The One Where I Finally Do The Instagram

I’m lively_shell on Instagram now. I’d be honored if you’d follow me!

I’m going to hang out on Instagram this summer because it’s a wee bit easier to update and be consistent with while hanging out poolside. And by hanging out poolside I mean watching my kids swim while sweating profusely. Not lounging lazily by the pool with a frosty beverage and no kids to keep alive. {sigh}



My Thanksgiving Meal Contributions

For the third year in a row, I’ll be bringing Quinoa with Roasted Butternut Squash, Cranberries and Toasted Almonds and a Holiday Salad with Cranberry Apple Orange Vinaigrette (from Oh She Glows). Why mess with a good thing? They travel well and I enjoy having something a little lighter among the buffet line. Here’s a picture from last year:thanksgiving dishes 2012

Last year was the first time these cute little turkey fruit and veggie trays graced the table and you can bet they are returning this year. Thank you Pinterest. These made a great project for my girl and her cousin to assemble.
thanksgiving turkey trays


Hope you all have a great Thanksgiving!

NYC Trip Recap – Part 2

You can read about the first half of our trip here (NYC Trip Recap – Part 1).

My husband and I took a long weekend trip to NYC in October. It was the first time either of us had been to New York City. There are so, so many things to do in the city and we decided to mostly plan our trip once we got there and got a feel for the city. We also took the approach that there were some things we plan to do when we eventually come back to NYC with our kids (in 5 years or so), so we’d take advantage of our kid-free status on this trip and just enjoy the luxury of letting the days unfold spontaneously. We lucked out with fantastic weather and, because the weather pretty much demanded we stay outside, we ended up forgoing the (world class) museums in lieu of exploring neighborhoods, people watching and just walking around the city.

Day 2 (Saturday)

We started the day with feet and legs still slightly sore from our full day of walking the day before.  We walked over to Paris Baguette in Times Square, just a couple of blocks from our hotel, and did some carb loading and planning for the day.


We walked over to the TKTS booth in Times Square and joined the massive line for day-of show tickets.  We were hoping to see Matilda, but there were no discount tickets available for the Saturday matinee.  Our next two choices were First Date and Big Fish and, based on ticket availability once we made our way to the counter, we went with First Date.  We got tickets for the 3pm matinee and then made a mad dash out of Times Square.

We decided to check out the Upper West Side and, after consulting our most favorite app for the trip, Embark, we figured out our subway route and headed that direction.  Once off the subway we stopped in at a Juice Generation store and picked up the second breakfast of the day.


We took our drinks and walked down towards the Hudson River Greenway.  It was so picture-esque – the trees, the pigeons, the water, the runners and bikers, the crunchy leaves underfoot.  I loved seeing the community tended flower gardens and the little playgrounds tucked away in the trees.  Being a beautiful Saturday morning, there were lots of families out with dogs, bikes, training wheels and little scooters.  We walked around for about an hour.




From there we walked down Broadway for awhile, stopping in to check out a few of the shops.  I was particularly taken with Zabars.  It was bustling – full of people, chatter, fantastic smells.  If I wasn’t so full with 2 breakfasts and a bit overwhelmed by just exactly how to order, I’d have had a bagel with smoked salmon.  Which I’m now craving as I type this…

We made our way to Central Park and walked around.  Central Park was even bigger than I realized and we only covered about 1/4th of it.  It was full of activity and, once again, world class people watching.



From Central Park we headed over towards the Plaza where we had planned to eat  a late lunch at the Todd English Food Hall in the Plaza.  There was a longer wait than we had anticipated and we had apparently spent more time strolling the city than we planned, so we had to postpone our meal there in order to make our 3pm Broadway show.  We walked up to the Times Square area and lined up outside our theater.  The husband grabbed a hotdog from a street vendor as we waited.


We loved the play!  It was funny and entertaining and Zachary Levi is pretty wonderful (and tall!) to look at for an hour and a half.  The theater was smaller than I expected so we felt extra close to the performance.

After the show we stopped by the hotel to change and then jumped on the subway to head to the Grammercy area for dinner.  Ever since reading Raw Food, Real World a couple of years ago I have wanted to eat at Pure Food and Wine.  (Let it be known that we see the irony in eating both a street vendor hot dog and a raw, vegan meal in the same day)

It was a bit surreal to walk into the restaurant that I’ve seen so many pictures of in both Raw Food, Real World and Living Raw Food.  We had 6:30 reservations and we able to eat outside.  The patio was beautiful and intimate.  We started with cocktails; I had the White Light Tini and the husband went with the Purple Haze.  They were both fantastic.  If they hadn’t been $15 a piece, we’d have gone for a second round. For dinner I chose the Cauliflower and Sweet Corn Polenta with Bourbon Maple Peaches and Radicchio and the husband went with the Hen of the Woods Taco al Pastor (see menu here). My dish was pretty good but we both loved the Tacos.  Loved them.  For desert we tried the Chocolate and Jungle Butter Cheesecake which was scrumptious.  While the patio was beautiful, it made for poor food photography as it got dark.


After dinner we had a drink with a college friend who now lives in Brooklyn and it was wonderful to catch up.  I also loved being able to ask so many questions about the logistics of living in the city – like do you have to haul detergent and toilet paper home from the store on the subway?

Day 3 (Sunday)

We woke up to a breathtaking blue sky and crisp fall air.  We caught the subway to Brooklyn and walked around the Brooklyn Bridge Park and surrounding streets for a bit.  It was a charming area and seemed a bit more mellow than Manhattan.  We walked over the Brooklyn Bridge which gave some pretty amazing views.  It was pretty crowded, being about 10am on a beautiful Sunday morning, so there was some people-dodging involved.  If I went again, I’d want to go earlier in the morning so it’s a little less crowded.  Still, it’s an impressive bridge and I’m glad we got to experience it first hand.




Once on the Manhattan side of the bridge we grabbed a belgium waffle from a food cart and ate it at a nearby table.  We then caught the subway to the NYU area and walked around those neighborhoods for a bit. We stopped in Think Coffee and had some tea and coffee and relaxed on a couch with the NY Times.  After resting our feet a bit, we got back on the pavement and headed towards the Chelsea area.  We stopped at a little brunch spot that was tiny and fun – I didn’t catch the name.  We sat within touching distance of the three cooks who were cooking in an area half the size of my small kitchen.

With full bellies we headed on down Broadway and made our way to the High Line.  The Chelsea area was abuzz with ritzy Sunday brunchers and some seriously high fashion.  It was very upscale and full of beautiful people.  We turned down one picturesque street of brownstones and I remarked to the husband that we should buy one of the ‘for sale’ brownstones we passed.  He looked it up and it was a bargain at $19 million.  Of course we made a cash offer on the spot….  19 Million???  I don’t know who all the people are that live in that area but I do know that we will never been one of them.


(that’s me on the steps of a house worth way more than I’ll ever know)

We walked a bit on the High Line until my full bladder (thanks to the 16 oz juice I drank just before getting on) demanded we seek a bathroom.  We stopped in yet another coffee shop and people watched for a bit.


From Chelsea we took the subway to Grand Central Terminal.  It was absolutely stunning.  More beautiful than I expected. It almost feels cathredal-like.




We walked up Madison avenue with the throngs of people out that day.  We did the tourist thing and stopped in Midtown Comics, FAO Shwarz and the American Girl Store to pick up a few things for the kids.  The toy store was pretty impressive, even sans kids.  I’ll admit it was nice to walk around a toy store without hearing ‘mom, can I get this?’ every two feet.


For dinner we were successful in our attempts to eat at the Todd English Food Hall at the Plaza (unlike Day 2).  It was fantastic and had a great atmosphere.  I highly recommend eating here – it has so many different types of food in one spot.  We went with flatbread and pasta (which was wonderful), but every dish we saw come out, from sliders, to potstickers, to sushi and salads, looked wonderful.

We walked back towards our hotel in Times Square stopping off again at Magnolia Bakery.  I had one cupcake to eat that night and one that I managed to get home to San Antonio(in a paper travel coffee cup from the hotel) to share with the kids. Seriously fantastic cupcakes.  We got back to our hotel around 7 and, once we had a glass of wine in the hotel bar, we decided we were done for the day.  Our feet were spent and we didn’t have the energy to head back out for some nightlife.  What can I say?  We are getting old.  🙂  And I’m just fine with that.

Some of the Day 3 eats:


tea & coffee, brunch, flatbread and pasta 

It was a memorable, relaxing (yet tiring), very fun getaway and I’m so glad I’ve finally been to New York City.  I adored having so much time with my husband and figuring out the city with him – it’s nice to be reminded of what a good team we are together.  I look forward to going back.

Random NYC Travel Tips (now that I’m an expert and all):

  • Apps we liked: Embark (must have) for Subway routes and TKTS for same day show tickets
  • I found the Fodors Travel Guide really helpful.  I may be old school, but I like paper copies of travel guides.
  • We used a paper map a lot too – the phone maps are too small when trying to gauge walking distance or proximity.
  • If you want to look like a local, wear ear-buds everywhere you go.  And a lot of dark colors.
  • Wear comfy shoes!!


buying avocados in bulk.  My girl is done with PB&J.  Her new school lunch is half an avocado with triscuits.  Most of her dinners turn into ‘avocado-atop-whatever-dish-I-prepared.’  We are going through 5-6 a week.

loving the Elian farmer’s market on Sundays.  San Antonio friends – get out there!  It’s awesome! You’ll find us at either the tamale booth or the Johnson’s Backyard Garden booth.

celebrating (in my head) getting a new pose in yoga.  Yoga is so very good for my soul.  It keeps me challenged, humbled and sane.

playing ‘avoid the lava’ with my boy anywhere we go with pavement, cement cracks or tiles.


San Antonio outdoor malls are lava hot spots

reeling from the ending of Downton Abbey season 3 (finished the series last night). And mad at the new plot point that I read about today on Season Four. I’m hopeless when it comes to avoiding spoilers.

collecting acorns with my boy for his ‘nut collection.’  Which sits in a jar.  I’m thinking our jar of acorns is very chic and will pretty much secure me a spot in Better Homes & Gardens.


trying to convince my husband that this should be his halloween costume:


He said sure if I’d be Mystique.  #nothappening

googling ‘book character pumpkins’ with my daughter for a school project.  There are some seriously talented pumpkin artists out there.

visiting the halloween aisle with my boy every.time we go to the grocery store or Target.  It’s a wonderful bargaining tool; he sits quietly while I shop, he gets 5-10 minutes in the halloween aisle.

20131015-085244.jpghero in a half shell

waiting to read Allegiant until I re-read Insurgent.

working on a New York City trip recap post.  We had a fantastic time.


memorizing this Bible verse:  A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.  Proverbs 15:1.  Gentle answers aren’t always my first response….

Homemade Jalapeno Cilantro Ranch Dressing

Earlier this year I got to mark the 11th year of being married to the perfect guy for me.  He still hasn’t seemed to notice that I got the way better end of the deal and I’ll spend the next 11 years trying to keep that fact hidden from him.  Distraction is key.

Enter this Ranch Dressing recipe.

My guy has loved Ranch Dressing ever since I’ve known him.  You know how some folks are said to put ketchup on their ketchup?  Well he puts ranch on his ranch.  And maybe some pickled jalapenos too.

Back when he was living the bachelor life, one of his favorite meals was ground beef sautéed with zucchini served over white instant rice and smothered in bottled ranch dressing.  (I just read that sentence aloud to him and he wanted me to clarify that he added ‘just a touch of ranch for flavor’.  I experienced the dish and stand by my description.  He says ‘just a touch’ I say ‘smothered’.)

Thankfully he has willingly joined me on the clean(er) foods bandwagon in the last few years.  I’ve tried to replace shelf stable bottled ranch dressing with a few different refrigerated brands (which tend to have less preservatives and funky stuff) but none have been a clear winner.  No preservatives = a need to keep the product pretty acidic for a respectable (and profitable) shelf life = very tart dressing.  Same issue with hummus.  Someday in my stay-home mom life I’ll solve the shelf life problem of high water activity, non (naturally) acidic foods for food companies and make millions of dollars…. mmm’kay?

—back to the story at hand—-

I was skeptical to make a homemade version of Ranch Dressing.  For no good reason.  Just unexplainable skepticism.  Story of my life.

Then I saw this recipe.  And thought ‘hey, that isn’t so bad.’ So I printed it out, modified some to suit our tastes and voila, came up with a fantastic version that we both love.  It’s got a cleaner ingredient list than any store-bought version, it is customizable and, most importantly, it’s darn tasty.

Jalapeno Cilantro Ranch Dressing | The Lively Kitchen

Homemade Jalapeno Cilantro Ranch Dressing


  • 1/4 cup organic mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup organic sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice (lime works too)
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk (or 1/2 cup milk + 1 tsp lemon juice that you let sit for a few minutes)
  • 4 green onions, white bottoms removed
  • 2 Tbsp chopped, seeded jalapeno
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste


  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a blender or food processor.
  2. Dressing will thicken considerably in the fridge, so add more milk/buttermilk if you like it runnier.

Like Riding A Bike, Right?


I’m back.  For a bit, at least.

Life has been good.  Really good.

There’s been lots of liveliness, just not much desire to document it here.

But – recipe ideas are starting to populate my head and they need a place to exist.  My brain is already too crowded with jumbled thoughts without fragments of meal ideas floating around in there.

And I’ve read some good books that need to be shared.

And I’ve missed the funny, smart folks that read this blog and the comments they leave.

Be back with a recipe tomorrow.

{smiles and waves}

Apple Cinnamon Baked Doughnuts

At some point before my kids hit middle school I pledge to get the hang of the school morning routine.  It’s quite honestly pathetic that I am still struggling with getting the girl and husband out of the house by 7:20, especially since generally I’m not trying to get myself or the boy out of the house at that hour too.  At one point in my life all four of us were leaving the house by 7:30 – the husband and I both for work and the kids for daycare – but somehow with the whole stay-home mom gig, I’ve simultaneously eased up on the morning schedule and created a harried pace.  Ironic juxtaposition – my middle names.

I have learned that having a pre-made breakfast like pumpkin bread, peanut butter and banana breakfast cookies and/or Oatmeal and Wheat Bread Machine Bread for toast cuts a good 5 minutes out of the breakfast prep.  And those 5 minutes are golden.  Those 5 minutes are the difference in me getting to drink me tea or not.  Which, truthfully, sets the tone for the rest of my morning.  Hot tea  = gonna be a good day!  Cold tea (or, worse, no tea) = oh dear.

(I’ve also learned that packing the entire lunch for the girl and husband the night before saves me a good 10-15 minutes, but that requires mammoth motivation in the evening hours when the couch and a good book are screaming at me to join them.)

I modified my  Baked Vanilla Doughnuts recipe recently when I was craving something with apple cinnamon flavors.  They turned out great and made two mornings into hot tea mornings.

These could be baked into muffin tins too – just watch them closely the first time to determine bake time.


Baked Apple Cinnamon Doughnuts

Enough for 6-7 doughnuts (or about 6 muffins)

  • 1/2 c whole wheat or spelt flour
  • 1/2 c white flour
  • 1/4 c sugar
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • dash nutmeg
  • 1/4 c + 2 Tbsp buttermilk
  • 1/2 -3/4 c shredded apple
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

Optional Glaze Ingredients: 3/4 c powdered sugar + 2 Tbsp milk


1. Preheat oven to 400F. Lightly coat a donut pan with cooking spray.

2.  Combine flours, sugar, baking powder and salt in a bowl and stir well with a whisk.

3. In a second bowl, combine buttermilk, egg, apple and vanilla, stirring well with a whisk.

4.  Add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture and mix until just combined.  Don’t over-stir, as it will make the donuts less tender.

5.  Either spoon batter into the donut pan, or, if you’re a perfectionist like me, pipe the batter into the pan using a large plastic bag with the corner cut off.  Bake for 8-10 minutes or until donuts are slightly golden on bottom.

6. Cool in pan about 5 minutes and then cool completely on a wire rack.

7.  When doughnuts are cool, top with glaze.

8.  Enjoy.

Cilantro Melon Detox Smoothie

Cilantro Melon Detox Smoothie

Alternative Title: I did a 21 day cleanse and all I have to show for it on the blog is this one recipe.

Here is my deep question to start your Monday:

If you do something and don’t blog about it (or Facebook it or Instagram it or Tweet it), did it really

You’ll have to take my word for it, since I don’t have 21 days worth of food, smoothie, green juice, herbal teas and supplement pictures to display. I blogged all the meals last time I did the cleanse, but that time I only made it 13.5 days and I was pretty blah about the whole thing. This time it’s been 90% great and I’m probably going to keep
it up for another day or two.


I followed the Clean Program guide (link here), using my own protein powder and supplements instead of buying the kit they sell. I used recipes from the book and the website and made up a few of my own following the food
guidelines. The basic protocol is a liquid breakfast/solid lunch/liquid dinner in order to ease the digestion process so the body can spend more energy cleaning/detoxing. Sugar, dairy, eggs, gluten, allergenic fruits and veggies and most processed foods are off limits.

The only two meals I have photographed in the last 2 weeks. Someone (a newly detoxed someone) has fallen off the food blogger bandwagon.


Raw Wrap from Green Restaurant (Collard Green, Spinach, Carrots, Celery, Cranberries, Mushrooms and the world’s best raw pecan hummus) with quinoa tabouli and a small kale salad.


Macrobiotic(ish) bowl – Brown Rice, Broccoli, Black Beans + Sprouted Adzuki Beans, Kraut and Nori

The cleanse has been a good thing for me. My energy has come back, my skin has cleared up and I’ve enjoyed feeling victorious over my sugar cravings. I’m aware of how much non-hungry snacking I do. I haven’t gotten on a scale yet, but I’m guessing I’m down a couple of pounds, which isn’t unwelcome at the beginning of swimsuit season.

Juicing isn’t really a pillar of the program, but I decided to add in a daily juice as my first ‘meal’ of the day. I followed it an hour or so later with a smoothie. I definitely spent more time in the kitchen in the mornings by making both juice and a smoothie, but I’d like to keep juicing most mornings post-cleanse.


My Vita-Mix has become the most-used appliance in the kitchen and it probably cursing this cleanse. I made two smoothies some mornings and generally used it at night to make my soup or dinner smoothie. Thankfully it’s quite easy to clean.

This very simple Cilantro Melon smoothie was one of my favorite drinks during the cleanse and will be a summer staple. I have made fantastically refreshing popsicles with the leftover smoothie. I like this smoothie as a light ‘first breakfast’ or afternoon pick me up.

Cilantro, beyond being darn tasty, is quite the detox soldier. It is an antioxidant, metal chelator, natural antibiotic and blood sugar regulator. It may even improve sleep quality. I’m going to be honest and say that
my sleep quality is generally more impacted by whether or not one or both kids wake up in the middle of the night and no amount of cilantro is going to help with that. I’m also going to be honest and say that even if cilantro did none of those wonderfully healthy things, I’d still consume it because it’s just so delicious.



Cilantro Melon
Detox Smoothie


  • 1 cup cubed honeydew melon
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen pineapple
  • 1/2 cup ice cubes and/or water (depending on blender strength)
  • big handful cilantro – I used about a cup

Directions: Blend all ingredients together. Add more water if needed to get desired consistency.

Photo Friday – cleansing, book shopping and life

So, yeah, I’m not a very consistent blogger these days.  Truth: this is the first time I even opened WordPress in 2 weeks.  Oops.

How’ve you been?

I’m on day 5 of a cleanse.  I’m following the program outlined in the book Clean by A. Junger and on  I did this cleanse (and blogged about it in much greater detail) back in November of 2011.  I’ve been eating too much sugar and snacky processed foods AND I’ve been breaking out (hello vanity) AND my energy has been low AND I just needed to change things up.  I’ve been drinking green juices,


eating kale and quinoa,


Lentil and Rice ‘burgers’ that look eerily like the real thing,


juicing some more,


and having daily smoothies.  The program is gluten, dairy, soy and refined sugar free.  Just like last time, I miss tortilla chips the most (corn is off-limits).  Although I did almost moan out loud this morning when I made toast for the kids (with Whole Wheat and Oatmeal Bread Machine bread) and inhaled the undeniably awesome smell of fresh toast.

In my non-food life, I scored at a used-book sale last week.  Truth: any time I run across a copy of The Red Tent at a book sale, I buy it so I can give it to friends who haven’t read it.



Truth: I’m going to be crushed if my kids don’t love Encyclopedia Brown books like I did.  Truth: I am much better at solving his mysteries in my 30s than I was in my single digit years.

Here’s a picture that makes me smile:


my boy and his buddy waving to a dear they named ‘Darla’ at a local park.

Oh, oh, I ran a 5K!  And didn’t pass out!  I ran the Culinaria Beer and Wine 5K and it was quite a fun experience.  Now I’m back to my regularly scheduled non-running life.


San Antonio folks, I finally tried Juicer Heroes.  The couple of juices I tried were a little sweet for my taste, but I will be back.  I loved the friendly employees and supporting a home-grown local business.


And, finally, I am letting my girl get a fish.  But only after making her check out ‘caring for your fish’ style books at the library and summarizing them on a poster.  Truth: I’m that kind of mom.  Aren’t my kid’s lucky?


Happy weekend!  What’s new in your life?

Spring Break 2013

Scenes from our week.  

There was crafting at home (which rendered our table unusable for the week):


There was an unfortunate mug break.  My very favorite mug.  Whomp whomp. At least it met it’s demise in an exciting way:  some energetic dancing by the boy, so energetic that his arms just whipped around a little too fast and a little too close to my mug.  That’ll teach me to leave my tea in the path of my little juggernaut.


There was Chuck E Cheese, which was much more pleasant than I expected since we got there at 9:30.  It was nearly empty and, as a result, the noise level was quite tolerable.  They each got 40 tokens (I got 20 – this mama loves arcade games) and were given free range.  True to their personalties, the girl played games that earned her tickets and used her tokens up quickly.  The boy looked for games with good graphics and often just ‘played’ the demo without putting in a token.  And my girl almost took out an employee with an errant yet forceful skeeball.  I need to work on teaching them skee-ball techniques.  Life skill, right?



There was an art museum (the McNay) and they only got too close to the art 17 times.


Due to said proximity to priceless art, we spent the majority of the time in the family craft area, along with 1345 (approx) other kids.  All wielding scissors and glue with reckless abandon.  And some seriously territorial hover parents.  It was an interesting (and loud) people watching experience.




There was sleeping in.  The husband brought me tea in bed each morning.  Reason #746 that I got the better end of the deal in our marriage.  That and he knew I had a long day of kid entertaining ahead of me.  I also had at least one bed buddy each morning by 7.



There was a trip to the Magik Theatre to see Rapunzel. Very entertaining show – both kids loved the prince.



There was kid cage-fighting were backyard playdates. And backyard dinners.  The weather was seriously amazing.



There was a trip to the library.


There was a park playdate complete with a picnic lunch and tree climbing.  The kids actually spent all the play time tree climbing, ignoring the playground equipment.  Which I think is pretty awesome.  The girl and her friend even did some songwriting (a moving ballad about pets) in the tree.





There was a trip to see Oz.  Which involved both kids needing to go to the restroom in the middle of the movie.  Separately.  Even though we went just before the movie started.  Meaning I stepped on the same people’s toes 4 times.  IMG_7978

The were beer-garitas.  For the parents, lest you worry.  It was spring break after all…


It was a fun and tiring week.  I enjoyed the luxury of lazy days with the kids and very much appreciated having friends to spend time with during the week.