at the market I picked up:

  • tomatoes
  • corn
  • honey dew melon
  • a giant seedless watermelon
  • red potatoes
  • green beans
  • eggs
  • peanut butter cookies

A mouthful: TWO pieces of watermelon at one time!


I came home sweaty, took a quick shower, and then made a Sweet Tea Brine for chicken that Keith wants to grill on today. More on that soon!

Grilled Sweet Tea Chicken 8

We otherwise had a quiet afternoon and didn’t do too much outdoors because of the stifling heat. Keith grilled shrimp for dinner that evening, and I used the potatoes from the market to make an old favorite: Crispy Oven-Roasted Seasoned Potatoes. We had a salad on the side with garden tomatoes and this Every Herb Salad Dressing (which I knew I had to make as soon as I saw it — my herbs are crazy this summer)!


I am LOVING the Olympics right now, so Keith and I put the boys to bed and watched television for the rest of the evening until we couldn’t hold our eyes open any longer! And that leads me to today: our LAST day of summer vacation! We will be having a cookout this evening with Keith’s Sweet Tea Chicken, watermelon, corn on the cob, and green bean salad. Sounds like a great way to end the season, right? Be sure to check back next weekend for the full details, and have a great week ahead!


Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

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  1. Kristy from Southern In Law says:

    The Botanical Gardens look like such an incredible place to explore – especially with that lego exhibit!

    Spence’s hornet or wasp sting sounds like a horrible ordeal! I’ve never been stung by anything like that (including a bee!) but I know I’d probably have a similar reaction as my body seems to be sensitive to everything! 😛

    Soak up these last moments of summer vacation! I can’t believe it’s over already for you all as I feel like you posted about the first week of summer seconds ago!

    1. Blair says:

      Thanks so much, Kristy!

  2. Cathy says:

    Would you post the recipe for the zucchini quinoa casserole please. It looks delishious!

    1. Blair says:

      Hi, Cathy! I just sent you an email (recipe included)! 🙂