Sunday, December 16, 2012

A hug like never before.

"An entire kindergarten class is apparently unaccounted for."

This is the sentence I heard the newscaster say on the car radio as I was driving around running errands with my four-year-old and one-year-old in the back seat.  I heard this sentence as I was at stoplight at the intersection, waiting to turn left to go on to our street, directly across from my daughter's elementary school.  I looked at the clock.  It said 12:32.  I looked at the playground.  It was empty.  My daughter leaves recess to go to lunch at 12:30.  I just missed seeing her on the playground by two minutes.  She is a kindergartener.  

My daughter's bus finally pulled up to our driveway at 4:05 p.m.  I'd been waiting and staring out the front window since 3:45, anxiously awaiting for 4:00 when I go get my coat and wait outside to greet my little girl.  There she is - looking like a giant purple marshmallow in her snowpants, coat, boots and hat.  Grinning ear to ear because it's a Friday, she made a new friend today, and tomorrow she gets to sleep in and help daddy make pancakes and bacon for breakfast.  She has no idea what has happened.  She has no idea why her mom runs toward her even before she takes the last step off the bus, scoops all of her 55 pounds up in her arms and hugs her tighter than maybe ever before.   She hugs me back and tells me that she has a new library book in her backpack to read tonight.  I glance up at the busdriver and he gives a soft smile and knowing nod.  And we go back into our house and start our weekend.

20 little lives taken so early.  I can only imagine what they were doing - listening to their teacher read them a story, working on their daily math lesson, talking about the calendar.  Six brave lives of courageous teachers and staff taken too soon.  May God give comfort and peace to those families affected by the terrible tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary.  I pray for you all.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Using up leftover roast beef: Homemade Burrito Bowls

I finally made an entire roast the other day in the slow cooker.  I have a general to aversion to large, whole pieces of meat but I have conquered my fear in the last few months.  I am even cooking entire whole chickens now!  (The funny thing is, there is really nothing more simple than putting a whole chicken or roast into the crockpot.  What was I so afraid of?)  So this week I had a nice amount of leftover, tender, yummy roast beef to use up.  I decided to play around with it a bit (what?  being creative in the kitchen?  I'm totally branching out these days...) and create a homemade version of Chipotle's Burrito Bowl.

Everyone in my family loves Chipotle take-out.  In fact, we were falling into a pattern of having it about three times a month.  But at about $30 a pop each time to feed my whole crew, that really adds up.  So I dug around in my pantry and freezer and came up with the homemade version of my favorite Chipotle item - the burrito bowl.  My husband took a few bites and said "This is even better than Chipotle's."  Wowzers - now there's a compliment!  I'm kicking myself for not taking a picture of the assembled bowls because they were a thing of beauty.  Really.

Here's what I used, but use whatever you have on hand to suit your tastes and how many mouths you have to feed.  I apologize that the measurements are no where near exact - I just threw some stuff together and now I'm guessing:

Homemade Burrito Bowls:

2-3 cups leftover cooked roast beef
1/4 - 1/2 cup water
1 Tablespoon (or 1/3 packet) taco seasoning (I used this homemade taco seasoning)
2-3 cups cooked brown rice
1 can black beans
1/2 - 1 tsp. cumin
1/4 - 1/2 chopped onion
Toppings such as sour cream, lettuce, salsa, cheese

Combine water and taco seasoning in small bowl and whisk together.  Shred the leftover roast beef and place in saucepan with the water/seasoning mixture.  Simmer on low for a while.  Add more water as necessary to keep the beef moist.

Saute the chopped onion in a bit of olive oil.  Simmer the black beans (undrained) in a small saucepan with the cooked onion and cumin.  Simmer until heated through and the cumin flavor is really incorporated into the beans.

To assemble your bowls, start by putting the hot cooked rice on the bottom.  Top with a hearty scoop of black beans and follow with the beef.  And then comes the fun part - toppings of your choice!  We used guacamole (I found a packet of Wholly Guacamole in my freezer that I used, otherwise I would've left this out), sour cream, shredded romaine lettuce, salsa, green Tabasco, and some shredded Monterey Jack cheese.  Serve with chips and salsa.

Yumminess and love in a bowl.  And no where near $30 to feed us all.

This post is linked to Frugal Friday at Life As Mom.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Menu Plan: week of 7/16/12

Wow, it's been soooo long since my last post that I don't even recognize the Blogger page to type my posts anymore!  It is next to impossible to find a spare moment to come down the basement (where the computer is) by myself for longer than two minutes to type a post.  I've tried doing it with three kids running/crawling around me and that just leads to frustration and a cranky mommy shouting "Please give me five minutes of peace to type!"  So today I've squeezed in a few moments while all three kids are resting at the same time.  This will be short and sweet.

It is 100 degrees here today (again) so I've planned a menu using my stovetop and slow cookers.  Here is what is on our menu this week:

Monday:  Slow Cooker Roast Beef (my mom's recipe - just throw in two cans of Golden Mushroom soup with the roast and you have instant tender roast w/ gravy), Crockpot baked potatoes (yes, I have both slow cookers going today), corn, watermelon
Tuesday:  Beef and Bean Burritos (making up a recipe using leftover roast beef), chips and salsa
Wednesday:  Mac and Cheese soup (new recipe), fruit salad
Thursday:  Clean out the fridge night!
Friday:  Homemade pizza, Caesar salad

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

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Yes, I'm still here!

I really do check my blog every day. Almost every day. I log on to read the blog posts from the listing of "my blog list." I love everyone's creativity and inspiration and encouragement on their blogs. But just not mine, I guess. Three and a half months have passed since my last post.
The Family 
We are all well. Hubby is still working hard but took time off to take the two older kids fishing this past weekend. He also has a six-day fishing trip in Canada coming up that will hopefully recharge his batteries and give him some much needed R&R.

My oldest daughter Alison turned FIVE years old in April and we celebrated with a "Hello Kitty" themed party. She also graduated from preschool last week and has been accepted into all-day kindergarten at our neighborhood elementary school!

My three-year-old son Christopher is still full of energy and growing by leaps and bounds every day. His current obsessions are aliens and toy guns and baby dolls. Thankfully not all at the same time.

My baby girl Katie is almost 8 months old. She is a beautiful, happy, sweet little girl that is still very much attached to her mama. I had intended to wrap up breastfeeding by now (six months is my comfort zone) but stubborn little girl hates the bottle and prefers her mama's milk straight from the tap. :-) I am hopeful that she will be weaned by our vacation in August so mama can enjoy some beach time without the hooter hider...

The House 
I still love our new house, which really isn't "new" anymore since we celebrated our one-year anniversary in this house in May. We gutted our laundry room/mud room closet and had a system installed so it's much more organized now. I'm working on cleaning out some closets and getting a few messy places under control. If/when I get back into the swing of blogging, I hope to post some before/after pictures soon.

The Kitchen 
I've been menu planning as usual but rarely does it get followed these days. Hubby's crazy schedule and quite a bit of traveling have left the menu plan a bit ignored. I also haven't cooked anything new in quite a while. I think my family is getting bored with the same old stuff so I am hopeful to try out some new recipes in the coming weeks and hopefully blog about some of it.

That's it for now. Baby needs a diaper change, boy has fallen while climbing up onto the potty without a step stool and oldest girl is desperately crying out for someone to play CandyLand with her.

Such is the life of a SAHM.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

My Valentines

My Alison...

who comes up and gives me the biggest hugs ever and says, "Oh mama, I just can't get enough of you!"

My Christopher...

who is energetic, kind, funny and says "Excuse me" without being prompted in the stores when he walks by people.

My Katie...

my smiley little sweetheart who giggles and smiles right before she sneeezes.

I'm lucky to have the three sweetest Valentines ever!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Bread Machine Honey Wheat Buttermilk Bread

I have making this bread at least once a week lately. It is easy to throw together, uses ingredients I have on hand, and makes the house smell terrific. I have yet to master making "real" bread (kneading for umpteen minutes, letting it rise for however many hours, etc.) so the bread machine is one of my best friends. This is a nice dense bread. My kids and husband love it and, between the four of us, we usually go through one loaf in two meals - the night I make it for a side for supper, followed by the yummiest toast you've ever had the next morning for breakfast.

Bread Machine Honey Wheat Buttermilk Bread

1 cup plus 1 T. buttermilk, at room temp (or warmed in the microwave for the few seconds)
1 T. butter, room temp and cut into small pieces
2 T. honey
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
2 cups bread flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp. yeast

Put the ingredients in the bread machine in the order listed. Use the whole wheat and light crust settings on your bread machine. (FYI: for my Oster bread machine, this takes 3 hours and 40 minutes until done.)

Monday, January 30, 2012

Menu Plan Monday - 1/30/12

This week's menu plan is pretty short as the kids and I are leaving town on Thursday for at least seven days while we are having nearly the entire interior of our house painted. We'll be staying with my parents (about a 3 1/2 hour drive away) for the week. On a quiet farm with no internet access...should be relaxing (hopefully!) We will miss my husband dearly, who of course has to stay behind, work, and put up with the paint smell and mess for the whole week. Here is what I have planned for our very short cooking week:

Waffles and bananas
cold cereal and toast
Blueberry Muffins and yogurt

Chicken strips, carrots, cottage cheese
Cheese quesadillas, apple slices, chips and salsa

Monday: Spaghetti with slow cooker marinara sauce (from the freezer), fruit salad, garlic toast made with leftover buttermilk honey bread (recipe for the bread to come this week!)

Tuesday: Slow Cooker Chili (carryover from last week), cornbread, fruit salad

Wednesday: clean out the fridge night!

Thursday - next week: out of town!

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

Friday, January 27, 2012

Friday Favorite Finds - 1/27/12

Today I'm participating Friday Favorite Finds hosted by Finding Joy in my Kitchen. Here are some recipes I found this past week that look oh-so-yummy and I look forward to trying them out soon!

Broccoli Cheese Soup

from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

CrockPot Ranch Pork Chops
from Living, Laughing and Loving

Caulifower Fried Rice
from Full Belly Sisters

Chicken Dumpling Casserole
from The Shady Porch

Check out Finding Joy in my Kitchen for more great recipes.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Whole Wheat Banana Muffins

I'm crazy about muffins. I like using what I have on hand to make a fresh batch of yummy-smelling and yummy-tasting muffins about once a week in our house. Muffin recipes that I have posted so far include Pear Blueberry Muffins, Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins, Banana Prune Muffins, Blueberry Muffins, Whole Wheat Muffins, and Raisin Bran Muffins.

Apparently I go a bit crazy with muffin recipes. Mmmm. Now I'm hungry.

And here's one more that I made this past week. I had some very ripe bananas to use up. I wanted my husband to be able to take whatever I made with him to work that morning for breakfast, so making my usual banana bread was out of the question because I didn't have one hour for baking time. So I came up with these muffins. Super easy. Super simple. Super quick. Super yummy.

Whole Wheat Banana Muffins

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1/3 cup butter, melted
3 large very ripe bananas, mashed

In a medium bowl, sift together the flours, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, mix together the bananas, egg, sugar and melted butter. Add the flour mixture and stir just until combined. Scoop into greased muffin tins and bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

This recipe makes 12 yummy regular-sized muffins.

Monday, January 23, 2012

A shout out to working moms

I watched an old episode of Dr. Phil recently on the "mommy wars." Working moms (or "work outside the home" moms") versus stay-at-home moms. The debate got pretty heated on both sides.

Stay-at-home moms claiming they are doing the best thing for their families by raising their children at home and being there for their kids "full time", keeping their kids out of daycare where they are raised by someone else, tending to the household duties, and making whatever sacrifices they have to in order to live off of one income.

Working moms claiming they are doing the best for their families and themselves by providing a second income for their family, raising thriving children by sending them to educational, social and loving childcare environments, being a better mom because they are taking care of themselves by having a career and a "life" outside of the home.

I am a full-time stay-at-home mom. By choice. I quit my job as a litigator when my oldest daughter, now 4 1/2 years old, was only 4 months old. I had the daycare for my daughter all lined up. The deposit was paid. But, my husband is also a litigator and, at the time, it just wasn't workable to me to have both of us keeping the work schedules that our job required. There were trials, depositions, client emergencies, and last-minute briefs due. This type of work life does not lend itself well to the standard "drop off and pick up" from daycare schedule. Plus, I really just wanted to be there with my kid all day. So, with the 110% full support of my awesome husband, I quit my job and have been home ever since.

I now have a kid in preschool so our days aren't quite as lazy as they used to be, but for the most part, the kids and I lead a fairly laid-back life with few stressors. We have preschool drop off three mornings a week, but otherwise we are not rushing out or getting up early in the mornings. We eat lunch at home when we want to. The kids have a fairly routine schedule throughout the day consisting of meals, naps, play, books, errands and TV time. When they go to bed, I don't have too much else to do other than pay the occasional bill or clean up the kitchen and living room. It's a good life that fits us well.

And to you working moms, let me say that you are AMAZING. You make it all work. You have to stick to stricter schedules and be more organized than I could ever be. You get everyone ready and out the door on time. You get yourself to work on time and do an amazing job there. You come home and switch gears into "mommy mode" and tend to the needs of your family. And then, when everyone is in bed, you likely have some work from the office you need to finish or start getting things ready and organized for the next day. I can only imagine that there are many times when you are at work thinking of your family and are at home thinking of work. You have a lot going on and you make it work. It works for you. It works for your family.

I often get stuck in a rut of feeling sorry for myself..."stuck at home" all day with the little ones. The only adult conversation I get is with the cashier ar Target. A daily shower is not a given. But really, I have it easy. Yes, I work very hard all day long. I am proud to say that I have never sat on the couch and ate a single Bon-Bon. :-). But I don't have to drop off a preschooler, a toddler and an infant at daycare each day while juggling my previous 60-70 hour per week career. I won't have to figure out how to leave work in order to pick up a sick child from school. I can go to Target on a Wednesday morning in order to avoid weekend errands.

But let me say this: I praise every single working mom out there. I do not judge you or think you, for whatever reason, are doing wrong by your family for having a job outside of the home. I do not judge you for having your kids attend daycare or having a nanny come into your home to watch your kids. In fact, I think you must have super-strength and super organizational skills. Not only are you able to get yourself ready in the morning, but you also manage to wake up, feed and clothe your children. You manage to get your things in order for the day as well as getting backpacks, coats, homework, lunches and mittens ready for your little ones. Many of you do this while wearing a nice suit and a pair of heels. You figure out who stays home with the sick kid and how to stay in touch with work while doing so. You get everything done, and then some. God bless you for that.

There should never be any type of "war" between moms. We are mommies, first and foremost. Let's support each other and help each other. Stay-at-home moms: please don't think your neighbor is "getting off easy" when she drives her two girls to daycare each morning. Working moms: please don't think that stay-at-home moms do nothing all day but change diapers, watch Days of our Lives, and post pictures of our kids on Facebook. We all are strong, wonderful women trying to raise strong, wonderful children. Let's do it together.

That being said, I am grateful for my "job" as a stay-at-home mom. It works for me. And right now, I wouldn't have it any other way. Hooray for moms everywhere!

This post is linked to Gratituesday at Heavenly Homemakers.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Menu Plan Monday: week of 1/23/12

This last week held two "firsts" for me: First, I made it out of Target with buying ONLY what was on my list...that has never happened. :-) Second, the list of suppers I had mapped out for the week went exactly as planned. Each supper was made on the planned evening, and that has NEVER happened before. Funny, though, that it was a week when I didn't post my menu plan! Anyway, I made barbeque sandwiches, tomato tortellini soup, homemade pizza, and spaghetti with meatballs (with plenty of leftovers, of course.) Here's what I have planned for this week:

Whole Wheat Banana Muffins, fruit
Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Pancakes (from freezer), bananas
cereal and toast
Yogurt and Peanut Butter Granola

Creamy Mac and Cheese, carrot sticks with ranch dressing
Kitchen Floor Picnic (sandwiches, chips, pickles, and juice boxes)
Cheesy Egg Sandwiches, clementines
Crackers and hummus, fruit, cottage cheese

Monday: Burritos (from freezer), chips and salsa, fruit salad
Tuesday: Crockpot Chili, cornbread, fruit salad
Wednesday: leftovers
Thursday: Teryaki pork tenderloin, roasted potatoes, green beans
Friday: Chunky Chicken Soup (from freezer), lettuce salad, whole wheat bread machine buttermilk bread (favorite new recipe coming soon!)
Saturday: Clean out the fridge night!
Sunday: ??

Check out more menu plans at I'm an Organizing Junkie!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Pancakes

Recently, on a bitterly cold morning when their daddy was traveling for business and we had no preschool or errands to hurry out the door for that day, my daughter asked me for "something special" for breakfast. I had a craving for something a little sweet - but also somewhat healthy - so I threw together this quick and tasty batch of chocolate chip pancakes. I tweaked a recipe from the site by substituting some whole wheat flour and cutting back the sugar. The results were yummy! The leftovers also reheat well in the toaster or oven.

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Pancakes

1 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. whole wheat flour
2 T. baking powder
scant 1/4 c. sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1 1/2 c. milk
1/4 c. canola oil
1/2 c. chocolate chips

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a medium bowl, combine the oil, eggs, and milk. Add to the dry ingredients and stir until moistened. Fold in the chocolate chips. Pour onto hot and lightly greased griddle (about 1/4 cup batter makes a nice sized pancake). Flip when bubbles begin to form and cook until second side is browned.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

What's new? My update.

Happy belated New Year to everyone! Hope everyone had a blessed holiday season. My baby is now 3 1/2 months old and I finally am beginning feel back amongst the living. I gave up blogging for a while since it was pretty low on my priority list. Showering and washing clothes so that we all have clean underwear definitely took precedence over blogging my menu plan each week. :-)

My little baby is now sleeping through the night (hooray!) and all three of my kids are waking up at a fairly predictable time each morning, which has allowed me to get up a little earlier each day and shower, put on makeup, get dressed and fix my hair. What a difference this makes in my day - especially for my attitude and energy level.

I've also been able to cook supper again and stick to our weekly menu plans fairly well. I have even ordered a couple of new cookbooks on Amazon and look forward to trying some recipes in there. (As a side note, I've done waaaay too much online shopping lately. It is so easy to surf the web on my iPad while nursing my daughter and, before you know it, the UPS man is making daily stops to our house!) I hope to get back to posting recipes again soon.

What else is new? Well, I'm on an organizational kick. I hit the dollar aisles at Target for a few things to help clean up and organize our mudroom/laundry room. I have given up all hope of ever having the time to have a spring garage sale, so all of the clothes that I have been saving up for that are going to be packed up for donation or consignment shops. My pantry is a mess and that is my next project. I am also in the process of compiling a home management notebook, which I so desperately need after reading what other bloggers have said about them. Hopefully more on all of that to come...

Losing the baby weight is still a challenge but it's happening, thank goodness. I am currently 35 pounds down from the day I came home from the hospital. (How is it possible that you go into the hospital, give birth to an 8 pound baby, and only leave 9 pounds lighter? Yikes.) The first 30 pounds came off fairly quickly and easily, but these last few pounds are going to be stinkers. I need to start exercising, so that is another goal of mine. Definitely starting with sit-ups. My post-third-baby-stomach is in need of some serious help that diet alone certainly will not fix.

Well, I hear the baby stirring so that is my time for now. I hope to post more soon with some updates on the above. I've been reading all of your blogs regarding food, nutrition, organization, child rearing, and crafts and am so inspired by all of you! I'm looking forward to a great 2012!