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MacKay and I had dinner the other night by ourselves. It was our first date night that we’ve had in months. It was so nice to sit with him and have one-on-one adult conversation without the interruption of one of the kids screaming or needing our attention to get them something. It was relaxing, a word that I haven’t said in a while and don’t throw around lightly.

While our conversation went so many ways that night, of course the kids were involved in most of it. We both mentioned how strange it feels to be in this new chapter in our lives – the one that doesn’t involve babies, but kids who are a little bit more self-sufficient. We spoke about how our vacation to Hilton Head this year was the first year that it really felt like a vacation for all five of us, not just the kids.

MacKay also mentioned the noticeable difference in taking care of the kids while I was away for the Cetaphil event last week. While I was gone, he filled the days with trips to the museum, restaurants, the movie theatre, and even a baseball game. Mind you, I was only gone for three days, but he made sure to fill them to the brim with fun and excitement. While he admitted that it wasn’t perfect, having all three kids at these various daily adventures were far more manageable than they were this time last year. And they are.

But his most striking comment of the evening was the one that really had nothing to do with the kids, it was about us. He mentioned how excited he was for us to take time for us again. Just the date night in itself was one step in the right direction. And one we haven’t taken in a while. We’re on the way to having more time for ourselves, both as a couple, and individually.

In less than a month, I’ll have the most free time I’ve had in seven years. With all three kids in school for some point during the day, it leaves me more time to do something that I don’t do often; take care of me. While I’ll be sad that there is one chapter in my life ending, I’m more excited for the one that’s ahead.

A couple of weeks ago I got a taste of some time alone and I am happy to admit that it was one of the best trips I’ve had in a while. While away in Los Angeles, I was so honored to host an event with my friend Charlie from How to Be a Dad, on behalf of Cetaphil. We welcomed some of our favorites in the blogging world to Au Fudge where we spoke candidly about how Cetaphil has played a role in our lives. (You can check out the Facebook Live on Cetaphil’s Facebook Page.)

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Cheers

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Not only did I speak about how it’s been helpful with the kids’ dry skin, but also how it’s helped me throughout the years. I’ve used it since high school and now that their line has expanded even more, it fits into my lifestyle as a mom. What I love about the product is that it can fit in every stage of your life, no matter who or where you are. And now that I have more time for me, I can actually take care of my skin that seems to be changing all the time (although I still have a soft spot for Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleansing Cloths which are perfect for those nights that you have zero energy to wash your face).
The event was more than just conversation about our skin, it was a time to connect with those that I admire in my industry while actually enjoying some adult conversation that didn’t involve how to get our kids to use the potty or sleep through the night. We sipped on sangria and tasted passed hors d’oeuvres that we could actually eat hot.

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I ended the trip with a day spent working poolside. I didn’t care how heavy my workload was because I could enjoy it all with a spectacular view and without a worry in the world. I was taking care of me.

It’s interesting as I walk into this new phase of life of my children being taken care of at school and no babies at home. I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you that I’m going to miss it. But I’d also be lying if I told you that I wasn’t looking forward to it. I look at this new stage with optimism because for the first time in nearly seven years, our heads feel like they are just above the water.

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Last week we took a drive to my parents country house in Alabama. We haven’t been since Harlan was a toddler and it’s so secluded from much of the outside world that it makes it very difficult to get to when flying. Since driving down to Florida this summer, I told my dad we could drive up and then I’d leave to start our journey back home from there.

When I tell you this place is secluded, it’s litearlly in the middle of nowhere. It’s in a town that’s named after my dad’s side of the family and there’s not even a stoplight in the town. The closest town with food, groceries, etc. is at least 20 minutes away. And cell phone service is non-existent, which forces you to take a step back and rely on one-another for entertainment.

It was just the break that we needed. The kids got down and dirty running around in the field and playing in all of the dirt. Even Avery, who is the ultimate girly-girl, put on a pair of shorts (which never happens) and slid up and down on the dirt hill. We had so much fun exploring the land and learning about our family history in the town.  It was a great way to end one of our last legs of this summer adventure.

That’s what makes me happy.

Now tell me something good. Something that’s made you happy. It can be big, it can be small, just something that has put a smile on your face. You can participate by sharing a photo on Wednesday with the hashtag #WhyImHappyWednesday and tagging me @laurenjimeson or feel free to write it in the comments below. I do read them all and am happy to reply back on your good news! You can also join in the conversation on my Facebook page!

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Since moving to the Northeast seven years ago, I’ve made it a tradition to visit my parents every summer. It’s a nice break from our regular routine and the kids love getting to spend quality time with my parents.

Being with them and watching the kids interact with them brings me back to my childhood when I spent summers with my grandmother. She’d usually travel down to visit us and would make it a memorable trip every time. When she wasn’t talking to my mother and aunt in Spanish (so that we wouldn’t know what she was talking about,) she was cooking for us. Growing up in the Philippines she learned how to cook some incredible Filipino food and lumpia was one of her specialties.

Since my grandmother’s passing three years ago, it’s been even more important for me to pass on her greatness and share her recipes with my children. But it’s not me teaching them, it’s my mom. So they’re learning from their grandmother just as I did many years ago.

Last summer I shared her big lumpia recipe, and this summer we spent time making her small lumpias. These are a delicious appetizer or could also be a main dish with a side of fried rice and pancit (recipe for that coming soon.)

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What you’ll need:

  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of soy sauce
  • small wonton wrappers
  • small bowl of water
  • oil

Instructions:

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Mix ground beef through soy sauce ingredients in a large bowl.

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Take your wonton wrapper and lay it down like a diamond on a plate.

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Take a small piece of the mixture and form it like a little cylinder. Place right above the bottom corner of the wonton wrapper.

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Wrap the bottom part of wonton wrapper over the meat mixture.

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Dip your fingers in the bowl of water and press down on each side of meat mixture to secure wonton wrapper on the sides.

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Bring both sides of wonton wrapper in. Dab a bit of water on the wrapper to secure.

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Roll rest of lumpia and put some water on end of wrapper to secure.

Heat oil and fry lumpia until the outside wrapper is a deep golden brown.

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We enjoy the lumpia with grandma’s sweet and sour sauce that’s a mixture of soy sauce, apple cider vinegar, ketchup, sugar, and water (then thickened with cornstarch + water mixture.) My grandmother never measured anything, so I usually just add these ingredients and do a lot of tasting throughout.

Grandma loved the kitchen and loved cooking for us, so I know that she’s with me every time that I’m cooking her famous recipes. No one can make them quite like she does, but I know that with each time I make it, I get better. And I’m making  grandma proud.