Tuesdays with Meri: Summer Family Bucket List


Ah, summertime.

For those of you who don’t know, I’m mostly at “SAHM” – stay at home mom. I say mostly because I have a couple of freelance jobs that I’m lucky enough to really enjoy from my own home/on my own time schedule.

As a stay at home mom, I get to do a lot of what I want during school days while my kids are off learning and preparing to take over the world with brilliant ideas fostered by their teachers. But during the summer, they are mine all mine!

Quite frankly, I don’t want their brains to rot over the summer. It would be oh-so-easy to let them fall into video games, tv shows, and the like. They are at the age where they would quietly do so and I’d be happy because hey, it’s quiet.

BUT NO! We need activities! We need thinking! We need creativity!

The last day of school was last Wednesday.


After racing across the school to summer finish line, they came into the house to find our summer bucket list waiting. And what does every bucket list need? A bucket, of course.

I brainstormed with retired Chick, Bec, about what should be on our list to guide them in their picks. I wanted them to be fun but also achievable and not too far out in left field.


Their picks were creative and thankfully, every single one is something that we can do sometimes over this summer. No saying no!

Of course, now that we’ve written them down, they want to do all of them. Immediately. But that’s not what the summer bucket list is about. It’s about spreading the ideas out over the summer and being engaged throughout the long hot months.


But some are meant to happen right away!

My older son requested for his project that we make a garden (which also fits in nicely with a Boy Scout requirement) and my younger son requested to see his 1st grade teachers, Mrs. Tees and Ms. Harris over the summer. They are two of his our most favorite human beings.

Now, if you aren’t from my immediate circle of friends, you probably don’t know this; These two requests actually go hand in hand.


Ms. Sonya Harris was a driving force behind the Bullock Children’s Garden and we’ve spent a good majority in the garden at my son’s school since its inception. She is our garden guru and also an amazing friend to our family. Two days after the end of school, she was at our doorstep, ready to visit with us and discuss our home garden!

(Never fret, Mrs. Tees will be making her appearance later on this summer!)

After Gabe got over the fact that HIS TEACHER WAS STANDING IN HIS HOUSE, he gave her the grand tour. We’ve only been in our new house a little over a month but we’ve discovered the new yard has a welcome surprise!

An added bonus - we already have a mint patch in our yard from the previous owners!

We have a mint patch in our yard from the previous owners!

Our flower beds are perfect for planting and we have a lot of yard space for our garden. One of the things that Sonya was quick to point out is that while gardens need tending they are also a lot easier than many people imagine.


Since she IS a our teacher/friend, it only made sense that she assign us homework. There was no groaning after she said the word, either! She asked each of them to make a list of what they would like to plant in our garden.

This summer is going to be absolutely awesome and I know that the home garden will play a large part in our planning and activities! As we go along, I’ll be sure to keep you all posted on our plans as well as other events that come to fruition thanks to our bucket list.

Check out this awesome video from last summer in our community garden and you’ll see a couple of familiar faces!

What do you have on your summer bucket list? Have you planted a garden? What do you think we should we plant in our garden?

Guest post: Consider me Cleansed

pre-pubertyI grew up a latchkey kid in the cornfield-laden suburbs of the middle of nowhere, Illinois. I pretty much came and went as I pleased, within reason. I relied upon myself for at least half of my daily meals. The meals that I made consisted of whatever I found in the house, and what I found usually consisted of the white starch food group and the overly sugary food group. When my mom cooked, it was usually a meat, bread, and potatoes sort of presentation. Our milk was 2%, always. We were all a part of the clean plate club, and dessert was never something we missed. This was all well and good. I didn’t know any different, and I liked it. I was an active kid: riding bikes, playing soccer, playing softball, running around the neighborhood…you name it, I was involved. So, activity and ultimately crappy eating were excellent partners. Until. UNTIL I hit puberty.

Puberty was not kind to me nor was it a friend of my “questionable food group” diet. I put on weight overnight, I swear. My thighs grew so quickly that they produced stretch marks. I went from being a fairly thin and athletic girl to a chubby 130 pound 8th grader sporting a butch haircut. (The haircut has nothing to do with anything, but it was horrific enough to be worthy of mention.) This is where my battle with weight and food and self-image began.


I kept up most of my horrible eating habits right on through college. I added the food group “alcohol,” which might have contributed to making things a bit more than worse. I ate things called “beer nuggets,” and I ate them at 3am. I maxed out around 155 pounds. Just so you know, I’m not all that pretty at 155 pounds. Not gonna lie.

Sometime after college, as a working adult living on my own, I figured out that something had to change. I wasn’t happy. I didn’t feel good. I wasn’t comfortable in my own body. I had an epiphany that I simply couldn’t “have my cake and eat it, too,” AND be any combination of thin /healthy / happy. My metabolism didn’t work that way. My body knew how to turn a calorie into a fat cell faster than I could blink, and I needed to come up with a way to win the battle against the calories and fat cells. I needed a way to win the battle against myself.

It has been a journey of 15 or more years in the making. I have found balance. I still don’t know everything there is to know about food, and I don’t claim to be a health expert. I have learned that no one thing works for everyone. I have only learned what works best for me: overall healthy eating and eating everything in moderation. As easy as that sounds, it isn’t. People who have only known me in my adult life assume that I have always eaten well, taken care of myself, exercised, looked this way, etc. Appearances can be so deceiving! When you go on such a journey, you know that the journey continues. It has detours and breakdowns. It doesn’t end…it just goes on.

So, as much as I’d like to say I have it all figured out and that I never give into cravings for shitty food that are destructive to my body…it just isn’t true. I aim to have more better days than I have bad days. I run (when not injured, which is another story for another day). I go to yoga. I eat mostly well. But, I also falter. I also self-sabotage. I also suffer from body dysmorphia. If I gain 10 pounds or lose 5 pounds, I pretty much feel I always look the same: ok, but not great. That is me. I own it, and I am a work in progress.

Just before Easter, I had found that I was really giving into my cravings more than usual. My one or two bad days of eating turned into “I can just have something bad every day as long as I keep up my exercising…that is ok, right?” Once it starts, it is easier to just go with it. Sugar is addictive. It makes me want more and more and more. I’m seriously an all or nothing sort of eater (I eat all of the cupcake, not just a bite. I eat all of the Easter candy, not just a few pieces. I just can’t help myself, it seems). I adapt by eating the cupcake for lunch, that way the calories are still kept somewhat in check. However, my body can’t be fooled. Do that too many times, and the weight just jumps right back on, of course. I decided it was time to reset my body and get back on track. I didn’t feel good. I was up about 5 pounds. I wanted to gain back the control and the good feelings that good eating bring with it.


Enter: the Suja Juice 3-day cleanse. Just so you know, I am not a proponent of cleanses in general. Most of them involve a ridiculous combination of starvation and explosive “colon-purifying” diarrhea. (I’m just sort of against both of those things at my wise old age of 40. Consider me silly, but that is my stance.) When I came across this particular cleanse, though, I realized it was different. Their 3-day cleanse involves drinking 6 juices a day, for a total of 1200 calories. The juices are designed for different purposes throughout the day. This company does NOT urge you to enforce the rule of “chewing is cheating.” If you are hungry: EAT! If you are more active and require more calories: GET THEM! The only guideline is that you are smart about your choices. They recommend eating raw fruits and vegetables, drinking clear broths, or eating things like a baked sweet potato or an avocado. The idea is to rest and cleanse your digestive tract, and these choices will allow you to stay true to that idea.

My experience with this cleanse was a good one. It is recommended that you set yourself up for the cleanse by reducing sugar intake, eliminating coffee and alcohol, and eating a bit more lightly in the few days leading up to it. Uh huh. Yeah. I totally didn’t do that. I drank coffee. I drank my nightly jumbo sized glass of red wine. I ate as much as I could at an Easter brunch the day before. (Remember when I said that I self-sabotage? Well, here you go.) I knew I was starting the juice cleanse, so I just went crazy beforehand. Consider it the storm before the calm. Sort of backwards, sure, but that is par for the course in my world. Way to go, me!

When I commit to something, though, I commit! I jumped right into that cleanse the next day. I started day one with a juice and a yoga class. I figured it was smart to exercise first thing, prior to my body only having liquid sustenance and being a bit energy deprived. All went well there. I initially thought that I wouldn’t be able to give up my coffee and wine habit, but I did! I think that I was drinking so much throughout the day that I didn’t really crave anything else that was liquid. The first day I did make the mistake of not bringing one of the scheduled juices with me when taking my daughter to a movie. Too much time had lapsed between juices (you are pretty much drinking one every 2 hours), and I found myself VERY hungry. I cheated and ate 3 large bites of my daughter’s soft pretzel. Eh, nobody’s perfect. The rest of the day went well. No other cheats. No other problems.

the cleanse

Now I will say, on day one, I was not used to the juices. I’m not a “juicer” in general, so I didn’t know what to expect. The first juice (Glow) has a bit of an overwhelming celery presence to it, but it wasn’t too bad. I managed it. The second juice (Fuel) is bright orange and has a light sweetish taste of pineapple and orange. For the record, I loved this one. The third juice (Purify) is purple, thanks to the beets in it. My first experience with it was a bit interesting. This one is “earthy” and a bit “dirty” tasting, as in it sort of tastes like dirt. Really. I plugged my nose when drinking it the first go around. Next up was Fiji. It has a lot of apples in it, so I thought it would be amazing. I was wrong. I wasn’t prepared for the STRONG taste of ginger. I drank 2 swigs and called it quits. I drank more water to fill up my belly instead. For dinner there was Green Supreme. It is definitely green, but the taste surprised me. It was very much like apple juice, and I welcomed that immensely! Last for the day was Vanilla Cloud. It is designed sort of as a dessert. It has hints of vanilla, coconut, cinnamon, and nutmeg. I liked it. It is tasty. Other people RAVE about this one, but I have to say that the grit of spices and chunky bits of coconut meat turned me off to it a bit. Just a personal thing, I guess.

Anyway, the rest of the cleanse went surprisingly well. The juices grew on me, and I found myself actually looking forward to them. I didn’t even have to plug my nose at all. In addition, I managed to drink all of my Fiji drink on day 3. I’m not going to lie, I still had to kind of choke that one down, but I did it! I was oddly proud. I found what worked for me was adding in raw carrots and celery throughout the day. I also would throw in a banana or some grapes. When I was craving something warm to eat, I made up some vegetable broth and drank it from a coffee mug. This satiated that need, and it also added a few calories and a feeling of fullness that helped me through the process.

Some things to note:

  • I really wasn’t hungry, per se. I more missed the process of putting something in my mouth and chewing it. This is where the raw fruits and veggies came in.
  • I was pretty tired the end of day 1. I even went to bed early.
  • I was COLD during this process. I am generally cold, so this isn’t a big deal, but I certainly noticed feeling a chill. The warm broth at night helped with this side effect.
  • My teeth were very sensitive by day 3. Although there are no added sugars in these juices, they do contain a ton of pressed fruits which means there is a lot of natural sugars in them. I have sensitive teeth to begin with, so the sugar did a number on them. I would recommend using a straw!
  • I took off exercising on day 2, but I did go for a run on day 3. I was sluggish and my legs felt heavy. I still managed it, but I definitely noticed the lack of energy.
  • I constantly had to pee. I mean it. All day. Middle of the night. All night. When you are drinking that much liquid, I guess it is bound to happen!

How did I feel in the end? Did I lose weight? Did I feel reset? Would I recommend juice cleansing to others? Well, I will tell you. I felt pretty great after it was all said and done. I felt a sense of accomplishment and a sense of peace. I know that might sound a bit weird, but I don’t know how else to phrase it. Weight loss is NOT the ultimate goal of a juice cleanse, but it is often a by-product of it. In my case, I lost a total of 6 pounds. (I lost 3 pounds after the first day. I lost an additional pound after day 2 and after day 3. Oddly enough, after resuming my normal diet on day 4, I still lost an additional pound. I am back to my “happy weight.”) The best part of the entire experience was feeling reset. This cleanse gave me a chance to get away from all the sugar and junk and put me back on the path of “mostly eating well most of the time.” Given all of my positive experiences with it, I would highly recommend trying out the Suja Juice cleanse! I know that I plan on using the 3 day cleanse a few times a year, and I will probably throw in a 1 day cleanse from time to time. They have a lot of wonderful juices that I also intend to use as an occasional meal replacement or as a snack just to get in some extra fruits and veggies. It isn’t a cheap date, but I do like that everything is already thought out, prepared, packaged, and ready for me to ingest.

finding balance

In the end, as we all know, there are no magic pills / diets / secrets that will turn us into picture perfect models of health and fitness. Every day we have to own our individual journeys and do our best to just keep doing our best. I am proof, though, that you can change your overall course. I’m not perfect, and I obviously still seek out ways to help me stay on track, or get back on track when I falter…but there is satisfaction in small victories and continued overall success. I find joy in sharing my experiences and offering up any tools that have worked for me, just as I embrace gaining similar knowledge from others around me who are also fighting the good fight.

So, have you cleansed? Do you have any tools that you use to battle cravings? What are different ways that you have succeeded in your journey to be healthy?

Megan Ritter is a stay at home mom, blogger and fashionista. She enjoys yoga, running, photography and the laugher of her daughter. Her secret powers include sarcasm and baking without a recipe. It’s quite possible that she was a cat herder in a past life. A Chicago area native, Megan now lives in Haddonfield, NJ with her husband, 4 year old daughter and dog, Batman.

Notes on purchasing Suja Juice: you can find / purchase Suja juice products and the 1, 3, or 5- day cleanse on the Suja website: http://www.sujajuice.com . Please note, when purchasing through their website the shipping costs are very expensive. This is fresh juice that must be shipped on ice overnight. I found and purchased the 3-day cleanse on Amazon.com, and I was able to greatly reduce the shipping expense / cost of the product. The price varies, but you can usually find a good deal here. You can also find many of the Suja juice products (and piece together your own cleanse) at your Whole Foods store.

Recipe Box: Bow Tie Pasta with Asparagus, Sun-dried tomatoes and Boursin

Back when Jay and I got married, we got a recipe book as a gift. Now, back when Jay and I got married, my cooking skills were… well, how to put this?


I could make a mean grilled cheese and boxed macaroni and cheese with the best of them. But my skills were fairly limited and the main chef in the house was Jay.

Ten plus years later, I’m the head honcho in the kitchen. This recipe was one of the first ones that I was really able to master and still remains one of our favorites.

Bow Tie Pasta with Asparagus, Sun-dried tomatoes, and Boursin

  • 1/3 c pine nuts
  • Kosher salt
  • 8 oz bow tie pasta (they sell 12 oz packages so I usually leave about 1/4 in the box)
  • 14 medium spears of asparagus, cut into 1.5″ pieces
  • 1TBSP olive oil
  • 4 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 c grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 oz (1/3 c) Garlic and Fine Herb Boursin Cheese
  • 1/4 c of diced sun-dried tomatoes (optional)
  • 1 TBSP chopped fresh dill (which I skip because I’m not a huge fan of dill)
  • 3/4 Tsp lemon pepper

1. Put the pine nuts in a dry small skillet over medium heat. Shake constantly until evenly toasted on all sides, about 4 minutes. Set aside.


2. Fill a large saucepan 3/4 full of water. Bring to a boil over high heat and add kosher salt. Add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until barely tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the asparagus to the pan and cook until tender-crisp, 1 to 2 minutes. Drain the pasta and asparagus, reserving 3/4c of the cooking water.


3. Set the same saucepan over medium heat and heat the olive oil. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Return the pasta and asparagus to the pan then add the reserved cooking water. Add the sun-dried tomatoes, Parmesan cheese, Boursin cheese, dill, and the 3/4tsp of lemon pepper and toss to combine. Stir in the pine nuts. Season with kosher salt and lemon pepper, to taste.


4. Divide the pasta between bowls and serve! Makes 3-4 servings which equals leftovers. Sweet!


From Bride and Groom: First and Forever


Recipe Box: Roast Chicken and Veggies

For a long time, I was not the “cook” in our house. Originally when we first bought our house, the cooking responsibilities fell on to Jay because he knew how. I didn’t. We were both fine with this.

However, when I became a stay at home mom, and he started working longer hours the responsibility shifted more to me. It was terrifying and awesome simultaneously. When we got married a dear friend gave us the Bride & Groom First and Forever Cookbook, which is where I originally got this recipe. I’ve tried my hand at all sorts of recipes and this one has stuck around for quite some time!

It is more time intensive than labor intensive. You can prep the veggies before preheating the oven and there’s no rushing around with this recipe (unlike others, in which you have five things going on at the same time and need to get them all done in a particular order. You know the type!). What I particularly like about this recipe is that I usually have most of the ingredients in my house – I only need to pick up the chicken on shopping day.


  • 3 carrots, cut into thirds
  • 6 small red new potatoes, quartered if large
  • 1 medium yellow onion, cut into 6 wedges (we love the veggies so I usually up this to 2 onions – if you have the room in your pan, do it up!)chickenveggies1
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, or olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 chicken (3 to 4 pounds)chickenveggies2
  • 1 lemon, quartered
  • 2 fresh rosemary sprigs
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Put the carrots, potatoes, and onion in a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish. Toss the vegetables with 1 tablespoon of melted butter or olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.  Spread the vegetables to the edges of the baking dish so the chicken may rest in the middle.

Remove the neck and giblets from the cavity of the chicken and discard. Rinse the bird under cold running water and pat dry. Put the chicken, breast-side up, in the center of the baking dish. Brush the chicken with the remaining 2 tablespoons melted butter or oil. Season generously salt and pepper. Stuff the cavity with the lemon quarters and rosemary sprigs. Put the garlic cloves under the chicken to prevent them from burning.

Roast for 45 minutes.  Remove the dish from the oven.  Using tongs, tilt the chicken, pouring the juices from the cavity onto the vegetables, and shake to coat. Your house will be smelling absolutely amazing at this point.


Baste the chicken with the pan juices.  If the bird is browning too quickly, cover with aluminum foil.  Continue roasting until the chicken is a deep golden brown and the juices run clear when the tip of a knife is inserted into the thigh joint, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thigh, away from the bone, registers 170 to 175 degrees F, 30-45 minutes more, depending on your oven.


Transfer the chicken to a platter and let stand for 10 to 15 minutes before carving. Using the back of a spoon, mash the garlic and squeeze some lemon into the pan juices. Toss the juices with the vegetables. Carve the chicken (okay, I’m not at this point in my life yet. Jay still carves the bird) and serve the vegetables alongside.

The recipe says that it serves two but if you’re liberal with the veggies, the chicken meat can easily feed at least four.  Bon appetit!