Sunday, November 27, 2011

The blog post that changed my outlook

I haven't posted much lately because I have been tired, drained and a bit cranky. I had nothing creative, fun or inspiring to share. I was beginning to feel pretty sorry for myself, actually. I was the poor mom "stuck at home" all day with three needy little ones. This was my attitude.

And then I came across this post entitled "Embracing Neediness" over at Passionate Homemaking. It truly was the kick in the pants that I needed to change my attitude. I have read and re-read this post probably twenty times in the past few days. It is always in the back of my mind while fulfilling my daily mommy duty routines of diapers, teeth brushing, making meals, cleaning up, laundry, etc.

Everything about this post rings so true to me and, if you are ever overwhelmed as a mom, I highly encourage you to read it.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Menu Plan - week of 11/7/11


I have been menu planning lately but the craziness of life with a newborn and two preschoolers (I can no longer say I have a toddler since my little boy turned three years old last week!!) has led me to not really follow my plan too much each week. Thank goodness I still have some of my freezer meals left (but not many!) which have made things a bit easier. So hard to believe my little girl is five weeks old already! While I am in absolutely no hurry for her to grow up any more quickly than she already is, I do look forward to the "normalcy" of life again in a few months when I'm able to cook more, plan more, and just relax a bit more.

Here is the menu for the week:

Breakfasts:
Who am I kidding? Lately my two older kids have been eating cereal bars or dry cereal out of a bag in front of the TV in the mornings. No planning here.

Lunches:
Poor Man's Pizza, orange slices
PB&J, carrots, chips
Creamy Mac and Cheese, apple slices
Chicken strips, cottage cheese, grapes
leftovers

Suppers:
Monday: Ham and Cheese Casserole (from my freezer stash), fruit salad
Tuesday: Slow Cooker Barbeques (or Sloppy Joes...whichever you call them), baked beans, carrots, chips and dip
Wednesday: leftovers
Thursday: Burritos (also from my freezer), chips and salsa
Friday: Lentil Soup, lettuce salad, fruit

This post is linked to Menu Plan Monday at I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Menu Plan - week of 10/17/11


Back to menu planning! Hard to believe my new little baby is 2 weeks old already! I honestly think that was the fastest two weeks of my whole life. Life needs to slow down. My wonderful mom left last Friday after staying nearly three weeks with us, so today is my first day with just me and the three kids solo. So far, so good (with the help of my husband dropping my oldest off at preschool this morning!) But even with a newborn, we still have preschool, doctor appointments, soccer, swim lessons, and general life stuff to juggle so I am very grateful for my stash of ready-made freezer meals that I can pull out this week. Here is our plan for the week:

Breakfasts:
cold cereal and fruit
Pumpkin Spice Granola with yogurt
oatmeal and bagels

Lunches:
Mac and cheese, fruit and carrots
PB&J, cottage cheese, apple slices
Poor Man's Pizza, carrot sticks
Pita chips and hummus, cottage cheese, orange slices
leftovers

Suppers:
Monday: leftover homemade pizza from Sunday night, lettuce salad, fruit salad

Tuesday: Chicken tacos (meat from freezer), chips and salsa, fruit salad

Wednesday: Ham and cheese casserole ( from freezer), lettuce salad

Thursday: out to eat at McDonalds (the older kids have flu shots at 7pm so I am bribing them with the Golden Arches afterwards...)

Friday: leftover buffet

This post is linked to Menu Plan Monday at I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Baby has arrived!

We are now a family of 5.

We welcomed a girl, Kathryn Elise, into our family on Saturday, October 1st at 4:57 a.m. She weighed 8 pounds even and was 21 inches long. We are so blessed to have her. Big brother Christopher and big sister Alison adore her.

It was a quick labor and delivery. I started contractions about 11:30 on Friday night and we made it to the hospital by 2 a.m. Little Kathryn bounced into the world a few hours later. It was quick, intense, and so worth it!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

No baby yet...

And I'm getting a bit uncomfortable and cranky. And extremely anxious. And very excited.

Thankfully my mom came up to stay with us on Monday so we have Granny here now to watch the kids while we are at the hospital. That is a load off my mind and I'm so thankful that she is here!

Otherwise, it is business as usual until baby arrives. I made muffins this morning, made a double batch of hummus for lunch, and chili is in the crockpot for supper. Laundry. Errands. A trip to the library. A walk and bike ride with the kids. Soccer tonight. Life goes on as we try to wait patiently for the new addition to our family.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Menu Plan - week of 9/26/11



Baby #3 is due to arrive this week....hopefully. I'm still hanging in there - trying to enjoy my two little kids before I head off to the hospital without them for a couple of days, trying to keep the house clean and laundry done, and still trying to menu plan because the family still needs to eat! Here is what we have planned this week:

Breakfasts:
Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins, melon
Cereal and toast
English muffins and scrambled eggs
Oatmeal Breakfast Bars

Lunches:
Poor Man's Pizza, orange slices
Pita chips, hummus, carrot sticks with ranch dressing
Creamy Mac and Cheese, apple slices, raw broccoli with ranch dressing
PB&J, crackers and apple slices
leftovers


Suppers:
Monday: Slow Cooker Angel Chicken with broccoli, lettuce salad

Tuesday: Slow Cooker Turkey Chili, cornbread, melon

Wednesday: Chicken Wild Rice Soup made with leftover Angel Chicken, cornbread, apple slices

Thursday: leftover buffet

Friday: Hot and Sour Soup, potsickers and eggrolls (store-bought from the freezer), green beans

Please stop by I'm an Organizing Junkie for more menu planning resources!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

More nesting

By 10:30 this morning, I have done the following:

- made a double batch of homemade applesauce in the slow cooker
- made ranch dressing mix
- finished two loads of laundry
- played Barbies with my daughter and son
- cleaned out and organized our freezer
- baked a loaf of banana bread
- organized three kitchen cupboards
- finally unpacked and put away our china in the hutch from the move in May

You think I'm nesting, per chance? :-) This is what happens when you wake up at 5:30 a.m. with a contraction, hop out of bed and get ready for the day thinking "this could be it", and then.....nothing else happens. :-)

Have a very happy Saturday!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Friday Favorite Finds - 9/23/11

Today I'm participating in Friday Finds hosted by Finding Joy in my Kitchen. This is a short list because baby will hopefully arrive in the next few days so I'm trying to be realistic! I still have a lot of apples to use up from our recent apple orchard trip so I focused on a couple of apple recipes. Here is the list of recipes that caught my eye the past couple of weeks and I'm looking forward to trying soon:

Healthified Fresh Apple Cake
(Photo and recipe courtesy of Eat Better America)

Creamy Apple Cinnamon Quesadilla
(Photo and recipe courtesy of Eat Better America)

Spicy Chicken Sandwiches

(Photo and recipe courtesy of This Mom's Happy Life)

Please visit Finding Joy in My Kitchen for more great recipe ideas!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Finally...a manicure!

I've wanted to get a manicure for some time now. I rarely get them - maybe once or twice a year. Pedicures - yes, I get them quite often during the summer. But manicures? I have a hard time justifying spending the $20 on something that looks good for a day or two and then starts peeling away. Plus, when I do get time to go to the nail salon by myself, my time without kiddos is so limited that I choose getting my toes done (which involves more pampering!) over getting my nails done.

So, I enlisted my own little beauticians in the making the other day who gave me a fabulous manicure. Their names are Alison, age 4, and Christopher, age 2. I highly recommend them. They are very friendly, talkative, and accept tips in the form of Goldfish crackers.

Here is the end result of my recent manicure. Beautiful!!



This post is linked to Works for Me Wednesday.

This pregnancy - Gratituesday

Only nine days to go till my due date. I'm huge, uncomfortable, and I have to admit, a little on the cranky side a good portion of the day. But, on this Tuesday when I'm linking up with Laura at Heavenly Homemakers for Gratituesday, I am taking a moment to be grateful for this wonderful pregnancy and savoring every minute of it. More than likely, this will be the last time I will be pregnant. I am trying to savor every single kick, squirm and roll in my belly. I thank God that He has allowed this pregnancy to go full-term and that it has been a relatively smooth nine months for me. I am in awe of how you can fall so deeply in love with someone whom you have not yet met, do not know what they look like, and don't even know if they are a boy or girl!

So, during these last few days of pregnancy, I am going to try to forget how hard it is to sleep, how much I miss being able to bend over to pick something up off the floor without grunting and acting like a contortionist, and how tired I am of going to the bathroom every thirty minutes (seriously, that last one isn't even an exaggeration.) Instead, I will focus on this blessing God has given us, how cute my kids are in their excitement of waiting for the new baby's arrival, and how grateful I am that I am able to be a mommy.

Join us for Gratituesday at Heavenly Homemakers!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Menu Plan Monday - week of 9/19/11



Last week I made everything on our menu plan (that may be a first!) and everything turned out really yummy. As I posted earlier, we really enjoyed the Kielbasa Bow-Tie Skillet and I hope you give it a try! I'm looking forward to breaking into our freezer stash of this meal in the upcoming weeks.

The kids and I visited an apple orchard last Thursday and came home with a ton of apples, so I'm looking for some good apple recipes to use up my stash. I'm looking forward to making the Apple Pie Bread for breakfast one morning (thanks to April at Angel Foods Kitchen for pointing out this recipe last week!) I also made an apple pie and homemade ice cream on Friday evening (of which we are still enjoying the leftovers!) Any other ideas? Please leave a comment with your favorite apple recipe - I'd really appreciate it!

Anyway, still no baby...so I've planned another week of meals. Nothing to double or freeze because my freezer is nearly full. Here's what we have planned so far:

Breakfasts:
Cereal and toast
Waffles and bananas
Honey Crunch Granola (another great granola recipe from Sarah at Clay in His Hands) with yogurt
Apple Pie Bread (new recipe), fruit

Lunches:
Tomato soup, grilled cheese, carrot sticks with ranch dressing
Pita chips and hummus, fruit salad
Homemade Chicken Nuggets, cottage cheese, apple slices
Creamy Mac and Cheese, apple slices, carrot sticks with ranch dressing
leftovers

Suppers:
Monday: leftover buffet from the weekend (ham fried rice, pasta, whole wheat oatmeal pancakes, fruit salad)

Tuesday: Burritos (I have 17 of these babies in my freezer which I'm saving for after baby arrives, but I'm making a fresh batch for us to eat at my hubby's request. I use ground beef instead of chicken), chips and salsa, apple slices

Wednesday: leftovers or out to eat (soccer night)

Thursday: Homemade Pizza, lettuce salad

Friday: Hot Beef Cheddar Subs, sweet potato fries, green beans

Sat. and Sun.: ?? (I don't plan on the weekends anymore because everything is always so fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants)

For tons of menu planning ideas, please check out I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

One more freezer meal...

This recipe wasn't included in my last post about my nesting and freezer meals, and I just had to include it. I made this Kielbasa Bow-Tie Skillet last night and it was AWESOME. (Yes, another Taste of Home recipe).


(Photo and recipe courtesy of Taste of Home)

I used lower fat, lower sodium turkey kielbasa and it still turned out delicious. I made a double batch and now we have a nice, large portion of this fabulous meal ready to go in our freezer once baby arrives. It was fairly quick and easy to put together. Both of my kids liked it (well, okay, my 2-year-old son picked the sausage out of it and ate only that with ketchup but still, at least he tried it...) and my 4-year-old daughter gobbled it up. My husband went back for three helpings, which is always a good sign! I highly suggest you click on the recipe link and give this yummy recipe a try.

That being said, I'm done freezer cooking. There is no more room left in our freezer and I think my husband believes I'm getting a bit obsessed with having a freezer full of ready-to-go meals. But he's been a good sport about it. This morning I'm going to whip up one more double batch of our family favorite Peanut Butter Granola, store half in the freezer, and that will be it for me.

Adios kitchen, hello new baby!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Some Serious Nesting and Freezer Cooking

I have been busy in the kitchen the past couple of weeks. I'm 37 weeks pregnant with baby #3 and I feel the final countdown clock ticking away. More so than with my first two children. Perhaps this one will come a bit early? Anyways, I've been cooking, doubling, and freezing meals like a mad woman. Our little deep freeze has filled up quickly and I feel better knowing that once baby and I are home from the hospital, we will have some easy, homemade, nutritious meals to eat. Yes, I'm sure we'll be getting take-out once or twice for a few days, but at least we won't be eating it EVERY day and night. Here's what I've done so far:

Peanut Butter Granola - I made a double batch - put half in the freezer and we already polished off the other half. This will make for a quick and healthy breakfast or snack. Our favorite way to eat this granola is mixed with Greek Gods Honey Yogurt - so delicious! (and thanks to SnoWhite at Finding Joy in My Kitchen for the tip on using olive oil in granola - I used half olive oil and half canola oil in this recipe and it turned out nice and crunchy!)

Slow Cooker Spaghetti Sauce - I doubled the recipe which will allow for at least three to four spaghetti meals for us.

Chicken Tacos - I doubled the recipe and froze a big batch of shredded chicken taco meat for easy taco night. Just heat up some tortillas or taco shells (which I've stocked up on from Costco in the past week), set out some salsa and sour cream, and we have an easy meal.

Cheesy Beef and Rice - we ate this last week so I made a double batch and put one pan in the freezer. This is the easiest ever - just thaw the casserole and bake. Maybe I'll get crazy and throw together a side salad. Either way, easy easy easy.

Burritos - I tweaked this recipe by using ground beef and homemade taco seasoning. Double the batch - kept out a few for supper and I'm freezing the rest (15 burritos!) for quick lunches or suppers once baby arrives. This was a new recipe and one I'll be making again in the future - my whole family really liked them!

Lasagna - I made a double batch. I froze one pan and we ate the other for supper one night (with plenty of leftovers for the next day or two). This was my first time making this recipe and it turned out really well and tasty.

Cinnamon Raisin Bread - this recipe makes two loaves, so we ate one for breakfast and popped the second loaf in the freezer for a quick breakfast or snack. I tweaked this recipe by cutting back the sugar by at least 1/2 cup and substituted 1 cup whole wheat flour for the white. It still turned out very tasty and my kids loved it!

Chunky Chicken Soup - I made a double batch and froze what we didn't use after supper one night. We have two Ziploc gallon freezer bags FILLED with this soup in our freezer now, which will easily provide for two separate meals plus plenty of leftovers. I served this soup with some cheesy bread I made under the broiler and fresh melon. Yummy!

Ham and Cheese Casserole (or "Hotdish", as I call it in my neck of the woods) - made this last night and it turned out awesome! This is another recipe that makes a double batch so one pan went into the freezer. We made a 7.5 lb ham last weekend so this was a terrific way to use up most of the leftovers we had. I think my husband ate about half of the pan - he loved it! (And yes, this recipe uses canned cream soup. Although I use the "healthy request" kind, I know it could still be made healthier...but this was super quick and easy to put together using the canned soup. Sometimes a gal needs to use some shortcuts!)

I have one more freezer meal planned for later this week and that will be it because our deep freeze will be FULL.

By the way, did you notice that a lot of these recipes are from Taste of Home? I bought the little Taste of Home book "Fall Freezer Meals" after I eyed it at the checkout in Wal-Mart. So glad I did - there are lots of great little recipes in that book.

In addition to cooking, I have the baby's room all put together - clothes and bedding are washed, closet is organized, bottles have been sanitized, diapers and wipes are bought. I've also cleaned out my laundry room and gutted the mud room closet (what would my mother think of such a messy laundry room when she comes up to help after baby arrives??!) I cleared out two shelves in the laundry room closet (lower shelves so little ones can reach easily) for my kids' art supplies so they can easily grab what they need and want when grandmas are watching them in the coming weeks. I'm keeping up on laundry every day so there won't be any laundry when we go to the hospital and everyone will have enough clean clothes and pajamas to last them a week if need be. I think we're ready...now we just need baby to arrive!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Menu Plan Monday - Week of 9/12/11



I've been on another blogging sabbatical, so it seems. We've been busy with preparing for the new baby's arrival (only 2 1/2 weeks to go!), the start of preschool for my daughter, and a couple of VERY successful weeks of potty training my son. He's been in underwear for the last couple of weeks without an accident. I'm so proud of him - and it's so awesome that I will have about one month of no diapers or pull-ups to change or buy!

But I digress...on to menu planning. I've been nesting up a storm and doing a lot of cooking and baking for easy and healthy freezer meals once the baby arrives. I'll hopefully post more on that soon. But in the meantime, here is what we have planned for the upcoming week:

Breakfasts:
Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread (I doubled the batch and froze one loaf - I also cut back on the sugar and substituted 1 c. whole wheat flour and it still turned out yummy!), bananas
Cereal and toast
Whole Wheat Muffins, strawberries
Bagels with cream cheese

Lunches:
Egg and cheese sandwiches (our homemade version of the Egg McMuffin...my kids love these!), carrots and fruit
PB&J Sushi, crackers, fruit
Creamy Mac and Cheese, carrots and ranch dip
leftovers

Suppers:
Monday: Ham and Cheese Casserole (new recipe - this recipe makes a double batch so I froze one), fresh fruit salad
Tuesday: Homemade Pizza, lettuce salad
Wednesday: T-ball until 6:30 p.m. so it is "clean out the fridge" night!
Thursday: Sausage Bow Tie Pasta Skillet (new recipe - doubling so I can freeze half), mixed vegetables, melon
Friday: leftovers
Sat. and Sun.: our plans always change on the weekends so I've decided to go "meal-plan-free" on the weekends

This post is linked to Menu Plan Monday at I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Menu Plan Monday (the Tuesday version)- Week of 8/22/11


Busy busy busy! Summer is wrapping up and we're trying to enjoy every last minute of it. Our days are filled with bike rides, walks, the swimming pool, and (for me) my OB doctor visits. Therefore, I haven't had too much time to blog these days (again...and as usual) but I did finally get around to making my menu plan for the week yesterday. I am planning on doubling some meals this week so I can save half for an easy, healthy freezer meal once the baby arrives (only 5 weeks away!). Here's what we have planned for the week:

Breakfasts:
Peanut Butter Granola (doubling recipe) and yogurt
Cereal and toast
Waffles and fruit

Lunches:
Sandwiches with carrot sticks, ranch dip, and crackers
Creamy Mac and Cheese, fruit
Homemade Spaghettios (new recipe), apple slices
leftovers

Suppers:
Monday: we had an impromptu day/evening at Valleyfair amusement park with the kids so we ate junk food there
Tuesday: Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos - double recipe (made on Monday but we were at Valleyfair too long...luckily it kept well in the CrockPot!), chips and salsa
Wednesday: Cheesy Beef and Rice (doubling recipe for a freezer meal), lettuce salad, carrot sticks and ranch
Thursday: Spinach Tomato Tortellini, fruit salad
Friday: leftovers
Sat. and Sun.: ??

Friday, August 19, 2011

Friday Favorite Finds

Today is my first time participating in Friday Finds hosted by Finding Joy in my Kitchen. Here is the list of recipes that caught my eye the past couple of weeks and I'm looking forward to trying in the near future:

Homemade Spaghettios
(my kids love Spaghettios but the list of ingredients scare me so I'm really excited to try this recipe and hoping it is a winner!)
(Photo and recipe by Natalie at Oven Love)

Mandarin Orange Pie
(Photo and recipe by April at Angel Foods Kitchen)

Homemade Larabars
(we love Larabars in our house so I'm looking forward to making a big pan of the homemade version!)
(Photo and recipe by Sarah at Clay in His Hands)

Baked Zucchini Sticks
(I think these will make a great appetizer/side dish on spaghetti night! I'm hoping that I'll be successful in getting my son to eat a vegetable!)

(Photo and recipe by Gina at SkinnyTaste.com)

For more great recipe ideas visit Finding Joy in My Kitchen!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Back up and at 'em

I've missed a week of posting, but I like to think I had good reason. After about a week and a half of not feeling well at all, and a trip to the Minute Clinic which told me nothing, a late night trip to Urgent Care two days later finally diagnosed me with strep throat AND mono. So, not only was I in extreme discomfort from the strep and suffering from extreme fatigue from the mono, but I am also 7 months pregnant on top of all that.

Needless to say, after one week of being on antibiotics and a blissful weekend of family who came up to help me out (thanks to mom, dad, niece and nephew) I am now feeling nearly 100% again. Looking forward to getting back to "normal."

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Gratituesday - Summer



Like much of the country, we had nearly unbearable heat and humidity here in Minnesota last week. With temps near the 100 degree mark and dew points in the 80s, the heat index was around 115 degrees for nearly four days. It was even too hot for us to go to the pool. The kids just wanted to stay inside in the air conditioning. (On a side note, this Gratituesday post should also be about showing my gratitude for our central a/c and the ability to pay our electric bill this month!)

Yes, it was hot. Apparently people were baking cookies on the dashboards of their car while at work during the day. BUT - I forced myself NOT to complain. I am extremely thankful for a warm, sunny Minnesota summer because, before you know it, we will be faced with a cold, snowy, LONG Minnesota winter. Below zero temps. 15 inches of snow at a time. Coats, hats, mittens, snowsuits. Unfortunately, we have that for about six months, too.

So I will not complain about the heat. Instead, I will enjoy this very brief time we have with running with sprinklers, shorts and flip flops, and Popsicles.

For more Gratituesday posts, please visit Heavenlyhomemakers.com.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Menu Plan - Week of 7-25-11


What a crazy summer! Husband working terribly long hours, house guests in and out of our home for the past two weeks, and some crazy hot and humid weather haven't really allowed me to follow much of a menu plan the last couple of weeks. I still have carryovers on this week's menu so nothing too new or exciting. However, I am thrilled that we are blessed with a houseful of food this week. My husband took both kids to a Twins baseball game on Saturday (by himself...a brave man!) which allowed me an entire afternoon of do-whatever-I-wanted-to-do-by-myself. Being the crazy gal I am, I headed to Costco (where I've never been without the kids) and enjoyed roaming the aisles at my leisure and picking up LOTS of great deals. I spent a pretty penny but we are completely stocked up for months to come (plus I got some great deals on fresh produce, cheese, milk and eggs - I cannot believe Costco's great prices on organic items!)

Anyway, despite my Costco excitement...here's what we have planned for the week:

Breakfasts:
Cold cereal and toast
Blueberry muffins
Whole Wheat Pancakes (leftovers from Sunday)
Fruit and yogurt

Lunches:
leftovers
PB&J, chips, carrot sticks
Fruit salad and cottage cheese
Egg sandwiches, carrots and dip, fruit
Creamy Mac and Cheese, fruit

Suppers:
Monday: Slow cooker Chicken Tacos (carryover), chips and salsa

Tuesday: Dijon chicken breasts (new recipe + carryover), lettuce salad, sweet potato fries

Wednesday: T-Ball night so probably out to eat afterwards

Thursday: Homemade pizza, Caeser salad, fruit

Friday: leftover buffet

(I'm not planning anything for the weekends this summer - who knows what our plans will be!)

Check out I'm an Organizing Junkie for more menu planning fun!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - First T-Ball Game


My 4-year-old daughter Alison had her first T-Ball game last week. How can she be this big already?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Gratituesday - My Husband

What a crazy past few days. As I said in my last post, I started feeling ill on Friday which, unfortunately, coincided with my husband's five-day long terrible stretch at work while he was working on a big brief. Not only was I sick, weak, and achey, but I had the kids to myself 24 hours a day for five days straight. My husband's brief was due yesterday so I was so thankful when Monday finally rolled around.

I started to feel quite a bit better yesterday. Later in the afternoon, Christopher was still napping and Alison was up from rest time. I finally had enough energy to sit with my daughter and do some preschool workbook pages with her. We were having a really nice time and I was enjoying having some energy back that allowed me to do something my kids other lay on the couch watching Nick Jr. with them. Then the phone rang. It was about 5:10 p.m. It was my husband. I could tell from caller ID that he was on his cell phone. He asked, "Would you mind if I came home early today?". I shouted happily, "Yes, please!" to which he responded, "Then come to the front door and let me in!". WHAT?! I cannot remember the last time my husband was home so early! It was such a sweet surprise to see him home and I was so thankful that he made it home safely, given the fact that he had slept about seven hours total in the last five days.

Today I am extra thankful for my husband. All too often I get in one of my martyr moods when I think that I do everything around the house and with the kids. It's when my darling husband is away that I realize how much he really does help me out and how much I depend on him. And how much the kids and I love him and enjoy when he's home.

I am also thankful for his job. While I wish he didn't have to work so hard, he is an awesome provider for our family and gives 110 percent to his work to make sure it's done right. During this economy, I know so many people who are looking for work and I am extra grateful for my husband's job and his work ethic.

Thank you honey!! I love you!

This post is linked to Gratituesday at Heavenly Homemakers.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Menu Plan Monday - Week of 7/18/11



Last week's menu plan was a bust. I didn't make a SINGLE thing for supper that was on my menu plan. For two reasons: hubby has been working his butt off and has been home just to sleep for an hour or two each night for the past FIVE nights - so no reason to make a big meal for me and the little ones when he's gone. Plus, I've been sick the last few days with aches, fever and sore throat so I haven't been up to cooking either. With the husband being at work and no family around to help out, it has been a challenge caring for a toddler and preschooler day and night while sick as a dog AND 7 months pregnant. But we survived - I'm feeling a bit better today - and my husband's brief is due today and his schedule will hopefully return to some normalcy tonight!

That being said, this week's menu plan is just a repeat of last week's menu plan - pretty much the same of everything. We are having the Angel Chicken with broccoli tonight, and then filling in the rest of the week with chicken tacos, veggie burgers, and dijon chicken breasts.

The good news is - very little grocery shopping for me this week!

This post is linked to Menu Plan Monday at I'm an Organizing Junkie and Finding Joy in My Kitchen.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Little Kitchen Helpers

I admit it - I am NOT one of those moms who really enjoys cooking with her kids. I feel terrible for saying it, but they slow things down, make a huge mess, waste ingredients, and in the long run, just make a lot more work for me. But I'm trying to get better. Trying to be more patient. Trying to just enjoy their little minds' curiosities about what goes on in the kitchen. And for that I am truly grateful. My son and daughter LOVE to help out in the kitchen, and I'm hoping that continues on for many years when I will need...and actually want...their help.

Here are my two little budding chefs:

Alison, age 4: who says a princess can't cook?
Christopher, age 2: All dressed up and ready to cook!

This post is linked to Gratituesday at Heavenly Homemakers.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Tomato Tortellini Soup

This is one of my 4-year-old daughter's favorite meals. I adapted this recipe from one I saw in Taste of Home a couple of years ago. It combines two of her favorite foods: cheese-stuffed noodles and tomato soup (or as my kids call it, "red soup"). It is easy and packed with flavor. I envy those who are able to can their own homemade tomato soup because that would be delicious in this dish (and make it a bit healthier)! My family of four will easily go through one pot of this soup, and if you'd like lots of leftovers you can double to make a nice big batch!

Tomato Tortellini Soup


9 oz. package cheese tortellini
2 cans condensed tomato soup (I use the Campbell's Healthy Request brand for less sodium)
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 cup half and half
3 cups low fat milk
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup chopped oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes

Cook the tortellini according to package directions. While the noodles are boiling away, combine the rest of the ingredients in a large soup pot over low-medium heat. Drain the tortellini and add to the rest of the soup ingredients. Cook until heated through. Serve as is, or it's also really good topped with a little shredded parmesean cheese.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Menu Plan: Week of 7/11/11



Back to "formal" menu planning - hooray! Pretty simple menu plan for us this week, as hubby will have a busy week at work and may be working late some evenings. Plus, I'm trying not to use the oven much to keep the house a bit cooler. Here is what we have planned:

Breakfasts:
Cereal and fruit
Scrambled eggs and toast
Yogurt
Whole Wheat Muffins and fruit

Lunches:
PB&J, carrot sticks, yogurt
Mac and Cheese, grapes
Pita chips and hummus, fruit
Poor Man's Pizza, carrot sticks, fruit
leftovers

Suppers:
Monday: Veggie/Black Bean Burgers (from the freezer), pasta salad, fruit salad
Tuesday: Slow Cooker Angel Chicken, lettuce salad, green beans
Wednesday: Daughter's first night of T-Ball so we'll be eating out afterwards or home for leftovers
Thursday: Dijon Chicken Breasts (new recipe), sweet potato fries, lettuce salad
Friday: Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos, fruit salad
Sat and Sun: ?? (I'm not really planning much on the weekends anymore during summertime!)

This post is linked to Menu Plan Monday at I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Settled in.

Yes, it's really a month between posts now. We are settled in to our new home and, thank God, we are now the proud owners of only ONE home as we closed on the sale of our beloved little St. Paul home on June 30th. We adore our new neighborhood, larger house, spacious backyard, and all of the niceties of suburban living. Who knew that having an attached garage and a driveway would make a girl so happy? While I loved living in the heart of a large city for nearly ten years, I do not miss the city bus barreling by my house starting at 5am every day or the near-hourly police/ambulance/fire sirens. Out here, it is quiet. It is peaceful. I have turkeys meandering through my backyard. My children have a quiet and safe street to play on. Our neighbors actually come out of their homes to talk to us. All of this is new to us - and we love it!

I am also a bit more settled in in the kitchen, too. Tonight I made a family favorite that I hadn't made in ages - Tomato Tortellini Soup with a
Caesar salad. I'll post the soup recipe soon! We are going to try do some painting this weekend, too, if my hubby has the time. My daughter has requested a light pink room, we will paint one wall in my son's room a dark blue, and then paint the baby's room a very light blue (no, we don't know the gender of the baby but I think a light blue will be pretty and calming either way!)

I started menu planning again a couple of weeks ago, too, so I will begin posting those on Mondays again, too. Blogging life will be back to normal - at least for two months until baby #3 arrives!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Update

Has it really been a month and a half since my last post? Wow, I'm sorry. But here's an update:

1. We moved into our new home on May 14th. It was a cold, crazy, rainy day but we got the job done. We LOVE our new home, new city and new neighborhood. We are "settled" but no where near organized. I think that will take another year.
2. We finally sold our other home and will close on that home on June 30th!
3. I'm nearly 24 weeks along already with baby #3!! I feel great, other than still pretty tired. But I blame the tiredness on the fact that I have a very active 4-year-old and 2-year-old to chase after in addition to (already) being hugely pregnant. Really, I'm so big that I think I may have a 13 pound baby...

I am looking forward to posting more again ( and hopefully more regularly ) soon. Recipes, household stuff, menu planning...I miss all of that stuff since we've been moving and getting settled. Look for more to come soon!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Menu Plan Monday: Week of 4/25/11


Talk about sporadic blog posts. Packing to move into a new house in three weeks, trying to sell our current house, a low-energy-want-to-sleep-all-the-time pregnancy while chasing after two kids, and planning and celebrating a 4-year-old's birthday has led to very little time (or desire, to be real truthful) to blog. But I hate entering the week without a meal plan, so sitting down and writing it out on my blog today actually helped me make one for this week. We have some delicious ham and mashed potatoes left over from Easter dinner yesterday, so we'll be using that up throughout the week. I'm also trying to dig into the freezer to use up some food before we move. Here's our plan:


Breakfasts:

Ham and cheese omelets, toast
cold cereal, toast
Whole Wheat Muffins, bananas
Oatmeal, raisins

Lunches:
Ravioli with marinara sauce (I just whipped up today a can each of tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and tomato paste, and added some garlic, basil, oregano, salt and pepper, and a little brown sugar = a quick and easy pasta sauce), orange slices
Turkey sandwiches, cottage cheese, carrot sticks
leftover pizza, apple slices
Mac and cheese, green beans

Suppers:
Monday: hubby working late - soup and sandwiches for me and the kids

Tuesday: pizza party fundraiser for my son's Early Childhood Education school

Wednesday: Cheesy Ham and Pasta Bake, mixed vegetables, lettuce salad, orange slices

Thursday: leftovers

Friday: Cheddar Ranch Burgers (new recipe), potato patties (made from leftover mashed potatoes from Easter), peas

Saturday: Baked Ziti (from the freezer), lettuce salad, carrots

Sunday: leftovers

This post is linked to Menu Plan Monday at I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Menu Plan: Week of 4/4/11



I have been half-hazardly menu planning since our decision to sell our house. Boxes everywhere + cleaning + an attempt to de-clutter = my desire to fly by the seat of my pants a bit with our meals. On that note, it's no surprise that we ate out a lot and ate a lot of unhealthy foods during this time. So, back to it. I'm trying to use up some foods we have in the freezer and pantry so there isn't much shopping this week. Here's what we have planned:

Breakfasts:
Applesauce bread
Oatmeal, bananas
Cold cereal, toast
Whole Wheat Oatmeal Pancakes (leftover from Sunday)

Lunches:
Tomato Soup and grilled cheese, apple slices
Hummus, pita chips, carrot sticks
Chicken strips, cottage cheese, oranges
Creamy Macaroni and Cheese, peas, fruit salad
leftovers

Suppers:
Monday: Turkey Noodle Casserole (using leftover frozen turkey)
Tuesday: Tilapia, brown rice, peas
Wednesday: Sticky Chicken in the Crockpot, mashed potatoes, gravy (this will be my first time ever attempting homemade gravy - pray for me.), green beans
Thursday: Chicken Noodle Soup (using leftover chicken and broth from Wed.), grilled cheese, fruit salad
Friday - Sun.: in-laws are in town so it's up to the husband and probably out to eat a couple of times

Check out I'm an Organizing Junkie for menu planning ideas!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

I'm back!

The house is officially on the market. The market is slow, but we are praying that showings and interest will pick up when the warmer weather starts (hopefully!) soon. My patience and energy have really been challenged by trying to keep a house "show-ready" (clean, picked up, ready for someone to see at a moment's notice) with a 2-year-old and 3-year-old. The following sentence actually came out of my mouth the other day, as I told my husband: "I would rather take the bar exam again than try to sell a house with a toddler and a preschooler." I have NEVER said that about anything, so you know I'm a little stressed. (Granted, I think that a bit of an exaggeration on my part.)

Plus, throw the following into the mix - I'm pregnant with Baby #3! We are due in late September and couldn't be happier. So not only am I keeping a house "show-ready" with two little ones, I am doing so with the energy level of a sloth.

But I am feeling better these days and there isn't much more to do with the house other than WAIT. So I'm back, ready to blog about some stuff in the coming weeks. It's good to be back!

Monday, February 21, 2011

A blogging break

Life is very busy around our house lately. Life is always busy, but extra busy these days. We made the decision to put our little home on the market next week. Needless to say, we have a LOT of work to do in order to get our home "show ready." Lately, it seems the only thing I've been blogging about lately anyway is my menu plan which, I hate to say, just isn't that interesting by itself. :-)

So, I'm taking a small break from blogging to give myself a little more time to concentrate on getting the house ready and my kids. I hope to be back in a month or two when the house is (hopefully) sold and we've found our new house!

Blessings to all,
Holly T.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Menu Plan: Week of 2/14/11



Well, we're back from a great week's vacation in Florida. While we were gone, we had some work done to our house and let's just say that after returning late Saturday night, my house definitely was not clean. Sunday proved to be a laundry and lazy day. So here it is...Monday....hubby is back to work, the kids are already restless, my house is a disaster, and I don't have any food in the house. After a trip to the grocery store today, here is what I plan to make this week. (I'm only planning suppers this week - I have zero energy or desire right now to even think of what we'll do for breakfast or lunch.)

Monday: Spaghetti with CrockPot Marinara Sauce, lettuce salad
Tuesday: Vegetable Barley Soup (from the freezer - carryover from two weeks ago), grilled ham and cheese sandwiches
Wednesday: Chicken Parmesan (using leftover marinara sauce), green beans, whole wheat pasta
Thursday: Barbeque sandwiches, pasta salad, peas
Friday: Homemade Pizza, lettuce salad
Saturday: Clean out the Fridge Night!
Sunday: ??
This post is linked to Menu Plan Monday at I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Menu Plan: Week of 1/31/11



I cannot believe it's almost February! Despite being cooped up during this long, cold Minnesota winter, we are still eating fairly healthy in our house. I'm trying to clean out some things from my freezer and pantry this week, and so far my grocery list only has 5 items on it for the week! Here's what we have planned for the week:

Breakfasts:
Blueberry and Spinach Smoothies (new recipe - we'll see how my kids like this one!)
Whole Wheat Oatmeal Pancakes (leftover from Sunday), bananas
cold cereal, toast
bagels with cream cheese, fruit

Lunches:
Fish sticks (a new kid favorite - not from scratch but it's a treat every now and then!), apple slices, crackers
PB&J, crackers, grapes
Tomato soup, grilled cheese, carrot sticks with ranch dressing
Hummus and pita chips, orange slices
leftovers

Suppers:
Sunday: Homemade Pizza, lettuce salad
Monday: Vegetable Barley Soup (from the freezer), grilled ham and cheese, pineapple
Tuesday: Turkey and Spinach Enchiladas, refried bean dip (half of this recipe), chips
Wednesday: leftovers
Thursday: Beef and Bean Chili (yes, for the THIRD week in a row! My husband loves this stuff!)
Friday: Chipotle take-out!
Sat. and Sun: ??

This post is linked to Menu Plan Monday at I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Computer area clutter - finished!

As I've mentioned at least 5,000 times since I started this blog, we live in a very small house. The only place we've found to put our computer is, unfortunately, on our kitchen countertop. Not the prettiest of all places, but it works. This space gets very cluttered with incoming mail, recipes and coupons, notes, magazines, preschool information, pens and pencils, etc. It is a part of my home that causes me anxiety because there is really no hiding it when people come over. So, as part of my de-cluttering for 2011 resolution, I decided to tackle this mess.

Here is the before:


I decided the vertical magazine holder (which you can't even see because it's hidden behind so much stuff) wasn't cutting it anymore. I wanted my stuff even more hidden. So I found this great, small (and cute) hanging file folder container at Target for $9. The hardest part was picking the color...so many cute ones...but I went with a muted orange. Here's my new baby:

I tossed a bunch of old and/or outdated and unread magazines. I organized my piles of stuff into categories like bills, household information, preschool information, coupons, recipes, etc. Here is the "after" of my file folder box:

A good cleaning later, here is the finished space:
Hooray!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Pear Blueberry Muffins

My little two-year-old is a fruit lover. His recent favorite is pears (I found a great deal at Aldi and got 8 pears for $2!) And forget about blueberries...I can't keep enough of them in the house for my little guy. So, I decided to make a pear/blueberry combo muffin which turned out really well. I found a base recipe but changed quite a bit of it to make it a bit healthier and suit our family's tastes. (Note that I'm still getting my family used to the taste of sucanat so I'm making a gradual transition - you can use more in place of the brown sugar if you like, or just use brown sugar if you don't have sucanat.) These also freeze very well. Enjoy!

Pear Blueberry Muffins

1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
2 T. butter, very soft
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. sucanat
2 eggs
1/2 c. plain yogurt
1 cup pears, peeled and diced
1 cup blueberries

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray. In a large bowl, stir together the flours, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and ginger. In a medium bowl, cream butter with brown sugar and sucanat. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Mix in the yogurt. Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture, stirring just until combined. (The mixture will be quite thick.) Stir in the pears and blueberries. Fill the muffin cups evenly with the mixture. Bake for 17 to 20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Menu Plan: Week of 1/24/11


My husband has FINALLY surpassed the two weeks of "Phase 1" of the South Beach Diet (no carbs, no fruit, no sugars) and we have now entered a much more enjoyable and menu-planning-friendly "Phase 2" (whole grain carbs and most fruit allowed). However, two the "Phase 1" meals are such hits that we are having them again this week: the Beef and Bean Chili and Chicken Parmesean were delicious! (And I made the Pork Satay last night and husband said it was some of the best pork he's ever had). So, despite eating very healthy, we are also eating very well. Here is what is in store for us this week:

Breakfasts:
Whole Wheat Oatmeal Pancakes (leftover from Sunday), bananas
cold cereal, toast
Pumpkin Spice Granola (didn't make last week), yogurt
Whole wheat bagels, cream cheese
Pear Blueberry Muffins (from the freezer - recipe to come soon!)

Lunches:
Chicken strips, cottage cheese, carrot sticks
PB&J, pickles, apple slices
Creamy Mac and Cheese, orange slices, green beans
Vegetable soup, crackers, cheese sticks, apple slices

Suppers:
Chicken Parmesean, whole wheat noodles, lettuce salad
Beef and Bean Chili, lettuce salad
Chipotle Beef Burritos, whole wheat tortilla chips, salsa and sour cream
Chicken Quesadillas, green beans, applesauce
Tilapia (didn't make last week), broccoli

This post is linked to Menu Plan Monday at I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Menu Plan: Week of 1/17/11


This week, I'm still trying to be a good, supportive wife and help my husband out with his second week of "Phase 1" of the South Beach Diet. But let me tell you, the cookin' ain't been easy, ladies. Yes, I'm getting lots of great recipes from The South Beach Diet Quick and Easy Cookbook, but I miss my make-ahead meals of casseroles, crock pot meals, and spaghetti. The good news is that we are eating lots of fresh, nutritious, whole foods during this grand experiment. With the exception of the chili, all of the recipes for suppers are new this week.

Here's what's in store for us:

Breakfasts:
cold cereal and toast
Pumpkin Spice Granola (new recipe), yogurt
Whole Wheat Buttermilk Pancakes (with blueberries, leftover from Sunday!)
Cinnamon Swirl Toast (new recipe), fruit

Lunches:
Creamy Mac and Cheese, orange slices, peas
Hummus with pita chips, carrot sticks, apples
Cheese Quesadillas, refried beans, chips, pears
PB&J, crackers, cottage cheese
Fried Egg Sandwiches, fruit

Suppers:
Chicken Parmesean (with some whole wheat noodles for me and the kids), broccoli
Beef and Bean Chili (yes I made this last week and I'm making it again!), lettuce salad, carrot sticks
Pork Satay, green beans
Tilapia, lettuce salad
Tomato Basil Soup, cannelini salad

This post is linked to Menu Plan Mondays at I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Great Pantry Clean-Out - completed!

We live in a very small house. But one of the many things I love about our little cozy house is that, despite its small size, our house has a very nice-sized kitchen and walk-in pantry. I often wonder what I would do without my pantry. But...as shameful as it is, my lovely pantry is often turned into the "shove it in there for now because I don't want to deal with it" spot. Plus, because our house is so small, the pantry also holds the recycling, kids' art supplies, brooms and mop, step stool, and extra folding chairs. There have been times when I haven't even been able to walk in to our walk-in pantry. As I stated in my previous post, my pantry just one of the areas of my home that needed good gutting and organizing. Here is the shameful "before picture"...(blush):



(Yes, that is a 12-pack of Diet Coke floor. And yes, I wrote a few a months ago about how I was giving up Diet Coke. But in my defense, my mother had come up for a visit and she drinks Diet Coke, so I bought some for her during her stay. I'm not going to lie and say that I haven't snuck one or two during naptime since, but I'm doing much better.)

Wow. I threw out nearly a bag of stale and old crackers, chips, and some expired beverages. (What a waste, right?) I also emptied TWO bags of dried up Play-Doh containers, broken crayons, used up coloring books, and old art projects. I moved some things around, cleaned the floor and shelving, and...
The "after":



It feels so good to have this cleaned out and organized. Not to mention it's great to be to actually walk in to my walk-in pantry.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Menu Plan: Week of 1/10/11


We are leaving for Florida in less than a month!! Hooray for vacations in warm, sunny weather. We cannot wait to escape the sub-zero temps of Minnesota in February. But, my hubby is a bit concerned about hitting the beach after this cold, comfort-food-filled Minnesota winter. So, he is following the South Beach diet this month in preparation for a beach life in a few weeks. We both followed the South Beach diet a year or so before we had children, and with great results. While I am not a fan of fad diets, this one really promotes healthy eating, whole and unprocessed foods, and low sugar. I felt terrific when I generally followed the South Beach eating plan. Don't we all strive for that every day?

That being said, I'm trying to help him out and support him this week by creating a menu plan following the "Phase 1" foods of the South Beach Diet. All of these recipes I found in this cookbook I bought about four or five years ago, The South Beach Diet Quick and Easy Cookbook by Arthur Agatston. Should be a tasty week! The kids and I will eat with hubby in the evening (but will secretly eat our carbs during the day when he's at work!)

Breakfasts:
Blueberry Muffins
Whole Wheat Oatmeal Pancakes (freezer), fruit
cold cereal and toast
oatmeal, bananas

Lunches:
Poor Man's Pizza, pears
Hummus, pita chips, carrot sticks
Tomato soup, grilled ham and cheese, apples
leftovers

Suppers:
Monday: Beef and Bean Chili, cantaloupe

Tuesday: Greek Meatballs, Creamy Cauliflower Soup, lettuce salad

Wednesday: Kale and lentil stew (and probably some sandwiches for the kids)

Thursday: Chinese Steamed Chicken (and probably Creamy Mac and Cheese for the kids)

Friday: Mexican Chicken Soup, spinach salad

Saturday: Baked Barbeque Chicken, Sweet Potato Fries

This post is linked to Menu Plan Monday at I'm An Organizing Junkie!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The kitchen organization - completed!

So far, I'm doing pretty well on getting rid of stuff and organizing various parts of my home that have been driving me batty. One of the items on my list was my kitchen - cupboards were stuffed with way too many things that I haven't used in years, Tupperware containers with no lids, and kitchen gadgets I never used...or even opened.

After a couple of good nap-time cleaning sessions, I got it done. I am a tad ashamed of the "before" pictures, but this is all about honesty amongst us moms, right? Here are the before and after pics:

The area above my microwave...cluttered with vitamins and unused glassware and bowls:

I got rid of a box of glassware for donation, threw out old, cracked dishes, and moved the vitamins into the cabinet:


One of my kitchen cupboards that housed everything from our griddle, colanders, pasta bowls, Ziplocs and juice pitchers.


I gave away plenty of unused items, filled up another box for donation, and made room for everything we still need and use:



The dreaded Tupperware cupboard. Now that my kids are old enough that they aren't opening this up and playing in it every day, there was NO EXCUSE for how bad it had gotten. In my purging haste, I forgot to take a picture of the "before". I filled an entire large garbage bag with unused or mismatched containers for donation. No threat of items falling out on me when I open it now:


And another "cannot get this door closed" cupboard, filled with mixing bowls, baking pans, muffin tins, cookie sheets, and cooling racks. Again, I forgot the "before" picture. This is the one cupboard that I didn't get rid of anything in, since I use everything in there. It just needed a good organizing and cleaning:


I have plenty left to do to get my little house in order, but cleaning out parts of my kitchen was a pretty good start. Even my husband was impressed. :-)