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We’re Cooking with Blue Apron

August 19, 2015

Yes, this post will make you hungry. No, this post is not sponsored.

My boss and his wife subscribe to Blue Apron, a service that delivers recipes with its ingredients to your doorstep. They used the service long enough that they could offer me a free trial. Who says no to free food?!? We liked it so much that we’ve been getting a delivery every other week for the last two months.

When you first receive the Blue Apron box (it’s insulated and has giant ice packs so no worries there), you’ll notice that everything is individually packaged for a recipe so you can easily separate your ingredients. This is great for beginner cooks who are like, “what’s a shallot?”

Blue Apron ingredients

The front side of the recipe card gives you a photo of all of your ingredients and a photo of the finished product. It’s kind of dummy-proof.

The back side of the recipe card lists out all the steps you need for the recipe and provides photos as well. I generally find that I don’t need those but John does. And if Blue Apron’s cooking photos help my man feel confident in the kitchen, I’m all for it. Money well spent!

cooking with Blue Apron

Since I don’t eat meat, Blue Apron offers other Janelle-friendly meals. We get three meals in a week and usually one is seafood and the other two are vegetarian.

Blue Apron

I’m pretty good at meal planning for the week and have made it a habit to do every Sunday but it isn’t what I’d call fun. Blue Apron makes meal planning easy because they deliver three meals that I’ve pre-selected based on what’s available, then I just add in a breakfast nite and maybe one other meal.

Blue Apron

I will say that sometimes I don’t feel like thinking through a recipe. Cooking comes pretty easy to me but sometimes I just don’t want to come home and have to think about food. As in, I’d rather make a meal that I’ve made a hundred times. You know, like scrambled eggs. But if I’ve already paid for Blue Apron and the ingredients are there and fresh, I muster up the energy to do it and it’s always worth it.

(Except for that one time we were going away so we made all three of the week’s meals in one nite, as evidenced below. That was crazy.)

Blue Apron meals

One of the advantages of having a limited meal choice is that we are forced to try new things. The burger below is a fried green tomato “burger” which we were all afraid of…  until we took a bite. John declared it one of the best things he’d eaten in a while. That’s a win!
Blue Apron

We get the meals for two people but usually there’s enough for the three of us and sometimes there are even leftovers.

Money-wise, Blue Apron is sort of in the middle between going out for dinner and buying your own groceries. I’d like to say it’s a happy medium, since our version of going out is usually sushi ($$$) and our method of cooking at home involves arguments over who’s meal planning and grocery shopping because no one’s super interested in doing that. In other words, Blue Apron is worth the few extra bucks so we can keep the peace, know what’s for dinner without effort, and keep us out of expensive and unhealthy restaurants.

Have you tried Blue Apron? What’s your favorite method for getting healthy meals on the dinner table and fast?

Currently – 8/18/2015

August 18, 2015


Putting the finishing touches on birthday party planning. Now it’s on to the “making stuff!” portion.

Contacting all of my World Domination Summit friends to follow-up with them.

Testing recipes for cupcakes for my birthday party.

Waiting (impatiently!) for my niece or nephew to arrive any day now!

Crushing PRs at the gym left and right. I recently beat my barbell deadlift by THIRTY pounds.

Listening to Rob Thomas as the guest DJ on iheartradio which includes songs from his new album. In case you were wondering, it sounds FANTASTIC.

Planning a party for all of my soccer friends. I think waiting to hear if people will come is the worst part.

Trying not to get behind on all the million things I need/want to do. Why must sleep be necessary?

Feeling super annoyed when men spend their free time playing video games. (Ahem… John).

Learning to like tomatoes! Not on their own but definitely cooked in certain dishes.

Looking for someone to apply Jamberry nail wraps for me. Why is that so hard to find??

Savoring whoopie pies from a place inside Hersheypark called Makin Whoopie Pies. They’re the BEST I’ve ever had!

What’s currently going on in your life? Share with me in the comments!

Notes for Overnight Camp

August 17, 2015

Last week was J-slice’s final camp of the summer but his first full-week overnight camp. Ever.

Earlier in the summer he went to an overnight camp for three nites and it was only 40 minutes away. This one was two hours away and a full week, plus they weren’t allowed to have electronics (ahem… no texting!), so I was a little worried that he’d get homesick or keep to himself too much.

My fears might have something to do with this one traumatic memory I have of being eight-ish years old and my Mom and brother going to Vermont for a week without me. My Mom pre-planned a letter and small gift for every day she was away but I think I still bawled the whole time. My Grandpa was stuck taking care of me while I’m sure I was a hot mess. Poor guy.

I wanted J-slice’s experience to be as great as possible and not even a sliver traumatic so I wrote him notes ahead of time.

I wrote six little cards so he could open one on the morning of each day he was away. I used fun emoji stickers on the front so he would smile and laugh a little, plus I sometimes tied them to the message inside.

note for kids away at overnight camp

For the sun, I said I hoped he had great weather and a fantastic week. For the guy farting (well, that’s how we interpret that emoji combination anyway), I told him not to fart too much or he wouldn’t make any friends. And for the two people holding hands, I wrote something about maybe meeting his first girlfriend and making sure to get his new friends’ phone numbers. All of them were lightly humorous or at least attempted to be.

I just labeled each one with the date and how many days he had left as sort of a countdown to coming home.

note for kids away at overnight camp

J-slice is 13 now so I really wasn’t sure if he would think this was embarrassing or cool. I was going for cool-with-a-dose-of-helpful-advice.

When he got home, the first thing he said was that he read all the notes! And that one day they went rock climbing and he wasn’t really feeling it but my note that morning had said to get out of your comfort zone so he tried it and made it to the top! Atta boy!

My Mom taught me that small gestures can often make a huge impact. I hope that I am teaching J-slice the same thing while also showing him how much he is loved.

What do you do for loved ones when you or they go on a trip?

PS – Want some other ideas? Here are photo notes I gave to John when he was away for two weeks and positive notes I leave around the house to show my love (here and here). Also: our love note mailboxes and an update on them.

Web Wandering

August 14, 2015

web wandering

Woohoo! It’s Friday! Killing time at work till 5pm? Or want to read some fun things this weekend? Let’s wander the web together!

World Domination Summit! You know you want more of it (well, I do!). The WDS team is bringing it in the form of sharing attendee posts. Here’s round one and round two. I’m hoping one of my posts will get featured in round three!

Unrelated to WDS but still coming from an attendee: 3 Ways NOT to React When Your Husband Does Something Stupid. I laughed out loud at all of the comments filed under Sarcasm. Although… then I read them to John and he said they were spot on! They’re just not well-received in the moment.

My friend Steph is well-known for her ice cream cone cupcakes. I never wanted to attempt them myself but I’m kiiiinda thinking now miiiight be the time! Plus, hello, sprinkles! Here’s Brown Eyed Baker’s version.

Save this one for reference: A Brief Guide to Quitting a Bad Habit. I would add as part of step 3 that recognizing what normally comes before your trigger (an emotion, a physical reaction, etc) can sometimes help you prevent your trigger and poor response before it happens.

Thanks to our family ski trips to Europe, my Mom and I share a love for French macarons. Sally’s Baking Addiction just shared the ultimate Step-By-Step Guide to French Macarons aaaand now I want to make them, despite lacking the fundamental patience required. That’s where my Mom comes in. Because truth: I don’t want to make them; I want to eat them.

Whenever you’re facing a big decision, remember that your body knows before your mind does.

Have you ever seen my to-do list? Don’t. You’d cry. When it comes to choosing how to spend your time, the bottom of that post has a simple two-sentence concept to guide you.

On that note, how about creating a doable bucket list of sorts? This is kind of what I’ve been doing with my 30 Before 30 list and setting monthly goals for it. I didn’t use any fancy apps or tools but the post shares several options available. (found via Elise)

Before the summer ends, I’d love to try making this homemade peanut butter chocolate chip cookie dough blizzard. It’s probably the perfect drink to wash down the peanut butter cup s’mores I’ll roast and eat just beforehand.

Have you been wandering the web too? Got something to share? Link to it in the comments!

A Catch-Up Chat Between You and Me

August 13, 2015

What we share online is rarely an accurate representation of our lives. Wouldn’t you agree? Sometimes that’s intentional and other times it’s simply coincidence.

Recently I had a few real-life good friends text me about soccer keeping me busy. I had to laugh because while it was true, I realized they knew that and only that because soccer is often all I share on Facebook. Facebook is the perfect social media outlet for the soccer groups I manage and I rarely share personal things on my own page, so soccer is all my friends get from me! It certainly doesn’t paint an accurate picture of my daily life though.

If you and I met up for dinner or froyo or coffee (well, a frozen coffee drink for me), here’s what I’d tell you is going on in my life right now:

I have a lot of soccer going on. I run a women’s league that will start soon, I run a weekly pickup soccer group, and I’m putting together a co-ed soccer team that I’ll play on in the Fall. After Labor Day, I’ll have all three going on at the same time.


I work out three times per week. I lift heavy things with my personal trainer, Matt, and love it. I love getting stronger, Matt makes me laugh and challenges me, and I love having that exercise time set aside that I’ve already committed to.

I blog almost every weekday. Of course you might already know since you’re reading this, but funny enough I very often forget to mention blogging in real life conversations.

I’m working to complete goals on my 30 Before 30 list. I have exactly one month left to go! I know I won’t complete everything but it’s been fun trying. (Here’s my 30 Before 30 list).

30 Before 30 - house projects - photo heart

I have an idea I’m working on. I know that’s super vague right now. In real life, I’d probably tell you about it, but I’m holding off on sharing it here just for a bit.

I have another idea that’s rolling around in my head – freelancing. Haven’t even touched this one yet but I hope to do some social media marketing.

I’m planning my own birthday party. Because that’s what Type-A control freaks do! And aside from the handful of setbacks, it’s been a rather fun ride.

sprinkles - 30th birthday

I help to raise a 13-year-old boy. If we’re friends, you’d probably already know this, but sometimes even my close friends don’t realize the extent to which I’m involved in J-slice’s life.

I’ve been to a lot of concerts this year. Several of them are my favorite bands so it’s been a great year for music. The highlights are Garth Brooks, NKOTB, Dashboard Confessional, and Rob Thomas. I still have three coming up!

Dashboard Confessional - Baltimore MD

I’ve been doing a lot of traveling, as usual. I’ve been trying to do a trip every month, even if it’s just a day trip. Highlights include California, Germany, Paris, visiting my Ginger BFF in Knoxville, and Portland for the World Domination Summit. Also, I sent myself a postcard from each of these destinations!

My niece or nephew is due soon! My brother and his girlfriend are having a baby, due in less than two weeks. So technically, any day :) I can’t wait to find out if it’s a boy or girl and if he/she has red hair!

These are the things I’d tell you whether we just met or we’re catching up. I would hope that you’d take a turn too! So if we haven’t talked much for a bit, leave a comment with an update on what’s going on in your life! Or send me an email and we’ll get a catch-up conversation going!

Want to borrow this post idea for your own blog? Go for it! Just link back here so I can read through your update.

My Rob Thomas Dream Come True

August 12, 2015

Oh you know, no big deal… just seeing Rob Thomas from the FRONT ROW!!!!!! <– that legitimately deserves about four thousand more exclamation points.

Janelle in front row seeing Rob Thomas

Let’s rewind a bit.

Rob Thomas is the lead singer of matchbox twenty, my hands-down absolute favorite band by FAR ever since 1996-ish when I heard Push on the radio. I was that kid who spent evenings in her room listening to alternative rock on the radio. I enjoyed the music but I was probably also trying to avoid interaction with my brother :) Regardless! matchbox twenty has been my favorite band for going on 20 years so I’ve seen both them and solo Rob Thomas perform live probably eight times.

Several months ago, Rob announced that he was going on tour in support of a new album, but the closest show was two hours away on a Tuesday. Womp womp. Luckily there isn’t much that can keep me from Rob Thomas so I joined the (paid) fan club to get early access to tickets. When tickets went on sale, I was shocked – SHOCKED! – to find that I could get a front row seat! $214.50 later, I had it. That’s the most I’ve ever spent on one concert ticket but ummm as mentioned, it’s Rob freakin Thomas. Worth it.

Janelle and Patti - Rob Thomas

This is Patti. Patti has known me since I was eight years old (so 22 years for those who aren’t great at math) and is a bigger music lover and concert goer than I am. That’s saying something.

I hardly ever post on Facebook but I couldn’t contain my excitement over getting a front row seat, so I shouted my pee-your-pants-worthy news on Facebook and she commented right away saying she wanted to go. We talked and I ended up being able to get her a ticket in the third row. Not too shabby!

Janelle and Patti - Rob Thomas

We went to a matchbox twenty show 12+ years ago together so now it feels like tradition!

Janelle and Patti - Rob Thomas

Vinyl Station and the Plain White T’s opened for Rob. They were okay but I wasn’t into it. In their defense, the opener could’ve been Sir Elton John and I probably still would’ve felt like “okay get scootin… I want to see ROB!”

When he finally came on, I promised myself I’d enjoy the show. Thus, I didn’t take many photos. I didn’t want to ruin my front row experience by having my face glued to my phone instead of gazing longingly into Rob’s eyes. Yes I just said that.

Rob Thomas - Bethlehem PA

Friends, Rob is GOOD. I can’t sing or play instruments (minus a brief stint with the piano and trombone in elementary school in which I did more torturing-of-the-parents than anything else) so I’m not exactly an expert judge of musical talent… BUT in my opinion, Rob Thomas is one of the best musicians out there.

Rob Thomas - Bethlehem PA

For one, he can write a damn catchy song. I give him credit just for writing his own music but then that it’s quality music and catchy is icing on the cake.

Two, he pours his heart into what he’s singing. There’s definitely emotion there. He’s not just sitting on a stage singing a song. He’s performing that song for you as if he’s feeling those emotions for the first time every time.

Three, I’m not sure that boy has ever hit a wrong note. He’s always on point. I really respect that about him and it’s why I’m willing to pay over $200 for one evening of Rob.

Lastly, his voice is smooth and sexy and almost has its own personality. He has this Rob Thomas way of singing words. He’s like no other. There are so many aspects that set him apart from other musicians and this is a huge one for me.

Rob Thomas - Bethlehem PA

Rob Thomas is pure talent. It really doesn’t hurt that he’s got this vibe that’s like married and 100% devoted to her but that makes him even sexier and he knows it but doesn’t care which again, makes him sexier in that Normal Guy way, but isn’t a sex symbol and yet can sway on the stage in ways that make all the girls swoon. 

Did I nail that description? I think so. Ladies, back me up.

Rob mostly played his music and only about three matchbox twenty songs. He said it’s because matchbox is still very much a band. Sounds good to me. As long as Rob and the band keep touring, I’ll keep showing up! Preferably in the front row :)

PS – Want more Rob? Check out my experience seeing matchbox twenty two summers ago with two of my best friends, seeing Rob Thomas in Baltimore, and then seeing Rob Thomas in Atlantic City.

PPS – This year has been full of concerts! I have three left so far, and two are this weekend! If anything is note-worthy, I’ll share them here. Lady Antebellum and Maroon 5 are on tap this weekend.

Southern Travels: Charlotte Area

August 11, 2015

Road trip!

roadtrip to North Carolina

Two weekends ago, we hit the road for a long weekend in the Charlotte, North Carolina area. I really wanted to go to the US National Whitewater Center again (our third visit!). We also convinced John’s brother, sister-in-law, and their four kids to drive a few hours from their home in NC to hit up Carowinds amusement park for a day. Here’s our weekend!

As soon as we got to the Charlotte area on Thursday nite, I begged for a visit to Maggie Moo’s. It’s my favorite ice cream place! My hometown used to have one but it went out years ago so I do whatever it takes to visit the Maggie Moo’s near Charlotte every time we go. Maggie Moo's ice cream

I usually get chocolate ice cream (which is weird because I neverrrr want chocolate ice cream) with peanut butter cups and marshmallows. This time I got dark chocolate frozen yogurt which tasted like a fudgesicle and added Reese’s Pieces. Sadly they were out of rainbow sprinkles and no, chocolate sprinkles are not a substitute.

Maggie Moo's ice cream

The next morning we headed straight to the Whitewater Center. We freakin LOVE this place.

US National Whitewater Center

It’s got ropes courses, zip lines, whitewater rafting, kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, rock climbing, and more.

Janelle, John, J-slice - US National Whitewater Center

Guess who we met there for the second summer in a row? My step-sister, Brandi!

Brandi and Janelle - US National Whitewater Center

She lives in South Carolina and drove the hour and a half to spend the day with us. So sweet of her!

We had an AWESOME, beautiful day. We did the mega zipline, went on two rounds of whitewater rafting, and J-slice and I kayaked while Brandi did stand-up paddle boarding and John did a ropes course. This place is challenging and a work out but definitely a ton of fun. If we lived nearby, we’d be there at least once per month!

Janelle, John, Brandi, J-slice - US National Whitewater Center

When Brandi left in the evening, I said, “See you here next summer!” I guess we’ve decided to make it a tradition!

Of course I had to send myself a postcard from the Whitewater Center. This is one of my 30 Before 30 goals, as is whitewater rafting.

writing and sending a postcard to myself

John’s family arrived late that nite so we went out for dinner and hit the hay early, knowing we had a big day ahead of us at Carowinds!

family photo at Carowinds

Also, it was this one’s birthday! She’s sweet, smart, introspective, articulate, and observant. And super fun to be around!

Janelle and niece

I think John invited Snoopy to be part of the family.

family photo at Carowinds

John’s (my!) youngest niece is the first baby I ever held. She was so adorable and still is, although definitely keeps everyone on their toes these days. She surprised me with matching Best Friends necklaces that she picked out and shared with me. How sweet is that?!? My little heart melted.

Janelle and niece

It was an insanely hot day, a busy time at the park, and we only had one day, so I convinced John that we should buy Fast Lane Plus passes. They were expensive. Expensiiiiive. But totally worth it! All we had to do was show our wristband at each ride entrance and we could walk up a separate entry. We walked right onto almost every ride! Worth every single penny. Now I’m spoiled and I might never again go to a park without buying a special pass.

We rode Fury 325 twice, back-to-back. This ride is new and currently holds the record for tallest (325 feet) and fastest (95 mph) giga coaster.

We bought our ride photo because, well, it’s hilarious. That’s John’s brother on the left, John, J-slice, and me. Front row!

ride photo from Carowinds

Did you know that Carowinds is partly in North Carolina and partly in South Carolina? This is us straddling the border so we’re standing in both states!

family photo at Carowinds

Too freakin adorable. I always try to stuff a kid or two in my bag and smuggle them home but their mom catches on. Darn. I love these kids so much and wish we could be with them alllll the time!

nieces and nephew - Carowinds

We ended up leaving the park pretty late, and then the parking lot SUCKED to get out of (we barely made it), so we skipped dinner and went to bed. The next morning we had to part ways, since the three of us had an eight hour drive ahead and both J-slice and I had soccer that evening.

When we were saying goodbye, I asked my youngest niece for a selfie.

Janelle and niece

She was so hilarious. I could not stop laughing! She was like, “let’s do scared! now mad! now scary! now let’s do surprised!” I think she might become an actress!

Janelle and niece

I have to thank my favorite girl, Tara (the kids’ mom), for making the weekend happen and lugging her four kids and husband a few hours away for two nites away from home. We made some magnificent memories and really enjoyed our time together.

J-slice, Janelle, nieces, nephew

See ya next summer, Charlotte! But I better see these faces much sooner than that!

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