Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Spaghetti Squash with Bolognese Sauce (Paleo)

Pictures.

I need to remember pictures.  They probably won't be lovely but it would enhance this place a bit more.  I'll work on it.

When you visit this blog you will find a lot about food.  Yes, there are other aspects to homemaking.  I am not always good at them.  That's okay.  I am learning about getting better.  I also feel like I am coming out of the fog and no longer in just survival mode now with three little ones.  But certain areas still lack.  We have clean clothes.  That's a win.  But priority comes to eating.  People need to eat or the natives get restless.  Right now I am cranking out meals for three adults and three munchkins, three times a day.  Sometimes there are snacks but not very often.

My girls generally like spaghetti and meat sauce.  For some reason all of them have really liked tomato or tomato sauce type meals.  However, the carbs in pasta stick with me and I would like to move away from it as much as possible... even if I DO love it.  When I did my first round of The South Beach Diet I made some spaghetti squash.  I didn't come out very well.  Nope.  So much so that I never made it again.  But I decided to try it this last Sunday.  OH. MY.  So very good.  The sauce came together very well and this has turned into one of my favorite meals for fall when the squash is in season.

My husband and I loved this!  I probably ate a little too much and was totally stuffed until I went to bed.  There was no urge to snack.  It was just happy to my soul.  Granted it's not an actual noodle texture but I thought it got the job done for sure!  My two-year-old, Miss A, asked for seconds.  Nuff' said.  My 11-month baby ate hers all up.  My almost four-year-old is a skeptic when it comes to dinner.  She just wanted to eat the sauce.  But after awhile she warmed up to the new foods and ate it all up with minimal fussing.  It was a total win in my book with her!

I found myself in a pinch when I went to make this as I didn't have the right amount of tomato sauce.  As in, I didn't have any.  I did have tomato paste.  A 1:1 ratio of tomato paste and water worked nicely.  Also, I realized later that if I had added vegetable broth (I like Pacific's Organic Vegetable Broth) it would have kicked up the favor and nutrient value a bit.  I think I will do that next time.  I also cut the red pepper flakes down to 1/8 just in case.  Oh, I think mushrooms (chopped for me please!) would be a good addition to this sauce, too.


Spaghetti Squash with Bolognese Sauce (from Cavemen Gourmet)

1 spaghetti squash
1 pound ground beef
1 large onion – chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 15 oz can of organic tomato sauce
1/4 cup fresh parsley – chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
Salt & Pepper

Directions
Cut your squash in half lengthwise. Clean out squash.  Once you halved the squash, you can either bake it in the oven for 30 minutes at 350 degrees or microwave it. Let cool for a few minutes.  It’s incredibly fast and easy. These ‘noodles’ taste great and are so easy to make. They have a high water content so keep that in mind when you add sauces.  

In a dutch oven, saute the garlic, parsley and onion in extra virgin olive oil and stir on high heat until nicely golden.  Add the ground beef, salt and pepper, and cook on high heat. Make sure to constantly stir the meat so it breaks nicely and you don’t have large chunks of meat.  We’re making bolognese sauce here – not meatballs.
Once the ground beef is nice and brown, add the tomato sauce, oregano, rosemary and red pepper flakes.  Stir the mixture so that all of the ground beef and tomato sauce are evenly mixed.  Taste and correct seasonings (add salt and/or pepper if needed).  Lower heat and let simmer for an hour. 

After an hour, the bolognese sauce should be meaty and delicious with a slightly sweet taste from the sauteed onions and have a little kick from the red pepper flakes. For those Lacto-Paleos out there, feel free to top with grated Parmesan or Romano cheese.


Monday, November 5, 2012

Smoky Bacon Chili

I love food.

I have a love hate relationship with.  I love it.  But I hate what it can do to my body.  Okay, okay... it's the bad decisions I make about food that I hate.  I feel like I am in this new place learning about food.  I am wanting to teach my girls good things so that they don't face the same things I do.  It's no secret that I battled my weight for most of my life and especially now after three babies in just three years (my youngest was born the day before my oldest turned three!)  So, here I am evaluating my eating habits.  We did low carb (South Beach) for awhile and it worked for us.  Then something would happen and we would fall off the wagon into convenience and not-so-healthy options.

Recently, I have been reading about different "paleo" options.  There are some different ways to be paleo and if I had to choose one of the many tag lines it would be "lacto-paleo" because we enjoy some dairy things around here.  I have already noticed a decrease in how much we use and that is not a bad thing either.  Anyway, I am not going to go into the details of "paleo" here.  There are more than enough sites to read about it.  If you want some suggestions then please ask.  However, I am not claiming to be an expert and I am still learning.  Also, I really just like the recipes that I find.  Most are packed with flavor and are nutrient dense.  I didn't eat a lot of vegetables before I got married and now as I have been looking through paleo meals I am starting to think through at least two sides of vegetables depending on the meal.  I am more satisfied after a meal and I feel good that I am presenting my children with a healthy option.  Whether they actually eat it or not is an entirely different story.  More on that later.  Also, our change is gradual... more on that later, too.

So, here is one meal that I had this week that got RAVE reviews from my husband and my dad who is living with us for awhile.  It was indeed pretty tasty.  HOWEVER, if you make this as is and you have little mouths to feed it will be WAY TOO SPICY.  I just got in task mode and threw it all in and realized what I had done when it was TOO LATE.  So, the munchkins did have to take at least one bite (and they did pretty well as long as the bite had sweet potato with it... and a bit of sour cream for the two year old) and they had macaroni & cheese instead.

Smoky Bacon Chile (from PaleOMG)


Ingredients
o    1lb ground beef
o    6 slices of bacon, cubed
o    1 yellow onion, diced
o    1 red pepper, diced
o    1 green pepper, diced
o    1 garlic clove, minced
o    1 (14) ounce can of fire roasted tomatoes
o    1 (8) ounce can of tomato sauce
o    1 tablespoon garlic powder
o    1 tablespoon chili powder
o    2 tablespoons smoked paprika
o    2 teaspoons cumin
o    1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
o    salt and pepper, to taste
o    2-3 sweet potatoes (optional)
Instructions
1.       Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Poke holes in your sweet potatoes with a fork. Place on rack in oven and cook for about 30 minutes or until potato is soft and cooked through.
2.       Now pull out a large pot, add your cubed bacon and let cook down.
3.       While the bacon is cooking, chop all your veggies.
4.       When the bacon has browned and is a bit crisp, add your veggies.
5.       Let cook for about 6 or so minutes, then add your ground beef and all the spices.
6.       Once the beef is browned, add your tomato sauce and fire roasted tomatoes.
7.       Mix well and let all the flavors meld together while cooking on low for the next 8 minutes or so, stirring occasionally.
8.     Split Sweet potato and pour chili over it and enjoy!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Here and There

Obviously I haven't been on this blog in quite some time.  It's not that I haven't thought about things to write. I even dabbled with another blog for a time.  I deleted it today.  I just want my musings in one place.  I had to evaluate why I was blogging, the self-inflicted pressures, etc.

I had fanciful ideas of being one of those blogs that lots of people follow.  That's not really me.  I like to write things down because it's fun.  And then there are times it's not so fun.  I'm okay with that.  Or you know, life is more interesting than blogging.  Or, life is so crazy there is no time for blogging.

I'm okay with that, too.  Finally.

However, I am glad I came back to this space.  I was reminded about some fun things I have done, experienced, and that I wanted to work on.  So, I will look to some of those goals to finish.

There's no obligation... just fun.

Potty Tranining

What can I say?  It's where we are right now.  Monday starts the journey for Miss A to a diaper free world. It should be... messy.  Fun.  Exciting.  Difficult.  Frustrating.  Rewarding.

I am looking forward to one less diaper to change for sure!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Hickory Make Over

So, our mischievous mouse, Hickory, had to get a make over.  Seems like a little three year old was getting ideas and started making mischief around the house.

Now, Hickory stories go something more like this...

Once upon a time there was a little mouse named Hickory who liked to help Momma and Daddy around the house.  One day, Hickory helped Momma put the silverware away.

or...

...make the beds.
...pick up all the toys.
...do the laundry.
...mix the eggs.

It helped.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Meal Plans 6/4/2012

I generally post my meal plans on a Monday or Wednesday.  However, my planning has been a little...ummm... sporadic.  They happen but it's not always one the same day.  Sometimes I plan for a little longer than seven days or I have to go to the grocery store on a particular evening.  That's another thing, I generally relegate my shopping now to the evenings or maybe a Saturday morning.  Not my favorite but that really is the best for the season of life that we are in right now.  Maybe that is a post post for another day.  HA!

I am actually pretty excited about some of the recipes this week.  However, there was one that I was particularly excited about and it turned not as over-the-top-delicious as I thought it would be.  Maybe I did something wrong??

Anyway, here's what's cookin'



Monday, June 4, 2012

More on Hickory

...he put the grapes in the oven. (L) As I was trying to leave.
...he put the grapes in the potty. (L)
...he put the avocados in the fireplace (Daddy)
...he put the apricots in the pool (Mama)
...he put the avocados all over your shirt (L)
...he put the strawberries all over the house.  So now we have to paint it. (L)

Who is Hickory?

Friday, June 1, 2012

Freezer Meal Update: Review

At the beginning of February all the meals that I made in preparation for the arrival of Miss S were basically gone.  Oh how I wished they could just multiply themselves!  Between the meals that our church brought us (an out pour of such love!) and a few take out meals on our part were just really having to think about actually going grocery shopping and a whole new meal plan.  Simple was the name of the game for sure.

I am still trying to figure out how to cook a dinner with a three year old and a 21 month old under foot... plus an almost 6 month old who usually needs to be fed around the dinner hour.  Sigh.  I am thankful that my mother-in-law comes over pretty often and I cook while she plays with the girls.  Blessing beyond measure!

Now that we have had a chance to see how all the meals turned out after being frozen I thought that I would give a review of each meal.  At some point I will put all these tidbits in each post as well.  For now, they will all be here should you be enticed to use any of the recipes for bulk freezer cooking.  Which, by the way, is something that I think I would like to look into doing more often after this little adventure.  You can check out my final list here.  I am just going to go down the list and some will be similar or the same so I will just lump their reviews together.

Beef Stew (from Mom C) - Beautiful.  I don't have the recipe but I am sure that I can get it.  Froze well in a zip lock bag and thawed well on our stove.  I dumped it in a pot and warmed it up.  Super easy.  Highly recommend.

Tator Tot Casserole - Meh.  It was alright.  I think it was my particular recipe.  This recipe almost needed to be doubled to make one good sized casserole.  I like to have left overs and this just didn't cut it.  It wasn't my favorite.  Froze fine, thawed and cooked up nicely.

Meatloaf- Probably one of the best things to freeze.  They are probably better once they have had the time to sit and have the flavors meld, especially in the thawing process.  I originally was not too impressed with the Italian Stuffed Meatloaf.  However, I really liked it the second time around.  I think the kind of sauce you use can make a difference, too.  I think I changed my mind.  I would make this again.  Meatloaf you really need to let thaw probably two days in the fridge.  It was also helpful to label each loaf with what pan I used.  Made it easy to know which one I should use that night.  Good tip.  Implement it!

Stuffed Peppers (from Mom C) - Again, I don't have the recipe for this but I am guessing any recipe you have for them will do.  They froze nicely in a freezer zip bag.  The peppers were pretty soft when they were done cooking.  I think that had to do in part to the freezing and in part the liquid in the stuffing mix.  They were still really delicious and the girls enjoyed them, too.

Lasagna-  Do I really need to review this?  It's a freezer meal staple.  If you have a recipe you love... do it. Always good to have on hand.  If you are going to make a lasagna for dinner just double it and have it on hand when you are in a pinch.

Okay, really... there is a lot to review. Everything really did well freezing and was super yummy.  The only things that I had to finagle was warming up the breakfast burritos.  Basically, I used a wet paper towel, defrosted, and then warmed on a lower power setting.  I cannot give you times because it varies by appliance.  However, I can see that a toaster over would be helpful for these if you are not in a hurry.  I would do all of these meals again.

If you have any questions please fell free to comment below and I will get back to you.


Thursday, May 31, 2012

Pizza Dough

Remember my 2012 Crafting Plan?

Well, I finally finished ONE of them.  The pizza dough.  I have tried a couple of different recipes.

My first one was a simple recipe I got from my bread machine book.  I made a whole wheat version for this Black Bean Nacho Pizza.  I think whole wheat in general is a little dense but it was still quite good.

A couple of weeks later I tried the regular white flour recipe.  It turned out good.  I will say that there is a trick to working with pizza dough.  Gravity is your friend and I now understand why pizzerias twirl their dough.  However, the whole wheat dough was by far easier to actually roll out.

Just last night I used Pioneer Woman's pizza dough recipe from her favorite pizza recipe.  I like that I can do this dough up a few days ahead of time.  However, I did this one the morning of the day that I would be using it.  At some point I will try the aged option.  This was a really good recipe!  What else would you expect from PW?  However, I think for how I was using it I would use the whole batch for a thicker crust.  I would also maybe let it bake up some before putting the toppings on.

I know some people freeze dough and I may look into doing that, too.  I am all for putting things in my freezer :)

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Hello?

Do you hear an echo in here??

I am not sure how many people are still out there.  Someone today posted that "time flies when you're having kids."  It's true.  I realized I haven't posted anything since February.  Sigh.  There are many things to write about or yummy recipes that I want to post and keep track of here.  I will get to it eventually.  For now, there are other things that take precedent over blogging and I will get back to it again.  Miss S is a happy baby but has given us some challenges that we were not expecting and are things we never experienced with our other two.  The difference and challenges are things that I should be grateful for but sometimes have a hard time in the midst of the situation.  Reflecting on it now makes me realize it all the more.

Sigh.

So, I hope to be around more in the coming weeks.  Updates and other thoughts coming soon...

I hope.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Minivan Musings

I always wanted a minivan.  Okay, maybe not while I was in college.  However, when I first drove a minivan for a conference in Florida I was hooked.  Although, I knew that I needed more of a reason to actually have one other than a couple of conferences a year.

Fast-forward a few years and I am married with kids.  I figured someday we would have a minivan but I thought that day would be when we were expecting child #3 as we had a SUV that worked well at the time.  Not too long after we had Miss A we got our van.  A gem of a find on Craigslist.  Needless to say, I was thrilled!  Only two kiddos and we had our van.  It would be a few months later we would find out that Miss S was on her way.  HA!

Anyway, the story of how we got our van and why is not the reason for this post.  One thing I noticed on the road is that minivan drivers sometimes were going super fast. (Or sometimes super slow)  But I would notice them fly by me at times (and I was going a bit over the limit...ahem).  I would get so uppity because they had their kids in there and they were flying by like a bat out of... well.. you know.  Compromising safety, blah, blah... like those in minivans were held to some other standard.

Well, I think I know why minivans go speeding by....

...the kids are screaming and they are just trying to get home as fast as they can because whining and crying in a car sounds about 10 decibels louder than it actually is.

...there is a preschool aged child that has frantically notified her mother that she needs to go to the bathroom and WILL NOT use a public bathroom.  She will, however, relieve herself in her car seat should you not get home fast enough.

...there is a woman in the back about to give birth.

Now, I may or may not know about one or all of these things.  Ha!  I am sure some are just driving like crazy because...well... they are.  However, these have been my musings as of late as I drove back and forth to the hospital to see Miss S.

It made me laugh.

Do you have minivan musings??

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Meal Ministry

If you have never needed the blessings of a ministry through meals I say two things... a) blessings to you and b) boy, are you missing out!

However, I will have to say accepting meals from people can be a very difficult thing.  I remember while I was still single and living on my own I had been pretty sick.  A friend that lived two apartments down for me offered to make a meal for me.  In my pride, I thanked her but turned her down knowing full well that I would probably have to go pick something up somewhere because I was not up to cooking for myself.  I met with my mentor very briefly that afternoon and she basically told me that I needed to let people be generous and let them serve.  She challenged me to go back to this friend and accept the meal.  Talk about a killing of pride.  It was a good lesson.  I was blessed by my friend being so gracious and generous.  Plus, I ate a really good meal!

Fast forward to 2008 when Miss L arrived early in December of that year.  Our church at the time blessed us with an abundance of meals even though we lived almost an hour away from where most people lived.  They got creative and it was a blessing for sure.  When Miss A arrived in 2010 we were in a bit of transition but sweet friends put together meals and we were well taken care of during that time.  When Miss S arrived our church really stepped it up a notch with the meals because we were running back and forth to the hospital with her in the NICU.  And even just this week with Miss S in the hospital I find my fridge full of food because of the abundant generosity of the people around us.

However, it is a dying to self to ask for help... to ask for meals... to ask for help cleaning your home...to ask.    Why is it so hard for us to ask?  A former pastor once told me to not ask for help is denying someone the opportunity to learn how to serve others. (He said it much more elegantly)  It was a profound thought.  We don't know how to serve the body of Christ (or others) because people are too prideful to ask or they think that people are not able or will not help.  The fact is that people are willing to help.  Cheerfully!  More than one could probably ever imagine at that.

All of this came flooding back when Pastor H was visiting us in the hospital and asked if the church family could do anything else for us.  I was tempted to just suck it up and figure it out.  But there was an offer of help and this was the area I needed the most help (because grandparents were taking care of kids during the day) all I had to do was...ask...

So, I did.  Boy, were we blessed!

Needless to say, I won't be posting a meal plan this week because we have so much food left over and I still have a couple of from last week that will carry over to this week.

I encourage you to ASK for help when you need it.  When a baby comes... when a loved one passes... surgery...people are willing wanting to help.  While we as a body also need to be on the look out for areas to help people we also need to die to self and kill our pride and ask for help, too.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

RSV Happens

We drive by Phoenix Children's Hospital on a fairly regular basis.  We often comment that while we are glad that their care and expertise are available we hope that we never have to call on them for help.  Well, we did need their help this last weekend.  For those that keep up with us via this blog Miss S was hospitalized on Sunday with RSV and just came home yesterday.  Hence the absence from blogging at all over the last few days.  It's been a crazy time of back and forth to the hospital while grandparents in super hero fashion stepped up to watch Miss L and Miss A.  They made such sweet sacrifices of themselves to help us out in so many ways.  Our local church family is also blessing us with meals for a few days so we can get back on our feet.  Or should we have to go back to the hospital we are taken care of in the meals department.  So very thankful and humbled by the generosity of so many people.

The nurses and staff at PCH were phenomenal and we couldn't have asked for better care for our little girl.  We are also thankful for going in sooner rather than later because she could have been a lot worse had they not been able to do all the things that they did to support her tiny frame during this time.

RSV is kind of a random thing it seems.  It's basically a cold that older children and adults can handle quite well.  Babies have a hard time with it because their airways are so incredibly small that the slightest irritation, swelling, or whatever make it a very big and scary deal.  There are also a couple of different presentations of the virus that can make it hard to know whether you should go see a doctor or wait it out.  We learned a lot during this time.

We are thankful to be at home and on the healing side of things.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Meal Plan Monday

Yes, I know it's been awhile since we have done menu planning.  Yes, I know I generally do it on Wednesday.  But, I have my meal plan done today so we will roll with it.  I may actually have a lot of it done for next week, too but I won't really have that nailed down probably until Wednesday.  HA!

So, the freezer meals are basically gone.  I realized I had a couple left that I will put into next week's rotation.  Sometimes forgetting is a good thing.

The goal of any meal right now and for the next several months (years?) is simple, simple, simple.  My mother-in-law is around during meal prep time generally 4 nights out of the week.  I know that this will not always be and can change at any moment so I try to have very little hands on time.  Here's what's on the dinner docket for this week...

  • Ravioli w/ butter sauce, Parmesan, roasted potatoes and green beans.
  • Cranberry Chicken with creamed spinach
  • Leftover Mashed Potato Soup
  • Breakfast Pizza
  • Fish Tacos w/ broccoli slaw
  • Moms Meatloaf with twice baked mashed potato
  • Pizza (back-up meal)
What's for dinner at your place this week??

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A Job By Any Other Name

Much of the world would agree that being a housekeeper is acceptable as long as you are not caring for your own home; treating men with attentive devotion would also be right as long as the man is the boss in an office and not your husband; caring for children would even be deemed heroic service for which presidential awards could be given as long as the children are someone else's and not your own.
(from Feminine Appeal, p. 102 - original source Dorothy Patterson, Where's Mom? p.21)
A friend posted this quote on Facebook awhile back and reminded me that we had read this in a book study a couple of years ago.  I pulled the book off the shelf and as I looked through my notes it made me want to read the book again.  Feminine Appeal outlines seven virtues of being a wife and mother.  It was an encouraging and convicting book in many areas.

However, what I like most is how Mahaney encourages women to battle and swat down the vicious lie that the world tells us in that staying home with our children is somehow an underachievement.  As though the world has any place to spew such hogwash.  Yes, it was hard getting used to putting homemaker in the occupation line on a plethora of medical forms.  What would they think?  That was my problem.  Worrying about what other people thought.  I wasn't too concerned about what my God thought.  I was questioning this role that He had clearly called me to fulfill.

I have not arrived in all areas of my new job.  I have been at this whole stay at home thing for almost six years now and it is by far the hardest job that I have ever undertaken.  I find a new joy in it each day with my girls.  I love loving my husband even when I fail miserably.  He is my best friend.  I find more and more that there are women who would love to be in my shoes.  They want to stay home but for whatever reason cannot. I have at least come from worry and anxiety when I fill in the occupation line to sheer joy and smiles when I write homemaker.  I don't need to write domestic engineer or any other silly moniker.  No, I am the keeper and maker of my home and I'm okay with that.

The sad thing is that the above quote is deeply true in society.  Sigh.  It's a sad state of affairs.  So, if you are a stay at home mom or wife... press on, dear one, in the work that the Lord has called you and throw to the side the clanging of society saying that you are not contributing to society or you are somehow an underachiever.  You are the strength of the next generation contributing in ways that are enormous but most will never see nor even remotely think to give a nod for a presidential award.


Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Longfellow

Stay, stay at home, my heart, and rest;
Home-keeping hearts are happiest,
For those that wander they know not where
Are full of trouble and full of care;
To stay at home is best.
Weary and homesick and distressed,
They wander east, they wander west,
And are baffled and beaten and blown about
By the winds of the wilderness of doubt;
To stay at home is best.
Then stay at home, my heart, and rest;
The bird is safest in its nest;
O’er all that flutter their wings and fly
A hawk is hovering in the sky;
To stay at home is best.



Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807 - 1882)

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Family Calendar

When I was in college, my brain and a fun planner were how I generally kept things straight.  When I started working with college students in my vocation I had electronic devices at my finger tips that let me know where I needed to be and when.  Oddly, I would default to paper when those electronic devices didn't deliver quite what I was looking for in a planner.  Then for the last four or five years I have gone back and forth trying to figure out what works best for me in tracking with our household.

A regular spiral bound planner didn't always work well for me because I wanted to see the whole month at one time and the need for it to be on the counter at all times so I could look at it when needed.

A wall calendar that I could put in a central location.  While that generally worked well I always had to find one that had large boxes.  Of course, it had to be pretty, too.  Those two requirements limited me... a lot!

My smart phone.  I know people LOVE this option.  Nope.  Not me.

Ultimately...

I am a paper girl.  Much to the chagrin of my all-things-electronic, software engineering husband.  I love how paper feels and looks.  Call me old fashioned, I'm okay with that.  I have learned to embrace my old soul.  I can usually remember things better in my noggin if I have actually written it down.  Sometimes, it takes more than once. ha!

So, what is the happy medium for this mama of three littles (two in diapers)?

I have found that a combination of Amy Knapp's Big Grid Family Organizer and my smart phone do a pretty good job...for now.
  • It's big!  Plenty of space for me to write (and it's lined!)
  • Extra space to write notes for the month.
  • Designated area for dinner meal plan.
  • It beings in August and goes to December of the following year -- plenty of space to plan ahead.
  • It's pretty enough for the season that we are in and I can doodle if I am feeling really creative.
  • Spiral bound so I can put it up and take it down as much as I like to update, etc with minimal wear and tear.
My smart phone acts as a reminder system for me.  I update it when new things go on the family calendar.  It's also helpful to have when we are out and so-and-so wants to know if we can do dinner or whatever on a particular evening.  I don't have to make room for a planner in my already full diaper bag... I just need to remember my phone.  My husband will tell you that is a feat in and of itself!  So, it's helpful in that regard.

I had it color coded for each person but my children like to abscond with my pens.  Even when I try to keep them in one particular place.  However, I admit sometimes I leave them in a wrong place from time to time.  Anyway, I think now I just go with what ever color I can find that pops.  I also keep this in my pantry.  It's the most central place for me and I can hide it, too!
I realize that I will have to do more specific meal planning for lunches in the near future when there are four of us to think about (5 on the weekends and for breakfast and dinner) and it will be harder to just pull it all together split second.  I will need to think through snacks items to have on hand, etc.  The calendar doesn't accommodate that now but I have some time to think through other options.  Meal plans significantly reduce my stress level for sure!

Anyway, things may will change and I am sure at some point and so will my style of planning.  Maybe.  I am looking at some other of Knapp's products to see if they fit with how things will change.

What do you use for a family calendar?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Fiesta Chicken (Green)

As promised, here is the green version which I adapted from the the red version posted earlier this week.  I prefer this one but both are equally delish!

Fiesta Chicken (Green)


1.5 lb chicken breast
1 can petite diced tomatoes
1 can hominy (found in the Mexican or Latin food area) -- if you can find a small can go with that.  You may only be able to find the big can and that is fine.
1 can black beans (rinsed)
1 small can of green chile/enchilada sauce (or half of the BIG can)
1 small can of chopped green chile (fresh or frozen would be best but do what you need to do if you have little mouths to feed-- or add more to your liking.)

Put it all in a crock pot and cook on low for 4-6 hours (depending on your cooker and if chicken is frozen.  Mine tends to be on the hot side so it could even be 3 hours!)  Shred Chicken.  Serve with flour tortilla or over rice with cheese and sour cream.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Fiesta Chicken (Red)

I realized I was in process of putting up all the freezer meal recipes that I made for the arrival of Miss S and obviously not finished.  At some point I will give an update on what I thought about the meals, how they thawed, and reheated.  It has been a fun learning process and we really haven't been disappointed.

Anyway... more on that tangent later.  :)

If you Google Fiesta Chicken you will get a plethora of recipes.  I found the one that I use here.  It's a random place to find the meals but I used many of their suggestions!

I call their version the Red version because I later adapted another version of it that I call Green.  Being from New Mexico I prefer most things in a green chile version.  Yum.  I will post the Green version in another post.

Fiesta Chicken (Red) from blonde-designs


1.5 lb chicken breasts
1 can diced tomatoes (I used petite)
1 can corn (could use frozen) - drained
1 can black beans - rinsed
1 C salsa
taco seasoning (I think I used about 1 T)

I may have added about 1/2 C water or stock because I don't generally use the "juice" from canned items except for the tomatoes or no salt/no sugar added corn.


Add everything to a slow cooker and cook on low until done (about 4-6 hours depending on your cooker and if your chicken was frozen or not) Shred chicken.  Serve over a flour tortilla or over rice with cheese and sour cream.  Or it makes a nice soup/stew like meal on its own, too!

If you want to use this meal for a cooking group or Once a Month Cooking you can just add everything to a zip loc bag and freeze.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

There Once Was A Mouse...

....named Hickory, who liked to mischief in the house.  One day Hickory took the eggs and put them in the bathtub!

Random, right?

However, these stories have become the delight of my daughter, Miss L.  Who is the beloved author?  Her Daddy!

Husband remembers his dad telling him stories of Hickory when he was little.  Those stories were a bit more involved.  Husband has created a shorter version for Miss L and they are right up her alley.  Before bed she says, "Read Hickory."  Well, they are not written down although I am trying to get as many as I can posted some place.  Husband will usually do two or three of them any time she requests.  Miss L has even gotten to the point where she makes up Hickory stories, too.  It's hilarious.

I wonder what Hickory looks like in her imagination.

Each story always starts out,

Once there was a mouse named Hickory, who liked to make mischief in the house.  One day, Hickory...

...took the avocados  and put them in the blender.

...took the cheese and put it in the doggie store.

...took the butter and put it in the sink.

You get the idea.  The more random it is the better.  Although, the doggie store is a Miss L original.  She also seems to think Hickory putting the cheese in the fridge is quite funny for some reason.  Silly.

I really need to write these down and create a book for the girls some day.  I think that it would be quite sentimental and pretty darn funny.  I think it helps spur on Miss L's imagination, too.  Good stuff and sweet memories.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Organized Home Week # 3: Pantry



I have been working on maintaining and thinking through the first two weeks of this challenge.  We are spending a few weeks in the kitchen which is a great thing!  The first week was counter tops.  That is hard right now with bottles and this and that on the counters.  So, my goal is to get it under control first and make it suitable for what it is doing right now.  In about a year I can reevaluate that again.  My cabinets and drawers for the second week are another thing.  I am trying to figure out what needs to take a hike and what really needs to stay.  I am on a purging binge right now so I should probably take advantage of that because I am such a just in case kind of person.

However, this week we focused on the pantry or food storage areas in our homes.  YES!  Mine was desperately needing a good makeover.  Stock-up overloads and just not thinking about putting thing away made for one big MESS.  One of those pantries where things just randomly fall when you move something.  Yes.  It was that bad.  I went through everything and put it where it belong and grouped things.  Tossed out spices galore.  Found a few food items that we will not eat before expiration dates and hopefully a couple of families I know will be able to make use of them.

Here's where I get vulnerable.  Before (UGH!) and after pictures of the pantry.


Shelf 1: I have to heel some pans and cutting boards here.  Not my favorite but it works.  The very top of the stacker needs some more love as that is where my cake decorating and cookie cutters are.  I have some containers that I will use up there and will hopefully have room for another box of cutters that I have up there.  That would be great!  Creating more room in other spaces and getting everything together!


Shelf 2:  The spice shelf.  Kill me.  Seriously, I think that I had some spices that were well over 10 maybe 15 years old.  Yes, really.  They are gone now.  There are some that still may be a little too old but we will roll with it.  Gone is the full bottle of Lemon Pepper that I have been toting around all these years.  You know, just in case.  I am going to look into acquiring some air tight containers and start buying spices in bulk unless I use it often enough to buy a jar, etc.  Over time the containers will all look the same and there will be less waste.  I may even remove the spice stacker that I have in here that causes a stadium effect here.  I think about a Lazy Susan but wonder if I will lose space?


Shelf 3:  This is where I keep most of my baking items and a coupe of random things.  I invested in some Tupperware awhile back and here it is.  I had some wasted shelf space and opted to make the most of it by putting some extra items that are completely sealed in the back of the containers (two bags of powdered sugar, and bisquick) and that helped some.  I can see it back there, too.  No worries of it being forgotten.  When I took the pictures I forgot two things on top of the containers that go on the spice shelf... oh well.


Shelf 4:  Drinks, grains, and canned items.  Not much here.  I took the bags of open rice, beans, and lentils and put them in an air tight container and the closed ones are out.  I need to move a bag of pasta back up to the top shelf but that's not a big deal.


Shelf 5:  Storage stuff, dry goods, baby food, and some miscellany.  Pretty simple and I finally can see it all!


Shelf 6 (the floor):  What a horrid mess, right?  Now it is clean and somewhat organized.  The bummer side is realizing we only have one bottle of Powdrell's BBQ sauce left.  Oh well.  We don't go through it too fast. We have time to restock.

Well, there it is!  My pantry is also where I keep my family calendar, some Scripture to encourage, and I think this is also where I will figure out a way to display my pantry inventory.

Inventory.  I had hoped to get to that today but a nap took precedence for sure.  So, maybe tomorrow.  I have the rest of the week to get that completed.

Do you have pantry tips or suggestions?

Friday, January 13, 2012

2012 Homemaking/Crafting Plan

I was reading a post over at The Modest Mom where she shared 12 things (I believe from her Pinterest boards) that she wanted to work on this year.  Some simple some not so simple.  Brilliant, right!?  Surely, I can do one thing a month.  I shared this with Husband and his response was not to over do it.  He knows me and he's right.  So, I am trying to keep them fairly simple and I am stating from the get go that if that month's "craft" doesn't get done... well... then... it doesn't get done.  I am just not going to get upset because I cannot foresee all that will happen this year, etc.  Plus, we have a new baby in the house and that always adds some random dimension to the mix of things.

So, here's what I am thinking I'll work on -- many are from my Pinterest boards but a few are not! :)

January

I have tried making my own foaming hand soap with a natural soap.  The foaming part does well we just don't like the soap.  So, I am going to give this one a try and the final verdict will be up to Husband.  If it doesn't go over well then I am just going to go back to buying soap.  I may give one brand another try but he's not been so impressed with my concoction as of late.  Oh well... neither have I.

February
I have two doilies that belong to my grandmother (possibly my great-grandmother) that I have moved around and shoved in closets here and there.  They are lovely but not my style to put out on a dresser or on the piano.  However, when I saw this I fell in love.  I thought I had more than just the two doilies but I think I know where I will put the two that I know that I do have.  I am pretty excited about this project. I just need to gather the supplies.

March
It seems like I am always on the look out for some fun words to put up here or there.  I like how these use a fabric.  So, I think I may put something up like this in my laundry room.  Although, someone mentioned putting the word rest in a bed room or the girl's names up.  I have some time to ponder exactly what I would like to do.  However, if you have some fabric suggestions I will gladly take them.  I am pretty much a disaster when it comes to fabric selection.

April
Pizza Dough.  So simple yet drives me insane.  Okay, really I am just too lazy to make my own generally.  However, I tried to go on the cheap one time and purchased a mix and the results were no bueno.  So, my bread machine has a recipe and we'll just go that route.  I like my bread machine because while I live in one of the hottest cities in the nation my house generally has cool spots and I generally don't get things to rise very well.  I am sure one of you has a solution for that so comment away.  My solution right now is my bread machine and I don't have to think about it much.  HA!

May
We got a spiffy new camera and I want to make the most of it!  (No, the above is not our camera - different brand and well, I just don't want to disclose what it is here... if you want to know... ask.)  :)  I would like to find a few websites to read for beginners to learn the basics as well as watch the other video that came with our camera.  Just learn more about it.  So, photography friends (ahem... I know you are out there...Heather) if you have suggestions on what to read, let me know!

June, July, August, September
So, maybe I am cheating by lumping these months together.  Hear me out here.  There are several projects here that I would like to work on for Christmas gifts.  However, I think some of these things may end up in the hands of some of my readers and I don't want them to know exactly what I am working on.  It will at least keep them guessing.  Maybe when we get here I can give you a sneak peak of things I am working on.  We will see.

October
I need to get the ornaments printed and colored or just get them printed at some place and then laminate them.  I want this up and ready to go well before the Advent season and this gives me plenty of time before things get crazy with Thanksgiving, etc.

November
Wouldn't you know that I just deleted the picture of a crochet project in progress that I wanted for this month's project.  Oh well.  I started a blanket for Husband oh-say about three years ago.  Yeah.  It's still not finished.  I think that it is lacking a few more rows and some edging.  I think the edging freaks me out the most.  Husband laughed when I told him it may actually be finished this year.  I hope to prove him wrong.  HA HA!! 

December
Well, I know that Pinterest was full of holiday goodies.  A few caught my eye.  However, when I went back and looked through more this one had drool factor for me.  Cappuccino Shortbread.  Yum, right?  I have had several recipes catch my eye that require instant espresso powder and I can never find it.  So, this gives me time to find it.  I have some ideas and have looked around online.  I should be able to nail it down.





Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Miss L's 3rd Birthday

I had grand plans for the weekend of Miss L's birthday.  On Saturday, we were going to the mall to see one of her friends from church play some Christmas music in the with her dad. Then that evening we would head to the train park and let her ride the train through the light display.  Sunday, we would go to church and have a light lunch with family.  Then after naps we would do Miss L's favorite meal of chicken nuggets, mac & cheese, and broccoli salad (she like the dried cranberries).  The evening of celebration would be concluded with cake and presents.

Yeah.  None of that happened.  And the few things that did happen were not how we originally thought they would go.  HA!

Obviously, I had a baby that weekend instead.

Plan B.

Unfortunately, no one made it to church.  The whole family had a light lunch and cake.  More than ever I was glad that we ordered a cake rather than me trying to make one.  Miss L was delighted with Angelina Ballerina.  Thankfully, Miss L cannot read right now or she would have noticed that her name was misspelled on the side of the cake.  Two L's instead of one.  Oh well.  It still was yummy!  Then after all the excitement the girls took naps.

After naps everyone came down to the hospital.  This is when the Miss L and Miss A got their first glimpse of Miss S.  Then we headed down to my hospital room to really party it up and open Miss L's presents.  It was a fun time.  The nurses got a kick out of my little caravan.  Miss L told them about her sister and that it was her birthday.  It was pretty cute.  Miss L thought my bed was pretty fun and quickly discovered that the back of my bed produced presents.  Once we were done opening them she kept looking back there to see if more had magically appeared.

After all was said an done it was getting close to dinner time.  Honestly is was hard to see everyone leave that evening.  My oldest was turning three and my youngest had just entered the world.  It was a little surreal.  I think my heart was just ready for us all to be together under one roof.

I think it's a birthday party that I will definitely remember.


Monday, January 9, 2012

Things You Don't Say In the NICU

This is not a "in general" kind of post.  Well.  Maybe it sort of is for some in  general purposes.

Let me preface.

The NICU that we were in was fabulous.  This NICU is unlike some others in that each baby has their own room (I could have slept there had I wanted) so I only interacted with the nurses and the doctors that stopped by to care for Miss S.  Loved the doctors and most of the nurses.  I really don't like that I didn't love all the nurses -- I think it has something to do with the fact that many of my friends are nurses in all sorts of healthcare capacities.  Some just rubbed me the wrong way and I was generally pretty happy when their time with us was over.  I didn't like having that feeling but that is raw and honest.

So, here are two things you don't say in the NICU...to a new mama.  Just don't do it.

Many that have walked the road of motherhood with me know that I have had a difficult time nursing.  I am committed to breastfeeding my babies as long as I can without losing my sanity.  It's a hard road to hoe for me but I made it to six months with Miss L and Miss A.  I had already been pumping in the hospital and trekking down to the NICU with my, literally, drop or two of nourishment.  I was discouraged.  If I produced next to nothing I didn't bring it down (another nurse would be encouraging and say bring even the drops!) and felt like this was useless and I was facing another major obstacle.

Not knowing the battle I was fighting, or that I had fought this battle twice before, curtly informed me that consistency was the key to making milk.  For most, it's no big deal.  I think she made it because of the lack of breast milk that I was bringing down.  However, she didn't know that I was in my room every couple of hours doing exactly what the lactation consultants told me to be doing.  Only going a little longer between times at night so I could get some sleep.  Husband knew this struck a very hurtful cord with me and he tried to help me keep it under control.  My postpartum hormones got the best of me.

I cried.

Hard.

If this had been my first baby and knew nothing of breastfeeding that would have been one thing.  However, this was number three... I get it.

On the upside, she apologized and was a little more sensitive to my emotional state.  She was our day nurse again the second day.  I was not thrilled.  However, day two was MUCH better than day one.

End Scene One.


Begin Scene Two.


A conversation with a night nurse started out well enough.  She started asking questions and the question that I got often, "Do you have other children?"

"Yes, two girls"

"Really?  What are their ages?"

I smile because I know what the reaction will probably be, "My oldest turns three this weekend and my second is almost 16 months."

"Really?  Wow, that's really close.  You must be busy!"

I tired to be on top of it enough that I see it as my cup runneth over!  Hands full of blessings!  However, this nurse said, "I have a 5 year-old and a 10-month-old at home.  I still think it's hard with the spread but I am glad that I can give each one the attention they deserve."

Awesome.  Thanks.

Basically, you just told me that I am not giving each child the attention she deserves.  Not exactly what I need to hear as I am thinking through how to balance time at home once I am discharged and time here with Miss S.

I responded in kindness with the positive sides of them being so close.  It was probably lost on her but that's okay.  I love how the Lord ordained each little life for us.  Busy?  Yes.  Trade it? No.

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Birth of Miss S - Part 2

You can read part one here.

We had already called Mom C to pack a bag and come over to the house.  I was in so much pain at this point I was ready for drugs and I made that known (nicely) to Husband.  However, I said, "We need to go NOW."  I was pretty sure this baby was going to be born in the car.  Mom C had yet to arrive.  I told Husband I didn't care we need to go.  He calmly said we couldn't just leave the girls even though they were fast asleep.  So, we waited in the van (I in the "trunk" area) until she was close by.  We passed by her on the way out and we were off.  My contractions seemed to slow down just a little but were still rather intense.  It was during this time that I wished our hospital wasn't quite so far away (20 minutes at regular speed...ahem)  Later I would be ever so glad that we were at this particular hospital.

When we arrived at the hospital around 11:10 PM the registration desk looked so far away.  No wheel chairs were close by and even if there had been one to use it may have been to painful to sit for very long.  To say that they processed me into triage quickly would be an understatement.  My one "Are you kidding me?" moment was when I walked back there they wanted to weigh me.  For real?  Of course I had a contraction while on the scale.  Anyway.  I get to my little bed, they check me... 7 cm and fully effaced.  I hear the nurse bark some commands about a room NOW and she didn't care where it was.  During this time I am telling them I want drugs.  They can't do anything for me yet because I hadn't had an IV.  Less than five minutes later I find myself in a L & D room with people zooming all around.  The resident checks me.  10 cm and fully effaced.  WHAT?!?!  I still want drugs people.  "Nope." They inform me, "You are having this baby naturally."  I laugh.

I push.

I cry yell.

I am NOT having this baby naturally.  I can barely control this pain unlike anything I ever felt.  My contractions slowed down a bit.  I think it was because there was a whole crew of people from the NICU in there because she was coming before 37 weeks.  Finally, my doctor says she's going to check something and it's going to hurt.  Um.  Yeah. Understatement.  I'm pretty sure I almost kicked her at that point.  I wasn't fully dilated after all.  When they checked me the second time Miss S was pushing down so hard that my water bag was bulging.  After they broke it something happened and a forebag was created hiding the last bit of cervix that needed to disappear.  That actually bought me some time to have an epidural.  YEAH!

It was just enough to take the edge off.  I still feel the contractions (there would be no sleeping through labor like I did with Miss A) and I knew she would be making her grand appearance soon.  They told me to let them know if I felt like pushing or the pressure increased.  It wasn't long after the epidural was in that I told them that things were changing.  They said the doctor was called to emergency surgery for an ectopic pregnancy and would come as soon as she was done.  They moved me into a more upright position to help get Miss S into position.  So, while I wait for the doctor each time I feel contractions... I push (not very hard.)  The doctor came back about 2 hours after I got my epidural and said lets see how you are doing.  They check and we are a 100% go this time around.  I steady myself for a possible hour of pushing (which is what I did with Miss A) -- to my great surprise 5 pushes and out she came!  It was now 2:31 AM, December 10 -- 6 1/2 hours -- about half the length of my last labor.  Once again they could not put my little bundle on my chest because she, too, had a short cord like Miss A.  Odd.  Miss S let out a little cry and once Husband cut the cord they whisked her over to be evaluated.

It was a long time.  All was quiet over there.  A little too quiet.  I called over to Husband but I don't think he heard me.  Finally, a nurse came and told me that little Miss S was having a hard time breathing and they were taking her to the NICU.  They let me touch her and see her for about two minutes and they were gone.  Husband went with her.  I remember crying and telling Husband, "I'm sorry."  I was sorry I couldn't keep her in longer.  While I know now there was nothing I could do, in that moment it felt like my fault.  I should have been able to keep her safe inside a little bit longer.  Our other girls had been early and no problems.  I naively thought she would be fine, too.

When all was said and done I was able to go down to the NICU (A branch of Phoenix Children's NICU - one of the best - is located on the same floor as L & D in this hospital) for about 20 minutes to see Miss S before I had to check in my room and with the nurses there.  Thankfully, Husband had already shown me pictures of what she looked like otherwise I think I would have just lost it with all the wires and tubes attached to her.

Miss S had a CPAP machine on her to force air in her lungs and cause them to really open up.  Gosh she did not like that thing.  Nurses called her, "feisty."  She also has a small tube that went down into her stomach to pull out stuff that may accumulate there as a by product of the CPAP and give her small amounts of nourishment.  They also wanted to be able to tell if she was digesting things well (which she wasn't for awhile because she was working so hard on breathing.)  She had an IV that was giving her some medicine that she needed and other nourishment.  Then there were all the "normal" wires for any baby in the NICU that check heart rate, breathing, and oxygen saturation.  It was pretty intense for me and my baby was not the sickest baby in NICU.  I couldn't even being to imagine what other mama's were experiencing.

So, now began my days of working on getting my milk to come in to help nourish Miss S while she was in there and not allowed to work on sucking.  Too much for her system to process.  This seemed like a daunting task as well given my not so great history in overall milk production.  Trips down to the NICU.  Healing. Checking in with my nurses from time to time.  Rest. Miss S made great progress -- breathing, then eating, some jaundice curbed.  I was discharged from the hospital on Monday (an interesting balance between time with Miss L and Miss A and being at the hospital) and Miss S finally was able to come home on Thursday evening.

She's doing better and seems to be thriving.  We are adjusting to being a family of five and thanking the Lord foe each sweet blessing and the extravagant love He shows to us through each one.

More thoughts and side stories of the NICU in the coming days/weeks.


Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Birth of Miss S - Part 1

Well, our third little bundle made a rather unexpected early arrival on December 10 -- just two days beyond the 36 week mark.  Miss S arrived at 2:31 AM weighing in at 5lbs 15oz and 19 inches long.

We have an interesting story with her for sure.

At the 35 week mark I noticed contractions that were consistent and when I finally really paid attention to them I realized they were in a pattern but not really increasing in strength.  Just the same my doctor wanted me to go in to be monitored for awhile.  To make this part of the story a bit shorter they concluded that I was having contractions that went from 10 minutes apart to about 3-5 minutes apart.  However, they were not growing in intensity.  I could still talk through them, etc.  They decided to give me a shot of terbutaline to make them stop.  It worked.  I didn't realize how much I was contracting until they stopped.  We prayed that baby girl would stay put for a couple of more weeks.

So, we just kept going, going, going for another week and a half.

On December 9, I had my 36 week appointment with my OB where she asked if I wanted to be "checked" or "left alone."  Husband and I were both pretty sure that I had dilated a bit more than when I was in the hospital and we had a bet going as to how far along I was.  I said I was maybe three centimeters and Husband said for sure four.  Well, let me just say that Husband won the bet and I owe him dinner.  My doctor said a solid four and maybe more. In God's providence, we decided not to go to our church's Christmas party and had dinner with some dear friends that were back in the Valley for the winter months.  Just before dinner (6:30 PM) I pulled Husband aside to let him know that I was having contractions.  They were not Braxton Hicks, I had only had a couple, and they didn't seem to be a big deal.  During dinner I had a few more but I didn't really think too much of them.  After dinner Mrs. B and I sat in the living room to watch Miss L and Miss A play and chat.  During that time my contractions became a bit more intense.  I tried to hide what was going on but there was one contraction where I had to look at the ceiling and really think through what I was saying.  In the midst of our girls letting us know that they were tired and ready to go home I confessed that my contractions were getting stronger and we should probably go (around 8:00 PM)  We joked about how Miss S could make an appearance tonight.  We also laughed that maybe it's Italian food makes me go into labor as that is what I had just before Miss A was born.  However, my thought at the time was I should just get a lot of water in me and lay down and they will disappear.  Yep, that's what I thought.

On the way home I really had to concentrate through contractions.  When I would do my controlled breathing Miss L thought that I was pretending to be asleep and she would chime in from the back seat, "Wake up, Mama, wake up!!"  It's hard to do controlled breathing when you are laughing and trying to explain that you are not, in fact, asleep.  The contractions were coming more frequently by the time we got home.  We made the call to my mother-in-law to pack a bag and be ready to come.  In the mean time, Husband and I got the girls ready for bed.  Miss L really wanted more help from me than normal on this particular night and I had to stop in the middle of the routine for a really intense contraction.  I didn't do anything to freak her out but I think at that point she realized something was "wrong" with Mommy and she started pulling out all of her stalling cards.  Husband ran interference and she finally settled down and went to sleep.  I guzzled down a LOT of water and laid down.

If anything, the contractions got stronger and faster.