Thursday, December 19, 2013

Lego Maniac - only the 2013/2014 edition

Do you remember the Zack the Lego Maniac commercial from the 80s? Well I have the lego maniac, but it's not Zack.

What does my little guy want from Santa, yes, Legos, Legos, and more Legos. Oh and don't forget that anyone that asked him what he'd like for Christmas, like his grandparents, he of course said Legos.

Keep in mind we already have what I think is a ton but they were all in one big container, so I mentioned it might be easier to sort all the colors and then build everything we have with the directions. I'm a little OCD and like to organize things like that - not things like my kitchen. Yes, my husband and son thought this was a great idea, but mom was voted the person to sort. I actually heard, "mom, you're pretty good at sorting, better than me, so maybe you should just do it."

After getting each color in it's own gallon bag, my son started to build some of the littler trucks and things he had the directions for. He loves building and constructing over and over but to sit and watch how fast he is while I tried to keep up by building a helicopter, I was impressed to say the very least. We decided after we each built one piece, well he did two, that we'd build together. Sounds fun and special, right?! Well…it was both of those but it also was competitive. In order to participate I had to keep up because now and then it turned into a race to find the right pieces. Actually, it was very special for me, although the little baby girl hated it. She screamed for the majority of the time whenever we worked on all the projects because she wasn't the focus.

Because Santa will probably deliver more Legos he wanted to leave everything built so his pieces wouldn't mix - at least not yet.

This is probably just over the halfway point. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Thanksgiving Thankful Tree

This year I decided to put up a thankful tree and each day our son needed to name one thing he is thankful for and then I would write it on a leaf to hang in our tree. We started on the first day of November and stopped on Thanksgiving Day, and depending on your requirements, this can get tough for a 5-year old. We didn't allow him to name family members separate - he said family for his first leaf and then wasn't allowed to name mom, dad, or grandparents. He also said 'friends' which meant he couldn't name specific friends; he really needed to put thought into what he did say. Towards the end we helped because after about 20 days, it was difficult.

He liked trying to think of things each night and it made him realize he has a lot to be thankful for - which was my goal :). 

It's a simple thing to do but has a lot of meaning and I think it's great to do before the Christmas season.

His leaves - no special order…
going camping with dad
hot chocolate after playing in the snow
thanksgiving and turkey too
movie day at school
new pajamas for pj day
huge bed
friends at school
my sister
going fishing
my house
my teacher
donuts for breakfast
getting juice
my room
having mom make me lunch
my school

Friday, November 29, 2013

Thanksgiving at Our House

Thanksgiving prep day two was filled with baking. My little chefs and I made 48 mini pies (pumpkin and apple) and then a small apple pie. I also prepped everything for the stuffing. While the baby was asleep my son and I took a timeout from Thanksgiving to go outside and do some serious sled riding. Well maybe not serious sled riding, we don't live on a mountain top and thank goodness because after mom releases the sled, she follows down the little hill to pull the sled back up. Not much work at all but he had a lot of fun seeing how far he could sled through the yard. I also forgot to mention that I had planned on doing the pies by myself but my son's preschool was cancelled so having him help me took a little longer than expected. 

The pies looked pretty great, although some of the crusts on the pumpkin ones got a little too brown for my liking but I wasn't going to try any until Thanksgiving dinner. This was a mistake - although, even knowing what I know now, I wouldn't have remade the pies because there just wasn't enough time. 

Okay, so on Wednesday night I had my game plan for Thursday morning which consisted of recipes, drop dead times that stuff had to be started or I'd be in trouble, the nursing and sleep schedule for the baby, and the table and chair layouts. 

Thursday morning rolled around and everything was going pretty good. I had the turkeys cleaned, seasoned, bagged, and put into the roasters. Everything seemed to be under control with the tables and chairs so I decided to go shower and get ready before I really started cooking. WELL…when I came down into the kitchen and checked the turkeys to make sure everything was going good - HA - I blew the breakers - the turkeys had not cooked for the 45 minutes I had assumed they were. Yep, a little freak out, Thanksgiving with no turkey, so I needed to get back on track. Oh my! Luckily everything else went smoothly. I was rushing and moving around the kitchen but when I say let's eat at 12:30 p.m. I want to eat at 12:30 p.m. Also a special thanks to my husband for helping as much as he did - a ton! 

I'd like to share some of the recipes that were a hit and tell you what was a miss!

Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes with Cheddar - new recipe
Macaroni and Cheese - new recipe
Green Beans 
Small Apple Pie - traditional pie

Mini Pumpkin & Apple Pies

A short few notes on the misses. The mini pies looked so cute and fun but the taste just wasn't the same as a piece of a full pie. I enjoy my pie dough crust with a bunch of sliced apples inside, the heat and steam staying in the pie while it cooks. When I made the mini apple pies, I used a recipe I found on Pinterest and it just wasn't what I thought it would be. They weren't bad but next year will be full apple pies. Now for the pumpkin pies, they were bad. Not only did I get them darker than I wanted, they were dry, there wasn't enough pumpkin in each cup and I have a pumpkin pie cake recipe that is so much better, thanks to my aunt for that one. The stuffing, well I purchased store bought bread crumbs and followed their recipe - nope, not next year. 

Okay so I want to share with you the the recipes for the best mashed potatoes, pretty good macaroni and cheese, and fantastic green beans. 


Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes with Cheddar - from the Food Network
2 pounds whole Yukon gold or red potatoes
Kosher salt
1 stick softened butter or 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup buttermilk
Freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Put the potatoes in a saucepan; cover with cold water and add 2 tablespoons kosher salt. Bring to a simmer over medium-low to medium heat and cook, uncovered, until tender, about 45 minutes. Drain the potatoes and let sit until just cool enough to handle, then peel and transfer to a bowl.

Add the butter to the potatoes. Add the buttermilk, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, and pepper to taste; mash with a potato masher or fork.

Stir the parsley, dill and chives into the potatoes. Fold in the cheddar. Spoon the mashed potatoes into a serving dish.


Baked Macaroni and Cheese - from All Recipes - but slightly changed for our tastes
1 box spiral pasta
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter, softened - divided
1 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon cream cheese, softened
1 (8 ounce) package shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 cup milk
1 (8 ounce) package shredded mild Cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta in the boiling water, stirring occasionally until firm to the bite, about 7 minutes. Drain and transfer to a large bowl. Sprinkle macaroni with 1/2 teaspoon salt and stir 1/2 cup butter into the pasta.
Mix 1/4 cup butter, sour cream, cream cheese, sharp Cheddar cheese, and egg yolk together in a bowl. Stir flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, cayenne pepper, and milk into the sour cream mixture.
Stir sour cream sauce into pasta and pour into baking dish, sprinkle mild Cheddar cheese over the top.
Bake in the preheated oven until heated through and cheese topping has melted, about 15 minutes.


Green Beans
3 pint size bags of frozen green beans from our garden
5 cloves of fresh minced garlic
2 tablespoons of butter
2 teaspoons of cayenne pepper

In a large skillet heat all ingredients until beans are cooked through, tossing occasionally. 


Overall, everything was great and I enjoyed spending time with family, especially seeing my son have so much fun with his cousins. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Let it Begin - Thanksgiving Prep Day 1

Anyone that hosts Thanksgiving dinner or lunch knows you start prepping well before this week with inviting family and friends, buying groceries, getting tables and chairs, and etc. but today I really start. Yesterday my son had his Thanksgiving feast at school, so over the weekend I made and shredded the turkey for about 60 preschoolers. I can tell you that without a doubt that was the easiest turkey I've ever made and probably the juiciest. I actually did it in one of the turkey cooking bags, not only did it turn out better than ever, it was so simple. My plans for Thursday have now changed and I will now be making both turkeys in bags without stuffing them.

Not happy she wasn't
 being held. 
Anyway, back to today…I teased my son by putting on a starch white apron (forgot I even had until I was pulling out roasters from the garage) and telling him he could help but he would need to say "yes, chef" when I asked him to do anything. He laughed and laughed and told me that I'm not a chef, I don't have a job so he doesn't have to call me that, then the laughing continued.

Each year it's been a tradition for him to help with the cranberry sauce and now that he's five he can do much more with me just supervising. When I started having Thanksgiving at our house, I wanted him to be able to help, cranberry sauce was one of the easier things to do and he gets to tell everyone that he made it!


Cranberry Sauce
1 pkg. cranberries (not frozen)
2 McIntosh apples
1 1/2 c. sugar
3/4 c. water
3/4 c. apple juice

Rinse cranberries (remove any with blemishes)

Peel, core, and dice apples. (When my son was younger, he used a butter knife to cut apples.)

In a saucepan, bring sugar, water, and apple juice to a boil. Add the berries and apples. Stir continuously for about 10 minutes or until berries start to pop. (Little kids love hearing the pops.)

Cover and place in refrigerator. Serve cold.


I also made the pie dough today so it had plenty of time to chill and also because I want to do as much ahead of time as possible. My plan is to make mini pumpkin pies and mini apple pies.


Simple Pie Dough
2 1/2 c. Crisco shortening
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
2 c. milk
6 - 8 c. flour

Mix shortening, baking soda, salt, and milk. Then add enough flour to make a stiff dough. Roll out or chill. (Makes about 7 crusts.)


Oh and I forgot to mention, another special bonus with using the bags for the turkeys, I can use both of my roasters and my oven can be used all of Thursday morning for stuffing, pasta spirals and cheese, and keeping anything and everything warm - especially the buttermilk mashed potatoes with mixed herbs and cheddar. Yes, it's a new recipe, and yes, it's probably not always the best idea to try new recipes for 25 people but I'm doing it anyway. My house, my craziness. :)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Quick 5 for a Better Day with Kiddos

Undoubtably if you are a parent you've had a day when you feel like the kids are playing a game of ganging up on you and you are losing. And not just losing a little bit, losing horribly. No matter what you do they won't stop whining, screaming, being mouthy, or whatever it is that pushes your buttons. Kids can be masters at knowing just the right button to push, but before you throw in the towel, here are 5 quick tips to help you through your day.

1. Breathe 
I know it sounds so simple but breathe...without huffing. Breath deep and slow to calm yourself.

2. Be Patient
Remember they think like kids, they act like kids, because they are kids.

3. Laugh
Do something silly, make a funny face, tell a joke, laugh with them. Or better yet, let them laugh at you.

4. Be Kind
As adults we develop thick skin, but little ones don't. Be conscious of your tone of voice, sometimes it's not what you say but how you say it.

5. Hugs
Hug your kids! This is a favorite for me, who doesn't love giving or receiving a hug from your little ones?

Monday, November 18, 2013

First vs Second

Today I saw the newest Luvs commercial, well maybe it's not new, but it's the first time I've seen it - the one that shows a mom having a young girl use hand sanitizer before she holds the first baby and by the second child she's handing over the baby to the auto mechanic. It's a cute commercial to advertise the diapers but it really hit home for me, not the diapers message, but how much more relaxed I am with my second. I still can't imagine myself handing over the baby to my auto mechanic but I'm not as obsessive about cleanliness with the second. And I'm sure any family reading this is saying thank goodness. 

With my son I was so worried about everything! When he was a tiny infant I had read that back in the day mothers didn't take their babies outside into the world until they were baptized (around 3 months old). I thought that's a great idea, I don't want him catching a cold, other people touching him, or what if he fusses or screams and people stare. 

My baby girl, well she's been out and about. She attended her brother's baseball game around 2 weeks old. Don't get me wrong, I don't want her catching a cold and I still cringe when someone wants to look at her at the grocery store because in my mind, I'm repeating…please don't touch her, please don't touch her. But I no longer insist on people washing their hands and if family or friends want to hold her I don't feel that apprehension that I had with my son. 

When I sit down to think about how much more relaxed I feel with my daughter, I can say I'm surprised I didn't give myself an ulcer with my son. I'm not a naturally calm, relaxed person and outsiders may not see me as calm but trust me, you should have known me five years ago. 

Our little girl is a screamer compared to our son, and while no mom wants her child to meltdown in public I don't sweat through my clothes nearly as much. I don't have anxiety about her screaming during church beginning on Thursday or worrying if I can get through the grocery store before she wakes up. 

I do hope being more relaxed with the second helps me to relax more now with my son. He needs to have the benefit too, after almost five years, he deserves it. :) 

Now the bigger question...for those of you that have more than two children, do you get even better with remaining calm?

Monday, November 4, 2013

Out to Eat with a Baby?

Do you fall into the category of definitely leave the baby at home or don't go out to eat OR of course the baby is going out to eat and if they cry, well they cry? Or maybe you fall somewhere in-between depending on the situation.

I'll never forget the first time we took our son out to eat and he screamed uncontrollably in a very nice restaurant, and while it was five years ago, I'll never ever forget it. We left with boxed food.

Last weekend my husband wanted to go out to dinner and he wanted me to pick the place but gave his opinion first, which was great with me as long as the baby seemed to cooperate. It's family friendly but it's a nicer than a kid-friendly place. I planned on nursing right before we left so she would be fed, changed, and comfortable - hopefully sleeping through our meal. 

Things don't always go as planned. I nursed her, changed her diaper, and was hoping on the short ride to town she'd fall asleep. No such luck but she was calm and playing with toys. We walked into the restaurant and asked for a both to slide her into - we only waited like five minutes for a table, in part because we decided we'd do a 5:00 p.m. dinner, a little early for a Saturday night but we'd miss the crowd. The baby started to fuss with her toy and kick her feet like she was upset so I looked to my husband and said "this may not work." 

I don't like my children to cry/scream at a restaurant (well at all, but babies will be babies) because I don't want someone else's dinner ruined because of me or my kids. Now if it's someone else's children, I don't mind. I look at it like things happen, babies cry, the parents want to eat out and they don't have a choice but to bring their child. They won't ruin my time and actually, it would bother the mom and dad much more than me, I've been there and I understand. 

Anyway, the host took us to our table and the car seat wouldn't fit in the booth so we placed her on the back part of the table and pulled the shade hoping she'd fall asleep. As you can imagine, she didn't. She started to cry a little louder, not a meltdown but crying harder. Of course we were trying to entertain her with toys, cover her with a blanket, take the blanket off, shush her, rock the seat, all those things you try to do. I said we should probably just go and forget it but my husband wanted to wait and see, he thought she'd calm down. We ordered and she stopped, maybe we could do this. 

The waitress was phenomenal and brought our salads right away but the baby started to cry again, the table behind my husband wasn't happy with us. The woman in her booth seat thrust herself against the back of the seat to push at my husband, then turned around and gave me horrible looks. Well that's all it took for me to really get upset. I stood with the seat and swayed her hoping I could get her to fall asleep while my husband tried to eat his salad and wait for our waitress to ask her to just box our dinners. Because the woman kept turning to look at me and my husband with hatefulness I was becoming more upset and when my husband stood to switch me so I could eat my salad, I was too worked up to eat. With tears in my eyes I said I'd walk to the vehicle and wait for him to come out. The waitress and host came back to say it was okay and we should stay, but I couldn't. They even told my husband that if the baby stopped we could come back in and they'd re-plate our food. (So very nice.) 

When my husband stood to leave the woman gave him a mean look and huffed at him several times so he acknowledged her by asking if she had a problem, what was her problem, and then mentioned something about "like she never had kids or heard kids cry." He was upset because he knew I was in tears so I can't imagine his tone was pleasant. She turned her head and refused to acknowledge my husband spoke to her at all. 

Please keep in mind that I was in the vehicle at 5:22 p.m. 

We brought our food home and had a nice dinner together. It's just sometimes nice to go out to a restaurant to eat, we don't do it often and thought we'd try. I don't want to ruin someone else's experience but if you don't try, you'll never know. I'm not sure what the nasty customer would have preferred we do - in my opinion, other than the tears, I think we handled the situation the best for the other patrons. 

Do you go out to eat with little ones, and what has been your experience if they cry or scream? I'd love to hear from you. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

More Stress? Gen X vs Gen Y

While reading my twitter feed and catching up on my news I saw this tweet...

I was born in the earlier 1980s so I'm not sure if I fall into Generation X or Generation Y because they overlap, but my mother is definitely Generation X so I would say I am the Gen Y. In comparing what I believe her situation to have been and experienced as a kid versus my situation now as a mom of two wonderful children, I would say motherhood stress is higher as a Generation Y.

And here's a couple of reasons why I think this.

Family Involvement 
When I was a child my parents lived 30 yards from my great grandma (when I was 5 years of age she was 65) and only about two miles from both of my grandmas. I am very fortunate to still have these grandmas in my life.
I remember being at my great-grandma's house a lot of my life, who didn't want to go to grammy's?! I also remember spending a ton of time at one of my grandma's because my cousin was always there. We are very close in age so we were the best of playmates. Fortunately for most of my life, my mom stayed at home with me but I also remember being with family, whether she was there or not.
Also, we lived in a small town and for better or worse, everyone knew everyone. So kids played outside with the neighbor kids. I was outside and while my mom or dad checked on me, I was not under constant supervision. A certain level of trust comes with familiarity.
My kids have the closest family about two hours away. Yes, my husband and I made the decision to move away for work and to hopefully provide a great life for our kids. But family isn't close, and while they are not halfway across the country like a lot of other families, it's too far to just have my kids drop in for a couple of hours. The time has to be scheduled if they visit.
We live in a very nice neighborhood and our son goes outside to play but there aren't a ton of kids his age around so mommy and daddy play outside too.

Financial Situation 
As I said my mom stayed at home with me as did a lot of other moms at that time and being from a small town the cost of living wasn't as high as other places. We did fun things and sometimes went out to dinner, but it was a treat. And dinner out wasn't all the time, my parents watched what they spent. I do need to tell those reading that my parents didn't talk a lot about anything financial in front of me, they didn't want me to worry or know about their financial situation.
Now more than ever both parents work outside the home, I am blessed and right now get to be a stay at home mom with my two, but a lot of people can't or don't do this. In order to afford expenses both mom and dad get up and go to work while the kids go to school or childcare of some sort. When we first moved away from family, both my husband and I worked so our son went to daycare. The daily drop-offs were stressful. Was the lunch and snacks packed? Did I give the daycare enough diapers, wipes, and clothes? And we hoped our son didn't catch a cold from another kid because mom was taking off work to keep the little one at home. Thousand of moms do this every day, I did too, it's different from when I was little.
And let's not forget - because dad and mom may both work, no one wants to make dinner so let's pick something up or go out. This was me - definitely!

I have never felt I had to go without something growing up, my parents always provided for me, I had toys, clothes, fun things to do, and I never felt deprived but they also knew how to say no. They knew I didn't need everything in sight and they didn't spend like crazy, it always seemed to be in the range of normal.
I have a hard time not getting something for my son. (The baby is just too little to need material anything beyond  warm clothes, diapers, and a couple toys.) We go to the store and he asks for a drink, or a toy, or something to eat, and the list goes on. I am working on saying no more often but I want to get him something. If I get a drink at the gas station, I feel like I should get him one too. I know that's a simple example but it's true and my husband, while not as bad as me at this, likes to pick up something for him too.
Our son now and then will come home and tell us a kid at preschool has this or that, and then asks if we can get him the same toy or whatever the item is. Some kids at school have iPads and he wanted one. (Both my husband and I quickly said NO). While I don't want him being the only one to not have something, I refuse to always get him something just because everyone else has it, especially at five years old!
I feel like competition to keep up with the latest thing is more present now than when I was a kid which causes a lot more stress.

I've given a couple reasons why I think it's more stressful now but I'm interested to read your thoughts. How do you feel about the tweet? Please respond in the comments. Thanks!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Fall Pictures

Taking great photographs and capturing those great moments with a camera isn't my strong suit but I try to remember to take as many pictures as I can when I remember my camera. I love looking at actual printed photos of my kids but I seem to keep the majority of them on my computer and generally when I send pictures to the grandparents or extended family they are sent as a picture message through the phones. Printing a picture I've taken with my phone...well those never turn out. 

My husband and I tossed around the idea of getting a photographer to take photos of the kids outside in the fall. However, when I started looking into some of the ones I found online, I saw the cost associated and because the baby is only 4 months, I didn't know if it would be worth it. What if she screamed the entire time, how long would it take before both kids melted down, and with not knowing a trusted photographer, well we decided against it. 

Although we decided against getting them professionally taken this year, I still wanted pictures. I decided I would try to take some staged photos, knowing that I couldn't take any that would be extraordinary by any means but I wanted some to put into frames in the house. I set up the little scene below and tried my best. And for our purposes, they turned out just fine. I figure having really cute kids helps my photographer ability. ~smiles~

Fall 2013

Baby is starting to scream and
my son is doing his version
of smiling.

Really screaming now
and still fake smiling. 

The baby is now in my arms
and I asked my son to think of something funny.
Finally a real smile. 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Fun Fall Things To Do For Families

I've mentioned in a previous post that my favorite season is fall, my husband's favorite too, and we try to do all sorts of fun fall-like things. I'd love to hear some of your favorite things in the comments, so please feel free to share. Below are some of things we try to do each year.

1. Jumping/Playing in the leaves.

2. Going to a pumpkin patch.

3. Attending a fall festival.

4. Carving our pumpkins. 

5. Winding our way through and beside a corn stalk maze. 

6. Trick or treating...well just the treating. 

7. Joining the class for the farm field trip.

8. Baking something with apples. (I have a delicious Apple Crisp recipe that I plan to share in an upcoming post. Simple and delicious.)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Wanting the Best for Them

Our son in 2008
When my son was three days old, I remember lying awake in bed crying because I was worried and scared. Even terrified. My husband had asked what's wrong and of course the crying became worse as I said, "what if I do something wrong, what if I mess up?" Yes, I was a little hysterical and I had some of the baby blues but I was still scared that I'd not be able to do enough. My husband quickly realized that nothing he could say would entirely make me feel better at that moment so he made my laugh by making a joke. He said he wasn't worried about the now, he was worried about the future, when our son would be a teenager and doing all the things that we did or our friends did. Our poor parents. He was able to lighten my worry but I realized that I would spend the rest of my life trying to do the best I can. 

Summer 2013
Yes there are days that I feel like I'm failing miserably, I'm yelling too much or even I'm sick of hearing myself say "no, stop it." But my son knows he is loved unconditionally and my daughter will too. I tell them often, I show them, and I think hugs are crucial. It's such a simple thing to do, hug your kids. I encourage you right now, to stop whatever you are doing and hug your child. Trust me, they'll love it, they may think you're crazy but they'll still love it, and you will too. A simple motion that packs so much emotion.

We provide for our kids, we give them whatever we are able, but most of all kids want to be loved! They need to know they are loved. Our family is a tougher family, we expect a lot of each other so I try to remember to be patient and remember he's only five years old. But some days tempers flare and kids don't listen all the time, but mine always knows I love him and want the best for him.

Baby Girl 2013
Am I still going to lose my patience, I can almost guarantee it; however, each day is a new day and I will do the best I can for each one of them. Yes, I will still worry, it's part of being a parent. God has blessed my husband and me with two wonderful kids and I want to raise them the best way I know how. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Completed Insanity

Two weeks ago, I finished the Insanity Program and it took every bit of everything I had to complete it. That last week was a killer, I think because being done seemed so close but yet so far away when you popped in the dvd and saw the time it would take to do the workouts you know are tough. But...and here's the big but...I wanted to say that I completed it, I wanted to prove to myself that I could and would do it.

I didn't lose any weight because I just ate worse than normal, which is too say, what you put into your body seriously matters. I do plan to do the program again and I think the next time, I will try to eat right. Or at least better.

So for the past two weeks, I've taken it easy by walking on the treadmill, doing 20 minutes of Pilates, or doing absolutely nothing. I say my body needed a rest but I just wanted to rest. Today, I thought I'd try one of the easier first month exercises and see how well I could do. Let me just tell you, I got a pretty big reality check, it wasn't how well I was doing, it was get your butt moving because you aren't keeping all! Now I didn't think I'd be killing it but I also wasn't prepared for how winded I would be, how exhausted I would be, and how much I would struggle. It wasn't easy!

I haven't decided when I'll try to do the program again but I know it'll be tough no matter what.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

End of Summer Fun

Summer is soon ending and we are trying to enjoy every last drop of it, but we also look forward to autumn, my favorite season. The fall season means cooler weather but still that pretty sunshine with a gentle breeze, the leaves changing colors of bright red and burnt orange, and football, especially college football.

My husband absolutely loves college football, possibly more than NFL and because we've been together for so long, I guess he rubbed off on me. We've started kind of a tradition and each year go to a game, last year we attended a Pittsburgh Panthers vs. Virginia Tech game and Pittsburgh won. The best part when I bought the tickets I hadn't noticed that I purchased tickets in the Virginia Tech section - so glad we won. I even lost my voice from cheering/screaming.

Anyway, this year we received tickets for our birthdays and will go in a couple weekends but last weekend tickets were priced extremely low and on a whim we thought we'd go and take our son. Originally I had planned on taking the baby (3 and 1/2 months) but decided that might not be such a great plan because of the noise. So that meant first real time that momma has been away from her little baby girl. But our son gets dad and mom's undivided attention, aside from the game.

We only stayed for the first half but it was worth it to take him to the stadium, see the game, and to get lunch. I think the pizza may have been his favorite part. He knows that he won't be able to go to the next game so he decided to build a television to watch the next game and try to see us.

Painting the television he helped build.

***And as a side note - the little baby girl did extremely well with my mom, although she was furious with me for leaving her. She made pouting faces at me and cried when I picked her up for about an hour after we returned. Momma didn't do as well as she did. :)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Un-Stuffed Peppers

What do you do with all those extra banana peppers from your garden? You can make un-stuffed peppers, which actually is so easy and tastes great. Because of the simplicity it's great for a weeknight dinner.

Un-Stuffed Peppers

10 banana peppers, chopped (seeds removed)
1 lb ground beef
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce (24oz)
1 cup of brown rice, cooked
1 cup of shredded colby jack cheese
pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350.

Brown ground beef, drain fat and return to pan. Add garlic and peppers to pan. Season generously with pepper. Then add in spaghetti sauce. Mix and add in rice along with 3/4 cup of cheese.

Grease a 13x9 baking dish.

Pour mixture into baking dish. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top and place in oven for 20-25 minutes.

*Serve with garlic bread.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Little Garden, Lots of Work

I've posted before about our little garden and how well it was doing, which I am still thankful for but it has been quite a bit of work. I'm a little in awe of people who have large gardens, or even medium sized ones.

Now, I know we didn't have fields of corn but I made about 20 dozen ears of corn. Whether we ate it (probably 5 dozen), froze it, or put it into dinner recipes my husband husked and I made it. So I do consider that part of our gardening.

Freezing green beans too many times to count, canning banana peppers which I did again today, and canning chili sauce twice, well I was sick of our great little garden last week. I know during late fall and winter I will love taking something out of our freezer or off our shelves instead of buying at the grocery store but I had no idea the time it takes. I don't mind the work, but it takes a ton of time...especially freezing corn.

I need to give a great big round of applause to people who have medium or large gardens. I can't even imagine how much time and effort they put into it, I know it's a lot and I just think it's great. Congrats to you!

Basic Garden Vegetable Beef Soup

Anytime we start to get autumn-like weather, even if it's only for a day, my husband begins to ask for homemade vegetable soup. I always try to make a lot so I can freeze it and don't have to make it more than three times a year. It's really easy to make but it takes some time. With our green beans from the garden and fresh corn, I figured it was the perfect time to make soup, even though the weather isn't exactly cool enough to eat soup.
Diced potatoes cooking.

Basic Garden Vegetable Beef Soup

2 1/2 lbs sirloin roast, shredded (reserve 1 1/2 cups of beef stock)
2 large cans of crushed tomatoes (or use tomatoes from your garden)
2 cups red potatoes, diced and cooked (reserve 1 1/2 cups of water from potatoes)

2 cups fresh green beans
2 cups fresh corn (cut from cob)
Adding in fresh corn. 
1/2 cup carrots, sliced
1/2 cup peas

Place sirloin roast with 2 cups water in a crock pot (in the morning). Cook on low for about 6 hrs. or until you can easily shred with a fork. (I cut away all of the fat I can and season with salt and a generous amount of pepper before placing in crock pot.)

In large soup pot add crushed tomatoes and green beans. If you use fresh beans out of the garden they will need to cook just a little longer so I add first and cook for about 7 minutes. Add potatoes, corn, carrots, and peas. Stir and then add the beef stock and starch water to your desired consistency. Add in shredded sirloin and simmer for at least 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Salt and pepper to taste.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

5 Easy Steps for Freezing Corn

Everyone in our family loves to have corn on the cob for dinner, actually I could eat it most nights for dinner, but they don't like to have it that often. My husband's grandparents have several fields of sweet corn and normally I go to their home and spend the day with them freezing corn for the fall and winter. This year, with two little ones, I thought it might be better to stay home and try to freeze several dozen. Might just be a little too much chaos for the great-grandparents and I can also do it on my own time and not feel bad if I have to stop because someone needs nursed. They gave us about eight dozen ears of corn and while my husband husked it, I came inside to get my stations set up and my large pots of water boiling. Everyone seems to have a slightly different method but mine is copied straight from my grandma. (She is such a wonderful person and she's been doing this for years, so of course she would know what's best.)

The first thing you need to do is husk all of your corn, within a day or two of picking or buying from a trusted vendor, so it's definitely fresh. I have never purchased corn on the cob from a large grocery store so I can't speak to how fresh this can be.

1. Boiling Station
Boil one or two extra large pots of water. Once the water is boiling, carefully place as many ears as you can into the pot. Boil each batch for about 6-8 minutes, when you start to smell the corn or when the corn becomes a brighter shade of yellow, remove each ear with kitchen tongs.

2. Cooling Station
Lay corn on a wooden cutting board or in a pan without stacking the ears so each one can cool just a little before you need to hold and cut - your hands will thank you.

3. Cutting Station
I suggest using a glass casserole dish and a very sharp knife to cut off the kernels. Place a corn ear in the center of the dish, holding upright with your left hand. Take the knife in your right and cut downward into the pan, cutting as much corn off the cob as you are able. Be careful not to cut into the cob and if this is your first time cutting corn, you'll become much better with each one.

4. Loose Corn Station
After cutting several ears and your dish is full, transfer loose kernels into a large bowl. You'll need to do this many times but it will make your job much easier than stopping after several ears to place corn into freezer bags and then returning to cutting kernels. It's also less messier to do it the way I have suggested.

5. Bagging Station
Once you have all of your corn cut and placed into large bowls use a measuring cup to put corn in freezer bags. Use your own judgement in distributing but for 2 adults and a 5-year old, I place 2 1/2 to 3 cups in each bag.

Now all you need to do is clear out room in your freezer for the bags. When you decide to use a bag in the fall or winter, (or in my case - about a week) pull out of your freezer and heat. It's so nice to have corn like this instead of canned corn.

Do you have your own special method or do you add butter or sugar? Please share your methods or steps by commenting on this post. Thanks!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Public School vs. Private School Controversy

Last week I was reading an article that was posted to Slate written by a woman that chose to call people that send their children to private school "bad people." I first came to this article through a blog post that gave a high level summary of the Slate article by Allison Benedict, and it was this post and the comments that followed that really made me wonder which side I feel is more legitimate. Not are you a bad person if you send your child to private school but is her reasoning sound and where do I stand. 

The comments on the paraphrased blog post leaned to how beneficial the private schools are and slammed back at the bad people remark. Several comments included that the parents chose to work in order to send their kids to private school because they received a better education; they weren't rich but worked in order to give their kids any advantage they could. Isn't that what we all want, for our kids to have advantages we didn't and we want the best for them?! Of course, so if you want to send your child to a private school because of a better education, because of religious values, or because of your own specific reasons then why does that make you or me a bad person?! Well it doesn' least not it my book.

Benedict's article makes the statement that a parent that sends their child to a private school over a public school is "...ruinging-one-of-our-nation's-most-essential-instiutions-in-order-to-get-what's-best-for-your-kid bad." She also goes on to say that she believes if you can afford private school (even if you need to scrimp and save) then your child will be perfectly fine at a crappy public school. Mainly because that child will have support at home. Benedict also makes her argument that if everyone invested in their public school with their resources of time and finances that those public schools would no longer be so crappy and it would turn the system around over generations to come. 

I understand her argument, but I was interested to see her background other than what the article provided, she went to a public school that wasn't exactly superior and she turned out fine despite not being challenged in most of her classes but getting through high school and college without too many hiccups. In my own search I discovered that she and her husband both work and quit contributing to their 401K to send their child to a private preschool. (When I did my original search I was only curious to see if she actually had a child or children.) Now could that be wrong, it's possible because I don't know her personally but I found this information out through a basic web search. In my mind to be openly slamming parents that choose to send their kids to private school and turn around and send your child to a private preschool...well you've lost my respect because you didn't admit that up front in your article. 

I went to a public school that was very small, not very well funded, and was probably considered the worst school in the area. However, I went to college and did very well academically, I wasn't prepared at all, but I wanted to do well. I needed to prove it to myself that no matter what I could do it, and I did. Now, my husband went to a private Catholic school for his elementary education and then into public junior and senior high. He would tell you that the private school education was superior and when he went to the public school he was ahead by about three years. 

Right now, our son goes to a private, Catholic preschool that has an exceptional program. (He also went through the preschool program last year but we chose to repeat because he would have been one of the youngest in his class.)  The school begins with their preschool programs and provides education through the 8th grade. From the experiences we had last year, parents I've met, and standards I've seen from the school, I can say it is absolutely exceptional. 

The public school district we live in seems to be good as well. I've not seen or heard that it ranks as high as the private school but I haven't heard bad things at all. I can't comment as much about this school because I just don't know enough. We receive the newsletters, see articles in the paper, and can view their school ranking online but without my child being enrolled, I don't feel I can do the school justice. 

So when next year comes, I'm not sure what we'll do, but either way, I don't feel we are good or bad people based on the school we chose. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Canning Chili - All in the Sauce

For first time gardeners our little garden did very well at the beginning of summer, my son and I were able to freeze a lot of green beans and can a ton of banana peppers. I'm not sure why everyone says 'canning' when they go in jars but that just shows my lack of experience. I'm sure there is a good reason, I just don't know it. Anyway, our tomatoes seemed to be just flourishing at the beginning of summer, lots and lots of green tomatoes, the vines seemed to be growing quickly, and both my husband and I thought we would get too many. Ok, that's not exactly true, I was afraid we'd get too many and I would be juicing them for chili for many, many hours without much help. Well as summer progressed the tomatoes didn't seem to be ripening and no matter how many time we tied the vines to stakes they always seemed to collapse. Now I became a little disappointed because I did want to have some chili sauce stored for fall and winter.

The worry of too many tomatoes comes from when I had juiced them once before when my son was just a baby. It was my first time, it took me all day, did I mention my son was a baby (2 months old) and I was a first time mom and my father-in-law set it up for me in my kitchen with a carpeted dining room attached and I don't like huge messes. I knew I had to do it but I really didn't enjoy it. I remember crying.

After that first experience I was a little hesitant to be excited about doing it again, five years later. I knew it would be great to have the chili but wasn't exactly looking forward to the process. Well this time was completely different - it was FUN!

My husband and I picked as many as we could and he had guessed that we had at least 20 pounds and they should give us a couple quarts. I washed and cut the tomatoes while he put the juicer and table together OUTSIDE! If you can do this outside, do it outside; the tomatoes and juicer make such a mess.

Once we juiced all of them, we brought the pot inside to mix the chili seasoning and bring to a boil. I boiled the chili sauce for about 15 minutes while I brought the cold water bath up to a boil. As you can see from the pictures we don't have the correct pot for the cold water bath. I put the chili sauce into the quart mason jars and my husband lowered, kind of dropped the jars into the water. I boiled the jars for about 20 minutes and then he lifted them out. We also don't have the jar lifters to lift them out so he used mining gloves and a set of tongs. I highly recommend buying the necessary equipment if you do this because we both burned our hands and splashed boiling water everywhere. He guessed from the pot of sauce we'd get six jars, I guessed seven - we were able to successfully get 7 quarts of chili out of our little garden.

Takeaways from today's process:
1. Juice tomatoes outside
2. Have help
3. Get the right equipment

Previous gardening posts
Momma's Little Gardner
First Garden, First Peppers

Monday, August 26, 2013

PreK Interview Round 2

Today was the first day of PreK and last week I interviewed him again. I'm going to try to do this each year until he's a senior. Honestly at this age the answers are so cute and so much fun.

Baby sister thought she'd go too.