Thursday, September 27, 2012

I should just drive the kid

This new schedule really has me all wound up. 

I am convinced that I have the slowest kids on the planet.  Well, the slowest girls anyway.  Especially #1.  Ever since the day she was born, she took life slow.  Don't get me wrong.  This is a WONDERFUL trait.  It's one I admire most in her.  But, whenever there is a time crunch, or we need to be somewhere at a particular time, it's the most annoying trait ever!   

This has posed quite a problem with catching the school bus in the morning.  I always try to get to the bus stop a few minutes early so that #1 doesn't miss it.  The same rule follows when it's pick up time in the afternoon.  I get there a few minutes early so I don't miss her.  

Something is up this week.  Monday was typical.  The girls were off to a REAL slow start (as was I... and probably the rest of the country), so we almost missed the bus.  Got there just as it was pulling to the stop.  Almost doesn't count though, right?  She made it and everything was fine.

Yesterday afternoon, I left 3 minutes early to walk down to the bus stop (it takes me 60 seconds to get to the stop), but when I walked out my front door, I see the big yellow thing at the bottom of our street with its doors closed.  The words that came out of my mouth are not appropriate to write on here, but lets just say they were colorful!  So, I sprinted down the hill and got her.  #3 didn't even bother to get off the front steps and #2 was just yelling "RUN MOMMY, RUN!!!"  J and I were wondering what would happen if I forgot her (as if!) or was late.  Guess we know now.  The bus driver doesn't let her out!!!

Today!  Well, nothing too serious happened, but I got another sprinting session in this morning.  I left early to get to the stop - thank goodness!!!  So, we were there about 5 minutes early.  I look down at #1's feet and see she is wearing her rain boots.   It's not raining, but she likes them.  Sometimes it's just not worth it to argue.  It is very important to let them develop their own style, right?  Then it hit me.  Today PE.  Her schedule is taped inside her take home folder and next to PE... in big bold letters... it says "please wear sneakers."  Again - the words that came out of my mouth are not appropriate to write on here, but they were just as colorful as yesterday! 

After I picked her up from the bus this afternoon, they ran like wild animals into the back yard and I just sat down looking at the trees.  They relax me. 
Whenever I need to slow life down a little, I find a spot to relax, look up at the trees and listen to the leaves dance.  That's what I did today. 

Maybe I'll just drive the kid from now on. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Kid work station

Now that we are getting the hang of our new routines, I am finding that I am not organized with this new routine.  It drives me batty!  Feeling organized calms my mind, body and soul. Without it, I feel of control.  It's not fun!  The more I try fighting it, the more out of control I feel.

#1 and I seemed to have lost a sheet of paper that is necessary for a future project at school.  I realize this is her responsibility, but it is my job to teach her how to be organized, right?  There is no place for her stuff.  J and I talked about it and he suggested a trapper keeper.  I told him that this is not the 80's anymore, and they don't sell trapper keepers.  All they have are those binders with dividers.  She's not quite there yet. 

I found a solution!!!  
While browsing Pinteret recently (I'm slightly obsessed with all you can find on that site), I came across this desk/work station and I want J to make it for the girls.  He recently got a chop saw off and has signed up for the project! 
 Just looking at it makes my brain slow down.  There is a place for everything.  The dog was even considered in this plan.  Look at the bowls and bone on the bottom shelf.  How cute!  We don't have a dog small enough for that kind of space, and quite frankly, the dog would be a distraction once #2 starts doing homework.  #2 loves our dog, so I imagine her getting distracted (as she does so easily) and hanging out with the dog instead of doing homework. 

You are probably thinking this is silly.  You are also thinking... "have them sit at the kitchen table to do homework.  They don't need a desk."  If there is one thing I am sure of right now, it's that #1 would love a desk.  We talked about it over the last few weeks (she brought it up), and just last week, I found her playing school in her room using little things from around the house as her desk set up.  She also informed me that she only has two things on her Christmas list (yes - she has started her list already... oh boy!).  She is going to ask for a desk and stapler.  Yes.  You read that right.  A desk and stapler.  The stapler thing is a little confusing to me, but I guess they let her use one at school so it seems like a novelty item in our house. 

 A trapper keeper would have been the easier solution, but this will be a good solution in the long run, right?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

I like the night life baby...

It's 3 am.
Insomnia has swung into town and I am moping my kitchen floor.
I hear a husky voice.
"Mommy-ah" She calls.  It's my little girl.  The girl who doesn't sleep through the night still at the age of 4.  The girl that sleep walks, sleep talks, sleep yells, screams and cries... and has the loudest thumb slurp this side of the Mississippi.
"I need a nuggle."  Nuggle...her version of snuggle.  Even though she is able to say snuggle, I love her tired version.  The one that reminds me that she is still my little girl.
I creep up the stairs and crawl into bed with her.  The thumb goes in and she starts to rub my hair.
I smell the sweet smell of her whispy baby hair and touch her soft skin.
Her room in the dark is a soft pinkish purple.  The bright pink trim on her giraffe curtains looks softer in the glow of the hallway light.
And I nuggle.
Happy to be where I am and what I am doing.
I am watching my baby sleep.
She rolls over and begins scratching her armpit.
Her eyes open, yet I know they do not see anything.
She is sleeping.
"I'm scratching my armpit!" She announces.
The thumb goes back in, the eyes close again.
She mutters to her sleeping self, but I cannot understand due to the thumb.
Good night little girl.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

At this moment:

At this moment I am...
Amazed that I forget how cold your feet get with crocs on without socks when letting the chickens out on a cool dewy morning.

Happy that I have a nice warm sweater to wear during the morning chores to ward off the chill.

Getting bananas out of the freezer and softening butter to make banana bread today.  When bananas start to get too mushy to eat, I just put them in the freezer in their peels.  They defrost and make great baking bananas.  As for the squash...I'm thinking apple and sausage stuffed baked squash for dinner.

Seeing tomatoes everywhere.  This morning's haul included many green ones that fell during yesterday's rains.    They will slowly ripen over time and get added to the day's fare.  Oddly, I also found two potatoes.  We harvested our potatoes about a month ago when the plants died from the drought.  These two were just hanging out slightly under the soil when I did a little mini hoeing job.

Starting to stock the cupboards for winter.  I have taken the first step I do each fall... organization and seeing what I need vs. what we have plenty of.  I also remove all dry food from canning jars (rice, beans, etc) and put them in other glass jars.  That way my canning jars are ready for the next adventure...I also put in a few treats as they are on sale...those compromise items that make family life much happier such as the tomato soup in a can and pre-sweetened oatmeal packets...the oil for the cogs of family life.

What are you up to at this moment?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Why I am not a meal planner...

In contrast to my sister-in-law's meal planning, I have an alternative method that works for my chaotic life.  I keep well stocked cupboards and freezers.  I always make sure I have about 5-10 meals ready to go.  Some are more throw in the crockpot planned meals, some are more fly by the seat of my pants throw it together meals...but I know they are there.

When shopping, I try to buy items in season and stock up when the price is right (usually at the farmer's market) and enjoy.  Items that spoil quickly, I put right into whatever I'm making.  I also keep long storage veggies on hand stocked up like one would keep flour on hand...carrots, onion, potatoes, garlic...

When growing a garden, I usually know what I'll be getting out of it (unless there's crop failure or some rampant pest in the garden.)  Our meals typically have some element of garden food in them.  But the problem is...I don't always know a week or two ahead when I'll be getting that item out of the garden.  For example, if I planned to have salads with chicken for next Tuesday, but the lettuce gets eaten by a chipmunk...I could go to the store and buy lettuce, but that wouldn't be saving me money by meal planning.  So instead I look at what I have, and go from there.

The other issue with meal planning is that my husband works odd hours.  Some days he gets home at 4:00.  Some days he says he'll be home at 4:00 but because of an incident, doesn't get home until 11:00pm...and other days, he knows that he'll not get home until late and I have to pack a dinner for him.  Occasionally, he'll end up in our neck of the woods at lunch time due to a meeting and I'll need to throw something together quickly for him.  Because of this, I keep a well stocked freezer, cupboard, and fridge.  I am able to cook things he doesn't like on nights he'll be late...or take something out of the freezer and throw it in with his lunch so that he has dinner...and occasionally I get to be the wife that at a minute's notice can whip together a wonderful filling meal at noon for a surprise family time.

I have tried to do meal plans, but it just doesn't work for me.  My stocked pantry works for our family best.

Which type of kitchen person are you?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Meal planning

So, I was reading this article recently and it said one of the top 10 things you can do to save time and keep your sanity, is to meal plan.  If you fail to plan, you plan to fail, right?   Well, not exactly, but it proves to be true with us in this case.
One of my friends has it down to a science.  Each night of the week is consistently the same.  Mondays are casserole, Tuesdays are Italian, Wednesdays are Mexican, etc.  The only rules I stick by are one beef night, two chicken, one or two pork, one fish, one crockpot and possibly a "wing it" night.  This works for me as I tend to get bored with food easily.
Country-Sister-in-law gave me this idea of meal planning!  A few years ago, we participated in an email chain where each person would send out their menu for the week.  Sounds weird, but believe me, if you were in a food rut (which happens here quite frequently), it helped spark a little creativity in the kitchen! 
Now that school is in full swing, and we are juggling the schedules of two in school (I can't imagine how busy it will get once #3 hits school), I need a plan and this will help!  

Here was our meal plan for last week:
Monday:  Mac n' Cheese, Salad and cupcakes (We were celebrating #2's birthday)
Tuesday:  Italian Sausage and Eggplant Strata (P-friendly)
Wednesday:  Roasted chicken with salad and roasted veggies
Thursday:  French onion soup with leftover chicken
Friday:  Meatza Pie
Saturday: Homemade chicken soup
Sunday:  Burgers/hotdogs with grilled veggies

It worked out great, but I am finding that crock pot meals might benefit me more.  Either that, or getting my act together with the meal prep while the two little ones are sleeping.  That would help too.

What works for all of you?  I'd love some ideas!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Meatza Pie.. vegetarians beware

It started as an innocent link following...when lady paleo put a link in for Paleomg...and it was downhill from there...
I found a recipe for MEATZA...which I in turn turned into my own's a doozy...

I was expecting a gut bomb.  One of those meals that sit in your stomach like a brick for days.  While I had this for dinner, I was hungry again the next morning, and that evening was not hungry, but did not have that brick feeling...pretty cool huh?

So, since the kids were at grandma's and the husband was at a board meeting...I altered this recipe beyond here's my version of Metza for one (or two.)

First, find a good butcher.  We are fortunate to live near a farm that raises their own cattle/chicken/pigs and butchers them on premises...slaughter at the usda inspected plant as required, but they get them whole back and will do as you like with them...pretty cool huh?

So when I walked in a while ago asking if I could get some lean pork, ground, and spiced like hot Italian sausage...they didn't blink an eye...they just did it and only charged as if it were the lean cut of pork...nice!

1/2 lb lean ground meat (I had a mixture of beef and the above pork.)
3 TBS tomato sauce
2 tsp Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp garlic powder
3 cloves garlic minced
1 small onion sliced
2 slices bacon chopped
1/2 a red bell pepper sliced

Combine your meats and press into a thin circle (I did mine in a pie plate.)  Bake at 400 degrees for about 10-15 minutes.  While that is cooking, put the bacon in a small pan and start to cook it.  Once it has let off a little fat, put the onion and garlic in and let them saute as the bacon finishes cooking.  Take out of the pan and let it drain on a paper towel...less fat, more bacon flavor!  Take the meat patty out of the oven and drain off any fat.  Pat it with a paper want it a bit dry looking...if you don't the tomato sauce gets yucky.  Spoon the tomato sauce on to the meat patty and smear it like you would on a crust.  Sprinkle the seasonings on top of the meatza...then nicely arrange the other can really put whatever you want on it...skip the onion, garlic, bacon, pepper if you so's just what I had on hand, but let me tell you it rocks! (Paleo would exclude the use of cheese, but it's up to you...) Put it back in the oven for about 5-10 minutes...and enjoy!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Paleo: Haddock my way!

I bought haddock at the grocery store today and I was so excited to try making my own "crust" of sorts.  I usually put breadcrumbs and butter all over, then bake it.  Since butter and bread are a no-no with this diet, I used what was on hand.  I love browsing through cookbooks when I'm in a "food rut" and I remember seeing some fish recipes in the past that had a nutty crust on top.  This thought inspired me to create something of my own.

I split the fish into two pans.  The kids really like it with butter and breadcrumbs, so I'm not messing with a good thing.  They eat about 2 pounds between the 3 of them.  With my luck, they wouldn't like the new recipe.  They got the usual.  

For my batch, I first sauteed kale in coconut oil until crunchy.  Then, I added some unsweetened almond milk and unsweetened shredded coconut to the pan and let the milk evaporate a bit.
Next, I poured the milk mixture on top of the haddock, sprinkled walnuts on top (this was probably a mistake... I was hungry and put WAY too much) and put it in an oven set at 425 for 25 minutes.  
It was okay.  A bit dry.  This version will not be recreated.  I might try another version using less nuts, switching to coconut milk vs. the almond milk, and possibly use a sauteed spinach and shallot mix instead.  I was in a hurry with this meal.  #1 didn't eat what I packed her for lunch, so she was "STARVING MOMMY!!!"
Oh well!  That's why I'm not a chef!  Could you imagine having to please a restaurant full of people at 6:00pm that are also "STARVING MOMMY!!!"????
Other than the dry fish, my meal was quite satisfying. 
Here's to hoping your dinner was better than mine! 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A kind of knit along

A chicken...because mommy loves the chickens

"Mom is the best"

A sealed letter

"I love you and I do not [k]no[w] when will I see you?"
As far as knit alongs go, this one is a bit off from the usual...A book and a project type of posts...but this is the one I love best...for it is full of love letters and newness...

I am the lucky recipient of usually about one love letter a week.  Yes, I am very lucky!

The first two pictures are a letter from my son,  I woke up and a bit later he came down the stairs with a card in hand.  I told me he stayed up all night writing this letter to me.  The chicken drawing is because chickens make me happy.  I think it's the best drawing I have ever gotten from him.  I love the comb and drumsticks!

Then in the mail came a letter from Mommy busypants saying that her oldest had made me something at school and sealed it all up.  She was given instructions not to open it, and to mail it to me.  So, I was so pleased when in the mail came a sweet little love letter!

So that's what I'm letters!

As for knitting, I'm putting down my shawl in favor of starting new project...a very little project.  As it turns out, one of my friends is having her first baby soon!  And I have nothing started.  I was thinking of making a sweet little vest or sweater with matching hat...

So, I put the question out there...anybody have an idea for a simple pattern for either? I'm thinking the baby is due in November, so sweater season is over here before the child will turn 6 I'm thinking either newborn-6 mo sized (as both parents are on the taller size)  or maybe making it for when it's a year old...

Linked to Knit Along

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Paleo: Sweet Potato Brownies... before you knock it...

I am completely inspired by the woman behind PaleOMG.  Not only has she created meals to satisfy my previously bored palate, she is able to come up with treats while staying within the Paleo guidelines!  
Love it!  
So, as I talked about in my previous post, making her sweet potato brownies was on my to-do list.
 It sounded quirky, but I like quirky.  The potato is something I've stayed away from, so this is a real treat! 
When you look at the recipe, it's hard to believe the end result would taste good.  Sweet potato?  In a brownie?  Sounds outrageous, but it's actually pretty good!  
They were so yummy!!!  I forgot to mix the chocolate chips in the batter before pouring it into the pan, so they were sprinkled on top instead.  As long as they made it into the brownie, I didn't care!  I tend to omit ingredients a lot when I'm baking.  Most of the time it's not a major ingredient.  For example, I once made pumpkin cheesecake for my husband and forgot to add the pumpkin!  It wasn't detrimental to the outcome, but it certainly didn't taste pumpkiny.  "There I go again!"
 Anyhow, (I also get side tracked easily) she uses Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips, which are dairy, nut and soy free!  I have a hard time finding them where I live, but you could try your local health food store, or you can order 3 10oz packages of them here on Amazon, like I do.
The brownies were great!  Not too rich, and aside from the orange overtones, you couldn't really tell there was sweet potato in it.  It had a starchy taste, but it added a nice texture to the brownie.  
Bonus #1:  I didn't feel gross after eating them (yes, I had three pieces)!!! 
Bonus #2:  The kids loved them and wanted more!  They are a nice "healthy" option for them too.
 So, if you are curious at all, you should try making them.  They are a sweet surprise!  
And... as I tell my kids... You'll never know unless you try it! 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Blood from a stone.

My husband always jokes that Lincoln cries when he gets put into my pocket...he knows he'll get pinched (as in I'm a penny pincher...)  Well, I fully acknowledge that this is the case; it's just the way I am.  So when I make one item out of the garden, you can bet that I squeeze every last drop of it getting blood from a stone.  Yesterday was salsa day.  I was able to make a double batch of the Blue Book of Canning's Jalapeno Salsa...out of the garden.  I blanched, skinned, cored, and deseeded lots of tomatoes and saved the scraps.  They could go to the chickens as is, and they would think they got quite the treat.
I could core and skin and deseed lots of tomatoes into a pot over low heat, use my immersion blender after they get soft, and then strain them.  Afterwards, I was left with...

Pulp...Just a little bit of pulp...which I then mashed with a spoon through the sieve in order to get all the tomato yummyness out.  

So I started with about 3 quart boxes of tomatoes from my garden.  I then used 6 cups of tomatoes for salsa leaving me about 3 cups of tomato goop that normally would be a waste product. (I know it doesn't add up as 3 quarts is 12 cups, but when dealing with whole tomatoes vs cut up and mashed, the spaces are removed thus creating a smaller volume...) I ended up with over a pint of tomato sauce which I processed along with the salsa...and half a cup of pulp to give the chickens.  

I think of it as free tomato sauce...stuff that normally would go to waste, but found a new purpose...maybe tomato sauce for a quick dinner or sauce for a pizza/meatza...the verdict will be in some dark, cold, tomato- out-of-season night.  Summer in a jar with just a little extra effort (I'd bet it was 5 min. or less.)

Linked to the prarie homestead barn hop

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Paleo: Pumpkin Cashew Coconut Curry over Coconut Rice

Doesn't this look delicious?
To be honest, this Paleo thing has been getting bland and boring, so I've been poking around different sites to find appealing recipes with a lot of flavor.  I've been feeling a lot better, so I didn't want to give up and go back to my old ways.  So, if you're doing Paleo and are getting a bored like me, check out this website:  PaleOMG
Amazing!  I'm not sure if I like it because the recipes look great, or because she reminds me of my little brother (she has our sense of humor).  Either way, I'm a fan! 
So, back to the recipe.  I saw the title of this one and immediately thought "I can't have that... it has rice in it."  There are a few versions of Paleo and one of them includes grains.  I want to continue staying away from grains.  Feeling better after eliminating them for so long, going backwards wasn't something I am willing to do quite yet.
The surprise:  the "rice" in this recipe is made with cauliflower (WHAT??), coconut milk, unsweetened coconut, coconut oil and a pinch of salt (which I omitted - still trying to leave that out of my meals if possible).
The rest of it is made up of everything you see here: 
The meal was delicious!  Of course I would have rather used heavy cream for the curry sauce, but this was still pretty tasty, and my belly appreciated my choice!  I used a little more coconut milk than the recipe called for, but the flavors all blended together were awesome!  Bye bye bland food!  
She has a great rib recipe that I'm going to try out this weekend too.  This is a fun little adventure... I love food! 
Today's afternoon activity is going to be making sweet potato brownies with the kids.  That is on the website as well.  It doesn't sound appetizing, but I like trying new foods.  If I didn't, I would have never known that sushi is the best food EVER!!!  Challenge accepted! 
Stay tuned...

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Busy work

It's not news to anyone with kids.  From about 4:30pm until bed is called the witching hour.  In order to keep my sanity, I have lined up simple crafts for the kids to do that will take a little bit of time and will keep them happy. 
Insert Fruit O necklace craft here:

All you need are Fruit O's and chicken twine (or anything you can lace a necklace with).
This is not only fantastic busy work, it is also guaranteed to make their mouths happy with sugary snack at the end.  Sugary snacks are a favorite in our house.  It doesn't happen often, so when it does, I get complete silence until it is inhaled.   
#1 was done in no time.  She has the hand eye coordination down.
#2 took a little bit longer.  Not because she doesn't have equally as good hand eye coordination, but because she was explaining the process to her piggy seen here on the left.  My sweet little girl! 
#3 is a boy.  He could have cared less about the craft.  In fact, he stopped listening to the directions as soon as he saw the sugary snack headed his way.  Look at his string.  No effort at all.  Whatever!  At least he wasn't ramming his Radio Flyer wagon into my ankles while I was cooking dinner.
  So, the witching hour wasn't so witchy today.  I had two princesses with very fancy necklaces walking around in plastic high heals, and a little boy just hanging out eating his snack.  It was quiet.  I have to do this more often!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Spread your wings

This year, #1 is entering the public school system.  This means taking the bus all by herself and getting to her kindergarten classroom by herself too.  That used to terrify me.  The nights leading up to my first day of school, I would have nightmares of not being able to find my classroom.  The week before my first day of high school (I was 1 of about 500 students in the school), I had my big brother take me in and show me where each of my classes were going to be.  I had to be prepared.  
#1 didn't care.  She was going to wing it. 

The bus situation scared me a lot.  She only knew a few kids from preschool soccer over the summer, but most of them were being driven to school by their parents because they are "too young" to do the bus alone.  She wouldn't know any kids on the bus.  I started thinking I was a bad parent.  Should a 5 year old really be taking a bus all by herself?  I did when I was little?!  What were all the other parents thinking that I wasn't?  Eh... that's where it ended.  She wanted to do it and I wasn't going to hold her back.  Independence is a good thing, right?  
 She was so excited to see the bus come around the corner. 
This was the moment I started panicking... on the inside.  My heart was pumping so fast... I was terrified.  She has always been the child that resisted change.  New routines, new places, new experiences, etc.  She never went into them without throwing a tantrum or freaking out.  No tantrums and no freaking out.  My baby was growing up!  
I stayed there to make sure she didn't come flying off the bus crying her head off.  I waited because I was sure it was going to happen.  It didn't.
 Have a great first day, my sweet big kid!   Spread your wings and fly!