Sunday, March 30, 2014

Menu Planning Monday

I am really bad about "reinventing the wheel" when it comes to weeknight meals.  There are SO many things I have enjoyed about "menu blogging," and one of the biggest things is that I can look back to a previous week to help me plan.  One of the other advantages of blogging is that I don't find myself in the grocery store every day of the week.  I just go once, Sunday or Monday, with my menu plan in hand.

OK, maybe I found myself in the grocery store more than once last week.  I was there on Monday.  And then again on Wednesday.  And oh, yeah on Friday.  Ugh!  Last week was not a good week, planning-wise.  But it wasn't because of dinner, it was because of breakfast and lunch.  So, I have found out I am pretty good about having a plan for dinner, but not so good about the other two meals.  I'm working on that.  And it starts this week.

Camden absolutely loves the lasagna I make in the microwave, and I feel good about it because it has spinach in it, so I know he is getting a serving of leafy greens, and a serving of tomatoes in the sauce.  So I am going to make the lasagna on Monday and he and I can eat it for lunch a few times this week.

Now on to the dinner plan...

Macaroni Monday
Chicken Nuggets--I am going to try these, but instead of using breadcrumbs, I will use corn flakes (tip from my sister, the cook who doesn't ever follow a recipe :).  I want to be more like her!!!
Better-for-You Baked Mac and Cheese (with hidden veggies--always a plus)
Carrot Sticks

Taco Tuesday
Baseball night!  Last week I tried to get too fancy on baseball night and wound up feeling frazzled by the time we got to the ball field.  This week, I am doing something simple.  My boys love Trader Joe's fish nuggets and we like them too.  They will have fish nuggets and leftover mac and cheese before the game, and Justin and I will make fish tacos when we get home.

Fish Tacos
Stuff a corn tortilla with two fish sticks (cut into bite-sized pieces), broccoli slaw, and special sauce.

Special Sauce: Mix 1 cup ranch dressing with 1 chopped jalepeno pepper, 1 Tbsp chopped cilantro, and a generous squeeze of a lime.  This recipe also came from my talented sister and brother in law, whose names you may see on the cover of a cooking magazine one day. :)

Slow Cooker Pork Tacos

This is all you need.  Seriously!  The only thing not pictured is the cilantro.

We like tacos around here!  How else are we going to use up all our cilantro?!

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Campout (it was rained out last weekend)

Dinner out--we'll be pooped after the boys' piano recital, then baseball (Jonah) and derby car racing (Carson).

Breakfast Paninis

What are you having?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Share Site on Shutterfly

Why Wouldn't you...Start a Share Site on Shutterfly?

First I have to brag on my big boy a little.  Jonah had his first game this past Saturday and he earned the game ball for filling in for pitcher for a teammate who got hurt.  He struck out each player who came to the plate.  I'd say the coach was glad he picked Jonah to fill in. :)
Jonah with his game ball

I have been team mom many times for Jonah's baseball team, and when I discovered this share site on Shutterfly, I was SO excited about how much time it would save.

Canon is one of Jonah's best friends.  Jonah met Canon on the ball field several years ago.

Being team mom comes with lots of responsibilities.  Making the snack schedule, reminding parents to bring snack on their day, notifying parents of practices and games, and communicating in general.  

Shutterfly offers a share site that allows me to plug all this information in, and then be done with it!  The site sends reminders about games and snack assignments.  Members can add pictures taken during games for all other teammates to see.  

I am not team mom this season, but I did offer to set up the Mara Cubs site.  Jonah actually helped.  He thought it was so fun to plug in all the info--like mommy, like son.  He thinks it is so cool that you can add game results to the site, so he is going to enter that part for me after each game.  I am hoping the share site will help keep me accountable for taking pictures during the games.  We'll see. :)

There are lots of ways one can use the Shutterfly Share Site.  Just to name a few...

Cub Scouts
School Class
Book Club
Bible Study
Baby Shower
Birthday Party
Vacation Memories

So, if you need a way to organize and share pictures, why wouldn't you take a moment to set up a Shutterfly Share Site?  You'll be glad you did.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Acorn Squash Recipe

recipe from

Baby's Acorn Squash & Apple Bake 6-8 months+ 

1 acorn squash 
2 or 3 Macintosh apples
pinch of cinnamon 

1. Peel and dice apples 
2. Cut acorn or butternut squash in half, scoop out seeds
3. Place halves face UP in a pan and add with an inch of water to the pan
4. Place diced apples in the squash "holes" where the seeds were
Sprinkle with cinnamon if desired
5. Pour water over the apples so that there is water in the squash holes - cover pan with tinfoil 
6. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 40 minutes or until the “shell/skin” puckers and halves feel soft then scoop squash “meat” and apples out of the shell
4. Puree as needed, adding water to thin if required. You may also chop or dice and serve as a finger food meal.

I wasn't the best about making food ahead of time and freezing it when Jonah and Carson were little.  But this time around, I didn't have a choice.  I don't have time to puree Camden's food while I am getting dinner on the table for the rest of the family.  So, I have several favorites that I make every other week or so, and I freeze them in ice cube trays so that I can pop a few cubes out as the rest of dinner cooks, microwave (or thaw in the fridge), and Camden's veggie is ready to go.  He eats most of what we eat, but there are still a few veggies he is not fond of, so when I serve broccoli to my big boys, I give Camden acorn squash.  I still put some broccoli on his plate, because I know I need to keep trying to get him to eat it, but I want to make sure he has a full serving of veggies at dinner, and I know I can count on it if I feed him this puree.

Here are my favs in terms of ice cube trays and blenders...
Ninja blender from Bed, Bath and Beyond (with 20% off coupon)

Good Grips Ice Cube tray from BB&B also

I add a little brown sugar to mine, too, and he eats it up!  Enjoy!!!

Meal Planning Monday

Meal Planning Monday

Meatloaf Monday
Before going in the oven...

Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf
Everything tastes better with bacon.  This was a hit when I served it for our good friends during the last big snow. We have a baseball game tonight, so we need a quick meal.  During naptime today, I will prep this meal so that the meatloaf is ready to pop in the oven in time to eat dinner before the game.  If you make this meatloaf, omit the thyme.  I heeded the advice of the people who had reviewed this recipe and it turned out perfectly.  My husband even referred to this meal as the "best meatloaf ever," and that made my day.

Salad, Bread

The boys have a dentist appointment after school, so I will not have much time to get dinner together and on the table.  Perfect night for a crock pot meal!

Chicken in the Crock Pot aka Super Easy Chicken
This is a super easy dish.  In the future I am going to attempt to recreate the spices since I am sure I can make this with less sodium.  But for this week, I will make it this way...

Place 4 FROZEN chicken-breast halves in the crock pot.  Sprinkle packet of dry italian dressing mix on top (I like Good Seasons) and pour one cup warm water or chicken broth over the chicken.  Cook on low for 8-10 hours.  That's it!  And it turns out so tender and flavorful.  Serve over rice.
Mixed veggies


Wednesday is piano day, so after chasing a one-year old and assisting with homework while the big boys take turns practicing, I am pretty much done when we get home.  That is why we went out to eat last Wednesday!  So, it is my plan to make sure we have leftovers to choose from on Wednesday night so we can avoid the temptation to go out.  We should have plenty of meatloaf and chicken leftover.

Lemon Steamed Fish
Going out last Wednesday means I have all the makings of this dish in my fridge!  I buy frozen Tilapia filets from Costco, and they thaw out in minutes in a bowl of cold water.
Red Potatoes

Hot Dogs over a campfire!  The boys will be on an overnight birthday party adventure.

Breakfast for dinner--most likely breakfast paninis for us and waffles for the boys.

Dinner with our small group.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

This and That

God Will Use It

You know those things people say when they want you to feel better about a situation?  God will use your struggles...He wouldn't give you something you couldn't handle...He is bigger than this?  Well, they weren't helping when one of our little guys was struggling with anxiety.  I didn't want to hear it.

Until I heard it out of the mouth of my babe.

Carson deals with an anxiety that makes him afraid he is going to get sick at school.  His tummy hurts EVERY day.  It hurts when he is hungry.  It hurts when he is full.  It hurts when he is worried, tired, or scared.  I hear, "My tummy hurts," about 20 times a day.  On a good day.

So, we have started praying for Carson's tummy.  We pray before bed.  We pray before school.  I pray while he is at school.  And one day, Carson told me he prayed while at school.

Our bedtime conversation went something like this:
Carson: Mommy, I am so glad we're Christians.
Me: Me too, Carson.
Carson: Today at school, I told Genesis that if I wasn't a Christian I would be telling the teachers every day that my tummy hurts at lunchtime.  Instead I pray.
Me: (silence, holding back tears) I'm so happy to hear you say that, buddy.  God is using you in an awesome way.

I could never have imagined how God would use Carson's anxiety to witness to others.  It just happened.  And I sense that this is just the beginning.  I am so proud of that little guy.

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.  
Romans 8:28

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Why Wouldn't You...

make a scrapbook for your kids?  Especially when it is free!!!

I have blogged before about ABC books (here and here), and the fact that I love how achievable they are.  They don't hang over my head, making me feel guilty and overwhelmed and like I am never going to finish.  

Before Camden was born, we bought a video camera, knowing it would get lots of use with all the "firsts" we were getting ready to experience.  I teased my technologically inclined husband that the real reason he finally said yes to having a third was just so he could get a new geeky toy.  But, turns out the camera also comes in handy at baseball games and first grade musicals, so I let him off the hook. :)

When we bought the camera, it came with a free Shutterfly photo book, as long as it was ordered by April 30.  I thought this was an awesome offer.  Not only was it a $20 savings (I did pay for extra pages), but it would light a fire under me to get Camden's book done.  I was determined he was not going to be that third child who never had a baby book.

The bad news?  I did not finish the book before April 30.  Camden was born January 18.  Should have been plenty of time, right?  Wrong.  Not when there are two other kids who are in school, playing sports, and completely off the wall at times.  It was kind of hard to sit down and work at my computer during the day, and once the kids were in bed, I had no energy left.  However, once Camden was taking regular naps, I made time.  And the advantage of making a book on the computer is that I did not have to haul all my pictures and cropping tools out of my closet.  I simply had to log in to Shutterfly and pick up where I left off.

The good news?  Shutterfly believes in giving extentions.  They even asked me how long I thought I needed to finish it.  I asked for thirty more days, knowing I still needed a deadline in order to make myself finish the book.  And I finished it.  And I love it.

This is the cover.  It is an 8X8 soft cover book.

I included belly shots.

And exciting moments--the picture on the left is in our driveway, when I was in labor.  The picture on the right is me on the way to the hospital texting all my peeps, "I'm having a baby!!!"

Special family and friends who visited in the hospital.

And special moments.

This book contains Camden's first three months.  SO, I better get on the ball and make a book for the next nine months, and then make his first ABC book!  I have decided to make his first ABC book by hand, because Jonah and Carson's are by hand, and I love to look back through them.  I also bought his blank book when he was still in my tummy.

I love the D is for Daddy pics.

Doesn't Carson look like Camden in this picture?

I have also used Snapfish to make photobooks, and I find Snapfish to be more user-friendly.  Try both and see what you think.  They both have free shipping deals going on now, and I heard through the grapevine (ahem, Amber Butler), that Shutterfly is offering a free 8X8 book with code storytime.  Check out their facebook page.

Here are a couple of books I have made with Snapfish.

 I made this book for Justin for his birthday after our trip to Hawaii.

This was a Father's Day present to Justin in 2013.  I interviewed the boys about their daddy and put their precious and priceless answers in a photo book along with some of my favorite pictures.

And last, but not least, I have to admit that even though it is not my favorite way to capture the year (I still prefer a truly homemade ABC book), I made the boys' ABC books using Snapfish this year.  I just knew with a brand new baby, that the chance of me printing pics, cropping them, and finding time to assemble them all in a book was slim.  But working on the book on my computer, a little at a time was doable.  So, here they are.  

Why wouldn't you take advantage of Shutterfly's free offer?  Kids love to see themselves in books!  And think of all the memories you will relive as you put together their books. :)  

Monday, March 17, 2014

Meal Planning Monday

Meal Planning Monday

Macaroni Monday
We never ended up having the lasagna last week.  Carson had his first grade performance Thursday night, so instead of lasagna, we had sandwiches!  It's kind of nice when this happens because now I have a meal planned and all the ingredients!  I am going to tweak this recipe a bit though.  I was telling my mom that my kids don't eat lasagna well, and she asked if they would eat it better if it had meat in it.  So I am going to try that tonight.  I plan to brown the beef first with a little red onion.  We'll see how it works!

Taco Tuesday
I buy organic ground beef at Costco.  Each package contains about a pound and a third of beef.  After I brown the beef to use it in the lasagna on Monday, I will definitely have plenty left for tacos on Tuesday.  I'll just throw the beef back in the pan to reheat, add some spices (chili, garlic and onion powders and ground cumin), a little ketchup and water, and, just like that, it's Taco Tuesday.  We'll top our tacos with chunks of tomato and avacado, green leaf lettuce (that I will chop with my Pampered Chef chopper), olives, red onions, and Jack's Salsa.  The boys will receive points for trying any of the veggies on their tacos (post on points coming soon).  Check out this recipe for taco seasonings.  I don't buy the packets of taco seasoning anymore--too much sodium.  This post if from the wonderful women of Desperation Dinners, Alicia Ross and Beverly Mills.

Lemon Steamed Fish Filets (see this post for the recipe)
Garlic Bread

Barbecue Chicken Pizza
This is a new one for us.  I have some cooked chicken left over from last week and I was wondering what to do with it when I remembered that I also have some red onion.  I'm going to buy a Boboli Crust, in the interest of time (since it is a weeknight), and top it with barbecue sauce, mozzarella cheese, the cooked chicken, and red onions, and bake it in the oven.  I'll have to update this post with the time and temp and how it turned out.  I got the idea from Rachel over at Architecture of a Mom.  Here is a link to her Barbecue Chicken Pizza.

This recipe is from Rachel, too.  The only change I am going to make is to cut the chicken into bite sized pieces before I marinate it.  Otherwise, I have trouble knowing when my chicken is cooked through.  This is my first time making this recipe, and it sounds so good!

VERY, VERY BUSY day.  Opening day at the baseball field for Jonah, and Pinewood Derby for Carson.  We'll probably eat out. :)

Breakfast for Dinner
This has been a long time tradition for us.  The boys love it.  This time I'll be making homemade waffles and panini sandwiches.  Yum!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Why Wouldn't You...remember the GOOD?

Why Wouldn't You...

Remember the GOOD.

Life is rough.  For all of us.  Everyone has struggles, some A LOT bigger than mine.  The happiness comes in looking at the day's work.  And seeing that it is good.

Recently I had a conversation with my good friend Leah, about how we use our expensive degrees to do such things as scrub toilets, check homework and wipe bottoms.  Through this conversation we stumbled on the reality of what we do.  We shape lives.  We pour our love and help and dedication and conviction into the very hearts of our little people.  And that is what being a mom is.

I took Carson to a birthday party recently and found myself texting Justin that Carson was being a pain. Here we were, at one of his best friend's parties, and he refused to participate in the fun.  I wanted to scream at him, "It's not about you, it is a party for your friend.  Go join in!"  But I have learned a thing or two about my Carson.  It takes him a while to warm up in new social situations.  Sometimes a LONG while.  So after an hour of watching the other kids play, he finally joined in.  And he had a blast!  He challenges me.  Often.  But I am learning that there are so many things going on in that boy's head that I don't understand, and that when I give him some space, he will come out of his shell.  I left the party still a bit frustrated.  Then I saw this.

This is what I will choose to remember as I drift off to sleep tonight.  I love my little guy.  His heart is big.  He challenges me in big ways too, but in the end, I know I am doing a good job teaching him how to love.  And in life, that lesson will go far.  

PS--I wrote this post this summer and never published it.  I am not sure why.  As I was trying to think of something to write about today, I came across this.  It was just the reminder I needed on this rainy, gloomy day.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Camden's "C" on the wall of his nursery

The Wonders of Washi

I joined the washi movement late in the game, which was great because by the time I found out about washi tape,  there were lots of ideas online and I had a blast jumping on board.  Here is a link to a site I like for ideas.

If you haven't checked out washi tape, it is colorful, not-too-sticky tape that one can use to decorate just about anything.  Here are a few things we have done with our washi...

We've covered letters.  This was a plain wooden letter "C" I bought at AC Moore.  I found these rolls of tape at AC Moore as well.  I mentioned to Carson's teacher, Mrs. Camp, that I was working on a letter C for Camden's room, and she promptly ordered a "C" for her classroom. :) Her favorite color is orange, so I chose orange and brown.  I had so much fun working on her "C."
Completed "C" for Mrs. Camp

I bought these letters at Hobby Lobby for the big boys to decorate.

We have also made bookmarks.  I made these as summer gifts for Carson's Kindergarten class last year. 
The quote is one from Groucho Marx--"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend.  Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read."  Click here for the quote.

Here's what I did...

I started with a plain piece of sturdy white paper.  I measured it so that it would be equal to the width of three bookmarks, placed side by side.  

Then I added the tape, alternating colors and patterns.

When I was finished, I cut the paper into thirds, creating three bookmarks.

Then I used more washi tape to attach the quote.

I used other color schemes as well.

And when I was finished, I laminated them and we were all set.  I bought this laminator at AC Moore (with a coupon) and have found it invaluable for all the crafting and schoolwork we do around here.

I have also used washi to revive a picture frame that needed a punch of color.  This would have actually worked better on a white frame, but I didn't have one, so I made it work.  I think it looks so much better on our bookshelf, which is also black.  The frame just got lost before the washi update.

One more way I have used washi is to decorate my boys snack bins.  When they come home from school, I always have healthy snacks waiting for them in these jars.  If I don't, they'll raid the pantry, and it's not healthy food they choose.  

How will you use your washi?

Monday, March 10, 2014

Meal Planning Monday

Meal Planning Monday

I have been feeling a little guilty about my littlest boy's veggie consumption.  He used to eat pretty much anything I served--pureed peas, mashed sweet potato, broccoli (I sometimes had to hide it behind a piece of orange, but he still ate it!), but he's getting pickier.  And I'm getting more lax, and being ok with him having fruit over veggies.  It's time to buckle down.  This week I am attempting to cook more meals with hidden veggies.

Chicken Cheddar Flatbread "Pizzas"
Carrots (cooked ones for the little guy)
I added salsa (we like Jack's Special) to mine.  It added a yummy kick.

I prepped these when Camden was taking his afternoon nap.  Now  when it's time for dinner, all I have to do is turn on the broiler and pop them in for 5 minutes.

Turns out that this season we will be having baseball practice the same night as Cub Scouts, which makes for a crazy evening.  Crazy evenings call for being prepared for dinner in advance.  I came up with this idea on a whim, and am actually shocked at what a hit it was.

Cut whole wheat flatbread into triangles (like a piece of pizza).  Arrange chopped cooked chicken and Granny smith apple on pita and top with shredded cheddar cheese.  Broil in toaster oven for 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.

*Money saving tip--buy chicken in bulk at Costco and cook ahead of time for recipes like this.  I season mine with salt and pepper, add a little olive oil, and bake in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes or until no longer pink.  Then I use my Pampered Chef chopper to chop the chicken.  Best purchase ever at a Pampered Chef show.  You can either use immediately, or freeze and use at a later date.

Taco Tuesday
I am not a fan of making separate meals for kids.  My kids eat what we eat.  But when it comes to shrimp, my boys are simple, and they like their shrimp simply boiled.  That works for me--easy and fast.  But it's not so exciting for adults.  So, I am going to spice it up a bit for the bigs in the house, and keep it simple for the littles.

Shrimp and Avocado Tostadas (for adults)

Spinach, Black Bean, and Cheese Quesadillas (for kids) with shrimp on the side for Jonah and Carson
Rice (everyone)

Pork Tenderloin--couldn't get the recipe to load, so here is it, plain and simple.  Pork Tenderloin usually comes in a pack of two.  I cook both, and use the second one later in the week for Pork Panini Sandwiches.
Season pork with 1/4 teaspoon garlic salt.  Bake in 425 degree oven for 20 minutes.  While pork is cooking, combine 1 Tbsp. honey and 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinaigrette dressing (I use Good Seasons).  Brush meat with dressing mixture and continue baking 15 minutes or until meat is cooked through (160 degrees on meat thermometer).  Make sure to let the meat rest before cutting.
Acorn Squash with apples
Garlic Bread

Microwave Lasagna
I always have trouble finishing off baby spinach when I buy it for a particular recipe.  So, I am glad I remembered this dish and how good it is!  It calls for 4 cups of baby spinach, so it can definitely finish off my stash.  This is also a great meal to take to a friend.  You can prep in advance, then let them pop it in the microwave for a hot meal.

Cubano Panini Sandwiches (with leftover pork)

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The App Every Mom Needs

The App Every Mom Needs

Why Wouldn't You?

You know when you go to the grocery store to buy groceries for the week and you're so focused on getting items you need for weeknight meals and snacks for lunchboxes that you totally forget you're out of deoderant?

Well, I stumbled across this app after my dad and I had a conversation about making lists.  You see, when you have a type A personality like we do, life becomes overwhelming unless organized into lists, tables, spreadsheets, etc.  We had both tried the reminders app on the iphone, but found it not very user friendly.  I was surprised when I went to the app store and searched for list apps, that I found this one so easily.  And I use it daily.  So does he.  So do many of the friends I have told about it.  It is that awesome.

So, why is it so awesome?  Here are three reasons you need it:

1. Because you always leave your paper list on the counter.  Or in the car.  Or the dog ate it.  Or the baby tore it up.  You always have your phone, so why not keep your list on it?  Camden insists on holding my list if I make it on paper and then it ends up soggy or torn and eventually falls out of the cart.  Keeping my list on my phone solved this problem.

2.  Master Lists keep you from forgetting the things you ALWAYS need at the store.  Bananas.  Bread.  Milk.  Cheese.  These are the things we almost always buy at the store, so I have master lists for many of the places I go on a weekly basis.  For example, I make a Costco run at least every other week, and when I go, I don't want to forget the things I only buy at Costco.  But, I may not need all of the things on my master list and may need to add other things, so I use the "Duplicate List" function and make a copy of my master.  It renames my list Costco [2], and then I can rename it, add to it, and take away from it until it is tailored to my current needs.  That way I keep my master list, and can refer back to it the next time I go.

3.  I saved the best for last.  You can check off items as you go!!!  This was always my problem with other list apps.  I LOVE to check things off.  I'll even add "drink coffee" to my list just to have the satisfaction of checking it off.  Here is a sample of the lists I have in my phone right now.  The really cute icons help too. :)

The possibilities for making lists on your phone to help organize life are endless.  My dad uses his to keep records of important things that happen.  I use mine for packing lists, things I need to remember to do the week before a trip, the day before a trip, and on the day we leave.  We were working on our Top 13 in 2013 (see this post for Top Ten) poster yesterday, and instead of making a list on a piece of paper I would probably lose I made it in PaperLess.  

So, tell me, once you download this app, how will you use it?  I'd love to hear!