Sun Times, Fun Times

July is quintessential summertime.  Hot days and warm nights, no students around at work, fresh produce from our garden.  It’s wonderful.  While July 2013 did not hold anything monumental for us, it was a great month.  Here’s a quick recap of what we did just to keep you up to date with our lives right now.

We hosted an Independence Day cookout and some of our dearest friends came.  No pictures because we were far too busy enjoying our company to get out the camera or even an iPhone.  The second week of July we both helped out at our church’s VBS.  I won’t post any pictures here for the sake of privacy for the kids who attended.  There are some on Facebook if you are interested.  I did all the music (translation: I did 2.5 straight hours of aerobics every night for a week) and Kevin led the 2nd graders.  We both had a great time and loved serving this way.  However, there’s nothing like interacting with other people’s children to ensure we’re not ready to have our own!

We left immediately from the VBS closing program to head up to Michigan for a weekend with the Napps.  Kevin had a high school reunion that we spent some time at.  Mostly, though, we got to spend time with his family.  It was so great to see them!  On Saturday, we borrowed a family friend’s Jet Ski and hit the lake.  Perfect way to spend a summer afternoon in my opinion.

July 2013On the way home from Michigan, we stopped for dinner at Ruby Tuesday.  No one outside my immediate family may understand the importance of the picture above.  Kevin got the salad bar and brought me a plate of croutons.  This man takes good care of me.  Oh, and if you’ve never had these croutons, get to a Ruby Tuesday stat.  They are delicious.

July 2013

The following weekend, Kevin hit the road again.  He headed to Indiana for a Brotherhood Weekend (that’s what his college friends call it when they get together).  Scott & Mychaela have a new baby and the guys went to meet her.  You can see her with her Uncles Bonzo above.  Cute stuff.  They also managed to squeeze in a baseball game and plenty of other manly activities.

Meanwhile, I spent the weekend being uber-productive and indulging in some girl time of my own.  Back at the start of the summer, we got a membership to a great organization called Enjoy the Arts through LivingSocial.  In short, it’s an organization that encourages young adults to expand their horizons and attend fine art events in Cincinnati.  You buy the membership and then get one pair of free tickets to a variety of organizations.  When I saw that Kevin would be out of town on one of the weekends the Cincinnati Opera was putting on Aida, I immediately knew who to call.  My wonderful friend Clara, who I met the very first night of college, shares my affinity for the arts.  We got dressed up and headed out for a fantastic girls’ night!

When I ordered the free tickets, I was expecting nosebleed seats – the cheapest available.  Imagine my giddy shock when the tickets came a few days before the event and they listed our seats in the fourth row of the orchestra seating!  That’s the fourth row of the theatre!  We could not have asked for better seats!  The tickets were valued at $125 each and we paid nothing for them!  We did end up having to sit in the back for the first of four acts.  We had a parking fiasco that made us about 60 seconds late.  We had no cash to pay for parking and there were few garages in this district of Cinci.  We ended up at a parking meter about a half mile from the music hall.  We even sprinted back and forth to feed the meter between the second and third acts – in heels!  We barely made it back for the third act, coming in with the last of the smokers.  We landed in our seats, sweating and panting, just as the curtain rose.  We could not have been more proud of ourselves!

The opera itself was simply beyond words.  To be that close made a good experience a truly great one.  The cast sang beautifully; the woman playing Aida had performed the role previously at the Met in New York!  The set was gorgeous.  The chorus was huge and quite talented in their own rite.  The orchestra played perfectly.  And, of course, Verdi was a master so the talented performers only caused his music to shine brighter.  I could not have imagined a better night at the opera.

July 2013Back home, Zach spent Sunday night with us before heading back to Philly.  In his honor, we made a mega cookie.  While I have never ending problems making chocolate chip cookies (seriously, I’m cursed or something), I made this one a mint chocolate chip cookie using fresh mint from our garden.  It turned out wonderfully.  Zach told me it tasted like Christmas, which is about as high a compliment as one could get from Captain Christmas himself.  If you’re wondering whether this night broke my string of cookie disasters, don’t get your hopes up.  I made two batches of regular cookies with this dough as well.  The second got forgotten about and came out of the oven with a nice black hue.

Burgers, caramelized onions, peas, and glazed carrots

Burgers, caramelized onions, peas, and glazed carrots

Speaking of food, we’ve been eating pretty well lately.  We challenged ourselves to cut back on food spending this summer.  We have done great, cutting our food budget nearly in half!  Part of that has meant eating at home a lot more.  Notice how many vegetables are on that plate!  My mother would be so proud.  And no carbs, either!  Does a meal like that mean we’ve gone Paleo?

July 2013

Shrimp & Veggie Primavera

Definitely not.  My love affair with pasta continues.  In the above shot, you can see that I pretty much tossed every vegetable in our fridge into the pasta primavera.  We had those two meals two nights in a row.  You can imagine how proud of ourselves we were for eating so many vegetables.  Never fear, meat lovers.

We’ve had a turkey in our freezer since we bought in on sale just after Thanksgiving.  We finally thawed it out for the last weekend of July.  Now, if you’ve ever been around me in November, you know that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday ever.  I’m quite passionate about it.  So, imagine how happy I was making a full Thanksgiving dinner in July!  Turkey, mashed potatoes, two kinds of stuffing, and green beans – we feasted like kings!  I ended up using the carcass, some additional veggies, and herbs from the garden to make stock for future meals.  Kevin, being the wonderful sous chef that he is, suggested I use the stock ingredients to make two batches.  What a smart man!  I was a little nervous to let the second batch simmer overnight, but our house is still standing, so I guess I had nothing to worry about.  I probably didn’t need to check it twice in the middle of the night.

All in all, July was a great month for us.  Kevin shot some of the best golf games of his life in his Wednesday night league.  We spent a lot of time with friends and family.  It’s been a really hard few months at work for a lot of reasons that I won’t go into here, at least not yet.  In spite of the tough days, we have been so blessed to have such a wonderful support system.  Meanwhile, August is off to a great start.  And why shouldn’t it be?  It’s BIRTHDAY MONTH!!

What did you do in July?

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