Your Summer Reading List is Here!

by Mary on June 30, 2015

Set out your beach chair, prop up your umbrella, sip your frozen lemonade and dive into one of these fabulous reads.

5 Books that are HOT right now!


1. HEIR OF FIRE (Throne of Glass Series). Okay. I haven’t told you guys about this fantasy series and I’m ashamed. It’s seriously one of my favorite right now and the 4th one comes out in September. I CAN’T WAIT! You’ve got plenty of time to catch up and read the first 3 books by then. No problem. Heir of Fire is #3 and I think it is the best so far. I love when a series gets better with each book. Love you, Sarah J. Maas.


2. RED QUEEN¬†by Victoria Avayard. I picked up this book because the cover is amazing, so naturally I knew it would be great. ūüėČ And… it is! Warning. This is the first in a series and the rest have not been published, yet.


3. READY PLAYER ONE, by Earnest Cline. I can’t wait to see the movie of this one. Insane video game treasure hunt where people live through their avatars.


4. SERAPHINA, by Rachel Hartman. Dragons that are totally different then I’ve ever seen before (and I’ve seen my share of dragons.)


5. THE THIEF (The Queen’s Thief, Book 1). I have always been a fan of ancient world mythology and this series does a good job of giving me just a taste of it throughout the incredibly complex story. I am so impressed at how Megan Turner weaves the characters together as the plot progresses. I love when a book surprises me!

What are your summer reads? Tell me on Twitter or Instagram!!

Finally – A Veggie Lasagna that Rocks!

by Mary on June 15, 2015

I have always loved lasagna. It was hard to compete with the traditional meat and cheese version until I developed this recipe. I would choose this healthy-flavor-packed lasagna every single time. This is a dish I even feel good serving to guest. It’s my go-to if we have a vegan or a vegetarian coming over. It totally rocks. The key to this lasagna is to dice the vegetables finely; this creates a layer that mimics the texture and feel of the traditional meat layer, but this taste so much better! Serves 6.

Vegan Lasagna

Veggie and Sweet Potato Lasagna

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 oz white or baby bella mushrooms, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced
  • ¬Ĺ teaspoon Herbes de Provence
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¬ľ cup tomato paste
  • 24 oz jar of prepared tomato marinara sauce
  • 2 cups of pureed sweet potato (from approx 2 sweet potatoes)
  • 1 package (9 oz) no boil whole wheat lasagna noodles
  • 2-3 tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil


  • To make the sweet potato puree, pierce the skin in several places with a knife. Either set the sweet potatoes on a baking sheet lined with tin foil, bake at 350 degrees for an hour, or set them on a microwave safe plate and microwave for 10-15 minutes or until tender. Peel the skin and discard. Mash insides with a fork. Set aside.
  • In a large saut√© pan over medium high heat, add 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil. Add the onion, garlic, mushrooms, red bell pepper, carrot, Herbes de Provence, salt, and pepper. Saut√© for 8-10 minutes. Add the tomato paste and mix well. Add ¬Ĺ the jar of marinara sauce or about 1 ¬Ĺ cups. Allow the mixture to come to a boil and remove from heat.
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Divide the box of noodles into four even stacks. Assemble the lasagna by covering the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch baking dish with half the remaining marinara sauce (about ¬ĺ cup). Next, lay out one stack of noodles in a single layer. On top of the noodles, spread ¬Ĺ the vegetable mixture evenly. Top with another single layer of noodles. Next, spread out the sweet potato evenly and top with another layer of noodles. Then, add the remaining vegetable mixture. Top with the remaining noodles and spread the remainder of the marinara sauce over top. Cover the lasagna with thinly sliced tomatoes. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over top and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.
  • Cover with tin foil and bake at 400 degrees F for 50-55 minutes. Remove the tin foil half way through to ensure the top gets crisp and golden. Remove from oven and let cool 10-15 minutes before serving.

sweet potato lasagna ¬†Don’t forget to email subscribe to stay connected!

Super Fun Series: Cinder

by Mary on June 1, 2015

I love reading young adult novels. They are (usually) fast-paced, imaginative, and end happily. I love dissappearing for a couple hours into creative new worlds.

When I read the premise of Cinder, honestly, I was skeptical. Cyborgs?! Lunars? But, it’s fantastic and I think the following books in the series just get better, which is rare. I love the way¬†Marissa Meyer¬†loosely ties in classic fairytales to her futuristic saga.

Cinder_Novel I cannot wait for book 4: Winter to come out this fall.

If you’ve read them, I’d love to hear your thoughts! Tell me¬†on Twitter!

We’re giving away one copy of CINDER over on Instagram tomorrow. Don’t miss out.

happy reading. Mary

In Print

by Kara on May 25, 2015

magazine So, our house had Glamour Shots taken. ¬†Does anyone remember those? ¬†The thing I remember is their trick to use banana combs to push all your hair to the front making it look really full and thick when it wasn’t. ¬†That’s how I feel about these pictures. ¬†Brian Judy worked some serious digital magic. ¬†Yes, this is our house, but it’s perfectly lit and¬†all signs of the 6 humans that live here are hidden away.

Does my house ever look like this?  No, I wish.

Is it fun to be in a magazine?  Yes.

The magazine is a small local publication and while getting the house ready for the spotlight was a lot of work, these photos are fun to have!

karadining karabackpatio

The Best Pina Coladas

by Mary on May 18, 2015


I love pina coladas (non-alchoholic). I love the the tropical flavors; one sip sends me straight to a beautiful beach. Trust me when I say this is fantastic ‚Äď creamy, sweet, and delicious.


pina coladas ‚Äď guilt free!

  • 2 bananas
  • 2 cups frozen pineapple
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk (comes in a can and¬†looks like this, make sure to stir it and put it in the fridge several hours before if you can so it is nice and cold)
  • 1/4 scant cup pure grade b maple syrup

Blend all ingredients well in your Vitamix. ENJOY with your eyes closed.

Mother’s Day

by Kara on May 11, 2015

drewmothersday kamglasses breakfastinbed I’ve learned to not put a lot of expectations on Mothers’s Day, so this year I was blown out of the water! ¬†My team really pulled this one off.

Motherhood is an interesting thing and to say that I have it figured out is completely false.  Even still, the days keep coming and I find myself down this road of parenting with all offspring alive and mostly not malnourished.  #winning

Most days I play referee to exuberant pleas of the others wrong doing and get the evil eye from my youngest, arms folded, feet planted.  I have to laugh that these 4 kids got me as their mother because I find them so funny and perplexing and intricate that I hardly have any time left to teach them anything at all.  I consider the day a success if I am able to hide around a corner in the hallway and jump out to scare them, or pin them down and tickle them too much, or give them a hug that is way too long and they push me away.

My only real goal in mothering is to love these kids and I hope that your mom hiding in the house to scare you reads like capital L.O.V.E. because it is just so good.  Every.  Single.  Time.

Happy Mother’s Day (late, just like everything else I do)



Ode to David Small

by Mary on May 4, 2015

I love children’s books. Even in my tiny apartment, somehow I find room for shelves and shelves of children’s books. One of my favorite illustrators is David Small. Not only are his illustrations fabulous, but the stories tend to be some of the best. I have collected most of his work and they seem to be the books that my kids and I reach for over and over again.

Some of my favorites are:

David Small recently came out with an autobiography – a real graphic novel! It’s beautiful and sad. It broke my heart, but I still loved it. The autobiography isn’t for children, but I would recommend it.

Check our instagram to win a beautiful book (of your choice) illustrated by David Small!!

Kitchen Floors

by Kara on April 27, 2015

kara's kitchen These floors (cement tiles from Tabarka) made their first appearance on instagram while they were being installed at the end of January.  They are the result of a broken ice maker.

If you don’t live in Arizona you may not understand the need for an appliance dedicated to only making ice. ¬†There is this weird cultural thing here that requires a styrofoam cup and an iced beverage on the daily. ¬†I’m obviously drinking the kool-aid on this one because when I saw the mold growing, from half the fresh ice dropping into the cavity behind the cabinets, I didn’t think once about not replacing the unit. ¬†Ice makers are notoriously problematic.

We chiseled out concrete, re-did plumbing and raised the island off the floor. ¬†Now we’ll see any funny business going on. ¬†Below you can see the exposed ice maker, I don’t mind, for one second, seeing it.


I wish I had a proper before pic to share.  I have lot of pics at Christmas time with exposed concrete floors and no island at all!  The floors were dark grey limestone and the island was white with a white marble counter top.

Now that everything is fully functioning I need to say… thank you faulty ice maker, I was getting bored ūüėČ

mary jolley

Rich, creamy, and comforting, ice cream is pure frozen goodness. But this recipe isn’t like the iconic favorite. Without cream, custard, and sugar, it isn’t really in the same category at all, though it hits all the same notes.

Blended frozen banana is smooth, thick, and sweet. It has a fairly mild taste that pairs well with lots of mix-ins. I love adding a bit of peanut butter and raw cocoa powder for a energizing snack. It seems so indulgent that I have to remind myself it’s only bananas, peanuts, and cocoa. Containing antioxidants and minerals, raw cocoa powder is touted for its health benefits. Get creative with your mix-ins. Really, anything goes: raspberries, strawberries, pineapple, vanilla wafers, chopped nuts, chocolate chips. I’ve got some of this “ice cream” happily waiting for me in the freezer. Breakfast?

banana icecream

Chocolate Banana “Ice Cream”
Makes 3-4 cups

4 ripe bananas
1 tablespoon creamy peanut butter
1 1/2 teaspoons raw cocoa powder

  1. Peel the bananas and slice them into 1/4- to 1/2-inch-thick disks. Do not freeze the bananas whole. Place the banana slices in the freezer until they are frozen solid (at least 2 hours). This can be done a week in advance, but not much longer than that, the bananas start to change flavor the longer they sit in the freezer, and not in a good way.
  2. Pulse the frozen slices in a food processor until the frozen chunks become smooth and creamy. (Scrape the sides as needed.) Once creamy, add remaining ingredients. Pulse until very smooth and the mix-ins are fully incorporated. Serve immediately for soft serve consistency or store in the freezer for another time. Freezing will give the ice cream a hard ice cream texture, but allowing it to sit at room temperature for a few minutes will bring back the soft serve consistency.

chocolate banana ice cream sugar free


Finished Family Room

by Kara on April 13, 2015

finishedfamilyrm Three reasons I’m happy this picture exists:

1.  I finally followed through on using this beautiful blue paint.  (dramatic & safe at the same time)

2.  I finally tried my hand at sewing pillows with zippers.  (made it up & hoped for the best with success)

3.  I finally printed that poster size pic of my kids with their new pup.  (thank you costco)

Three cheers for moving down that checklist.

Here’s hoping I’m not the only P R O C R A S T I N A T O R.