Blackberry Picking at Eckert’s

Something that must be on your summer to do list if you’re in or around St. Louis is Blackberry Picking at Eckert’s.  Eckert’s is a year-round farm located in Belleville, Illinois that has seasonal crops and a lot more to do than just picking blackberries.  Strawberry picking was earlier this summer, and peaches will be available next week.  William and I went on Sunday with my sister Stephanie and her two kids.

eckerts blackberries

Little did I know that there is so much to do at Eckert’s!  Of course there is fruit picking, but also vegetables and flowers.  There is a country store that is filled with all sorts of fun items.


To get out to the fields where the blackberries were, we had to take a short tractor ride, which, of course, William was more than thrilled about.  He kept saying, “Bumpy ride!”

eckerts tractor

Then off to the fields we went!


I tried to explain to William that blackberries start off green, then turn red, then finally black when you can eat them.  He liked picking the green ones best.

eckerts basket

This was the first time that he was really able to pick the fruit himself.  It’s so much fun teaching him how food grows from the ground and we can eat it!

eckerts picking blackberries

He really did look thoroughly to find the perfect blackberry to add to his basket.

eckerts 2016

It was a scorcher out there, but there were a few water stations in the fields where we were able to seek shade and hydrate.  After we’d had enough sun, we took the tractor back.  The whole farm is truly breathtaking and such a magnificent place to take photos.

eckerts lake

After we cooled off in the air conditioning, we went back out to explore some more.  On the weekends, there are pony rides, train rides, and carnival rides.

eckerts train

The train was William’s favorite.  Those two could have stayed on there all day.

William also liked playing put-put mini golf and finding bikes to ride.

eckerts bike

And for the first time ever, William rode a horse!

eckerts horse

I had tried before, but he was scared.  This time, he clasped tightly to the saddle with one hand and held on to me with his other.  He loved it!

After we spent a couple of hours doing all the fun activities, we were hungry for lunch.  The restaurant had a 30 minute wait, so we placed a to-go order and ate ice cream first.

eckerts ice cream

We heard no complaints from anyone about that!

all photos by stephanie cotta photography

It was a wonderful day at Eckert’s and I highly recommend making a day of it.  In fact, we may just go back next week for peaches!

Have you done any picking this summer?

all in a day

Oh summer.  How I longed for you!  I couldn’t wait to have entire days filled of adventures with William.  And while I’m definitely loving and soaking up all this time with my little man, we have GOT to stay busy!  I am so not somebody who can stay in the house all day, not even all morning actually.  Everyday we find new activities to do, both in and out of the house.  We’ve had lots and lots of play dates.  The past two days we’ve had the pleasure of hanging out with Brittany and her two sweet kids!  On Monday we went to a pool and yesterday they came over.

playdate june16

William had a blast!  He was obsessed with this precious little girl.  He wanted to hold her constantly!  He’s been interested in babies in the past, but never for more than a few minutes.  He sang to her, rocked her, kissed her, patted her, literally wouldn’t leave her alone!  It was pretty stinking cute.  They’re going to have to make more regular visits.  Catching up with Brittany was great, too.  She’s one of those down to earth, tell it how it is kind of gals with a heart of gold and the kindest soul.

After they left, William was more than ready for a nap.  He took a decent nap, but was still pretty tired when he woke up.

yawn june16

Once he fully woke up, we played a bit more before heading to Yaya and Pops’ house.  William asks everyday if we can go to Yaya and Pops’ house.  He certainly loves them  – definitely the very best grandparents (and parents!).

Summer in St. Louis has officially begun; this means hot and humid weather!  Pops was watering the yard, and William just loves to help.  Pops taught him how to spray with a hose.

hose pops june16

After they played with the water, we went back to the pond.  Everyday, William pretends to go fishing at our house.  He has a cute magnetic fishing set that he plays with and he also pretends long sticks outside are fishing poles. So you can imagine his excitement when he and Pops actually caught a fish!

fish pops june16

Once everyone had enough sun, we went inside. William ate a snack while Yaya read to him and then they played with all the exciting toys at their house.  William challenged Yaya to an air hockey match.

air hockey june16

Miraculously, he scored against Yaya probably a hundred times.  Then he made Yaya switch sides with him another hundred times.  Yaya is a very good sport.

We came home, took another walk, ate dinner, bathed, read books, and then it was time for bed.  William had to get in a quick cuddle session with Zoey first.

zoey snuggle june16

We were all exhausted after our long day!

What has been filling your summer days?

just livin’ life

I tried to think of a creative blog post title, but clearly was unsuccessful.  I thought about what today’s post was about… golfing, selfies, cars, cute baby burritos, Zoey, farmer’s market, yeah a lot of randomness.  So I decided to call it what it is. Just livin’ life, y’all, that’s what I’m doing.  That’s what summer is all about.  Need I tell you again how much I love this season?

Here’s my life lately:

burrito june16

Let’s start with the cutest baby burrito ever.  I just want to eat him up.  Every night and every day.  That’s not to say I don’t have my day-to-day challenges with raising a darling toddler… 😉 but most of the time he sure melts my heart!

audrey june 16 selfie

These two.  Siblings.  Basically.  Audrey actually called him her brother the other day, LOL.  When she came over and saw him wearing this shirt, she was confused and asked me why William was wearing a Cubs shirt.  That’s living proof that everyone, kids included, are Cardinals fans here in St. Louis!

driving car

Riding along in my automobile…

William loves this little car at my parents’ house.  He’s awful and steering and just simply doesn’t understand it as he drives into the grass and bushes.  My dad always tells him he drives like his aunt (Stephanie).  LOL.

farmers market

Farmers markets are back!  I used to go every weekend, but have gone very rarely since having William.  Well, we went to the Delmar Loop’s farmers market which was great.  It was smaller than Soulard (where I used to go) and not crowded at all.  It’s been awesome having fresh fruits and vegetables at home!

mama mms june16

We visited Mama and Papa yesterday.  William always gets a special treat, just a few M&Ms, from Mama, but Papa was in charge of the candy yesterday.  William so very rarely gets sweets, but I’m ok with Mama and Papa giving him a few M&Ms every once in awhile.  Well, Papa let William stick his whole hand in and dig in!  My mom and I had to stop Papa!  He couldn’t resist!

yaya golf june16

My mom has recently taken up golf.  Papa was giving her lessons in his front lawn, and of course William had to get involved.  My mom was teaching William, and he said, “Yaya’s turn!”  Then he dragged another golf club out for me.

zoey vet

And last but not least, Zoey.  Zoey will be ten in July.  Small dogs are more prone to gum and teeth issues, so it’s recommended that they get their teeth professionally cleaned.  Well, at Zoey’s last yearly checkup, the vet noticed a tumor on her gums.  So yesterday she was put under to have her teeth cleaned, tumor removed, and also ended up having a tooth removed.  The tumor is being sent off to be tested (positive thoughts, please!), and I should find out next week.

William was SO upset to take Zoey in even though I kept telling him it was just to get her teeth cleaned.  “Zoey.  Doctor.  All done,” he kept saying.  Then when the vet took Zoey, William burst out in tears and cried the whole way home.  He was much happier when we picked her up!  Zoey seems to be doing fine, but is whining a little bit.  I hope she’s back to her normal self soon and the tumor comes back benign.

Tell me, how have you been livin’ life lately?


I LOVE SUMMER!  I’d say I’m sorry for saying that yet again, but I’m not.  However, I will say that I’ll try not to start every single summer blog post with that.  But it’s going to be really hard!  There are so many fun things going on and we’re really trying to take advantage of every moment.  We’re spending tons of time outdoors, I’m working out (like consistently, actually!), we’re with family and friends a lot, and so much more.  Summer is just amazing.  And it’s just beginning – even better!

Take yesterday, for example.  We had an impromptu play date with my niece Audrey.  I took the two to the splash pad for the first time this summer; then we played at my house for a bit before returning to my sister’s house.  Audrey and William both like doing “yoga” poses with me and flying superman, and yesterday they took matters in their own hands.  Suuuuperman!

superman may16

It may have lasted only half of a millisecond, but it was so hilarious while it did considering William is literally almost Audrey’s size these days!  I captured the photo at the absolute perfect time.  I’ll bet that within the next year or so William will be able to fly Audrey superman!

We headed back to Stephanie’s house and all four cousins were together.

aud jackson jacob may16

Family is obviously important to all of us, but sometimes it’s hard to coordinate all of our schedules.  “I get to hold William!”  Audrey, of course, shouted.

cousins may16

In order from youngest to oldest… because we had to find an order that everyone would agree upon and nobody could argue with this.  Though no matter what “order” or configuration we do, it always seems Audrey weasels her way next to William.  Sneaky girl!

I’VE BEEN WORKING OUT CONSISTENTLY!!!  It’s the first time in quite some time, and while I’m starting slow (mostly), I feel so good.  I actually feel really out of shape, but I’m glad I’m working out.  Hopefully my endurance, strength, and speed will improve.  Here’s what it looked like starting with the first weekend of summer:

  • Saturday – run two miles
  • Sunday – run two miles
  • Monday – run two miles
  • Tuesday – off
  • Wednesday – lower body workout at home
  • Thursday – off
  • Friday – upper body workout at home along with a long walk while catching up with Annette
  • Saturday – run two miles
  • Sunday – off
  • Monday – biked 32 miles

32 miles

Yeah, that’s right, I biked 32 miles.  It was the first time I’d taken my bike out all year and the longest I’ve ever ridden in my life.  We rode 16 miles out to Fast Lane Classic Cars Annual Memorial Day Car Show.  Once we were there, we ate (A LOT!); I was famished.  We hung out for about an hour before heading home.  The whole ride was hard and the hills were killer!  I was sore after, but felt awesome!  I think it’s time to sign up for some summer sprint triathlons and races!

My little jumping bean hasn’t stopped moving this summer either.

jumping may16

He jumps ALL THE TIME.  He jumps anywhere and everywhere.  Any time he walks down stairs, he will jump from the very last step.  Any surface that is slightly raised, he will jump off.  He will randomly jump throughout my house, stores, wherever.  “Jump higher!” he says.  And he gets some serious air.

Oh, summertime, we just love you.


My little sidekick and I are off to enjoy another day! 🙂

How have you been enjoying summer?

squeezing out the last bit of summer

I know I said last weekend was the last weekend of summer, but this past weekend REALLY was.  Last week I had teacher meetings, so it was back to work, but this week the kiddos come, so summer is officially over.  William and I were squeezing out the last bit of summer over the weekend and enjoying every moment of it.  We kicked off the weekend with a quick dinner to Chipotle with my friend Julie and her son Wolf.

wolf chipotle

tacos and tank tops – really, it’s burrito bowls, but tacos and tank tops has a much better ring to it, agree?

Wolf came over for a play date, but both the boys were getting restless at the house, so we knew it was now or never for dinner.  William was exhausted from going to camp all day while I was at school.  Straight from the fastest dinner ever, he went into the tub and in bed.

Saturday morning included a trip to the pool.  William had fun wading in the baby pool and splashing around.  In the afternoon, I went on an 18 mile bike ride.  It was overcast and gorgeous out, perfect riding weather.  Oh, and I signed up for another sprint triathlon.  This one is in a couple of weeks, so I’m hoping for a few more training sessions.  It will be even more difficult now that school is starting, but that’s alright.  It’ll be fun to race!

After a busy day, I plopped William in the bath tub and took one of my classic black and white tub photos.

bath aug15

Soon after, William went to sleep, a babysitter came over, and I had a girls night.


Caitlin and I met another one of our friends out.  It’s always so good to have girl time and talk!

On Sunday, I took William to an event at Ballpark Village.  It was his first time downtown and he made sure to take in the most important site.

cardinal nation

Cardinal Nation, baby!

And a close up of his crazy curly hair:

crazy curly hair

The humidity makes it even wilder than usual!  I love it!  I’ve actually been using Ava Anderson Non Toxic anti-frizz serum on it which helps with the frizz.  But when he’s outside running around and sweating, there’s really no hope in taming those curls.

He especially loved the bubble bus!


He was so funny to watch chasing the bubbles everywhere!

Linking up with Katie & Erin.

After Ballpark Village, we went to check out a new juice place that we heard about.


St. Louis Juice Press shares space with Hot Yoga St. Louis.  I’ve never taken yoga there before, but I do love hot yoga, so I should try that next.  Their juices are cold pressed and immediately bottled (never heated or oxidized), so their juices provide the highest level of enzymes and nutrients you can find in a juice! Not to mention, they tasted fantastic.

  • Green: apple, celery, cucumber, spinach – this was a classic green juice
  • Watermelon: the sweetest and favorite of the bunch, William even approved
  • Carrot, Apple, Ginger: the ginger gave this one a good kick
  • Green: celery, spinach, apple, ginger – green juice + ginger to make it a bit spicy

We tried one other juice – Pineapple, Cucumber, Jalapeno.  It was refreshing and not nearly as spicy as I anticipated.

And just to round out the weekend with the same way we began, William and I picked up a bowl from Chipotle to share for Sunday night dinner.  (I really need to start some sort of meal prep when school begins!)  Have you ever seen a baby so happy to have a gigantic Chipotle bowl in front of him?

chipotle dinner

After I took the photo, William immediately began digging in with his hands.  Usually I put a few pieces at a time on his tray, but it was too cute to stop.  I literally pulled my stool in front of him and we ate the Chipotle together from his high chair haha.

How are you squeezing out the last little bit of summer?

end of summer weekend

…And just like that, summer is coming to an end!  So, not officially, but for me as school starts back again soon,my summer is coming to an end.  Teacher meetings start this week (why so soon?!?!) and kiddos come next week.  That made this the end of summer weekend – good thing it was a fun one!

Friday morning started with a three mile run.

run selfie

Followed by a selfie.  I was smiling in the picture, but it was a tough run.

Saturday morning also included a run, this time around the lake…

run lake

…while somebody slept for the majority of the time!

He was probably tired from all the work he did earlier…


Busy baby!

Linking up with Katie and Erin!

Saturday night was a night out at the baseball game.

cards game

Cardinals didn’t bring home a winner, but it was fun nonetheless.

Sunday was a very busy day.  It started off with a visit from my friend Diana and her baby Emily who live in the neighborhood.  Sweet babies.

emily july15

Then we headed to my parents’ for breakfast as our family friend was in town (Hi Howard!).  Straight from there, we went to a first birthday party.  William took a short nap when we came home, and we got ready for the pool.  We spent a solid three hours there.  William LOVES the water.  He took one short snack break, rocked his Babiators, and ate an Earth’s Best pouch.  Back in the water for the little fish!

babiators pool

He was exhausted by the time we got home, so I quickly fed him dinner, bathed him, and into bed he went!  Now I’m off to enjoy our last few days of summer…

What did you do this weekend?

We’re in….

Yesterday was a very busy day because…

We’re in…


Durango, Colorado for my family’s summer vacation! Follow along our adventure on my Instagram (@itzlinz).  There’s an absolutely, ridiculously hilarious video that you must check out!

Our day began with a noon flight.  The family all met at the airport.

jackson audrey

Always fun with my little munchkins!

We all boarded the plane, and shortly after, my mom, Yaya, brought out her healthy snacks that she packed for everyone.  She sure knows how to travel!

mom audrey

Audrey (and everyone else) was definitely a fan of the turkey sandwiches, roast beef sandwiches, nuts and dried fruit, apple slices, snacks, and a few pieces of candy.

William was due for a nap and fell asleep on his momma for just a short time.

sleep airplane

So peaceful.  I tried giving him a couple bites for a snack when he woke up, and thanks to his lovely active gag reflex, he threw up all over me and my nephew Jackson.  It was disgusting on its own, but even more so dealing with it on the plane.  My mom helped me get him cleaned up and Stephanie changed him while I tried to wipe myself and Jackson off before changing shirts. Oy. Note to self: next time pack an entire extra outfit, not just a shirt.

The second flight was on a tiny plane and it was the most turbulent flight I’ve been on in quite some time.  Not only that, they ended up having to circle for about 45 minutes in order to avoid some bad weather.  An hour flight turned into an almost two-hour flight.  William slept for the majority of it, but we sure were glad to finally touch down.

Once at the airport, we collected ALL of our luggage… which was a lot.  My mom sorted out the details at the rental car company while we kept the kiddos entertained.


From the airport, we went to the grocery store to stock up for the week.  One of my sweet friends let me borrow her Ergo 360.  This was the first time I’ve used it, and I loved it!  I knew William was tired, so I wore him on my front, but I practiced at home with having him on my back and he loved it!  My little mini me HAD to have her baby doll wrapped up, too, so we went out to the car to figure out how to make that happen (and prevent a meltdown).


We love babywearing!

It started drizzling on the way to the condo, but there were TWO bright rainbows!

double rainbow

Every view we saw was beautiful and I’m so excited for this year’s summer vacation!  More adventures to come.  I’m not sure of the frequency of blogging during this trip, so be sure you’re following me on Instagram to keep up.  Otherwise, I’ll update you when I can!  I hope everyone is having a wonderful week!

Are you or have you taken any vacations this summer?

Splash Pad Fun

Do you know what a splash pad is?  I didn’t before this summer.  It’s literally just an area (a pad) that has multiple fountains to splash in. Aka the PERFECT summertime activity for kids of all ages, especially on hot, sunny days!  I didn’t want to take William to one before he was walking (PS: WILLIAM IS WALKING!!!), but now that I’ve been, I totally wish I would have taken him sooner.  It’s completely fine for crawlers!  We’ve been twice so far, but after the first time I decided I was going every single day.  William absolutely loves it!  Not only is it the cutest thing ever to see him toddling around in his little swim trunks and swim shirt, but his facial expressions are priceless!  He waves his hands, claps, splashes, squeals.  It’s the best!

Side note: Obviously, sunscreen is a must when you’re outside for any length of time.  There have been so many articles lately published on how toxic chemicals have made their way into sunscreens, even ones claiming to be “natural.”  The solution? Ava Anderson Non Toxic.  It’s not greasy, it’s organic, it does not contain any nanoparticles, no chemical UV absorbers, no parabens, phthalates, synthetic preservatives, fragrance or dyes.  30+ SPF, perfect for babies, kids, and adults, alike.  I don’t feel compelled to rush William into the bath tub right when we’re finished.  It doesn’t have the usual sunscreen smell.  It’s awesome.

Now, some splash pad fun pictures because they’re too cute not to share!

See? Even crawlers love the splash pad!


William could probably spend all day there.  Well, actually not because the splash pad wipes him out!  He’s always super tired and hungry after!

The water and humidity does great things for his curls.

Fountains are the coolest!

Can you hear him shrieking?  He loves it!

Mommas: do you take your little ones to a splash pad? How do you keep cool in the summer?

Summer Pasta Recipes

Summer pasta recipes – I’ve got them for you in today’s post!  The other evening I threw together a pasta that ended up being way better than I expected.  Jonny and I thoroughly enjoyed it, so I decided I just had to share it.  Itz light, delicious, and perfect for summer.



  • whole wheat pasta
  • cherry tomatoes, sliced in thirds
  • yellow onion, diced
  • olive oil
  • garlic
  • fresh spinach
  • shrimp, cut
  • corn
  • Parmesan cheese
  • NuNaturals stevia (or sugar or sweetener of choice)

Note: I didn’t list amounts because I just used whatever we had at home.  I did use a one-pound box of pasta and was very generous with the vegetables!


  1. Prepare pasta as directed.
  2. Saute yellow onion in olive oil.
  3. Add in cherry tomatoes and let simmer.
  4. Stir in stevia.
  5. Combine corn, garlic, and shrimp to the mixture.
  6. Toss spinach in and cook until wilted.
  7. Mix in Parmesan cheese.
  8. Pour over pasta.

The stevia may sound a bit strange, but it really does work.  Itz a little trick my grandma taught me when cooking with tomatoes.  Jonny and I were talking about how shrimp doesn’t typically “go” with red sauce, but this really isn’t a red sauce at all.  The whole thing is light yet very flavorful.

Here are some other summer pastas by FitFluential Ambassadors.

summer pastas

Mmm!  Let’s talk pasta for a second, more specifically carbs, because I feel like carbs have gotten a bad rep.  I know too many people who won’t eat carbs… even healthy carbs like sweet potatoes, brown rice, or quinoa!  My personal opinion is that eliminating any type of food is not a great idea.  I mean, there’s some people I know who won’t even eat starchy vegetables.  They’re vegetables for crying out loud!

Remember the whole fat free fad back in the day?  Yeah, that didn’t last.  FOR A REASON!  Fat is healthy for you… well, the healthy fats are just like healthy carbs are.  We need carbohydrates.  They give us energy. I’m not saying to eat a loaf of bread.  Everything in moderation, friends.  Stop fearing the carbs.  I eat pasta once in awhile and I choose to eat whole wheat pasta, brown rice pasta, or quinoa pasta, and I always load it up with plenty of vegetables.  And I think I’m doing alright.  In terms of other carbs, I always make sure to incorporate some type of carb with my meals and snacks.  Sometimes itz in the form of fruit, vegetables, or whole grains.  Itz all part of a balanced meal.

Check out this post for additional information if you’re someone who fears the carbs: The Smart Way to Eat Carbs by Pamela at Thrive Personal Fitness.

End soapbox.  William agrees with me, just for the record. 😉


What would you put in a summer pasta?  

weekend highlights

Happy happy Monday!  Today I’m sharing my marvelous weekend highlights with you, so sit back and enjoy.  It was low-key and lovely – bit by bit, day by day, here we go:

Friday night: Jonny and I went to Bristol for dinner.  I ordered lobster bisque (so rich, but so good!) and the lobster salad.  It was lobster deliciousness.  Next, we Redboxed the Jackie Robinson movie 42.  It was awesome!  I learned a lot about the history of baseball, the hardships Jackie had to go through, and how he literally changed the American game.  Definitely see it.  Zoey enjoyed the movie, too. 🙂  She had to wear her comfy cone though.

jonny zoey

The Comfy Cone is way better than a traditional cone, but itz still so sad.  Zoey has really bad skin allergies and we’re still working to figure it out and make her feel better.  Itz been a two-year+ long nightmare including allergy shots, special veterinary food, and more.

Saturday morning: Trader Joe’s shopping trip which included fresh flowers and a basil plant.  Colorful flowers make me so happy and definitely brighten up any room!  I always take one stem of yellow daisies and put it in a smaller vase for our table.


My mother-in-law has been encouraging me to get a fresh basil plant for a long time, and I finally saw them at Trader Joe’s.  We have a tomato garden in our backyard, so I foresee lots of tomato and basil dishes in our future!

Saturday afternoon: Pool time!  Jonny and I went to my in-laws’ pool to enjoy this summer weather we’re having.  Their backyard is beautiful.  I’ve just got a small snapshot for you to see, but they put a lot of work into their backyard and it shows.  Itz such a relaxing and peaceful place to be.


Of course, our dog-in-laws Zorro and Paris enjoyed some sun, as well.

Saturday night: Jonny and I went to a Cardinals game.  It was a great game against the Braves and we won 6 – 2!  Somehow I managed to take NO pictures during the game, but we saw two awesome outfits worth nothing.  The first was an old man as we walked into Busch Stadium.  He was wearing a white button-up, navy sports coat, and a Cardinals bow tie.  So adorable.  Then, there was a guy a few rows in front of us rockin’ jeans, an Under Armour tank, snake-skin boots, and a cowboy hat.  Quite the interesting look, for a Cardinals game much less!  People watching is the best.

Happy Marvelous in my Monday to you! Thanks Healthy Diva for hosting!

Sunday morning: My grandma Mama and I had a movie date and went to see the movie The Butler.  Itz about an African American butler who worked in the White House and served eight American presidents over three decades during the civil rights movement.   This is the movie that Oprah Winfrey is in.  All the actors and actresses were amazing.  It was a good history lesson, as well.  This is another movie I’d recommend.


We sat in one of the new theaters where the chairs are recliners and there are waiters who serve a full menu.  While we didn’t take advantage of the food, we did enjoy reclining during the movie and putting our feet up. Itz so comfy!

Sunday afternoon: Laundry, meal prep, lesson planning, paper grading, and more grocery shopping.  I’m totally loving summer fruit right now!  Between Trader Joe’s and our local grocery store, this weekend I bought raspberries, blackberries, oranges, apples, bananas, watermelon, and peaches.  Obviously not all summer fruits, but all delicious nonetheless.  The peaches are huge and juicy!

Sunday night: Dinner at my in-laws as usual!  They prepared another tasty dinner like they always do of grilled salmon, whole wheat pasta with homemade tomato sauce, and the freshest salad from a friend’s garden.  We love being so close to them and our weekly  tradition of dinner together.  We were asked to bring dessert, so instead of baking we brought a tub of Sunny Salted Caramel Pretzel ice cream.  And believe it or not, it was the first time we had ice cream all weekend.  That’s impressive!  🙂  Definitely worth the wait!

What’s the best movie you’ve seen lately?  Weekend highlights?