Friday, February 25, 2011

Before and Afters, Before Afternoon

This week, I decided to take note of the small stuff. As a stay at home mommy (who is on the run a lot!) I often get overwhelmed with my day to day tasks. Sometimes at the end of the night after I've been "working" all day I look around and wonder what I actually accomplished.  I don't have to explain how quickly order turns to chaos when there are four little girls, a goofy dog, and busy mom and super dad in the house.

Yesterday, in an effort to feel better about my everyday tasks, I decided to take some quick before and after shots. None of these tasks took a lot of time (minutes) and what a difference they made!  These are the little (big) messes and chores that I do E-V-E-R-Y day. Seeing the before and afters makes me smile and reminds me of the good job that I do. Even when it doesn't seem like I have accomplished much, I know that if I do these small things every day there is a BIG difference in my home and that makes me happy! As much as I wish my spaces could look like my after pictures all of the time, all I will need to do is take a quick peek at my before and after pics this week to know that what I do here matters and hopefully it will give me motivation to do it all again. And again. And again. And again!

Our Unmade Bed

The Bed is Made (2 minutes or less)

Clean dishes need put away.
Dirty Dishes need loaded or hand washed.

Clean and Shiny Kitchen Sink!
(25 minutes--including hand washing pans and bottles!)

Our Dumping Ground--
mail, bags and purses, miscellaneous papers
 and dishes and food and toys!

All Clear! Even turned on the digital frame!
 (10 minutes to put everything in its home)

There's an empty spot in her tummy!

Lunch hit THAT spot! And what a pretty "after picture."
 My favorite task of the day: Putting a smile on that little face!

Head on over to I'm An Organizing Junkie to see more wonderful before and after pictures to motivate you today!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Chai Tea Latte, You Are My Best Friend

I'm joining a Meme today over at Adventuroo.   She will post a prompt each week and we are supposed to snap a picture and blog about it (or not--the picture can stand alone). I thought it would be fun to use/learn my new camera and join in.

This week's prompt is:
What is one thing you cannot live without?

Okay, I showed you.

It's not a picture of my husband, my children, my dog, my wedding band, my's a picture of my morning Chai Tea.

I do not feel complete in the morning or for the rest of the day if I do not have one of these. I do not drink coffee.  I do not need a glass of wine at the end of the night (although that would be nice some time!) But there is something about sipping my cup of tea in the morning that is, well, JUST MY CUP 'O TEA!

A tea bag, some hot water, and about 3 tablespoons of flavored fat free coffee creamer makes it taste yummy.  Today's cup has FF Italian Cream coffee creamer in it.

It's the little things!

I'd love to see what you can't live without, so get out your camera and link up over at Adventuroo!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

What Happens When the Mac and Cheese Boils Over

Can I just tell you what a whirlwind day I've had?  Well...if it wasn't a whirlwind day around here I don't know what I would do. Ava was back to school today. Jordan was back after being off for 5 days. Livi was back to dance class today.  The girls had a dentist appointment this afternoon (all of my girls L-O-V-E going to the this normal?)   Jim was working late tonight (still not home) so I was on single parent duty.  When bedtime came, all I could do was sigh.

But I wanted to share the funny part of my insane day:

We went to my mom's after I picked up Ava from preschool. This is our normal Wednesday routine. We usually hang out there and eat lunch together before I drive over to Olivia's dance class and my mom usually heads to work.  I pack a lunch for myself and the girls so we don't wipe out my mom's fridge and cupboards with our visit. Today was no different, except that mom offered up some of her leftovers for lunch.  She made ground pickles and "jumbo" which doesn't really sound appetizing. Nor does it look appetizing in real life, but it does remind me of my childhood and it is sort of a nostalgic comfort food, so I decided to partake. I put away my non-comforting Lean Cuisine and rooted around in the fridge for the container.

It's in the smallish Tupperware there, Mom said only half glancing to see if I chose the right one. The refrigerator is full of leftover containers. Mom is really good about keeping (and eating) leftovers. Unlike myself.  If I have a leftover to save and actually end up saving it, it is usually moldy by the time anyone thinks of it again (ew, I know).

I gathered up the sandwich making ingredients and popped open the ground pickles and jumbo container and noticed that it seemed a little soupy. What's in this? I asked (but duh, I knew the answer and I bet you do too!) Ground pickles, jumbo, eggs, mayonnaise mom said.  Okay, I thought. It seemed awfully mayonnaise-ey and there were reddish flecks throughout but I thought it was maybe jumbo skin (gross, I know).  I slathered the soupy goop onto my bread and began to chow down over the sink. Nope, didn't grab a plate, just started wolfing right there as I watched the pot starting to boil for the girls mac and cheese. 

This doesn't taste right, I thought.  It didn't taste BAD. It just didn't taste like ground pickles and jumbo.  I kept eating.  First, it didn't taste BAD as I said, and Second, I didn't want to barrage my mom with questions about her ground pickle and jumbo making techniques. I had already hounded her by asking what was IN it, right?  In the meantime, my mom was preparing her own sandwich.

My mom took a bite.  Wait, this doesn't taste right.

I know, I said, It doesn't taste sweet.

That's not it, Mom replied.

I looked at my sandwich. I was down to the last quarter of it.

What in the hell was I eating? 

It tastes like salsa,  I said

My mom started laughing. 

I started laughing.

This isn't ground pickles and jumbo, is it? I asked.

Both of us cracked up and tossed what was left of our sandwiches. 

I had just chowed down on a salsa dip sandwich.

If you don't think that a ground pickles and jumbo sandwich sounds appetizing, how about a salsa, cream cheese dip concoction (leftover from SUNDAY) sandwich.  I would have hurled, but we were laughing too hard.

And the mac and cheese was boiling over.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Menu Plan Monday - Week of 2/21

Kids are home today for Presidents' Day. I am TRYING my best to be productive!!  We have a birthday party to plan for this next Sunday. I see that tenderloin is on sale this week so I think it's a no brainer that we will most likely have pulled pork sandwiches for the party! 

Here's what the week looks like:

Monday: Chili, Fresh Bread, Salad
Tuesday: Ham slice with Mac n Cheese, Green beans
Wednesday: Oven Fried Chicken Tenders, Potato Crowns and Corn
Thursday: Poached Eggs in salsa, guacamole and chips
Friday: BBQ Pork Chops, Roasted Potatoes, Apple Sauce
Saturday: Pizza, Salad
Sunday: Pulled Pork Sandwiches, Coleslaw, Baked Potato Fries.

Check out some more menus over at I'm an Organizing Junkie!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Taste of Spring Pictures

We got a new toy in the beginning of the month.  We had been camera-less for 8 months. Our old camera went on the fritz right after Chloe was born, so all of her new born pics are taken with my phone, leaving much to be desired.

We had a freak warm up over the last few days (which Ava and I did not enjoy much because we were trapped in a hospital room). But yesterday when the girls asked to go outside I choked down the initial urge to say NO and headed out with them.  It wasn't as muddy as I expected and even though the yard is a mess and everywhere I looked, I saw work-work-work,  I just shut it all out of my mind and enjoyed the moment. It was easy to do when I paired my vision down behind the viewfinder of our new camera. 

Here are some of my favorite shots from yesterday--our first real outdoor play time of 2011:

These are straight from the camera. Some day I will learn all about fancy editing and what not. But I'm pretty happy with these and very happy to not be snapping shots with my smart phone. Chloe was napping and that's why she is obviously absent from the pictures. And of course, I was BEHIND the camera (which I don't mind because I was still in Pajamas--I had been cleaning and laundering up to the point the girls asked to go out)

I'm ready for spring! How about you?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Menu Plan Monday--Valentine's Week

Busy week this week! Ava has surgery this week--tomorrow--and will be spending at least a night and probably two in the hospital and I will be with her. Which means I will be eating hospital food, my mom will be feeding my kids, my husband will be fending for himself or eating with me and I won't be preparing two meals this week, which is fine by me.

Here's what we got going on:

Monday:  Spaghetti and Meatballs, a Salad, and Bread (Ava's VERY favorite meal)

Tuesday: Surgery Day

Wednesday: Hospital Food :(  Actually, it's not THAT bad.

Thursday: Steak, Potato, Green Beans (Ava's least favorite meal--she won't be able to eat it anyway so it will be perfect for the rest of us!)

Friday:  Chili, Mac and Cheese, Cantaloupe

Saturday: Pancakes, Bacon, Baked Apples

Sunday: Oven Fried Chicken Tenders, Potato Crowns, and Corn

(I tried to pick some soft foods since Ava will need a soft food diet for a little while)

Have a good week everyone!! This post is linked up over at I'm an Organizing Junkie. Click for more weekly menu plans and a give away over there this week!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Family Fun Night

In the beginning of the year, one of my "resolutions" was to have more Family Fun Nights. We have family fun regularly, but I wanted to do something a little more planned. Something that we could build up to and feel excited about. I'm planning two nights a month. I just look at the calendar and pick two days that seem like they might work. Just having it written down there has really helped. So far, our family fun nights have been, well, FUN!

The first Family Fun Night of the year had us settled in for movie night. The kids got into their pj's, we popped popcorn, dimmed the lights and settled in to watch Despicable Me. We couldn't help comparing the movie characters to our family members: Jim as Gru, Jordan as Margo, Ava as Agnes, Olivia as Edith, and Chloe as one of the Minions. I didn't get a role. :(

Our second Family Fun Night was an after dinner game marathon. We played Memory together as a family. I forgot how much fun it is to sit down and play board games together. Growing up, this was a favorite pastime. Now the girls are getting old enough to be able to follow directions and muster up an attention span for it.  It was also a lesson in good sportsmanship as we chastened braggarts (Jordan) and chastised poor losers (Ava)!

Last night we had our third Family Fun Night of the year and I decided it would be fun to make some homemade ice cream. Here's a look at how things went down:

Here we are with supplies gathered.

Livi with her bag of ice.

Shakin' it up!

Ava enjoying the fruits of our labor

Mmmmm. Ice cream!

Jordan taking a bite

Our finished product! We added some sprinkles!

We all scream for ICE CREAM!
Making ice cream is a lot simpler than you think! Here's what you need. Gallon sized zipper bags, sandwich sized zipper bags, half and half or milk, sugar, vanilla extract, ice and rock salt.

Fill a gallon zipper bag half way with ice and add 6 TBSP of Rock Salt. Close Bag and Set aside. Then fill a sandwich bag with 1/2 cup milk, 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract and 1 TBSP sugar. Seal bag. Place sandwich bag into the gallon bag with ice and seal bag. Shake the gallon sized bag until the mixture becomes ice cream (it only takes about 5 minutes!) Use a wet cloth to wipe away the salt water at the top of the sandwich bag and spoon out the ice cream. (It makes about 1 small scoop!--a good snack size!)  

Two things we learned from our experience:  Use a decent zipper bag--cheap ones are more likely to bust or leak while shaking.  The bags of ice are a little heavy for little ones to shake.  And be conscious of the salt!  Take time to wipe it up and wash hands before enjoying the ice cream or you end up with a salty sweet mixture that doesn't really taste that good.

All in all, it was a success. We did something different and made a memory with our girls and that's what it's all about!

Friday, February 11, 2011

A ramble

I'm not feeling like myself today. I'm sitting in the middle of my kitchen. In front of me is a pile of (clean) unfolded laundry. The kitchen table has crumbs from breakfast, a matching game the girls were playing, scissors, crayons, pencils, and cups some filled, some empty. To my right, the buffet is cluttered with things that don't have a home or haven't made it to their home. To my left, orange peels on the counter, a dishwasher that needs emptied, a sink full of dishes that I need to load into the dishwasher. Behind me, an almost empty pot of soup that didn't get put away from last night's dinner.  My house looks the way I feel right now.  Looking around there is lots to do and everything seems disorganized. 

Today is the day I usually pay attention to our money, what's going out, what's coming in, bills and paperwork. I started to do our taxes in the beginning of the week. I feel disorganized in this area as well. I don't like when I don't have a clear picture of where our money is going.  

I haven't written a Pampers article all month and (I can't believe!) we are already over a third of the way through February!! 

The kids had two hour delays all week--except for today. And it threw a wrench into plans and schedules. I didn't get to grocery shop until Thursday and I was thrown off because my list no longer matched with the sales and I had no time to search through new coupons and stuff. I only saved $10 this week and that burned me up.

And It's so darn cold around here! At least there was a BEAUTIFUL sunset last night and a GORGEOUS sunrise this morning. I'm glad I took a moment to admire both.

Jim's Grandmother passed away this past weekend and midweek we spent some time laying her to rest.  It is sad that she is gone, but by most accounts, she was ready to go.  The minister who spoke at her funeral shared some clippings that Jim's Grandma had stashed in her bible, some had notes written on them with specific instructions to share with all of us.  It was quite interesting to hear things that she had read and found poignant: One spoke on motherhood, another on faithful, humble service, another to comfort her family when she was gone.  I found it quite touching. 

The family shared a meal after the funeral and it was nice to talk to relatives that we never get to see. Many of them live out of state or on other ends of this one, so to have everyone together is a rarity.

In other news, we are prepping for Ava's next (and hopefully last) surgery next Tuesday. She is having another cleft repair. She had her tonsils and adenoids out over a month ago to make way and I hope that everything goes well.  As of this moment she doesn't know what she's in for, neither do I actually. Her pre-op appointment--the one where we learn what to expect--isn't until the day before her surgery. I'm thinking no school for a week, a soft diet for quite some time. Please send up a prayer and positive vibes for her!

Today would be a day to link up over at I'm an Organizing Junkie.  BUT I haven't organized a darn thing this week.  I've only bailed enough water to keep this ship afloat, but as you know I'm sitting here in water up to my knees right now--not literally people.  I clicked on the link above just a second ago and found it quite applicable to my situation this week!  I need to stop my negative, self pitying dialogue and get to it!

Another post that I read yesterday hit at the heart too. If you've an extra minute you can check it out as well over at Family Secrets. Thanks for letting me ramble it all out here though!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Sharing Pregnancy Stories: A Rite of Passage

This is my new Pampers Village article about sharing stories in the "mom club." Click on the link below to check it out!

Sharing Pregnancy Stories: A Rite of Passage

Monday, February 7, 2011

Superbowl Sunday: The Blow Up (and Menu Plan)

Thirteen days ago I blogged about a middle of the night wake up call at our house. A week or so ago as I was browsing my blog reader I came across this post over at YoungHouseLove and I thought, how timely.  I cannot stress how ill-prepared we were before our wake up call. We didn't even have a fire extinguisher for the kitchen!  Thank goodness we rectified that situation before yesterday...

So, duh, it was Superbowl Sunday yesterday and we were keeping it low key. Jim wanted to enjoy the game at home in front of his own TV. My mom had to work until right before game time, so we invited my parents over to have some grub and catch the game.  Jim was craving chicken wings and because of our money saving efforts we nixed the idea of spending $50 or more on a few buckets of wings from somewhere and decided to make them ourselves. Well, Jim decided to make wings...I was in charge of the "nachos supremos" (and they were delish, by the way).  So when Jim got the bright idea to use my big pot with the colander insert to deep fry the wings, he only met mild protests from me.  I'm not sure it will work I said, that colander isn't made for deep frying, but I let him go. My husband is usually a master of common sense (compared to me, anyway) and I figured he had everything under control. He's deep fried wings before so I figured he could handle things without me butting in--besides I was too busy jockeying for counter position and the ideal burner to use for my nacho making duties. 

There were a few tip-offs that things were not going to go as smoothly as anticipated. First the wings hadn't completely thawed. We had taken them out earlier in the day but they were still slightly frozen.  The second tip-off was when Jim asked if we had any more vegetable oil in the house. This was after he had already used the two large bottles that I had in the pantry. Absentmindedly, I pointed out an almost full bottle in the lazy susan. My dad stepped in with a cautionary comment about too much oil...but I think Jim was preoccupied with the idea of cooking boat loads of wings at once El fry cook style to heed the warning. The next tip-off was Christina Aguilera botching the words to the national anthem...come on girl you are a professional! I was too busy critiquing, to notice Jim stuffing the basket with too many wings.  He was getting nervous as pre-game festivities were winding down and the game was about to begin and the wings were not yet frying. His master plan had him plopping in front of the TV with a plate of hot crispy wings before kickoff.

I think you all can see where this is going...but if not, let me paint the picture further.  Wings with stray ice crystals clinging in a colander not made for frying.  Gallons of bubbling oil.  Too many cooks in the kitchen. Game clock about to start ticking. Wing cravings messing with the calibration of the common sense meter. Down goes the wing pot. Ice and hot oil react. Pot bubbles over. Three foot flames come shooting out of my kitchen!  Jim tries to blow out flames with slightly more force than blowing out candles on a birthday cake. The flames do go out for a second but then reignite!  Exhaust fan is on fire.  Hot oil is on the floor. Someone grabs the fire extinguisher (I think it was Jim but he doesn't remember doing it). And the fire is out!  But  not before a three foot layer of smoke clings to our ceiling.  Jim spent the entire first quarter cleaning and airing out the kitchen and living room. I suggested we try baking the wings, but he was so disgusted with his temporary lack of common sense that he tossed the whole bag.  I didn't give him much grief, just sent up a silent Thank You that it wasn't me and that the only damage to be seen was a small singe mark on the stove. The floor is still a little greasy this morning but at least my kitchen is in tact and we didn't have to evacuate the house. The girls had been watching TV in the office and didn't have any idea what had happened...The smoke detectors work though.  I urge you once again to get prepared for a fire if you are not. You never know. I am so relieved that we had the fire extinguisher on hand...two weeks ago we would have been not so lucky I think.

So I had to share that story, much to my husband's chagrin. But I also want to share my menu plan for the week.

Thanks for visiting from I'm an Organizing Junkie! And head on over there if you would like to check out more weekly menus!

Here's mine:

Monday: Chicken Teriyaki and Fried Rice (since we had Superbowl food minus wings, this meal got pushed)
Tuesday: Meat Pies, Green Beans, and some other side--I haven't decided
Wednesday: Hot Sausage hoagies, Corn, Potatoes
Thursday: Grilled Chicken Salad, Fresh Bread
Friday: Crab Soup, Biscuits, Spinach Salad
Saturday: Date Night--we are going to Atria's...the kids will probably have frozen pizza's
Sunday: Chicken Parmesan, Pasta, and Salad

I realize we are having salad a lot this week...but we've gotta get those veggies in and salad dressings can be so varied that it's hard to get sick of salad. 

Have a great week everybody!

Friday, February 4, 2011

First Menstrual Period After Giving Birth: When the Dormancy Is Over

Here is my latest article for Pampers!

First Menstrual Period After Giving Birth: When the Dormancy Is Over

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Eight Hour Magic

It is 7:21 a.m.  and all is quiet. This very rarely happens here. I just put Jordan on the bus.  I enjoyed the last few sips of my morning tea, and now I am sitting down to blog.  There are few things I love more than the peace of early morning. It's only been these recent years that I have learned to love the morning.  As much as I love sleeping in, when I wake up late I always think about those lost hours.  I am one of those lucky human beings that gets a full eight almost every single night, so to sleep any longer than that feels like a waste.

I owe my eight hours of sleep every night to my husband.  He is also an early riser, but by force. He wakes at 4:30 every morning. To get any semblance of sleep he needs to be in bed by 10pm and I go at that time too.  Even though my days starts much later than his, I still go so he doesn't feel alone.  He wakes up before the crack of dawn and salts (or shovels) our icy walks, sometimes has time for a hot shower, and is off to work a long and sometimes stressful day.  I will never use the word "lazy" to describe my husband.  In the eleven years that we have been together, there has not been a single day that he has rolled over and said that he didn't want to go to work. The only time he has missed have been the births of our daughters, surgeries for our daughters, if he is sicker than a dog, and the rare, but occasional car malfunction.  He goes to work no matter what. 

(Two little girls have joined me in the time it took me to write this. They have also begun a dance party in the living room.) Morning peace is short lived around here. But I got my eight, so it's all good!

Good morning and good day everyone!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Childbirth Pictures: Capturing More Than Memories

My latest article talks about my decision regarding childbirth pictures.

Childbirth Pictures: Capturing More Than Memories

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Book Club Bliss

Have I mentioned how much I love my book club?  I really, really, really do! We took a month off for the holidays and absence truly made the heart grow fonder.  I love everything about book club.

First, the founder of our rather large group is such a wonderful person. She is a magnetic pole.  I think it is the perfect description of the type of person she is--her magnetism draws everyone in to her, and as a happy by-product, closer together.  I have made some friends and some cheery acquaintances just from knowing her. I'm not just gushing about her because she is an avid reader of my blog (I love THAT about her too!) She really is amazing...and I want to publicly thank her for being my friend!

Second, I am a reader without direction.  I love to read, but I never know WHAT to read. I could spend hours browsing through books at the library or book store and come away with nothing.  Time (as well as cash) is a precious commodity to me so to invest hours and or money in a book that is no good is very unappealing to me.  Book club gives me direction because I know there is one book a month that I should read and more often than not TONS of recommendations for other books that are worth it or advice about books to not bother with.

Third, book club is a chance for me to be Christine.  I don't have to be "Mommy" for a couple of hours.  It is the perfect breather for me and a chance for me to fill up the tank.  New mommies who haven't figured it out yet--let me clue you--you are a better mother when you are happy. So, don't feel guilty doing something small for yourself daily--whatever makes you happy.  Book club is one of those things for me--it makes me feel like a real person, with feelings, opinions, and a will of my own.

Last night was our book club meeting and it was just what I needed.  So tell me, how do you "fill up your tank"?


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