Picks of the Month 6.1.23

Movie: It’s not a movie recommendation, but our family has really enjoyed being members of the Cinemark Movie Club this past year.  We tend to go to a movie every month or so. It costs $10 per month and you get one movie pass each month along with 20% off of food and drink. It’s convenient to preorder food for pick up without paying any extra fees for ordering online.

Book: Annie recently read “Poisonwood Bible” by Barbara Kingsolver. This critically acclaimed book takes the reader on the fictional journey of a missionary family in Africa and the lessons they learn in their years there. 

Podcast: Smartless is a favorite podcast of ours. Jason Bateman, Sean Hayes, and Will Arnet are funny in their banter and interviews with famous guests. There is also an HBO documentary following them on their live show tour.

Picks of the Month 5.1.23

Movie: Although it may not appeal to everyone, Super Mario Brothers was a great family choice for us. All of the fun references to the original game along with our kids favorites from games like Super Smash Brothers were there. Our kids are still walking around singing Jack Black’s “Peaches” song.

Book: Annie recently read “Kitchens of the Great Midwest” by J. Ryan Stradal. The book is a decades long journey for one character surrounded by several other character stories with themes of Midwestern values and Midwestern food. 

Food: There are a variety of Creamy Sausage Stuffed Zucchini Boat recipes out there like the one tagged here. We make a very simple variety with zucchini halved, scooped out and baked until soft. We cook Italian sausage, Rotel, and creamy cheese as filling. Add to the zucchini “boats” and top with shredded cheese in the oven until melted. Easy and delicious!

Product: We go through water bottles so quickly. We have tried most varieties and an expensive water bottle doesn’t do us any good if it gets lost at school or a game. We find these Pogo water bottles are just right for us. They offer an insulated version as well, but we like these light weight ones. They come in 18, 26 or 32 oz. There is no straw, so they work well for plane travel. The hook is perfect to attach to a bag or purse with a carabiner or hang on the back of a bathroom stall door. Plus, they fit in the cup holder!

Picks of the Month 3.1.23

Movie: In trying to catch a few more Oscar nominated films, we enjoyed The Fabelmans. The idea that this is Steve Spielberg’s story is fascinating, but Michelle Williams

Book: Annie recently read “A Long Way Home” and it’s become a fascination with Kate reading it next. This memoir published in 2015 tells the story of a five year old Indian boy who becomes lost, is adopted to Tasmania and finds his way back home, 25 years later. It is somewhat relatable for those of us who lived prior to a never-ending internet and unbelievable for those who have not.

Food: This easy focaccia recipe was a hit across the board at our house. It takes little time to put together and feels like a major victory. We have enjoyed it with a special feta and tahini dip as well as dipping it in quality Sicilian olive oil.

Picks of the Month 2.1.23

Movie: Have you seen the new Avatar Way of Water yet? We remember seeing the original in IMAX (which was a big deal back then) and decided to share the experience with the kids. Watching this movie with 3D effects on the giant screen is unparalleled.

Podcast: Since we first heard Peter Attia speak to Andrew Huberman, we have been fascinated with his longevity outlook. If you enjoy examining the details of optimizing your health for long-term enjoyment of life, consider his podcast, thedrive with Peter Attia.

Food: We are shifting to prepping salads instead of just eating our leftover for lunch. We now just make less at dinner time. The first couple salads we prepped were an old magazine tear out of Asian Chicken Salad recipe full of shredded herbs and mint and this Crunchy Thai Chicken Salad. 

Picks of the Month 1.1.23

Podcast: Heavyweight is a story telling and investigative podcast. People come to the host with a moment that something significant in their life changed and he follows up with people involved. It can be heart-warming or heart-wrenching.

TV: Like a lot of people, we eagerly awaited the return of White Lotus. The show is so over the top in its condensed story lines that occur during a week on vacation. It’s hard not to watch it all in a short time.

Food Trend: Our family has been putting together snack boards after school most days to use up snacks that sit around and make sure fresh foods get used. It’s also a great way to find out what happened with the kids each day.


Picks of the Month 12.1.22

Podcast: ReThinking with Adam Grant is fun to listen to as he challenges his guests on their way of thinking and presents what is currently exciting him. Adam is always a fun and refreshing listen. ReThinking with Adam Grant

Recipe: Our family loves a lot of different Asian flavors and experiment with stir fry, noodle dishes, etc. We recently made this Vietnamese Caramelised Pork that was truly different and delicious.

TV: We recently got on the Ted Lasso bandwagon. We were hesitant to add another streaming service (Apple+), but we all love it. There are some colorful topics and language, but Ted is so inspiring and the messages are pretty great!

Travel: We discovered a newer camp and luxury glamping development just 15 minutes from Peoria, Sankoty Lakes. We were able to camp there over our Fall Break. The spots, the landscaping, the onsite restaurant, the golf carts for rent were all lovely.

Picks of the Month 11.1.22

Podcast: The Lazy Genius – This podcast was mentioned to Annie by friends, other podcasters, etc. The tips are really helpful for simplifying parts of life that trip us up – like inviting people over to eat, managing your email inbox, and staying connected with friends. The Lazy Genius Podcast

Recipe: You can find several versions of French Onion Chicken recipes.  This one gives you all the delicious caramelized onion flavor turned into a sauce – amazing!

Movie: Lyle, Lyle Crocodile – We truly enjoyed this movie as a family. Javier Bardem was fantastic!

Read: Alone – This young adult novel is written in an easy read stream of conciousness from a tween girl. We read this aloud together and the whole family was engaged.

Opportunity: World Relief of the Quad Cities provides financial, emotional, cultural, and spiritual support to refugees – victims of war and persecution around the world – who are being placed in the Quad Cities. We love the work this non-profit organization does. It’s easy to get involved and they always need people to help in many ways. Over the last few years, we participated in their monthly food pantry and learned so much about what adapting to a new country is like for those fleeing their countries. Get Involved – Volunteering

Picks of the Month 10.1.22

Podcast: Armchair Flightless Bird – fun take on things we take for granted as Americans from the perspective on a New Zealander who became stuck here during the pandemic Flightless Bird

Recipe: Add this to your easy, delicious appetizer recipes Cheddar Bay Monkey Bread

Product: Blue Light Reading Glasses – I shared that I’ve been dabbling into reading glasses lately and it really has improved my experience reading a book or staring at the computer screen.  I use these inexpensive multi-pair set so there is always a pair where I am working.

Read: Paul Theroux books – I discovered this author months ago and have been devouring his writing. If you like to read about unconventional travel and adventure, check out his books which span many different parts of the country. My favorite so far is called Deep South and you can find it here.

Opportunity: Until I recently went through training to become a volunteer at Bettendorf Middle School, I had no idea that the United Way of the Quad Cities has an online list of volunteer needs. If that’s something missing from your life, take a look at needs in the QC community.


Picks of the Month 9.1.22

Podcast: Season 7, Part 1 is available now. This season is focusing on experiments we wish we could do to examine debated topics. Very interesting.: Revisionist History Season 7

Recipe: This is a great Sunday or Monday night meal to supply leftovers for the week.  Maple Chicken N Ribs

Product: Still in the food category, but worth sharing, this Deep Roasted Sesame Marinade and Dressing is amazing! It’s great with cucumbers, carrots, or whatever you choose.

Sports: Sorry for the fans of teams not surging through the latter part of the MLB season, but we pumped for the Cardinals and, of course, the success of the final season of Albert Pujols. Hope you’re along for the ride!

Lifestyle: Have you tried cold showers or bath? This came onto our radar a year or two ago with the science behind how beneficial it can be for mood. Here’s an honest review of trying out the strategy.


Picks of the Month 8.1.22

Podcast: Examine your relationship with money and the story behind it with this recent series on Hidden Brain: Hidden Brain | Hidden Brain Media

Recipe: We discovered this simple quick pasta dish that makes a very satisfying weeknight dinner. Creamy Pork and Mushroom Rigatoni

Product: We gave been giving guests and delivery people a giggle at our front door. Ding Dong Door Mat

 Apps: It’s not new, but it’s helping us to manage children’s access to technology this summer for free. Google Family Link

Shows: We finished two one hour dramas that we have been slowly consuming for years. Peaky Blinders and Ozark – both were exhilarating and almost too much at times.  We recommend both.