Hey friends! JULY is officially in full swing and my mind is blown. This entire year — and summer in particular — is flying by. We had such an odd start to summer in Charlotte with lots of rain and cooler temperatures but last week it certainly felt like the thick of summer with sunny days, h-o-t weather and tons of lake and pool time.

We’ve also been fortunate to spend the past nine days with family and feel so grateful for extended time with people we love very much. I’ll share more about our fun below in this week’s roundup of Friday favorites!

Things I’m Loving Friday

You knew this would be at the top of my list, didn’t you!? To say we’ve been majorly counting our blessings over the past week would be a huge understatement. We’ve had my parents, sister, brother-in-law, nieces and nephew staying with us for nine days and it’s been time filled with laughter, playtime, swimming and naturally a lot of kid-related chaos!

The kids have all been loving their time in the lake and we’ve spent a lot of time floating and splashing around. We also made a trip to West Jefferson, North Carolina to visit my aunt, uncle and cousin.

We’ve been meaning to see their new home since they moved from Raleigh and are hoping to return soon to float down the river near their home and spend even more time together.

We majorly lucked out with fantastic weather on the Fourth of July!

It meant the lake was filled with kids all day long and Ryan and I said the day was clearly a success when we realized every single water toy, floatation device and kayak we own was in use at one point. The day before the Fourth we popped into Academy Sports + Outdoors and took advantage of their crazy summer sale to get an and an for the kids to use off our dock and both proved to be a huge hit. We’ve been out on the kayak multiple times a day alongside the boys’ s and feel like kayaking has opened up a whole new way to enjoy the lake for our family.

We all dug into hot dogs, brats, burgers and an assortment of sides and ended the day with a water balloon fight, fireworks and homemade cookies ‘n’ cream ice cream!

It’s been years since we visited Rescue Ranch, a local non-profit humane animal education center that provides shelter to more than 80 animals in need of care. We took Chase to Rescue Ranch back in 2017 for their annual fall festival but have been meaning to return to spend more time learning about the ranch and their animals. I figured it might be a fun activity to do with my family and a few of our animal-loving friends so I organized a group tour on Wednesday morning.

We arrived and spent time playing on the playground which in and of itself makes Rescue Ranch worth a visit.

It’s 10,000 square feet and created for children of all abilities. The kids all had a blast getting their energy out after our 40-minute drive to the ranch and it was a great way to kick off our adventure.

Our tour began with the farm animals at Rescue Ranch and our kids had the opportunity to feed pigs, goats, sheep and miniature horses and pet a tortoise.

Inside the facility the kids were thrilled to be able to interact with rabbits, lizards, snakes, guinea pigs and a very precocious cockatoo named Lover. It was such a fun morning for our whole family and the kids absolutely loved learning about and interacting with the animals. I highly recommend a visit to this sweet spot for any local friends!

My rating: B+ 

I’ve read a handful of B.A. Paris novels and The Breakdown was one of my favorites. It was the kind of mystery that has you suspecting everyone and I especially liked the ending and the main character’s approach to unraveling everything. It’s a quick, entertaining read!

The book begins when Cass finds herself on a rural road in the middle of a horrendous storm. She notices a car on the side of the road and a woman sitting inside and pulls over, waiting for a sign from the woman that she might need help. When she doesn’t do anything, Cass continues home and never could’ve imagined the news she’d receive the following morning. The woman was brutally murdered soon after Cass passed her and Cass quickly comes to realize she knew the woman. The murder of Cass’ new friend sends her into a tailspin of guilt and despair that is only amplified when Cass begins forgetting things, something she fears may be genetic as her mother suffered from early Alzheimer’s. When mysterious phone calls begin, fear begins to join Cass’ whirlwind of emotions and she’s not sure who she can trust… even herself.

Cheesecake Cookies ‘n’ Cream Ice Cream (You’d honestly never know there’s cream cheese in this recipe but it helps give this cookies ‘n’ cream ice cream it’s rich and creamy texture. It’s the only cookies ‘n’ cream recipe we make and I made it again to rave reviews from my family on the Fourth of July!)

Cheesecake Cookies n Cream Ice Cream

Teriyaki Salmon Bowls (We’ve done a handful of bowl-type meals while hosting family this past week and this is one of my favorites.)

Question of the Day

What is one thing you’re loving this week?