A Healthy Grilled Chicken Burger

While it’s not technically summer, as soon as the weather warms up, it’s time to grill  But if you need something different than the usual hamburgers, what are your options?

This simple grilled chicken burger (with a butter lettuce wrap) is a delicious and simple way to enjoy something delicious while staying healthy.

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Ground chicken, an egg, red pepper flakes, garlic salt, ground almonds, and a little bit of pepper for flavor are the main ingredients.  Combine in a large bowl, hand shape the patties, and toss them on the grill.  It was seriously that easy!

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For toppings, we went with pepper jack cheese, red onions, and butter lettuce.  Add ketchup or mustard if you like, and you have a perfectly healthy–and delicious–burger.  When all six of us like it, including the youngest, we know we’ve made a keeper.

What are your favorite grilling recipes as you get ready for summer?  Share in the comments below!

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Making Memories On Any Budget

If you’ve known us or followed us for any length of time, you know that we love Disney.  We have a little history with Disney, though. Duane and I met working at The Disney Store back in 1996 and we were married just two short years later in Disneyland.  We have raised our kids in a “Disney home,” following many of Walt’s own traditions.  And we visit the Happiest Place on Earth whenever we can get away for a few short days.  Many people wonder how we can afford it, but we’ve visited so often that we know how to spend and save money. Also, working for Disney allows us several benefits that not all guests can afford.  And even though Disneyland will always be our go-to vacation, we also love going on other adventures outside of Disneyland.  So, how does one go on adventures on a budget?  I’m going to share with you my top 5 money-saving adventures.  And yes, Disneyland is one of them.

  1. DAY DRIVES.  I think one of our favorite things to do as a family is to find a place just a couple hours away and take a day drive.  It’s always fun exploring new things.  Last week’s blog was about how to make memories anywhere and this is one of the easiest, and cheapest ways to do it.  Usually all it takes is a full tank of gas and some research.  Pack a lunch, grab your smart phone for directions, and you’re off!  Here in the Seattle area some of our favorites are Leavenworth, Mt. Rainier, any place a ferry can go, or even the city itself.  You just need to get creative.
  2. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE SEASONS.  Every town, city, state offers seasonal adventures.  In the fall, visit your local pumpkin patch.  Summer time is great for fruit or veggie picking.  Regardless of the season, find something new and fun and go for it.  Again, with just a little research, you can find adventure just about anywhere and at any time.
  3. VENTURE OUT TO A NEARBY BIG CITY.  One of our favorite getaways as a family is Portland, OR. If we have a couple of days off in a row, we try to head out of town. Portland offers great shopping and dining.  And it doesn’t matter how often we go, the kids love staying in hotels.  It’s a different experience for them. And who doesn’t love going for a swim or soak in the hot tub after a long hard day of eating and playing?
  4. GO FIND YOUR PARK!  Did you know that you can purchase an annual park pass for the entire family for just $80?  And it pays for itself in 2 park visits.  Every state offers several national parks, historic sites, or historic reserves.  Again, just pack a lunch, several snacks, water bottles, jackets and/or hats, and fill up the car.  The National Park Service also offers a Junior Ranger program with fun activities and adventures for your kids and an opportunity for them to earn a Jr. Ranger badge.  All of my kids, including my 17-year old, love earning their Jr. Ranger badges! Just visit The National Park Service to find out more information and programs near you!
  5. DISNEYLAND!  OK, you knew I had to! Like I said, we visit Disneyland as frequently as we can.  Each visit is different and depending on the kids, they all experience something new.  So, how can we afford it?  Before I was worked for Disney, we had annual passes.  If you visit the park more than 5 days, you will have paid for your annual pass.  Plus the annual pass gets you discounts on food and store purchases.  There are several hotel offerings around Disneyland Resort, so just choose the one that best suits your family’s budget and needs.  For our family, I’m all about saving as much money as we can.  I bring a backpack with me filled with snacks and waters to save on food purchases.  Our kids have learned to split meals so we only end up purchasing 3 meals at a time instead of one for each of us.  If they’re still hungry, they can have a snack, but most times, they’re just fine.  And I’m not big on souvenirs, but we give each of our kids a $25 gift card to spend on souvenirs, dole whip, churros, etc.  And the biggest money saver for us is transportation.  We load up all 4 kids in the minivan for a 18-hour-straight-thru drive.  We have done this so often that we know where to find the cheapest gas, cheapest food, and best times to travel to save time. I guess you could say we’re experts on Disneyland on budget!

As you can see, it doesn’t take much to find adventure!  Just a little imagination and research.  Now go find adventure!  It’s out there just waiting for you!

How to Make Memories Without Even Trying

I love my family, almost to a point where if we were the only 6 left on earth, I would be totally OK with it.  I’m very protective of us and our time together, which as the kids get older and we get busier, seems to be a little bit fewer and far between. So when we are all together, either purposefully or accidentally, we are very intentional with our time.  I saw a sign today that read,

We didn’t know we were making memories, we just knew we were having fun.

This is my new mantra!  With that being said, let me help you create memories with your family without even trying.

1. Don’t over schedule yourself.  I can’t stress this enough.  Work, school, PTA, sports, dance, music, karate, homework, housework, yard work, … the list can go on and on.  Over scheduling yourself and your kids is easy to do.  But it’s also not necessary.  Pick one extra curricular activity for you and/or your kids. The days off are a bit more frequent when you don’t have too much going on. Believe me, I get it.  Both me and my husband work full time, both of my teenagers have jobs, my youngest daughter is involved in basketball and brand practice, so I know how easy it is to get caught up in busy.  But try to set aside one or two days per month where you and your family is 100% “off.”  Let the vacuuming wait.  The dishes are fine in the dishwasher.  And there will always be laundry to do.  Take your free day and go make a memory or two.

2. Sneak in fun things even when you have a lot going on.  As much as I would like to say the Christmas season is full of baking days and relaxation for us, it’s not.  It’s easily the busiest time of year for me.  I don’t get to drop everything and go play with my kids when they are outside making snowmen.  But I do sneak in moments with them when I can.  Whether it’s driving around looking at Christmas lights or dining out at their restaurant of choice, creating moments for them will also create memories.

3.  Document your moments so you can relive your memories. Most people have some kind of a camera on their phone.  It’s there for a reason, so use it.  You may not even realize you’re creating memories until you look back a week or two later and you are able to relive it. One of my favorite moments, which I didn’t even realize would turn into a favorite summer memory, happened two summers ago.  We took a few days to get out of town.  We stumbled upon a restaurant that we all decided looked decent enough for us to have dinner. It turned out to be one of my favorite memories of the entire trip.  The kids all got along, our food was amazing, we explored the restaurant after dinner which just happened to be full of history.  But I didn’t even realize how much I loved those moments until we were able to look back at the photos (played as a screensaver on our family Mac) and remember what an amazing memory it was!

What can you do this week or even this month to create special moments with your family?  Next week, I’m going to be sharing some of our favorite things to do as a family for every budget. I’d love to hear your ideas, so send them my way!

Recipe: Summer Salad

One of my favorite things about the lazy days of summer is putting off dinner until 8:00 at night.  I know, it’s not parenting at its finest, but I love getting in every last bit of summer fun outside!

But who really wants to prepare a full meal when it’s that late?  So, one of my go-to meals for this time of year is salad. And I love a big, good hearty  one with lots of “stuff” in it.  Seasonal speaking, salads are perfect for this time of year.  From romaine to spinach and berries galore.  Produce is fresh and cheap which makes it a great idea from  all aspects.

I created this salad recipe last week when I needed something patriotic-looking for our Independence Day festivities.  I wanted something fresh and healthy with red, white, and blue.  This salad was so good that I made it again last night to go with our grilled t-bone steaks.  Luckily the dressing makes about 16 servings so I had plenty left over.  Just make the dressing in a mason jar or another container with a lid, so you can save the extra as you won’t need it all for one dinner.  So easy to just throw everything into the bowl and pour on the dressing right before you serve it.  I hope you enjoy it as much as my family did!

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Salad:

5 Cups of Spinach

2 Cups of Strawberries, quartered

2 Cups of Blueberries

1 Cup of Gorgonzola crumbles

1 Cup of Walnuts, chopped

Dressing:

1 Cup of Olive Oil

1/2 Cup of Balsamic Vinegar

1 Garlic Clove, minced

1 Teaspoon of Oregano

Salt and Pepper

 

 

The 5 Must-Haves for Every Disneyland Mom.

IMG_2587We just got back from The Happiest Place on Earth and I’m still on my Disneyland-High.  June Gloom in Seattle is no joke, so the only thing to keep me from my post Disney vacation is to keep reminiscing about my week.  Even though we go several times a year, each time is unique and special.  August got to finally ride California Screamin’ and Audrey got to meet her faves from Zootopia.  Even with summer time crowds, it was a trip well spent.

The bonus to our frequenting Walt’s park so often is that I have learned what to take and what not to take for a fun-filled day.  I want to share with you my top 5 things that I always take with me to Disneyland.

  1. A BACKPACK.  I used to be anti-backpack because I didn’t want those giant straps getting in the way of my cute clothes.  After all, sometimes you have to sacrifice comfort for fashion.  Well, not in this case.  My backpack serves as a refrigerator, a closet, and a purse.  And bonus, it helps burn more calories!  If you forget your backpack at home, don’t worry, the stores at Disneyland have a nice variety, so make sure you pick one up then pack it up.  So, what goes in my backpack?
  2. HEALTHY SNACKS.  Although I will always choose to eat my way through Disneyland, we try to keep our meal purchases to a minimal cost by splitting.  The upside to splitting is not overloading yourself with too much food which makes you sleepy and you get to try MORE food which leads to eating churros or Mickey ice-cream sandwiches. The downside is, if you have a 15-year-old boy, eh-hem, they are constantly hungry, which is why it’s important to keep them fueled during the day with healthy snacks like apples, bananas, peanut butter sandwiches, and granola bars.  I like to over-pack snacks just to be on the safe side.
  3. WATER BOTTLES.  I typically bring two 24 oz disposable water bottles and reuse them during the entire trip.  Did you know that Southern California gets really hot in the summer time?  Disneyland has graciously put several water bottle filling stations throughout the park.  To find out where they are located, you can visit The Disneyland Dad to find your closest refill station.
  4. JACKETS.. Yes, it’s hot during the day, but as soon as the sun goes down, so do the temps. I’ve been without a jacket at Disneyland before and when the temps go down so does the level of fun.  And yes, I can fit 6 sweatshirts into my backpack.  It has taken some practice, but it can be done.
  5. CELL PHONE. This one is two-fold, communication and picture taking.  Ever been separated from your party or wanted to snap a pic of your youngest giggling on Tow Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree?  That’s the beauty of modern technology!  Bring your phone.  Just make sure to cherish every moment and save your social media posting for  your hotel time.

These are just a few of my favorite mom tips. If you have any tips you’d like to share, I’d love to see them in the comments section.

Incredible Books for Kids to Read This Summer

You’re all used to posts from my parents, but today, I, the oldest of the Montague kids, come to you with a post I’m very excited about – a summer reading recommendation list! A few days ago, my mom posted a blog about 8 things to do with your kids over the summer, and at the top of the list was a library summer reading program. I definitely support doing those (and you can usually even find them for teens or even adults), and this list of books should help you get going. There’s a total of five books for each age group, so if you get started today, you’ll have about one book to read every two weeks!

Young Adult Readers (Ages 13-19):

This is my age group, so I have loads of favorite books, and it was so hard to narrow it down to just five. Nevertheless, here we go:

  1. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han. This book follows Lara Jean Covey, a sixteen-year-old who adores anything vintage, and who has loved a total of five boys. She has a habit of writing letters to the boys that will help her get over her love, and they’re top-secret, until one day, they aren’t. Lara Jean’s life flips upside-down, but all for the better. This book is so much fun to read, and I absolutely devoured it. My rating: 5/5 stars!
  2. Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard. Aveyard’s debut YA novel is about Mare Barrow, who lives in a fantasy universe where the world is broken down into two groups: those with red blood, Reds, and those with silver blood, Silvers. Reds are mundane, ordinary, and slaves to the extraordinary Silvers, who possess magical abilities. Eventually, Mare (a Red) finds herself working in a palace of Silvers, and before long, Mare discovers that she as an amazing power of her own, regardless of her blood status. This is an edge-of-your-seat, thrilling fantasy novel, and it’s pure magic to read. My rating: 5/5 stars! 
  3. An Abundance of Katherines by John Green. Although not nearly his most famous novel, this book is essentially about two boys who find themselves on a rural road trip. One of the boys, Colin, has only ever dated Katherines, and the road trip is his best friend’s, Hassan, plan to get him over the Katherines. It’s just a blast to read, and it’s so short that it’s perfect for a lazy summer afternoon. My rating: 4/5 stars!
  4. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. This may not be a book that screams, “Summer read!” However, it’s a fantastical, incredible read that follows Jacob, a boy who has grown up hearing his grandfather’s outlandish stories about World War II. He dismisses him as senile, because his stories always involve monsters that couldn’t possibly be real, until one day, he is found dead in a forest, and Jacob himself sees a monster. His journey only gets crazier from there, but I won’t spoil it for you. My rating: 4/5 stars!
  5. The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan. I know what you’re thinking, but don’t dismiss the book as middle grade too quickly! I grew up on Percy Jackson, and this book is like being thrust back into his world – this time, from the perspective of one of the Greek gods. Zeus is mad at Apollo after the war in The Blood of Olympus, and has, therefore, banished him from Olympus to live as a human. Apollo, who is now a sixteen-year-old demigod, finds himself indebted to Meg McCaffery, a twelve-year-old demigod. They go on some adventures, there’s some crazy plot twists, and man, it’s just a blast from beginning to end! My rating: 4/5 stars!

Middle Grade Readers (Grades 4-7):

These books are all full of some sort of fantastical adventure, and they’re honestly perfect for a reader of any age.

  1. The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen. This action-packed adventure follows Sage, an orphan, and two other boys, also orphans, on their competition to become the next Prince of Carthya. Personally, it reminds me of a much more fantastical, boyish version of Kiera Cass’s The Selection. A super fun read, and you’ll fall in love with all of the characters, although the plot line is a bit predictable. My rating: 3/5 stars!
  2. The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart. A whole novel written about extraordinary children “looking for special opportunities,” it follows Reynie, Sticky, Kate, and Constance on their imaginative adventure to out a… well, a mysterious society. In all honesty, I have yet to finish this one, but what I’ve read has been so enjoyable and so much fun. It’s a little large, but don’t let that intimidate you, because it really is a fantastic read. My rating: 4/5 stars!
  3. The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan. The first in Riordan’s trilogy about Egyptian mythology, this book follows Carter and Sadie Kane, two siblings who grew up so very differently – Sadie, with her grandmother in England, and Carter, with his father traveling all over the world. Every year on Christmas, Carter and Sadie are reunited for a day, and this particular year, their father takes them to a museum in Britain just to look at exhibits. As it happens, he accidentally releases the Egyptian god, Set, and is sucked into the Underworld. As you can imagine, adventure ensues for the siblings, and their around-the-world travels are a blast to read about. Although I would recommend many of Riordan’s books for grades younger than fourth, Carter and Sadie are the same age as many of the middle grade readers, which makes their adventures so much more relatable. My rating: 5/5 stars!
  4. The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. This book is pure magic. It follows Hugo Cabret, a little French orphan who grew up learning how to tend to the clocks of a busy train station. One day, though, he meets an old man and a young girl, and his life is never quite the same. The book is over 500 pages, but so many of those are filled with gorgeous illustrations that are unforgettable. It’s a fantastical mystery that I, in the fifth grade, could not get enough of! My rating: 5/5 stars!
  5. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi. My true confession: I actually read this book in third grade, but I absolutely devoured it, and I would recommend it for middle grade readers more than anything. It follows thirteen-year-old Charlotte, who is on a boat in the middle of ocean, accused of murder, and forced to join the ship’s crew through some dangerous deeds. It’s action-packed, well paced, and brilliantly written. My rating: 5/5 stars!

And, finally, Early Elementary Readers (Grades 1-3):

Now, this list was a little hard for me to come up with – I’ve been a reader since kindergarten, so in early elementary, I was reading books much more advanced than my friends were, so I tried to find a balance between the two.

  1. Matilda by Roald Dahl. I love this book, because it follows a little girl who loves her books, just like I did as a kid. Her family is horrid to her because she’s a little special, a little different, and rather extraordinary. It’s a very magical read, just like all of Dahl’s books, and it’s just so much fun (like every other book I’ve put on the list). My rating: 4/5 stars!
  2. The Dark by Lemony Snicket and Jon Klassen. There’s not much of a summary to this adorable story – it’s a cute picture book about a little boy named Laszlo. Laszlo is afraid of the dark, but the dark wants to be his friend. The illustrations are enchanting, and I adore reading it (even as a seventeen-year-old!). My rating: 5/5 stars!
  3. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. Most everyone knows about this book, but nevertheless my summary: The Pevensie siblings are staying in an unusual home with an unusual man. The youngest of the four, Lucy, finds a wardrobe hidden away in a room one day, and she immediately proceeds to walk into it, stumbling upon the magical land of Narnia. Simply put, adventure ensues, and the magic that tags along with it feels almost real. Not only that, but it has some great underlying religious themes – and C.S. Lewis is a brilliant author whose works are easily enjoyed, no matter what your age. My rating: 5/5 stars!
  4. Pinkalicious by Victoria and Elizabeth Kann. Another delightful picture book, Pinkalicious is all about a girl who loves pink. When Pinkalicious’s mom makes pink cupcakes, Pinkalicious eats too many and turns pink! At first, she loves it, but before long, Pinkalicious can’t stand her pink skin. The only cure: eat all the green foods she can possibly find! My little sister grew up loving this book, and I’ve read it to her countless times. It’s just a delightful explosion of color and princesses and sparkles, and it’s an absolute blast. My rating: 4/5 stars!
  5. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling. This book. This book. I read Harry Potter for the first time in second or third grade, and I absolutely devoured it. It follows, of course, a boy named Harry Potter who lives with his aunt and uncle in a cupboard under the stars. His life is terribly mundane, until one day, this special boy finds out that he is a wizard, and suddenly, his life isn’t so awful. His story becomes a magical battle between good and evil, with so many themes of friendship, love, and defeating darkness – it is pure magic, and I’ll recommend Harry’s story to anyone and everyone until the day I die. My rating: 5/5 stars!

Well, ladies and gents, there you have it: Audrey Montague’s 2016 Summer Reading Recommendations! Get to your local library and get your hands on as many as possible, and as you read them, please comment and let me know how you and/or your kids are enjoying them!

When You Can’t Fall Asleep, Try This.

I start making your mental checklist for the next day as soon as my head hits the pillow at night.  If you’re like me, doctor appointments, school lunches, getting to the post office are just a few things that we remember when it’s far too late to do anything about it.  Meanwhile, your spouse puts his head on the pillow and begins snoring.  Rather than lie there full of resentment, try one of these simple steps.  It’s helped me put the checklist aside and made falling asleep a little easier.

Exercise.  Even if you’re just getting out for a 30 minute walk each day, exercise is the most important thing to help you sleep.  I know exercise can be a challenge to many people.  Maybe you feel like you don’t have time.  Maybe you have an injury the prevents you from exercising.  Find a way to add some kind of physical activity into your day and you will soon realize that exercise is the key to falling asleep quickly. If you can’t find the time during the day then try some stretching exercises or yoga before you hop in the sack.

Turn off your blue screens and bright lights. Studies have shown that with reduced light from blue screens, smart phones, TVs, computers, or even bright lamps, your brain shuts down quicker.  Keep your room dark, cool, and clean.

Cut out the afternoon cup of pick-me-up.   Check the labels on your favorite midday energy boosting drinks. If they have caffeine, then make the cutoff by 2:00 pm. Instead opt for caffeine-free tea or flavored water if you need something sweet.

Save your healthiest meal for dinner.  Heavy full meals right before bed will not only not digest well, but will give you a restless nights sleep.  Opt for a smaller plate, or even a saucer, for your dinner to keep those calories at bay. And try to avoid late-night snacking. If you get hungry before bed, keep it sweet and simple and stick to fruit.

Wine with dinner, not bed.  Although it’s true that wine will help you relax and fall asleep faster, it will also make the second half of your sleep cycle restless. Alcohol decreases deep sleep and increases arousals from sleep.

Try to practice at least one of these sleep habits at a time. Sleep not only improves memory, but also increases your metabolism.  The benefits of sleep far outweigh what we didn’t get done during the day. If you have any other tips or tricks for a good night’s sleep, let me know!