Sunday, February 28, 2010

Catching up... November 09

I'm catching up on editing old photos (now that my computer is back!) and have months of adorable shots I never got to share!  I'd never let you miss out on these fantastic beautiful kiddo shots!  So, now for your viewing pleasure, we'll start with the first of three months of catch-up photos.....

We love family pizza night.  The kids have a blast making their own pizzas with all their own toppings and we usually watch a movie.  I think I was working this day while dad was home with the kids.  When I came home from showings, everyone was eagerly awaiting the pizza festivities and they'd used every sheet and blanket in the house, to do this to the trampoline....
Daddy and the kids had made a huge tent out of the trampoline and wanted to go "camping" in the backyard.  The kids were SO excited.
So we made our pizzas.
Then we took the pizzas out to our "tent" to eat. 
We played games...
and Tayla read bedtime stories.
I thought we would play in the tent then move inside for bedtime, but the kids really wanted to sleep in the tent.  So, we cuddled up under lots of blankets and all of us slept under the trampoline all night.  Before falling asleep I wondered if the sprinklers were set to go off that next morning... fortunately, we did not get a shower on our backyard camping trip!

A couple weeks later the kids & I went to Dewberry Farms with Tayla's Girl Scout Troop.  I planned to go, do the camp fire thing, hit a couple activities there and then get home as soon as possible (Ken works weekends, and keeping up with all three kids in big crowded places on my own can be daunting sometimes!) But we had SO much fun, we ended up staying until it closed down!  I did, however, lose Kaden.... twice.  This is why I avoid crowded places - one of these days I'm seriously going to put that sweet wild child on a leash!
Here's Tayla roasting marshmallows.

 Her Troop (and Tayla posing, of course)
I love these pictures! The kids all had such a blast!

So I have Linc in the stroller, and I have Kaden next to me.  I tell Kaden to stay "right here" and play on this big dirt pile next to me.  I take this picture of Tayla on the zipline, and then turn to the dirt pile to get Kaden..... and he's gone.  No where on the dirt pile.  I look at the Rope swings next to it, he's not there.  And then I freak out.  The place is pretty big and it's pretty busy b/w the regular Saturday visitors and all the Girl Scouts in the city.  After a frantic minute, I see him.... on the corn cob train.... ALL BY HIMSELF!  He saw the train from the dirt pile and just hopped over there and loaded up by himself! 
Mr. Independent!

So when I finally settled my nerves and stopped the heart attack that was coming on, we loaded everyone up and had some tokens left that we just HAD to use up.... so of course we stopped in the Sweet Shop and got some homemade fudge.  mmmm... 

And just because it's so cute...  We got home one night from visiting family & when I got home and went to unload the kids from the car I melted when I saw sweet little Lincy-Lou, all snuggled up with his Buddy-Buddy in his car seat!

Oh my goodness!!  He's so cute! Stay tuned for more...

Monday, February 22, 2010

Meal Plan Monday

We're going back to a Cash Budget again (thanks to Dave Ramsey, we're debt free except the house and building our 6-month emergency fund!).  So I tried to set the budget amount on the low side, but didn't limit it too much , since I'd not been couponing or stockpiling lately.  Since this is the last week of the month, and we spent extra last week (for Crab night, sooo worth it!), I'm down to a very small budget left, so I'm trying to use what we have on hand and prepare seriously frugal meals.  Also, the store sales aren't very spectacular this week, so there's not a lot of the whole food we eat at a good sale price, and my Organic Produce Co-op is every other week and this is the off week.  So, I'm making due with what I have on hand.

Rub Grub Pork Chops
Kale, Olive Oil & Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Mixed Vegetables (Frozen)
*This is rolled over from last week.  I was tired, and we had lots of leftovers Saturday.

Veggie Burgers w/ Fixins (Cheese, romaine, onion, tomato, pickles)
Sweet Potato French Fries
*HEB has combo deal for Morningstar Veggie Burgers, get Sweet Potato Fries Free.  So I'm getting 2 of each and will have an easy dinner for $6.61 plus fixins, that I already have on hand for other meals. Tuesday is busy and it beats the fast food/pizza I might order otherwise!

Whole Wheat Pizza
Greek Salad
*I have everything for the crust in the pantry.  For toppings, using Red Peppers, on sale this week, and then leftover meats and veggies and banana peppers. I'll chop up a head of Romaine lettuce and put the extra in a ziploc to make my own bagged salad to use throughout the rest of the week. We have leftover feta & olives.  Yum!

Shepherd's Pie
*I have made this recipe before (one of my favorite freezer meals) and I LOVE the carrots mixed in with the potatoes.  But we always have leftover mashed potatoes, so I'm going to use the leftover Kale & mashed potatoes from Monday in place of the mashed potatoes & carrots in this recipe, and I'll throw in whatever extra veggies I have in the fridge or freezer.  I would normally triple this recipe for the freezer, but I'm on the super tight budget this week so I won't be cooking extra.  Plus I have frozen veggie coupons that I know will go on sale soon so I can get them for free.  I'll stock up and make three of these then.  This is a great one dish meal and it's loaded with veggies, so I don't feel guilty about not adding any sides!

Chicken a la King
served over Frugal Mini Popovers or Pillsbury Biscuits, depending on how the day goes.
Salad (all ready from Wed)
*I don't usually buy Pillsbury biscuits b/c I like to stick with whole grains - but I actually got PAID  75 cents to buy 6 packages of these this week.  So for that price, I'll keep some one hand for quick easy meals! This A la King recipe freezes well too, so I might double it and freeze the extra in a ziploc. With the Pillsbury Grands it will make an easy last minute meal.

Chicken Curry
over Saffron Rice (taking the easy way out here - just packets of rice with seasoning I already have in the pantry that were free with coupons)
Roasted Vegetables with Soy Sauce & Ginger (which I plan on prepping the night before or that morning)
*I love Curry, and I have all the ingredients on hand, although I'll be using chicken breasts instead of thighs.  Ken doesn't usually like Chicken Curry, but a friend made her version for our freezer swap once, and he loved it.  It used coconut milk, and she topped it with toasted coconut, and it was so yummy.  So I think we'll like this version.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

I knew I shouldn't have said it.....

but I just couldn't help myself, could I? 

My laptop is broken. again.  I let a sweet little girl use it to play on because she's been begging for days.  And now the mouse button is broken.  Works if I hit it just right on one corner.   Give me a freaking BREAK already!!!!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Thoughts from a 3 year old

So tonights our big Steamed King Crab Leg dinner!!  So excited!  Ken wanted to make me a nice dinner for Valentine's and since he works weekends, we made plans for tonight.  We're making the kids leftovers and shuffling them off to our room for a movie and popcorn in the hopes that there will be peace and quiet and we can pretend like they're not here! :-)
Ken pulled out all the leftovers for Kaden to pick what he wanted.  Kaden of course picks three meats, no veggies.  A man right after his daddy's heart, and Kenny says so to him.  After finally convincing him to add a veggie, ken tells him he's going to fix up his "combo platter".  So Kaden's walking around talking about his combo platter and how gooowd it's going to be.  As Kenny starts to take the plate to the table, Kaden looks at Kenny, and very seriously says, "Daddy, are you sure I'm ready for this?"  hahaha. 
Yes, son, I think you're ready.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Menu Plan

I spend a lot of time planning my weekly menus, so I figured I'd share.  I try to plan at least one Freezer Meal each week - I triple the recipe, we eat one for dinner and the other two meals go in the freezer.  Doesn't usually take any extra time to prep the extra meals, and if I do it regularly, I can keep my freezer stocked.  It saves money too, b/c I plan my meals around the weekly sale ads and coupons, so I extend the savings with the freezer meals. I admit, I've really gotten away from this.  With my bad tech karma I've really been unable to function.  I rely heavily on the computer to plan my meals, pay the bills, grocery shop (all my couponing is done with the help of websites), run my business, and I'm seriously addicted to Google (because without it, how else would I be the fabulous know-it-all that I am!).  Lincoln also got sick in October, and we've been back and forth with specialists and testing and procedures for the past several months while they figured out a diagnosis (which we finally know is a Primary Immune Deficiency called Hypogammaglobulenemia, for now. I know, might as well be called Supercalafragalisticexpialodocious!).  So for the past few months, my time (& brain) has been consumed with keeping up with the basics, worrying, calling Doctors constantly, and finding any time I could to run to my mom's house to use her computer and keep my business going, while hoping the kids don't destroy her house as I let them roam on their own.  But Linc is doing well (he's being monitored by an Immunologist, and his last tests were so good they bumped his follow up from 3 months to 6 months!  Hallelujah. I'll have to post more on that later.) and my worry is now way down.  I'm starting to get back to normal again and have mental energy for all the other stuff.  So I'm working on re-stocking my freezer and getting our grocery budget back down as I get back to my couponing.
So back to the Menu Plan. Here's what we're eating this week:

Parsley Parmesan Chicken (freezer meal)
Bagged Ceasar Salad ($1.19 on sale with a coupon!)
I bought 9 pounds of chicken, planned to make this x4 because it's one of my favorite freezer meals.  Right before I started, a friend texted that she was in the hospital with her dad waiting for what ended up being a 12 hour surgery!!  It was great timing b/c I was able to send one of the meals home with her husband after he got off work, and she wasn't going to be home until late.  And I still had enough for us to eat last night, plus 3 meals for the freezer - like loaves & fishes, I tell you! Another reason I love the freezer meals is I have something on hand when an emergency comes up and I can easily take meals to people without stressing myself out if it's a busy time. Oh, and that link is to my Freezer Cooking Blog - which is also in desperate need of tons of updating.  I'll get there... eventually.  I also try to keep my sides simple on the nights when I'm making a meal for the freezer.  I do tend to make a bigger mess b/c of the larger quantities and have more dishes to wash, so I keep the other stuff simple.

Slow Cooker Meatloaf from Melissa's meal plan
Kale & Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes from 101 Cookbooks
Glazed Carrots (I steam them, and sprinkle them with a little bit of brown sugar)
I made the Meatloaf with ground turkey. I almost always use turkey in place of ground beef.  It's healthier, and I think I like the flavor better.  Especially with the sage in the meatloaf.  I love turkey with sage. mmm. I sort of fudged up on the sides and started prepping them too late, so I overcooked the meatloaf a bit and it was on the dry side.  But I loved doing it in the Slow Cooker - I prepped it yesterday and all I had to do today was pull it out of the fridge and turn it on.  That's how I like doing dinner - and Tuesdays are busy for us.  This is a recipe I'll cook again.  Would also work well for the freezer! Prep it, but don't cook it, just freeze the raw loaf.
We got Kale from our Organic produce Co-op this week and I've never made it before so I wanted to find a way to prepare it that I thought the kids would really like - who doesn't like mashed potato mix-ins?  Looks so yummy!  And I already had a bag of red potatoes on hand that I needed to use up.  Unfortunately, when I went to prepare them tonight, I discovered that those potatoes had already passed their time and had to throw them out.  So I whipped up some mashed sweet potatoes.  Then I looked at the stove and realized I was serving carrots and sweet potatoes.  Both orange and both sweetened with brown sugar. Not good meal planning.  So I threw in a bag of Green peas to try to mix it up.  Oops.  So I have to run to the store and get potatoes and throw these Kale Mashed Potatoes in on another day.  They look SO good, I can't wait to have them!

Valentine's King Crab Legs!!!
Orange Butter for dipping (got this from a Surf & Turf recipe card I got in a set years ago.  It's just melted butter with orange zest in it.  SOOO yummy with seafood.)
Roasted Parmesan Asparagus from Marci's Blog
(The kids will be eating leftovers early and going to our room with a movie and popcorn, so we can pretend we have the house to ourselves!)
I'm excited about this meal!  Ken works weekends, so he was at work on Valentine's.  We don't make a huge deal out of Valentine's, I'm not interested in wasting money on cards or flowers just for the holiday.  But we do love an excuse for a nice romantic dinner. Ken told me he wanted to make me a nice dinner for Valentine's which is super exiting ANY time I don't have to cook, but even better when it's crab legs!!  Before I dated Kenny I hated seafood.  I would occasionally eat shrimp, but often it made me gag!  His first choice in Restaurants is usually seafood, and somewhere along the way it grew on me.  I worked at Joes' Crab shack for over a year in High School, and I still had never tasted crab until Kenny and I went to Destin in 2007.  I had no idea what I was missing!  All that time of access to free crab legs, just wasted!  mmm.. I can taste it now.  Can not WAIT.

Penne with Butternut Squash, Sausage & Sage from Wellsphere
Tomato, Cucumber & Romaine Salad
Another reason I love the Produce Co-op!  I've never cooked butternut squash before.  I love that the co-op makes me try new fruits and veggies that I don't normally pick up on my own.  Ken's not a soup fan (he needs manly solid food), so I had to really look around for a good squash recipe to try, and I wanted something more savory than sweet. I also try to plan meals that use mostly what I have on hand, so I can keep my grocery list and budget down.  I have sausage in the freezer (that I got on sale with a coupon for $1.25 a pound!), and I have a green bell pepper I need to use, so I'm going to add that as well (based on a suggestion on facebook from Mrs. Johnson, our friend Mikey's mom - I might even mash up the squash a little more, and bake the whole mixture in the squash shell like she suggested.)

Parsley Cilantro Shrimp from Andrea Meyers
Quinoa Pilaf from
Yep, I got Cilantro in the Co-op this week and have Parsley left over from the last Co-op two weeks ago, so this Marinade was a perfect way to use what I have, and I've got shrimp in the freezer (also on sale at $3.99/lb).  I'm really trying to make sure I use up all my herbs, seems like I never use up the whole bunch before it goes bad.
I'd never had quinoa until Cathy made Quinoa & Black Beans  for our Freezer Swap - delicious!  I learned that it's a Super Grain.  It's an excellent source of protein and nutrients.  And it's a complete protein.  So I'm trying to cook with it more.  Healthier alternative to rice or pasta sides. I'm going to add one or two diced carrots to the saute at the beginning for 3 minutes before I add the quinoa, based on another recipe I saw and b/c I have some extra carrots.  Also, and important tip I've learned.  You must RINSE the quinoa before you cook it.  If not, it has a bitter taste.  This is why my family loved it when we ate Cathy's recipe, and no one at it when I cooked it the first time.  This will be my second attempt at making it, so hopefully this one goes better!

Grub Rub Pork Chops from allrecipes
Mixed veggies (frozen)
*Kale & Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes (from Tuesdays plan)
 I have Pork Chops in the freezer and was looking for something new to do with them. I love brown sugar on Pork Chops, which I first realized when we tried Morton's Grub Rub.  So good!  But I'm all out and was looking for a recipe to create it myself.  We'll see how similar this is to the Morton's version - but the flavor we love in the Grub Rub is the brown sugar, so I don't think we can go wrong here.  Reviews say it's spicy, and we like spicy.  I think it will go great with the mashed potatoes that I'm having to roll over from Tuesday. 

I don't plan specific days for Breakfasts.  Mornings are crazy in our house and I'm NOT a morning person.  Unfortunately my little boys got their Dad's genes and they are very very early morning people.  I stopped using an alarm clock when Kaden was born.  I'm not kidding.  There's not even a clock in my bedroom (which was actually a wonderful thing for my sleep).  Crack of dawn.  If they even make it that long.  So breakfast often entails me sleepily microwaving oats, tossing in raisins and throwing a piece of fruit at them as I grumble about making coffee.  Many days, I'm so pathetic that I convince Tayla to pour cereal for her and the boys while I try to convince myself to get out of bed. Then there's usually round 2 after Ken gets back from the gym.  Once I've finally woken up and can function, either Ken or I usually make scrambled eggs with some variation of onion, peppers, ham and cheese, sometimes I'll roll it in a tortilla. ooh... ahhh... It's boring and redundant.  So when I'm feeling ambitious I like to pick a couple new breakfast recipes I'd like to try and make sure I have all the ingredients on hand.  If it's a really great week, I'll actually make them all.  I'm for sure going to make the muffins this week.


Turkey Breakfast Sausage w/eggs & pears
Came across this recipe and I love that I can make a healthier version of sausage.  I love breakfast sausage, but very rarely make it b/c it's so high fat.  The recipe says not to use ground turkey breast b/c it's too lean, but that's what I buy, and have on hand now, so I'm going to try it anyway.  I think I'll drizzle in some olive oil, to help them stay moist. Think it will work fine.  This could also be doubled or tripled and the patties can be frozen before cooking.  I'm using turkey in my freezer, and if you're freezing meals with raw meat, you need to use fresh meat, since it can't be thawed and then re-frozen.  So I'll try them out and if it we like them, I'll do them again for the freezer.

Farmer's Casserole *for the Freezer* w/ Oranges slices 
One of my favorite recipes!  I love that I just have to throw it in the oven as soon as I wake up & it's soo yummy! This recipe makes 2 casseroles.
Moist Morning Glory Bran Muffins *for the Freezer*
Muffins for the freezer are one of my favorite breakfast foods.  I LOVE this recipe b/c of all the added fruits & veggies, and love anything I can add flax too. I don't have to feel guilty if I feed the kids just these muffins for breakfast.  And Linc's getting picky lately and he's my first kid who won't eat veggies.  So I'm looking for ways to hide them.  And I got a pineapple and lots of apples in the Co-op this week. Can't wait to try it.  I'll probably double it.

I've got bad tech karma

Sooo...... I posted saying that my new goal was to blog more regularly.  And then the very next day, Kaden and a garden hose met my laptop.  No good.  Yes, I know... Why was the laptop outside with the garden hose?  I don't want to hear it ok.  I mean, what's the benefit of having a laptop and running a business from home with the kids if you can't get work done on a beautiful day while the kids play in the backyard?  Made perfect sense to me.  And in his defense, he wasn't trying to hose down the laptop. I got a call and stepped away for a minute (stupid phone!) and he thought he'd be a dear and wash the windows for me.... the windows right behind the laptop.
It took THREE freaking months to get the laptop back.  I bought Accidental Damage coverage from Safeware. Took them 2 months to get it back to me, and when they sent it back UPS lost it for 3 days and I had to drive an hour to the UPS center and pick it up myself.  Then I opened the box and they sent it back with a broken A/C adapter!  So Toshiba said they'd send me one in 6 days - a month later, I finally got the a/c adapter.  oh, and it now has malware, that it didn't have before, and there's a problem with the hard drive.  Toshiba told me to send it to them to fix it.  Uh, no thanks.  I'm done.  So after three months I finally have a functioning (although, somewhat slow) computer, and when I have the emotionally energy to deal with it again, I'll have a tech guy come to the house and look at it.  Tip - Don't buy Safeware insurance.  Spend the extra money and go with Best Buy's plan.  I won't be shipping out a laptop for repairs ever again.


And it's not just the laptop.  EVERYTHING is breaking or getting lost.  In one week, the dishwasher broke, the disposal broke, the vacuum broke, the washing machine flooded the entire front of my house. My cell phone is half functioning (Lincoln threw it in the bathtub... see a running theme here?.)  My camera is lost, spilled coffee on my GPS, and now there's liquid damage on the screen.  I also narrowly avoided a wreck the other day swerving to miss the car that pulled right in front of me, by an inch, and then 2 hours later, hydroplaned and flew right off a back road, narrowly avoiding the massive ditch on one side and then finally stopping inches from the edge of a 3 foot drop off on a gravel path. I'm telling you, I'm just a mess.  It seems like right now, whatever can go wrong, will.  I think I'm a nice person.  I try to do as much good for other people as I can.  But my Karma is bad right now.  I don't know what I did.  Upset the tech gods or something.  The other day someone said to me, well, everything happens in threes.... but I'm on like my 5th set of 3 right now!

So, even though I know I shouldn't say it....  I will regret it, and I'm sure something else will go wrong with this computer once I say this.  I'm going to take my chances and say one more time, I'm going to get better at this blogging thing.... (I think I just heard lightning strike somewhere nearby...)

So here's cute pictures of my kids. We went to San Antonio for a few days in December.  We really needed a vacation, and we haven't been on a family vacation in a long time.  Mostly because we haven't wanted to, to be honest.  "Vacation" doesn't really apply with 3 little kids.  Staying somewhere other than home is usually exhausting - things aren't baby proofed and the stuff.  Oh my goodness. The STUFF needed to take 3 kids anywhere is ridiculous.  I need a vacation after a vacation with the kids.  But this time was so much fun!  They're getting a little older (ok, Kaden's getting a little less "terrible two") and we just had a 3 hour drive.  I wasn't sure how much there would be to do with the kids in San Antonio, but there was tons of great stuff to do, and I'm really looking forward to going back again soon.  We have a Wyndham timeshare that we were stupid enough to buy several years ago (rip off of an investment and impossible to get rid of, but great places to stay at) so we stayed at Wyndham La Cascada in a nice big Suite.  We did the river walk stuff (fortunately we went the week before Christmas Break and we went midweek, so there were no crowds anywhere - I'm sure with crowds that Kaden would get lost and fall into the River!), went to Ripley's Believe it or Not museum, which the kids loved. We hit up free night at their Children's Museum, wandered around the Alamo, saw a 3-D movie, ate dinner at a fancy restaurant, Tower of Americas, one of those tall tower restaurants way up in the air that spins.  I think the absolute best part of the trip was the Wild Life Park.  You drive through this whole wildlife reserve and feed the animals out of the window. I don't know if I've ever laughed so hard.  The zebras nearly climbed into the car!  The kids were freaking out.  Ok.... I was freaking out.  It was just nice to have a few days with Ken off work, and do nothing but relax and play with the kids.  Ken works weekends, so his days off are during the week when the kids are in school, and he has late hours and a long drive, so he really only gets about an hour with the kids before bed each night, if he actually gets out of work on time.  So the kids loved having all that time with him.
Yes, this is Kaden blowing his sister up with a cannon.  The kids are a little morbid!

Tower of the Americas - the Restaurant is at the top of a 750-ft tower and it spins while you eat.  The kids loved it. 
Oh my gosh, he's really just the cutest thing ever.

That's me actually reading.  I thought I'd forgotten how to!